Hello lovely bookish friends! Today, I have the utmost pleasure of sharing with you an awesome giveaway sponsored by the wonderful Penguin Random House! We are celebrating the fast approaching publication of Traci Chee's THE READER, and giving one lucky winner a chance to win a copy of The Reader and a very cool I AM THE READER tote bag!
But first, I'd love to talk to you about what books and reading means to me. Sefia’s clue to finding her lost family lies in a book. How did I find a family through books and/or through being a part of the online book community?
I've always been a big reader - ever since I can remember! When I was a little kid, I always had my nose stuck in a book. I've read tons of adventure books -- stories about treasure hunts, mysterious places, tree houses, etc. When I got a bit older, I moved on to The Fear Street stories, X-Files novelizations and mangas. Then I discovered Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Graham Masterton, Philip K.Dick and Arthur C.C. Clarke, and so my literary tastes began to shape - to this day, I am still a huge horror and science fiction fan.
But at that point in life, reading was a solitary experience for me. Sure, I occasionally talked about Dean Koontz' books with my closest friends, and yes, I was part of a manga club at school where we would obsess over the latest releases, but I didn't feel like I was a part of any community, let alone had a bookish family. No, that came much later. It wasn't until I moved to Canada to be with my husband (at the time still fiance), and I started reading in English, that I began to seek out connections in the book world.
My husband was studying full time, I was new to Canada and still very awkward in that transplanted-European kind of way. I didn't have any friends. I was alone at home for the majority of the time, and books became more than just ways of passing time for me. They became my lifeline. And it wasn't enough for me to just read them anymore, I wanted more - I wanted to talk about them with like-minded bookworms, share my excitement, fangirl and grieve together. I desperately needed to connect with the community.
At first, I struggled with reading in English. It isn't my first language and I always felt the need to look up every word I didn't understand - and at that time, that was probably half of every book's content - and it would take me very long to get through my usual favorite's - Stephen King or Anne Rice.
The year was 2008 and everyone was freaking out about the Twilight movie coming out, and so I decided to read the book. And that single decision turned out to be life-changing - a real pivoting point in my life. I read Twilight. I then read the rest of the series, followed by The Host and Chaos Walking Trilogy. And then I'd obsessively peruse my local library's YA section, looking for similar, amazing, exciting, captivating reads. And I was so into these books, I decided I needed an outlet, some place to talk about my feelings and thoughts! That's when Bookish Lifestyle was born (then still just Bookish), and where my first awkward and embarrassingly short reviews were posted.
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows from the start, trust me. For a very long time, I felt like I was just talking to myself. No one was reading my posts, no one was commenting on them, no one in the whole world was listening. Until one day, I came across a sort of forum for bookworms, where people would share their sites and connect with other readers and even authors (gasp!). To my utter disbelief, I was asked to review some books, and even provided review copies (my very first review copies, people!). I met Rhiannon Paille, Stacy Juba, Hank Quense and many other authors who trusted me with their stories. I did my first interviews, I posted first guest posts and hosted first giveaways. And you know what? My little blog started getting some attention...
Looking back at those times, I can't help but tear up. One single decision to pick up a book and then start a blog, changed my life so much, it's kind of unbelievable. Those first years in Canada were very hard for me. I don't think I ever admitted that to anyone - not even my closest friends and family - but those were some incredibly hard and lonely years, and I was feeling lost and out of place and so very unimportant. And I couldn't even complain, because I brought it all on myself - I made the decision to leave my home country to be with someone I loved. I had to live with the consequences.
I don't think I need to tell you just how amazing the book community is - if you're part of it, you already know that. I met some of my best friends here. Over the years, I interacted with hundreds of fellow readers and bloggers, I exchanged tweets, DMs, emails, even letters and gifts. Some of these people became my lifelines - my blog partner Andrea (who is absolutely irreplaceable), my lovely co-bloggers Debbie and Jess, my Irish bestie Amanda, the always beautiful and caring Amber... All of my beautiful bookstagram friends (Lisa, Becca, Korrina, Alix & Kelly, Rheney, Andie, Andrea, Allison, Alison, Crystal, and like a hundred other wonderful gals and boys), who are always there to chat with me, who offer words of encouragement and support, who never fail to lift me up and make even the darkest of my days so much brighter. All of these people are like my family. No, not "like". They ARE my family. Without them, I wouldn't be here. And I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, I mean it. I've faced some of the most difficult, painful moments this year and it's been an ongoing struggle the past months. Many times I felt like I was drowning, like I was ready to give up. I felt doubts. I felt heartbreak. I was in a very dark and hopeless place. And these people, my bookish family, they gave me hope, a reason to go on and keep on fighting. They were there to say "don't give up" when I really needed to hear that. They always are. When I get sick, when I am having a bad day, when something horrible happens, they are there. They hold my hand through it all. When something exciting happens, when I have good news to share - they're always there, too. They say "congrats!" and "good job!" and "I'm happy for you, you deserve it!" and they turn good days into absolutely wonderful days. It means so much to me. It is everything. My motivation, my hope, my reason to keep getting up after every single fall.
To me, the book community is my life. And that's not an exaggeration or a figure of speech, it's plain and simple truth. I don't know where I'd be, or who I'd be, or even if I still would BE, without it. Without you. Without all of you and every single one of you. I read to feel better, I review to feel accomplished, I design bookish merch to stay alive, I post on Instagram to stay connected to my friends and extended family. My whole life revolves around books, and I absolutely love it. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thank you for being part of my life. Please know, that I appreciate you - probably more than you know.
In celebration of reading, I've partnered up with the awesome folks at Penguin Random House to bring you this exciting giveaway~
One (1) winner receives:
a copy of The Reader
a branded “I Am The Reader” tote bag
a copy of The Reader
a branded “I Am The Reader” tote bag
Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Penguin Random House.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Reader:
Book 1 in Sea of Ink and Gold series
By Traci Chee
Release: September 13, 2016
A stunning debut set in a world where reading is unheard-of, perfect for fans of Inkheart and Shadow and Bone.Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent.
About the author:
Traci Chee is an author of speculative fiction for teens. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at piano playing, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog. The Reader is her YA debut.
Read an excerpt of the first two chapters here!
Follow @TraciChee on Twitter#TheReader