Armchair BEA: Character Chatter

Time for my last BEA post! I’m off on a trip in about half an hour so this post is coming straight off the top of my head.

Characters are important to me while reading, but often when I think back on what I liked about a book it’s not the characters I think of. There are few characters that stand out in my memory as being significant to me in some way beyond their presence in the story. So, who are some of my favourite characters? I’ve always loved Mo from the Inkheart books, especially as he becomes more complex throughout the trilogy. As a kid, I loved that Cornelia Funke didn’t simplify or perfect the adults in those stories. I read Kafka on the Shore as a teenager and was startled to find how well I identified with Kafka – he’s one of the only characters where I’ve thought “Wow, he’s got, he’s me”. Of course, the major exception to my poor character memory is Tolkien. He has so many stand out characters in The Lord of the Rings alone. My standard response for favourites are Faramir, Sam, Eowyn, Pippin and Galadriel.  The only other favourite character that immediately comes to mind is Ore from White is for Witching. I’ve always thought she’d make a good friend.

‘Likeability’ of characters is pretty important to me. I love dastardly, villainous characters, and not all characters need to be likeable, but there needs to be at least one character in a book that I can get behind, however major or minor their role (hopefully they are a continue presence in the story, at least). I think this is why I couldn’t get invested in Game of Thrones or The Magicians. The characters were all terrible! (Though I did like Daenerys a bit… I’m still rooting for her.)

Ah, I’ve gotten this far and I haven’t mentioned diversity yet!  Only one character I listed as a favourite could be considered diverse >.> (Kafka is a Japanese boy in Japan, so I’m not counting him.) I’m a little ashamed to say I don’t actively seek out books with diverse characters…I appreciate and value their existence, but I just read whatever sounds interesting to me. I like to think that leads me to diversity, because I’m not interested in reading about the latest twist on the special white girl, romantically troubled cisgender man, or other cookie cutter characters. However, looking on my recent reads, I’ve been reading many books with diverse plots but with few diverse characters… I need to pay more attention to the diversity in the books I do read, and perhaps prioritize some of the more diverse books on my TBR shelf.

How important are characters to you in novels? Do you often remember them past the final pages?

Armchair BEA: Social Media

Today’s topic is very timely! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my usage of social media. Time to use today as an outlet for those thoughts to spill out into a blog.

Lately I’ve been feeling fraught about my relationship with social media (not just in relation to blogging, so please bear with me as I ramble a bit). Usually I get in this mood a couple times a year and clear out the blogs, YouTubers, Facebook feeds, Twitter users, etc. that I’m following, but in the past few months the feeling’s been at its strongest. I recognize the value of social media (primarily, in networking and connecting, as today’s prompt notes) but often I feel like I let it have too much control over me. Recently I stopped using Tumblr (directly…). I deleted the rarely-used Tumblr that I set up to accompany my blog, but I couldn’t bring myself to delete my main Tumblr and I still follow some blogs through RSS. I have resolved never to set foot on the Tumblr website proper (surprisingly, so far so good!). I also scaled back the users I follow on my main Twitter account, and should really do this with my blogging account. Do I really need to follow so many publishers, booksellers, etc. when I already have so many ways of getting book news? I think I concern myself too much with missing out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to use my time and when/why I started spending so much time on the computer. It’s difficult to tell if it’s when I got my own personal computer, or if it was just an inevitable progression of my interests, tied to ‘growing up’ or something else entirely. I just know I spend far my more time online now than I did before high school. Sometimes I can’t fathom how people live without Twitter, YouTube, etc. but isn’t that a silly thought? It’s definitely possible. When I’m forcibly cut off from these things (generally by going on a trip) I have no problem marking everything from while I was gone ‘as read’ and picking up from there. Anyway. Essentially, I want to spend less time online and more time reading (including comics and short stories and things I don’t usually ‘have time’ for), writing (which I rarely do nowadays・, and leisurely past times like listening to music and colouring. Being in Japan hasn’t made it easy for me to loosen my connectivity addiction, because I use it as a sort of coping method. I rarely used Facebook in Canada, but here I’m on it all the time because so many other people here use it a lot. Hopefully I will be able to sever some of these constant connections and come out refreshed when I return home.

Getting back specifically to social media and its relation to my blog・I made a Facbook page just to claim the name but probably will never use it. I don’t know what to do with it. I want to be careful not to let my blog become more than it is. I like writing reviews and sharing my thoughts, and I only need the blog for that, not all the extras. I do like Twitter mostly for having conversations (and entering contests ;)). And of course, there’s GoodReads. This is definitely my most favourite of the social media websites and the one I find the most value in. I love seeing exchanging thoughts and recommendations, reading different perspectives on different books, following discussions in groups, and keeping track of what I’ve read and what I’m going to read. This is one website where I never feel I’m wasting my time.

What I can conclude from all these rambles is that social media is more important to me than I would like it to be. Trying to ‘network’ and ‘find connections’ is why I get sucked into it, but most of the time I’m not really using it for that. I’m just wasting time reading snippets and articles that I’ll soon forget about. Clearly this is something I’m going to have to work on!  What‘s your relationship with social media like? Do you ever have times where you feel like you‘re being pulled under by it?

