All posts in: book lists

27 Sep 2014

2014 or gtfo

As much as I aspire to be content in the present moment, focused entirely on the work at hand today, this morning, this minute, I just really am not a zen meditation lady by nature. This lends a certain “TIME. IS STILL MARCHING ON” tone about this blog, I know. But heaven help me, there are just too many books to read and ideas to discuss and places to visit and things to do and blargh did I mention I’m turning 30 in less than six months? I’m turning 30. So there’s that.

This morning I am thinking about December. I am thinking about December of 2014, when I will be busy writing blog posts and book reviews and Christmas shopping and traveling and what have you, and then all of these magazines and newspapers will start publishing those juicy “Best of 2014” lists. I will be left, yet again – year after year – wondering how I could have missed so many great books and wondering what the heck I was even reading this year and wondering if I will die without having read The Best Books of 2014.

So maybe a preemptive strike is in order.

Like my big fat Printz posts, the following lists are pure gut instinct and baseless speculation. I asked myself what young adult-ish books I’d be remiss to not have read this year. What books are the must-reads, not because they are better than any other books, but because they have been at the heart of the 2014 reading conversation? I’ve narrowed it down to two lists – the Everyone Must-Reads and the If You’re Into YA Realism Like I Am Must-Reads. Some I’ve read, some I haven’t. Along with the National Book Awards long list, I’ll probably try to squeeze a few more of these into the last quarter of the year, lest 2014 go to complete and utter reading waste.

Alos, leave me suggestions if you have them!!

 The Must List

– read these in 2014 or gtfo –


1) Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

2) I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

3) The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

4) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

5) The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

6) This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

7) Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

8) The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson


 The YA Realism Must List

– if realism is your genre of choice, then you should read these –


1) Noggin by John Corey Whaley

2) Pointe by Brandy Colbert

3) Far From You by Tess Sharpe

4) Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

5) Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

6) Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

7) 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

8) The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

9) The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


(I promise to stop making lists of the same 20 books in a different order soon. I really promise!)

24 Sep 2014

the last five memoirs

I have a reading success story for you guys.

After a few years of succumbing to August Reading Doldrums, I think I have finally discovered the secret. I finally reached far enough down into the depths of my psyche and found the inner fortitude, perseverance, and stick-to-it-iveness I needed to keep reading all through the month and into September.

Just kidding. I just reached down into the considerable depths of my self-indulgent nature and said “To hell with all of the books I am supposed to read. Bring on all the trashy memoirs.”

Okay. Only some of the memoirs I read were trashy. And I don’t even know what I mean by the term “trashy.” Low-brow? Confessional? Not-literary? Whatever. I actively sought out a lot of memoirs in August – most of them on audio – and it was the kind of indulgent, impulsive reading that this professionalbookperson doesn’t often get anymore.


The Last Five – Memoirs


I started my memoir streak with Kerry Cohen’s Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, which I just found so compulsively listen-able that I went out seeking other confessional memoirs. Drugs. Sex. Disease. This was the kind of tawdry stuff August-Jessica was looking for. But I accidentally found Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life instead. Wolff’s memoir had a fair share of dishy moments, but it was definitely a Literary Memoir. No matter. I was sucked right in. Mr. Wolff’s childhood would be unique in these modern times – when his mother divorced, she left Tobias’s brother with her ex-husband and carted young Tobias across the country to make money mining uranium….. but this was the 1950s. Tobias’s story is a really intriguing counterpoint to the narratives of 1950s childhood we usually see in the media. It is definitely a “dysfunctional childhood” memoir – Wolff’s has an understandably complex relationship with his parents, especially after his mother marries an emotionally abusive man – but in Wolff’s hands it’s also a treatise on identity, maturity, and masculinity.

So, not trashy. But very good.



Speaking of testosterone….. so I read a lot of memoirs in August. But I also read a lot of manly man books. This Boy’s Life, yes, also The Magician King and The Magician’s Land (at least moderately man-centric). Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. 700 pages of fantastical boyhood and adolescence in The Name of the Wind. Grasshopper Jungle. Freaking Rabbit Angstrom.

That’s a lot of… um… man hours. Or something.

