Dream Book Conference Panel!

Dream Book Conference Panel is today’s topic inspired by Eventbrite.  The question for this dream conference panel is: All true bookworms have their dream list of authors they’d love to meet, but what if you could plan your perfect panel of authors (or even characters) you’d love to hear speak at a conference?

While the most logical way of a conference would be to group authors writing the same genre to come together, I also feel that grouping authors that somewhat contrast their style or even in the time frame they write makes for a look at their creative process in a different way. See, just deciding how to put together panelists is hard enough. Here are some three groups of authors that I’d like to see be at my dream conference panel.

Young Adult

i am number four Maze Runner

My first group goes to the most common genre: Young Adult. Although I have been slowly falling out of the YA genre, I do quite admire the creativity these authors have done. Pittacus Lore is pretty much the elder of Lorien and he also is the author. Now, the question is no one knows what this person looks like. I mean, if he is from Lorien and reciting the Lorien Legacy, well, then he probably is an alien. While I am Number Four is a pretty disappointing movie, let me assure you that The Lorien Legacy series is one of my favorite Young Adult series and that is why I’d like to see how they created it. At the same time, James Dashner can be the same. He has created a story out of kids stuck in a maze and carried into a dystopian world. There is something here to learn from these two authors just how they build their creative process and brainstorm or fall into the characters that they created, whether it is character development or world building.

Thrillers & Mystery

Gone Girl Before I Go To Sleep The Cuckoo's Calling

Who wouldn’t want to be in a panel with authors who write captivating and intriguing mystery thrillers that keep us guessing with mind-blowing twist and turns. Gillian Flynn, S.J. Watson and Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) needs to have a panel where they discuss how to build suspense and mystery. Thrillers are the tricky pieces of work, whether its books or movies, because they need to create a level of suspense that divulges enough information slowly to peak interest, build character enough to stay intrigued and make the reader want to keep guessing what is going on before most of the time making sure that it is absolutely the one thing they never imagined could happen.

Gillian Flynn is known mostly for Gone Girl but her other two novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places both have almost as good of a story. She has written three pieces of novels that are all intriguing to read, making her a person who needs to talk about the thought process of writing a mystery. Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson is the only novel that I have read. His second novel is called Second Life which I need to find, however, its been a few years since I’ve read Before I Go To Sleep and I can still remember the feeling of suspense till today. Its a captivating read with lots of secrets. How do you keep secrets hidden and give just enough hints to keep it abstract and not ruin it? Finally, Robert Galbraith, who is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, but I do this deliberately because I want to pick the brain of Robert Galbraith, the person who wrote a mystery thriller and is making a series out of it, making a new detective, Cormoran Strike, rise. We all know J.K. Rowling as the mastermind behind Harry Potter but we need to dial it back and learn how she writes for adults and thrillers.

Chinese in North America

Joy Luck Club water-rat-of-wanchai Everything I never Told You

Some of you might think this is an odd combination, or just the title of the conference might not be appealing. However, my take of having a panel of Amy Tan, who is the veteran in the writing about Chinese-American life and contrasts, Celeste Ng, who is a more modern version of writing about a Chinese-American family and some racism issues in their time frame and Ian Hamilton, who is writing a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant and somewhat of a femme fatale/strong female figure, shows off the diversity of the characters and actually shows a bigger picture of not only writing about Chinese but in general, it can be useful when writing about other cultures and the difficulties of adapting to the new world or even racism while weaving it into a different genre.

The Joy Luck Club is pretty much pure fiction about mother and daughter relationships while Celeste Ng is the relationship of a Chinese-American family, taking on the different voices as they solve the mystery of their missing daughter and the secrets that are revealed might just help decipher what really happened. While, Ian Hamilton would bring in a fresh voice as a non-Chinese crafting the dangerous adventures of Ava Lee, a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant and has built quite the series as he takes Ava Lee to many different places in the world solving case after case. This panel could give good insight on what it is to be an author writing about Chinese culture and even seeing the world through someone with a different background and upbringing and/or family structure.

What would be your dream author conference panel? Why? 

Eventbrite is the largest self-service ticketing platform in the world that helps people find and plan events. If you are interested in looking for or planning conferences in your local area, this conference management page HERE may be something you would like to check out.

