As soon as I found out that Maria Semple — author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and writer for TV shows including Arrested Development — had a new book coming out, I was overcome with a need to read it as soon as possible. It might have edged its way into obsession territory. Edelweiss to the rescue! As soon as my copy came through, I dove right in.

And Today Will Be Different did not disappoint. Semple’s clear eye for detail and sharp wit carry through this book delightfully. There are some similarities to Where’d You Go, Bernadette in that it’s another great observational critique of this one kind of community, but in many ways this is a horse of another color. Today Will Be Different is not as charming as Where’d You Go Bernadette. Eleanor Flood, our protagonist, is frustrating, if funny, and she is quirky, but not always as endearing. In some ways I think this book is more relatable. The (seemingly) promises one makes to oneself — I will shower and get dressed, I will make an effort with people, I will try — ring very true to my ears.

The struggles Eleanor face bring extra depth and dimension to a refreshing and funny read. There is history and feeling and art and connection in this book and I really enjoyed it.

Today Will Be Different comes out October 4 and you should read it if you like fun, funny books full of heart and hilarity.

Wonder Women!!!

September 26, 2016

(If you didn’t read the title in the in the 70s TV show intro voice, I don’t know what to do with you)

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History. The title says it all. In this deceptively slim book, Sam Maggs introduces us to a bunch (there are actually more than 25) of badass women who fought against sexism, racism, imperialism (really, just all of the isms), etc. to do amazing things in any number of fields.

The book is kind of STEM (Science, Engineering, and Mathematics) -heavy, but since women are particularly underrepresented in these areas (despite making a lot of really important contributions — oh hey, Ada Lovelace, et. al!), it’s nice to see these women receive their (over) due. Maggs doest skimp though, she also includes stories of other inventors, spies, journalists, aviatrices (yes, tat’s the plural of aviatrix!), and globetrotters. I really enjoyed reading these mini-biographies because I love learning about women who kick ass and  take names while defying all norms and expectations.

Each profile is pretty short, yet packed with information. There’s just enough to give you the background to cite in a conversation, but it leaves you wanting more (my galley didn’t have the completed bibliography, so I need to do my own research). In addition to being super smart and informative, Wonder Women is also extremely fun and funny.

In addition to the profiles on historically kick-ass women, each section concludes with a short interview with a women who is currently doing the thing and furthering the cause. I loved these interviews mixed with the stories of women from history (it was also sort of encouraging to see how many women these days have more support…. and also discouraging how many barriers they still face). I kind of wish there was some sort of overarching conclusion to tie it all together, but I’m just picky like that.

My only concern comes from something that I also think might be one of its strengths: the language of the book is very familiar and kind of trendy. It uses a lot of slang that is popular right this second. I just worry that it will make the book feel like a cheesy relic a few years from now, even though the information will still be fantastic and inspiring for many years to come.

Overall though, I loved this. It was fun and informative and inspiring and I think everyone should read it. Read it yourself so you can learn about awesome intelligent ladies, then give it to your younger sister or niece or friend or whatever so she knows she can do whatever she sets her mind to.

Wonder Women is out from Quirk Books on October 4. Mark your calendars!

I’ve been meaning to write about Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night for a while, but I kept getting distracted. If the title sounds familiar, it’s possible that you’re a Book Riot fan and heard Liberty proclaim that she would eat James Patterson if this book doesn’t do well.

Well, I’m a lucky duck with *connections* and I managed to get my hands on an advance copy.

Guys, I think James Patterson is safe.

The Queen of the Night is so good. So. Good.

I love historical fiction and I love sort of epic, sprawling tales that follow characters through radically different stages in life. This book scratches all of those itches for me. I love how the protagonist is able to shift and adapt to new situations — she’s a strong, if somewhat selfish character. She is complicated and intense and I really liked seeing her story unfold. I also enjoyed how opera plays an ongoing role in the book. It added an extra sense of depth to the story. That being said, I don’t think that an interest in/knowledge of opera is necessary to enjoy The Queen of the Night.

I don’t want to say any more about it at this point (other than it’s fantastic and you should read it) because I want you to really be able to take it all in fresh when you read it.