Enter, a pair of lady memoirs. Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart in One Piece is a memoir about divorce. Delancey is a memoir about marriage, and how opening a restaurant together with your new husband may put you at risk for divorce. Delancey: ultimately uplifting. Falling Apart in One Piece: utterly terrifying. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin spends a chapter or so talking about how you can increase your daily feelings of happiness by reminding yourself of how good you have it, and she presents reading super-depressing memoirs as a quick way to do so. I find this particular happiness tip completely questionable (especially coming from privileged white ladies), but I have never felt so horrified and humbled as when I read Falling Apart in One Piece. Morrison met her partner young, had a long and happy relationship, plenty of career success, and finally a baby and a new house. Six months later, her husband asks for a divorce.


Like I said, Delancey was much more uplifting. I loved Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, and Delancey was just as good. Also, the recipes. Buy the book for the recipes alone. I made her sriracha shrimp and tomato and corn salad twice in two weeks it was so fliiiiipppping good I want to eat some now.


Longtime readers might know that I have a preeeeeettty significant weak spot for sappy, consumable pop-memoirs. I liked The Last Lecture and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I count Animal Vegetable Miracle and Eat Pray Love as two of my forever favorites. I have a bizarre, enduring affection for Marley & Me. Basically, I’ve got emotions, and if you want to use your sappy life story to twist them, I’m down.

No surprise then that I enjoyed Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club. It’s a sappy memoir, AND it’s about books. I also enjoyed listened to About Alice earlier this year, and between these two memoirs I discovered yet another memoir sub-genre that I enjoy – the “Men Eulogizing the Extraordinary Women in Their Lives” memoir. Schmaltz city, guys. I’m totally okay with that.


Swinging wildly in the other direction, the last memoir I read this summer was the not-so-schmaltzy Kristin Newman’s What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding. Newman is a television writer, so this memoir has all of the playful punch-line-iness of Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? But unlike these two memoirs, Newman skips most of the childhood and career biography bits in order to focus in on her late 20s and 30s – a time during which she was a working Hollywood writer for 9 months of the year and a romantically-open world traveler for the remaining 3. She falls in love in Argentina, hooks up in Amsterdam and Russia… and Brazil… and Australia… Any How I Met Your Mother fans in the house? Remember Robin’s trip to Argentina? Newman wrote that storyline. There are  moments of pathos as Newman faces family strife and career challenges and begins to examine what exactly she’s trying to accomplish with her jet-setting life, but ultimately, this is a fun travel+dating memoir that sits in the sweet spot between poignant and lighthearted. Definitely enjoyable.

18 Sep 2014

2014 National Book Awards

This summer was a bit of a warped time situation for me. I went on two vacations and slept in five different states. The Boy was home… a lot. I wore the same five dresses every single week. This summer went on forever. But last week it got cold and I had to wear pants and it’s dark out after work and there are freaking pumpkin spice lattes and how is summer actually over??!?

Maybe this is a side effect of going social media dark in August. I missed out on everyone saying goodbye to the summer, so I forgot to say goodbye to the summer. Instead, I’m just gobsmacked by mother nature and having to wear pants. Ugh.

What I’m trying to say is, BOOK AWARDS SEASON IS UPON US and I forgot to get pre-excited about it, so now I am just extra regular-excited. The longlist for the National Book Awards Young People’s Literature category has arrived, and I really like it a lot.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.42.56 AM 1

I’m going to brag about having read a grand old TWO of these titles before Monday’s announcement. This is big, guys. How many did I read in 2013? 2012? 2011? Zero, Zero, and Zero. I have turned over a new leaf. I am now the queen of books.

Laurie Halse Anderson puts out a new contemporary YA book, oh, every half a millennium, so OF COURSE I read The Impossible Knife of Memory. I liked it. As I revealed in my Printz Prediction mega-post, I didn’t think it was the Best Thing Ever, but I liked it just fine. I was much more impressed by Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming… sorry, LHA, but if I’m betting on you or Jackie Woodson in an authorial cage match? My money’s on Woodson.

I was not surprised to see Steve Sheinkin’s new YA, The Port Chicago 50 on the list – the NBA YPL committee always seems to have a soft spot for nonfiction. A tiny soft spot. One book per year. I was also not surprised to see Eliot Schrefer’s Threatened on the list, since he earned a nod not too long ago for Endangered. Also, critical darling (and winner of the NBC’s 5 under 35), John Corey Whaley? You are also no big freaking surprise here. Also, while I didn’t read it yet, I would like credit for renewing Noggin over and over again for five entire months. It basically lived at my house. That should count for something.