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The Classics Adventure: Persuasion by Jane Austen

The original plan was to wrap up Persuasion by the end of 2015 but then I caught a cold the week before Christmas and then the holidays came and went and we had parties and gatherings and really more time spent cleaning and recuperating, relaxing, recharging than actually reading.  Lots of Rs going on there.  Point is: 2016 came around and I kicked into my turbo mode and finished up this novel in the beginning of the year. I’ve been having a slightly rough bit of Jane Austen especially with Mansfield Park.  So, its hard to really know what to expect in Persuasion.

Persuasion
by Jane Austen

Persuasion

Written at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and the determination of one woman as she strives to reignite a lost love. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realises she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. – Goodreads

Jane Austen novels are never long but nothing quite beats the feeling of picking up Persuasion and seeing how thin it was.  I’ve never known much about the book prior to reading it but one of my girl friends claim that its her favorite.  Coming from her high recommendations, I really couldn’t wait to open it. Right from the start, you know that Austen has really matured her main character, Anne Elliott. Reading an Austen book is like stepping into a refined world of social etiquette and class, I always love that world.  I think the best way to describe it was what a character in Austenland puts it, “an idea of a simple world where love is straight-forward and lasting”. I think nothing quite matches up to that quote than Persuasion where we are watching to see if Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth can get back together after a fallout when they were younger.  On one hand, Anne is hoping that Captain Wentworth has forgiven her while he wants to forget but knows that he will only ever love her. Its reading books like this that really ignite the romantic in me that I’ve actually been missing a lot.

Aside from the longing romance for Anne and Captain Wentworth, I think what makes Persuasion very intriguing is that within the story, there are quite a few characters. We get to learn about each of them and they each have a personality to go with it.  Some of them are made out to be really unpleasant while others are truly harmless. They create a balance that helps set the story in motion at a decent pace. Its never overwhelming or confusing.  Whether its Anne’s multiple sisters or her father or family or friends, we get a good idea of where they stand in terms of social class and their views towards the idea of marriage or relationship.  The building or should I say, rebuilding, of the relationship between Anne and Captain Wentworth are the highlight here.  They start with awkwardness and despair of not being sure how to interact to finally taking the first steps and being a little rusty to feeling like they really just want to be friends and nothing more and then finally not bearing the fact of their love for each other at the end.  While that may sound like a spoiler, it really isn’t.  Austen’s writing is well-paced and elegant enough to make sure that even if we already know the outcome, the characters and story still come to life.

Overall, Persuasion is one Austen book that I’m definitely going to re-read and be almost sure that I will feel enthralled with the experience of falling into the world of Anne and Captain Wentworth rekindling their romance.  Its one that really feels romantic and shows a forever love and that can’t be pushed away.  Its about growing up and realizing what matters most and not being influenced by those around you.  I really liked it a lot.  For me, its right up there with Pride and Prejudice.

One more Jane Austen novel after this one: Northanger Abbey.

What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I’m definitely late to the party for The Fault in Our Stars and I’ve skimmed through a few reviews of John Green trying my best to avoid spoilers. All I know is that its about a girl living with cancer who falls in love with a boy.  Its supposed to be tear jerking and already adapted into a movie lead by Shailene Woodley.  That’s where I’m at with this book so clear mind, clear head going into this.  The deal with these sort of books is that I’m not sure what the depressing level is and sometimes, I’m just not in the mindset to do this especially since I do most of my reading in the morning on the bus.  Crying or being depressed isn’t exactly the way I’d like to start my work day, if you get what I mean. Anyways, I wanted to watch the movie and I really wanted to read this before seeing it so here I am, done after a few days.

The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. – Goodreads

 I had to put a lot of thought into how to write about The Fault in Our Stars.  I feel that a good bit of you out there who have read this probably liked this a lot more than I did.  Now, that isn’t to say that I didn’t like it.  The book was something different and I give my praise to it for being raw.  Its like getting punched in the gut kind of raw.  And it radiates a feeling that doesn’t really hit until you think about it.  The metaphors John Green uses with stars and constellations and just how deep and simple life actually really is especially if you’ve seen it as you live every day blessed that you are still alive but really not so happy that you are causing so much pain around you.  Its a dramatic life.  I get all that.  I’d lie if I said that my eyes didn’t get all teary as I read a few of the parts.

