Book Discussion: The Sunflower​ by Simon Wiesenthal

*THIS WAS A SUMMER READING ESSAY*

Literature is often used to express moral issues. Through stories, audiences have the ability to reflect on their ethics and values. In The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal, the main character is faced with an important internal conflict: should he forgive a Nazi for the mass murder of his religion?

Wiesenthal begins his book by telling the story of how he was brought to a dying Nazi’s bedside. He explains the hardships faced at the concentration camp to explain why forgiveness is hard to grant. By using harsh tones to describe the Nazis’ behavior, Wiesenthal reveals why the Nazi’s request causes an internal conflict. Ultimately, Wiesenthal decides, rather than forgiveness, to remain silent. Silence poses as a neutral response to the Nazi’s apology. The response leads to a question: was that the correct choice?

The second half of the novel is written by 53 writers of different backgrounds. Each person represented has a different belief system and values. Wiesenthal’s response to the Nazi allows for the other people to question what their decision would be. Each of the 53 writers states their beliefs on the subject and how they would have responded. Even though this story is focused on the Holocaust, the reflections of the 53 writers can be used in any situation. It is eventually shown that this project is not just about the Nazis but also forgiving people in general. Wiesenthal’s novel allows readers to question their moral values.

Overall, the book is an insightful look at who readers are in a moral perspective. Readers reflect on how forgiving they are and it allows them to fully understand compassion.

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Can Reading Help Solve Conflicts

For  the past few months, I have seen a lot of negativity in certain aspects of my life. I have noticed drama where I have been a bystander to various conflicts. Noticing these events, I have realized, that even though I am only seventeen, my ability to resolve conflicts is substantially better than some of my peers. The reasoning behind this, I believe, is that reading has taught me empathy.

One thing I have realized through these arguments is that the people refuse to understand other points of view. They believe that there can only be one person who is completely right instead on understanding that no one is every fully without fault. People rarely consider the actions of other people and their reasons behind them.

Through reading I have began to see people with more dimension. I understand that people’s ethics, thoughts, emotions, and even previous experiences contribute to how people act. Even by reading about the antagonists of stories, I began to understand that their actions have deeper meanings.

For example, in Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Warner is perceived as the antagonist for the first two books. Mafi initially expresses him harshly which results in the audience to view him negatively. Throughout the story, readers begin to learn about his life which explains his motives. By the end of the series, most of Shatter Me‘s fans prefer Warner rather than the actual protagonist.

Reading gives insight into how humans live. Readers are  enlightened with the concept that there is more to humans than their actions and reactions. Understanding feelings and ethics that people possess grants readers compassion. Reading about various lives expresses that we aren’t all the same-especially by how we feel and act.

Another thing that reading has helped me understand is that arguments are not one-dimensional. There are many factors that contribute into conflicts rather than the primary story. Sometimes, previous encounters or missed communication contribute more to a conflict than the actual reason. However, when more people get involved in an argument, it’s easier to focus on whose side to go toward rather than to understand that there is more to a story. Because people want support, they will recount their story to benefit themselves which allows bystanders, people who should never be involved in the first place, to engage in propaganda. Because people want to win their argument, despite whether the argument involves them, they will fight for their belief by speaking out which only creates a bigger argument.  In the end, the only thing we neglect is that there is always more to the story than what we perceive.

Through reading, the audience follows the plot where they see everything that contributes to the conflict. They get a deeper understanding of how the conflict is formed and resolved. The audience understands that there is never a single action that causes arguments but various factors.

Overall, I believe that humans refuse to acknowledge that other people are equally as flawed as them. Also, they refuse to acknowledge that actions are performed by feelings and motives which are typically not sinister. When people refuse to acknowledge these factors, arguments between a few people turn into wars with many people who should have never been involved.

BookCon: Final Thoughts and Haul!

bookcon sign

I am finally home from the craziness that is BookCon. I am still suffering from exhaustion and back pain from carrying all the books that I got. Despite the fact that BookCon was extremely tiring and crazy, I did have an amazing time.

Day 1: Arriving in New York

The day I arrived in New York, I had to take the train in from New Jersey. On the train, I met a family that was attending BookCon. It was their first Bookcon and the mom asked me if I could give her son and his friend some advice on what to expect. After talking to and giving advice to them, it was time to leave the train. When I finally arrived in New York, I met up with Booktubers and Bloggers. We went out to eat and talked about what events we wanted to attend. Overall, day one of New York was so much fun. I met so many new amazing people, especially Justin and Laura! Not to mention, I finally went to the Shake Shack and it was amazing!

Day 2: BookCon!

The first day of Bookcon was amazing! I spent a majority of my day with Laura, Justin, Jennifer, and many other incredible people! The main signing that I wanted to attend was Adam Silvera. Luckily, I was within the first 25 attendees waiting and I received a copy of They Both Die in the End!

After that, I went to more in-booth signings and ARC drops. However, the highlight of my day was going to the Entangled Teen booth to meet one of the authors that I wrote a review for and also meeting the publicist that sends me books to review for the company. Also, the publicist published my aunt’s new young adult series, Proof of Lies! It was incredible to meet an author whose book I had reviewed and a publicist that lets me review their company’s books. Anyway, if you have never read True Born by L.E. Sterling, you definitely need to!

LE  sterling.png

Later on in the day, I met another awesome blogger, Dee from Nerd and Lace. Actually, I won a giveaway from her blog two years ago at BookCon but I never met her until now. She was very nice and hilarious! She is definitely one of my favorite people that I had met.

Day Two: Final Day of BookCon

Out of my three years of being a BookCon attendee, I have never seen something as chaotic as the Sunday of BookCon 2017. Penguin did a horrendous job at managing their booths. Because Penguin was placed directly in the middle of the show floor and it was a big mob, you could not go anywhere near their area. Not to mention, the staff around Penguin was extremely rude.

I was waiting for the E. Lockhart signing at BookCon. When I saw other people waiting for the signing, I believed it was in my best interest to do so as well. When the security told us to move at 10:29 (literally one minute before the line was supposed to form), we all tried to move out of the way of other attendees while waiting in the vicinity of the table where they would be giving out tickets. Out of spite, the line security members started the signing line on the opposite side of the Penguin booth so that many people who were not waiting got a place in line. As I walked to the end of the line, I walked across an area that was meant for lining up but was vacant at that time. When I did this, a member of the Bookcon staff pushed me away. There was no reason for a staff member to put their hands on me. I simply made the mistake of walking in an area that I was ill-informed that we couldn’t walk on. Many people saw her do this and brought it to her attention, she tried to lie even though it was evident that it was her fault. She only apologized when a fellow attendee mentioned to her that it was a violation of their no harassment policy and that I could sue her for touching me without my consent. Her actions were inappropriate and disgraceful.

Besides the unfortunate events at Penguin, I was extremely happy. I got (almost) all of the ARCs that I had wanted. Also, I spent the entire day with Laura, Justin, and Sarah. Honestly, without those people, BookCon wouldn’t have been as much fun. It was great meeting so many awesome people and getting to experience BookCon with them. I cannot wait to see them again. Also, I cannot wait to get to read the ARCs we received.

Books I Received that Were ARCs:

  1. Top Ten by Katie Cotugno
  2. Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill
  3. Things I’m Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni
  4. Follow Me by Sara Shepard
  5. Suspect Red by L.M Elliott
  6. Natural Disasters
  7. The Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
  8. Odd and True by Cat Winter
  9. Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert
  10. She, Myself, and I by Emma Young
  11. A Short History of The Girl Next Door by Jared Reck
  12. Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
  13. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
  14. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne
  15. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  16. The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose
  17. The Goblins of BellWater by Molly Ringle
  18. A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
  19. The Audition by Maddy Ziegler

Signed Books that I Got:

  1. Mean Girls by Micol Ostow
  2. Red Dirt by Anna Jarzab
  3. At Home in the World
  4. The Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses
  5. Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
  6. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  7. Select by Marit Weisenberg
  8. The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
  9. Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
  10. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
  11. If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  12. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
  13. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
  14. Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
  15. The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
  16. Life is Like a Musical by Tim Federle

Other Books I Got:

  1. Aging Disgracefully by Danny Cahill
  2. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  3. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  4. The books I got in the VIP bag…. I cannot remember the books.

