Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Three Reasons to Read The Way the Light Bends

Do you love electric, heartrending stories about the bonds that bind families? Do you enjoy stories told in carefully-cracked lines of free-verse poetry? Do you long to travel to New York through vividly-woven world-building?

If so, you have to give Cordelia's Jensen's work a try. Keep reading to find out why you should pick up The Way the Light Bends (or click here if you're interested in Skyscraping, her debut novel centered around the NYC AIDS crisis), but whichever book you start with, I know you'll be a fan.

the book

The Way the Light Bends by Cordelia Jensen | Goodreads

Publisher: Philomel Books
Release: March 27, 2018
Source: Author
ISBN: 9780399547447
Virtual twins Linc and Holly were once extremely close. But while artistic, creative Linc is her parents' daughter biologically, it's smart, popular Holly, adopted from Ghana as a baby, who exemplifies the family's high-achieving model of academic success.

Linc is desperate to pursue photography, to find a place of belonging, and for her family to accept her for who she is, despite her surgeon mother's constant disapproval and her growing distance from Holly. So when she comes up with a plan to use her photography interests and skills to do better in school--via a project based on Seneca Village, a long-gone village in the space that now holds Central Park, where all inhabitants, regardless of race, lived together harmoniously--Linc is excited and determined to prove that her differences are assets, that she has what it takes to make her mother proud. But when a long-buried family secret comes to light, Linc must decide whether her mother's love is worth obtaining.

three reasons to read it 

I'm a firm believer that YA needs more families, more present parents, more sibling relationships—and when I say all of this, I mean YA needs more families like Cordelia Jensen writes them. In both her debut and her upcoming novel, she creates bittersweet family bonds that feel emotional and true-to-life. Whether you're cheering for Linc to convince her parents that her artistic pursuits are worthwhile or racing to uncover the family's shrouded, storied past, you'll be completely absorbed in this family's strained-yet-somehow-loving home.

Best of all, though, is Linc's relationship with her twin, Holly. The pair used to be inseparable, but lately their lives have diverged due to differing interests, Holly's boyfriend, and more—leaving Linc feeling lonely and left-behind. The result is a relatable, uncomfortable, fascinating dynamic. It's perfect for fans of The Upside of Unrequited who related to Molly's struggle to come to terms with the fact that she and her twin might not always be each other's #1 person.

One of this story's key interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts is Linc's perceived inability to succeed in school; her academic struggles create immense tension between her and her parents and deeply impact her self-worth. These conflicts provide plenty of room for character growth—on the part of the protagonist and her parents—but best of all, seeing a protagonist with average academics is refreshing in and of itself. The Way the Light Bends reflects the reality, as so many contemporary YA books do not, that not every teen has a 4.0 GPA, that not every teen feels stereotypically book-smart—and most importantly, that straight As in high school are not a prerequisite for a successful life. I loved watching Linc pursue her dreams despite her confusion in geometry class, and I want to cheer for more characters with an academic standing like hers.

I'll admit it: I'm not usually a fan of the in-verse storytelling style. It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but verse writing has to truly captivate me to have me as invested as classic prose. That's why Jensen's stunning ability to tell rich, deeply-felt stories using sparse wording impresses me all the more.

In my review of Skyscraping, I wrote that Jensen's broken free verse creates an emotional, breathless voice, as if the narrator is bursting with a vital story but is too emotional to tell her tale in anything more than short explosions of words. A similar analysis can be applied to The Way the Light Bends; while Jensen's upcoming novel isn't quite as much of a tearjerker as her debut, its verse still conveys a breathlessness, an inability to tell the whole truth. But this time, the breathlessness comes from Linc's passion for her art; the brokenness from her fear to share her true self with her family. The result is a fast-paced, captivating story that reads like the staccato clicks of a camera shutter—but manages to create an image as cinematic as a Pulitzer-winning photograph.

Have you read any of Cordelia Jensen's work, and do you love it as much as I do? What are your favorite books about family, and what are your favorite novels in verse? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Top Ten 2017 Releases I Didn't Get Around to Reading

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
I read 58 books in 2017—a respectable amount for a busy university student, but not enough to truly get in on the end-of-the-year wrap-up post fun. As always, I compiled a best-of-the-year list, but that's about it.

One wrap-up post I totally can get in on, though, is a post about books I didn't manage to read. Here are the top ten 2017 releases I somehow didn't make time to read last year (but hope to read this year).

1. Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
A magical realism f/f romance-slash-coming-of-age story centering a prize-winning teenage painter? Why haven't I read this yet?

2. North of Happy by Adi Alsaid
I've been an avid fan of Adi Alsaid's since 2014, so I can't believe I didn't pick up this book ASAP!

3. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
I've heard so much praise for this fun story about fandoms and friendships set in a convention center.

4. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
I know. I'm behind. I'll get caught up before From Twinkle, with Love comes out.