Deborah Wiles’s Revolution and Kate Milford’s Greenglass House are both getting great reviews, so no surprises here. There’s a lot of YA/MG crossover on this list (the Woodson, Sheinkin, Schrefer, and Hiaasen sit in that 12-14 neck of the woods), but to me, Revolution and Greenglass House are the reps from Team Middle Grade. And I think you could argue that Team Middle Grade has taken the NBA gold for the last five years, so neither of these are to be ignored.

So. The last three. Skink: No Surrender. I do love me some Carl Hiaasen, but nothing about his adult work screams “GIVE ME A MAJOR LITERARY AWARD.” (edit: except for the part where he got a Newbery honor for Hoot… oops) But good to see some comedy/mystery on the list either way, lest we forget how powerful and difficult and important comedy writing. Super happy to see Girls Like Us on the list – woohoo for quiet(er) girly YA realism, and woohoo for Candlewick! And last but not least – Andrew Smith. Mr. Smith, you are having quite the year! I checked out 100 Sideways Miles immediately after finishing Grasshopper Jungle a few weekends ago, which meant I read the NBA longlist knowing that a nominee was sitting on my desk WAITING FOR ME TO READ IT and that’s when you feel a little bit like a literary rockstar.

Yes, I’m just very, overly excited to have read two books out of ten from a fundamentally arbitrary list. Small, nerdy pleasures.



06 Sep 2014

reading wishlist: old books

Let’s keep talking about how there are too many books to read on this planet and the accompanying angst that I, a mere mortal, will never be able to read them all. I’m not going to fit them into 2014, or 2015 or by the time I’m 60 or 80 or 105.

I keep a To Read list. It lives on Goodreads. Any time I hear about a new book I think I might like to read someday, I throw it on the list. It’s huge – 550 books right now – but I like to tell myself that as long as my “read” list is longer then I am in the clear. Also, I trim it regularly. My reading near future isn’t chiseled in stone, and my first impressions of what might be worth reading don’t always stand up to the test of even a few months’ time.

Some books, however, keep making the cut. I added all these books to my TBR just years ago but I’m pretty sure that I will still want to read them some day. Maybe not in 2014, but you know, before I lose my facilities.


Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why read it? It’s a Michael L. Printz Honor. It has illustrations by Maira Kalman. It’s humorous YA realism about a breakup. This is all to say: incredibly up my alley.

Well, why haven’t you read it? I want to read it in print for the illustrations… but getting myself to read an older book in print is… ah… challenging. Also, it has illustrations, so the paper is thick, and it’s just a beastly heavy tome. It’s a bit of a Catch-22. Also, some of my friends didn’t like it, so I didn’t have any YOU HAVE TO READ THIS pressure on my shoulders.

But you still want to read it because… It’s a Printz honor, and I don’t toss award-winners from my TBR lightly! Insert your own joke about tossing really heavy books lightly here.

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Why read it? Lost of buzz when it came out (YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS AGO). Sex and drugs and boarding school. Who can resist that?

Well, why haven’t you read it? It came out when I was in grad school, and grad school didn’t allow a lot of time for those Adult Books. Also, it’s not available in any version of audio that I can get my hands on. I’ve tried!!

But you still want to read it because… I recently discovered an unexamined passion for books about young people meeting up in semi-isolated places, getting to know/hate/love one another, and coming of age. Hence my fondness for any sort of boarding school book. I’m keeping this on the list in case I need one handy.


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Why read it? It’s one of those old-school (1940s) proto-YA books that everyone still raves about. Diary-style first-person, coming of age, etc

Well, why haven’t you read it? See: old books problem. Also, old-school proto-YA set in historical periods of other countries are the kind of books that I sometimes like but never, ever think I’m going to like. So I procrastinate.

But you still want to read it because… It’s one of those touchstones of the genre that just Keeps. Coming. Up. So I’m just going to have to read it at some point. Even if it sits on my TBR until I am 50.


Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Why read it? I feel like this is a classic of the Modern, Approachable-but-Political Nonfiction genre. Which is a genre I like.
Well, why haven’t you read it? Sheer laziness? Natural preference for fiction over nonfiction when free-reading? I don’t know!
But you still want to read it because… I think it’s exactly the kind of book I’d enjoy. I would be concerned that, at this point, the information might be a bit out of date, but given that the topic is The Real Life Challenges of those Living in Poverty in America, I doubt that much has actually changed in the past 10 years or so.


