Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite Sequels

To kick off our month of sequels properly, we're picking our favorite sequels!

You guys well know that I love Catching Fire and that it's my favorite of the Hunger Games books, so it would be the obvious choice for me here. And you also know that Cassy and I both picked not-the-first-one as our favorite Harry Potter books, so we clearly like those sequels. So instead, I'm going to tell you that I really like all of the sequels in the Uglies series.

I think Specials is probably my favorite of them all, but Extras is really incredible too. They're good in different ways, so it's hard to choose. I'm fairly certain that it's very difficult to make a series get much better as it progress, and I believe that's what Scott Westerfeld did with the Uglies series.

I've talked about the Percy Jackson series a lot on this blog lately, which is good, because everyone just really needs to go read it.

And there were a lot of runner ups for this particular favorites today.  Like Alex mentioned, I LOVED Extras (which is interesting because it was 100% a tack on for him.  Completely unplanned when he originally planned to do the series.)  I also really love book seven in the Chronicles of Narnia series (The Last Battle).  You get to revisit all the people that you love and adore in it.  There's just something about the way Lewis brings it all together.

But book four in the Percy Jackson series, The Battle of the Labyrinth, just is amazing.  There is a quest that has been going on for three previous books that finally comes to a conclusion in book four.  And it's wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time.  Grover gets a TON of face time in this book.  In fact, I would argue that this book is almost more about him than it is about Percy, which is nice that we get a little break from Percy to be reminded that there are other characters in the book, other heroes.

It's the book that really brings the series together, I think.  Sure, everything culminates in book five and the Big Battle happens in book five, but I think book four is what really sets that up and gives you a lot of answers to questions you'd been asking for the whole series.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sequel vs. Series

This week, we're reading Unwholly by Neal Shusterman during our month of Sequels, but if we're being perfectly honest with ourselves, Unwholly is book two in a series as opposed to be a direct sequel.

So what's the difference?

When, first, sequel implies that the author isn't planning to make any books after it.  One of the other books that we're reading this month is Where She Went by Gayle Foreman, direct sequel to If I Stay, and, as far as I know, she's not planning on making a third book.  It's really just a book to kind of wrap the multitude of loose ends in If I Stay.

However, Unwholly, by saying it's part of a series, we know that it's not going to be finished by this second book, or in this case, even the third one (little known fact: it was only supposed to be a trilogy, but the last book ended up being so long, that it got split into two books.  And, in fact, the cover of book three, is a scene that doesn't occur until book four, because it was originally supposed to be in book three when it was only going to be three books.)

Inevitably, if you say, "I'm reading the sequel to Unwind!" no one is probably going to correct you, but it's just a little more accurate and lets a person know what they're getting into when they start a whole series.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Remember: Neal Shusterman?

In celebration of a new year, we're getting a little retrospective... for the next five weeks, we're going to be reading and reviewing SEQUELS of books we've read before! And we're starting with a favorite author around here... Neal Shusterman! We'll be reading UnWholly, the second book in the Unwind dystology (there are four books total, plus a companion novella about Lev Calder).

So here's a little look back at the first book's history here on the blog.

We reviewed Unwind a little less than two years ago, in January 2013. Naturally, we both loved it. (If we didn't, we probably wouldn't be so eager to review the second book.)

That was back when we were still doing By Its Cover on Saturdays, so we also talked about the cover of the book.

When it came time for us to pick our favorite books we reviewed that year, Cassy named Unwind (and it was part of my own three-way tie, even though I talked about World War Z instead).

This year, Cassy met the man himself, which we'll call a belated birthday gift for her, and she was able to get us a signed copy of Unwind to give away to the lucky winner Brent! (And me, too.)

So, I think it's pretty clear that this is going to be an amazing way to kick off 2015 for us. Stick around throughout January for the rest of the Month of Sequels!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I don't have the ability to make my own awesome and adorable gif for Christmas, so I'm borrowing the one posted last year by Pusheen because they're really awesome over there and because cats are super cute. Also, I didn't like any of the book-related Christmas gifs I could find. If you have one you like, share it in the comments!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Favorite Book Received as a Gift

The fun thing about being well-known among your friends and family as an avid reader is that you get a lot of books as gifts. This is actually the first year in my memory that I haven't made a Christmas wishlist for the sake of family members who demanded one, but every year, there has always been at least one book on my list. And that's a pretty easy thing to check off the list... take the list to Barnes & Noble, hand it over to someone who works there, and let them work their magic. Bam, several gifts, done.

