Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Week in Instagram!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @
Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I thought I'd drop in on this weekly post series. Seems like fun.
Here is a few glimpses into my past week through Instagram.
I had a pretty colorful week!

Our magnificent indie bookstore, Chaucer's in Santa Barbara, had one of their bi-annual book sales. 20% off!!! I spent like $80 on books which I think is a record for me. But two (City of Indra and The Secret Hum of a Daisy) were for my little sis's birthday, though I'm sure I'll end up borrowing them eventually. Now I just have to go on a hearty book-buying-diet until the next big sale, which is Halloween weekend.

All dressed up for my boyfriend's big show at SoHo. He was in a jazz-pop band and played electric bass. As you can see in the next picture. The crowd loved it! As did I. Also, his mom was my date. Which was mostly funny because it was also our one year anniversary that day. The Musician and I got dinner together though afterward, which was a nice little romantic cap to the day. We're currently planning a trip to Yosemite, which I'm most excited about because he's never been!

Brought down the house!

This was technically last week, but I went to my first summer solstice parade. It was the full extent of my solstice partying, but it was pretty fun! The most colorful summery parade/community event I've ever experienced. And burgers afterwards!

What did you do with your week?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Latest Three: Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness Part 4

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

(In regards to the "Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness" part of the blog post title, if you missed one of my previous posts wherein there was Part 1 of this reader review series, the update is that I'll be re-reading and reviewing the entire HP series front to back, but reading a different YA/MG/Adult book in between, like I usually do. Because, like many of us bookish fiends, my TBR pile is too big to ignore for too long. You understand, I'm sure.)

Coda, Emma Trevayne
This heavily-music-influenced-dystopian-paperback-debut was ALMOST a five star for me on Goodreads. Not that I'm going to waste time listing ways it could have been a fiver, because that's not important right now. Guys! What we have here is a GREAT under-the-radar book of 2013. Here's why:
Anthem lives in a world where music is both banned (like you-practically-get-your-head-chopped-off-if-you-hum-on-the-sidewalk banned) but also a drug of which the "Corp" uses to keep its citizens from rebelling, to keep them content and subservient. But Anthem is already a part of the resistance (even if unintentionally); he's involved with an illegal underground band.When shit hits the fan, Anthem does exactly what the Corp doesn't want him to do--he uses his music to fight back.
Perhaps so simply put, the idea of music as the sole means for a hard-core dystopian society doesn't sound convincing to you, or just a little...difficult to grasp, but believe me, Trevayne does an excellent job of immersing you in her harsh, un-lyrical world. It's confusing at times and the first two chapters make it hard to get into, but once you get past that, the book really sucks you in. Here's a list of things about this book that really stood out to me -- simply put, cause this is one of those books you could have a really in-depth book club conversation about.
1. The Music: obviously, but there's different forms of it. I mostly loved the way Trevayne explored and stressed the significance of music in our lives, through her depiction of it as an actual drug and as a means of liberation and identity, like a holding on your soul. 
2. The Love Relationship: It wasn't some angsty, we-can't-be-together-cause-we-might-die-anytime-or-you're-rich-and-I'm-poor-and-beneath-you-and-don't-deserve-you...OK, it was a little like that, but the characters start out in a relationship and their conflict in that relationship gives it the perfect amount of rising tension without overshadowing all the action of the climax. Plus, for it being a hetero relationship with a male MC, the chick is pretty damn bad-ass. 
3. The Main Character is Actually Bi-Sexual: This has very little to do with the main plot of the book. It's just there and it's who Anthem is. Word. 
4. The World-Building: There's a lot of it that didn't get explored, but it was done in a way that was ambiguous without being confusing. 
5. It is, I Believe/Hope, a Stand-Alone: Because the ending really just needs to end there, and I mean that in the best way if you love reading books as much as me, you know what I mean.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
After re-reading this sixth installment of the HP series, I was surprised to discover that it was my least favorite of the series thus far. When I thought about it, I guess I realized it was the book I remember the least of from way back when I read it for the first time. However, upon re-reading it, it was also the book I had the most to say about. Here's a little compilation of some of my thoughts.
1. The Scenes on Voldemort's Past: I'm sure this is a favorite part for many readers of the series. It certainly was for me. I felt them more poignantly this time around, though I'm sure I did originally because the imagery from the scenes stayed with me for the most part. I find Voldemort's mother to be absolutely fascinating. I couldn't help but wonder how much of Rowling's self came through in writing her character. That obvious depression and feeling of weakness despite harrowing and nearly impossible realities, like poverty and familial abuse, both physical and emotional. It has a truly disintegrating effect on people and unfortunately it can get the better of us...does that make us weak? Yes, I suppose. But does it make us pitiless? ...I think Rowling wanted us to think about that when she wrote Voldemort's mother. 
2. Madame Pince: I was reading this "typical" librarian character and suddenly found myself disappointed. I suppose I just felt that Rowling had another solid opportunity to make yet another amazing female character, but she sort of fell short. Of course, it's totally possible she had a whole richly developed back story on the character and just never got to tell it because it didn't fit anywhere. I would expect no less of Rowling. Perhaps I'll just have to do a little perusal of the internet and see what I can find. 
3. How Friggin' Awesome Ginny Is: I don't think my 14 year old self had nearly as much appreciation for Ginny's character development, especially in this book, until now. She really becomes a feisty force to be reckoned with. She stands up for herself. She loves who she loves. Openly. Shamelessly. In fact, the character she reminds me of most is Harry's mother. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY I THINK IT'S PERFECT THAT SHE AND HARRY END UP TOGETHER...but more on that later. (Sorta spoiler) 4. I Love When Harry Inadvertently Compliments Snape's *Singing Abilities: That is all.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy
I won't say what this book is about because I explain all you need to know in one of my points. Overall, I had issues with this, but still, at the end, felt it was exactly the book it needed to be. It was more about the effect it had on me and the way it made me feel after it was over than the enjoyment of reading it. If you consider yourself a dark person then you might enjoy reading it, but not me. This book is, by definition, un-enjoyable. But at the same time, it's entirely amazing.
1. I Can See Why People Wouldn't Like It: Let's just say it's not an easy book to read. And I don't mean that like it's complicated or confusing. It's just hard. Like a journey is hard. Like surviving is hard. Which is exactly what the book is about.
2. I was Told it was About Hope, and it Is: I'm not going to say what kind of bearing this has on the ending except that it's a big one, and it was one of the best parts about the book.
3. It Didn't Feel Very Dynamic (aka: lack of plot) There is definitely next to no plot. It's literally just father and son after the apocalypse trying to get some where safe, somewhere where they won't have to run for their lives all the time. Always travelling on one single road. The rest? You'll just have to read it and find out.
5. It Would Make a Great Book-Club Book: If you have a book club that hasn't read it then I recommend you give this one a shot. There are so many things to be discussed in this one. So. Many.

