BREAKING NEWS: I’m going to meet Kazuo Ishiguro!!!

All cover images from Goodreads

If there was ever a reason to use the word ‘amazeballs,’ this would be it. One of my goals for 2015 is to attend more book signings, and on April 2nd, I will be going to my first one of the year. And talk about setting the bar, because I’ll be meeting Kazuo Ishiguro, world-renowned contemporary fiction writer and the author of The Buried Giant, which is his first book in a decade!

Many people may be unfamiliar with Kazuo Ishiguro, including many of my fellow book bloggers, who seem to focus predominantly on YA fiction, so I’m here to enlighten you!

Ishiguro is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest writers living today. I was first introduced to his work in college, where I read Never Let Me Go and a couple of his short stories. I was hooked immediately and have since read The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, which were also amazing.

Why is Ishiguro such a literary genius? He’s a master of rewriting the rules, or as he puts it, he’s “been promiscuous with genre.” His novels could be considered science fiction, mysteries, or romances, but they’re written in such a way that those labels would leave out all the nuances and multidimensionality.

The best part is that you can’t deduce what his books are about from their mere summaries. You can’t discuss them without giving too much away. His words are wrapped in enigma, which is exactly why reading them is such a profound experience–you have little idea as to what you’re getting yourself into, and that intrigue fuels you to turn the pages.

He’s also an expert in creating introspective characters who say so much more than in their dialogues. If you’re a fan of unreliable narrators who experience complex character developments, then Ishiguro is definitely the writer for you.

However, I admit that Ishiguro is not fond of clean stories with plenty of closure. His books never end with a pretty bow tied around the plots. Instead, these tales haunt you, urging you to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. Every time I reread his books, I learn more about them–and myself–in the process.

To make a long blog post even longer, if I haven’t convinced you to check out Kazuo Ishiguro, then maybe this information will:

  • The Times named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
  • The Remains of the Day won the Booker prize in 1989, and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, declared that it was the most influential book he has ever read: “Before reading it, I didn’t think a perfect novel was possible.”
  • The film adaptation for The Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Music (all of which were won by that other WWII movie, Schindler’s List).

I will be sure to give you all a full report of the book signing next month. I’m already restless with anticipation! In the meantime, I’ll be reading The Buried Giant, which I’m sure to give a stellar review!

Image via The Sunday Times

To see whether Kazuo Ishiguro is visiting a city near you, click here for the tour dates.

Why You Should Not Celebrate the New Harper Lee Novel

Image via Jezebel

A couple days ago, the world imploded with the news that Harper Lee, America’s literary sweetheart, will be publishing a new book 55 years after her debut, which is set for release this summer.

The novel, Go Set a Watchman, is not so much a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird as it is a first draft. It features Scout as an adult twenty years after the story of TKAM; preferring the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, Lee’s editor requested that Scout’s point of view be written entirely during that period of time. Lee, ever the people-pleaser, stated that, “I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told.”

That attitude is exactly why fans should hesitate rejoicing over this new release. Today Harper Lee is 88 years old and going increasingly blind and deaf with age. Needless to say, she is not in an ideal mental state and is extremely vulnerable to exploitation.

This book’s publication would not be the first time that someone has tried to screw Lee over. The author filed two lawsuits in 2013: one over an alleged attempt to get her to sign over her copyright to TKAM, and the other against a local museum profiting off her prestige without compensation.

The news of this new book comes at a suspicious time, only a few months after Lee’s sister and lawyer Alice passed away at the age of 103. Lee has no children and now her entire estate is at risk, thanks to the whims of her editors and their lawyers.

The poor woman lives in a nursing home, can’t see or read, and has been known to sign anything put in front of her. Why, after decades of intense privacy, would Lee publish a story? Why are her editors so interested in this book which had been previously written off as a subpar first draft? And why has this release been timed so soon after the death of her sister and former legal counsel?

If you don’t agree with my skepticism, check out Jezebel’s critique and follow-up of the news. Then read The Toast’s scathing response to the interview given by Lee’s editor at HarperCollins, Hugh Van Dusen. Here are the most alarming statements he gave:

Q: Harper is a famously private person. Does she have any ambivalence about the fact that the publication of the book is going to result in a lot of new publicity?
A: I don’t think so. In our press release she says…

Q: Has the book been edited? Or is what will eventually be on bookshelves untouched from what was in the safety deposit box?
A: If it has been edited, nobody’s told me.

Q: Has there been any direct contact about the book between Harper and HarperCollins? Or is it all down through intermediaries?
A: Are you asking if we’ve been in touch with her directly? I don’t know, but I don’t think so, only because she’s very deaf and going blind. So it’s difficult to give her a phone call, you know?

Q: Is it fair to say that Harper won’t be talking to the media now that she’s got a new book out?
A: I don’t think anything there’s going to be anything more revealing than what’s in the press release.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a ton of BS. I fear that these snakes are coercing her into signing away her fortune. TKAM has sold over 40 million copies, and now everyone is hoping to profit off this impending jackpot while Lee quietly lives out the end of her days.

I hate to be a buzzkill, because I love TKAM as much as the next person. It is the quintessential ‘Great American Novel,’ and its critique of race relations in the South is just as timely today as it was half a century ago. TKAM is a national treasure, and I worry that Harper Lee is about to get her treasure taken away from her.

So how do you feel about Go Set a Watchman? Are you ready to “Go Set” a preorder, or do you think Harper Lee needs her own “Watchman” over her threatened estate?

Breaking News! My Litographs Poster has Arrived!

Hands down, the best gift I've given myself!

Hands down, the best gift I’ve given myself!

Hey everyone, I was going to publish my audiobook review of David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, but that can wait until next time, because I’ve got something more important to talk about today: my Litographs poster has finally arrived!

I’m pretty sure that most of you self-respecting bookworms have already heard of Litographs, but in case you haven’t, it’s this awesome company formed in 2012 which sells literary-themed t-shirts, posters, and tote bags.

But the cool part is that each item is designed with the actual text of the book! I’m so giddy with excitement, you can’t even imagine!

Close-up shot of the text!

Close-up shot of the text!

My Litographs poster is 18×24 inches and is inspired by one of my all-time favorite novels, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

The color scheme in my apartment is grey and pink, so this poster is an excellent addition to my dining area.

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This poster only cost me $24, and shirts and totes range from $30-35. Litographs also provides free shipping to anywhere in the U.S., so you have no excuse not to buy one of your own! This isn’t a sponsored post, but trust me, you will LOVE it!

My Most Anticipated Books of 2015

Happy New Year everybody! There’s nothing like starting the year off right with a good book, and 2015 is shaping up to have many good books in store for us!

I wanted to share my top five most anticipated books of 2015, so let’s get right to it!

All images via Goodreads

1. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, release date March 3. It’s been almost an entire decade since Ishiguro’s last novel Never Let Me Go, which was awarded TIME magazine’s ‘Best Book of 2005’ and listed in its ‘Top 100 Best English-Language Novels.’ The novel is also one of my absolute favorites, and after reading The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, it’s safe to say that Ishiguro is one of my most admired authors. I can’t imagine The Buried Giant being anything less than extraordinary.

2. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han, release date June 2 (cover art TBR). This sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean as she sorts out her feelings for Peter Kavinsky, the boy who blurred the lines between pretend and real boyfriend. With all the buzz in the book blogosphere, it’s clear that Han is a rising YA star with scores of devoted fans like me who are just itching to get their hands on this book!

3. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, release date June 16. Crazy Rich Asians was one of the most entertaining books I read in 2014, and I cannot wait for this sequel, which continues the story of Rachel Chu, the most envied girl in the Far East. Engaged to Asia’s most eligible billionaire bachelor, she tries to balance wedding planning among the uber-rich while searching for her estranged father in China. I’m so ready for this crazy whirlwind rollercoaster!

4. If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison, release date July 28. I can’t forget Beth Harbison, who has penned some great chick-lit. I enjoyed Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict, and I’ve got When in Doubt, Add Butter waiting for me on my bookshelf. This latest novel with “Freaky Friday” similarities sounds like a hoot. A 30-something waking up in her 18-year-old body after a boating accident? Count me in!