the fault in our stars

The Fault in Our Stars couldn’t help but be a little predictable in the actual story.  You know that was where it was going.  You knew the outcome of Augustus and Hazel.  There was no escaping the eventuality of it.  It was just staring at us in the face even before it was announced officially.  Still, John Green does a good job at making us attached to Hazel and Augustus and what they have.  Its poetically and dramatically beautiful.  So look, I thought The Fault in Our Stars in a great book.  Perfect? Not so much.  At one point, it reminded me of the billion of Korean dramas out there.  If you’ve seen at least one of them, you know what I mean.  Its kind of a spoiler, I guess if you know nothing so highlight if you want to see what I mean. Someone always ends up getting cancer or some terminal disease after the couple finally So yeah.  I saw it coming a mile away.  Maybe you did too.

The Fault in Our Stars

 And maybe that’s why I felt a little not sure how to write this because as much it should hit hard, it didn’t hit me as much initially.  Now thats where I guess my thoughts change a little.  As I tried to work out the thoughts for this review, even now, a good few days later, I eventually sat down and started talking it out to my boyfriend even if he knew nothing about it and I realized that what touched me was not necessarily Hazel and Augustus but rather the whole concept of the tragic love.  The idea that life is taken away before they could have more time being in love or just being more and doing more meaningful things or making a mark in the world but then how these two characters live completely aware of that and most of time accepting the fact of that and eventually enjoying more of life because of that.  They live being as honest as they can to themselves, trying to make the most of their time and seeking out the answers they can.   Because of what they’ve lived through and live with, it makes their life more profound and it lets them see more than we do.  

the fault in our stars

I guess the idea is that the the fragility of life through the idea of Augustus and Hazel makes us see how we should be grateful for the days we have.  The beauty of our world is really what we make of it.  The fact that these two young ones are able to be so brave and strong for each other, especially through the words of John Green and his metaphors, we get hit with some raw feelings and thats what hits hard.  Not the story about falling in love because its in how you make it connect to the reader.  For me, the after effect of The Fault in our Stars lingering my mind was a lot more than while I was reading it.  While I appreciated the words and the description and each and every character in The Fault in Our Stars, I couldn’t help but feel that the story wasn’t perfect.  Or maybe thats how its supposed to feel at the end: a little empty, a tad hurt and desiring that there was a little more. I really don’t know…

I gave this a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads so yes, I really liked it.  What striked me more about The Fault in our Stars was the fragility of life and those bittersweet moments and not really their love story.

***Updated: After the review went up, as I was updating Goodreads, I had given this more thought and felt that my original 3.5 bumping to 4 was an overstatement so I dropped it back to 3 out of 5.***

 Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? What are your thoughts on it? 

Book Review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

How many of you have seen the movie Hugo? Hugo is based in the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret from Brian Selznick and that was probably one of the best reading experiences I have had. Wonderstruck is Brian Selznick’s second book using the same concept of storytelling alternating with illustrations and words.

wonderstuck cover

Wonderstuck is the story of two children Rose and Ben who both end up going on a journey to seek out what they feel is missing in their lives. Set 50 years apart, Rose seeks to find an actress after seeing a headline news while Ben search for his father and a place to belong after finding a clue in his old house after his mother’s passing.  This leads them both to travel alone to the big city of New York City and perhaps look for something different that could change their lives.

While The Invention of Hugo Cabret was one flowing story throughout between the illustrations and the written story, Wonderstruck uses a parallel between the two stories even though its separated 50 years apart.  Ben’s story is written out while Rose is shown in pictures.  The drawings remain captivating as always and makes the story extra vivid and mysterious at the same time.  Ben’s story is more narrative and we trace his discovery of who his possible father is and that he needs to find a sense of belonging (same as Rose).

What I love about this style is that it gives the readers a certain vision of what the author sees as he writes this story.  We get the idea of what is going on and the imagery.  As simple as the black and white illustrations are, he leads us on an almost step by step journey through what the character is going through.  At the same time, the words flow almost the same way.  When not in drawing, we get to read everything the Ben sees and feels and this helps pull us closer.  I was drawn to the book itself as soon as I got used to the concept of the book and followed the pace.

