January & February 2017, Part 1

Okay, so… You may be wondering where I’ve been and why this blog sat unused for a year. Since there’s neither an easy nor a legitimate one, I’ll spare us the word count. What I will say is this:

I’m back!

Time, once again, to blow off the dust and crack those knuckles. This is year three of participating in the PopSugar Reading Challenge. Suffice it to say, I’ve successfully completed last year’s challenge too. (I’ll fill in those posts later.)

So far, I’d say I’m pretty ahead of the game.  Three under my belt in January, and so far another five in February. (I know, it’s oddly disproportionate…)

Let me throw these up there and get back to blogging!

JANUARY

1
A Bestseller from 2016: The Nix, by Nathan Hill

This cover intrigued me, and after reading Eliot Schrefer’s positive review, I decided I could justify picking it up. Really quite funny, and oddly appropriate timing due to today’s political climate…

2
A book with a cat on the cover: Culdesac, by Robert Repino

In preparation for the sequel to Mort(e), which was surprise news, I found this novella to hold me over! While you don’t have to have read Mort(e), it does help flesh out another quite memorable character, Culdesac. This had less to do with the ants, and more to do with the happenings in a small town during the war. D’Arc, the conclusion of the series, is out in May.

3
A book that is a story within a story: Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld

One that’s been on my TBR list for a while — Also a fun motivator for participating in NaNoWriMo (which is, again, very tempting). Diverse, LGBT love story, mixed with supernatural romance. This book almost was a choice for last year but I used a different one instead. Still glad to have picked this one up.

FEBRUARY, Part 1

4
A book about a difficult topic: My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga

This one had been recommended by Cara Bertrand when it first came out, and though I would comfortably set this with many other “typical” YA realistic fiction books, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it! Flawed and damaged characters are always so interesting to read, and Warga did a nice job of describing what it feels like to be dispassionate with the angst of teen years. One of my cousins is really interested in reading this one, so I’m sending it along to her! (Any chance I have to spread the love of reading, I’ll take it!)

5
A book with multiple authors: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I like to read at least one of David’s books each year, and I knew when I saw this prompt, that I would use one of David’s many collaborations as the one to read. Naomi & Ely has also been turned into a movie (which you can now watch on Netflix). While I often have a difficult time relating to mostly-well-off NYC teens, the feelings of friendship and love still resonate through the work.

6
A book from a nonhuman perspective: The Diabolic, by S.J. Kincaid

When I saw my old book club choose this title, I thought: but you only choose paperback books… As this is a new release, it must be REALLY good if everyone voted to read it! I was not disappointed! I certainly hope there’s another book after this one! Another book where timely political messages come through. I thought a great deal about The Capitol from The Hunger Games, and a touch of Red Rising. Admittedly, I cheated a bit by using this book for this prompt. The main character, while genetically created to resemble humans, is not quite human, but rather human in appearance (and some temperaments). Certainly recommended!

7
A book you loved as a child: My Dinosaur Adventure: a personalized storybook, by Karen M. Hefty & Valarie Webb

This is one you won’t find anywhere else, it was a “Create-a-Book” given to me on my 6th birthday. I was amazed when I read the book and saw that it was about me! My name, and those in my family, were written in as characters. The story is about me waking up to find a unicorn named Ariel at my bedroom window. I’m whisked away to the Land of Dinosaurs to find my birthday cake. Since dinosaurs have such small brains, they forgot where they put it! With the help of many new dinosaur friends, the cake was found and a grand party was had! (I also had a dinosaur cake for my birthday that year.)

8
A book that’s a character’s name: The Death and Life and Zebulon Finch

Just look at that cover! It begs to be read, and that’s precisely why I wanted it. This happens to be a signed copy, thanks to my fellow librarian friend’s last trip to Book Expo. Zebulon Finch was exactly as I thought it would be: an historic tour of America, with a bit of creepiness. While by no means a full tour, this volume covers about 50-60 years. A young gangster is gunned down, and mysteriously comes back to life… not as a flesh-eating zombie, but as an animated corpse. Yet another instance I’m pleased to move on to the sequel.

Off to a good start, and nothing I would speak all that negatively about. I’ve been very pleased in my selections thus far. I’m hoping to finish another two or three before this month is out. While I’d tell you to stay tuned here, if you want to really keep up with my book reading, follow me on Instagram: @gcpinder.

Ta-ta for now!

New Year, new list

Last year’s Reading Challenge was completed well before the end of the year. 2016’s Reading Challenge is a much shorter list (only 41) so I anticipate some free-wielding posts scattered about towards the end of the year. Let’s see how I fare this go-round!

