The Book Thief: A Review

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakGermany, 1939: Nazis are gaining ever more power. The country, maybe even the world, is holding its breath. Death, as he will tell you soon enough, has never been busier.

Liesel Meminger is fostered in a small town outside of Munich. Times are hard and money is tight. But it is a good life. Liesel lovers her foster father fiercely and, when the opportunity arises, she steals books to even the scales of the world.

But nothing lasts forever. Not pages in a book or friendships. Not secrets hidden in basements. Certainly not good moments in Nazi Germany in The Book Thief (2005) by Markus Zusak.

Find it on Bookshop.

There isn’t a lot to say about this book that hasn’t been covered already. The Book Thief has received wide critical acclaim. It was Printz honor title in 2007. It was made into a movie in 2013.

The problem with picking up a book after everyone has been talking about it (and loving it) for years is that it puts a lot of pressure on the book. That’s a lot of hype to stand up against.

In this particular case, it was too much. The Book Thief is a very clever book. Death is the narrator. There are illustrations. It does so many cool things. But it was just never quite enough.

Honestly, The Book Thief is a miserable, gutting book. Not necessarily in a bad way. But not always in a good way either. The first parts dragged unbearably. They were ugly and dense but it picked up in the last third and the transformation is obvious for all of the characters. I can see how when it came out (and still) it is groundbreaking and shocking. It’s a powerful book if not a perfect one or one I ever want to read ever again.

Possible Pairings: Alan and Naomi by Myron Levoy, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, Traitor by Amanda McCrina, Tamar by Mal Peet, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Since You’ve Been Gone: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan MatsonEmily had planned to have the Best Summer Ever with her best friend Sloane. Ever since she met Sloane two years ago, it felt like everything was better. Emily could be braver and more interesting just by virtue of being around Sloane.

But then Sloane disappears. No emails. No calls. No texts. Suddenly, the perfect summer Emily had imagined with her best friend is a lost cause. With her little brother busy trying to climb everything in sight and her parents starting a new play, Emily is expecting some quality wallowing time in her near future.

Then the list arrives after Sloane has been gone for two weeks.

This isn’t the first time Sloane has sent Emily a list of random, sometimes scary, things to do. But now, with Sloane gone, Emily hopes that completing the list might also help her figure out where exactly Sloane has gone.

With the help of some unlikely friends, Sloane starts working her way through the list. Apple picking at night should be easy. Dancing until dawn might actually be fun. Kissing a stranger could go either way. Skinny dipping? Stealing something? Those might take a little more work in Since You’ve Been Gone (2014) by Morgan Matson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Since You’ve Been Gone is Matson’s third novel. (It includes a surprise behind the dust jacket so be sure to check that out!)

From the cover and book design to the plotting and story, Since You’ve Been Gone is a perfect package. Every piece makes sense. Every aspect of the story clicks. Matson delivers a strong and immediately accessible story here.

Most of the story occurs during the course of Emily’s summer. Matson also includes key flashbacks to Emily and Sloane’s relationship to highlight the arc of their friendship. The flashbacks also add just the right amount of tension to the story as readers wonder what might have changed between these two girls.

Emily is a deceptive narrator, initially seeming passive and very meek. During the course of Since You’ve Been Gone readers can see Emily’s obvious growth as a character. Matson also delivers spot-on secondary characters ranging from Emily’s quirky brother and playwright parents to the friends she never expected to find in Frank, Collins and Dawn.

While Emily loses Sloane before the novel even starts, this book is very much about finding things–including a very authentic and charming romance. In her efforts to complete the list, Emily finds inner courage and maybe even a little bit of herself. Sloane’s tasks also add a nice structure to the story as each chapter focuses on one task and how its completion unfolds–often in unexpected ways. Since You’ve Been Gone is an effervescent, delightful read that is sure to leave readers smiling.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, City Love by Susane Colasanti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Reunited by Lauren Weisman Graham, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Flannery by Lisa Moore, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Even in Paradise by Chelsea Philpot, Damaged by Amy Reed, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

We Were Liars: A Review

We Were Liars by E. LockhartA wealthy, respected family. Summers on a private island. Four friends, the Liars, who have the world at their fingertips. First loves. Memories. Lies. And, eventually, the truth.

Until one accident–one mystery–changes all that and nothing can ever be the same in We Were Liars (2014) by E. Lockhart.