Whats also great is that as much as this is a children’s book and it makes this a quick read.  The most impressive part of this book is the emotions that it can make you feel between the words and the pictures.  I always feel that if adults were to read this with kids, it would be a fantastic experience for both.  Its often about family, friendships and a little bit of destiny and fate all mixed together for the course of events to happen.  It always seems to strike at discovering the place that you belong or just simply the sense of belonging.

Wonderstruck is a great reading experience for both children and adults and one that shouldn’t be missed out 🙂

 

Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Earlier this year, I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  If you want a review of that amazing novel which is supposed to be made into film soon-ish, you can find mine HERE. With that in mind, I decided to seek out her two earlier books and read them eventually.  I bought Sharp Objects a few months ago and as I try to balance the genre of novels I read, I finally decided to start this one earlier this week.  Sharp Objects is Gillian Flynn’s first novel and she was the Edgar Nominee for Best First Novel.

sharp objects coverSharp Objects is about Camille Preaker who is a reporter based in Chicago focusing on the darker criminal cases.  Her boss is eager to find that breakout case that can make the newspaper popular and shoot up in sales, so hearing about one case of brutal child murder and a following one with a missing child in Camille’s hometown, Wind Gap, he sends her there to try to get some information.  When she goes back, her memories of why she escapes tortures her from the death of her sister, her relationship with her mother and the days when she used to cut words onto her body.  On arrival, she seeks information that everyone reluctantly hides away from her as to protect the town but she meets the other out of town cop, Richard, who was sent to help out with the case also.  As she tries to uncover the truth, she realizes she has to confront some of her own issues before she can see clearly through this case.

Can I go straight out and say that I think Gillian Flynn just became one of the most awesome writers for thrillers? Gone Girl was an amazing book and it was her breakthrough one, I believe.  However, if you think her debut novel was any worse, you may be wrong. The only difference with this one is that it starts off a bit slower.

Sharp Objects has a slow beginning to build up the situation and understand the complex relationships in Wind Gap and to get to know our main character Camille a bit better and her very messed up past.  However, once you get past that, you get pulled right into the story itself as she pieces information together from past people in her lives and as she struggles with her own issues, we see how things are related even before she probably does.  Even with that, she keeps the readers guessing as to who is doing those cruel acts of violent murders to little preteen girls right to almost the very end.

Through a good part of this novel, I was on the “really like it” level and then when that ending came by and it went completely out of the world into crazy messed up phase, I was sold.  That ending made me feel like I was almost as anxious as running a marathon.  My heart was pounding from the intensity of how the situation unravels.

I highly recommend this novel.  Its a haunting, suspenseful psychological thriller that paces itself really well and then before you know it, you get sucked right into the action.  Your brain won’t rest one minute till you know who committed those crimes.  I believe addictive is the word to describe it.  That is a rarity in my novel reading experience, especially a double hit with one author.

I’m telling you now that after I take a break to erase some of the disturbing images I have from reading this, you should be expecting a review on her second book Dark Places soon-ish!

Book Review: A Woman Lost by T.B. Markinson

Seeing as its August recommendation month here, I decided to show some love for the fellow authors I follow.  Trust me, I buy ALL of your ebooks and store them on my tablet.  Trouble is, I’m still building the habit of reading on my tablet so it just sits there.  For this month, I’m venturing to read those books.  If you just followed me and you have a book, or you just saw this and wanted to share a book that you wrote with me, tweet, email, facebook message me, even search me up on Goodreads and tell me.  I’d love to showcase it here.  This month is about giving back to all of you.  There is just so much talent here that I can’t help but support it all.

a woman lostFirst up is the ever wonderful T.B. Markinson’s debut novel A Woman Lost.  She has two blogs currently.  One is 50 Year Project and the other is Making Your Mark. I first met her on 50 Year Project and it where she showcases her travelling adventures all around the world, her reading and movie watching challenges.  Its a great personal journey to read.  Making Your Mark is the more recent blog featuring her world as a self-published author.  Both are very awesome and you should definitely stop by to check it out.