20e491b890bb19b9_ps15_love_2016readingchallenge_pin_list

Edit:
This post, and many of the following posts, had been drafted and never published. Due to some significant life changes, I’ve held off from publishing these entries. This 6-month hiatus wasn’t exactly planned, and though I may have put my writing on hold, my reading has never stopped. I feel as though I’m finally at a point where I can pick up where I left off, and I hope, dear Reader, that you’re still out there… and that you bear with me while I roll the following entries out.

xx

August 2015

While I read many other books this month, sadly (is it really sad?) they did not help me knock off items for my Challenge. I’m talking at least four books for various book clubs, along with another two or three just for fun. BUT — Since this is the Year of the Book, I’m going to stay on target and stick to the script! Despite going on a little vacation this month, I didn’t actually read all that much, so these are the ones I scratched off the list:

killing Lincoln bill o'reilly
A book your mother loves: Killing Lincoln, by Bill O’Reilly

to kill a mockingbird harper lee go set a watchman
A banned book: To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

and we stay jenny hubbard emily dickinson poetry
A book you own but haven’t read: And We Stay, by Jenny Hubbard
The Good:
I sorta pulled a fast one this month… Recently, I read Jenny Hubbard’s debut novel, Paper Covers Rock (OMG go read it now), and I was so entranced that I tweeted her about it. I also creeped on her site and saw that she is planning on coming up to the area for a Poetry Festival in October…  So, I’ve said in the past that I try really hard not to buy books until I read the ones I already own… I mean, that’s the whole reason I started this blog. Then I told myself that buying a book is okay IF I’m getting an author’s signature. You see where this is going yet? Yes — I dashed out and bought both of Jenny’s books in anticipation for her arrival. As if that weren’t enough, I thought: Hey, while she’s up here, why not host an event for her at the library??  I think one of my favorite parts of my job is to unabashedly spaz out over authors and the amazing works they create. So here’s to you, Jenny!  Can’t wait to meet!

And We Stay is set in a fictional girls boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts (note the local interest). We follow Emily Beam, a teen recovering from a traumatic event that occurred at her old school. With the help of some new friends and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, she begins to find peace. As with her first novel, Hubbard blends poetry and prose into a beautiful and haunting narrative.

The Bad:
Ugh. I’ll try to keep this short. I was really excited to ask my mother for the name of a book she loved for this challenge. 180 degrees later… Killing Lincoln was staring at me. “But it’s a really good story!” she said. Well… I think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had more truth to it. (Kidding. Sort of.) I got a lot of flack for reading this book… and I’ll remain impartial to political engagements. SO, let’s just say I read it, and I did more research than O’Reilly did in “writing” this book. But thanks, Mom! — It’s a book I wouldn’t have otherwise read, and that’s gotta count for something!

The Ugly:
With all the chatter and controversy (?) surrounding Harper Lee’s “new” book, Go Set A Watchman, and knowing that I have never read it, I thought why not try reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the umpteenth time. I never had read it for school, which I sort of kind shocking, and though I tried reading it before, I never got past chapter four. I listened to this one and once I got past hearing Sissy Spacek’s voice as Scout (I previously listened to Spacek narrate Carrie by Stephen King… Now THAT was good!)  I finally accepted that I just had to get through it. Honestly, I didn’t care for it. I understand it’s important place in literary history and why it’s taught in school etc., etc., but since I wasn’t reading this through an academic lens, I found little joy. The issue of race will always be an ugly subject in this world. This poor book has been beaten to the ground… I appreciate the idea behind the book and the overall message it delivers rather than the act of reading/listening to it.

 

For those keeping track, that leaves under 10 books left for the Reading Challenge for the year! That said, many of the remaining titles are books that do not have audiobook versions, so I will probably take my time to trudge through them. I’d say I’m pretty on-track to finish them all this year!

Til next time!

Reading Challenge 2015

Right as I began thinking about my annual book bracket, I stumbled upon this reading challenge that seems to be making its way around the net. The list by POPSUGAR contains 50 items (52 when you include the trilogy) meaning approximately one book a week. This may be tough. Outside of that one YA lit class in grad school, I’ve never really taken on such a huge volume of books before, and in that class, I really was reading a book or two a week thanks to the power of increased playback speed through Overdrive and Audible.

After reviewing the items, I’ve decided I’m going to take on this challenge, drawing primarily from titles I already own. Hey, if I’m able to knock out 52 books from my own list, I think that will merit some sort of reward. Like chocolate or something. (Maybe booze.) I’ve already drawn up some preliminary items that will satisfy the requirements for the list, and I’m trying to find as many of them in audio format as possible… which may be difficult for some more obscure titles. Luckily, thanks to the power of the library, I should be able to find many other titles in audio as fill-ins.