Find it on Bookshop.

E. Lockhart delivers another smart, layered story here with writing reminiscent of her Printz honor title The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. It’s impossible to say much more without revealing too much.

We Were Liars is an incisive story of privilege, loss and a few other things besides. While the themes and fallout are often cutting, even tragic, the story still offers moments of optimism as well as an evocative island setting.

Written with layers upon layers of meaning as well as subtle clues, We Were Liars is a sensational read that will leave readers as shocked as they are satisfied. With so many twists, this is a story most will want to re-read moments after turning the last page.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Graces by Laure Eve, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry, The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore, The Cousins by Karen M. McManus, Madapple by Christina Meldrum, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, You Are the Everything by Karen Rivers, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

Week in Review: May 11

missprintweekreview

This week on the blog you can check out:

This has been a really good week. I got some great news. I am not quite prepared to share it on social media yet but it’s been nice telling friends here and there (and you can bet I will be talking about it here–soon).

I also got some good reading in. I finished two “obligation heavy” books and also got to read The One by Kiera Cass. I really enjoyed it guys! Hopefully will be posting a review soon.

I even had a good customer service moment with Barnes and Noble. I ordered Open Road Summer from their website with giftcards and a coupon which brought the book down to less than ten dollars. THEN it came later in the evening of the same day I ordered it. Well played.

That was about it for book mail. I got some fun mail at work for my committee work but most of them are going elsewhere as I don’t have to read them or already have read (and/or own) them. That said, I do still love getting mail. Everyone in the office knows that now because I come hover whenever anyone is opening a package.

So that’s been my week. As you read this I am in the midst of a quiet day with mom this Mother’s Day.

Happy Mothers Day!

 

 

Event Recap: Jenny Han and Morgan Matson in Conversation

Last week I was checking the events page for Books of Wonder (a former place of employ) as I sometimes do when I very surprisingly saw a new event listing for “Jenny Han and Morgan Matson in Conversation.”

 

And after some intense planning with Nicole, we decided to go.

You should already know by now that I loved To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han and mere days before the event I had finished (and really, really liked!) Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson. Since I had an arc and wanted to read Han’s first YA book, it was a no brainer. Anyway, we learned from fellow attendee Eileen that the event had originally been slated for the 92nd Street Y but was moved last minute to Books of Wonder. Their loss and our gain because the event had no admission price and it wasn’t insanely crowded (which made being there an hour early a little embarrassing but whatever!).

It was a panel interview thing moderated by one of the women from EW. And, since Kayla asked, I have some photos from the event.

Jenny Han and Morgan Matson at the start of the panel.
Jenny Han and Morgan Matson at the start of the panel.
Morgan talking about Since You've Been Gone. (If you see a hardcover in the wild be sure to check out the interior of the dust jacket!)
Morgan talking about Since You’ve Been Gone. (If you see a hardcover in the wild be sure to check out the interior of the dust jacket!)

 

Jenny Han talking about To All the Boys I've Loved Before. (She listened to a lot of 1960s Doo Wop to get in the right head space for the book!)
Jenny talking about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. (She listened to a lot of 1960s Doo Wop to get in the right head space for the book!)

 

Jenny and Morgan talking about what of themselves they put into their characters. (Jenny likes to bake like Lara Jean and Morgan is a runner like Emily--though only if she signs up for a marathon or the like).
Jenny and Morgan talking about what of themselves they put into their characters. (Jenny likes to bake like Lara Jean and Morgan is a runner like Emily–though only if she signs up for a marathon or the like).

After the panel we got to get our books signed. It was fun to be able to tell Morgan Matson that I had loved Since You’ve Been Gone since it wasn’t even officially out until Monday (review coming soon!). And Jenny remembered me from her launch event a couple weeks earlier which was really nice. As per my May challenge I don’t have time to read it now but I’m excited to get to The Summer I Turned Pretty someday soon.

As I mentioned I used to work at BoW (this might be the first time I’ve admitted that on here!) so it was also nice to see old friends. Interestingly I discovered that another blogger also works at the store now. So yes, on Sunday Nicole and I met Gaby AKA Queen Ella Bee Reads (who I didn’t even know was a local New Yorker–for shame!). Since we now follow each other on Twitter I’m just going to go ahead and say we’re friends. Yay another blogger to run into at BEA.