Anyway, today, we're telling you about our favorite books that we've received as gifts.

First, let me tell you about a lot of runner-up choices. This year, Cassy got me a signed copy of American Gods by Neil Gaiman and a signed copy of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, AND you already know about the signed copy of Unwind by Neal Shusterman. So those were pretty freaking amazing. And a couple years ago, my now-husband legitimately surprised me for Christmas with volume 1 of Absolute Sandman, which was pretty amazing. But I'm going to have to go with the ring box made out of The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that my mom gave me before the wedding, pictured above. It was a group effort (I believe it was my mom, stepdad, aunt, and maybe my grandfather too?) and it's beautiful, and played a central role in the wedding. It was the first book my husband and I shared an interest in (he let me borrow his copy when we first started dating) and this copy now serves as a holding place for our engagement rings, since we don't wear them anymore.

Believe it or not, despite the fact that I read a ridiculous amount, I don't get that many books as gifts.  I think a big reason is because that I've read so MANY people are scared that they're going to get me one I've read, or something.  I'm not sure.

However, I've gotten a few, and there are a few contenders for my favorites.  Alex got me a signed copy of Yaqui Delgato Wants to Kick Your Ass this year, which was pretty freakin' sweet.  When I was a kid, my mother got me a copy of The Bridge to Terabithia, which I still have, twenty years later.  But, I'd have to say, my favorite was Dangerous Liaisons by Leclos.

My friend Jenna bought me a copy of this book when we graduated college.  There's an awesome note in the front of the book, but I think the best part was that she just knew it was my favorite book, and not only knew, but went to about five bookstores to find it (not something that's readily kept in stock.  Who knew?)  I love that she refused to go online and get it because, damn it, it should be kept in a book store and love how hard she looked for it and I love that, even though we had just spent four years reading books, her gift to me was of course, still a book.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Some of the Best Books This Season

So one of the benefits of working in a bookstore is that I get to see what some of the most popular books of the season are.

Now, I'll let you know in advance, I haven't read all of these.  But they have been bought in HOARDS and people have been telling me nothing but good things about them.  So that that for what you will when buying your last minute book gifting.

Yes, ok the movie is coming out, but I sell no less than five of these a day, sometimes more.  And for every five I sell, I get asked five more times where the book is.  It's a story of a man, surviving the wreckage of his plane in WWII and his journey through life, along with his journey of survival.

Boys in the boat is about the 1936 Berlin Olympics team.  It shows you a bunch of ragmatag guys who manage to come together and go for the gold for the rowing.  Another one that has passed through my hands more than a few times this Christmas season.

To be honest with you, I didn't even know what this one was about till I read the synopsis (which you can go read here.  It sounds really good.)  It sold really well this summer, but when Christmas time came, we couldn't even keep the book on the shelf.

Ok, so Miss Peregrine's is a little weird, and it's a little different, but I have yet to meet a person who didn't enjoy this book.  There's mystery and there is a little bit of super powers and there is some definite danger and it's a good transition book.  Not SO hard to read that a high 11-12 year old couldn't pick it up, but still interesting enough that your teens are going to want to read it.

Alright, this one comes with a lot of conditions, but also, a lot of ideas if you need them last minute for the Christmas season.  This is book five in a series.  And, what's more, it's book five in a SEQUEL series.  Do you remember The Percy Jackson Series?  It's pretty much fabulous.  In fact, it was SO fabulous, Riordan took those characters and started a SECOND series with them!  Cue The Heroes of Olympus series (see above).  So if the person you're buying for has never read Percy Jackson, Ta-Da!  If they have, but haven't gotten into this second companion series, there are five whole new books for them to pick up.  And, the best part, is that this is the last book, so they don't even have to wait for the end.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Author Bio: Janet Dailey

Janet Dailey was a romance author who wrote several series and dozens of single-title romance novels before she passed away last December. This week, we'll be reading A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree because sometimes I tell Cassy a title as a joke and we wind up deciding to read the book after all.

Dailey became an author when she told her husband she could write better romance novels than what she was reading, and he challenged her to do so. She became the first American author for Harlequin. They actually turned Nora Roberts away because they already had an American author in Dailey. Another fun fact about Roberts and Dailey: in 1997, Roberts accused Dailey of plagiarizing her work, which Dailey admitted and said was caused by a psychological disorder. Dailey's books in question were pulled from print and the issue was settled out of court.