I know a lot of titles could satisfy multiple items from the list, but my goal is to find 52 unique titles – no cheating!

The countdown begins. I challenge all you readers, too!
You have ten days to prepare. GO!

“You’re Hired”

Can I talk about this yet? I think so? Yes!

To those in the blogosphere that may not follow me on Facebook or Twitter and may have missed my ecstatic postings of jubilation, I was chosen out of many-many-many candidates as the new Young Adult Services Coordinator at The Jones Library. It was quite a process, but I got the job. I’m simply over the moon with excitement, and at the end of my 2nd week, I feel great. Everywhere I go in the library, I meet people who say “Oh, YOU’RE the new YA person!” and they congratulate and my face flushes while I thank them and wave off the compliment… but it is so invigorating to feel so accepted and appreciated in this new place. It’s so refreshing to walk in to that building, and I couldn’t be more honored to be selected for such an important position.

Don’t get me wrong, after four years of employment at my previous retail job, I was taken care of, and I really do respect my old coworkers…I would not trade that time or experience for anything. I hope people out there realize how important customer service really is, and understand that it’s NOT difficult to be nice and smile, even when you’re having a bad day. Lashing out and being a DB doesn’t gain any respect or make you friends. So please… everyone… be nice to everyone else! (At least pleasant!) Okay – end of lecture!

Next step: graduation! With only four courses left, my MLS degree is nearly complete. Soon I can officially call myself a Librarian – with a capital L.

The Young World

A review by Alyssa Lacross

 

the young world chris weitz

My loving boyfriend (who is not a book lover at all and tends to read exclusively postings on “The Truth About Cars” website) won an ARC of The Young World from our awesome (not-so-local) bookstore The Odyssey while attending a YA Author Panel.

 

I was a mix of excited and skeptical, the concept sounds great, but another Hollywood-type trying to be an author? (If you are less than familiar with the Hollywood crew, he was the director of New Moon.)

 

I’m telling you now, this is one of those books you either love or hate…and based on the very teenaged plot and constant references to Google, 2012 top charts songs, Facebook, and partying like it’s the end of the world all meant dreams of my boyfriend picking up this book were zero.

 

The book is set in post-apocalyptic New York City, where a strange sickness has killed all children and adults, leaving behind only teenagers. The two main characters Jefferson and Donna are part of one of many heavily armed tribes in New York. When Jefferson becomes their tribe’s leader he, Donna, and a misfit gang set out, traveling through lands of other tribes where they are constantly in danger to to try and save humanity and cure the sickness. The book has a lot of action, a little bit of romance, and some things that are just down right strange, all in a way that plays out like a movie script, which is great because the film rights were picked up by Warner Brothers already! I have to say my love of all things YA and my nearly embarrassing appreciation for pop culture means I’m definitely curious.

 

I don’t think its really a “timeless” book because of the many pop culture references, but in the present it will definitely make some hype once teen readers find it on the shelves of their local libraries and bookstores. Keeping in mind the cliffhanger ending and the adorable potential love story between Jefferson and Donna, they’ll soon be clambering for the sequels too as it is set to be a trilogy.

 

The book is to be released on July 29th, so check it out!

 


 

alyssa brian

A little about me ☺

My name is Alyssa Lacross. I’m from Connecticut. I wear many hats, including a children’s and teen librarian hat, at a few libraries in CT and MA while obtaining my Master’s in Library Science with a concentration in School Libraries from Simmons College. I love to read (but only children’s and YA books), binge watch Netflix, listen to the radio (but only in the car) and run (but badly). That’s the boyfriend in the picture with me, since this post came from him winning the book!

Strike from the Record

Today marks a big day for my Sickness. With the recent acquisition of all of these books from BEA, and little room on my new shelves, I decided it was time to say goodbye to some old friends. Taking books to the library to be donated felt like abandoning a beloved cat on the stoop of an animal shelter.

Okay, so that’s a bit over-dramatic… especially since the books I donated mostly had uncracked spines – meaning I listened to them through audiobook instead – but all the same, I can remember where I got each of those books. Some came from school classes, others from Christmas and birthday gifts, some from bargain racks…

Let’s take a moment to remember those donated today, and hereby strike the following entries from the record of my master list.

