Discussion: Reality Has So Much to Offer, Just Like Reading

Hi everybody! I usually don’t post many discussions, but because it is summer and I’ve had a bit more time to write, I’ve decided to write this little reflection about reading versus reality, especially since I’ve had so many great experiences this past school year and it’s been tough finding the will to read during my “emotional hangovers.” I hope you enjoy this post and maybe ponder over when it’s best to choose between reading and reality.

Sometimes We Need to Choose Reality Over Reading

Reading has always been my escape. When I feel lonely or dejected, burdened or stressed, I just pull out a book and become transported into another world. I want to become amazed by the magic in fantasies, moved by the raw truth of contemporaries, or enlightened by the real inspirations in historical fiction. Stories turn the ordinary of my life into the extraordinary, full of whizzing technologies, majestic creatures, and relatable characters that I would like to befriend in reality.

I have always been an emotional guy. I let my heart take control sometimes. And after undergoing through many amazing experiences in my junior year, it became hard to read at times. When the school year ended and my time in my high school elite choir the Madrigals came to a close, my heart swelled with so many feelings that I could not finish more than a couple of pages in my book. During my time at TN Boys State, I did not want to read since the time I could use to hang out with so many of the awesome delegates there was very limited and precious.

There was even a moment when I doubted myself as a reader. I did not want to read anymore. Thankfully, after my emotional hangovers had subsided a bit, my bibliophilia was restored. I admit, I can be a bit volatile at times—which is why I need to think with my head before I let my heart steer the reigns—but I have learned a valuable lesson from all of these events.

Now I am not trying to degrade reading at all. That is not the point of this essay. In fact, I commend people who can read hundreds, if not thousands, of books a year. I wish I could do that! And I want those who do that to keep on doing that.

But I have learned that sometimes you need to close your book, go out, and take on new experiences. While books are portals into new lives and new places, the real world can be just as exciting. My junior year of high school has been filled with events and memories that I will never forget. I have sung at venues that I would never imagine performing at (from Christmas caroling to All Northwest Honor Chori), toured our nation’s capital, made many friends at Boys State, attended two book festivals, and brought home the coveted DECA glass from SCDC. I have strengthened my current friendships, discovered a second family in my choir, and connected with people from all around the state. I have stood on the very steps where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and witnessed the actual flag that flew at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Those were some of the best moments of my life, and I will cherish those memories forever.

Now not everyone has the same opportunities as I do, but every person’s life is equipped with all sorts of opportunities to fill it with love, with excitement, with awe, with gratitude. Whether it be a bustling city or a quaint small town, there is always something to do and somewhere to go.

However, there are times when we need to read to find consolation and refuge from the trials and darkness of the outside world. When life is tough for me, I often pull out a book to be transported to a new realm where I could feel accepted, or at least connect with characters that are going through troubles that could relate with what I am going through. I credit books with keeping me company when I feel alone in a crowd, calming me when I feel nervous and stressed, and boosting me with hope when I feel dejected. I have learned so many lessons from these stories, and they’ve aroused in me a kinder and more adventurous spirit.

But in order for these novels to truly change our lives, we need to go out and put these lessons and newfound feelings to the test. We need to go out into the world and make new encounters. It is great to read on the beach with the cool breeze in your hair, in the mountains full of peace and quiet, next to the fireplace with a blanket and a cup of cocoa. But don’t forget that those places can make new memories outside of stories, from swimming on the beach, hiking and marveling at God’s glorious creation, and bonding with friends and family on a cold winter’s night. Experience the world around you. There are lots of things to do, places to visit, people to meet, and events to attend. Traveling to a fictional world is an amazing experience that can teach so much about life, but the real world can be life-changing as well.

Yes, George R. R. Martin is right when he says, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads only lives one.” But don’t forget that reality has so much to offer, so much to be explored, so much to be written, so much to be experienced.

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Memorial Day: A Personal Reflection on Washington DC and TN Boys State

Hi everybody! Yesterday was Memorial Day, and we are remembering all of the brave men and women who died serving our country and fighting for our freedom. Getting back from the Tennessee American Legion Boys State–which I recommend anybody who is selected to participate to go–I feel called to write this post. Even though LILbooKlovers’s two-year blogoversary has passed, I personally think that I need to write about two experiences that have changed who I am.

A few weeks ago, I went to Washington, DC, to compete in a festival with my choir. The trip exceeded all of my expectations. But what makes it truly one of the best experiences of my life is not the fun or the bonding; in fact, it is how much sightseeing through our nation’s capital impacted me as an American and as a leader.

I have always been a history buff. Throughout middle school, I loved learning about historical figures and British history. Historical fiction is honestly my favorite genre in literature. Since I took AP US History this year, having the opportunity to visit Washington, DC, was fitting. And it definitely proved to be fruitful.

I became fascinated at seeing the actual pike John Brown used in his Harpers’ Ferry raid or the actual top hat Abraham Lincoln once wore. I was mesmerized as I stood on the very steps at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, and I imagined myself as if I were there that very day. I did not want to get out of that trance. However, two sites that I visited proved to be the most life-changing, and they have inspired within me a deafening desire to become a better patriot and a better leader.

Seeing the endless rows of white headstones at Arlington National Cemetery was a sobering experience. Arlington National Cemetery is 624 acres total, and if you walk through those hallowed grounds, you cannot count the number of gravestones present. Imagine, that is not even a small portion of the thousands, if not millions, of men who died for our country. They gave up their lives to protect the freedoms that the United States endears for its citizens. And these wars were brutal. From Vietnam to World War II, these soldiers have seen an unfathomable amount of horrors and atrocities that haunt them until the day they die. Yet our veterans are often overlooked and forgotten in today’s society. The simplest thank you or conversation can make all the difference in a veteran’s day.

One of the most memorable experiences of my life–one that I will probably never forget–is when I witnessed the actual flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, the American flag, which is one-third the size of a football field, that proudly waved over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, where Francis Scott Key wrote his epic poem from a distance. To see the actual banner at the Smithsonian brought me to tears and filled me with a renewed sense of patriotism that I have never felt before. The flag is so beautiful and so awesome that you can stare at it for hours. The words I am telling you right now cannot fully describe the beauty and splendor of this great artifact. To be able to see it in person has made me ever more firm that I am an American.

Just last week, I attended the Tennessee American Legion Boys State, which is an intensive one-week program that gives nearly 550 rising seniors from around the state a glimpse of the state government and the military lifestyle. Boys State exceeded all my expectations–while there were highs and lows and times when I doubted myself, ultimately I had fun, made many new friends, and became changed as a leader.

Our big chant at Boys State was “Boys Staters. Don’t Quit.” I ran for governor, and there was a point where I was about to give up in my campaign. After realizing that I not only had a chance at the position but also a whole ton of support from my fellow Boys Staters, I decided not to give up. Even though I lost the primaries, this continued perseverance led me to be elected by our General Assembly (our State Representatives and Senators) as Secretary of State with a nearly unanimous vote from both the House and the Senate. If I had stopped after losing the primaries, I would have never had this opportunity. Instead, I supported my party’s candidate loudly and proudly (he is amazing by the way), voted for him, and continued on my Boys State journey.

Boys State can be very tough at times. You have to make your room in a strict, precise way. You are required to make hospital corners on your bed. There are days when you have to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and stay up past midnight from a fire drill. You might have to march in 90 degree weather out in the burning sun. Personally, it wasn’t that bad. I liked the food yet I wanted to go back to my own bed and sleep for hours. But this is the life of the military. They undergo training that is a thousand times worse than what I endured with only two hours of sleep on a good day. Not the average American can survive this training.

From both of these experiences, I’ve developed a deeper and more profound respect for those who serve our country. What they do on a daily basis is something I personally cannot do, and I commend them greatly for it. We need to thank the men and women in uniform and also our veterans in our communities for all the hard work and service they have poured to keep our country safe and to preserve our freedom. Freedom is never free, and there is always a price. There is always a heroic martyr who dies so we may live, and it is important to remember and honor that sacrifice.

I have definitely grown as an American citizen and as a leader from DC and Boys State. Certainly, I will recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to do either one to jump on it. Boys State might be hard and long for the first couple of days, but it’s worth it. DC may be full of mean Northerners (I’m so used to Southern hospitality and believe that should be the way of life), but it’s full of history to be explored. Walking in the footsteps where leaders have made great impacts on our country and where history has been in the making has been an honor and a privilege that I will never forget. I am proud to be an American, and I hope to continue serving my country–whether it be through blogging, reading, or music–in any way possible.

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Discussion: The Power of Middle Grade Novels

Hi guys! I haven’t posted a discussion post written by myself in such a long time, but I finally have one ready for you all! As the blog is rapidly expanding these past few months, I have become acquainted with so many amazing MG authors that have inspired me to become more involved in the MG community. Yes, I am a primarily YA-based author, but there’s so much power in MG novels! I want to give a big shout out to Jarrett Lerner, author of Enginerds, for inspiring me to finally post this discussion. It’s been way overdue, and I hope you enjoy it!

