Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reading Roundup and More

My goodness, how can it already be mid-January!?

Here are the books I finished up December with:

Emily the Strange: Piece of MindEmily the Strange: Piece of Mind by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner, illustrated by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker
This conclusion of the four Emily the Strange books doesn’t disappoint. Emily is as wonderful, crazy, creative, and unique as ever and the wrap up to the series leaves all the characters in the right place. The black and red illustrations also enhance the read.

NationNation by Terry Pratchett
This teen novel isn’t set in Pratchett’s famous Discworld, but rather an alterative Victorian world which is just as fun. When a royal girl gets shipwrecked on an island where Mau is only native survivor to a horrific wave, the pair—and later the other survivors—must figure out what home, family, and community mean. The interactions between Mau and Daphne are both funny and though provoking and you’re rooting for them the whole time.

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens by Libba Bray
Libba Bray’s Great and Terrible Beauty is one of my favorite books of all time, but her more recent writing has taken a different turn. Although I haven’t read her Printz-awarding-winning novel Going Bovine it’s clearly quirky (to say the least!). Beauty Queens is similarly off-beat. The premise is a beauty pageant meets Survivor—when a plane of contestants crashes in a seemingly deserted tropical island they must not only survive until rescued, but practice their pageant dances and keep up their beauty routines. Overall, I was disappointed by Beauty Queens. It’s so over the top that moments to explore relevant topics such as a girl’s place in society and how to balance numerous pressures could be tossed aside because nothing seemed serious. There were too many characters as well, and most didn’t go beyond a caricature. I applaud Bray for not shying away from portraying topics that are often taboo in YA literature—there is a transgendered contestant, a lesbian relationship, and multiple descriptions of various sexual activities. This could have been a very thought provoking novel if the absurdity of the situation and ridiculousness of the characters had been scaled back—however, most of this was overshadowed and lost.

Surrender (Haunting Emma)Surrender by Lee Nichols
This is the conclusion to the Haunting Emma series—a trilogy that has special significance for me. Emma, Bennett, and the rest successfully hunt the ghosts that have been causing trouble since long before the book started. My favorite part about this series is the voice—Nichols manages to write in a voice that sounds just as if your best friend was telling you her adventures. Yes, there are some dorky puns and awkward joke about sex, but this somehow makes it feel more authentic than annoying. I’ve always found these books to be some of the more compelling paranormal out there.

The WandererThe Wanderer by Sharon Creech
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit because there was more to this story than just a coming-of-age adventure. Not only is Sophie literally learning how to sail a boat across the ocean with her uncles and cousins, but there is an added depth to the story when readers discover, through cousin Cody’s journal entries, that there is some mystery as to Sophie’s past and how, despite being adopted, she claims to know the grandfather’s stories. Cody’s narrative was also charming in its humor and brevity making it more relatable than Sophie’s poetic outlook.

Picture book: Hugs from Pearl by Paul Schmid
Full Manuscripts: 5

So, for 2012 that leaves me at: 77 books and 66 full manuscripts. Not too bad!

My reading goals for 2011 were to read 10 historical fiction novels and finish up three 19th century classics. Well, the second goal didn’t happen at all—there’s so much good YA out there!—but I did decently well with the historical fiction, coming in at eight books. I’m absolutely going to continue working on that, especially because there are several novels (What I Saw and How I Lied, The Vespertine, and Between Shades of Gray) that I still want to read!

I’m not going to set any reading goals for 2012—it’s clear that I read. A lot. And due to my job I read a wide range of genres. I still need to reopen those classics…but those will have to be saved for extra long vacations!

Do you have any reading goals for 2012?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Coming Your Way: December and January

This is a segment of my blog that shamelessly promotes the Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Children’s Books that I have worked on (or that my team has worked on that I’m particularly excited about). You’ll see more “Coming Your Way” posts in the upcoming months—the books below are titles that I worked on in the very first few weeks of starting my job at HarperCollins.

Love and LeftoversLove and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

My wish is to fall cranium over Converse in dizzy daydream-worthy love.
(If only it were that easy.)
Marcie has been dragged away from home for the summer—from Idaho to a family summerhouse in New Hampshire. She’s left behind her friends, a group of freaks and geeks called the Leftovers, including her emo-rocker boyfriend, and her father.
By the time Labor Day rolls around, Marcie suspects this “summer vacation” has become permanent. She has to start at a new school, and there she leaves behind her Leftover status when a cute boy brings her breakfast and a new romance heats up. But understanding love, especially when you’ve watched your parents’ affections end, is elusive. What does it feel like, really? Can you even know it until you’ve lost it?
Love & Leftovers is a beautifully written story of one girl’s journey navigating family, friends, and love, and a compelling and sexy read that teens will gobble up whole.

My thoughts: This is such a realistic portrayal of a teen’s heartbreak and trials of growing up—Marcie is so relatable. The prose format makes this a quick read and was actually my introduction to prose novels—I highly recommend checking them out!

My role in its publication: I offered editorial feedback on a draft of the manuscript, and Sarah, the debut author, was so sweet to recognize that by including my name in the acknowledgement sections—my first mention!

Available: Now

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My thoughts: This based-on-a-true story narrative told from Ivan the gorilla’s point of view is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s received quite a bit of author praise and starred reviews so far and they are so deserved. If Ivan’s story doesn’t make you both cry and renew your faith in the world, I don’t know what will! (Also, check out the trailer—it’s fantastic!)

My role in its publication: I provided editorial feedback on a draft of the manuscript.

Available: January 17

IncarnateIncarnate by Jodi Meadows

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.  

Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?  

Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies--human and creature alike--let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?  

Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

My thoughts: My favorite part about this novel is how it doesn’t fit into any one genre—it’s fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian. It’s unique and special in an oversaturated teen marketplace. Ana is a great heroine and her romance with Sam is so achingly romantic. Not to mention themes in this novel are really thought provoking!

My role in its publication: I offered editorial feedback and drafted the flaps. Incarnate was actually the very first manuscript I read and worked on once I started at Harper, so it’s extra special to me. Jodi is a great author and it’s been fun working on the sequel right now.

Available: January 31

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year! Did you rest and relax and eat all sorts of goodies this holiday? I hope so (I sure know I did!). Since it’s the beginning of January everyone is thinking about resolutions and I have plenty of my own. One of mine is book-related and I think it deserves sharing.

Resolution: To Put My Money Where My Mouth Is

How often in the past year have industry folk and the general public alike heard how independent (and big box) bookstores are struggling? How ‘evil’ Amazon is? How Amazon doesn’t care about local booksellers? Lots and lots. And, on the flip side, how often is it discussed that local bookstores know books and their customers better than anyone else? And who hosts author events? Local bookstores—we hear about this all the time! Although these discussions are complicated they make one thing clear in my mind: If we want the wonderful institution of local, independent bookstores to remain, we need to support them over online retailers.

I have not been doing this. Buying books on Amazon is (often) cheaper and easier than from a physical store. 99% of my books come from the online retailer—I even have an credit card which gives me reward points that I turn around and use at Amazon. I’ve embraced Amazon as much as anyone else—even knowing its pitfalls better than the general public. And I’m beginning to feel horrible about it.

And so, my New Years Resolution is to buy more books—at least 50%—at a local store. This means the books I buy are going to cost more, and being on a budget such as I am, I’ll probably have to buy fewer books. But with my reading levels staying the same I’ll have to visit the library to get that additional reading material—and that’s another fine institution to be more actively supporting!

Do you have any book-related resolutions for 2012?