*The word "singing" being a word of which would be too spoilery if replaced with another more informative word.

I'm starting this new, more simplistic approach to reviews, wherein I provide more of a list of my favorite aspects about the book, in no specific numerical order. Ya like?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Latest Three: Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness Part 3

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

(In regards to the "Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness" part of the blog post title, if you missed one of my previous posts wherein there was Part 1 or 2 of this reader review series, the update is that I'll be re-reading and reviewing the entire HP series front to back, but reading a different YA/MG/Adult book in between, like I usually do. Because, like many of us bookish fiends, my TBR pile is too big to ignore for too long. You understand, I'm sure.)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling
This HP book is just FUN. That's really the number one opinion I took away from re-reading it. The Triwizard Tournament is such a fantastic premise. Perhaps the books get darker, and perhaps it's not your cup-of-tea, but I love her persistent originality throughout the series' development. I also love how this is a mystery novel, very similar to Chamber of Secrets as well. There's a very specific and obvious mystery that needs to be solved (i.e. Who opened the chamber? Who put Harry's name in the goblet?) that I thoroughly enjoyed, and makes me want to pick up some of Rowling's other mystery work. No pun intended.)

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, April Genevieve Tucholke
I've started this new Book Buying Diet where I only buy new releases, and I only do so when I have something momentous in my life go down, so I not only get the pleasure of celebrating the said momentous occasion in the book store, but also writing and dating it in the book. It's like a little YA booknerd/scrap book project of mine, and also my one justification for buying new releases when I totally don't have the space or cash to do so. Henceforth, I bought this book. I wasn't absolutely taken with the blurb, but the first page did me in. In fact, it's the book's best feature: the blindingly/jealousy instigating/visceral prose of Tucholke.
Violet is our heroine, and she lives in the Citizen Cane near the misty, lonely ocean cliff-side with her brother, sans parents cause they kind of suck and like to spend their time being artsy somewhere in Europe. Their quiet life of the poor and the lonely is interrupted with the arrival of River, who rents out the little house behind the Citizen Cane. When mysterious, terrifying, and even tragic things begin to happen, Violet begins to wonder if she can trust this seemingly beautiful and wonderful boy, who goes from being too good to be too terrible to be true.
Anyway, despite the FRIGGIN' GORGEOUS prose, this book didn't deliver entirely as I was hoping. I had mixed feelings about the romance, mixed feelings about the MC and her personality. But as always, I want YOU to make your own opinions. So, I'd say that if you're a sucker for killer prose, mystical/intriguing setting, dealing with the feeling of being an outsider (because the mc definitely deals with that), romance so intense it's creeptastic, and charged, spine curling climaxes, then pick this one up. Tell me what you think! 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
This is probably the installment of HP of which I feel gets the most grump from readers, but honestly, I love it! I think Umbridge is a phenomenally terrible villain, perhaps nearly as terrible as Voldemort. I also love the presence of the media and the government-through-media (aka government censorship) in this book. What fear can do to the masses and those in charge of them--it's a terrifying reality and it's not one of the impossible. In fact, for all we know, it could be happening right now. For all we know...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Let's Get Something Straight: My Views on the Bow-Tie Ending

There was a certain controversial article circling the Internet Machine lately about why Adults Should be Ashamed to Read YA. I think you know which one I'm speaking of. Instead of repeating all the wonderful things people have been saying in rebuttal to this petty, ignorantly incriminating piece of writing (oh yes, I said it), I want to address one specific point of Graham's argument: the (oh so typical of YA, NOT!) bow-tie ending. 

I first want to mention my love of a good non-bow-tie ending. In fact, I'm not going to lie, I do tend to prefer those endings. *Look below for a list of my favorite books without bow-tie endings.

But I wanted to do a quick talk on the nature of these particular types of endings.

I couldn't find any official definition of a bow-tie ending in literature on the Googles, so I shall provide one of my own.

A bow-tie ending is simply one where all threads pertaining to various significant aspects of the story have been brought together in a pleasing way so that none are left unattended by the end of the story, special emphasis on the "none."

There. It's as simple as that.
Well, maybe not quite.
For instance, I think it should also be defined for whom the strings should be tied.
In a book, and I'm taking this example from a book that actually exists only I'm not saying which one to keep from being spoilery, a side character who was being cheated on by her boyfriend, despite the fact that the reader most likely wanted that character's boyfriend to break up with her and get with the main character anyway, does not end up with a happy ending when her boyfriend does eventually break up with her, and has consequentially been cheated on prior to this unfortunate occasion. Poor character. We don't necessarily get to see her inner-hurt because she's no longer relevant to the story, but it is a little thorn in the story's shoe, we can at least agree on that. We might not have been much of a fan of her, but did she really do anything wrong? Anything to deserve what happened to her? No, not usually.

So then why is this story considered to have a bow-tie ending by most readers in the end?
It's because we don't give a rat's ass what that unfortunate character thinks or feels. We care about what we feel. Are we happy at the end? Are we satisfied? Are all our character and plot cards sorted and snug in their happy place?
Well then, pass the tape, we've got ourselves a bow-tie.

Which are commonly well accessorized with nerdy glasses, sexy hair, and a sophisticated hardback.

So now that we've got that straight...
I want to enumerate on my particular feelings on this subject.
When I took a fiction writing class in college we, of course, discussed endings. Our teacher strongly cautioned us against the types of endings that are tied up nicely with a pretty bow. I can remember my professor taking on a slick, cheesy, eye-squinty smile and curling in on himself as he fondled his imaginary bow-wrapped package and tried to remonstrate this distastefulness choice.
And for the most part I agreed with him.
But at the same time I was kinda like...what about Kurt Vonnegut's short stories?
I read Look at the Birdie by him, a collection of some of his most popular and lighter short stories, and loved them! And trust me people, I don't really read short stories much. The thing is, some of these had some pretty classic bow-tie endings. They're quite light and airy and feel-good to begin with. Nice stories. Their endings are just as nice, too, if not, nicer. And I shouldn't have to mention that at this point, but Vonnegut is considered an American literary classic. So it got me to thinking, why do writers and readers act like it's best to avoid these bow-tie endings like they avoid using the word "their" in relation to a verb?
Vonnegut does it, and he does it with total Awesome Sauce!
I thought about it...
And thought about it some more...
Then it hit me!
I came to the conclusion that Vonnegut is using his literary license to practice an exercise in the use of what I'm at this very point in time deeming the everyday victory. Not an average everyday victory, especially in his case, because his stories are mostly quite strange and anything-but-ordinary. But still, to put it plainly, understanding this concept sort of took a weight off my shoulders. Because I do like happy endings, and being told I wasn't supposed to have them made me, unsurprisingly, quite depressed.
But I think what needs to be remembered is that there's a good difference between a sparkly, smiley ending with all the trappings of romance, fanfare, and confetti and an everyday victory.
We have those. They're quite real.
Like the day I was told by a particular dance teacher that I was a hopeless case and wasn't likely going to achieve my dreams (in front of the entire class, no less) and the subsequent day was called into the principle's office at school to receive a medal of honor for academic success. One day singled out for failure, the next for victory.
I don't think I need to enumerate too much how this everyday victory made me feel (some amount of tears were involved, both heart-broken and triumphant). But at end-scene, right there, me walking through the school halls with a shiny new medal in my hand, I was filled with nothing but satisfaction and blissful content. In that instance, I'd come out the victor. At the final sentence of my short story, my medal was literally my bow-tie.
So yes, what I'm saying here is that I think there is an occasion for bow-tie endings.
What I'm calling the everyday victory.
They happen, guys.
And thank God, too. Cause what would we do without them?