MG Novels

When you think of middle grade novels, what do you think of? Series such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid come into mind. As an elementary school student growing up, I didn’t read those series, honestly–except Harry Potter, which I read all seven books in either fourth or fifth grade. I had the mindset that I did not want to read anything that had a low reading level (what caused it? AR!), and because of that, I ended up reading only classics and Encyclopedia Brown books. This is what caused me to not read at all in middle school–I felt so constrained to classics that I just did not want to read more of them anymore. I focused my free time on Lego’s and video games instead.

As a kid, I always had the misconception that middle grade books had little literary value and were “taboo” since I had a higher reading level than many kids. In seventh grade, I read only ten books. There was a special party for those who read and wrote about ten books, and I crammed A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a weekend (which was too much for me as a non-reader) as the tenth book under my belt. (I completed 91 books in 2017, which I never would have foreseen back then!)

When I became a blogger, I slowly transitioned into being primarily YA/MG-based. Since the moment I first read Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz and Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, I realized the power middle grade novels have not just to the high school student but to adults, too. Middle grade is NOT just for kids–in fact, anyone can learn from its lessons.

Continue reading “Discussion: The Power of Middle Grade Novels”

Brooding YA Hero Challenge: All About Sequels!

33799449Hi guys! I am officially a member of Broody’s BFFs, the street team for Brooding YA Hero’s next book! Broody and I are great buds, and I’m so excited to hang out with him in his upcoming book, which is by Carrie Ann DiRisio. He is such an amazing and hilarious person, and if you’re not following him already, go check out his Twitter account @BroodingYAHero. Seriously, he will make your day, because he’s Broody. That’s what he’s supposed to do to the main protagonist and then later make her hate him. Make sure you check out his book on Goodreads here!

So this week’s challenge is all about sequels! Here are some of my favorite and most anticipated sequels! First, my favorite sequel of all time…

Continue reading “Brooding YA Hero Challenge: All About Sequels!”

Sunday Discussion: Giveaway Accounts

Hello guys! Today has been such a great Sunday! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Thank you so much for doing one of the hardest jobs on Earth, yet one of the most important ones. Be sure to give your mom a hug or a phone call or a kiss or a hi or a THANK YOU today!

Instead of a quote-flection of the week, I’m opening up a discussion question I feel like I need to talk about: giveaway accounts. Should you let people with giveaway accounts enter your giveaway? This includes Rafflecopter, Gleam, Twitter, Instagram, etc. giveaways. This isn’t that big of an issue, but I wanted to talk about it because sometimes it annoys me.

What is a giveaway account? A giveaway account is an account on Twitter or Instagram that is devoted to only entering giveaways. You can easily tell because 100% of the tweets or posts are “I just entered a giveaway!” Most of the Tweets aren’t even book-related! I’ve seen ones to win beauty prize packs, Amazon gift cards, toys, etc. Some say they’re “bloggers” and “youtubers” but they never provide a link in their bios or talk about those things.

This issue arose up when I held a giveaway by one of my good author friends. Anyway, I got a whole influx of followers and entrants on our giveaway, and we reached over 100, maybe even 200 entries on our Rafflecopter. When I checked those entries later, 90% of them were from giveaway accounts! And there were many people who “cheated”! One girl never even followed me or followed the author, yet entered through the Twitter methods. There were so many people that abused the Facebook page method that I remove it!

We talked and we were both worried that these people may illegally redistribute files or resell them. I didn’t want the book and swag to go to somebody who just wanted to win something. I saw one Twitter giveaway account recently about winning a toy, and I’m going “Did you win that for your child, your collection, or someone else? Or did you just want it?” It’s scary to know if your prize is going into the hands of someone who might not mind it at all.

Yes, I do enter and win giveaways where I haven’t read the book or don’t think I will in the future. But at least it’s going into the collection of a book lover! I’m guilty of tsundoku (acquiring books without reading them) sometimes, but I like to look at the spines or the covers. They’re being added to a collection! Sometimes, I enter giveaways to gain a book so I can trade it or give it to someone in the future. Other times, I just enter to see if I’ll win. I’m getting better at selecting which giveaways to enter now. I’m starting to adopt a “If you’re not interested then don’t enter so someone who is can win it” policy.

But sometimes I don’t exactly trust these accounts. If I were to see that a librarian won my giveaway or a blogger did, I would know that it’s going into someone who might read it. I know there are many giveaway accounts who actually want to read the book, but I can’t know that for sure! If you give a PDF file to one of these accounts, who’s to say they might not send it to their friends? They might resell it for their own gain? I want these books to go into hands of people who will want them, who will put them on a shelf, who will look at it, and who will read it.

So I’m opening up this discussion down in the comments. What do you think of giveaway accounts? Should they enter these giveaways? Why or why not?

I really want to discuss this with readers, bloggers, and authors, so please give your insight below!

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester