Search Results for: printz

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.

16 Apr 2014

what to listen to next

I am entering yet another season of required reading – my to-be-read queue of real-live-print books is stacked high and will remain so for a few months. My fun-reading will be reserved for the humble audiobook.

Not complaining. I have a deep and well-documented love of audiobooks. But I will admit… now that season four of GoT has returned, it’s taking a concerted effort not to fall back into that audio trap. I don’t need to spend the rest of my summer listening to the same 90 discs of audio I ALREADY LISTENED TO TWICE LAST YEAR. Ahem.

In defense, I have glutted my phone with new audiobooks to entice me. Remember my favorite free audio source, Overdrive? Well, there’s a new guy in town named Hoopla – his checkout procedures are more streamlined and his catalog is always available (simultaneous downloads = no checked out items, no holds lists, and the joy of instant gratification). The app interface is… um… maddeningly awful, but that hasn’t stopped me from expending all of my 10 downloads each month.

Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish…. is… not… a book I would think I would like. It had a moment of surging popularity at my library when it came out, but I just do not think novels in rhyming verse are really my thing. Novels for grown-ups, anyway. However, I heard a Rakoff story recently in an old episode of This American Life and I just thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. And it made me sad because Mr. Rakoff has died and this was his last work. And also, if I want to avoid falling into the GoT trap, I need to remind myself of the pleasures of Relatively Short Books – and this one is only TWO PARTS. Two parts. Two. TWO! I could listen to two part WHILE sleeping.

… or I could stick sliiiightly closer to my wheelhouse and stretch the limits of my attention span with a few lengthier YA titles. Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Naturals was on my radar but not my TBR list – I haven’t ready any of her books since I had an ARC of Golden in the long ago dark ages. I liked Golden well enough, but Barnes’s books always feel a little… ah… plot-hook-heavy for my personal tastes. But I saw this on Overdrive and thought to myself “Hey, you know what’s probably pretty good on audio? Plot-hook-heavy books.” Or, I could try a Printz honor that’s been on my TBR list for awhile. I read Terry Pratchett’s Nation in grad school and unexpectedly kind of loved it, so Dodger has been on my radar for quite some time. It feels so great to f-i-n-a-l-l-y read a book you’ve been meaning to read for a long, long time – audio is a great way to make that happen.

A month ago I made up a short list of Overdrive books that The Boy might like to listen to. Out of all of my suggestions, he picked The Bluest Eye – a book that I thought was brilliant and loved on audio, but, in retrospect, is the complete opposite of a book that The Boy would like. This is why I am sometimes awful at reader’s advisory, folks. Anyway, we’ve been talking about the book while he listens and it reminded me that I haven’t tried to shove a classic novel down my throat lately. I read My Ántonia in college, but I have little recollection of what the story was actually about. I started listening to this one on Hoopla for a minute last week and thought the available narrator was pretty good. Now all I will have to do is subject myself to the horror that is Hoopla. I can’t really get into it now – I may break out in hives. It’s new. It’s technology. It’s new technology. Things will iron out, eventually, and in my relentless-endless-lifelong pursuit of a good listen, I will keep trying.

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.

09 Jan 2014

2013 in reading

Ladies and gentlemen,

(do gentlemen read this blog?)

I present to you…

[Subtitle: Jessica has fun with spreadsheets]

[could also be the subtitle to my life]

Just when you thought 2013 was well behind us.

I read 145 books in 2013. Goodreads only gave me credit for 140, but that’s because Goodreads doesn’t believe in reading the same book twice in one year. To Goodreads, I say, “pooh-pooh.” Although it is fairly useless to say anything to a database because a database does what a database does. Also, I will blame Amazon.

Stay on task, Jessica. I read 145 books. This is the most books I have read in a year. Ever. Applause, applause, applause. I would spend some time speculating about why the uptick in reading this year, but in 2012 I read 141, so maybe this is just where I’m at. I should, however, give credit both to a steady diet of professional review books and Cybils participation. What, you mean you didn’t spend a weekend on the couch reading 10 nonfiction books back to back? Hmm.

On to the fun stuff. I made pie charts, guys.

First, some broader data. How did my reading break down this year in terms of audience and format?

A majority of my reading was YA, but I was still surprised to see how many adult books I read this year!

This is also interesting because, as a person who reads YA and children’s books for various professional purposes, adult books are almost always “fun” reading for me.

  • 12 of the adult books I read were audiobooks.
  • 4 were ARCs I picked up at work – stuff that was getting media buzz, mostly. 
  • 3 were graphic novels.
  • 2 were feel-goody re-reads
  • 4 were… ah… filthy
  • 6 were Game of Thrones

The rest were a mixed bag of last year’s best fiction, memoirs, creative advice books, and even one book from my Unread Library.

I only read 6 middle grade books. This is normal, but looking at that little pie sliver makes me think I should try to read a few more next year. Middle grade isn’t really my particular wheelhouse, but I’m thinking of some Horn Book editorial about YA taking all the credit/attention/page space away from children’s literature (see also: The World Thinks Anything That Isn’t a Picturebook is YA), which rankles me a bit. Perhaps more on this later?

So what kind of YA was I reading this year?

Despite threatening to become a fantasy fan, I’m still reading mostly realism, at least when I read YA. I’ll be interested to see how this compares to next year’s stats.

That big 30% of the pie is thanks to Cybils, and a lot of my realism reading is for review. This made me curious about how much of my reading was “required” and how much was not. This is a blurry issue – when given free reign over my reading, I will still tend toward books that help me keep up with trends or to gain a better perspective of the genre. I try to read award winners and classics and such. However, exactly how much of my reading is left up to me, and how much is straight up You Have to Read This Jessica Or Face Consequences?

At various times during the year I have felt completely swamped by required reading. Looking at this chart makes me feel like a bit of a whiner. Or at least reminds me that while I have months where I am pining over greener book-pastures, I also have months where no deadlines loom and I can’t be bothered to read anything.

See also: this month.

It also stands to mention that 100% of my required reading is YA or MG. The amount of free-reign YA reading I am doing is a bit less than my free-reign Adult reading – about 37 YA free reads and 49 adult free reads.

This chart could also be labelled “More Evidence That Jessica Has Complex Personal Issues Regarding Classic Literature.”

A more gracious interpretation could be that a lot of my 2013 reads fall under the category of Required Reads. 2012 was a lot of catching up on fun reading. 9 of the 23 books I read that were published between 2000 and 2011 were re-reads – comfort reading.

I am torn between wanting to give more of my pie to reading new books. I really should have read more 2014 books by now, from a professional standpoint and also a YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO CATCH UP WITH READING ANYTHING standpoint. But oh, I want to read more older stuff, I do.

In case you missed it, we have reached the point of this long, long post where I start to freak out because there are only so many more years in my life and what if I die before I read All Of The Books? Heaven help me…

I wanted to run this chart to make sure I am reading equitably, but I wasn’t really concerned about my performance. I naturally tend towards female writers, and I’m kind of on the girly YA beat for some of my professional reviewing. I am actually more interested in whether or not I am reading books written by and about folks of different ethnic backgrounds, but I didn’t keep that data this year. Next year, though, I will.

And last but not least…. is the printed book dead?????

No. Not in the Jessica-sphere anyway. I got an iPhone in January and a Kindle Fire in March. I still only read 9 ebooks out of 145. My problems with ebooks are as follows:

  • I work at a library. I don’t need to buy books unless I want to have my own copy of a favorite or support an author. If I’m going to do that, I’m going to buy a print copy.
  • I do check out ebooks from my library’s Overdrive collection, but you guys know how awful I am with reading books I check out. That same 14-day reading limit that inspires me to muscle through audiobooks has the opposite effect on my e-reading – once my hold finally comes in, I’m usually busy reading other stuff so I pretty much ignore them.
  • I like Netgalley & Edelweiss in theory, but so many of the books I’ve rented are so poorly formatted that I don’t actually read them.

I could also tell you how much money I spent this year buying print books for the library, but let’s suffice to say that it was a lot of money.

Other reading stats of note:

  • I read 5 Alex Award winners
  • I read 1 Boston Globe Horn Book Award winner and 1 honor
  • I read 4 Cybils Award winners (2 YA fic, 1 SFF, 1 MG)
  • I read 7 National Book Award finalists
  • I read 3 Printz Honors
  • I read 1 William C Morris winner and 1 finalist
  • I read 3 YALSA Nonfiction Award finalists
  • I listened to 11 Overdrive audiobooks between September and December.
  • I read 39 YA fiction books by authors that were new to me.
  • I re-read 12 books.
  • I read 33 books for professional review.

And I “reviewed” 21 books here for this here blog. I was aiming for 1 a week, but you know… I’ll take it.

What’s in store for next year? Well, I have thoughts and pie charts on that topic too, but I will save those for a later date. When you are better rested after making it through this ridiculous, naval-gazing exercise.

I don’t say this enough, but thank you for all of you – my readers – who show up here and watch me gaze at my naval. I like all of you. I do. Thanks for letting me share my 2013 with you.


17 Sep 2013

2013 National Book Awards

Happy National Book Award week!

I am always excited for the NBA’s as they mark the official start of AWARDS SEASON! National Book. End of Year Book Lists. Alex & William C. Morris, then the rest of the ALA Youth Media Awards. Cybils. Throw the Oscars in there too. It’s a happy time of year for this nerd.

This year, the National Book Awards are embarking on an Excitement EXCITEMENT campaign, perhaps to lure in the interest of the less nerdy. Longer long lists, staggered announcements, and I’m sure something goofy with the award announcements on November 20th, too. Come on, normal people, get hyped about books.


It is no surprise whatsoever that I have read zero of these titles. Unless Clash of Kings is going to get some kind of retroactive nomination (in the young people’s lit category??) then the odds were really against me anyway. I am, however, really pleased with the line-up. The Atlantic posted some laughable excuse for journalism yesterday in which they took a repeated claim – that the National Book Awards favors obscure authors and titles – and applied it to this set of books, thus revealing that nobody on the god damn Atlantic staff has read a book for kids since Hop on Pop. This list is a star-studded kidlit smorgasborg.

First, we have Kathi Appelt with The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Poor little unknown Appelt…. who earned an NBA nod not five years ago with her completely smashing middle grade novel The Underneath. I was just thinking about The Underneath, actually, and how much I loved it. It’s about a dog and a mess of cats living under a porch in the swamps of Louisiana, for goodness sake, and if the interwoven mythology and natural mysticism doesn’t get you, the language will knock you flat out. I have high hopes for Appelt’s bayou follow-up.

Kate DiCamillo is another middle grade hard-hitter I’m happy to see honored. I’ve had an ARC of Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures in my desk for months. I also may or may not use a Flora & Ulysses tote bag to carry around my groceries. You’ll have to haunt my neighborhood Shaw’s to confirm. Also, Candlewick! Yay, rah! Long live the independent press and Boston-based kid lit!

Did any of you get around to reading Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs? I loved it, but it didn’t win any dang awards whatsoever. Awful. I was glad to see her latest fairytale remix – The Real Boy – getting some attention. Also, glad she teamed up with Erin McGuire again this year for illustrations – love both of her covers.

I feel like the Young People’s Literature category typically swings more towards young adult than middle grade (or picturebook, for that matter), so it was nice to see so many younger reads getting honored on this year’s shortlist. I haven’t heard much about Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots or Cindy Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck, but they both look like middle grade I would like.

And then the YA contingent. Picture Me Gone – the latest from Printz-winner Meg Rosoff. Two Boys Kissing – the latest from bestselling David Levithan. Boxers & Saints – the long-awaited latest from Printz-winner (and bad-ass amazing dork) Gene Luen Yang. Man, look at all these obscure authors! Even Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away has earned a few starred reviews. I feel like the darkest horse in the bunch is Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince, and, strangely, the one title I want to read the most. Especially because Favorite Roommate alerted me to one of those scathing, gif-ridden Goodreads reviews. When an award-winning book gets bad consumer-reviews my interest is piqued.

Also see: Jessica’s Descent into Fantasy Madness.

Also see: I’m not going to have time to read any of these because Cybils.

19 Apr 2013

break the fast books

This is self-torture because I am still days away from the end of my reading deprivation, even then I have three review books on the docket. It will be awhile until I pick up any of these titles… but here are some choices for reading once all that dust settles.

The other day I was thinking about how hard it is for one person to adequately understand another person’s particular existence. This is the kind of exciting thing you think about when you aren’t reading books or watching TV and the enormity of the human experience on this planet is suddenly on your mind much more often. Also, the last book you read before the drought was Frankie Landau-Banks. Anywaaay, that’s what I was thinking about, and then I remembered oh, that’s exactly what Paper Towns is about! I think I’ve only read Paper Towns once, which is unusual for me and a John Green book, so I could go for a quick re-read.

Speaking of quick reads, I have had Beverley Brenna’s Wild Orchid checked out for months now. Wild Orchid is the first book in the series that includes the Printz-honor winning The White Bicycle, and I am one of those people who refuse to betray the sanctity of the series 9 times out of 10. I want to read book three, I must first read books one and two. That’s just the way it works.

Speaking of books I’ve had checked out for months, I am on my last renew with Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility. I could read this one real quick – I started it once and I liked what I read, so I think I could muscle through with the proper motivation!

And the final option… I could read a book about Rome because I checked out like 6 of them and haven’t read a single one yet. I am actually going to be in Rome in 3 months. I will also be married. Equally bizarre situations. I could read a marriage book, yes, but I’ve read books about marriage before. I have not read books about Rome. I could read Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark – it is a series of memoir-ish sketches about living in Rome while on a Guggenheim fellowship in 1945. Can you imagine being a woman in 1945 on a Guggenheim fellowship living abroad? I at least want to give this one a taste.

23 Feb 2013

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I have mentioned this book about a dozen times in the past year, so now that I have finally read it, I should probably write up a proper review.

Except for the part where I don’t think I can. Call it what you will: unwillingness to approach a book with an analytical, professional perspective, unwillingness to exert the effort, the respiratory virus I am currently hosting in my body, post-vacation-itis, my tendency toward the mush and the gush. I don’t want to. So I won’t.

What I will do is tell you this: in the first chapter, we meet Ari, who is likeable but shy, looking for his people but worried his people won’t like him, a little angry, a little scared. Then we meet Dante, who has a bit firmer grasp on his place in the world, but is used to being an outsider. They are both fifteen, and they become fast friends in a way that neither can quite understand.

By the end of the book Dante moves away and then comes back. We meet Ari’s mother and father, who both suffer from traumas past they don’t talk about. We meet the heavy absence of Ari’s brother who is in prison and no one will tell him why. We know Ari so well that we know something is always wrong, something deep down, is unsettled.

It is settled by the end, don’t worry.

Reading this book felt like a dream. Saenz is does realism right, let me tell you. It felt like I wasn’t reading, but just slipping into someone else’s life.

Just as beautiful and awesome as you’ve heard all this time, and completely deserving of that Printz silver medal (among other honors…) Hurry along and read it.

17 Dec 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

#6: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

I know, I know: the least shocking addition to this list. The inclusion of John Green’s latest is probably only surprising to those who did not laugh at this article about 2012’s most overlooked books. Seriously – how can a book that got a full page review in Entertainment Weekly and named Best Book of 2012 by Time Magazine be considered overlooked?

Sometimes I forget how small the kid lit/YA lit-o-sphere really is. We are a small portion of the population. We are growing, but still mostly overlooked. In The Fault in Our Stars, Green writes a satisfying, emotionally complex follow-up to three previous satisfying and emotionally complex novels. But he also did something with TFioS and Hazel and all those nerdfighters to capture a bit of the mainstream limelight. That is great. Welcome to the fold, new friends.

To be honest, I am 100% glad that I don’t need to write this post right now, that I have already read and reviewed this book many, many months ago. I am having a tough time thinking about it, a tough time wanting to write about good books – happy or sad – a tough time thinking that this world is a good place. I mean, I know we are all stuck here and need to make the most of it, but you know, there is just so much tragedy. I spent all weekend trying to enjoy a weekend with my future in-laws without fixating on twenty small children and their families, and then my grandmother died. I am headed to Ohio tomorrow, and maybe in a few months I should re-read this book and learn something about grief and life, but for now, I can’t. I can just keep trying to write these barely-reviews and go to work and shop for gifts and keep my head up.


I don’t feel like I am qualified to write a decent “review” of this book because yes, I am a full-fledged John Green fan-girl.

To my credit, I was a fan-girl before it was actually normal to say you were a fan-girl of John Green (iosome people prefer the term “nerdfighter”). No, I was just an adoring college student with a very tiny literary/not-so-literary crush on an author and his work.

But let me tell you this: despite years now of fan-girl-dom, I find that the more I read Green’s books, the more I like them. The more meaning I find within them. The more they stir up my emotions. I first read Looking for Alaska when I was a senior in high school; last summer I read it for the umpteenth time for a class and found myself Crying While Using Public Transportation.

Despite the near-continual hype – the tour bus, the video blogs, the thousands of signed books – Green continues to deliver.

The Fault in Our Stars put my little bit of Looking for Alaska train-boo-hooing to shame. Narrator 16-year-old Hazel has cancer. For three years, she submits to the gamut of painful treatments, comes very close to dying, and transforms from a normal teen to a sick one. She does survive, but only by the benefit of an experimental treatment and constant oxygen supplementation – she’s still frail, but now she’s isolated too. But when her parents force her to attend a kids-with-cancer support group, Hazel meets Augustus – a cute osteosarcoma survivor with a prosthetic leg who sets his sights on Hazel.

They fall in love. They take a trip to Amsterdam to track down Hazel’s favorite reclusive author. They get sicker, they get better, they get sicker, they get better. But even when they get better, there’s always the promise of getting sicker. And if they get sicker, there’s the promise of dying too soon.

Of course, this is also a very sharp, deeply funny novel. It’s not all kids-with-cancer. But what Green captures brilliantly here is that even when your daily life/immediate thoughts are not about suffering and unfairness and the insane brevity of life and death… your life is still about cancer and suffering and unfairness and the insane brevity of life and death. When you are a kid with cancer, these things are just closer to the surface. In many ways, this book reminded me not of other young adult fiction, but of books like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking; narratives that transcend narrative and become primers for death, grief, and, ultimately, life.

So go read this book and laugh and cry because… yeah. Life. That’s it.

25 May 2012

Summer Reading List 2012

I think a summer reading list, by nature, has to include at least two kinds of books:

books you want to indulge in

books you’ve been drooling over

books you know you’ll love

books you can dive into and swim around inside


books you think you should read but don’t really want to.

it’s hard to break the “summer break” mentality,

getting in your learnin’ before school rolls around again

So even though I have my whole reading life ahead of me and have no such academic structuring my years, I have fallen into such a pattern (or, perhaps, am in denial that no, school will not arrive e’er again)

Anyway, all psychoanalysis aside, here are the books I’m hoping to read before September begins. Some of them are indulgent, and other a response to my inner sense of Reading Responsibility.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Posting about awards all semester left me jonesing to keep up with recent winners. I’d prefer this on audio – Gantos reads! – but I am having trouble getting my hands on it, so we will see.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

I read (and loved) the 2012 Printz winner, so I went back a year to 2011. I’ve checked this one out 3 times by now, but didn’t get around to reading it yet. Although I am, in fact, anti-dystopia, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Again, I read (and loved) the 2012 William C. Morris award winner, so I picked a runner up! I picked this one because it reminded me of A Separate Peace.

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard

This was the Alex Award winner that caught my attention. And after months of prescribed YA, adult fiction always pulls me in.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The obligatory “classic.” I try to read one a summer. Past summer classics include The Bell Jar, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Awakening. Last summer was a bit busy. Does My Darling, My Hamburger count as a classic?

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

I also try to read a random book that has been sitting on my shelf for over a year to finally knock off. The winner. I have read DFW since my college creative writing days, but I’m not going to lie – I mostly want to read this one so I can watch the movie, adapted by my favorite celebrity crush, John Krasinski. How awful of me.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

One last BUT IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!! read: some high fantasy. I’m trying to build up a tolerance, and I’ve heard great things about this series. I also heard Turner speak a few years ago and was completely in awe of her brilliance, so I’m hoping this won’t be as bad as I am anticipating.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

On to indulgence… this is the book that everyone I know reads and says “Hands down best book I’ll read all year.” I usually like books like that. I am very high on the hold list, however, and potentially leaving my library district before the summer’s end, so this might be tricky…

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I love contemporary memoir. This one has adventure and drugs! Plus, my mama is reading it, which means it is probably good. Although my mom does have a strange affinity for books about mountain climbers… so maybe I shouldn’t read too much into her tastes 🙂

See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles

I have a shiny new hardback of this one. I have heard this one is good and sad, which apparently I like? Did I mention how shiny the hardback is?