Month: June 2014

22 Jun 2014

Summer Reading List 2014

For a girl who survived an English degree, a Literature Master’s, and who regularly receives packages of books that are, more or less, required reading, you’d think that the appeal of the Summer Reading list must have dwindled over time. This is, of course, a falsehood. Whether or not I have time to read books in any given summer (see: Summer Reading List 2013), I still relish the ritual. Summer Reading. It’s a time of the year just for books! Fun books, smart books, books of all sorts (see: Summer Reading List 2012, or, 2011). Even though I have not had a proper beach vacation since 2010, when I lovingly craft my annual list of summer reads, I imagine myself reading in my swimsuit, sprawled out with sun and waves and a sandy can of Pringles and everything else beachy. Here is a list of ten books I hope to read this summer, whether I am warming myself on the sand like a bookish sort of pale lizard or shivering in a crowded, over air-conditioned subway train. If you are looking for some of my favorite summer-y YA titles, you can check out this ancient list here. If you aren’t looking so much for a summer reading list but, rather, a summer reading compendium of broad appeal, impeccable organization, and great beauty, then I will direct you to the inimitable Janssen at Everyday Reading.

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

I decided to kick this list off with an easy one – a book I already own, and a book I’ve already started. I didn’t get too much of a jump – just a few chapters while riding the train. But it was enough to hook me in and enough to make me feel like this will be a fun, breezy read that will keep me flipping pages. Also, I can only run into Heather so many more times before I will begin to feel embarrassed not to have read her work, and she has like, 7 more books coming out in the next two years so I need to get a jump before the deluge.


Hild by Nicola Griffith

Um, is it time already to make a summer reading confession? Confession: I never read all of my summer reading books. It’s just not a thing that I can physically do. This will never stop me from making summer reading lists, naturally, but life is what life is, you know. Well, I hate to say it but Hildis probably the book I am least likely to actually read this summer. NOT because it is the least interesting book of the bunch! Oh no, that is not it at all. I will probably not read this epic feminist high fantasy tale because you know who else wants to read this epic feminist high fantasy tale? Every other citizen of Boston. I was on hold for this book for nearly a year, if you will believe that. I finally got my hands on it, and then I had to return it because I am mostly incapable of finishing a book without the option of multiple renewals. Now I am number 20 in line for just a few copies. Sad story. Sob story. Super Sad Summer Sob Story.


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

But what is summer without a good summer re-read? Nothing. Summer is nothing. My usual summery beach re-read is Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters. However, I revisted Vix and Caitlin just a few short months ago. We Were Liarsis a book that, upon completion, just BEGS you to pick it up again and start again. So I think I just might do that.


The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is a fantasy book for adults. It’s the fantasy book for adults that everyone says you should read if you like Game of Thrones. I can’t talk anymore about Game of Thrones on this blog, so I guess I can’t talk about this book either. Except that I want to read it, and also I tried to read it on my phone but I just wanted to feel a freaking book in my hand. Sincerely yours, An Obnoxious Luddite.


The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

I should probably not talk about this book anymore, either. This is becoming a blog about books where I am not allowed to talk about any books! EXCITING! Anyway, I’ve mentioned it like, 5 times in the last 5 months. It’s a series that I like. I will check out this third installment and read it when it comes out in August – no worries, I am high on the holds list and there’s no way I’m letting 2 weeks go by without devouring it. No freaaaaaaking way.


Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

The obligatory “classic.” One must maintain the intent of intellect throughout all seasons! I have become slightly fixated with following a writer’s “genealogy of ideas,” as termed by Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist. (I am also slightly fixated with Austin Kleon, but that is a long term affliction at this point…) Anyway, when an author writes a book I like and then admits later, in an interview, to have been influenced by another book, I take note. And Brideshead Revisitedkeeps popping up, again and again, in my notes. Therefore – I should read it. (Also, it will make me feel smart. The end.)


The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Last month, I listened to Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage while I was traveling to New York for BEA. I should have read some Ann Patchett at this point in my life. God. Everyone loves Ann Patchett. Or at least a large enough portion of the people whose reading tastes I *really* trust love Ann Patchett. Shame. Shame! I have so much reading shame! Anyway, I read her freaking essays. And I freaking loved them. I want to read more essays now. The Empathy Examsis the essay collection everyone is reading right now. I will read that one. (Assuming I can best that monumental holds list, that is. We’ve had to re-order this one at least once – holds were climbing….)


Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

The first of two Jonathans. I listened As She Climbed Across the Tablenot too long ago. I liked it. I thought I might read some more by this author. I selected the most visible and widely enjoyed and acclaimed volume from his oeuvre. Cheers.


This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The second of two Jonathans. I listened Everything Changes not too long ago. I liked it. I thought I might read some more by this author. I selected the most visible and widely enjoyed and acclaimed volume from his oeuvre. Cheers.


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

After I decided to read two books by authors named Jonathan, I felt a surge of testosterone flow all over my summer reading list. That was a gross metaphor. Anyway, I am absolutely, definitely going to read Isla and the Happily Ever After even though I keep wanting to call it Isla and the Boy Next Door but that is not a book. This is a book, though. I’m not going to read that one. I’m going to read Islabecause we have all been waiting so patiently for Ms. Perkins to stir up her romantic YA genius again and it’s coming out in August so hurrahs all around.


Thus concludes my annual summer reading list. Now that June 22nd has arrived, I will sit down immediately and begin reading. I will not cease until they are all completed. That is obviously a lie. I still have a stack of required reading to tackle, and I am just a fickle reader. I still really want to read Noggin and Everything Leads to You and Since You’ve Been Gone and Grasshopper Jungle and all of those galleys I got at BEA and, oh, every other book that is currently IN my apartment taking up space. Or I might enter my usual summer doldrums, where I want to read nothing whatsoever. ONLY TIME WILL TELL. I know you are all in great suspense. Keep tabs on me on Goodreads.

08 Jun 2014

forty-eight-hours: the agony of defeat

Greetings! I bring tidings of my crushing 48 hour book challenge defeat!

No, I did not crush the challenge with my reading superiority. It definitely crushed me. Did not complete, DNF, giant fail stamp.

But it was fun! Let me tell you what I did…

  • I spent a little morning time in Westeros.
  • I polished off two half-finished YA books.
  • I started a third!
  • I listened to all but TWENTY! MINUTES! of an audiobook (groan, groan, groan)
  • I read on the train, at my Starbucks, at the bus stop, while washing dishes and folding laundry, in my bed, on the couch, in a bank lobby, in a shoe store, and on my back porch.

In total, I read about 580 pages. I spent 5 hours and 43 minutes listening to audio and the remaining 4 hours and 48 minutes reading print and ebooks. So I read for about 10 hours and 30 minutes.

Ah, where might have scraped up that extra hour and a half? I did work 9 to 2 on Friday, then sit on an alumni panel at my dear alma mater from 3 to 5:30 in the afternoon. I did squeeze in a little audio time in the morning while I did some of my more menial work tasks, but could I have squeezed more? I also came home from work and watched American Hustle instead of reading… oh my.

But I believe the more compelling factors leading to my failure related to two of life’s great joys – Food and Friends. On Friday, one of my very dearest librarian friends magically appeared on my afternoon panel. She no longer lives in town, so I just could not pass up the opportunity to have dinner with her. And have I mentioned my latest nutty, experimental diet? Well, we are doing Tim Ferriss’s Slow Carb diet, during which you skip all carbs, grains, sugars, and dairy during the week, but can eat WHATEVER YOU WANT on your cheat day. So while I envisioned a peaceful Saturday at home, reading and eating bonbons, I found myself traipsing around town in search of treats, and then over to our friends’ place for a Cheat Day Barbecue.

I’m alright with my decisions. Just look at these pastries! I did have a good time reading, though, and I will definitely participate in the future. Thanks again to MotherReader for putting all of this together! Here is a little bit about what I read…

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs 

Read: 128 pages – Finished

Smart girl attends summer college program. Makes friends, talks about literature, learns about Kentucky. This is the kind of realism that Pre-Grad-School Jessica just adored. Now that I am Older and Wiser, I found the narration a little over the top and the plot a bit overstuffed, but other than that it was a lovely little thing.


When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds 


This is a book about being young in Brooklyn, about status and honor, about what loyalty, family, and friendship is really worth. It’s also just a little story about a couple of friends trying to crash their first real house party. Reynolds crams a lot of thematic content into a relatively simple plot-line without even a single didactic moment, which is completely admirable.


Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Read: ehhh about 150 pages, idk, my bookmark disappeared – Finished

I’ve been nursing this e-galley for over a month now. It wasn’t high on my priority list for this 48 Hour Book Challenge, but you know… sometimes you leave the book you are supposed to be reading in a place you are not and then you are stuck reading whatever is on your phone. Anyway, I thought it was appropriate for this year’s focus on diverse reads – this is a love story about two teens, one West Indian Black Boy, one Hasidic Jewish White Girl, with alternating POV chapters. This didn’t have the mood or narrative style of… oh… that other book about a star-crossed interracial teen romance, but it was otherwise a solid read. I really liked the ending – it was honest and bittersweet and really honored both protagonists as individuals rather than two halves of a romantic plotline.


Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot 

Read: 45 pages

The next on my Required Reading stack, and yet another Yes, This Book Is Just For You, Jessica kind of book. This time of the boarding school/rich families who live on islands variety. I put forty-five pages away yesterday afternoon and I am definitely hooked. Glad I can end my little read-a-thon with this one on deck!


A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Read: 23 pages

And what would any weekend of reading be without a little time spent in Westeros? I’ve been re-re-(re)-reading A Game of Thrones with my morning coffee. This weekend, Arya caught some cats and Catelyn Stark rode a mule up to the Eyrie to watch her sister breastfeed. Good times.


06 Jun 2014


Last week I was thinking wistfully about all the books in my apartment that I never seem to have time to read. Books I’ve checked out and renewed a zillion times. Books on my Required Reading pile. Those darn delightful BEA galleys. I write from time to time about those months when I don’t want to read much and nothing pleases me, but there’s also THIS kind of month when I just want to read and read and read and just do nothing other than read. Maybe I just need a reading vacation, I thought. Or maybe just a weekend. Hey, what about that Reading Marathon Thingy that everyone was doing at some point when I was too busy with school to commit? What is that called again?

Well, googling Reading Marathon Weekend Thing Books Blog isn’t really helpful whatsoever. I gave up. Thank goodness Bookshelves of Doom shared a link, because, lo and behold, MotherReader’s 48-Hour Book Challenge is happening this very weekend! And I am going to participate!

I need my Sunday to A) write a slew of book reviews and B) restore my life to order for the coming week, so I started my 48-hours bright and early this morning. Before work and during my commute, I’ve already clocked 52 minutes of regular reading (Game of Thrones and Like No Other)  and an hour-fifteen on a new audiobook (When I Was the Greatest). Not too shabby. I’ll be squeezing in some audio when I can today, then devoting myself more fully to old-fashioned reading tonight and tomorrow. I feel as though I will be very happy to make it to 12 hours, if I even make it to 12 hours at all, but hey, the fun is in the striving, right? Right. Alright, I gotta go. Books. They are a’calling. See you in 48!

04 Jun 2014

The BEA 2014 Experience

Last week, I had the good fortune to attend Book Expo America. It was my first time! I’ve been to ALA conferences more than once, so I fancied myself quite the conference expert. Oh boy was I wrong. BEA was an entirely different beast, in good ways and not so good ones.

I’m a bookish person with a bookish job. When presented with a buffet of choices at a conference, I like to attend the bookish panels. I have to forcibly wedge less-literary sessions into my schedule, lest I walk around like a dazed book fan rather than, oh, you know, engaging in meaningful professional development. I try very hard to attend a conference as a library employee first and a raging book fan second.

So now, I’m at BEA, and it’s ALL BOOKS ALL THE TIME. Walking into the Javitz center and seeing a grotesquely huge fabric sign hanging from the vaulted ceiling advertising the cover of Scott Westerfeld’s new YA book was a trip and a half. This is a gathering of my people, and we are all here to talk books. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

But before I arrived at BEA proper, I attended SLJ’s Day of Dialog. While gigantic conferences can be fun, the Day of Dialog is really more my jam. You show up, join a hundred or so other librarians in a normal-sized lecture hall with nice seats, and sit quietly while genius after genius takes the stage to entertain and edify. There are breaks with food. There is a free coffee station. At the Day of Dialog, there were even little vendor tables set up for ARCs, and, at the end of the day, free signed books to go around.