5. Rhiannon by David Levithan, release date unknown (cover art TBR). YA fans everywhere are hyperventilating over this companion book to Every Day, this time written from the perspective of A’s love interest Rhiannon. Every Day has to be the most unique romance that I have ever read, and I’m sure that Levithan will knock this book out of the park like he always does!

So that’s it! Which books are you most looking forward to in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Philosophical Questions about Reading

As the year comes to a close, it’s natural to become more contemplative, evaluating your past and planning your future. Today I’ve rounded up some articles I’ve read online, which posited these questions about reading that are sure to get you thinking:

Image via Gawker Media

1. How can fiction help you live a better life? Lifehacker reports that reading fiction has tons of benefits, including learning empathy, breeding curiosity, and making you a better storyteller. So how has reading fiction changed your life for the better? Here were my favorite comments on the article:

“Game of Thrones taught me to not be a hero and to eat and drink more.” – ichiban1081

“LOTR taught me that the world is changing for the worse and Elves are leaving because of it.” – PeteRR

For extra credit, answer me this question, from a previously reported NYT blog: how has reading changed your life for the worse?

Image via The Frisky

2. What do you do when the things you love don’t match up with your politics? Rebecca Vipond Brink at The Frisky feels conflicted over her love for Kurt Vonnegut despite his poor representation of women in his writing. It’s one thing to love an author who lived centuries ago, when racism and sexism were more intensely upheld in society, but what happens when you find yourself admiring the work of a modern author who offends you?

I felt the same cognitive dissonance when reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, a known homophobic Mormon author. I also love Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, even though I’m aware of the author’s reputation of appealing to misogynistic frat guys and MRAs. I guess my response to the question would be that I try to distance fiction from author when applicable, as not all stories are intended to be autobiographical. And when it comes to the especially offensive, if I must read their work, I find ways around supporting them monetarily by borrowing books from friends or libraries.

3. Have you ever had a relationship end because of a book? The New York Times does it again with another literary brain-teaser. One writer was dumped in part because her boyfriend couldn’t get over her distaste for Hunter S. Thompson, and another learned that many men can’t handle a woman being more preoccupied by reading at times than them. Whether it was a specific book or just reading in general, has anyone split ways over fiction?

When it comes to books, there’s nothing that turns me off more than a man who doesn’t read enough or unenthusiastically reads something just because you like it. Instead of trying to change yourself for someone, it’s best to find partners who share your values. This is why I would dump someone over a book, if need be. If you utterly abhor The Lord of the Rings, just see yourself out. It’s not me, it’s you.

Image via The Telegraph

4. Why does Nicholas Sparks suck so hard? Apparently I am not alone in thinking the king of the romance novel is a total ass. Turns out Jodi Picoult is not a fan, according to this article by The Telegraph. She laments that women’s fiction does not mean that women are your audience, but rather you’re just a women who writes fiction.

When asked whether she ever used a pseudonym, this was her response:

“I did once,” she says. “So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man’s name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.” But anyway.

“I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, ‘Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy.” Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. “So there you go,” she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.

A-to the freaking-men, Jodi Picoult. I haven’t read any of your books, but maybe it’s about time I started. It looks like we have at least one thing in common: our hatred of the suckage that is Nicholas Sparks.

So let me hear your thoughts on these philosophical questions! I’m all ears!

When a Book Signing Competes with the World Series

Last night was absolutely crazy in San Francisco as the entire city celebrated the Giants’ third World Series win in the last five years. Fireworks exploded, cars honked as fire trucks and ambulances blared their sirens, and people in jerseys flooded the streets waving flags, screaming, and high-fiving passersby. Buildings in the Civic Center were basked in orange lights, giving the city a Halloween-appropriate glow.

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As for me? Full disclosure: I never saw a single second of the game, nor any game in the entire series. Blasphemy, I know, given that my grandfather was none other than Jeff Carter, a celebrated Giants announcer during the 1970s who sang the National Anthem at home games.

Little known fact: My grandpa was also in a movie with Clint Eastwood!

Little known fact: My grandpa was also in a movie with Clint Eastwood!