The Guinness Book of World Records recognized her achievement of setting a novel in every state in America.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Review Me Twice - Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

So, truth time.  I didn't finish the book this week.  But, in my defense it's a REALLY long book, and I came pretty close to finishing it (according to my Kindle, I'm 87% of the way through it.)  I feel like I've hit a lot of the important stuff, and what I haven't hit, well, I've seen the movie.

Speaking of which, as usual, there is SO MUCH that the movie left out.  Like did you know that Scarlett had THREE kids?  Yeah, that's right, three.  And she had sisters and she was married three times (though, thinking back on this I think I kind of remember this from the movie, but they really barely talk about husband number two.)

Also, the book really wasn't all what I expected.  I was expecting a stuffy book talking about how great the south was an how they were wronged and for it to be all about the war!  And the south will rise again!

Not at all about that.  Scarlett hates the war and, while we do learn a fair amount about late 1800s politics, it's not necessarily the focus.  You actually get a much better picture about what the war was about, and how BAD things were post-war.

Also, the book is so incredibly FEMINIST.  I mean, I was stunned.  Scarlett is an incredibly forward thinking female.  She hates that she has to act a certain way to make men like her, and the fact that men never really want women to speak their minds infuriates her and she realizes early on that she's smarter than most of them.  She bucks society and does things like have a job: she runs a lumber mill, incredibly successfully, better than the men, and when she gets pregnant, she doesn't let her "condition" stop her from going out in public.

Really, I was just incredibly and plesantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this book (and will probably continue to enjoy it, once I finish it.)

You have no idea how happy I am that Cassy also didn't finish this book, because you guys have no idea what a freakishly fast reader that woman is. But I also didn't finish it. Because it is absurdly long.

I started the book hating everybody. Scarlett seemed like a brat, and all the men seemed so fake, but they grew on me. I might pick it up again at some point (but my priority is to read the next several books we're going to review, now that this one isn't hanging over me anymore). I've heard a lot of people say this is a good read for a whole summer, and I can't argue with that. It's just the right length to start reading right after school lets out, and finish just before it's back in session. Plus it just feels summery to me, being set in the South and all.

I'm definitely more of a short story and novella person, so reading something this long was an ordeal for me. I don't normally read things that I have to put down more than once or twice due to time. So this was quite an adventure for me, and I'm not sure I enjoy it any more than I did before, but I gave it a shot.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The "To Read" Pile

You know you have one. You either love it or you hate it. But you have it. Let's talk "to read" piles.

This week's review book was on my figurative "to read" pile for a long time, because it's a really long book. I picked it up, read some, put it back on the pile, etc.

I say "figurative" pile because my "to read" pile doesn't live in just one place, and it's rarely an actual pile. My "to read" books usually take up space in my car, by the bed, by the couch, in my office, and in my purse. And I never used to have so many places for them until we started this blog. I was always really good at reading one book at a time (two if I had one for school and one for fun). But I also don't often read things that take me more than one or two sittings to finish... I'm not good at coming back to a book I've put down.

But now I usually have between half a dozen and a dozen books checked out of the library at any given point, because when I see that something is available, I check it out if we're going to review it in the next 2-3 months. (This backfired on me last week, since I checked out Carsick ages ago, then I had to return it because it was due and had holds on it, and couldn't get it back until the day before we had to review it.)

So what is your "to read" pile like? How big is it? Where do you keep it? What's usually in it? Does anything sit in your pile in perpetuity? Do you aspire to read your pile down to zero, or do you like having a pile there?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Favorite LONG Novel

Since Gone With The Wind is such a long book (1037 pages), we decided to pick our favorite thick novel this week.

The Mists of Avalon is just shy of 900 pages long.  It's one of Bradley's longest, I would say (she tends not to make them quite this epic) and probably one of her most well known and best loved series.

And there's a reason for that.  Because the book is wonderfully written.  I will give that Arthurian novels are about a dime a dozen.  But Bradley's is just on an entirely different level than the others I've read.  And combining the myths behind Avalon with the myths behind Arthur I think was the best way to take the story.  The characters were interesting and the story line compelling.