After that lovely little experience, BEA was exciting but completely overwhelming, even for the ALA-vet that I am. Publisher booths were swarmed with people, and most did not provide books or ARCS for browsing or taking. If you want an ARC, it seemed, you needed to get into a designated autographing line, maybe even get a ticket. As an introvert who has enough signed books to last a lifetime, this removed a lot of the fun of the exhibition floor. I missed the nice book displays at ALA, where you can browse and chat casually.

There were, however, enough attractive sessions to keep me busy. I attended an adult author buzz session and a middle grade author buzz session and came away with some new Fall titles to keep on my radar. (The big MG title that I saw EVERYWHERE? Kat Yeh’s adorably covered The Truth About Twinkie Pie). I caught a session where my friend Heather talked fantasy world-building Michael Grant, Scott Westerfeld, Kiera Cass, and Brandon Mull, and another on realism (or not) with E. Lockhart, Gayle Forman, Meg Wolitzer, and Jandy Nelson.

I also toured the Recorded Books studio which was freaking awesome. I got to meet the guy who says “Recorded Books Presents…” and who also narrated all of Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who books. Guys, I probably listened to a dozen of those as a kid. Maybe all of them. He started talking and it was like, a bizarro time-warp out-of-body experience. Also, Miss Rosa from Orange is the New Black was wandering about the studio as well. No big deal, guys.

So, BEA, good. New York, good. I braved the transit system on my own, stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Brooklyn, dined with former bowling league-mates, and ate a lot of protein bars.

And then came BookCon.

My oh, my, BookCon. I thought BEA proper was huge and crowded enough. Little did I know… I wanted to attend the We Need Diverse Books panel but made the mistake of showing up a mere 3 minutes late. The doors were shut. A bouncer was fending off a few truly livid conference-goers. If this was the scene for a first-thing-in-the-morning diversity program, then what in the world was I getting myself into?

This year, I have become a quietly devoted fan of Lev Grossman’s work. His panel with Deb Harkness was the only panel I really wanted to attend. I showed up a half hour prior to the panel, thinking I could get a seat and wait quietly.

Oh no. No, no, no. The line snaked all the way into the food court. I waited for over thirty minutes, the line not moving, and when I finally got in I was the second to last person seated. Everyone behind me, who had been waiting nearly as long, was denied.

You would think that the mass of John Green fans waiting for the TFioS event a full 2 and a half hours prior to that event would have tipped me off, but no, I was shocked. I’m accustomed to attending professional conferences, where you might not always get a seat but you can probably get into your session at 11:00 and then flit off to your session and 12:00. Also, find a seat for lunch that is not on the floor. Also, find an outlet for your poor dead iPhone. None of this was the case. I went straight from the Grossman/Harkness event into yet another long line for an erotic romance panel that started an hour later.

I’d heard around the Internets that the BEA folks wanted to beef up their Saturday BookCon events, to provide a Comic-Con-type thing for Book Nerds. Well, the Book Nerds showed up. They swarmed, they hoarded galleys, they waited in hour long lines for the women’s bathroom. It was really thrilling to see such a passionate bunch – nay, mob – of readers, assembled to celebrate the continued existence of books, novels, novelists, and reader-culture. And so many of them young! Readers of the future! In this industry, where dour proclamations of the Death of [Libraries, Books, Printed Word, Reading] are so commonplace, BookCon was just a damn heartening thing to behold.

Sure, I didn’t want to actually MINGLE among the masses of rabid young fans, but I’m glad they were there.

The Final Scorecard

SLJ Day of Dialog:   Great

BEA:    Good

BookCon: Complete Nerd Madness

So that was my BEA. I’m glad I had the chance to go. I might not get to go again. I will probably post again soon about, oh, the things I *learned* at BEA. That is really my conference jam, guys. I love the panels and the speakers, the Big Ideas, the chit-chat with fellow librarians in between sessions. I take compulsive notes. I leave feeling refueled and excited to be a part of this industry. It seems a waste to let these great ideas fizzle away, so look forward to a more conceptual BEA post later in the month.

Oh, okay, okay. You want to see the goods. You’ve made it this far, I suppose you deserve it. Here are my top five galleys, the ones I really can’t wait to sink my teeth into.


Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin