Favorite Book Feature: The Reader by Traci Chee

Sometimes I read a book for the first time and it instantly makes its way to my favorites shelf. That happened this month with The Reader by Traci Chee. I usually don’t read fantasy, but I picked up this book because I had read that it was about a world without a written language, so I thought it would help inspire me with my WIP. I came into this book expecting to get a few new ideas on how a world would function without a written language, but I was instantly blown away by this amazing, thrilling, and diverse story about magic, pirates, and a book that contains everything that’s happened and everything that will be.

Sefia has been on the run every since her father was brutally murdered. She survived in the wild with her aunt Nin, but after Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is on her own with the mysterious object her parents had her protect: a book. Sefia teaches herself to read and sets out to rescue her aunt, and along the way she befriends a mute boy, is helped by pirates, and discovers a magic she didn’t know existed.

This book instantly became one of my favorites for several reasons. First of all, I love how diverse The Reader is. The story is populated by people of every age and color, and men and women are complete equals in the fantasy world of Kelanna. I like that Chee doesn’t draw much attention to it—that’s just the way things are in Kelanna. It’s refreshing to read a story in which this is the norm.

I also love this book because of one of its main themes, which is how stories give life meaning. Several of the characters struggle with the idea of not being remembered. Captain Reed in particular worries that his life won’t mean anything if people don’t remember the stories of all the adventures he’s been on. He even tattoos his body with images of everything he’s done. By addressing this theme, Chee highlights just how important stories are.

But the main reason I love this book is because it’s clear that the author loves words. Her love and respect of language infuses every word of The Reader. Chee writes with such authority, and had me laughing, crying, and devouring the pages. Words have magic in the story, and I love this analogy. Stories are powerful, and it is fascinating to see how that works out in a fantasy setting.

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The Reader by Traci Chee

My WIP Comp Titles

I apologize for not telling you guys very much about my work in progress (WIP). I’ve kept this story idea under wraps because it’s taking me forever to outline. About a year ago I wrote the first ten thousand words of this story, but, after a medical issue prevented me from reading a writing for several months, I realized the story didn’t work for a lot of reasons.

Part of it was that the story was so much bigger than I initially thought it was going to be, and part of it was because it was a dystopian and I hadn’t thought out all of the necessary details yet. I also just wasn’t ready to start writing the story yet. After I finished Somewhere Only We Know I had felt like I had to jump into something new, but that left me with a half-thought out story.

So now I’ve been taking my time with this idea, outlining it in detail and doing lots of research. Part of that research has been to read and watch all of the comp titles. A comp title is a relatively recent comparable book or movie, something similar to your story that you can use as a starting point to pitch your book and help put it into context for agents, publishers, and readers. So I thought I’d give you guys a taste of my WIP by telling you about all of the comp titles I researched for this project:

  • The Hunger Games Books and Movies
    I chose to watch the Hunger Games movies again because one of my protagonists reminds me of Katniss. Plus I realized my book was also going to be trilogy, so I wanted to watch how the Hunger Games story played out over three books. I had only ever read the first book in the series before, so I loved getting the chance to finally read the whole series.
  • Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
    I chose to read this book because one of her main characters, Lena, reminds me of my other protagonist. Also, this story was inspired by Les Mis, which influences pretty much everything I write.
  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
    The Selection Series are some of my favorite books, and I wanted to read them again to help me understand trilogy structure. It was helpful to study a story that I already knew well.
  • Legend by Marie Lu
    Another story inspired by Les Mis, Legend was a helpful and inspiring reread. My second protagonist is very perceptive, like June in Legend. And Lu also has two protagonists, so it was helpful to read this and see how she used both of them.
  • The Reader by Traci Chee
    This one is a fantasy, not a dystopian like the rest of the stories on this list, but it is about a world without a written language, a concept which will play into my WIP.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    This book is a classic, not really a comp title, but the concept of censorship will also play into my WIP.
  • City of Ember
    I haven’t actually read the book City of Ember, but I have always loved this movie for some reason. You’ll see messengers like Lina pop up in my WIP. But the main reason I wanted to watch this movie again was because of that small moment when Lina is coloring a picture of a row of houses. She looks up from the drawing and out the window at the dark alley in her underground city, and then she picks up a blue crayon and colors the sky blue even though she’s never seen the actual sky and doesn’t know what color it really is. This moment has stuck with me ever since I first saw this movie nine years ago, and it was the initial inspiration for my first protagonist.
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Some comp titles for my work-in-progress

I hope that gives you an idea of what kind of story I’ve been working on. I’ll let you know more soon!