You have to love high fantasy to enjoy this book, I will give you that.  It's definitely a niche kind of read, but as long as you're ok with that, then this is definitely a book to read.  This is the time of year when everyone has some time off, so if you're looking for a good thick book, this is a great one to pick up.

My choice is kind of a cheat, since it's technically five novels in one book, but The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reads like one long book, so I say it's fair game.

There isn't much for me to say about it that I haven't already said before, so let's just say I'm a fan, and this compiled version is the reason I can't remember which scenes belong in which book. (Kind of like how I only ever watch Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies all in a row, so I can't remember which scenes belong in which movie.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Like Big Books and I Can Not Lie

So this week we're reading Gone With The Wind, which, if you've never seen a copy, is a pretty hefty book.  I know a lot of people who have looked at large, intimidating books and thought, "no way!" but I'm going to give you a list of some of my favorite large books.

Earth's Children by Jean Auel

While the first one isn't especially long, the series quickly picks up and by book three, each one is a beast.  But each one has a spectacular story line, a ridiculous amount of research and always keeps me incredibly interested.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Probably one of the shortest books on this list, it's still pretty hefty (especially if it's part of an anthology of her books.)  But the poetry of the language and the romance of the characters gets me every time and makes me come back to this book about once a year.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

This book is pretty recent to popularity (mainly because of the television show) and each book ranges from 700 - 1200 pages.  But the characters are engaging, the plot incredibly tangled and wonderful and you can't help but get lost in the imagery.  It's really a book that you don't even notice that it's almost 1000 pages long.

What book do you love that's really long, but you have read it over and over?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Review Me Twice - Carsick by John Waters

So because I am generally out of touch with everything, I had to rad John Waters' bio on the back flap of the book to figure out who he actually was.  But once I did, I recognized him, and I recognized his picture, so I guess at the end of the day, it wasn't THAT embarrassing that I didn't know him by name.

The book isn't entirely non-fiction.  He writes two novellas first, if the trip went as perfectly as it could possibly go and if it went as absolutely horribly as is could possibly go.  I really like that he gives us these two extremes first.  And, honestly, there are grains of truth in both of these novellas.  When you finally get to the actual trip and what actually happened, you see hints of the reality in his novellas, which was kind of cool.

And his writing about his actual trip was neat.  He met some intensely interesting people, who led interesting lives, and really, considering what COULD have happened to him hitchhiking across america, he actually had a lot of good luck in terms of the people that picked him up.

Honestly, as a normal person, I wouldn't try this.  I think a lot of his luck came from the fact that he was John Waters and people knew who he was.  I think that, as a normal person, you may not have that kind of luck.  But it was still an interesting read and, if you're looking to pick up a book about travel writing, this is certainly a good one.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Give the Gift of Books

This year is weird, you guys. I have far fewer gifts to give this year than I normally do, thanks to doing Secret Santa with my family, an agreement of no gifts (except for the kids) with my in-laws, and Secret Santa with friends as well. So I have a little leftover gift-thinking energy to share with you.

But only a little, so I only have one idea for you: give the gift of books.

If you know someone who has five billion books and you have no idea what they do or don't have, give them a gift card to a bookstore (may I recommend Cassy's employer and my personal favorite bookstore, Barnes & Noble). They have lots of cute gift cards highlighting different series and characters and genres so it still feels a little customized. There's also the "book accessory" category, with so many types of bookmarks, book lights, journals where you keep track of the books you've read and enjoyed or hated, book-of-the-month clubs (are those a thing? if not, I think I found my million-dollar idea), etc.

If you have a kid on your Christmas list, give them books. Any books (as long as they're approximately age-appropriate. I wouldn't recommend Stephen King's Carrie for a three-year-old). Little kids haven't learned yet whether they do or don't like to read. Baby books are super-fun to shop for: bath books, picture books (both classic and contemporary), finger puppet books, touch-and-feel books... so much fun. And it gives you an excuse to play with them yourself. "Oh, I'm just shopping for my kids..."

For the older kids and teens who like books, that's easy. Get them a book they've asked for or a gift card.

For the ones who think they don't like books, prove them wrong. I have a nephew who likes to play Minecraft. There are tons of guides on Minecraft that, while they aren't narrative or particularly educational, they're books, and they're related directly to something he's interested in. Look at lists of books for "reluctant readers" and see if you can find something that might catch the eye of the kid or teen on your list.

For adults, look at coffee table books. My grandfather likes antique cars and hand-lettered signs. My step-mom crochets. My uncle is an Elvis tribute artist. All of these topics (and so, so many more) have at least dozens of coffee table books about them. Alternately, I could find a history of hand-lettered signs, a book of crochet patterns, and an Elvis biography, if they're more inclined to reading.

"Books" doesn't have to be literal, either. For a higher-price gift, look at e-readers or tablets. I'm fairly certain you can gift e-books themselves. Maybe a magazine would be a more appropriate gift for your recipient.

There are also those little humor books that make fun little stocking stuffers and often wind up in a basket of bathroom reading materials. There are cookbooks, novels, travel books... that's the amazing thing about books. There are so many of them, and they're so diverse, there is literally a book for everyone... even the people who think they don't like books.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Favorite Travel Books

Last Chance to See

It never ceases to amaze me, in the course of writing this blog, when I run across an entire genre or subgenre of books I am shockingly unfamiliar with. You'd think, out of all the books I've read in my life, I would have read a few enjoyable books categorized in "travel." But despite all my searching and list-reading and remembering, I don't recall reading very many, and the few I have read, I didn't really like. (See exhibit A, The Museum of Intangible Things, the first one that came to mind.)

But I saw that Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See was on a Goodreads list of "travel books" so I'll roll with that. I haven't finished the book - I picked it up out of curiosity years ago and got really busy so I never got back to it - but I really liked what I did read.

Douglas Adams went to Madagascar with a zoologist to write about what he saw there. He wrote about how beautiful and unique it was, but also how we shouldn't be flocking there to gawp at it because we won't be doing it any favors, because humans are pretty destructive, if you haven't noticed. (Go ask the Galapagos... actually, don't, because you'll be doing more damage than good if you go there, too.) It's classic Adams funny, but also really serious and important.

So is it technically a traveling book?  Well, three out of our four main characters travel.  And the pants themselves, which are also kind of a character too, travel, so I'm going with yes, this is a travel book, if not one in the most traditional sense of the word.

It's a book about four friends who get separated for the first summer in sixteen years.  And not just a little separated: one goes to mexico, one goes to Greece, one goes to North Carolina and the last stays home.  So the pants (that mysteriously perfectly fit these four girls with DRASTICALLY different body types) are mailed from friend to friend, connecting them and keeping a hold on their friendship and making them realize what their friendship is about.  They go through really hard times, and made some huge mistakes, and all four of them do a whole lot of traveling that summer, but inevitably, the pants bring them through it.

The book, really, is about friendship, but it's also about learning how to be a friend when you're not together, and there is a lot of traveling, so it's my favorite travel book.  (Plus the word TRAVELING is right there in the title.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Excuse me, Where is the Travel Section?

You'd be surprised at how many times a day I hear that phrase.  At least three (down the escalator and go directly to your left.)  And, usually, the person is looking for books to take with them to other countries.  These two are probably the two most popular series for that:

But then why is the travel section so popular?  It's probably one of our most frequented sections in the store, one of the messiest, because so many people spend their time there.  Well, for one, people tend to pick up huge stacks of the books, take them up to the cafe, and look at all the pictures and then leave them there.

But that's neither here nor there.

But there are also a lot of things in the travel section that people don't realize.

There are one of these for just about every major city in the entire world located in the travel section, including the one that you live in.  It's a great reference guide when you want to know great places to eat not only where you live, but where you're going.

And speaking where you live, do you realize that there's and entire regional section in your bookstore?  It has outdoor and sightseeing activities.  It has family friendly events, not to mention a bunch of historical information about all the local towns in your area.  Now, I realize that I, personally, probably have a larger local section than most, due to the fact that Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. are all considered local to us, so they're all housed in our regional section, which is a little abnormal.  But we have local ghost lore and pictorial books, all housed in the travel section.  It's a great way to learn about activities in your area.

There's also the travel writing section, which is where our book this week is located.  It's books ABOUT travel, not books about specific places.  John Waters' book, Carsick, is about how he hitchhiked across america.  A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is about his travels on the Appalachian trail (in my bookstore under local travel, anywhere else, would be under travel writing).

There are all sorts of things to discover in the travel section (including maps.  Yes, they do still exist.)  So maybe, just take a peek in there next time you visit your bookstore.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Author Bio: John Waters

I find it fascinating the many different ways people can be introduced to celebrities and pop culture phenomena. For example, as much as I adore Monty Python today, the first thing I ever saw Eric Idle in was Casper (you know, the one with Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci). So I find it amusing that the first time I was made aware of John Waters, someone who has done so much, was the fifteenth episode of the eighth season of "The Simpsons," "Homer's Phobia."

If you haven't seen it, go watch it. It's a classic.

But John Waters is a writer, director, actor, voice actor, plus... a writer! And this week, we're reading his most recent book, Carsick. He decided to hitchhike across America and write a book about it, and it promises to be very interesting and funny, like most things he does.

This is one of those instances where I can't go into much detail without going into all the detail, so check out a list of John Waters' great works at IMDB and another list at Wikipedia.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Winner of the Signed Unwind!

And the winner is....


We sent Brent an email so that we can send him his signed copy!

The giveaway was a HUGE success!  We had so many people enter it, probably more than we've ever had before.  We hope that we keep seeing everyone hanging around the blog and stay tuned!  We actually do giveaways pretty frequently around here because we basically just love our readers.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review Me Twice - My True Love Gave To Me by Multiple Authors

I am actually a big fan of anthologies.  I have the theory that, by sheer odds, you're eventually going to hit ONE story that you like in it.  And I did.  In fact, there were a number of stories that I liked in it.  I really liked the one by Rainbow Rowell, though probably more so because when I went to see her at Politics and Prose, she read it.

If you ever get the chance to hear an author read their own work, do it.  It's SO MUCH BETTER than what happens in my head (and what happened there was pretty good.)

Some were definitely better than others, because you have twelve authors and while some are great authors, not all of them are meant to be short story writers.  David Levithan's was not one of my favorites.  I love him, and I liked his better when I heard him read it out loud, but I still didn't enjoy his story as much as I have enjoyed his books.

But probably my favorite out of the whole batch was Gayle Foreman's.  It was funny and poignant and sweet and just a great story.  I thought it was well done and one of those stories that was satisfying where it ended but still full of potential.

The book was a good anthology, and definitely worth reading, especially if you're just looking for a nice Christmas book.

I promise, one of my New Year's resolutions is to read every single Review Me Twice book beginning to end. But it's still 2014, so I didn't finish this one. What I did read, though, I really loved. My favorite thing about anthologies (other than what Cassy mentioned above, finding at least ONE you like) is how different authors take different approaches to the same theme or topic. I think a major reason why I didn't manage to finish this book on time was that I had to put it down between stories (and there are a lot of stories... twelve, so sayeth the subtitle). I don't read different authors' short stories back to back. When the anthology is all the same author, I can read straight through, but I have to do that thing where you put it down and digest what you read before I can pick it back up in the multi-author situation.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Signed Books

Don't meet your heroes. That's what they say, right? Well, I think they're a bunch of idiots. Here's why.

There are three possible outcomes of meeting your heroes.

One, they turn out to completely suck. This is the scenario the adage above warns against. If you idolize someone, and then you meet them, and find out that they're a terrible person in some way, it is not a good feeling. But I say it's for the best. Would you rather go around unaware, idolizing some jerk just because you aren't aware they they're a jerk? I wouldn't.

Scenario two, they turn out to be good. Not amazing, not fantastic, just... good. And that's pretty good. You might be underwhelmed by them and no longer idolize them, which is fine. You'll still like them. But idolatry is a little over-rated.

And the third possibility is that they are amazing. Either you didn't expect them to be that great and they are, or they somehow manage to live up to every over-the-top expectation you had for them because they're your hero and you love every second of that.

Let's put it this way. Cassy and I have had quite the whirlwind of celebrity meetings this year. They've all ranged from good to amazing. You could say we've just been lucky, but I think that for the most part (and this is a generalization, I know not all of them are like this) the kind of celebrities - especially authors - who do signings and meet-and-greets and photo ops are the kind of celebrities who enjoy meeting their fans, or are at least good at pretending to.

Which brings us back to this week's giveaway. I didn't have the experience of meeting Neal Shusterman... that was Cassy. She got me a signed book because I have the most awesome co-blogger in the world, and I think it's amazing. But I treasure it all the more after hearing Cassy tell me about how cool he is: funny and nice and just an all-around great guy. If she had been like, "Yeah he was okay" and had nothing more to say about it, I'd be like, "Neat, a signed book. If I'm ever destitute, I could sell it for a little more than the book without the signature in it." But as it is, I have this really cool token of an amazing interaction with an author who cares about his fans. For goodness' sake, guys, he retweeted us! US!

Me and my friends Chris and Beth meeting Bryan Lee O'Malley (right), author of the Scott Pilgrim series.
Waited two hours in line, but he met probably over 100? 200? people before us. Still smiling.
Still very nice. Still complimented Beth's boots. Clearly one of those great guys I'm talking about.

So meet your heroes, if you get the chance. If they turn out to suck, I'm really sorry, but you'll find new, better heroes more deserving of your love. In the far more likely event that they're awesome, get something signed, or ask nicely to take a photo with them, and you'll have a lovely memento of that amazing time you met someone who really was all they were cracked up to be.

And in the meantime, get your own token of someone else's awesome interaction with a great author - who I hear is also a great guy in general - and enter to win a signed copy of Neal Shusterman's Unwind!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Favorite Anthology

Zombies Vs. Unicorns is one that I fell upon specifically because of Scott Westerfeld.  He had mentioned that he had taken part in it on his blog, so I ended up picking it up at super deep discount years ago when Borders was going out of business.  Sad, I know, but it worked out well for me.

And it was a fun one, because the whole thing started when Christine Larbalestier (Westerfeld's wife and author of Liar) got into a blog war with Holly Black (author of The Spiderwick Chronicles) about which was better: Zombies or Unicorns.  Larbalestier was team Zombies and Black was team Unicorns.

This is what the cover of the book looked like under the dust jacket.

As the blog war went on, different YA authors took sides, and inevitably, the whole thing turned into a book.  So each author wrote a short story for their "side".  The whole thing was fun and hysterical, and I think ended up being great because it was such a pet project for all of them.  The whole concept was really, at the end of the day, a big practical joke.  But that's kind of what made the book so wonderful.  It didn't take itself seriously at ALL.

It also has some GREAT authors writing for it: Maureen Johnson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Garth Nix, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Carrie Ryan, Kathleen Duey, Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik, and Diana Peterfreund.

Basically, it's a book with Zombie and Unicorn short stories.  How could you POSSIBLY go wrong with this?

I tried to think of a multi-author anthology I liked better than this book, because to me, "anthology" implies multiple authors, and when it's all by one author, I think "collection." But whatever, it didn't work... this is apparently my favorite anthology: Everything's Eventual by Stephen King.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again... Stephen King is excellent at the short story. He loses me with the longer novels but that's just a personal preference. Obviously his novels do just fine, lots of people read and like them. They just aren't for me. His short stories, however, are just pure art.

I don't think I even have a favorite from this book, either. The title story is really great, and I think about it often. It's one of those stories that sticks with you. Possibly because I have the version pictured here, and that cover photo does wonders for solidifying the story in your head. Just amazing.

If someone told me they wanted to start reading Stephen King but they didn't like long books, and wanted to know where they should start, I would hand them a copy of Everything's Eventual. Then I'd probably pile The Running Man and The Long Walk on top of it, but still. Great book.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


This week, we're reading, My True Love Gave To Me, a YA Christmas anthology that just came out with some of our favorite authors participating in it.

What is an anthology, exactly?  Well, dear old Webster defines it as "a book or other collection of selected writings by various authors,usually in the same literary form, of the same period, or on the same subject."

Basically, it means a bunch of short stories, all put together in one book.  Now, sometimes, it's lots of authors purposely getting together and writing stories to create an anthology, like this week's book.

In this case, all these YA authors decided it would be a good idea to write some short stories and make this book.  A lot of times, authors do this to promote their own writings.  For instance, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell just were at Politics and Prose in DC doing a book signing, and you could get them to both sign this book.  I know they then went up to New York where ten of the twelve authors were going to be around to sign it.  So it really promotes the authors and their books.

Sometimes, an editor just takes a bunch of essays or short stories of similar topics and puts them together in a book because they think that people will buy them.  I know that this set comes out every year. 

 There are a bunch more, like the best sport stories and the best essays, etc.  They come out every year and it's just what are thought to be the best stories of the year in that category.  They usually sell pretty well and people pick them up based on the subject their interested in.

50 Essays is also another that's fairly popular, and is just a collection of popular essays, organized by subject.  A lot of professors use it as required reading because there are so many different subject matters in it and so many different authors, from writers to celebrities, so it's a nice range of essays to teach a class with.