 

Taking on the Big Boys – Ellen Bravo
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
The People of Sparks – Jeanne DuPrau
The Prophet of Yonwood – Jeanne DuPrau
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith
The Girl on the Fridge – Etgar Keret
Comfort Food – Kate Jacobs
The Friday Night Knitting Club – Kate Jacobs
Knit Two – Kate Jacobs
Knit the Season – Kate Jacobs
The Cobra Event – Richard Preston

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

P.S.
Right, you thought there were going to be a lot more than that, huh? One step at a time here, people! Sheesh!

BEA – Books Everywhere…Ahhh!

Where do I even begin?

The last few days have been incredible — and I know my tendency to blather on about things I find exciting, but I’ll try to keep my gushing to a minimum.

This year, I had the wondrous opportunity to attend BEA – Book Expo America – which, I’m convinced, is where all my dreams come from. My favorite wordsmith, Jane Yolen, along with her daughter, Heidi Stemple, ushered me to the convention as Morpheus and Hypnos would upon a dark steed (or in this case, their black Hyundai), through the perilous nightmares of New York City streets.

36 books, 21.5 miles, 3 car jump starts and 1 sippy cup later (and only one caffeinated beverage!), I’m back home, still reeling from how much was packed into the last three days.

My biggest take-aways from my first BEA:

The hype is real and it’s a lot of fun!  Now, here’s what I’m going to tell you… because somehow I missed this in all my preparations… What I failed to gather was an understanding as to just how much time I would spend standing in line.

My first stop was waiting in line for Neil Patrick Harris. Letdown #1: a billion other people thinking the exact same thing. Letdown #2: He might not get to sign for everyone. Letdown #3: Rather than a full galley copy, he was signing a sample.  Whoa, whoa… a sample? What is this?? I stood in line for 45 minutes for someone to hand me a 30 page pamphlet? Why would I want this signed? That’s when reality set in. I ditched the line.

Til I got sucked in again when I saw Anjelica Huston. (At least this time, it was a hardcover copy of the full book!) And again for Marie Lu. And Rainbow Rowell. And Lev Grossman. And Tim Federle. And Ally Condie… Though there were so many I missed! Garth Nix, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, David Levithan, R.L. Stein, Stan Lee, A.S. King, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Gregory Maguire… and Grumpy Cat 😦

Luck was not on my side when it came to any author in the autographing area. Each attempt was thwarted by a early closed line, or a mile-long line of squatters. Squatters. You know, the folks that decide to sit down because they’ve been waiting in line since the night before the universe was created. That kind of patience extended ell beyond my threshold for this event. Whether I arrived an hour before a signing, or ten minutes before a signing, I never stood a chance. That’s another thing: expect your plans to be changed. All of the authors mentioned above were those I intended on meeting, but then again, I suppose meeting 1/3 of my list isn’t too bad.

Instead, I found my biggest rewards at book drops. That’s where a publisher births about 100 ARCs on a tabletop while people rush by and swoop them up. These lines, though also rather long, rush through rather quickly, usually yielding a satisfying three or four ARCs at a time.

What I missed out on the most were the author panels (many took place on Saturday, the day after I left when BEA became open to the public) but also on the conferences and talks. I inadvertently bypassed so many networking opportunities with other bloggers. Though, I should point out, the few that I met while waiting in lines were all lovely! Here’s to hoping I’ll get to attend next year!

In the meantime, I submit this list of acquisitions to my Sickness. These were not purchased! So based on my original rule set, they’re acceptable additions. With all of these new ARCs, I will need to revisit and reformat how to account for them… But until then…:

 

  1. Trial By Fire – Josephine Angelini
  2. Miles to Go – Connie Bailey
  3. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas – Stephanie Barron
  4. Witch Island – David Bernstein
  5. The Iron Trail – Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
  6. Atlantia (sample) – Ally Condie
  7. The Emissary – Patricia Cori
  8. So We Read On – Maureen Corrigan
  9. Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming
  10. Hell to Pay – Garry Disher
  11. Endgame: The Calling – James Grey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
  12. The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman
  13. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (sample) – Neil Patrick Harris
  14. Skink– No Surrender – Carl Hiaasen
  15. Bombay Blues – Tanuja Desai Hidier
  16. The Devil’s Intern – Donna Hosie
  17. Flying Shoes – Lisa Howorth
  18. A Story Lately Told – Angelica Huston
  19. Mastering Toby – Jan Irving
  20. Evil Librarian – Michelle Knudsen
  21. Amulet: Escape from Lucien – Kazu Kibuishi
  22. The Young Elites (sample) – Marie Lu
  23. On A Clear Day – Walter Dean Myers
  24. Last Winter We Parted – Fuminori Nakamuri
  25. Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire – Simon Nicholson
  26. Clariel – Garth Nix
  27. King Dork Approximately – Frank Portman
  28. Mort(e) – Robert Repino
  29. Jackaby – William Ritter
  30. Landline – Rainbow Rowell
  31. Dataclysm – Christian Rudder
  32. I Became Shadow – Joe Shine
  33. Sway – Kat Spears
  34. A Sudden Light – Garth Stein
  35. Sisters – Raina Telgemeier
  36. The Black Butterfly – Shirley Reva Vernick

And the award goes to…!

