Month: June 2015

24 Jun 2015

update/up next


Hello, friends!

I think I’ve made reasonably good on my early 2015 predictions. I read some YA nonfiction (yay, Romanovs!) I’ve read madly – 115 books and counting! I’m still keeping a log book, and as of about two weeks ago I am a Fancy! New (ish)! Car! Owner! I’ve even examined my relationship with processed foods – my conclusion so far? “When you have a batshitcrazyGoGoGo! kind of year… you eat a lot of processed foods.”

And the trips! I just got back from four nights in San Antonio with my two best friends from high school (and some of their adorable progeny). In April, the boy and I did a DELIGHTFUL week in Kansas City, Missouri with our All Time Favorite Roommate.

Up next…

three nights in Paris (a la Anna and the French Kiss),

three nights in Amsterdam, (a la Postcards from No Man’s Land).

and two nights in Berlin (a la Going Over)

Because of said batshitcrazyGoGoGo year, I have done zero planning. If you have been to any of these cities or have a hypothetical itinerary that’s been burning a hole in your proverbial travel wallet (what does that even mean) please share. Please please. I have a butt ton of book reviews due before I leave and the boy is fi-na-lly finishing school this week, so I think we are both at about 1% brain function and unable of planning our own Tuesday morning, much less a vacation.

But who am I kidding: all I really plan on doing is drinking coffee, eating carbohydrates, and walking around taking pictures with my phone camera. Like a proper American tourist.

Equally exciting? Returning home in a few weeks and OFFICIALLY RESTORING MY LIFE TO NORMALCY

(with a quick break in August to go to the beach).


19 Jun 2015

reading wishlist: the rest of 2015

So let me get this straight…

there are books published *after* May 31st, 2015?

You don’t say.

Despite my lack of attention to the entire second half of the year (or, you know, the rest of my life and the world at large), here’s a handful of books that *still* managed to catch my attention.


I Crawl Through It by A. S. King

I really wish you guys could have been at SLJ Day of Dialog to hear A. S. King talk about feminism. She’s a gem, and I can’t believe it took me so long to discover her work. I’ve heard that I Crawl Through It is pretty weird, even by A. S. King standards, but I remain fearlessly excited to get my hands on it.

The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos

Hole in My Life is a great book. If some cruel, sadistic individual asked me for a list of Top Ten Favorite Books Ever, I can’t say that Hole in My Life would be at the top of my memory… but then again, I’ve read it probably five or so times and could easily read it five more. It’s just a great book! What can I say? Apparently nothing critical or even somewhat cogent, but what the heck else is new. The Trouble in Me is a second Gantos memoir, which means I am already 100% sold. Even if it’s about teenage boys lighting things on fire.

Addendum: I just learned that Hole in My Life has been optioned for a film…. by Daniel Radcliffe. I’m sure 90% of film options go nowhere, but really now. Daniel. Radcliffe. Yes x 1million


The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

I kind of can’t believe I’m putting a big fat piece of historical fiction on this list, but there you have it. This one is about a fourteen-year-old girl who leaves her family’s Pennsylvania farm to seek a more adventurous life for herself… as a hired servant for a wealthy family in Baltimore. I get the feeling that Joan will be one of those protagonists who is fun to hang out with, with a great sense of humor and an even better voice. Why do I feel this way? I have no idea. I’m in an airport (in Baltimore!) and I’ve been up since 3:30 a.m. This post is about to get pretty weird.


The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage

Oh, Mo LoBeau. You are my favorite underage Southern detective, and I am excited to hang out with you again this year.


Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Hello. Huge Rebecca Stead fangirl in the house. I attempted to take home zero galleys while I was at BEA. I ended up with about 12 because sometimes people at BEA just hand you books, but this was the only one I went for voluntarily. I regret nothing. Except for arranging my summer schedule in such a way that I won’t actually be able to read this one until at least July. What a big mistake.


Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Soooo… at the end of the day at a certain book event that I have been talking about a lot, there was a really promising panel on nonfiction graphic novels. Really juicy author line-up, great topic. Unfortunately… it went on forever and ever and ever. Way, way over time. Maggie Thrash was last to speak, and bless her soul she spoke (eloquently and compellingly!) for about 45 seconds. It was an amazing moment. Thrash’s book is a graphic memoir about forbidden summer camp love has been on my radar. Seriously now – can you imagine a book more up my alley? I have high hopes for this one. And thanks again, Maggie. You’re really the best.


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Sooooo… during this long haul between last summer’s Landline, I have become a connoisseur of every public interview or piece of writing that Rainbow Rowell has put out there on the interwebs. More than once I heard Rainbow describe her next project as a fantasy YA with a male protagonist. Never did I put two and two together and guess that a Simon Snow book was on its way to me.

