In which Em and I beg your forgiveness for our lack of attention to the blog these past few months, and make our New Years Resolution to give you more bookish thoughts, reviews, and other fun content
Apologies, or getting off on the right foot
Happy 2018, fellow book lovers!
We have a lot of apologies, mostly for totally abandoning our usual review schedule sometime in October. As our bios will tell you, Em and I are both grad students in strenuous programs, balancing other interests and jobs, and this past semester beat both of us down to the point where keeping up with anything other than the basics on the blog was a non-option. I didn’t even have time to open a book from the beginning of November until this past week. We hate that we let you guys down, and we hate that we haven’t been able to give sufficient time to the things we actually love, instead of the things we have to do for school. But we hope that you, dear readers, are understanding fellows, and still along with us for the ride in this new year. I can’t make any promises, but we’re both going to make an effort to devote more time to creating content for the blog, and for reading in general. We might be bringing in a guest reviewer or two to help us out–but don’t worry, our content is still going to be the stuff you love.
That being said, I’m really excited about what’s coming up this semester. There are some truly incredible books coming out this year–starting off right with Marie Lu’s Batman, the conclusion to Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands trilogy, Tomi Adeyemi’s HIGHLY recommended new fantasy story Children of Blood and Bone, and so many others. Really, guys, the book harvest for this spring is going to be FANTASTIC. And, as excited as I am for each and every one of those Amazon boxes, I’m just as excited to share all of my thoughts on these books with you.
But, in addition to all of these brand-new beauties, I’m also eager to share the love of old (or at least less recently published) friends. There were some lovely books published last year, but that fell victim to mine and Em’s busyness, which I’d like to give due credit. And who knows what any library haul will bring, after all. If I find any YA gems, I’ll of course share them with you.
And, although 2018 looks to be less bountiful in terms of author visits, I’ll share with you any and all adventures that Em and I end up having (book-related, that is). And, of course, I’ll elaborate on some of our adventures in the latter half of 2017. We did go back to Y’ALLfest in Charleston, so I’ll fill you in on our experiences there as book-bloggers and also veteran YALLfest goers.
Basically, I’m going to do my darndest to make sure that you guys get to share in all of our bookish thoughts and adventures–I hope you enjoy them.
The weather in Chapel Hill was horrific on Wednesday. Rain was pouring down, the entire county was under a tornado watch, and there was a collective reluctance to take one step further from car to bookstore than absolutely necessary–not that I can blame them. Even I took some *ahem* creative license with parking so I wouldn’t have to face the overflow lot across the street. But Flyleaf Books was warm and welcoming once I finally dashed through the rain to get there. I picked up my preorder, accepted the complimentary goodie bag, and found a seat. There were a surprising amount of people there, for the weather. But the Tour De Force of Roshani Chokshi, S. Jae-Jones, and the great Renee Ahdieh herself was enough to make even my creative parking job worth it.
Diversity, strong women and the proper way to eat hot cheetos: an evening at Flyleaf Books with Roshani Chokshi, S. Jae-Jones, and Renee Ahdieh
Em and I have met Renee Ahdieh more times than we can count on one one hand–and we saw Roshani Chokshi less than two months ago at this same bookstore. But the thrill of an author event never wears off–as was shown by the loud applause when the three authors swooped in. And the authors looked just as excited, with Renee even having nails that matched her book. They (and I) were there to celebrate the recent release of Flame in the Mist, which is #3 on the New York Times list. But I was also excited to see Roshani and ‘JJ’ (S. Jae-Jones) talk about their works.
Renee started the conversation off with a favorite go-to: What is the wackiest thing that any of the authors had done in the name of research? She cited, for instance, the previously discussed Kitchen Fire incident and how she and Sabaa Tahir are going to learn how to make katanas from a famous swordsmith somewhere in the Pacific Northeast. When the other authors hesitated, she tried to egg them on (c’mon, no shame–I’m already on a watchlist because my last name has two ‘h’s). But to no avail–both Roshani and JJ said that research was less wacky than necessary in their eyes. Roshani did admit to once sneaking into a San Tropez club by posing as an Arabian princess, though.
They then continued on to the topic of Hogwarts Houses, spurred on by the declaration that JJ was the most dangerous (to be fair, she was using a lollipop roughly as a villain might use a cigar the entire time). They talked about how it was to write characters with opposing personalities to themselves–JJ especially said she wanted to strangle her protagonist Liesl through the computer screen sometimes. But there were also interesting tidbits about how the characters came about–for instance, the protagonist of Flame in the Mist had Hermione as inspiration.
As could be expected, the topic then turned to food. This may have been because none of the authors had eaten dinner, but Renee asked what snacks were necessary to the writing process. JJ admitted to needing twizzlers and iced coffee in order to write, although she doesn’t like sugar (aside from lollipops) at any other time. When pushed, Renee admitted ‘I just really like cheese, guys’. She then made the claim ‘all asians like hot cheetos’, which neither Roshani or JJ could dispute (also, all of the smart people eat cheetos with chopsticks, apparently). Roshani, however, had the most horrifying writerly snack–she admitted to eating plain coffee grounds while writing, which made her look more than a little deranged. Fortunately, all agreed that the writerly uniform of ‘yoga pants just respectable enough to wear to the mailbox’ (a quote from JJ), accommodated a little strangeness.
When things came time for the Q&A, however, things got a little less silly and *very* interesting. The first girl asked how all of the authors balanced writing historical characters, and also writing feminist characters. The conclusion the authors came to was that there have always been strong women, even constrained by their historical circumstances, who still managed to do great things. Renee cited Mulan and the historical figure Ching Shih as inspiration for strong non-European female figures, and also pointed out that only women characters had to be specifically written as strong–male characters are seen as strong by default. But Renee also said that there are different forms of strength, a strong theme in Flame in the Mist.