Lets start this review with a little synopsis:

A Woman Lost is about Elizabeth “Lizzie” Petrie who is intelligent and beautiful, has a trust fund as she pursues the career of her dreams and also has an attractive and sweet girlfriend Susan.  When her brother Peter calls her out of the blue to announce and invite her to his wedding and to meet his future wife, Maddie, she is forced to face her family that neglects and dislikes her, especially her mother who is unaccepting of her sexual orientation.  All her mother sees is Les-Bi-An. In this situation, she loses track of how her life should be and gets scared as Susan asks her to commit.  This fear, in turn makes her start avoiding the situation and questioning what she wants in her future.  Will Lizzie be able to conquer her fears and decide what she really wants?

I’m not a person thats crazy about chick literature.  I used to back in my high school days when I read Nicholas Sparks.  BUT, if  you use A Woman Lost to initiate that whole world of romance, its definitely a good start.  Its hard to believe this is a debut novel because it was really well written.  The story was enjoyable and had some pretty sexy and passionate sex scenes to top things off. I haven’t read an ebook (that was actually a novel) this fast but the story made me want to just keep going to find out what happens to a clueless and self-absorbed Lizzie.

What is great about the story is that even though it was a romance, it was also something of a self-discovery and a whole mural of other problems that influence relationships like family and our past for example. It makes it so much more realistic.  Thats one of the issues I usually have with romance novels.  This definitely didn’t go too far from being realistic.

Also, the characters in the story were great.  Even though, the main focus was on Lizzie and her partner Susan and her brother’s fiancee Maddie.  These characters lead the romantic story on really well.  However, my favorite has to be her behind the scenes best friend Ethan.  Those conversations made it a bit more humorous in a way and was always fun to read.

It was a really enjoyable and engaging romantic read.  I loved every minute of it.  It wasn’t too long either.  I highly recommend that you check this out and show a fellow blogger some love 🙂 If you aren’t into romance, maybe you know someone that does!

Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Dramatic and emotional books are ones that I read very rarely.  Mostly because with something so serious and profound, I need to be mentally relaxed to read.  However, Still Alice has been on my radar for a while.

still alice coverStill Alice is about a middle age woman called Alice Howland who is married, has an equally successful husband, two daughters and one son and resides in Boston on the Harvard campus as she is an expert in the psychology of linguistics.  I’m not much of an expert in these things so if I use the wrong terms, please excuse me.  Her success has lead her to write books and do guest conferences to talk about her professional expertise and teach others of what she has learned aside from also being a professor in Harvard.  However, things start changing when she realizes that she starts forgetting words during lectures, slipping her mind about catching a flight for the conference then she starts suspecting something is wrong and seeks her doctor to refer her to a neurologist when she forgets for a moment how to get home on a jog. This starts a new chapter in her life when she is finally diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. From there, we watch as she uses her ways as much as she can to keep her memory for as long as possible.  The tragedy of losing your memory and being confused and feeling useless overcomes Alice but this also allows her to see the ones she loved and neglected due to her career in a clearer perspective.

This is a very strong portrayal of Alzheimer’s.  I won’t know whether these symptoms are true or if someone going through this goes through such an extent or if its even dramatized.  I’ve never experienced it first hand as someone coping with family nor do I hope to.  But as a reader, this book was powerful because it efficiently drags you into the world of Alice.  I connected really quickly to the character and as her disease worsened and it affected her more and more, I couldn’t put the book down to see how she would deal with it. I haven’t actually read a book this fast and its not really a long book being shy of 300 pages.

Its definitely one that will tug at your heartstrings and bring you on an unexpected journey.  One very important part of this is to notice the detail.  Its set in third person narration but also uses Alice’s recollection and perspectives to retell her story.  It makes for a an interesting read when I first started that before she would say something and then afterwards, you see that her memory fools her into thinking something else.  For a moment, I looked at the difference and had to flip back to double check if there really was a lapse in her memory.

I’m definitely recommending this book.  I found it to be quite an interesting and unique reading experience.   To look so closely at such an increasingly popular incurable disease is tragic but bittersweet.  It really tells how life is unexpected and hands us lots of lemons and its really up to us to try to turn it into lemonade.  The obvious message is to understand the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and to be aware of the damage that it can do and to not wave it as a possibility  no matter what age, but the hidden message is that we need to treat life and be grateful of what we have and our loved ones because they can vanish from our lives without even a trace and sometimes, there isn’t anything we can do about it.

Have you read Still Alice? Did you enjoy it? Was there something that bothered you?