I’ll try to contain my emotions somewhat by leaving this at YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSS PLEAAAAAAAAAAASE.


What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Speaking of authors who you probably already read and follow and love, Aaron Hartzler of Rapture Practice fame and glory has a YA fiction book coming out this year. I’m interested! What’s it about? I don’t know and I’m on a plane that has no internet connection. So I’m afraid you’ll have to click on the above link and let Amazon do the talking. That is what you came here for – Amazon links, right? By the way, which one of you bought a Vitamix after visiting my site? THANK YOU MUCHLY, I used my Amazon commish to buy a Vitamin D lamp during The Winter that Wouldn’t End.


This is what you guys were missing for the last six months, right?

12 Jun 2015

BEA 2015

Four days after The Big Selection Day, I hopped a bus down to NYC for a quick trip to BEA. It was probably an ill-advised trip – yeah, strung-out Jessica, why NOT take a solo jaunt down to the city that doesn’t sleep to attend the craziest book conference available? Ahem. Anyway, I tried to make it as quick and painless as possible, spending one day at SLJ’s Day of Dialog and another on the floor at BEA proper.



I started off my trip with a long, briskly paced walk through Central Park with my cousin the 19-year-old super model. I’ve been to NYC bunches of times but never actually made it to Central Park before? ?? Anyway, we caught up and I took pictures like a dirty rotten tourist and we visited Alice, and then I went back to my hotel room and collapsed.

I attended SLJ’s Day of Dialog last year and my previous praise still stands. It’s a fun little event. Brian Selznick started the morning with his keynote address. He posited his last three books – The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, and the upcoming The Marvels – as a thematic trilogy about the triumph of the story – of triumph over chaos. Is there anything that intrigues and delights me more than a “thematic trilogy?” Possibly not. I promptly began kicking myself for not having read ANY OF THESE THREE BOOKS. Don’t worry – I started reading Hugo two days ago. It’s really good.

The next panel focused on environmental issues in books for children, and featured Paul Fleischman, Louis Sachar, April Pulley Sayre, and Anita Silvey. I want to pause for a moment and try to express how excited my inner 9-year-old was to be in the same room as Louis Sachar. And he even talked about Wayside School and There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom!! WHAT. WHAAAAT. Okay. Anyway. The panelists talked about why they write or illustrate various environmental issues, how they tailor their content to inspire and engage a young audience (rather than scare the crap out of them), and why it’s so dang important. They also talked about how writing about the earth and environment for children is tied intimately to ideas of history and a shared humanity – the “presence of the past,” as a panelist put it so eloquently. Learning about the physical world and how it has changed and will change is also learning about one’s place in the world. It’s not all reduce-reuse-recycle – it’s about community, connectedness, and social responsibility.

The panel on middle school fiction was heavy on the entertainment and the kidlit celeb factor. Lisa Graff! Rebecca Stead! Tim Federle! Luke Reynolds! Rita Garcia-Williams! Embarrassing middle school stories were shared and jokes were had. The more serious discussion, however, reminded me of all of the things I love-love-love about middle school lit – middle school years are about forming identity, saying goodbye to childhood, gaining new levels of awareness, and struggling to understand yourself and to be seen for who you really are. Great middle school books let their protagonists muddle around with these questions, even if the answers are messy and half-formed.

I took fewer notes at the afternoon sessions, as is natural. A. S. King gave this drop-dead astounding luncheon talk about feminism in her life, in her work, and in the world around us. There’s a recap article over on SLJ – still hoping that the full-text or a recording of this one will be made public. Patrick Ness razzled and dazzled all over the YA panel. Publishers pitched their Fall 2015 books, and the last panel of the day went distressingly long. And then, the Big Announcement. I was nervous and so happy. There was some hooting and hollering in the audience, and then wine.


I hit BEA proper the next day, but the results were much less exciting. I popped into the YA editor’s buzz panel (Everything Everything looks like the definitive Big Fall Title, FYI) and a panel on ebooks in library collections. I checked in on the state of Hoopla ebooks. I tried to get publishers to talk to me about this little presidential ebook campaign you may have heard of, but it seems everyone is in just as much limbo as we are. I sat down for a quick minute at an adult fic panel moderated by Jami Attenberg (who I kind of adore), accidentally walked into a VIP networking event (where I proceeded to network with a reference librarian… who works in my building),  and then I hopped on the bus to go home.

My not-so-secret reason for attending: I wanted to take the chance to study the fine art of Panel Moderation. Because I am going to be called to the task this coming October. Gulp. Gag. Panic Panic Panic. I took notes! Because that’s the only strategic operative I have in my arsenal. If you’re going to be in the Boston area in October, you should definitely come to this really great event (*cough* it’sbetterthanDayofDialog *cough*) Even if I’m a panicked heaving mess, it will probably be pretty good.

Heaven help me.

03 Jun 2015

reading for the insane: i did, i didn’t


  • I read first thing in the morning with my coffee, at my favorite bakery before work (with a cup of coffee), and at my favorite Starbucks during my lunch break. Most every work day.
  • Yes, I spent a lot of money on coffee. A lottttttt.
  • I ate the same five or six dinners on repeat. Half of which came directly from Trader Joe’s. Mmm… cabernet pot roast.
  • Actually, I kind of ate the same food every day. Eggs, leftovers, nuts+fruit, dinner, wine+chocolate. Lather rinse repeat.
  • For six weeks, I followed a fairly low-carb meal plan, for mood-control purposes mostly.
  • I gave myself permission to do whatever weird, nerdy thing I wanted to do related to books. Mildly necessary spreadsheets, obsessing over starred reviews (huge shout out to Jennifer Jazwinksi and her constantly updating spreadsheet of starred book wonder. If I could nominate you for sainthood, I would), and a lot of strange things involving index cards
  • Against my better judgement, I signed up for a [fill in the blank with your favorite online conglomerate] Prime account here. I don’t have a car, so I wanted a more time-efficient way to buy things like birthday gifts and watch batteries and more and more and more index cards.
  • I spent a lot of money on index cards.
  • I read on buses, trains, and planes. In airports, backseats, coffee shops, and bars. I read in four different states – Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Massachusetts. Mostly, though, I read on the couch or in my bed.
  • I brought a bag of picturebooks to a friend’s house to watch an NFL playoff game.
  • I gave myself permission to listen to anything that could hold my attention. Some children’s/teen books, yes, but a LOT of podcasts and also some true crime. I don’t know what that says about me, but there you go.
  • I took some personal time, including a day where I read a book for 20 minutes, took a 5 minute break, then picked up a different book for 20 minutes, took a 5 minute break, and did this for pretty much ten straight hours. That was a weird day.
  • I used a time tracking app to keep myself accountable. It was kind of addictive.
  • I tried to keep a 9 p.m. bedtime.
  • I discovered a few good mantras, including “Pressure is a choice,” “Why aren’t you reading a book?” and “You can worry about that in June.”



  • I did not permit myself any exercise-related ambition. The last thing I needed was an injury or to spend my evenings exhausted and strung out on low blood sugar. 30 minutes on the elliptical, four times a week, book in hand. The end.
  • I did not go out much at all.
  • I did not blog. (Which I’m sure you all figured out. Assuming you are all still here. Knock, knock? Any readers left?)
  • I did not write anything for myself.
  • I wrote book reviews, but I did not permit myself to freak out about them. Because who has time for that? (Present Day Jessica: take note) (Present Day Jessica: stop talking to yourself in parentheses)
  • I tried very hard not to worry about my health, about money, or about anything happening after May 2015.
  • I quit Twitter and Facebook for 3-ish months.
  • I didn’t miss it too much.
  • I didn’t always keep my shit together.
  • I didn’t do much other than….. read.

(and it was pretty fun.)

01 Jun 2015

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards 2015

Hey! It’s time for another book award post!

Remember when I used to post these?

(Remember when I used to post anything?)

Well, the 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were announced this past week, and I want to show you who won…


because I was a judge!


Oh, that was an awkward lead in. But my, oh, my I don’t even know anymore because my life for the past months has been an exhilarating/overwhelming/ridiculous GIANTPILEOFBOOKS. All I do is read-read-read no matter what. Then there were a few weeks in May where I spent 75% of my latent brain power revisiting and recalling what I’d read, while also trying to madly squeeze in JUSTAFEWMORE books. And then, a Saturday sitting in the Palace Road Building of Simmons College (it circles back, everything circles back) with two brilliant opinionated women whose contributions to the field of children’s and young adult literature I can only hope to someday come close to.


It’s been a wild ride. I feel like I say that a lot. Maybe my life is just a series of wild rides? Maybe yours is too? But this was a really one-of-a-kind ride. Trying hard not to be a romantic sap about it all, but the experience of altering the terrain of my everyday life to accommodate such an enormously daunting task was just profound. Difficult and exhausting and intimidating, too… but also such a pleasure, to be given permission to let everything else fall away but books. Like an intense semester at grad school – a six-credit class with no papers and a huge, looming final you know you can’t be 100% prepared for, but your only homework is reading.


There were books and books and books and books. And then there were nine.


And I love them all. I do, I do.



Picturebook Award

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Picturebook Honors

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers


Fiction Award

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Fiction Honors

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman


Nonfiction Award

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Nonfiction Honors

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson