Category Archives: Books

February 2014

february2014books

 

Books Read in February 2014

1. Mind Games, by Kiersten White, finished 2/3/14

2. Back When You Were Easier to Love, by Emily Wing Smith, finished 2/4/14 It was a Valentine surprise! A contemporary YA romance that didn’t make me roll my eyes once! And it was  bittersweet because part of it is the heroine realizing her ex-boyfriend is a douche. But his best friend sure is nice and hot and cute and fun.

3. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead, finished 2/7/14  I ignored this series for years because I thought it was just another vampire book. Mistake! It’s such fun! And these are a different breed of vampires! And now I want to see the movie!

4. Cress, by Marissa Meyer, finished 2/12/14 Third book of The Lunar Chronicles, a series I just really enjoy. This time it’s a re-telling of Repunzel, and it pokes fun at the Damsel in Distress trope. Capt Thorne is still the greatest, and I’m envious of Meyer’s ability to weave in so many points of view without losing the thread. And I can’t wait for Winter because that Lunar princess she introduces at the end of Cress is CRAZY like a fox.

5. The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson, finished 2/21/14

6.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain, finished 2/27/14

7. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, by Maryrose Wood, finished 2/28/14 A young governess goes to an old British estate to teach the children…. who were literally raised by wolves.  Really delightful and a fun read aloud since the children punctuate most of their sentences with howls of some kind.

8. One More Thing, BJ Novak, finished 2/28/14 I saw him read a few of the stories aloud, and  I think audiobook is probably pretty great. Plenty of that signature Office humor- the kind that makes you smile and feel smart, but you don’t actually laugh out loud.

Total Books Read So Far in 2014: 15

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January 2014

january2014 books

 

Books Read in January 2014

First month of 2014 is not off to a great start if I’m hoping to hit that 150 book goal.  A combination of stress at work, extracurricular activities, and some book fatigue slowed me down.

1. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz, finished 1/1/14  Very beautifully written YA, exploring themes of sexuality and friendship and family. Bonus points for featuring Mexican American families in a non-stereotypic but truthful way.  Truly unique and believable male narrator.  Definitely worthy of all the praise.

2. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, finished 1/3/14  What better way to start the new year than reading a famous inspirational book?

3. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, finished 1/6/14 Great start to a supernatural series set in small town Virginia. Welsh mythology, psychics, prep school boys, and ghosts, oh my.  Love the world building, love the banter amongst the boys, love the slow build romance for heroine Blue, and love the combination of snappy dialogue with grave plot lines.  Just really love this.

4. The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater, finished 1/21/14  See above. More of the same in the second book of the quartet.  Stiefvater manages to avoid the pitfalls of middle-of-the-series books by kicking off new character arcs.  I WANT MOAR.

5. Paper Towns, by John Green, finished 1/22/14  Re-read for Book Club. Still has lots of good lines. That clever John Green.

6. Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer, finished 1/27/14 (audiobook)  Just listened to the audiobook to prep for the release of the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series, which is released in February.  The narrator for these audiobooks is pretty great.  If you haven’t started this series yet, I highly suggest it. Some of the best fairytale bending out there.  And bring on more Captain Thorne, please!

7.  The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon, finished 1/31/14  You’ve heard of this series, yes? The one where the 21 year old student got the six-figure book deal for a series of seven? Being compared to Harry Potter?  After finishing the first book in the series, I can say that comparison is unfair to both authors.  A fair warning: this is only like Harry Potter in that there will be seven books, it’s set in Great Britain, and there’s magic.  Otherwise, you’re signing up for something completely different.

Books Read So Far in 2014: 7

 

November 2013 Books

november books

 

November 2013

1. Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, finished 11/1/13  Dark revisionist history of late 1400s Brittany in which a convent trains the progeny of Death (a god of some kind?) to be assassins.  Our heroine has some special gifts that take her to the court of Anne of Brittany… and straight into the arms of a hot romance.  Ha cha cha. 

2. Mothership, by Martin Leicht & Isla Neal, finished 11/3/13   This one could have gone either way– in the future, a group of pregnant teenage girls are sent to live on a spaceship orbiting earth. Get it…. MOTHERship?  The pun is so great, you have to try the book;  but you know it’s a risk.  The good news is that the risk pays off, and the whole book is as delightfully funny as the title.   In discussion with my male cousin about this book, we agreed it’s a crying shame that the sequel is not called Fatherland

3. My Booky Wook, by Russell Brand, finished 11/5/13  A legitimately good memoir.  My friend J says that it sounds like an erudite English gentleman is politely commenting on the rascally antics of his raunchy alter-ego, and that’s about right.   Brand writes frankly but also humorously about addiction, and he gives all the gory details of his debaucherous early life.   Surprisingly great. 

4.  Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal, finished 11/7/13  More of the witty prose of My Booky Wook, but with a coda about Katy Perry that will make you feel unreasonably sad that the pair of them didn’t end up working. 

5. Fierce Reads, by various authors, finished 11/8/13 A collection of short stories written by YA authors signed under the Fierce Reads imprint of Macmillan Publishing. You can download it for free from your favorite ebook retailer!  I picked it up for the sake of the prequel to Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (such a good series, y’all!), but it also turned me on to the fantastic Leigh Bardugo with her short story, “The Witch of Duva.”  In fact, I picked up the first book in her Grisha Trilogy after reading it. It’s a free download, so you really can’t lose. 

6 . Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, finished 11/11/13  Seriously good start to an epic magical trilogy taking place in some kind of alternate universe Russia where some men and women known as Grisha can command the elements. Raised in an orphanage, Alina shows some early signs of Grisha ability, but she stomps down on her powers when they threaten to separate her from her best friend Mal.  When they both serve in the army, her powers come to the forefront again when she catches the notice of the sinister Darkling.   Alina is swept into the glittering world of the Grisha– and away from Mal. Great world-building and page-turning writing. 

7. The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry, finished 11/11/13  Lois Lowry just writes a little of everything, doesn’t she? Here she writes a gentle parody of all the literary tropes found in “old-fashioned” children’s literature: incorrigible children, the dotty nanny, the baby left on the doorstep, the reclusive wealthy man, and so forth.  Quick and fun, but possibly more amusing for the adults reading it to their kids than to the actual kids. Hard to say since I am no longer a kid and have limited access to kids. 

8.  Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, finished 11/12/13 Lovely re-telling of the Snow Queen that also ruminates on the struggles of transitioning from childhood to adulthood.  Hazel and Jack are BFFs…. until Jack just shuts down on Hazel. Maybe there’s an ice chip in his heart and he’s been taken by the Snow Queen, but maybe they’re just growing up.   Regardless, Hazel is bravely facing the magical  snowy woods to save her friend.  Some really wonderful lines about reading and childhood and life. Beautiful illustrations too. 

9. Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo, finished 11/13/13 Sequel to Shadow and Bone. Alina and Mal are on the run from the Darkling and his scary new abilities, all while Alina is still learning to control her newly discovered powers.  A good example of a sequel that manages to move along the story without getting stuck in the boring middle ground. 

10. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh, finished 11/14/13  Allegedly, this collection of Allie Brosh’s greatest hits from her identically titled blog also features some new content, butI didn’t notice it.   I’ve read several of her essays/comics more than once, and they still make me laugh out loud. And did you listen to her interview with Terry Gross in which Terry Gross boldly asked about her suicide plan?  Damn, Terry. I’m a crisis counselor in my real life, and I don’t even ask that question so casually.

11. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, finished 11/18/13 A gothic style mystery for all the book lovers out there. Reclusive beloved writer Vida Winter contacts quiet Margaret Lea to write her true biography– significant because she’s given so many false stories to reporters over the years. While it is a twisty mystery story, it’s also a love letter to books and the power of stories.  I highlighted many sections  in this one. 

12. Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, finished 11/27/13 First entry in the Matt Cruse books. Another alternate universe story with a steampunk vibe in which we use Zeppelins for air travel. Matt loves to fly, and he’s embarking on an unforgettable journey on his home, the Aurora.  Also on board- spunky, burgeoning scientist Kate.   In a YA landscape packed with doomed romance and supernatural whatevers, it’s a refreshing story with high adventure and scientific discovery. 

Total Books Read to date in 2013:  133

Last month’s list: October

October 2013 Books

october books

Went with a Halloween-themed reading list this month, with the exception of a couple of new releases that couldn’t wait for November.

October 2013

1. The Mark of Athena, by Rick Riordan, finished 10/6/13 (re-read) 

2. Emerald Green, by Kiersten Gier, finished 10/8/13  The conclusion to the Ruby Red trilogy, which is a really fun and fluffy time travel series translated from German.  Kind of a Meg Cabot meets time travel meets London kind of deal. 

3. The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan, finished 10/13/13 

4. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, finished 10/15/13  Finally finished this one after it’s been on my unread books list for years. Truthfully, I thought I might be too scared to read this true crime masterpiece since it details the murder of a whole family in a farm house.  It’s wholly engrossing, and there’s a reason it’s hailed as the first creative non-fiction book.  Plus, there’s tons of  gossipy stuff about Truman Capote and one of the murderers that you can read online when you’re finished. 

5. Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore, finished 10/18/13  

6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black, finished 10/22/13  They’re selling this as a vampire book for people who aren’t into reading vampire books.  Basically, I’ll read anything Holly Black writes since her world-building is excellent and her prose is careful and elegant.  I’ll warn that you’re not totally avoiding a vampire romance in this one, but at least it makes more sense.  And it’s a cool idea– vampires are out in the open and confined to “Coldtowns,” where humans can dare to enter if they want a chance at immortal life. 

7. Fat Vampire, by Adam Rex, finished 10/23/13  A funny vampire book!  Teenage kid is accidentally bit by a desperate vampire and spends the rest of the book trying to figure out the vampire rules with his best friend.  Some truly great one liners and vampire genre mockery. 

8. A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, finished 10/24/13  Fairytale re-telling that keeps the spirit of the original twisted Grimm stories.  It casts Hansel and Gretel in several of the Grimm stories and follows them as they try to save their kingdom.  It’s written for a middle grade audience, and I think most adult readers would relish reading it aloud. 

9. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, finished 10/25/13  Oh, but this is good and creepy and perfect for October.  Perhaps you have seen the stop-motion movie, but you should also experience this plainly-written scary story from the mind of Neil Gaiman.  Coraline escapes her boring parents through a mysterious door in her English countryside flat, and she meets her Other Mother. The Other Mother seems too good be true with her delicious dinners and nearly-hungry attention to Coraline’s desires… and she is exactly too good to be true.  Coraline must then be brave in the face of horror as she tries to save her family and maybe some other people.   Turn the lights low, get a cup of cocoa, and read on a dark and stormy night. 

10. Circle of Magic: Sandry’s Book, by Tamora Pierce, finished 10/28/13

11. Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion, finished 10/29/13  Suppose zombies keep their brain functioning but just can’t verbalize what they’re thinking.  Narrator R can’t remember anything before he turned into a zombie, but he’s getting a real appetite for the vibrancy of life, especially when he meets whimsical and still-breathing Julie.  There’s a pretty clear message here about actively enjoying life instead of mindlessly shambling through your days, but it’s a pretty enjoyable spin on the zombie tale. 

 

Total Books Read in 2013 (so far):  121

Last months’ list: September

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created with piZap

The September List!

September 2013

1 Going Bovine, by Libba Bray, finished 9/9/13

2. Deenie, by Judy Blume, finished 9/9/13  They diagnosed me with scoliosis in seventh grade, and I wore a brace for three years. Some how, no one ever handed me Deenie, which is about a girl with scoliosis.  I commented on this fact to my mother while in the middle of reading, and she said she couldn’t believe it either. Then I got through the masturbation scenes and realized that was exactly why no one ever gave it to me.  Catholic schools for the win. 

3. Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell, finished 9/10/13  Ahhhh!!!! This is the romantic comedy novel of your dreams!!  Set around the time of Y2K, Attachments follows the office tech guy hired to monitor the emails at a newspaper.  He knows he should turn in the two ladies emailing each other all their personal business, but he can’t bring himself to do it because they’re so funny and warm.  Hijinks ensue.  Rainbow Rowell is my new writer hero. 

4. Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore, finished 9/14/13  Years ago in a college fiction writing class, my graduate student TA gave me a copy of “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” because he thought my writing style was similar to Lorrie Moore’s.  I now understand that was hugely flattering and laughable.   That story still just kills me- Lorrie Moore is a master of combining wit and depth.  Go read it at once if you don’t know it. This book includes that short story and others, and it’s a total downer but she’s still a genius. 

5. This is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E Smith, finished 9/17/13

6. Elimination Night, by Anonymous, finished 9/19/13

7. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, finished 9/23/13  More Rainbow Rowell!  This one is for anyone who has ever read fanfiction. Cath is a secret online superstar as a fanfiction writer for a Harry Potter-esque series. She’s started college and real life is totally getting in the way of  her online life.  Just adorable. 

8. IV, Chuck Klosterman, finished 9/24/13

9. Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach, finished 9/24/13  Admittedly, I skimmed some of the chapters with heavy emphasis on physics.  But I learned many interesting things about space travel. For example, did you know your underwear will dissolve if you wear them every day for two weeks straight? Amazing!

10. Untold, by Sarah Rees Brennan, finished 9/26/13  Sequel to Unspoken, which I just loved.  I will follow sassy pants  Kami Glass where ever she goes, and I don’t even care whom she ends up with.  Why is SRB not a bigger deal??

11. Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan, finished 9/30/13 (re-read)

Total  Books Read in 2013 (so far): 110

Last month’s list: August

August 2013 Books

collage made on piZap

collage made on piZap

And here’s the August Reading List:

August 2013

1. Moranthology, by Caitlin Moran, finished 8/1/13  A collection of Caitlin Moran’s columns from The Times, which we unfortunate Americans can only access behind a paywall.  She really shines when she does profiles of celebrities like Lady Gaga and when she does her eye-rolling recaps of Downton Abbey.

2. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, finished 8/2/13  A truly enjoyable and truly unusual love story. Professor Don Tillman is less 50 Shades of Grey and more 50 Shades of Quirk, possibly even Asperger’s?  He decides to find his perfect mate through a lengthy questionnaire administered to potential applicants to his heart… but then there’s Rosie, who answers every question wrong, and whom he still irrationally wants to be around.  A fresh yarn in the rom-com genre. 

 
3. “Swim,” by Jennifer Weiner, finished 8/2/13 (short story)  A freebie from iBooks!  It’s a short story that takes place in the same universe as the novel  The Next Best Thing,  and a reminder to me that I probably would like Jennifer Weiner novels since I like all her short stories and her Twitter.  Funny in all the right spots, true in all the right places, and gut twisting in the worst best way. 

 
4. “The First Star to Fall,” by Diana Peterfreund, finished 8/3/13 (short story) Ahhh! I am so excited for Across A Star-Swept Sea! Go read this short story that takes place in the same universe for a taste of this futuristic re-telling of  The Scarlet Pimpernel. 

 
5. Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman, finished 8/4/13 I think I already my opinion on this clear. 

 
6. Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, finished 8/7/13  Written before he was famous, I think? Anyway, it’s like Punk Rock meets Top Chef. 

 
7. Past Perfect, by Leila Sales, finished 8/7/13  This is everything a lightweight YA about a summer job at a historical reenactment village should be:  after hours battles with competing history sites, forbidden romances and heart-wrenching exes, gossipy girls in period costume, and ice cream. Really delightful. 

 
8. Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson, finished 8/8/13  And this is everything a serious YA taking place at the family’s summer lake house where your dad is dying and your childhood friends aren’t happy to see you should be: hot neighbor boy who gave you your first kiss back to give you tingles, a mystery about why exactly your former BFF and BF can’t stand to look at you, pointless summer jobs with fun banter,  a few kinds of fireworks on the Fourth, kissing in a TREEHOUSE in the RAIN, and some moments with your dad that will leave your hapless reader hiding sniffling sobs at her desk at work.  Another touching one from Morgan Matson. 

 
9. Between the Lines, by Tammara Webber, finished 8/10/13

 
10. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, finished 8/10/13   If you’re a writer, this is a must. It’s in the same league as Stephen King’s On Writing. I really can’t say enough great things. Anne Lamott just has a way with words, and she explains writing and the writing process in a way that makes you go, “Yes, I’ve had that thought exactly, but it didn’t happen in my mind in such eloquent words. Why am I not Anne Lamott?”

 
11. The Season, by Sarah Maclean, finished 8/12/13  Frothy little Regency teen romance with a trio of fun and sassy smart BFFs stepping out for their first London season, plus a little murder mystery thrown in for good measure. Just fun. 

 
12. The Sweetest Spell, by Suzanne Selfors, finished 8/15/13  For those of us who dig on the Fairy Tale re-tellings.  Sweet story, in a couple of ways, as you will see. 

 
13. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskey, finished 8/19/13

 
14. Ruined, by Paula Morris, finished 8/20/13  YA ghost story taking place in New Orleans.  Since I grew up in Louisiana, I got all excited about all the little local NOLA details, and I was shocked to learn the author is from New Zealand!   

 
15. The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, finsihed 8/27/13; 16. The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner, finished 8/28/13; 17. The Death Cure, by James Dashner, finished 8/28/13  Oh dystopia, I can’t quit you. Like all good dystopias, it’s a page turner.   This one differentiates itself by starring mostly boys and starting off in a deadly maze. 

 
18. The Emperor’s Tomb, by Joseph Roth, finished 8/29/13 

 
19. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, finished 8/31/13  Set in the 80s , Eleanor & Park is about an Amazon redhead new girl returning to her broken family and starting a new high school, where she is immediately ostracized. She starts to build a tentative pop-culture based friendship with the guy she sits next to on the bus, Park, and it builds to something more, despite her hesitant heart. Ooshy-gooshy romance, some painful scenes with Eleanor’s family, and an author to be applauded for finding her own writing voice and sticking with it. 

Total Books Read in 2013 (so far): 99

Last month’s list: July

July 2013 Books

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collage created by piZap

Here’s a wrap up of my July Reading List.

July 2013

 

1. Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol, finished 7/2/13  Graphic novel! Russian immigrants! Single White Female’d by a ghost! 

2.  Unspoken, Sarah Reese Brennan, finished 7/5/13 (re-read) I couldn’t help re-reading this one.  I love, love this book, and I heart the sassy and confident protagonist so much. SRB is so good at pointing at literary tropes and then totally subverting them.  The sequel is coming out this fall, and I suggest you get on board with this series post-haste.  It’s billed as “sassy gothic,” and it’s just a great combination of wit and drama.  Tonally like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

3.  Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor, finished 7/5/13

4.  Scarlett Feather, by Maeve Binchey, finished 7/9/13

5. Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan, finished 7/16/13 Great beach read about the grossly rich high society of Singapore. Favorite son comes home with totally normal Asian American girlfriend, and the fish out of water potential just bounds across the pages. All the gossip of Gossip Girl with more mean old ladies. 

6. Outcast, by Adrienne Kress, finished 7/16/13  Kind of a spin on Teen Angel? It’s total fluff, but I really enjoyed reading this one. I get so mad about so many YA novels where there’s Love At First Sight, and this is a good example of a slower building romance.  And it’s funny! I’m impressed by the play of humor in a storyline that would otherwise be angsty and serious  (Small town invaded by winged creatures, presumably angels, once a year. Family and friends swooped into sky by the visitors, never to return.  Teen girl loses her best friend to the “angels” just when they’re about to FINALLY get together. Girl decides the angels must be stopped.)  And, man, did I love the confident but insecure heroine!  She felt true to life, and I applaud the author writing a romance where the girl is TERRIFIED of getting physical at all because she’s scared she’ll be bad at it and what it will mean for her.   I also really liked Adrienne Kress’ Friday Society, which is about a team of kick-ass girls that come together as a kind of crime-fighting trio in a steampunkish Victorian England.   Why is Adrienne Kress not a bigger deal? She’s writing original, spunky YA lit; and she’s masterful in creating funny feminists protagonists.  People! Get on her! Not literally but in an innocent literary way!

7. Bedwetter, Sarah Silverman, finished 7/23/13

8. Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler, finished 7/24/13 I weep for the title of this book. It does the story a total disservice. It sounds like an airy-fairy summer romp story, but it’s really a lovely reflection on grief and moving past it. A great example of a YA novel about female friendships. 

9. The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, finished 7/26/13

10. The One Hundred, by Nina Garcia, finished 7/26/13  Nina Garcia has some nice ideas about the 100 fashion items  we should all own. And she’s totally right– I would be stylish all the time if I had all these things. Affording all of them? A bit of a problem.  But I’m grateful she’s giving me permission to search out a really ridiculous  cocktail ring.   She didn’t mention anything about by hot pink jellies, so I guess I’m good there?

 

Total Book Read in 2013 (so far):  80

Also, if you’re looking for some good, cheap books this month, there’s some stellar option in the Amazon monthly deals.  The Crown of Embers is second in a series, so start with The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but then race back to get this one before the end of the month.  Enchanted is a fantastic mish-mash of re-told fairy tales, and The Last Dragonslayer is a totally delightful story about the long-suffering teen girl running a boarding home for wizards who is forced to contend with dragons.  If you want something less YA, go snap up Moranthology IMMEDIATELY.  It’s a collection of Caitlin Moran’s columns from The Times, and I don’t know how long it will be so cheap since it’s not on the monthly deals list.  She’s billed as the British answer to Tina Fey. She’s pop culture obsessed, superb at feminist oration, and cheerfully gung ho about life’s oddities.   If you don’t like supporting Amazon, you can find most of the same deals on iBooks, Barnes & Noble.com, and Kobo.com.  Read something great today!

Last month’s list : June 2013

June 2013 Books

collage created on piZap

collage created on piZap

I like to remember the books I read. I used to have a separate blog for this where I would thoughtfully review every book.  My writing commitments are out of control now, and it’s just not feasible to write about All The Books. So I’m doing this new thing where I keep track of my books on my Bookshelf page on this blog, and then I write a monthly wrap-up in which I highlight some of the books I especially liked or books that made me think.

June 2013

1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple finished 6/5/13  Take place partially in Antarctica!! I have been there!

2. Poison, by Bridget Zinn, finished 6/6/13  Sad story about the author, but a rather fun YA fantasy adventure. 

3.  Human.4, by Mike Lancaster, finished 6/7/13

4. 1.4, by Mike Lancaster, finished 6/8/13

5.  Silver Linings Playbook. by Matthew Quick, finished 6/10/13  Really liked this one.  A good depiction of what it’s like to be manic.  Funny but touches on some deeper issues about family and mental health. A little different from the movie, but the heart is the same. 

6. Also Known As, by Robin Benway, finished 6/10/13

7. Every Other Day, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, finished 6/16/13

8. Beautiful Redemption, by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, finished 6/16/13 (audiobook)

9. Dear Teen Me, edited by E Kristin Anderson & Miranda Kenneally, finished 6/20/13

10. The Bling Ring, by Nancy Jo Sales, finished 6/24/13.  I’m completely obsessed with this story. I even wrote a blog entry about it. 

11. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman, finished 6/25/13. Gorgeous, dreamy reflection on childhood and memory. Gaiman is worth the hype. 

12.  September Girls, by Bennett Madison, finished 6/29/13.  Totally shocked by the controversy surrounding this one because I thought it was a clever discussion of sexuality and gender roles. The Goodreads reviews make it sound like a tremendously  chauvinist tome that’s a tribute to the main character’s genitals.  I really didn’t experience it that way at all, and I thought it actually subverted some of that.  The author gave an interview with the book blog Novel Sounds, and he sounds like he was very thoughtful and deliberate in his writing.  He points out that even if people don’t like the book, it started an important discussion about feminism and sexism. I think it’s a shame this book is being trashed instead of celebrated. 

Total Books Read in 2013 (so far): 70

Decatur Book Fest 2012

Obviously, my weekend peaked when Meg Cabot accepted my Ron Swanson inspired mug (and then tweeted about it– go me!), but here are some other highlights from the Decatur Book Festival.

3 books for $10! And this was not some BS book sale with a bunch of books you’ve never seen before or 30 copies of Twilight from publisher’s remainders.   Oh no. These were books you might actually want. Given that I’ve managed to accrue 50 e-books this summer, I resisted the urge. But it was tempting.

It’s nice to know that even book festivals, very classy affairs, still advocate for all kinds of fried foods.

You can’t host a book festival in Georgia without nodding to Gone With the Wind in some way. My apologies to this couple, whom I do not know, but you are very cute here, for what it’s worth.

A nice touch: The Wish Tree.  Just hang your wish on a branch and let it float in the breeze.

Here’s my wish:

But I saw this one, and I thought it was just charming.  My heart swells when people get excited around books.

Bookzilla at the court house:

A growing trend: little libraries.  People leave these little boxes around town and other people leave and take books from them in a community of book sharing.  They got local artists to create their own little libraries and hosted a silent auction.

It’s not a festival without a fancy frozen treat from King of Pops, Lemon Basil to be exact.  Later, my hair stylist told me how much she reviles King of Pops because he causes traffic on her street, and she can’t wait for Michael Jackson’s lawyers to take him out.  I nodded, but I still had the delicious taste of Lemon Basil in my mouth,

The Jane Austen Society of North America made a showing, and they did not let the heat stop them from their cosplay.

That parasol looks nice, but that girl is roasting. Poor thing. I respect her commitment.

And finally, there’s always money in the banana stand.

The Meg Cabot Experience

This morning, I dragged myself out of my Friday night white wine and pizza hangover to see Meg Cabot speak at the Decatur Book Festival at 10 AM.   Totally worth it. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, go for it even if you don’t read her books. She’s a natural public speaker– very funny and engaging and responsive to the audience.  She spoke about her books for a few minutes and then opened for questions for the bulk of the session. Though it’s cool to hear authors read their own works, I really prefer this format. You get a better sense about the author and you can learn some things that aren’t in the books.  You can also learn the author is hungover too thanks to some fancy vodka at Cakes & Ale.

(Don’t worry, Dad, I know I just wrote that sappy open letter to her, but this is not turning into the Meg Cabot Fan Club Blog.  Though that’s the kind of job I would OWN.)

She spoke from the altar of a Baptist church because hearing Meg Cabot speak is a religious experience, evidently.

 

Her dress is great, right? So fun!  It’s not a great picture because I stupidly left my real camera at home. This is the only iPhone shot that wasn’t completely blurry.

 

Here are the high points:

— She started as an adult romance writer, and some of her earliest and best clients were the nun friends of her grandmother. Dirty nuns!

— She once co-hosted an event with Julie Andrews because of The Princess Diaries connection. Evidently, Julie Andrews swears like a sailor and drops more F-bombs than Do-Re-Mis. This is fantastic news for obvious reasons.

This is not Julie Andrews. But it is a creepy diorama from a Sound of Music souvenir shop in Austria.

— When asked about a memorable book signing experience, she recounted her visit to Brazil and gently suggested that Brazilian teen girls are very dramatic. She likened attending the book convention as an author to being KStew and RPatz at a Twilight premiere– lots of tears and behavior that warrants body guards. Interestingly, the girls stopped crying at once and mugged for the camera when the photographer snapped  photos of them with Meg. CURIOUS.

— She discussed the movie adaptation of The Princess Diaries, and she said the book was circulating in Hollywood before it was actually published. She says many studios rejected it because it didn’t fit the YA conventions of the time: anorexia, pregnancy, and rehab.  Ultimately, Whitney Houston read it and brought it to Disney and the movie went into production before Harper Collins bought it.  (Side note: Though Meg always meant it as a series, Harper Collins didn’t trust that the first book would sell and only started with a one book contract.)

— Meg went on to explain that YA changed significantly after the publication of The Princess Diaries and other series like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging  (not the kind of title you want to get caught reading on the subway). Before that, most YA books concerned extremely weighty matters, like teen girls who have sex and immediately die.  She then went all faux arrogant and said, “You’re welcome… I’m so tired after changing the entire course of literature.”  She’s great–don’t you want to get seated next to her at a dinner party?

— Right now, she’s reading mysteries because she loves when, “justice prevails.” She especially likes it when two detectives solving the mystery fall in love.

— An audience member asked about her writing process. She got a little sidetracked talking about the Internet, which is fitting. “Sometimes you need to know– was there ever really a unicorn? And then 6 hours later…”

Yes, unicorns exist! And I own one. Isn’t she sweet?

 

— She’s all in favor of any of her books becoming movies, and she has a flippant attitude about the Hollywood changes.  This is healthy because the first Princess Diaries movie took some liberties and the second one was basically just an excuse for Anne Hathaway to hook up with Chris Pine and had nothing to do with the books (this is my assessment, not hers).  Anyway, she says adaptations never turn out like the book because screenplays are 90 pages and books are closer to 300.  She then said, “The movie version is really nice. The books are the version that are right. But the movies are totally fine.” Essentially, she got paid and she’s psyched that a good movie can drive someone to check out the book and get them reading.

— Books with current interests from movie/TV producers: the Heather Wells mysteries, The Mediator, and Abandon. (On Abandon: “Someone has to usher dead souls into the Underworld, so it’s probably a hot teenage guy, right?”

— Interesting Princess Diaries tidbits: a prison chaplain once wrote her that he shows the movie to all incoming prisoners because it’s so inspiring and positive.  I’m sure this has exactly the effect he thinks it does.   Also, she had a signing in Thailand heavily attended by some army guys. Turns out they use the first Princess Diaries as their English-as-a-second-language book.  Because nothing reflects our spoken word like the diary ramblings of a pop culture obsessed teen girl.

— As a teenager, she wrote Star Wars fanfiction and a ton of space operas, or as she puts it, “sexy stuff in space.”  She specifically mentioned a character named Bhaltazar and butlers who would do *anything* for their female masters. She assured us these stories would never see the light of day, and I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Boooo…. hisssss.”

— Someone asked her which book she most liked writing and she groaned that she hated writing all of them. She says what all writers know– writing a book is like childbirth in that it’s terrible while it’s happening, but then when you have the nice shiny book, you  forget the pain until you start over again.  During this same conversation, she said something about teenagers being horrible and quickly backtracked, “None of the ones in this audience today. You’re all wonderful.”  Before you get offended, she mentioned this in connection with parenting a difficult and defiant teenager.

— Spoiler for future books: There will be another Heather Wells mystery, titled Size 12 is the New Black, out next summer but she hasn’t written it yet.

— Fun story: she warned us to never use a real person’a name when writing in revenge.  Evidently, Lana is an actual person from her high school years, and she didn’t read the books, but she did see the movie (Meg smirked at this). The real Lana wrote Meg a letter, which she expected to be apologetic for her cruel behavior in high school. Instead, she said, “I did not know that you were a princess.” Meg sighed that sometimes people you think are mean are just really not very smart.

After her presentation, they herded us outside to stand in line for autographs. She was very gracious and signed multiple books per person, personalized all of them, and posed for pictures. As I stood in line, I listened to her greet everyone, and she really does make each person in line feel like they are having a special moment.

For my turn, I was ready with my Ron Swanson mug:

Oil based Sharpie, bake 30 mins at 350 degrees

Picking a quote proved tricky. I scoured the Dorothy Parker and Jane Austen archives, but none of them sent a lightning bolt to my head, and then I found a funny one about drinking coffee from Kenneth the Page.  But then I didn’t know if Meg drinks coffee since she’s always talking about soda, so maybe she hates coffee. So I spent some time googling that to see if she ever mentions it in interviews or on her blog, and eventually I had a Ron Swanson moment of my own and was like, “Eff this, I’ve got a white wine and pizza date, and I know she likes Parks and Rec, so this is happening.”

She liked it! Or at least she said she did! I think she had a genuine reaction of delight though, so I assume it went over well. I managed to get out more than just “I love your work, the weather is nice,” and we shared a good couple of moments.  I walked away with a bounce in my step and a new determination to keep at the writing thing.

I didn’t take a picture with her because my iPhone was in my bag and I felt bad holding up the line. I now regret this decision to be polite to people I don’t know.

 

And she did all this hungover.  Awesome.

And hey, you know what else? “Go to a book convention or workshop of some kind” is Item 26 on my list of 31 things to do this year. One down! Thirty to go! Thanks, Meg!