It comes out in February 2016. Plan accordingly. Once you start reading it, you might not want to stop and it’s a hefty-ish book. But yeah, read it. Make sure James Patterson is safe.

I am part of a kickass library group on Facebook. Discussion topics run the gamut from dealing with difficult boards/government committees, to bizarre patron interactions, to what we’re drinking.

And tonight, one librarian walked into her local Wal-Mart and saw a huge display selling Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Those of you following along are probably calling shenanigans right about now. The release date for Go Set a Watchman is Tuesday, July 14. There are some insane embargoes on this book. Copies come in boxes with labels stating that books cannot be sold/checked out before the release date. Taking/posting pictures of the book or even the box it came in violates the agreements that libraries and bookstores make with publishers.

So the fact that this HUGE book is on the sales floor days before its release date is a big deal. When the librarian said something to the store manager, the response was “what are you going to do about it?” Now, I’m not going to say that that was the store’s first mistake, but it was definitely a big one.

After a post on the group’s page, what I will now call the librarian mafia (in the most loving of ways) took action. They contacted Harper Collins with the store information and even though it was already kind of late on a Friday night, HC was ON. THEIR. SHIT. and the librarian crusaders received very prompt responses that HC would be contacting the store in question.

If you’re out shopping at a store (not just Wal-Mart, though based on previous incidents they appear to think these kinds of rules don’t apply to them) and see a book displayed before its release date, you can usually find a phone number or email address for reporting issues to the publisher.

The email address and phone number to report violations to Harper Collins are below. If you see displays of Go Set a Watchman before Tuesday, I encourage you to report it.

onsaleviolations@harpercollins.com

1-800-242-7737

In conclusion, if you ever thought about pissing off a librarian, you might want to reconsider that course of action. That guy at Wal-Mart who naively asked “what are you going to do about it” had no idea what he started. It’s a lesson everyone should learn: don’t screw with the librarians.

BEA14 Recap

June 3, 2014

Let us rejoice, fair readers, for I have returned triumphant. Book Expo America — the one day of it that I could attend — was a success!

I arrived in New York Friday night after quite a few wrong turns and extra bridges (my GPS and I had a disagreement — she really wanted me to go to Staten Island) to my friend’s lovely and welcoming apartment. After some food and conversation it was off to bed and a few hours later we were up, grabbing bagels (oh, how I miss NY bagels) and heading to the Javits Center.

I checked in and got my badge and we waited in line until the exhibition floor opened at 9. Then it was GoGoGo until the show closed in the afternoon.

Unlike in previous years, the Power Readers (or Book Con-ers, this year) were segregated to one section of the floor. While this made certain parts blissfully open, the other section, where much of the action was happening, was horrifically crowded and claustrophobic.

Even with all the extra people, I got tons of books.

I’d like to think I was more discerning this year, and perhaps I was, but all the same, I am already out of bookshelf space. There are just so many books and they all look so good! So yeah, this should prove interesting.

Now, I know you actually care very little about my experience at the expo. You just want to know what books I got. So, without further ado, I present my BEA14 Book Haul:

The BEA14 Book Haul Pile

The BEA14 Book Haul Pile

The Tastemakers: Why we’re for cupcakes but fed up with fondue by David Sax
The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore
Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
On Immunity: An inoculation by Eula Biss
Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen
The Black Butterfly by Shirley Reva Vernick
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A writer’s life by Pamela Smith Hill
Pioneer Girl edited by Pamela Smith Hill
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini
My Real Children by Jo Walton
All Roads Lead to Jerusalem by Jenny Jones
City of Lies: Love, sex, death, and the search for truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
The Dogs Were Rescued (and So Was I) by Teresa J. Rhyne
Empire’s Crossroads: A history of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day by Carrie Gibson
Alice + Freda Forever: A murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe
Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
Straight White Male by John Niven
Let’s Get Lost [excerpt] by Adi Alsaid
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
Misdiagnosed: One woman’s tour of and escape from healthcareland  by Jody Berger
Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason
The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Stars of the World Cup
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Fridays at Enrico’s by Don Carpenter, finished by Jonathan Lethem
Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican
Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s first bohemians by Justin Martin
If Only You People Could Follow Directions by Jessica Hendry Nelson
The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset
Turkish Coffee Culture
A Millennium of Turkish Literature
The Aegean Mythology
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Drawing Amanda by Stephanie Feuer
Turkish Coffee by M. Sabri Koz and Kemalettin Kuzucu
The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
Jackaby by William Ritter
The Black Hour by Lori Radder-Day
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Liberty’s Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell
Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis
The Jewel by Amy Ewing
10:04 by Ben Lerner
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
The American Plate: A history of the United States in 100 bites by Libby H. O’Connell