The next question was even more of a whammy: How to write successfully from a diverse perspective? (the girl who asked said that she had been told by someone that writing from her own perspective of a black woman was not ‘relevant’, a statement that had all of the writers bristling). As they pointed out, after all, all of the writers were culturally diverse and wrote across their own culture and other cultures. Renee said that the best way to write diverse novels was to be responsible–responsible in research, responsible to every aspect of your writing, and responsible to the various elements of that culture. She said to always think about different perspectives and lenses, and to learn from criticism–no one’s experience is alike, after all, even if the they hail from the same culture. JJ followed with an amendment to the ‘write what you know’ rule: write what you know to be true.
Someone else asked which strong female characters, historical or otherwise, the authors found inspirational. Roshani gushed about her adoration of the Empress Theodora, who rose from ‘actress’ to Empress and was by many accounts quite successful. Renee took the opportunity to point out that the whiff of prostitution had been used to cheapen strong women or diminish their achievements. She pointed out that Ching Shih had also been cited as being an ‘actress’, for example. She also talked about how her inspiration, Cleopatra, is known only as a seductress despite documentation of her immense intelligence and achievements. JJ continued by pointing out that Hatshepsut, another Egyptian queen, had only been able to maintain power by employing masculine symbols. However, JJ said that there were numerous trailblazers who were ignored simply because they weren’t white men, citing the Chevalier de Saint-Georges as a contemporary and equal to Mozart who history had conveniently forgotten.
There were the usual questions that pop up at these events as well, of course. Someone asked about what plate each author would be, and then there was the usual ‘what advice do you have for aspiring authors’ (answer: tenacity). We learned about Renee’s obsession with flying mythological beasts. Roshani laughed about having to convince her parents she really was dropping out of law school to write, not because she was pregnant (the writerly browsing of baby name sites did NOT help). Roshani did, however, let slip that all of her character names are ‘dead giveaways’ to importance/traits, and Renee admitted Kenshin was named after a certain anime show. She also told us the title of the sequel to Flame in the Mist (unfortunately, she swore us all to secrecy over it). All authors agreed they had no plans or desire to revisit early unpublished works, but were all VERY vague when someone asked about the stories that they most desperately wanted to write.
We then circled around to the idea of original stories–when someone asked about trends in YA, Renee said they were all far more organic than they seemed, and referenced Christopher Booker’s thesis that there are only seven plots that exist, it’s just your own flair that makes yours original. When asked about the tropes/plots they keep going back to, Renee said that the Chinese epic the Romance of the Three Kingdoms had always been a source of inspiration. Roshani confessed to liking Bluebeard/Beauty and the Beast stories, and S. Jae-Jones said she enjoyed the Death and the Maiden trope (readers of Wintersong and the Star-Touched Queen already knew this).
Finally it was time for the signing, which was neatly organized depending on whether you had bought a book from the bookstore or not. The calling of groups was, however, made worth it by a special treat–someone in Renee’s family had arranged for homemade Flame in the Mist-themed macarons to be present at the signing, and they were DELICIOUS. Renee once again recognized me, and even smiled indulgently as I scooped up multiple copies of the stylized character cards. I then stopped to chat with Roshani, who was an absolute doll and signed something for me even though I already had her signed books at home.
Laden down with books and swag and stuffing a chocolate macaron into my face, I felt happy even as I walked back out into the driving rain.
Hello, dear readers!
In anticipation of YALLfest, which is in a week from now, Emily and I have decided to share some tips we’ve learned from two (one) year(s) of going, and also some common-sense ideas which we try to apply to our own trip. Hopefully these help, or at least infuse you with deep, deep envy at the fact that we’re going to be in Charleston next week. Continue reading
Hello, faithful readers!
We keep up with this blog because we love stories, and you presumably read our blog because you also love stories–funny how that works, isn’t it? And, because October is generally seen as kind of a creepy month, stories just abound. It’s a time when we can pretend that the supernatural elements we love to read about can be glimpsed in the world around us…and, if we’re lucky, they might not think we’re lunch.
We here at Bibliobibuli, then, thought that the perfect way to celebrate Halloween was to share our very own scary story with you–enjoy!
Here is a story.
Once upon a time, there were two girls goofing off during AP History. I mean, they weren’t supposed to be goofing off, but it was ridiculously easy when thirty kids were literally crammed into the classroom–oh, and on top of that, this was the first year of the Laptops. They gave all of us old Dell computers and said we HAD to use them in class, can you believe it? (I have no idea if this is still a thing, they might have actually gotten wise by now).
So, maybe you don’t know about YALLfest. It’s nothing to be ashamed about–I didn’t either, up until about this time two years ago. However, if you don’t know, this is the perfect time to look it up and then plan to go down to Charleston November 13-14.
If you haven’t guessed, that’s where Emily, myself and perhaps a few others plan to be that weekend. Why? Oh, only to meet our favourite authors, get our favourite books signed, and report back to you, dear readers, about everything you missed by not going to YALLfest. But, to convince you to go, we’re going to spend most of the rest of the time reminding you of all the reasons why we, personally, are looking forward to it.
I love my iPad for so many, many reasons, one of which being that I can have an entire library of kindle books in a few measly pounds of electronic device. Especially since one of my goals in life is to travel, it’s a blessing–I can read my favorite books, wherever I am. I wouldn’t have survived a year abroad without it. But I also missed, really missed, being able to really hold a book.
By whom I mean Kaija Rudkiewicz and Silver Saarmaeel, of the comic Run Freak Run and, more recently, the serialized novel Daughters of the Witch Queen. After Emily and I signed up to be beta-readers for their new project, I learned that the authors and I happen to currently live in the same city (Berlin, Germany), and so made a time to meet.