But the last opinion of mine I want to share is that there are still times in an ending where the "all strings have been nicely tied" alternative should be feared.
Series. Trilogies. Duologies. Sagas.
Anything more than one book, people.
The reason I think this is because at that point we've pretty deeply invested into some sort of world, and when there's a greater world to address (as in more than anything of the "everyday" sort) there's going to be a greater chance for loss.
There has to be some loss along the way, and that has to be connected to the ending. The reason for this is because, relating to the first point, have you ever had a week where every living second was just pickles and peaches? And relating to the second, don't you think it's likely there's a common thread/threads connecting the issues of your life that are eventually and inevitably going to culminate at some point? Perhaps even affecting one another?
So yes, there are times where I think bow-tie endings should be avoided like the plague, just like a writer should avoid writing cliches...

But there are also times when we need to remember those everyday victories.

The Latest Three: Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness: Part 2

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

(In regards to the "Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness" part of the blog post title, if you missed my other post wherein there was Part 1 of this reader review series, the update is that I'll be re-reading and reviewing the entire HP series front to back, but reading a different YA/MG/Adult book in between, like I usually do. Because, like many of us bookish fiends, my TBR pile is too big to ignore for too long. You understand, I'm sure.)

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
I read this book and then a few weeks later got to revisit it because I'm taking children's literature. I was assigned a project in which we took a chapter book and created a physical "hook" designed to grab a child's interest and get them to read it. I have provided a copy of the map of Juster's fantastical world not only because it is royally Cool but because I decided to use it as inspiration for my project. I purchased a map of our world via Amazon and took a bunch of colorful sharpies to it. I not only re-imagined our world into fitting Juster's but added in strange and curious lands of my own imagining, all with the intention of getting a potential classroom excited about tracking the main character, Milo's, journey and continuing it even after the book's end. 
But enough about that, how about the book.
Milo is simply a bored young boy with nothing to do. One day, a magical phantom tollbooth appears in his bedroom. On the other side, Milo discovers he's entered a new unimaginable land. He encounters Dictionopolis, where he meets The Humbug and Tock, the dog who tells time. Milo also meets King Azaz, who tasks Milo to restore Rhyme and Reason to the land, only Rhyme and Reason are two princesses who've been banished to the Castle in the Sky. Milo must seek the help of the Mathematician of Digitopolis to help him do so, but only after calming his anger at his brother, who is none other than the King Azaz.
This book was written in the 60's and there's definitely a reason why it's lasted so long. Milo and the rest of the cast might not be very depth-filled characters, but upon reading I discovered the depth can be most clearly (and unusually) found in the world-building. And surprisingly, it works. I particularly loved the scene where Milo tries to paint the sunrise with an orchestra, and learns the consequences. This is a whimsy read that stresses the importance of intelligence, creativity, and curiosity...even much, much more.