Losing It — Review

September 2, 2013

Losing It is a collection of original short stories written by a number of popular YA authors all revolving around one subject: virginity. The authors all approach the subject from a number of different angles. They explore cultural and societal differences, the pressures placed on boys vs. girls, and the concept of virginity within same-sex relationships. The collection also displays a range of relationships, some healthier than others.

While bawdy at times, Losing It isn’t graphic. The authors bring us into each character’s story and the history and emotion behind it, without going into details about the act. Teens looking for a steamy read to hide beneath their mattresses will be disappointed in that respect.

Some stories in the collection shone, while others fell somewhat flat, but while a number of these stories don’t stand out on their own, I think it works as a collection. If it can in some way facilitate a sex-positive dialogue amongst teens, parents, educators, and librarians, that can only be a good thing.

Losing It, edited by Keith Gray, comes out in October from Carolrhoda Lab (an imprint of Carolrhoda Books). I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy and I would certainly recommend it.

“At four in the morning, you can be so lightheaded that even the stars seem to have a sound. Harry and Craig sway to the sound of these stars— the few that glimmer over their heads— but also to the sound of all the unseen stars, all the nebulae that are out of reach but still present. At four in the morning, you can imagine the whole universe is looking down on you.” ~page 119

This quote is from the middle of David Levithan’s new book Two Boys Kissing, which comes out later this month. It gives nothing away, and yet it gives everything away.

Interweaving tales of LGBTQ boys navigating life, love, expression, and so much more with the benevolent observations of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS, Two Boys Kissing is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting.

Levithan’s writing bridges the gap that too often inhibits communication and understanding between different LGBTQ generations. The “lost generation” sees their pain and fears replayed in the lives of these young kids, but they also see and rejoice in the triumphs and the gains that they’ve made. Two Boys Kissing gives an important glimpse into the past, but it is very much an image of the present, with clearly defined hopes for the future. It makes me think of the “It Gets Better” campaign, but on a more universal, less chronological level (if that makes sense) — the universe is looking down on you, and it is with you.

Technically, this might be YA, but I think everyone should read this book. I don’t care who you are or where you come from, this book has something to teach you about the human spirit.

(Note: I received a free [signed!] review copy of this book at Book Expo America 2013. The quote above is taken from an advanced copy and may differ from the text in the final version.)

I got an ARC of Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore at BEA. I may have started reading it the night I got it… you know, before BEA was even over. I’ve never been very good at self control.

Anyway…

Pamela Moore originally wrote Chocolates for Breakfast in 1957 (when she was only eighteen) and it was widely read and acclaimed for a number of years before going out of print and slipping from our collective consciousness. Until now. Harper Perennial is reissuing it with a number of extras (like biographical notes that shed some very interesting light on Pamela Moore’s life and writing).

Even without the extras, Chocolates for Breakfast is a great read. A sexually precocious teen with distant parents, splitting her time between Hollywood and New York and the crazy people she hangs out with in each place? You’re hooked, aren’t you? I certainly was.

Given the timing and certain parallels in the biographies of authors and characters, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Chocolates for Breakfast and The Bell Jar and The Catcher in the Rye. But they’re favorable, I promise.

There are some places, especially in some of the turns of phrase, where Chocolates dates itself, but mostly you can read it and feel like it’s taking place today. And that, friends, is the mark of great writing.

I read Chocolates for Breakfast very quickly — I pretty much couldn’t put it down. And now that I’ve finished it I kind of want to read it again even though I have a ton of other books that I need to read first. So take from that what you will. Bottom line: you should read it. Right now. Or in July, when it actually comes out.

Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore comes out from Harper Perennial in July and I definitely recommend it.