Armchair BEA: Introduction

Welcome back, Armchair BEA! This one of the first events I participated in after deciding to become a full-fledged book blogger last spring. I found many of my favourite blogs through this event, and I hope to discover many more again this year. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to participate, though, as on Friday I’m off to Tokyo for the World Kendo Championships (as an observer, not participant!). But anyway, here’s my introduction.

  • What does diversity mean to you?
    • I’m personally most interested in reading about characters of varying sexualities, genders or religions. I think the best kind of ‘diverse reading’ features main characters carrying their own stories, regardless of how those stories are affected by their diversities.
  • What is one book everyone should read? 
    • Ooh, good question! I’d like to recommend Paper Towns, because it can really demonstrate the strengths of young adult literature, which too many people underestimate, and it also has an excellent, timely message (when it’s not being misinterpreted =.=). 
  • Share your favorite blog post on your blog (aka written by you!)
  • What book are you reading right now? 
  • What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer? 
    • The majority of summer are going to be very hectic for me, as I’ll be spending my last weeks in Japan and moving back to Canada. By the end of August, though, I’ll be back in my hometown, finally with access to a library full of English books for the first time in a year!! So, this isn’t a very specific answer, but I’m most looking forward to reading whatever interesting books I find on the library’s shelves 🙂 On a related note, I see today’s topic is also Library Love. It makes me sad to think about how much I miss my library, so I will have to read posts about other people’s libraries instead!

Are you participating in Armchair BEA?

Armchair BEA: Wrap-up (incl. Giveaway Winner)

Here we are at the end of ArmchairBEA. This week went by in a whirlwind. I hadn’t decided to participate until last Saturday, just before the week kicked off. I don’t want to get caught in too many blogger events, but since I haven’t participated in any events focused primarily on connecting with the community I thought this would be a good event for me. I was correct! I have discovered so many great bloggers/blogs I don’t know how I would have found otherwise, and I have gained new followers here, on Twitter, and on GoodReads. Thank-you so so much to everyone who has taken the time to come visit and encourage my fledgling blog! Please feel free to add me on GoodReads and follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already. 

I participated in four Twitter chats (Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday). I won two prizes (both from Friday – one Twitter party, one topic 5). I wrote six posts specifically for Armchair BEA:

  1. Monday: Introduction
  2. Tuesday: Author Interaction
  3. Wednesday: Novellas/Short Stories
  4. Thursday: Giveaway
  5. Friday: Middle Grade
  6. Saturday: This one

Giveaway Winner

The winner of my giveaway is Kai @ Fiction State of Mind. She wins the Best American Comics 2011. Thank-you to everyone who stopped by my blog and participated! I enjoyed reading all your comments – now I’m off to reply to them.

Armchair BEA: Middle Grade

I almost didn’t have time to write this post, since I had an essay due to today, but I’m squeezing it in! I’d like to share some of my favourite books I discovered when I was in grade five, books that I still love rereading today. I wonder today if children still read these? They are classics to me. All of these books I first saw in the Scholastic Book Order – undoubtedly the best part of school! I keep all of these books together on a shelf (along with…), which I call the first best reads shelf.

 Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke

As a dedicated reader, I was enthralled with Inkheart. I especially loved Eleanor’s library and was heartbroken at what happens to it. I always loved that the books felt grown-up and not at all dumme down. I liked that they dealt with cruel villains who were still humain, and ordinary family conflicts that no one likes to acknowledge. I liked that parts of the stories were told from the adult’s point of view. I loved everything there is to love about a book – the settings, the characters, the prose, the story, the book design. My hardcover trilogy is very precious to me!

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

I’m not sure why I decided to read Artemis Fowl because I don’t think I would pick it up today if someone described it to me. But I am so glad I did, because I adore these books. They are so much fun. I thought they were clever and both serious and funny, in just the right amount of each. I loved the twist on fairies, though I would scoff at it now if you described it to me (I generally like my fairies done more traditionally). I love picking up the first book for a quick read whenever I start to feel a bit bored.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Oh, what is there to say about ASOUE? I loved the prose and the narration style. Lemony Snicket is a fantastic character himself, as are all the others. Count Olaf truly creeps me out in the first book, though I found him more comic as the series went on (I was in tears at the last book, though!). I loved the relationship between the Baudelaires and how smart they were, and how they grew throughout the books. I liked how there was little romance. Of course, I loved the “a word which here means…” convention. My favourite book is The Hostile Hospital. I reread all of the books last year and I thought they were even better than before. I think there’s a lot more to pick up on when you’re older. I have the 13 books stacked vertically on my shelf and I think they look very fine. They were examples of book design done well!

The last book out of these three series was released The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl #8) in July 2012. I remember taking a solemn moment to consider that, wondering if I should be sad.  I decided not to be, because you can always reread a great book! I’m still on the hunt for books that excite me as much as these ones do. I loved each of the Inkheart and ASOUE books but I found AF decline after the fifth book. I wonder if that’s because I outgrew them? (Though I doubt it – I think the stories got sillier and the romance was out of place. Also I miss the original cover designs D:) But I still love rereading the first three! (The fourth is too sad to be reread often).

What were your favourite books from when you were young? Or, what are your favourite middle grade reads now?