My Summer TBR List

I’m one of those people who feed off of sunshine, so spring and summer are my favorite seasons. I especially love to read in the summer. Back when I was in school summer was pretty much the only time I could read for fun, and now the longer days make me more productive so I have more time to read. So since yesterday was the first official day of summer I thought I’d share what’s on my Summer To Be Read (TBR) List.

  • The Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    I read the first book of this series, Among the Hidden, in May for my Favorite Book Feature, so of course I now have to go read the whole series again. These books were some of my favorites back in middle school/early high school. Haddix was my favorite author at the time, and her books made me want to write too.
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The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix and the Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
  • The Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
    I also read the first book of this series, Everlost, for a Favorite Book Feature, and I now want to read the other two books as well. Shusterman is one of my current favorite authors because of his incredible writing style. His voice is so distinct, and he is one of the best storytellers I’ve ever read. Look for my post on Everlost next Friday for June’s Favorite Book Feature.
  • Legend by Marie Lu
    I was hooked on this series as soon as I read the book jacket and saw that it is a dystopia inspired by Les Misérables. I’ll be writing about this amazing book for July’s Favorite Book Feature.
  • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
    August’s Favorite Book Feature is going to be this eerie dystopia about a water shortage.
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Legend by Marie Lu and Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
    I’ve been meaning to get to this on for a while. Set in future Manhattan in a skyscraper that’s a thousand stories tall, this book sounds so glamorous and thrilling.
  • The Reader by Traci Chee
    This book is about a world without reading, which I find really interesting. It’s a fantasy, which I don’t tend to enjoy very often, so I’m not sure I’ll like it. But I think it will help inspire me and my current project.
  • Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
    I won the audiobook version of Metaltown a while back from a giveaway by the author, and I’m finally getting around to listening to it. This one is another dystopia inspired by Les Misérables, so I was hooked as soon as I heard Simmons describe it at a signing I went to.
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I won an audiobook of Metaltown from a giveaway Kristen Simmons had on Instagram. I got these awesome Press Back buttons from her signing I went to.
  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
    I think this will be the forth time I’ve read the original trilogy, but I like these books more each time I read them. I want to go through them again to help me as I work on a similar book.
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The Selection series by Kiera Cass
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    While these are some of my favorite movies, I haven’t actually read the books except for the first one when it was a new book nine years ago. I also think this series will help me with my current project, so I finally want to read them.

Of course, all but two of these books I already own, so my library stack that’s already as tall as me isn’t getting any shorter any time soon. But I still can’t wait to get to read all of these stories this summer.

Best Reads of 2016 and What I’m Looking Forward to in 2017

Last year was the first full year that I wasn’t a student, and it was wonderful. With the crazy amounts of reading required of an English major, I barely read anything that wasn’t assigned to me during my time at college. I couldn’t wait for the day that my reading list no longer doubled as a class syllabus. Now my reading list is multiple stacks of library books that I’m afraid to put all together in one pile because it will probably be taller than me. I can’t read them fast enough.

My 2016 was full of wonderful reads. I read 64 novels. I didn’t keep track of nonfiction books, but I read a handful of those as well. And I’ve made it one of my goals for 2017 to make even more time to read as I forgot just how much I love it thanks to years of school. Here’s a list of some of my favorite books I read in 2016, as well as a list of books I’m looking forward to reading in early 2017.

Best of 2016:

Looking forward to in 2017:

  • Replica by Lauren Oliver
  • The Reader by Traci Chee
  • The other Starbound books by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  • Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee