Week in Review: January 17

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I took Monday off to go to the launch party for Truthwitch and Passenger at Books of Wonder. I still feel very lucky to have read Truthwitch early but I admit that I was there mainly to see Alex Bracken and guest moderator Erin Bowman (author of Vengeance Road). I don’t want to sound braggy but it’s always really gratifying to get to meet authors you know from online and have them know you too–it sort of makes the idea of online friends feel a lot more viable and real.

Of course, I also got to hang out with Nicole who went to the event with me which is always a bonus. Before the event Nicole gave me my ALA surprises (hello signed ARC of Two Summers and an ARC of This Savage Song among others!!!!!) and we tried out City Bakery which is across the street from the store. I had milk chocolate cheesecake and hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow. It was all very sweet and overpriced but tasty in the moment. I admit to being underwhelmed by the bakery’s decor.

After that it was back to the bookstore where we got the last two seats and met a really nice young woman named Katie who came all the way from Connecticut. Hearing the three authors talk about their books was fantastic and Nicole and I got in some prime milling time waiting for our turn to get books signed.

Now that my time on Popular Paperbacks is done I’ve also been trying to be diligent about reading the books I have at home. It’s hard to prioritize but I’m working on that and catching up with some reviews I have left on the back burner (read: unwritten).

This weekend finds me enjoying a mini stay-cation for my birthday week where maybe I will get in some more reading.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my January Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Linktastic! Mixed Bag Edition

I know. You thought I was out of crazy links I lost temporarily in the black hole that is my Twitter favorites. You’d be wrong.

The Winner’s Kiss Blog Tour: Favorite Literary Kiss

Winners Kiss Blog Tour Banner 1 (3)Today I’m sharing my post for the blog tour for The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (AKA one of my most anticipated books coming out this year).
The concept for the blog tour is, ‘The Winning Kiss’ and it’ll be shining a spotlight on the favorite literary kisses of all the bloggers who participate SO if you’re into that sort of thing, be sure to check out the other tour stops as well.
  • What book is your favorite literary kiss in?
    The Truth Commission by Susan Juby
    I was very close to giving a different answer here but after much deliberation, I have an unlikely answer: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby. This book isn’t a romance per se, but then again, neither is The Winner’s Curse or the rest of the trilogy. One of my favorite quotes from The Winner’s Curse (and one I have on a lot of prints at this point) is “Isn’t that what stories do, make real things fake, and fake things real?” Like Rutkoski’s series this book plays a lot with how truth and fact aren’t necessarily the same depending on who is presenting the information. As Normandy observes during the novel, “When you tell a story, you shape the truth.”
  • Who is kissing?
    Normandy, narrator of the novel which is presented as her creative non-fiction project, and the boy she has a desperate crush on.
  • Why is it your favorite?
    Normandy is pragmatic to a fault and after years of living in her older sister’s shadow she is also used to thinking of herself as unexceptional. Normandy is so sure that everyone sees her the way her sister does, that she spends a lot of the book trying to convince herself that there is no way Neil can be interested in her. As Normandy puts it, “There is nothing to be gained by trying to change reality. I know this. Completely. And yet. And. Yet.” She still pines, she still hopes. Until finally she realizes that not everything is as clearly defined as she thought–both with her family and her crush. While this is just a small part of The Truth Commission it was a really great moment when Normandy let herself imagine the people she cares about seeing her in the best possible light instead of the worst.
If you want to get in on the swoons, share your own favorite literary kiss in the comments and check out the rest of the tour stops!

The Walls Around Us: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“We were alive. I remember it that way. We were still alive, and we couldn’t make heads or tails of the darkness, so we couldn’t see how close we were to the end.”

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaAmber is an inmate at the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center. She might have been innocent once but that’s a hard quality to hold onto on the inside. Like most of the girls at Aurora Hills, Amber is obsessed with the regrets inherent in choosing one path over the other; with the moment everything goes wrong.

Violet, on the other hand, is at the start of a promising ballet career on the outside. Violet has never had much use for co-dependence when her own success and future are at stake. She has a singular focus on the future, on what comes next, on endings.

Then there’s Orianna. Her story is inextricably linked to both Amber’s and Violet’s, but it’s only in the gaps and overlaps in both of their stories that anyone can begin to understand Ori’s.

These three girls had lives and dreams and futures on the outside. They have secrets they keep close inside the walls of Aurora Hills and in their own hearts. At some point three girls arrive at Aurora Hills. But only time will tell if all of them get to walk away in The Walls Around Us (2015) by Nova Ren Suma.

Find it on Bookshop.

Every aspect of The Walls Around Us comes together to deliver a story about contrasts in one form or another, something that often comes across in terms of themes like guilt vs. innocence and perception vs. reality. Even the title of the book and the vines on the cover hint at the dichotomy between what is “inside” and “outside” for these characters whose lives are all defined in some way by arriving at the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center as well as by the secrets that they hold close.

Subtle characterization and Suma’s deliberate writing serve to bring the two narrators, Amber and Violet, to life.

Amber’s narration is filled with short sentences and staccato declarations. She has spent so long defining herself as part of the whole at Aurora Hills that for much of her narration she describes herself as part of a collective “we”; part of a group comprised of her fellow inmates even when she is usually on the periphery as an observer. Everything about Amber’s narration focuses on beginnings and the past. Her chapter titles are always taken from the first words of her chapters. She has an intense and pathological fear of choosing the unknown and having to start again–a motif that is brought to disastrous fruition by the end of the novel.

Violent, despite being on the outside, is a harder character with sharper edges. Her narrative is filled with racing thoughts and run-on sentences. Her chapters are all titled for the final words in her chapters. Throughout the novel she returns, again and again, to what her future will hold. Until the end of the novel when her ever-forward momentum is cut abruptly and permanently short.

Although she is not a narrator and is most often seen in flashbacks or memories, Orianna is the third pivotal character in the novel. Everything Violet and Amber do within the arc of the book is informed by their relationships to Orianna. If Amber is meant to signify the past in The Walls Around Us and Violet is meant to exemplify the future, it’s safe to argue that Orianna is firmly grounded in the present with all of the opportunity and promise that position implies.

Suma’s lush writing moves readers between the past and the present as the story shifts fluidly between Amber and Violet’s memories of what brought them to Aurora Hills and what comes after in this novel that explores the cost of freedom and the power of hope.

The Walls Around Us received 5 starred reviews and much critical acclaim. It is a masterful blend of literary writing, magic realism and a decidedly eerie ghost story. With a layered and thoughtful plot, vivid prose, and skillfully explore themes and characters, The Walls Around Us is not to be missed. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Tumbling by Caela Carter, Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, Pointe by Brandy Colbert, With Malice by Eileen Cook, The Graces by Laure Eve, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood, We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

“I Can’t Remember the Title . . . But It Had a Blue Cover!” Book Display

Instead of doing a seasonal display for December I decided to make a book display that could transition into the new year (I’m hoping to do an award winners display after the Youth Media Awards announcements are official).

After thinking about it, I decided to do a color-based display. There’s an old joke in bookselling and libraries that people will often ask for a book by saying they don’t remember the title but it had a blue cover with a dog on it. (Invariably when you find the title it will be a red book with a cat on the cover but that’s a different story.)

I chose to take that as my starting point for my display before heading off to my trusty PicMonkey to start creating graphics.

I started with an 8 by 10 graphic with my display title.

IMG_0689

PicMonkey has a lot of themes which include premade backgrounds that I used as swatches here. Their comic book theme (with the building backdrops) proved especially helpful for this display.

After that I made some book signs with quotes. Goodreads cover view of all of the books I’ve read was very helpful with this. I also wanted to pick books with different genres, protagonists, and a diverse mix of authors which I kept in mind while making my choices.

For this display I chose The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough.

IMG_0686I could quote from this entire book because there are so many good parts but this quote is my favorite and I think one that’s really indicative of the book. The comic theme also conveniently includes an image with the Seattle skyline where this book is set so I included that as well for a little pop of color.

Next I made a graphic for The Truth Commission by Susan Juby.

IMG_0687It’s no secret that this book was one of my favorites from 2015. It’s also another highly quotable one that has a great cover so this image basically made itself.