Really, an anthology is just a collection of stories or essays that an editor thinks is going to sell well.  Sometimes, authors will specifically write a story for an anthology, and sometimes an editor will just pick a bunch of stories to put in it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Twelve Author Bios

This week, we actually have TWELVE authors, because we're reading a Christmas Anthology!!  So, I thought it might be fun to actually do a quick bio on each of them (and that means most of them will be almost directly copy and pasted from Goodreads.  So be prepared for that.)

Stephanie Perkins

Perkins writes novels for teens (and for adults who aren't afraid to admit that teen books are awesome). She was born in South Carolina, raised in Arizona, attended universities in San Francisco and Atlanta, and now lives in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.
Her best friend is her husband Jarrod. Their house is almost a hundred years old, and every room is painted a different color of the rainbow. They share it with a cat named Mr. Tumnus.
She's always worked with books—first as a bookseller, then as a librarian, and now as a novelist. On weekdays, you'll find her at her desk, typing away, downing cups of coffee and tea. On the weekend, you'll find her at the movies, waiting for the actors to kiss. She believes all novels and films should have more kissing.
Holly Black
Holly Black is a best-selling author of contemporary fantasy novels for kids, teens, and adults. She is the author of the Modern Faerie Tale series (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside), The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), and The Good Neighbors graphic novels (with Ted Naifeh) The Poison Eaters and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction, and The Curse Worker series (White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart). She is also the co-editor of three anthologies, Geektastic (with Cecil Castellucci), Zombies vs. Unicorns (with Justine Larbalestier), and Welcome to Bordertown (with Ellen Kushner). Her most recent works are the middle grade novel, Doll Bones, and the dark fantasy stand-alone, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.

Ally Carter
Ally Carter is a writer living and working in the Midwest. She loved school so much she kept going...and going...and going...until finally she had to graduate. Now she has degrees from Oklahoma State University and Cornell University and a house and a job and other very grown-up things.

Her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever. She'd tell you more, know...
Gayle Foreman

My name is Gayle Forman and I love to write young-adult novels. Because I do. So thank you for reading them. Because without you, it’d just be me. And the voices in my head.

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications asJane, Seventeen, Glamour, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine, to name just a few. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Jenny Han
(Han like Han Solo, not Han like hand) was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. She went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Heels!) and she went on to graduate school at the New School in New York City, where she received her MFA in Writing for Children. She lives in Brooklyn.  She is the author of To All The Boys I Have Loved Before and The Summer I Turned Pretty

David Levithan

David Levithan (born 1972) is an American children's book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

Kelly Link
Kelly Link is an American author of short stories born in 1969. Her stories might be described as slipstream or magic realism: sometimes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realism.

Myra McEntire

Myra McEntire is an avid Doctor Who fan and will argue passionately about which incarnation is the best. She loves to search thrift stores for things to upcycle, as she’s a big believer in second chances. She lives with her two boys and husband near Nashville, Tennessee. Myra is the author of the Hourglass trilogy, which has been nominated for two RITAs and a YALSA Teen Top Ten, and was chosen as a SIBA Okra Pick. She’s currently contracted with Storybird, where she’s serializing a middle grade novel, called THE SHADOW GATE.

Matt De La Pena
Matt de la Peña is the author of five critically-acclaimed young adult novels—Ball Don't Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You and The Living—as well as the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.

Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they're screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she's not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.
Laini Taylor
Hi there! I'm a writer of fantasy books for young people, but my books can be enjoyed by adults as well. My 'Dreamdark' books, Blackbringer (2007) and Silksinger (2009) are about faeries -- not dainty little flowery things, but warrior-faeries who battle devils. My first young adult book, Lips Touch, is a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award! It's creepy, sensual supernatural romance. . . about kissing. I am also an artist with a licensed gift product line called "Laini's Ladies."

Kiersten White
Hi! I'm the New York Times best-selling author of Paranormalcy and Supernaturally. I also give the most awkward hugs in the world. You should probably opt for one of my books over one of my hugs, but then again, maybe you like awkward hugs.

As for me, I like writing flirting scenes, and fighting scenes, and sometimes I write scenes that fall somewhere in between the two, but only if I can't avoid it.

And don't forget to enter our contest to win a signed copy of Unwind!!!