The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson White

Why read it? When this series was republished in 2008, the YA lit blogosphere went a little bit nuts – everyone and their sister was raving about this overlooked wonder. I added it to my TBR list accordingly.

Well, why haven’t you read it? Now that I am halfway through this list, I think the real answer for all of these books is “grad school.” So, I’ll choose “grad school” for this round.

But you still want to read it because… I actually did check this one out once and read 100 pages or so. I was digging it, but… grad school.


The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Why read it? Well, it’s Barbara Kingsolver. It has a young female protagonist and it’s about motherhood. Also, did I mention it’s by Barbara Kingsolver?

Well, why haven’t you read it? Aaaggggh I am feeling under pressure. I HAVEN’T READ IT BECAUSE I AM BUSY READING HUNDREDS OF OTHER BOOKS.

But you still want to read it because… Barbara Kingsolver. Also, a few years ago (and a few years after I put this book on my TBR) I was helping a group of first year college students do research for their English class and they were all studying The Bean Trees and their paper topics seemed really interesting.


Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

Why read it? Things I loved as a child: Babysitter’s Club. Things I love as a grown up: graphic novels. It’s just math, guys.

Well, why haven’t you read it? I’m actually unsure of whether or not my former passion for Babysitter’s Club is even worth revisiting. It’s not like I hold the series on some sort of pedestal – I wasn’t that obsessed – but I also don’t have too many remaining memories of what the books were like, just vague impressions of characters and plots. I think it might be better to leave it be.

But you still want to read it because… Raina Telgemeier. That’s pretty much it.


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Why read it? It’s a giant Jonathan Franzen book, guys. Those don’t come around too many times in your life. Plus, I am always looking to read more books by men named Jonathan.

Well, why haven’t you read it? For those of us with bad backs and limited attention spans. it’s not a giant Jonathan Franzen book. It’s a giant Jonathan Franzen book.

But you still want to read it because… Some of you might know that I am having a deep love affair with The Magicians and Lev Grossman in general, as a human and author. He sites Freedom as a major creative touchstone for writing his series, in terms of craft. So I want to read it.

04 Jul 2014

beach reads: 2014 edition

I am taking a vacation today, and I am so excited I may die. Yes, I am more excited for this trip to old North Carolina than I was for a trip to Europe. Go ahead, judge away. I’m so excited, I actually can’t hear you judging me. You are entirely drowned out by my inner squee.

This vacation will be excellent for a number of reasons. I am going to visit my grandfather and his wife, who are really the best, and I haven’t visited in years. My entire family is coming with, and I haven’t seen the lot of them since the wedding. There will be friends and boyfriends (and The Boy, of course). And (AND!) we are renting a Real Live Beach House! !!

It’s going to be exactly like a Sarah Dessen novel, I am sure.

Italy was wonderful. Seattle was great. But it’s just been so long since I’ve had an old-fashioned family vacation – visiting a place you’ve been to a million times, staying with your amazing (and predictable) family, nothing much on the tourist agenda except eating, beaching, and reading.

I have assembled a small mountain of books to read during my vacation. I am a notorious book over-packer. Coming home from one beach trip in high school, I had a carry-on bag filled just entirely with books. A dozen at least. We bought a novelty lighter for a friend on our way to the airport, tucked it into my book bag and, suprise suprise, my got searched at security.

It was more than a little embarrassing to watch the TSA agent flip through every. single. book. to make sure I didn’t have any explosive bookmarks tucked inside.

I probably won’t finish all of these, but I do have some plane/airport hours to fill, and I AM DONE WITH MY REQUIRED READING and I am basically just so, so excited.



  • Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage, so I can be well prepared for July’s book group meeting. Also, North Carolina appropriate!


  • Something Real by Heather Demetrios, so I can kick off my Summer Reading List proper!



  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart because I’m staying in a freaking beach house (Let’s just hope that our beach house doesn’t [spoiler redacted])


  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer because I am on a Meg Wolitzer kick and this galley is burning a hole in my… apartment.


  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson because I want something quick so I can toss off a book and yell “DONE!!” really loudly. I mean, also exceptionally excited to read it and have heard it’s great. But also, it’s pretty short.


  • The Good Sister by Jamie Kain because I am a good girl and want to get a jump on my next set of Required Reads. Also, because of my three good sisters.
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.

11 Apr 2014

reading wishlist: summer 2014

Hey, you know what is both fun and interesting? Talking about the weather!

I jest. I jest with tears in my eyes, tears of hostility, confusion, and disbelief. It has been such a ridiculous long winter. My apartment actually had heat this year, and we’ve had weather in the 50s this week…but I’m in some kind of freaky state of seasonal denial. It can’t be nice yet. What’s going on. How will I dress myself? Will I get sweaty? Can I wear my Bean boots? Surely as soon as I decide I like the weather then it will snow again. Even in July. Nothing is sacred.

This is all to say: I’m getting buzz on these books with summer month pub dates and I cannot yet admit to myself that summer will actually arrive. These books will never exist.

That is where I am at this year. In April. Help me.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

I have trouble with sequels and series. As in, I rarely read Book 1 before Book 2 is published. Or read Book 2 before Book 3 is published. Perpetually behind. Also see: everything I ever watch on television.

It took me over a year to get around to reading The Diviners, but I read it! I READ IT!! Well, I listened to it, if you want to get technical. Anyway, I feel as though I should read the sequel just because of the principle. I mean, the book was good, too, but I’ve always heeded the pull of Principle at least as often as the pull of Good Book.

Although I will admit that I am a shameless Judge-A-Book-By-It’s-Cover-Girl, and am therefore a little miffed about the cover redesign. As I am about most cover redesigns. Whyyyyyyyyyy must you change covers mid-series WHYYYYYY this is everything wrong with the world I promise.

Abroad by Katie Crouch

This is a book for adults, but oh-boy did the description tickle all of my reading fancies. Teen protagonist? Yes. Set in Italy? Yes. A group of creepy girls who “turn  quaint fantasies into an erotic and dangerous rush through the darkest realms of friendship and love?” Oh yes. A comparison to The Secret History? Well now you’re just going overboard, flap-copy writer. I’m officially going to read this book, you can lay off the Jessica-bait.

Words and their Meanings by Kate Bassett

This is a much longer post for a much longer day, but I am struggling with this little niche-genre I so love that is Contemporary Young Adult Realism. Every book that I should love, I don’t. I’m perpetually underwhelmed. I’m guessing that I am reading the wrong books – I am trying to like books that fit into some plot or character mold that I admire in other writers, but that just aren’t up to snuff craft-wise. Conundrum. Anyway, I’m trying to branch out a little and read some more lesser known/first time authors – books I wouldn’t necessarily pick up on my own. I heard Kate Bassett interviewed on Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life podcast and added Words and Their Meanings , her 2014 debut, to my TBR list. Bonus: set in Michigan!

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

A new Jacqueline Woodson. No elaboration necessary.

Okay, fine. I will elaborate, with exclamation points. New!! Jacqueline! Woodson! Poems! Autobiographical poems! Middle grade! Amazing!! Wow!!! Will Read!

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Ms. Haydu wrote a book called OCD Love Story that I really want to read. In fact, it’s sitting right over there, in my Leaning Tower of Library Books. I can’t tell you how many times I have renewed it because I would be embarrassed. But I want to read it! I do! I have ever since I heard Ms. Haydu on my other favorite podcast, Narrative Breakdown.
Since I am officially beginning a season of Required Reading, I’m not sure that OCD Love Story is going to happen… buuuuuttt I will have an opening for a Treadmill Book soon, and from the peek I’ve taken at her 2014 book – Life by Committee – I think I might skip right ahead to Book #2

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

I adore Raina Telgemeier. I consider her a Patron Saint of Middle School Girls. A sequel/companion to her graphic memoir – Smile – makes me, uh, smile.

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

I have neglected to tell you how addicted I am to Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. Apologies. It’s a recent obsession, started right at the end of 2013. I have been sitting on a mega-long Magicians post, but I’m having trouble deciphering my own fangirl-ish ravings. This is also why I waited until the last week of December to write about Game of Thrones, and yes, these two loves are somewhat related.

Anywaaaaaaay is there anything better than coming into a series when the first two books have already been published AND the final installment is due within months? Not much! Super excited about this one.

What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn

Interwoven storylines with multiple narrators. American teens at boarding school in England. The 1960s.

I mean, it’s no Series Finale Where Magical Teenagers Go to Magical College, but this one sounds pretty good, too.


Too bad none of these books will be published because there’s a big snowstorm headed right to Boston as we speak. I am lying. I am not lying. I have no idea what is going on somebody please send sunglasses, iced coffee, and flip-flops.


06 Feb 2014

the stars of 2013 – final quarter

I’m sorry. I am still talking about books I read last year. This has become the Forever 2013 Blog, a url where time stands still. But you guys, I cannot leave the last quarter of my Goodreads Star report unfinished. It’s unbecoming.

This will be me final star report. I am having some Deep Thoughts about book reviewing and some misgivings about Star Ratings in general. That probably isn’t going to stop me from using them, but they will stay on Goodreads where they belong. Please feel free to add me as a friend! I am always looking for Goodreads friends. I will add you back, I promise. Unless, of course, your reviews include more gifs than words. Or any gifs at all. I just can’t handle all those flashing pictures in my feed, yo.

Two Stars

~ the books that annoyed me or had major league flaws ~

Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick

Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein

Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

Dear Teen Me edited by Miranda Kenneally

Artemis Dreamt by Crystal Beran

Since You Asked by Maurene Goo


Three Stars

~ the books that were just fine, no huge complaints, but nothing to write home about either ~

For the Good of Mankind by Vicki O. Wittenstein

Looks Like Daylight by Deborah Ellis

Legends, Icons & Rebels by Robbie Robertson

Pepita: Takehiko Inoue Meets Gaudi by Takehiko Inoue

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Regine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words by Regine Stokke

Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies by Nell Beram

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices ed by Mitali Perkins

A Marked Man: The Assassination of Malcolm X by Matt Doeden

Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp by Helga Weiss

Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays by Brad Wolfe

Women of the Frontier: 16 Trailblazing Homesteaders by Brandon Miller

Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

Believe by Sarah Aronson

Losing It, ed by Melvin Burgess

Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys by Karen Bush Gibson

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II by Martin W. Sandler

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

They Call Me a Hero by Daniel Hernandez

Darkness Everywhere: The Assassination of Mohandas Gandhi by Matt Doeden

Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen

Your Food is Fooling You by David A. Kessler

The Nazi Hunters Neal Bascomb

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf

Full Ride by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Mojo by Tim Tharp


Four Stars

~ the books I really enjoyed and would not hesitate to recommend ~

Mountains Beyond Mountains (adapted for young people) by Tracy Kidder

The President Has Been Shot!” by James L. Swanson

The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Lily and Taylor by Elise Moser

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Two Boys Kissing by David LEvithan


Five Stars

~ I am having a love affair with these books ~

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart [my sort-of review here]

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King [my review here]

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline [my review here]


26 Jan 2014

his life with books – best of 2013

I’ve mentioned that The Boy has been upping his reading game in recent years. In 2012 he read 25 books, then 30 in 2013, and this year he’s hoping for 35.

Since he is a normal human and not a librarian or even a particularly book-ish person, he reads much differently than I do. Lots of audiobooks. Books about music. And unlike most of us heathens, he actually reads books that people purchase him for gifts! You know, all those books that just sit on your shelves and taunt you for years. Those books. He reads them! How adorable.

Anyway, much like I pester him into reading various books, I pestered him into telling me his top 5 reads in 2013.

I am pleased with the results because most of them came as direct recommendations from yours truly. If Reading The Books I Think You Will Love and then Loving Them is a love language, then it is definitely mine. Especially happy about #2.

So without further ado… The Boy’s Top 5 of 2013.

After which I promise to stop talking about 2013 and move on with my life.

5. Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

4. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

3. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

2. Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

1. A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin






23 Jan 2014

reading wishlist: upcoming 2014 YA

So, idealistic, resolution-making Jessica, if you are going to read more 2014 titles this year, where shall you begin?

Well, how about some new YA. You like YA, right? Right.

This particular round-up is heavy on authors I already like. Ms. Lockhart and Ms. Perkins are the only two I would consider “insta-buys” at this point in my particular reading life, but many of the rest have a celebrated book or two under their belts. If you are a debut-hunter, look elsewhere. Or at least wait around until I collect a list of ’14 debuts I find notable. It might not be too long of a wait.

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Mr. Whaley’s debut novel Where Things Come Back won the William C. Morris Award, the Printz award, won Mr. Whaley a 35 under 35. It was also my #3 favorite book in 2011. Highly prestigious.

Noggin seems to be a bit weirder and more sci-fi than Whaley’s debut. Luckily, I have become a bit more amenable to the weird and sci-fi since 2011. Early reviews are favorable, and seem to indicate that the non-weird stuff is just as strong as the weird in this book. About decapitation and brain transplants. Or something.

It does look awful weird, guys. But that is really not going to stop me from giving it a shot.

Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty

Moriarty’s Cracks in the Kingdom is the second installment in the Colors of Madeleine series. As of today, I am about halfway through A Corner of White. It was a little slow going. Moriarty has a very distinct style that I have trouble investing in. Her writing isn’t dense, it isn’t heavy, but it is awfully verbose and rife with little phrase-long, sentence-long diversions that you aren’t sure if you should be paying attention to. Instead of following one sentence to the next, plodding along, reading Moriarty feels a little like swimming in words.

I’ve read enough, though, to start to enjoy the flow, and to feel pretty sure I will want to read the second in the series.

Wow, this is sounding really wishy-washy. I will “give it a shot.” I am “pretty sure I will want to read” it. Man, oh man. Well, you see, I have contracted an upper respiratory infection of some sort. Please forgive me, readers. And books. As of this moment, I guess I cannot imagine giving anything much more than “a shot.” Maybe I will give a nap a shot later today. Or give a shot of Dayquil a shot. That sort of thing.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Speaking of sequels… here is a book #3. I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone but couldn’t muscle through Days of Blood and Starlight on audio. I am not letting that minor personal failing keep me from getting hyped for Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I just have my work cut out for me now.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Aaaaand speaking of weird scifi follow-ups to works of contemporary realism…

Grasshopper Jungle sounds a little too weird even for me. However, everyone I know who has read it has supplied eloquent, well-reasoned, and overwhelmingly positive reviews. Like, “WOW SO GOOD” and “READ THIS NOW” and “ANDREW SMITH IS A GENIUS.” So yes, I am intrigued enough to read a book about “an army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises.”


Pointe by Brandy Colbert

A ballet book. Much more up my alley. This one seems to have all the required elements of a ballet drama – the perfectionism, the eating problems, the inappropriate love affairs – but is also about kidnapping and abduction! Oh my!
I have to say that I approve of the recent uptick in ballet-type YA books over the past few years… but I don’t think I’ve actually finished reading many of them. I don’t know. Maybe the writing just wasn’t there? Maybe this will be the book that changes my mind. If not, I can just watch Center Stage for the zillionth time I suppose.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And speaking of William C. Morris follow-ups, Jenny Hubbard’s first novel, Paper Covers Rock, was a runner up to Whaley’s Where Things Come Back. Good to see two Morris finalists putting out promising follow-up novels this year. I really enjoyed Paper Covers Rock, which was a moody boarding school book about carelessness and masculinity and friendship I found pleasantly reminiscent of A Separate Peace. And We Stay is another boarding school story, but with a female protagonist and told with prose and verse. And is also about Emily Dickinson, who I think is the hot YA literary reference of the moment, (replacing Walt Whitman, I believe).

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I am just going to take every opportunity I have between now and May to remind you about We Were Liars. If you don’t mind. It is very good. Please add it to your to-read list. The end.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Please don’t remind me how long we have all been waiting for a new Stephanie Perkin novel. It will send me into a fit. Not that Ms. Perkins doesn’t deserve ALL the time in the world… do what you do, lady, please! However, it has been positively ages since Lola and the Boy Next Door, and 2014 is the year! Yippee!

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

The older and wiser I get, the more I’ve realized that…. I just really love a good book cover. This one is good. Real good. If you were to create a book cover specifically to push all of my personal buttons, this is it.

I know, I know. Bad librarian. But there is just something about a book cover, you know. I did start reading an e-galley of this title last week and it’s about 75% more RPG heavy than I thought it would be. But I’m okay with that. I mean, I did like The Other Normals. And its cover was only so-so!

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Last but not least, another Morgan Matson. I liked Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour an awful lot. Second Chance Summer was slower, but still made me weep while riding public transportation. Ms. Matson is not quite an “insta-buy” author, but definitely an “insta-put-this-book-on-hold-at-the-library” author. Oh, and also a “make-damn-sure-the-library-buys-this-book-in-a-timely-manner” author.