Map of Juster's world, located in front of book.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling
This is another installment of the series where I don't have all that much to say. Perhaps it was because I was so swept away with it I forgot to take notes as I went along. Or perhaps it was because it's one of the movies I've seen the most; I've even dipped into the book here and there despite having not re-read the entire series ever. All I know is I absolutely adore this book. In fact, it's one of my top favorites, rivaled probably by the 4th and 5th...but more on those later, of course.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
(I won't summarize because, really, who hasn't heard of this book? If not, click the Goodreads link below.)
I feel obligated to start this review in only one way: This book made me cry like perhaps no other. I haven't cried this much since probably a certain character at the end of Mockingjay died (if you've read the series, you probably know). Now, let me also clarify that I do not cry easily when it comes to books; I'm just more of a movie crier. However! I must say that I have memories of sad scenes from books that have practically fossilized on my memory they were so world-changing, as opposed to those many times I've teared up during movies, which I think means more at the end of the day. But boy, did this book bring out the water works and right in front of The Musician no less!
But that wasn't the reason I loved this book. A book can make me cry as bad as if I'd just found out all three of my doggies had died at the same time as all the books in the world had miraculously disappeared and it still might not be a great book to me. 
No, what happened was, well, I laughed. I laughed and then I felt sorrow and each time I laughed again it was funnier and each time I felt sorrow again it was heavier and heavier until, yes, I cried. Like a baby without its blanket, I cried.
Took me long enough to get to this one, but honestly I'm glad I waited. It is YA and I'm thrilled to see a YA get so much appreciation and hype from other literature communities, but I know I appreciated it that much more reading it from the place I am in my life right now, especially concerning past recent events. But still, a book for the ages of all ages. If you've beaten around the bush with this one. 
Shtop dat. Go read it.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My YA is My Art

For those of you who don't know, I write.
I am a writer.
I said it.
I sit at my desk. I open my computer. I open a Word doc. I type words.
That is writing.

I also happen to write YA.

I wanted to do a post on this because of an encounter I had with a person who, I will say it now, seemed to be a very overall nice person. Like, solid, averagely nice person. 
This person was also an English major at a certain Ivy League school. I'm not going to outright say what bearing I think this has on my discussion topic, because it might very well not have any. But I'll just go ahead and mention it.
Moving on.
The conversation went a little something like this.

Me: "I wanna write books for kids and teens."

Person: "Like Young Adult?"

*I try to hide my pleasant surprise that this person knew to say Young Adult instead of "Teen" or the infamous "You mean like Twilight, right?"

Me: "Yeah!"

Person: "Oh, there's a lot of money in that."

*I try to hide my immediate displeasure.

Thereafter, I wasn't really sure how to respond to such a comment. My emotions were convoluted by my initial presumption of this person and their knowledge of my favorite category of literature, as well as by this seemingly unoriginal and superficial remark.

Now, I will give this person the benefit of the doubt and mention that it's possible they just weren't into that category and didn't quite know what to say about it. But really, I get that it's not a real insult. I mean, how could anyone who calls a business profitable actually be insulting it?
It's unintentional, is what it is.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't ruffle my feathers.
Like, a lot.
It's just that this person's one teensie little remark shed a common light of which I feel is developing in society. Thank you New York Time's writer Michele Dean with your words:

"It isn't hard to see what has brought us [to the gilded age of young adult literature]. It’s money, plain and simple. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at cold, hard cash either (like Somerset Maugham, I often wonder if the people who speak contemptuously of it have ever had to do without). But let’s be clear that the chase of it guides people into all kinds of misadventures. In publishing, that means hunting down every young person with an aspiration to write a dystopian or fantasy epic. Even if they might not sell 450 million copies (as Scholastic claims Rowling has), the industry is certainly prepared to accept the consolation prize of the 65 million copies that “The Hunger Games” sold domestically."

So that's what it is. This form of literature, due to a handful of recent best-sellers, has been reduced to an alluring sum of numbers, a fat, easy check. Blood money, in Dean's eyes, because of its drowning effect on the overall name of publishing and therefore literature. Dean, a woman, sees Divergent's largely female audience as nothing more than a head count of those who are buying into some illusion of what she has deemed...
I don't really know. I guess what she defines as good literature or something?

But God forbid these teen readers turn into adults! What kinds of crazy, worthless books will hit the best-seller list then? What will become of adult literature? It's a reality Dean must think is worth it's own dystopian best-seller, in trilogy format, of course.
Is there an injustice in this thinking?
I guess I don't really think so.
All I think is that it makes Dean look pretty bad and feeds a counter culture to something that is in nature quite powerful, with an unlimited potential for goodness and progress.
Thank you, Nerdfighters and #WeNeedDiverseBooks and other various movements started in the YA world.
Thank you books, and consequentially writers, that talk about serious issues or write "fluff" and action packed best-sellers that are dang entertaining and actually get teens reading.
Thank you hit films and TV series that adapt these novels and attract all the teens who would miss out on the great books and writers to begin with without that medium in the first place.

Because really, what's the cause of all this?
There is something in these books, these pieces of literature, that attracts these millions of readers and it is what I like to call art.
And I agree that...


Not that we don't discuss it anyway.
But that doesn't make this second statement very true at the core of it all: do not think you have the answers when it comes to art, because just as much as you might, you also might not.

But back to my main point.

People need to stop seeing teens as something merely profitable and start seeing them as something worthy.
As a writer of Young Adult fiction, I have to admit I sometimes fantasize about my book hitting the big time one day: best-seller list, shiny seal of literary approval on the front cover, and, of course, movie deal. But is that really what I think of when I sit down at my computer and open up that word document? No!
I am a writer. I write words and stories and to me they are art. They represent every indelible, dynamic, imperfect piece of soul within me.
In one in a million chances, yes, there is a lot of money in YA. But just because some old folks who've read, like, one John Green book say it is the genre of the idealistic, over-dramatic modern-day teen (because teens throughout the generations have all been soooo unpredictable), doesn't mean anyone should assume that some estimated GDP is the real incentive to becoming a part of it.
Maybe. Just maybe. There is something beautiful and new and truly novel to be discovered.
I dare those people to wait and see.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Latest Three: Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness Part 1

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.
*Note: I will be posting The Latest Three every Wednesday, with my regular discussion posts on Saturday, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I just realized one post a week was kind of a stupid idea. So yay, weekly reviews on Kat Wearing Hat!!!

This Latest Three is brought to you in part ("in part" being the operative words here) by the marvelous, the magnanimous, and the always magical Harry Potter!
I decided sometime about a year ago that I would FINALLY re-read the entire HP series--last Christmas seeming like the perfect time to start.
No, sadly, I have not once re-read the entire series since I finished it when the last book came out. But wait! Don't scoff and click away just yet!
I have a reason.
I say that because the WIP I've been pursuing for over seven years is very much inspired by this series. Back in the day, I didn't want anymore of Harry Potter creeping into my own novel. Despite being inspired by the whole idea of a normal girl learning she's actually from another magical realm, I wanted to make sure that at the end of the day it was completely my own. So I merely dabbled in the books here and there. I re-read the first book countless times, just when I was getting that itch for some Hogwarts and Quidditch and the like, and sometimes also the third one because it's my favorite. But re-read them all, I did not.
Now that I'm editing my first draft, I feel confident that my own story is fully established and cannot be so easily influenced, and so I am ready to return...well, home!
On that note, I will not, however, be re-reading them consecutively as, though it is tempting, I still have a mountainous pile of books to read and don't want to let them sit for too long. Solution: I'm reading a different book of choice between each HP one. And so far, it's going rather swimmingly!
And here it is...
What I thought of the Latest Three books I've read.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling
There's not too much I can feel profound in saying about this one because it's the one I've re-read the most. It's just got that sense of Magical that you can't quite get with the rest because you're discovering this magical world along with Harry. But of course you know that, which brings me to...

Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis
One of the best books of 2013 for me, especially when it comes to debut authors. What was cool about this book is that I got super excited about it way before it came out. When I finally got my hands on it there was like this uh-oh moment because there had been months of expectation building and what if, gasp!, it didn't meet them?
Well, not only were my expectations met, they were exceeded.
Lynn lives with her mother in the basement of their old house by their pond, and it is always about what is theirs. Because if they don't have their water then they don't have any, and that is because in Lynn's world there is no longer enough water to go around. Lynn has no friends, but she has her mother and her pond and her gun. And that's all she needs...until.
This novel is gritty, harrowing, thought-provoking, vast and minuscule all at the same time. It's one of those "Stranger Comes to Town" stories but even before that happens OHMAGAWD my heart was ripped out and I had to stuff it back in there with cheap scotch tape in order to get through the rest of the book.
Luckily, McGinnis draws you in effortlessly, even if reading through it is sorta like trudging through deep sand, hot and heavy...and I mean that in a sexy Hollywood sort of way.
If you like books that take place in re-imagined, slow, semi-apocalyptic worlds with tough but believable chicks with big hearts that just need to learn to open up and really cute and endearing boys and complex, strong characters...then this book is for you.
In a Handful of Dust, the companion novel, is coming out this year. Holy Guacamole, that cover is beyond words and I can't freakin' wait for it to come out!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
OK, so everyone knows this book tends to be the least favored of the HP series. But while re-reading, I found I truly loved it on the same level as all the others. Not that it beats my favorite, Prisoner of Azkaban, but it's a Fun Read. So fun! Of the series, this one and Goblet of Fire are closest to the mystery genre. There's all these strings splayed out before, many of which blend so well into the background you don't notice they're there, until WHAM! At the end it all comes together. I also appreciate how Rowling incorporated the issue of bigotry so early in the series. Lots of young readers are able to participate in feeling the hatred coming from Malfoy when he calls Hermione a mudblood, and consequentially the hurt as well, and...well HOPEFULLY...that kid hasn't really experienced such feelings before. But experiencing it on this level is really great food for thought, and like I said, Rowling brought it in so early. People say the books get so dark after 4, but I find this book particularly dark for its placement in the series. What say you?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2014 Summer TBR Pile!!!

This summer 2014 I hope to be a really great reading season. I'm not taking any classes, as usual, and will only be doing research for a couple WIP's and working. I have decided, for the first time ever, to assign myself an actual summer reading list. These are all books from my shelves which have been waiting patiently for their turn to be read and enjoyed (or at least, that's the idea) by me. Here are ten books (two adult, two MG, and six YA, plus a few more for good measure) I plan to read this summer!
Road Trip!...BOOK ROAD TRIP!!!

First, for the two Adult Novels:

The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton
This is straight from Goodreads:
"A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery." 
How could you not want to read this? It's a biggy, but I'm hoping to fly through this summer read!

Milkrun, Sarah Mylnowski
This one is borrowed from a friend of mine, and, believe me, I've had it FOREVER. It's possible she's forgotten she owns it. Just as well, I had long since forgotten what it was even about. According to Goodreads, this book is about a "hyperactive 25 year-old" making up her own rules on the dating scene. I hope it's set in NYC, but we'll just have to wait and see. It's supposed to be really funny, and now that I'm actually in my 20's, I hope to glean some real insight from it.

Now the Middle Grade Fiction:

Drift House, Dale Peck
This is one of the few books I read when I was a pre-teen that I still own. I won't even peek at Goodreads. I'll just give you a glimpse into my memories, which were, as you can see on the cover photo, a giant house that turns into a ship, time travel, a talking parrot, and evil mermaids.
Oh. Yeah.

The Lost Cities, Dale Peck
The second MG book is a sequel to Drift House!!! I had been wondering forever if there was one and when I was perusing a used bookstore one day it just popped out at me! I am so stoked. All I can say is there better be more time travel and mermaids cause...


Lock and Key, Sarah Dessen
Love me some Sarah Dessen. In fact, I'm pretty sure I say exactly those words every time I mention one of her books. I would have The Truth About Forever on this list as a re-read, but alas I donated my copy last summer...for a good cause, I assure you! But the little added incentive was that I would have a legitimate reason to buy one of the new cover copies, which I think are so preeeetty! Haven't done that yet, but ANYWAY! This book I borrowed from my Better Bookish Half (see cast of characters for reference) also a very long time ago. I was first intrigued by a character who was living on her own, sort of a different kind of homelessness in a way. But every Dessen novel I've read has been it's really just a matter of which one I can get my hands on first.

A Song for Summer, Eva Ibbotson
Another novel I've had my eye -- and hands -- on for years. I don't even remember when it was I bought this copy. I fell in love with A Company of Swans and The Morning Gift, and, if you ask me, this one looks even better! The beautiful setting of a boarding school in the Austrian countryside, the dim backdrop of the Second World War, not to mention the experimental dancers, tortoises on wheels, and, uh-oh, an older boy.

I was first introduced to this on Maggie Stiefvater's blog, where she gave it a rave review. And believe me, what Maggie Stiefvater tells me to read, I read. I don't like to read just the fluffy contemporary stuff in summer time, and this one looks like it will fit the bill nicely, as it doesn't look like it'll be too dark either: A small and painfully-dull Arkansas town. Some interesting stuff about a famous wood-pecker. A disappearance. Something about and African missionary. And, oh yeah, a summer.

Transparent, Natalie Whipple
First of all, I'd like to say that this author is so awesome! She goes above and beyond for her fans and always has something inspiring to say. So, since I consider myself a fan, I think it's high time I read one of her books. I got this because she was doing a cool thing near Christmas where, if you bought one of her books, she'd send you a book plate and a cool Transparent book mark. I love bookmarks (in fact, I collect them), and I also love getting cool personalized swag from awesome authors. So I bought the book, and it looks so cool! There's not too many super-hero books in the YA realm and this one has a female protagonist...of course, I believe all the characters in the book have super powers...but we'll just call that a minor detail for now. Because that new book cover is so bad in a really good way!

A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
I first read this book back in my freshman year of high school. I don't think I appreciated it as much as I could have considering not only my age, but the fact that I went into it thinking it was going to be more of a ghost/mystery story when it really centered on the main character, Mattie's, story. The mystery part (no ghosts, sadly) was more in the background and a slower build. At the time, it wasn't quite the read I needed, yet, despite that fact, there's so much of it I remember, which means it was probably a really good book. I loved the main character, what ends up happening with the romance (kudos Donnelly, kudos), the importance of intelligence and vocabulary and books, and of course the mystery part which does end up delivering in the end. Can't wait to get started on this one!

Downriver, Will Hobbs
Or should I say, re-read. I read this one for the first time back in 8th grade for school. I am now 21 years old, and I still can't get it out of my head. The imagery and danger of rafting the Grand Canyon...WITH NO ADULTS OR EXPERIENCED RAFTERS! The bond of friendship between the two main characters. The, like, fifteen near death encounters. It was probably the first book to make me read a scene and see it in slow motion. Plus it's from the 90's. That's right, representin' the 90's YA lit, as 90's-tastic as it is.

These are the books I don't own, but would really like to read this summer anyway:

To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Jenny Han.
Looks so different and cute and fun!

Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins
I am a hard-core Etienne fan. (Cause that name is WAY HOTTER than St. Clair.) Mr. Boy Next Door, bring it on.
(I ended up buying this book recently. It's just I drafted this post in early May before I had it. So I definitely have NO EXCUSE not to finish it this summer!)

Strands of Bronze and Gold, Jane Nickerson
Gotta have a creepy re-telling of the Bluebeard fairy tail set in the past of the deep south on the list. I think this will make a fantastic summer read. And I haven't heard too many things about it. So.

Happy Reading, Everyone!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

She's Back (And an Announcement)

I'm baaaaack. 
So I said I would be relaunching this blog in June and here we are, JUNE! The new set-up for my posting schedule, because believe me, I need a schedule, will be a regular post every Saturday. This means you'll get a discussion post every first and third Saturday and a regular review post, The Latest Three, every second and fourth Saturday, roughly speaking as I suppose a month could potentially go long or short. This will have the exception of random posts I post randomly cause, ya know, those things happen, and if I get a job and decide another day of the week would work better for me. But for now, there's just something so happy about Saturdays that I feel a blog post would go swimmingly along with it.
Today I am just doing an initial I'm Back post to announce this blog will now have regular content and also say a big Hi to you all.
I also want to point out that this blog does have a new name/url. It's Kat Wearing Hat and, though unfortunately I couldn't get the title on the page fixed cause I forgot my technology inclined friend would be on a cruise ship in Alaska at this time. So there's that, but hopefully it will soon say the proper name instead of Da Polka Bot.
I also also wanted to point you to the nifty little widgets I added on the side bar with links to my twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest accounts. Please feel free to follow, especially Goodreads if you like my reviewing style because I post them as I read them. (This is because as I was taking a break I was getting super ahead on my blog content and so am WAY ahead of the books I'll feature here in The Latest Three.)

Let's see...that's all I got for now.
Oh wait!
I almost forgot.
I have an announcement!
It's not a super duper big one, but I'll share it nonetheless. I've got a little book I've been working on for, mmm, nine years or so, and just last week I finally finished my second draft of it. This draft was mostly focused on getting my word count down, which I totally did! By, like, 50,000 words! This still means I've got around 100,000 words, but it's a historical fantasy so I suppose it's going to be long in nature. Anyway, I'm having my two friends/critique partners read it and get back to me hopefully within a couple months, and then I'll begin on a grueling third draft. It's gonna be a doosey and will probably require multiple playings of Eye of the Tiger and lots of coffee, but I will be ready. I will.
If you're interested, the second Pinterest link I have is to my storyboard, so go ahead and take a gander.
For now, I'm just being happy here in Santa Barbara. It's like in the 70's and there hasn't really been too much June gloom, so that's nice. I will also be working on doing more research for my current WIP (historical "anything" = lots of research, which I've slacked on, unfortunately), more research on two other projects, one of which is a partnership I'm deeming Tango Novel -- cause it takes two to tango, duh -- and another I'm deeming Conquistador Novel. I'll also be blogging. Yay! And possibly learning to play guitar and golf, thanks to The Musician (aka Mr. Boyfriend, see Cast of Characters). And oh yeah, getting a job.
So what are your summer plans? Reading plans? I'll be discussing mine in my post on Saturday!
Until then, happy reading!

Oh, by the way. This was kinda me when I finished that second draft.
I have a no-regret policy on life.