So even though my parents and other relatives are die-hard fans, I admit that I’m just not much of a sports person. Instead of joining fans in the bars, I attended a book signing at Books Inc. for Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

The contrast of interest was stark. Nafisi, whose claim to fame was risking her life to teach English Literature during post-revolutionary Iran, discussed her new memoir The Republic of Imagination. She lamented America’s consumer-driven culture which takes education and freedom for granted. She declared that slowly and subconsciously losing the ability to care about the arts is far worse than having them abruptly taken away from you.

Nafisi was a petite bundle of energy, passion gushing out of her and inspiring others. A highly educated professor, she talked about Mark Twain and James Baldwin with the same fervor that people were discussing Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Time flew by, and I’m sure everyone in the bookstore wished that we could have had more time sharing our love of reading with her.

So wonderful meeting such a sweet and amazingly talented woman.

So wonderful meeting such a sweet and amazingly talented woman.

Walking back to the BART station among the festivities was a unique experience. You don’t have to love baseball to enjoy the infectious spirit that filled the air. Because whether you’re boisterously cheering with your fellow fans or just having a quiet evening with people who like the same books you do, what’s so special is being part of a community and feeling a sense of belonging.

What Nafisi reminded me is that we should appreciate the fact that we live in a country where baseball games and book signings can happen freely and uncensored. I’m so fortunate that I can speak my mind, read anything I like, and walk the streets at night unaccompanied wearing what I want without fear of repercussion.

And that is what’s worth celebrating the most of all. Thank you, Azar Nafisi, for showing us that.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Saturday is the start of NaNoWriMo, so check back then for my kickoff blog post before I retreat into my writing hibernation!

Can a Book Ever Make a Reader’s Life Worse?

“I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over. . . I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all,” read Mark David Chapman at his 1981 sentencing hearing.

Last week I stressed the importance of reading and lamented how people aren’t doing enough of it. With all of its mental and emotional benefits, you can gain so much from reading that it’s difficult to imagine any downsides.

The New York Times did just that in its piece, “Can a Book Ever Change a Reader’s Life for the Worse?” Writer Leslie Jamison discussed this question by referencing Mark David Chapman’s obsession with The Catcher in the Rye as his motive to assassinate John Lennon, and other murderers who were inspired by literature.

Jamison also revealed that one reader relapsed back into addiction after finishing her novel The Gin Closet about a woman’s struggle with alcoholism. This reader sent Jamison a note filled with blame:

“I picked up this book at a thrift store for 10 cents. That’s right and it was the worst 10 cents I ever spent. So depressing and it placed me in a horrible place. Back to drinking and taking drugs. Even tried to slit my wrists. A terrible dark story about nothing worthwhile. No inspiration or hope anywhere. You should be ashamed of yourself. No good will ever come of this book.”

I can’t imagine the guilt that Jamison must have felt after receiving this letter. Although the addict alone is the cause of her relapse, words are certainly powerful enough to persuade someone to behave or believe a certain way.

I think all media is capable of this power, not just literature. Criminals have also imitated movies, television shows, and video games, so it would be naive to say that books don’t possess the same capability to influence.

However, blaming media for the actions of others is wrong, because those who are mentally sound know the difference between fact and fiction. Books can enhance the dark recesses of our minds, but I think that the direction of influence is important.

I believe that people like Mark David Chapman who possess dangerous urges are drawn to stories that amplify them. Books don’t cause murders; murderers find solace in certain books and will often use them as excuses for acts that they know are wrongful.

The Collector by John Fowles: the inspiration for many crimes, most notoriously for the murders conducted by Leonard Lake, Charles Ng, Christopher Wilder, and Robert Berdella.

As for Jamison’s relapsed reader, there is nothing wrong in recognizing one’s own limitations. People suffering from addiction, depression, eating disorders, or other mental illnesses can often find comfort in reading the stories of others, but many won’t–and that’s okay.

Because I have a vivid imagination and a tendency to suffer chronic nightmares, I avoid horror stories like the plague because I know that they would make my life worse. Even crime dramas like “C.S.I.” trigger me, so I’ve discovered that it’s best just to steer clear of them.

That’s not the fault of horror or crime stories, and I would never suggest censorship to make my life easier. Sure, it’s difficult in October when movie trailers for the latest slasher flick pop up during commercial breaks, but plenty of other people love them. Just because we can’t handle something does not mean we abolish it for everyone else.

So can a book make your life worse? Yes, but only if you let it.