5. Be True To Me by Adele Griffin
I'm not sure why I haven't read the latest book by one of my favorite authors—especially since I met her at Book Expo—but I will soon. I can't wait to enter the sure-to-be atmospheric world of 1970s Long Island.

6. You Don't Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow
This book about an adopted teen whose teenage pregnancy forces her to come to terms with her own biological mother's choices sounds like everything I love about contemporary YA.

7. Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza
With a cover so attention-grabbing and a premises centered around fandom and mental health, this book begs to be read, and I absolutely will  this year.

8. That Thing We Call A Heart by Sheba Karim
I have got to read this novel about a girl navigating friendships, faith, and family; exploring her sexuality; and so much more in 2018.

9. You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
A book about a graffiti war featuring a Deaf protagonist? I have to read this one (and the author's 2018 release, which sounds equally wonderful) this year.

10. If Birds Fly Back by Carly Sorosiak
This novel is described as "a sparkling debut about love, family, and the mysteries of the universe." I'm sold, even if I didn't get around to reading it in 2017.

Which 2017 releases do you still need to catch up on? And which of these books should I tackle first? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Top Five Goals and Resolutions for 2018

New Year’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. While I know I can strike up a new habit whenever I want, there’s something so refreshing, peaceful, and contemplative about embarking on a new chapter in our shared story on January 1. It’s like that Anne of Green Gables quote—"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” —only it’s a whole new year, and everyone is starting anew together.

In the past, though, I haven’t set effective goals on January 1. I tend to be too rigid, and my resolutions are filled with words like never and every day, which (for most people) only leads to frustration. So this year, I’ve settled on five bigger-picture goals that I plan to incorporate into my life—perhaps not every moment of every day, but certainly as much as I can.

Last year, I resolved to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I mean “Thank you” (e.g. stop saying “Sorry for bothering you” when I mean “Thank you for your help”), and this year I want to take it one step further. I’m not going to apologize when I should be dealing with the issue instead.

If I can’t make it to a proposed meeting time, I’m not going to apologize profusely and give a long-winded explanation of my prior commitment. No one cares. They just want to know what time would work. If it’s not my fault, I don’t need to waste my time or your time apologizing when we could be solving the problem.

This year is probably going to be the busiest of my life so far. This semester, I’ll be taking what I’ve been told is the most difficult courseload in my degree program (essentially, it’s an integrated introduction to all aspects of running a business, tied together with a semester-long group project) as well as interning for 20 hours per week. Next semester, I’ll hopefully be studying abroad. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)

I won’t have time to be the perfectionist I’ve always been. So, when possible, I’m going to strive to make my work 80% as good as I can. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s an inspiring video that changed my perspective on trying to make my work perfect.)

I’ve dreamed of spending a semester outside of the United States (preferably in London) since I was about nine or ten years old. Now it’s finally time to make it happen. Stay tuned for updates.

When I was a freshman in high school, one of my teachers shared with my class a quote from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Ever since, I’ve been trying to listen to understand, and many friends have called me a good listener, a label that I truly believe must be given to you by others.

I’ve prided myself on being a good listener for years, but lately I’ve started to feel more distracted by my obligations, my incessant internal monologue, the impending demise of society (you know, the usual), even when I’m trying to listen to someone else. This year, I’m going to quiet these distractions when talking with a friend (or trying to listen to myself).

I’m terrified of making mistakes, whether that means getting a B (or worse) in a class or getting lost while exploring a new city. But like I said before, 2018 is the year I don’t have time to strive for perfection. I’m going to prioritize learning and gaining new experiences over staying in my comfort zone, especially if when I study abroad. (I refuse to stay in my dorm because I’m worried about mixing up a train transfer on a trip to Berlin.)

As J.K. Rowling once said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” This is the year of not failing by default.

What are your goals for the new year? 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top Ten of 2017

After 57 books comprising 20,711 pages (and counting! I’m planning to finish Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s The Gallery by the end of the night!), I’m finally ready to recap my year in books. For the first time since I started blogging, I somehow read more this year than I did last year—in terms of number of books and number of pages—and here are my ten favorites in the order that I read them:

1. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
I waited until winter break to read this one because I knew I’d want to binge-read. It was my first book of 2017, and I couldn’t imagine a better start to my year in reading. I don’t think I need to explain any further.

2. Geekerella by Ashley Poston
One of my favorite retellings ever, this Cinderella-meets-cosplay story perfectly encapsulates fan culture. It’s an absolute joy to read, and it’s a manifesto for being an unapologetic fan of whatever you enjoy.

3. We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
This existential novel about aliens, grief and depression, the end of the world, and our incredible insignificance as humans creates a magical, immersive reading experience. The author vividly brings the characters’ emotions and experiences to life, interspersing the plot with imaginative scenarios that could cause the destruction of life on earth—unless the main character decides it’s worth saving.

4. Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate
On the surface, this novel promises to deliver plenty of high school scandal and drama. And it does, but it also delivers so much more. Seven Ways We Lie features clever characterization (seven main characters represent the seven deadly sins) and perfectly-paced dialogue, creating an obsessively addictive story.

5. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
I never cry while reading, and I’m pretty sure I cried about 50 times during this 256-page book. The entire story envelops you in a sense of deep melancholy and loneliness unmatched by any book I’ve read before. Basically, reading this book feels like facing a dementor—but in the best possible way. (Like Ron Weasley once said, you’re going to suffer, but you’re going to be happy about it.) Plus, it’s one of the most character-driven books you’ll ever read, but never in a way that seems dull—instead, it will immerse you enchantingly, entirely into its perfectly-paced plot.

6. Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis
This YA debut is one of the most underrated books I’ve read this year. It’s about inadvertently becoming an artist, questioning who you are, and chasing romance but finding yourself instead. Told in a fun, feminist voice that reads like a (more socially- and self-aware) Georgia Nicolson, this book should be on your TBR.

7. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
This book doesn’t come out until next year, but I had the exquisite privilege of reading it this year. It truly lives up to the hype; the world-building is beautiful, and the thrilling, sinister plot will have you constantly on edge. If this book somehow isn’t on your TBR already, please take this opportunity to add it now.

8. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
At 210 pages, this was the shortest book I read this year, and it was one of the best. It packs such an emotional punch into its short page count—the heavy, heartbreaking subject matter will make you want to take a break, but the sharp, staccato dialogue will keep you turning pages. I read it in a day, but I’ve been thinking about it for months.

9. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
I love Becky Albertalli, and I love every character she creates. The Upside of Unrequited made me cringe, smile, and nurse multiple heartaches right along with its protagonist. Just about everyone can find a reason to relate to Molly.

10. Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer 
Being Fishkill is the kind of heartbreaking-yet-hopeful book that the weary weight of the world is resting on your chest. It follows a young girl navigating family, friendship, poverty, and more, and I absolutely loved it.

What were your favorite books of 2017? Link me to your best-of-the-year posts in the comments or on Twitter!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top Fifteen 2018 Releases I'm Anticipating

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic—top ten 2018 releases on your TBR—was a difficult one. So many incredible-sounding titles are slated to hit shelves next year; there's no way I could narrow it down to just ten. So I not only allowed myself to list 15 books, but limited myself to books coming out in the first half of the year. (Remind me to make a follow-up post featuring late-2018 releases this summer!)

But for now, in order of release date, here are my top 15 most-anticipated titles being released between January and June of 2018.

1. Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
I've seen rave reviews for this book about reality TV, psychology, and personal crises. // Release: January 9

2. Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Black biromantic ace girl navigating a friendship-turned-crush? I'm here for this. // Release: January 23

3. American Panda by Gloria Chao
Seventeen-year-old MIT student Mei's parents have a plan for her: become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer. The only problem? She hates germs—and she has a crush on a Japanese classmate. // Release: February 6

4. The Calculus of Change by Jessie Hilb
I'm obsessed with books that have math- or science-based themes, and this novel about overcoming grief sounds like a great one. // Release: February 27

5. People Like Us by Dana Mele
I've heard this described as "gay Mean Girls" but with a murder mystery and a computer-coded scavenger hunt. I honestly don't know how to handle my excitement. // Release: February 27

6. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani 
Set in 1947 during India's partition, this story about religious identity, searching for home, and more sounds beautiful and heartrending. // Release: March 6

7. Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
I've been waiting for another Tess Sharpe book for more than four years, and this one sounds gritty and thrilling. // Release: March 6

8. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
This book about a girl grappling with her mother's suicide sounds heartfelt and magical (and it has one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen). // Release: March 20

9. Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
If this book isn't on your TBR, where have you been? What have you been doing? I'll pause this post while you go add it right now. // Release: March 20

10. Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter
New Ally Carter. I repeat: new Ally Carter. I haven't stopped screaming since this book was announced. // Release: March 27

11. And She Was by Jessica Verdi
I'm a long-time Jessica Verdi fan, and I have high hopes that this book about family, friendship, and road trips featuring a transgender mom will live up. // March 27

12. If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say by Leila Sales
After a National Spelling Bee champion sends an offensive tweet that she thought was a harmless joke, she must navigate the backlash and learn from her mistakes. // Release: May 1

13. The Foreseeable Future by Emily Adrian 
Audrey has long dreamed of skipping college and instead moving to Seattle. But could a viral video, a great part-time job, and a budding romance keep her from uprooting her life—at least for the foreseeable future? // Release: May 8

14. Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim
The summer before college, three best friends take an epic road trip to New Orleans to escape a set of furious parents. This book sounds addictive, quirky, and full of hijinks. // Release: June 5

15. Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin
Set in the 1980s, this companion novel to Be True to Me sounds intense, and spellbinding, just like all of Griffin's books. // Release: June 12

What are your most-anticipated 2018 releases?