Next I made a graphic for The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness which has a great iconic blue cover.

IMG_0688I rounded out the display with Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten.

IMG_0685I’m especially pleased with the way the branches behind this quote mirror the matches on the book cover.

Obviously the only choice for a background on this sign was blue paper. When I was making the display, the library was short on paper. I had one piece to work with and a stack of program flyers printed on blue paper. I wound up cutting all of the scrap paper into smaller pieces and spreading them out to make a patchwork design which turned out looking really great.

IMG_0684And here’s the display with some books in front of it (blue covered, of course):

IMG_0690To make things even more fun, this display got some author love recently on Twitter from the lovely Melissa Walker:

Have you ever seen (or made?!) a blue book cover display? What’s your favorite book with a blue cover?

Week in Review: January 10

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This weekend I did a lot of cooking and laundry and general maintenance things. It wasn’t very glamorous or exciting especially knowing that 80% of the people I know were at ALA. I did get a bit of reading done and then had a mini ALA requesting books for review from Amazon Vine. Nicole, being the sweetest person EVER, also picked up some highly anticipated titles for me during her own ALA adventures in Boston which was super nice and a lot of fun.

I also got to prepare for the Monday signing I went to (with Nicole) which was the launch party for Passenger and Truthwith with Alexandra Bracken and Susan Dennard (moderated by Erin Bowman).

In other maintenance news, I decided to delete my Instagram. Just FYI.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my January Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Big Bear, Little Chair: A Picture Book Review

Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi BoydWriter and illustrator Lizi Boyd delivers a fun concept book in Big Bear Little Chair (2015). High contrast illustrations done in gouache create bold contrasts between two objects on each two-page spread including a big bear, little bear, penguin, owl, zebra, and chairs of varying sizes.

Boyd uses gouache in black, white, and grey along with hints of red to keep the artwork simple and sharp. The books unusual trim size make it tall and narrow which further underscores the size contrasts in each spread and also helps draw the reader’s attention across each spread.

After going through various big and little contrasts (big bear, little chair/big owl, little branch/big meadow, little salamander, etc.) Boyd adds tiny items to the second half of the book to bring another dimension to this sleek picture book.

Big Bear Little Chair is part concept book and part hidden object with various items to locate on every page and something new to find on subsequent reads. An ideal choice for a younger story time set or a concept themed program.

Possible Pairings: Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett,  Cockatoo, Too by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau and David L. Walker

Passenger: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The truly remarkable thing about your life is that you’re not bound to live it straight forward like the rest of us.”

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenAfter a devastating loss on the night of her latest violin performance, Etta Spencer finds herself torn away from the people she loves and even from her own time.

Nicholas Carter is centuries away and confident his dream of captaining his own ship is well within reach even with the challenges inherent to his status as a freed slave.

When Etta appears as an unexpected passenger on Nicholas’ ship, the two are thrown together in a hunt for a stolen artifact. Etta hopes it can help her return to her own time. Nicholas, meanwhile, believes giving the artifact to the Ironwoods can sever his remaining ties to the ruthless family while also keeping Etta safe.

Traveling across centuries and around the world, Nicholas and Etta will have to trust each other as they follow clues to the artifact’s long-hidden location. Along the way they will uncover secrets about Etta’s past and a truth that could threaten both of their natural times–and everything in between–in Passenger (2016) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Passenger is the first of a two-book series that is partly a homage to Outlander and partly all its own. The story will continue in Wayfarer.

Passenger is a thrilling adventure that spans countries and centuries. Each time period Etta visits is brought to life with vivid and well-researched descriptions ranging from the nuances of eighteenth century clothing to an eerily well-realized depiction of London during the Blitz.

Passenger is a book filled with a diverse group of time travelers who live across and between time–often spending large periods of their lives outside of their normal flow of time and living in a decidedly non-linear fashion.

Because of this fluidity, Passenger is filled with unlikely allies (and enemies) as characters who would never otherwise meet are brought together. Consequently the dynamic between Etta and Nicholas has a complex tension as they work to find common ground despite their shockingly different upbringings and times. Their initial attraction and romance is even more satisfying because these two characters meet as equals and partners.

Although Bracken has moved in a different direction from her popular Darkest Minds trilogy, the writing here remains strong with her usual attention to detail both in terms of an intricate plot and many rich settings. Passenger is a delightful novel sure to appeal to fantasy readers and fans of time travel stories as well as readers of historical fiction. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Fable by Adrienne Young

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2015*

Cockatoo, Too: A Picture Book Review

Cockatoo, Too by Bethany Deenie MurguiaAll manner of marvelous things happen when two cockatoos become friends in Cockatoo, Too (2016) by Bethanie Deeney Murguia.

Cockatoo, Too starts with one lone cockatoo against a backdrop of colorful jungle plants. When one cockatoo becomes two and then four, all manner of fun ensues complete with tutus. But when tutued toucans begin to can-can, will the cockatoos be able to keep up?

It turns out the answer is yes as Cockatoo, Too ends with a raucous bird-filled dance party (with owls too!) that proves to be too much for one dazed baby bird.

Cockatoo, Too is a delightful bit of wordplay throughout. The rhythmic repetition of the text makes this an ideal read-aloud. The picture book uses a handful of words to deliver a tongue-twistingly funny story with a cast of characters readers won’t soon forget.

Murguia’s illustrations use varied shades of green for leaves and colorful tropical flowers to sketch out a jungle setting for this deceptively simple tale. Cartoonish charm only makes these talented birds more appealing.

With funny details on every page (tutued toucans, anyone?) and a text that rolls trippingly off the tongue, Cockatoo, Too is an absolute joy to read-a-loud or to read one-on-one. A must read.

Possible Pairings: Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd, Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett,  Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau and David L. Walker

*An advance copy of this picture book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration*

Linktastic! Silly Quiz Edition

I save links on Twitter to read at a later date sometimes and I apparently forgot to do that for two months SO I give a monster Linktastic! post to peruse with many personality quizzes:

  • Buzzfeed’s “Which Disney Pet Are You?” Quiz tells me that I am Pascal the Chameleon from Tangled: “You radiate creativity and enjoy doing anything that allows you to use your imagination. Everyone wants to hang out with you because you’re an incredibly supportive and loyal friend. Sometimes you’re a little bit afraid of the unknown, but you’re working on being less skittish about trying new things.”
  • Not a quiz per se but a Bustle article about what your favorite Harry Potter book says about you: Mine is number 3: “You don’t judge a person by rumors you’ve heard, because you know that sometimes learning a bit of backstory will completely change your mind. Though you’ve had your share of tough days and can relate to the feeling that dementors inspire, you’re also incredibly hopeful (and you know that chocolate can help a lot). You also own a time-turner necklace and you REALLY want to visit Hogsmeade.” It’s all true.
  • Which Banned Book Are You? I got Beloved by Toni Morrison which, embarrassingly, I have not read.
  • Which Halloween Town Should You Live in? Halloweentown because OBVIOUSLY.  “When it comes to Halloween, you are drawn to fun festivities over scary ones. You love to carve pumpkins, dress up, and watch Disney Channel Halloween movies while drinking cider. As a person, you are family- and community-oriented. What can you say? You love people. You will be right at home with the Cromwells in Halloweentown.”
  • Write Your Very Own Hit YA Novel With Our John Green Book Generator:

    The Euphoria of Canyons

     Colton is a senior at Susan B. Anthony High School in West Kensington, a few miles outside of Los Angeles. Colton is a great student. His favorite subject is Bio-Chem, but his true passion is yodeling. Rodd the Bodd and Vincent never know what he’s talking about, but the three of them are best friends anyway, and have been ever since Colton moved to West Kensington after his brother went missing. After his long-time girlfriend Violet breaks up with him, Colton becomes infatuated by Flor, the brunette with a tattoo of a dreidel on her neck. But even though she seems like the perfect girl, she’s actually the secret illegitimate daughter of the president. Despite their differences, they fall in love and spend the summer together. But one week before they go off to college, tragedy strikes. Flor is seriously injured while saving a friend’s life, and their relationship may never be the same.