Synchronized Reading Roundup: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

This month Nicole and I read Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

Here’s a rundown of all the posts I wrote up for the Synchronized Reading:

You can also head over to Nicole’s blog to see her posts:

I’m also giving away a copy of Imaginary Girls. Details here!

 

Imaginary Girls Synchronized Reading Post #1: Local Legends

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our current Synchronized Reading is Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

Since the mythical town of Olive plays such a big role in Imaginary Girls, we decided a fun post for this Synchronized Reading would be one on local legends.

Now, you would think I would have a lot since New York City is filled with cool and historically significant places.

What I do have instead of a pile of urban legends, are building that I am constantly drawn to.

One of them is my local library: Jefferson Market. This branch is where my library career started when I was in high school. It’s where I got my first library card. It’s where I spent many a summer day picking up books for me and (mystery) books for my mom.

I also have some fun facts about this building including that, contrary to popular belief, the building was never a church. Instead it was a courthouse where Mae West infamously appeared during the “lady on the swing” court case. The garden next to the library used to be a women’s house of detention as featured in David Duchovny’s film “House of D.”

There aren’t a lot of rumors about the library being haunted. But with that kind of energy, you do wonder. In a fit of peer induced hysteria myself and two fellow pages managed to convince ourselves that we saw a ghost or some kind of unnatural presences in the reference room in the basement. Now, years later, I’m comfortable saying that probably wasn’t true. But I also still don’t like being in the references room. So you can draw your own conclusions.

The other building that I refer more than any other is the Flatiron Building. It is my mom’s favorite building (possibly mine as well although I also quite like the Chrysler Building). It is probably the building I photograph most when I am wandering the city.

The building has a unique shape (reminiscent of an old-time flatiron) thanks in part to the nature of real estate in New York City. It was one of the city’s first skyscrapers and even created a wind tunnel when it was first built.

As far as I know there aren’t any ghosts in residences but with so many occupants coming and going, who can really say?

Speaking of spooky stories in libraries, I recently learned that my new place of employ, Brooklyn’s Central Library, has a local legend of its own. (True story, this was the second thing I learned on my first day at the new job. It’s that important!)

Let me direct you now to the story of Agatha Cunningham who disappeared on her school’s trip to the library in 1977: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSO946WWjSY

You may be thinking, surely this can’t be real. And, being the age of the Internet, you might find articles online debunking this story. Then again, you might also find people disputing the reality of the tree octopus and saying that they and Agatah are not real.

I’ll leave you all to draw your own conclusions (as long as that conclusion is that Brooklyn Public Library did not in fact lose a child in the lower decks and instead helped some very talented teens make a documentary about it).

Synchronized Reading: Imaginary Girls

Synchronized Reading is back! This time Nicole and I will be reading Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

Be sure to check here this week and also check out Nicole’s blog to get the full reading picture! I’ll also be running an interview with Nova. And you might want to check her blog out since this week also marked the third anniversary of the publication of Imaginary Girls.

I can’t remember everyone on the panel, but I saw Nova talking about Imaginary Girls shortly after its release at Books of Wonder during one of the first book events I attended (with Nicole obvs) so it feels a bit like coming full circle to be talking about the book here.

As is tradition now I also had a manicure to match the cover:

imaginary girls nails

In summary: Nicole and I will be reading Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma together. We will be blogging about it. It will be awesome. You, too, can read Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma as it is now out in both hardcover and paperback.

I’m also giving away a copy of Imaginary Girls. Details here!

Synchronized Reading Roundup: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

This month Nicole and I read Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Here’s a rundown of all the posts I wrote up for the Synchronized Reading:

You can also head over to Nicole’s blog to see her posts:

Roomies Synchronized Reading Post #2: Vacation Destination Memories

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our current Synchronized Reading is Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Roomies is written with emails between Elizabeth and Lauren with Lauren in San Francisco and Elizabeth in a beach town in New Jersey. So for our second Synchronized Reading post on the book, Nicole and I decided to talk about a memorable vacation. Be sure to stop at her blog to see what she has to say as well.

I have not taken a lot of vacations that involve actually going places. I have been to visit family in New Jersey a couple of times. I have been to Disney World (which was glorious and fabulous and I want to go back right now). I went to Boston twice but don’t remember much of the first trip and the biggest memories of the second trip are going to the supermarket with my aunt and being shocked at how enormous it was.

In college I went on one spring break trip with my honors college to Montreal (this was before you needed a passport to get into Canada) where we saw the Notre Dame cathedral (church-like with a gift shop), went to the Musee de Beaux Art (amazing on every level and I wish I could have stayed longer), and ate poutine (*shudders*). Other things happened but aside from being cold all the time those were the highlights. Oh and I bought earrings shaped like Maple leaves.

I could talk about any of those vacations.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the trip I took to Los Angeles in 2006.

In 2006 I was a Senior Staff Writer for my college newspaper. I did not yet have my own column for book reviews but I did have a few articles I was really proud of among my clippings or whatever you call them.

That year through a series of weird luck, I was invited to attend a college newspaper conference with the editorial staff and a couple of other writers and photographers. It was totally bananas to be asked to go and totally cheap (I only paid airfare).

Now, as you all might have guessed, I tend to stay close to home. So I wasn’t sure about this whole flying cross-country thing. It was a weird time in the middle of a semester (which led to my having to redo a midterm for the first and only time in my live) and I had lost a lot of weight so none of my clothes fit particularly well (one of my souvenirs from this trip was a belt–no lie). But then my Aunt Linda and my mom and I were talking about it. And Linda said this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was something I’d be talking about for the rest of my life. And you know what? She was right.

I’m not even going to talk about the flights because they were miserable. Frankly, LA is a terrible city for people who don’t drive. It’s not a place I’d ever want to live. I’m not even sure I’d visit it again. But the trip was a lot of fun. (I recently reconnected with one of my roomies from this trip on Facebook and it was kind of nice seeing her photos of the trip were still online and still knowing there was proof out there that I was on it with her and everyone else.)

Somewhere I have an essay I wrote in my college memoir class about the saga that getting the Getty became. I have photos of the artwork and even brochures about the Courbet exhibit we went to see. It took hours but it was worth it. I would even brave LA again to visit that museum. I still have a keychain from there that I never use because I don’t want to break it.

I have pictures of the Hollywood sign and the walk of fame (there is so much walk of fame to walk) as well as pressed pennies somewhere from Universal Studio’s studio walk which probably has a different name in real life. Either way our hotel was near there and this walk would blast Nickelback’s “Photograph” all the time which has made it a song synonymous with that trip (in addition to being a personal favorite).

I don’t have a lot of the souvenirs I bought on that trip anymore. No crazy rhinestone baseball cap or fuzzy dice. No college newspaper t-shirt (it wore out). I’m not even in touch with a lot of people I went on the trip with although at the time we were all pals and had great fun (I did, anyway. I hope everyone else did too.) whether it was just me and my two roomies getting lost on our way to the Getty or the whole staff discussing favorite punctuation marks at the farewell dinner. All I really have left are some silly touristy keychains from the trip, photos of varying quality from my non-smartphone and the disposable cameras I had at the time and lots of memories which, it turns out, is more than enough.

Roomies Synchronized Reading Post #1: Last Summers and First Steps

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our current Synchronized Reading is Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Meditations on change and the last summer of high school are big parts of Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. So for our first Synchronized Reading post on the book, Nicole and I decided to talk about our own summers before college. Be sure to stop at her blog to see what she has to say as well.

I commuted to college. My high school was four blocks away and my university of choice was only a half hour on the subway (except that one time I had to WALK there during the transit strike to take an Art History final but whatever).

I had been working since I was 17 and I kept the same job through college and grad school. Later when I was underemployed in a place of employ that wasn’t even close to my area of expertise, I would question that choice as I would question many others. At the time all I knew was work study jobs did not pay as well and did not involve working fun YA books every shift.

I don’t remember much from that summer.

I can probably tell you I did things with my high school friends in addition to the expected undying declarations of friendship. But, like the declarations of friendship, the memories didn’t stick.

I definitely spent time with my mom because I always do that (she’s excellent company). There would have been street fairs and other summer-y things. Mom and I definitely watched Big Brother that year because I never, ever miss a season. I might even have some movie ticket stubs from that summer.

But none of those memories are ones that jump out.

I can go on goodreads and tell you what books I read (which seems to have included several formative titles like Emma, The Eyre Affair, Alice I Think and Sender Unknown). That year was the first year I read a lot of YA. Previously I had read a combination of childrens/middle grade titles (some of which were YA crossovers), mysteries, and classics.

That all changed when I started working with the YA librarian at my first place of employ. At the time I didn’t think of her that way, but she was a formative influence for me as well–not just a coworker or a librarian but that rare amalgam of those things and whatever else makes someone a lasting influence. I don’t know if the seed was planted right that summer but I can say with certainty that working with Karyn in the YA section (and Susan Pope–a children’s librarian who literally gave me a foot in the door) started me on the path to becoming a librarian myself.

I attended that year’s summer reading party to “help” (and have fun) and I still have a couple of giveaway books I took that day as well as some really solid memories of decorating a pencil case that would come with me to my first day of college classes. (A miserable day where I was trapped in the wrong wing of the university building for a solid thirty minutes, knew absolutely no one and had not yet fine-tuned the commute to that easy-to-manage half hour.)

What I also have from that summer reading party are the gifts Karyn gave me as she moved to a new position and I moved in a less drastic way to college.

She gave me this magnet:

It still hangs on a shelf near my desk and it is a sentiment that I have tried to listen to more and more as I get older.

Karyn also gave me a spiral notebook with a beautiful inscription from her wishing me great things. And I still have it because nothing has seemed quite special enough to use it. I have a hard time filling notebooks but that’s a whole other story.

(I already emailed Karyn a few weeks ago to thank her for giving me that start and to tell her how much it meant to me then and still means to me now. If you have someone in your life who filled a similar capacity, tell them. Gratitude should never be a secret.)

I guess what I really took from that summer even if I didn’t know it quite as specifically then comes back to Karyn’s gift: Be Yourself.

New beginnings are always scary. I’ve had some bad ones and some extremely scary ones. But I’ve always done what I know makes sense for me. I’ve always tried to be true to who I want to be. And now, with things coming together in various ways, I’m finally able to say that all of those beginnings and endings are starting to make sense.

Synchronized Reading: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Synchronized Reading is back! This time Nicole and I will be reading Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Be sure to check here this week and also check out Nicole’s blog to get the full reading picture!

I was Nicole’s wing-person for a Roomies event at McNally Jackson a few months ago. We both had a great time and really enjoyed exploring the bookstore (it was our first time seeing it). The craziest thing is (spoiler!) I really enjoyed Roomies but I had no plans to read it (or own it) before this even because I commuted to college and therefore had relatively little interest in the whole roomie experience.

Roomies has a lovely cover and I obviously had a manicure to match (this was also my birthday party confetti manicure–but what good is a manicure if it can’t multitask?)

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In summary: Nicole and I will be reading Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando together. We will be blogging about it. It will be awesome. You, too, can read Roomies as it is already released.

Synchronized Reading Roundup: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

This month Nicole and I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Here’s a rundown of all the posts I wrote up for the Synchronized Reading:

You can also head over to Nicole’s blog to see her posts:

Fangirl Synchronized Reading: Fangirl Post #2: Fanfiction and Fandoms

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our first Synchronized Reading is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

In addition to our intro posts and (of course) our reviews of the book, we’ve also decided to do at least two posts talking about points of interest during the book. Since Fangirl isn’t officially out yet, we knew we had to avoid spoilers. Luckily, the topic for our second posts was a pretty obvious one: fanfiction and fandoms.

Before starting Fangril I didn’t think much about fanfiction or fandoms. There are times and places for both but it wasn’t a personal point of interest–I will never choose to write non-publishable works based on other characters when I can create my own world and characters. But I love that other people can and do.

Then I started thinking about things and realized while it isn’t “fanfiction” per se, some of my first writing projects probably loosely fit the fanfiction bill. The first was when I was 11 or 12 and I finished A Wizard of Earthsea. Right after I started my own book that, in retrospect, was a thinly veiled remix of A Wizard of Earthsea. Then, a couple of years later, Emily of New Moon rocked my world (more even than Anne of Green Gables) and I started another project–this time in my English class notebooks–that years later–I realized was again a remix of a familiar story.

I never finished either story. There wasn’t much point when the original books did everything I was doing in a more or less similar way. But they are what got me writing. They are, in some ways, why I am still writing. And that’s valuable.

Which brings us to fandoms.

Confession time: I’m not a big Harry Potter fan. I went to a midnight release for book seven but I didn’t want to believe about Dumbledore. Or Snape. And I shipped Harry and Hermione. And Luna and Neville. Needless to say, with those things in mind, book seven was a huge disappointment and–over the years–my nostalgia for the  series diminished. It’s another thing that I see value in but I just don’t personally love.

I didn’t think I was a part of any other fandoms either. I like a lot of things. I have strong opinions on a lot of things. (Do not even get me started on all of Smallville’sfailings.) But I didn’t think fandom was really my thing.

Then I remembered that time I crocheted a Woodland Elf Usuki.

Here’s the inspiration:

usuki_chris_elf

And here’s mine:

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So basically I play Neopets. I have since I was fourteen and I still do now in my spare time. Neopets is a virtual pet site where you can play games, raise virtual pets and do other things like college message board avatars (I have 322 which is pretty awesome–just saying). And crochet creatures inspired by site items. I am partly in charge of a guild on Neopets. I have friends through the site that I have known and texted with for years. And it sounds crazy but it’s fun and it works for me.

And if that doesn’t count as a fandom, I don’t know what does.

One of my pets. Isn’t she adorable?

The funny thing is Neopets also has a “newspaper” where users can submit different articles. Either game guides or other things. And I have written a few articles. Now these are usually things I write about my own pets but in the strictest sense of the word–that’s fanfiction.

Imagine my surprise to realized I’d been a part of a fandom (with a fanfiction community!) for years and I never even realized it.

So now you know my secrets. What about you? Any fandoms you’re a part of?

Fangirl Synchronized Reading: Fangirl Post #1: College and Community

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our first Synchronized Reading is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

In addition to our intro posts and (of course) our reviews of the book, we’ve also decided to do at least two posts talking about points of interest during the book. Since Fangirl isn’t officially out yet, we knew we had to avoid spoilers. So our first topic is a general one: the college experience.

(Check back next Friday for our posts on fanfiction in fandom. The week after that our reviews will post.)

Fangirl starts when Cath gets to college. It also starts when her twin sister announces that she wants a different roommate.

I didn’t dorm in college–I went to a college thirty minutes away in lower Manhattan and I commuted for all four years. I was also an English major (like Cath) in a school primarily known for its business programs. It was a great fit for me because it meant there was a smaller community and lots of face-time with teachers. It also meant there were never any huge lectures for classes (except my one science requirement) and teaching assistants were never very visible.

That’s all my roundabout way of saying a lot of Cath’s trials and triumphs were very foreign to me. (I have the same thing happen when I read books about enormous high schools.) One thing I did totally relate to was Cath’s efforts to find a community during that first year at college.

When I first got to Pace I desperately wanted to be a part of the literary magazine. That, however, didn’t happen until my senior year. But I knew I wanted to do something besides go to class so I signed up for the college newspaper. It was terrifying–even worse than being one of two freshman in a Seventeenth Century Lit class. Even worse than getting trapped between floors and in the wrong wing as I tried to make my way to my first class on my first day of college.

But I stuck with it. For a long time that meant showing up to meetings and not taking an assignment. But then, slowly, I took different articles. The editors got to know me and I started doing more. By senior year I even had a book review column. It was a great experience and one I am so glad I pursued even though it was far outside of my usual comfort zone.

It’s an interesting thing going to classes without really meaning to make friends. I don’t always connect with people. I’m prickly until I get to know a person and I am sometimes much better on paper/electronically than in real life. That said, it was always amazing to me how easy it was to talk to other English majors. College was the first time I was really around people who got it–the writing, the reading, the love of words. (It was also the first time I had friends who didn’t make me feel fat and gigantic compared to the short, waif-like friends I had in high school but that’s another story.) This feeling of connection only grew when I met people in grad school who felt that way not just about books but about youth books–wow!

The amount of nostalgia I had while reading Fangirl was staggering as I was reminded of my crazy thesis advisor, the friends I had on the paper and in classes, the drama of the English Department writing awards. I have strong (bad) feelings about Facebook but this book made me wonder if I should reconsider if, for nothing else, the chance to reconnect with some of those college friends I’ve lost touch with. But really the best thing about rehashing my own college experiences while reading this book was realizing that, while it didn’t always feel that way at the time, I wouldn’t go back and do anything differently.