IMPORTANT REMINDER:

DO NOT SELL ARCs!!! Just a friendly reminder since I know a few of you did not know what an ARC is. An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy which means they are uncorrected proofs and have not been published yet. Publishers give out ARCs to create hype for the books. Often, they are given to reviewers to promote and review the book prior to its publication. With that being said, it is absolutely, 100% illegal to sell ARCs. You cannot give people your ARCs in exchange for money. You could face severe penalties. Also, DO NOT BUY ARCS!!! You are just as bad if you buy books. Authors work really hard on their books and you’re damaging their success.

To end this on a happy note: Thank you to everyone who is nice and welcoming to the blogging community. I loved meeting you all! Comment below your BEA/Bookcon experience.

BookCon For Beginners: Part 2

It’s that time of year again! For the people who are unaware of what “that time” is, it is when BookCon is close and many newcomers are prepping for their first time. BookCon can be best described as a beautiful chaos. The event is incredible and allows you to create many amazing memories, however, if you are ill prepared, you will not enjoy the event. Conventions, like BookCon, are not something that you can simply arrive at and hope for the best. The events require some knowledge and planning. Luckily, this being my third time attending, I am here to help you!

If you are familiar with my blog, you may have noticed that I had a similar post last year. Also, I had weekly posts leading up to the event to help you fully prepare. Because those posts were so popular and helpful, I decided to recreate them this year and include some new tips. Because BookCon is a primarily new convention, they are continuing to improve so my posts will be different from the originals. If you all enjoy this post, let me know and feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have about BookCon!

Though a rolling bad is not necessarily needed, it could be a massive help!

At BookCon, you will get plenty of books. As you all know, books are heavy. Carrying many books with only a few tote bags is complete hell. If you want to save your back and arms, put a rolling bag in coat check. NO ROLLING BAGS CAN BE ON THE SHOW FLOOR, YOU HAVE TO CHECK IT INTO COAT CHECK!!

Do not over plan!!

I did this, too. I thought that I could be at five places at one time. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong. I am going to state the sad truth, you will not make it to half of your events if you over plan (especially if they require a wristband). For autographing area signings, you have to be in line AT LEAST an hour before it starts. It does not matter whether you buy a book or not. Despite BookCon stating that you need a book purchase, a purchased book does not mean that you will be able to get it signed. So, if you are planning on buying a book and showing up ten minutes before the signing, you have a slim chance of that happening.

Also, unless you are a VIP, you need to be super early for popular panels in order to get good seats. Panels are first come first serve! VIPs, you get first to pick for seats as long as you stand in line twenty minutes prior.

To be honest, I ditched my schedule and spent most of my Bookcon at the booths.You receive way more free stuff at booths and you can still go to signings that you don’t have to wait in line for hours. Spend a lot of time at booths!

Arrive at Bookcon really early!!

I do not know if BookCon is still having wristband events because they haven’t announced the autographing schedule yet. However, the wristband signings were significantly better than the sessions the prior year where it was based off who arrived at the autograph line early. The prior years, people would buy the book but not be able to get it signed. However, the wristbands were given out before BookCon even started and GUARANTEED you an autograph. Only problem, the people in the front of the line to get into the convention get first choice of wristbands. If you are at the end of the line, you WILL NOT receive a wristband. It’s annoying but it is, in a way, fair because if you show us at the convention at 4am you do deserve the wristbands you want. I arrived at 4:30 AM last year and I was one of the first thirty people in line. Because of that, I got all of the wristbands that I wanted. (In the picture above, that was all of my friends and me waiting in line at 4:30. It’s tiring but it’s so exciting that you do not care!)

DO NOT CUT LINES!!!!!!

If there is one thing that I despise, it is line cutters. And if you happen to have a habit of cutting lines, you better not do it around me. I will call you out in front of the whole convention center. And since BookCon has a strict rule against cutting lines, you will be asked to leave. I do not care to hear your reasoning for cutting lines. If I see you cut, I will not hesitate to call you out.

Stay at the Show Floor

So, you can either spend your whole day waiting in line for signings at the autographing area, or you can spend you day receiving many books and having to only waste thirty minutes in line at booth signings. The show area is incredible. Last year, I spent the whole day there and received many amazing books! However, DO NOT (UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE) TAKE MULTIPLE COPIES OF ARCS!! You are the biggest asshole if you take three ARCs when there are other people who paid to go to BookCon who would love to have one of those ARCs. You only need one ARC and if your friend wants one, share the ARC. Don’t be annoying. You will be the reason publishers refuse to bring ARCs and we will all hate you. Also, SELLING ARCS IS ILLEGAL AND A SERIOUS MATTER. There was a lot of controversy over these two topics after BookCon last year, If you do these things, you lose respect in the book industry and will probably never receive ARCs again. ARCS ARE A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT!!

Socialize While Waiting

In all honesty, you will spend half of your day in lines. It could go both ways: it could either be terrible or you could make the most of it and talk to fellow bookworms. You are going to be surrounded by bookworms, make friends!!

Wear Comfy Clothes

You will be walking A LOT! You want to wear shows and clothes that won’t make you in pain. Keep in mind, the floors are concrete and only some exhibitors have carpet floors. Concretes is hard on your feet if you walk on it all day. Also, flip flops, although they are comfy, aren’t desired shoes.

Get the App!

The BookCon app is truly a blessing. Not only is it informational, the people you meet on the app are so amazing. I still am great friends with many of them. On the app, there are planners that you can use to organize your schedule for BookCon. Also, it allows you to see whats going on during the event. Another fun thing is every year, I make a group chat with newbies and experienced BookCon attendees where we plan meets ups and talk about books. Usually, we will all go out to dinner one night during BookCon. If you are interested in joining it, contact me!

There are events around BookCon, too!

The fun of BookCon will be available at other places around the city! Because, so many authors will be staying in New York, book stores will typically host events with them after BookCon. If you look at the event tabs on bookstore websites, they will list when they are hosting events around the time of BookCon. Many Attendees will be at the other events as well.

Do Not Bring Every Book From Every Author You Want To Meet!

You will regret it. You will have to carry those books with you for the whole day. Also, some authors may only sign one book so it would be a waste. Bring only the ones that you desperately want to get signed.

Bring Snacks!

My friend and I forgot to bring snacks because we were planning on buying lunch instead. However, me and my friend were too bus looking for books that we wanted so we never bought lunch. Starving, my friend and I ate left over food from Penguin that had been out all day. I would strongly advise you to being snacks so you don’t have to eat stale food and have people look disgusted at you.

Follow and turn on post notifications for publishers and other people at the event.

Many publishers and authors will tweet about give aways at the event. When I was there last year, all the books that I wanted  had received  because of these giveaways. Once you see a notification, you have to sprint to those booths because their items will be gone in seconds. Last year, there was one final copy of Futhermore by Tahereh Mafi (she is my favorite author ever) and I waited by that booth until they finally tweeted it. I ended up getting that book sixteen seconds after they tweeted it.

Bookcon Checklist

  1. Book money!!!! Books are sold at Barnes and Noble price. If you want five hard cover novels, then bring around $110. A lot of booths give out free books so you really don’t need to buy many books.
  2. Lunch money. Lunch is pretty pricey at convention centers. Snacks are a far better option since lunch is expensive and takes up too much time.
  3. Your ticket!!!!! It is the only way you will be allowed inside.
  4. A lanyard for your ticket!! You should wear your badge at ALL TIMES!
  5. One tote bag. You will get more but you want to bring one to hold your books until you find more totes.
  6. Rolling bag!!
  7. Snacks!
  8. Some books that you want to get signed.
  9. A list or schedule of who you want to meet.
  10. Business cards if you are a blogger, booktuber, author, publisher, etc.

 

Bookcon FAQs

  • Will they post a map of the show floor? Yes, but the maps aren’t that great.
  • How early should I arrive at the convention center? Two hours before or earlier. The earlier you arrive, the better chance you have at getting wristbands for everything you want to see.
  • How early should I arrive for panels and signings? In booth signings: a half and hour. Autographing area and panels: an hour and a half or earlier.
  • Will there be food to buy there? Yes, but it will be pretty pricey.
  • Will it be okay to bring a backpack with me? Yes, But I recommend bringing a rolling bag and putting it in coat check.
  • Do you need to buy books for signings at Bookcon? Only if it says that you do on the details of the signing.

A.R.C. Review: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

*All opinions stated in this review are my own*

TitleHolding Up the Universe

Author: Jennifer Niven

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Date of Publication:October 4th 2016

Publisher:Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages:Hardcover, 400 pages

Summary:Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.


At Bookcon 2016, the friend who I was with was desperate to find an A.R.C. of Holding Up the Universe. When All the Bright Places was being praised by bloggers everywhere, I appear to have missed out on that trend. I, shamefully, never read the popular novel by Jennifer Niven. However, I am proud to say that I have read Holding Up the Universe.

This being my first novel written by Jennifer, I am pleasantly surprised. At first, I was skeptical because of the backlash that followed the novel’s initial description. Apparently, people thought the description was offensive which made me hesitant about reading it. Since I got the book, I decided to give it a try.

The book is not offensive at all. In fact, the book is a beautiful example of accepting who you are and how two unlike people can support each other. Jennifer Niven did an astounding job creating the story. The book will be a great read for young adults because it teaches many important lessons.

One lesson that it taught is that nothing can stop you from living your life. Libby is an example of this lesson because she manages to move on after the loss of her mother and her accident. Libby loses weight and returns to school despite her fears. She overcomes the bullying and focuses on herself.

Another lesson is self-love. Libby embraces her body and understands the effort that was taken in order for her to lose the weight. Also, Libby stands in front of everyone in a bikini to show people that she is wanted and that she is beautiful.

Finally, Jennifer teaches that you cannot use your faults to justify your bad decisions. Through Jack, it is shown that you cannot use your weaknesses as reasons for your mistakes. Eventually, you have to take responsibility for yourself.

Despite the many positive messages in the book, there are other aspects of the book that I liked. The main aspect that I found enjoyable was that Jennifer was able to successfully make readers understand what the characters were going through. Her constant emphasis on how someone with face blindness viewed the world made it easier to understand Jack’s situation. Also, we are able to understand Libby better with flashbacks to her mom’s death and the accident.

Another thing that I enjoyed was Jennifer’s writing style. The novel was easy and fun to read. The use of lists in the novel showed readers the characters’ thoughts.

Finally, I loved Jack. His situation was interesting to read about. Also, his point of view was captivating. In all honesty, he is the character that I feel made the book so great. I believe that Jennifer focuses more on Jack rather than the rest of the characters.

Despite greatly enjoying most of the book, there were a few things that I disliked. The major issue that I had with the book was that, besides Jack, the characters seemed flat. Some characters seemed hard to relate to.

Another thing that I disliked was the slightly forced chemistry between Jack and Libby. They do not appear to be a romantic relationship but rather a friendship. Their feelings felt rushed and not established well.

Overall, the book was very fun and interesting to read. I believe that this book is a positive read. Jennifer teaches many important lessons in the story.