So that was my Sunday and now we are at the conclusion of my first “event recap.” What say you? Should I be doing more of these in the future? Have you read or are you waiting to read either of the books? Let me know in the comments!

All Our Yesterdays: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You have to kill him.”

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin TerrillLocked up in a government facility, Em marks time by staring at the drain in the center of her cell or talking to her fellow prisoner through the wall between their cells. Then, of course, there are the interrogation sessions with the Doctor. But Em tries not to think about those. Or the Doctor.

The only thing keeping her going is the list of instructions written in Em’s own handwriting. Em has tried everything she can think of to prevent the completion of a time machine that will break the world. The list proves that well enough.

But none of her attempts have worked and now Em is left with one last, terrible option.

Marina has loved her neighbor James since forever. More, even, than she loves herself sometimes. Quiet, focused James finally might be seeing Marina as more than a friend when one disastrous night changes everything. Everything Marina previously knew will be thrown into question as she struggles to protect James at any cost.

Em and Marina stand on opposite sides in a race to protect time. Only one of them can come out alive in All Our Yesterdays (2013) by Cristin Terrill.

All Our Yesterdays is Terrill’s first novel.

Alternating between Em and Marina’s narratives, Terrill has created a story that intertwines and connects in clever, unexpected ways. The time travel elements here are wonderfully plausible and key to the plot and all of its surprise reveals.

In addition to an action-packed adventure, All Our Yesterdays is a well-paced, meditative story about the strengths (and limits) of friendship. At the same time Terrill offers a thoughtful, subtle development as Marina come into her own and starts to learn to love herself.

With light science fiction (time travel) elements All Our Yesterdays is a great starting point for readers looking to give sci-fi a try as well as veteran readers. The other arcs regarding friendship and causality promise that this book has a lot to offer every reader. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Malice by Pintip Dunn, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Emma’s May Reading Challenge

With BEA at the end of the month, I am trying to hammer out as many books as possible before the big convention so I can take a week or two to read whatever I want once I get those shiny, shiny ARCs.

To that end, I am hoping to read as many of the books below as humanly possible before May 29. (And since I like tracking such things, I’ll be updating this post throughout the month too as I mark my progress!)

The books:

  1. The Night She Disappeared by April Henry
  2. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
  3. Shift by Jennifer Bradbury
  4. The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
  5. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfeld
  6. Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
  7. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  8. The One by Kiera Cass
  9. A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey
  10. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Now that is a lot of books but I’m hope since most are under 300 pages and I’ve already knocked one off. We’ll see how this goes!

Do you have any reading your hoping to knock out before the month is out?

May 9 update: I’ve read three books and added Open Road Summer in a fit of hubris.

May 14 Update: 4 books down and onto my fifth which is Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. Feeling really good about my pace so far!

May 18 Update: 5 down. Starting Landline.

May 20 Update: Finished Landline! 6 books down. Starting Open Road Summer because all the cool kids are reading it.

May 23: Started A Breath of Frost aka book 7!

May 27: Finished my 8th book–A Breath of Frost. Because the other books were not in my house when I was ready to start a new one, my next (and final) May book is The Fault in Our Stars which I had been putting off so it was probably just as well that this forced my hand.

8/10 isn’t so bad.

Emma and Nicole’s Five Tips for BEA (2014)

Now that May is here, it’s time to start planning in earnest for Book Expo America (BEA)–a publishing convention that takes place every year where publishers can showcase their fall releases.

Real life bestie Nicole and I have been going to BEA for three years now. With our fourth trip to BEA quickly approaching, we thought we’d share some BEA tips to help anyone attending get ready. Be sure to check out her blog today as well to see her tips.

Below I answer five question that (hopefully) share some of my sound advice for BEA. Here are the questions which I’ll tackle in depth below:

  1. What should I bring to BEA?
  2. What should I wear to BEA?
  3. How should I plan my day(s)?
  4. What should I expect at BEA?
  5. What’s the one thing everyone should remember when planning BEA?

1. What should I bring to BEA?

Now, I live in New York and BEA is in New York, so I’m skipping over the expected travel things to bring if you are making a whole trip to NYC. Here’s what you should bring along to the Javits Center:

  • Paperwork: DON’T FORGET YOUR REGISTRATION BADGE! I also print out spreadsheets for the schedule to have an easy reference. If you want spreadsheets of the show you can find some from Jenna Does Books who made a lovely (thorough) spreadsheet of all the YA signings to be had at BEA. Nicole from YA Interrobang also made a google doc of all the of the YA events to be had.
  • Cell Phone: I keep my entire BEA schedule on my phone for easy access and to see it plotted out in my calendar. Since Nicole and I sometimes split up this is also a great way to keep track of each other. I also use my phone to live tweet the show, take pictures for my recap post, and have a reference for the BEA site if something on the schedule changes. BEA also offers a Show Planner app to download to smartphones (iOS and Android I think) which is another helpful thing to have.
  • Charger: Javits has terrible wifi. Your phone will run down. This is life. Be sure to start the day with a fully charged phone. Also bring some kind of portable charger.
  • Cash: It’s just easier to get lunch with cash whether you are at the Food Court or elsewhere. Also easier for cab fare and everything else. You will also want some cash on hand to donate at the autographing area.
  • A small bag: This is not the time for a giant hold-everything monster purse. Just the essentials (wallet, ID, paperwork, phone, etc.)
  • Business cards: If you have a blog, tell people! I give cards to authors, to publicists who seem nice, bloggers I meet. Be sure to have a stack.
  • Water: It’s sometimes hard to get somewhere in the Javits when the place is gearing up for the day so I usually just bring a bottle and refill it at the water fountains during the day.
  • Snacks: Just in case lunch proves elusive and you need to refuel.
  • A rolling suitcase and a tote bag: More on these later!

2. What should I wear to BEA?

  • Clothes: The short answer is whatever makes you comfortable. The longer answer is that BEA is a professional convention and it’s nice to look semi-professional too. I tend to do business casual leaning more toward casual. I’d also say dress in layers with some kind of lightweight sweater because air conditioning works more fully in some areas than others.
  • Shoes: Comfortable shoes. If that means sneakers, fine. If it means something else, go for it. You will likely be on your feet for eight hours and you will be walking for a lot of that.

3. How should I plan my day(s)?

  • Obviously all that paperwork I mentioned in question one is going to come in handy here. Beyond that, what you do at BEA is up to you. This year I am registered as Press (still get a thrill saying that!) and I go on my own time. That means I have no obligations except to do what I want and document it. And I want to go to signings. I plot out the signing schedules for any authors I am interested in–first in the autographing area, then the in-booth signings (which should be up soon). I also make a mental note of galley drops (publishers usually give out schedules for drops daily).
  • Prioritize: The key is to note when everything you want to do is happening. In any given time slot it’s likely you can do multiple things, but sometimes you can’t. Know what is most important to you and know how much time you want to spend on it–generally I pick some books and say to myself “Okay, this is why I’m at BEA today.” and that determines what else happens at BEA that day.
  • Make time to eat: Seriously. I tend to frequent the food court, but really eating anywhere is fine. Food is important and you won’t make it through the day otherwise.
  • Bags: Remember that tote and rolling suitcase you’re bringing? The tote will be used on the show floor (where no rolling luggage is allowed) to hold galleys you pick up. There is a 100% chance you will get totes throughout BEA but it’s always good to have a sturdy one you already like–just in case. The suitcase is literally the MOST important thing to bring. Before the show starts, drop the suitcase in a coat check area for five bucks. Now, throughout the day, you can drop your books into the suitcase. At the end of the day you can roll your suitcase home or to your hotel. Easy.

4. What should I expect at BEA?

  • Fun: If you love books, BEA is a great time. It’s a little overwhelming but there is lots of fun to be had.
  • Books: No matter how many books you think you will take home, know that you will be getting more than that. (Thus the rolling bag.)
  • Lines: I can’t speak to how the panels and talks are at BEA because I never go to them but the signings are a blast. You will wait on lines for a lot of BEA but mostly it’s worth it.

5. What’s the one thing everyone should remember when planning BEA?

  • Talk to everyone: I’m better at this now, but don’t be afraid to say hi to people. If you see someone from Twitter, wave. If you love a book and see the author, say hello. If a publicist just made your day finding the last ARC for the only book you wanted that day, let them know. Pass out cards, make friends. Find contacts. I’m not saying you’re going to get a new job at BEA. But you might make some new friends–especially if you hang out with the bloggers.

Those are all of the tips I have to share for a successful BEA. If you have more (or have some questions I didn’t answer), let’s chat in the comments!

Week in Review: May 4

missprintweekreview

This week on the blog you can check out:

I made it through April! I blogged every day! I hope you enjoyed the poems and things I shared.

This week has been busy and I’m dashing this off last minute on Saturday night because Sunday I’ll be going to a signing to see Morgan Matson and Jenny Han with Nicole. I’m sure it’ll be rad.

How was YOUR week?

 

 

 

Author Interview Kathy McCullough on Don’t Expect Magic

Kathy Mccullough author photoKathy McCullough is here today to talk about one of my favorite books Don’t Expect Magic which takes a very unconventional spin on the Fairy Godmother stories you might know. I read this book back in 2012 and I still think about it quite a bit. When I found out a sequel called Who Needs Magic? came out in 2013 I was even more excited and reached out to Kathy to see if she’d talk to me here on the blog.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Kathy McCullough (KM): I’ve been writing since I learned how to write. I wrote poems in grade school and began writing stories as well in middle school. I’ve always loved to read, of course. I took a lot of creative writing classes in college and then went to graduate school for screenwriting. My initial professional success was writing for film and television, but I’d never given up the dream of writing fiction. My TV and screen work tended to be in the family/teen/kids genres so it seemed a good fit for me to write novels for kids and teens.

MP: What was the inspiration for Don’t Expect Magic?

KM: I wanted to come up with a comic YA twist on a fairy tale character, and I liked the idea of focusing on a minor figure instead of the familiar leads, which is how I came up with the teen fairy godmother idea. The original idea had Delaney’s grandmother being the adult fairy godmother in the story, and the ability skipping a generation. However, that idea didn’t have a lot of humor in it, and that’s when I thought of making it her father. Having Delaney accept the skill willingly lacked conflict, so it was a natural development to make her someone for whom this is not a good thing: she’s a loner and this forces her to interact with people; she’s dark and sullen, and so the typical image of a sparkly, cheery fairy godmother goes completely against how she views herself. Part of her journey is accepting this destiny; in the process, she heals her fractured relationship with her father.

MP: Delaney’s story starts when she has to move in with her father in California–much to her East-Coast-Loving dismay. Which begs the question: Does your heart belong to the East Coast or the West Coast?

KM: I have a lot of great memories from growing up on the East Coast (and in the Midwest before that), but I’ve lived the longest on the West Coast and have made a home here, and since “home is where the heart is…”

MP: Working off the last question: As Delaney navigates her new life, she explores some of her California surroundings. Were any of Delaney’s observations or locations inspired by actual places or events?

KM: Yes, a lot of them were, most notably the mall, which is featured in Don’t Expect Magic, and where she gets a summer job in Who Needs Magic?, but in every case I took the original and made it much more extreme and surreal, to underscore the “modern-day-fairy-tale” feeling.

MP: One of my favorite things about Delaney is her talent at making boots into art. Did you always know that would be part of Delaney’s character?

KM: No, that developed in rewriting. Characters seem to expand and gain dimension when I’m revising, which is fun – they really do “take over.” One day, I just discovered that she had this interest and ability.

MP: Of course I also have to ask: If you could “Delaney-fy” your own pair of boots, what would they look like?

KM: Alas, unlike Delaney, I am not a visual artist, but if I did have any talent in this area, I’d add a lot of buckles and snaps, and some colorful spiral swirls.

MP: A big part of the story involves Delaney making sense of her father’s unusual work. If you were in Delaney’s shoes, would you want to try your hand at being a Fairy Godmother?

KM: Definitely!

MP: Don’t Expect Magic also has a sequel now called Who Needs Magic?. Did you always know Delaney’s story would continue after her first book? Will this be the last readers see of Delaney?

KM: I did hope to write a sequel, but the idea for it came much later, after Random House had made the deal to publish Don’t Expect Magic. I do have an idea for a third book, as well as ideas for prequels and spin-offs, but there’d have to be the demand for them. Right now, I’m working on a new, stand-alone idea.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

KM: It’s contemporary and realistic. It’s YA and the characters are slightly older teens than in Don’t Expect Magic and Who Needs Magic?, but it has a similar tone: comic with serious undertones.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

KM: Write a lot, write consistently, embrace revision, seek feedback and don’t waste time on doubt.

Thanks again to Kathy for stopping by the blog. You can find out more about her and her books on her website kathymcculloughbooks.com.

You can also check out my review of Don’t Expect Magic here on the blog.