The 2014 ALA Awards were recently announced and I just had to gush a bit. Thanks to my awesome local bookstore, The Odyssey, in South Hadley, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the award winners when they started on their respective tours some months ago.

First, I want to congratulate all of the nominees and other winners — It is no small feat to be recognized for your work!

But this entry is really about those few authors I have a particular fondness for and that I think deserve some extra special mentioning.

Though I never had the chance to meet Rainbow Rowell, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her, and I was able to get a hold of a special copy of Eleanor & Park…

Eleanor&Park

As some may remember, this was one of my books of choice for my Young Adult Literature class this past semester. In fact, this book was read by more people in my class than any others — and for such a book to get such a buzz going, I think it is definitely one to take note of.

Eleanor & Park received a Michael L. Printz Award Honoree,  as well as the Odyssey Award for outstanding audiobooks for young adults (which I can attest to! It was wonderful!).

~

Next up: Tim Federle. I actually met Tim at an event for the launch of his book Tequila Mockingbird, but then learned of his book Better Nate Than Ever. This book (which is being followed by Five, Six, Seven, Nate!) is waiting for me on my Kindle (though, I’ve secretly read a bit of it already… I haven’t “officially started” yet). Tim is hilarious, not to mention talented. I never thought I would find myself so excited to read a book aimed at pre-teens, yet it sends a powerful message and is wonderfully written. Better Nate Than Ever is the recipient of the Stonewall Book Award Honor for outstanding LGBTQ titles.

~

Speaking of the Stonewall Book Award, there are two more titles that I want to point out! Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills  and Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo were both winners in this category.

Like Rainbow Rowell, I have not met Kristin Cronn-Mills, but Beautiful Music for Ugly Children was one of the required books for my class last semester and I think everyone was so pleasantly surprised by it! Writing a trans character is not only brave, but can be difficult to grant a strong voice. Kristin brought such life and truth to her cast in this book that I couldn’t help but feel connected. A win well deserved!

~

I’ve spoken about how brave, true and powerful these books are, but one that shines through has to be Fat Angie with a big purple heart. e.E. came to The Odyssey on her At Risk Summer Tour and I was lucky enough to have a chat with her after her reading. Instantly I felt connected — and she must have too, because she asked that I tell her to write to her once I finish reading the book to let her know what I thought… As in to her personal email account! That doesn’t happen every day! Little-e-Big-E wrote this book with such honesty and heart that I felt truly inspired. I am so incredibly pleased to hear that Fat Angie also won the Stonewall book Award.

Fat Angie

~

Last, but certainly not least, I want to congratulate Holly Black for winning a Newbery Honor for Doll Bones. I met Holly for the launch of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown at The Odyssey and I was surprised to discover that she almost became a librarian! Though Doll Bones is another book I have yet to read, it goes without saying that Holly deserves the recognition for her marvelous work.

 

Congratulations, again, to all of the nominees and award winners!
Keep writing!

Budding New Books

Here’s the thing: In order to stay relevant, one must stay current. Which means more than writing a blog on a regular basis for my own self-indulgent reasons. It really means staying ahead of the game. So how does one maintain a steady stride with the rest?

ARC stands for Advanced Reader (or Review) Copy, which is a basically an early release of a book used as a promotional sales tool. These are typically distributed to booksellers, libraries and journalists (and bloggers) to review prior to the book’s release to help generate buzz and (ideally) positive feedback. These books are not for resale and therefore must be requested, typically from the publishers themselves. I’ve been given the opportunity to obtain some ARCs from a local bookseller and I’m taking a firm grasp of this fresh bounty.

Up until now, I’ve written here on a monthly basis, but I find myself swiftly moving my way through my list of books from my own personal library. It’s time to take the next step, so I propose to read and review ARCs to post here along with my own entries. The nature of the ARC will require that I keep to a deadline. It’s my hope to have at least bimonthly posts which will keep me writing on a frequent and more regular schedule. Once I get the hang of things, perhaps I’ll reach out to a publisher directly!

Stay tuned, readers! This shall be an interesting year!