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Stacks and Stacks

7 Jul

Welcome to all my new followers! Poke around, see whatcha find, but be careful. Some of those bookcases are a little overloaded, and the stacks are likely to tip. If you get lost, send up a flare.  Also there’s some big happenings around here, check the end of the post for more details!

I’ve been intending to write this post for awhile, like oh, since I got back from BEA, but you know, it was just a lot of work, what with stacking the books just so, and taking the pictures and then, ugh, uploading them. Kidding, of course. I just fail at planning ahead. But never fear! Lovely stacks of books from BEA, most of which are not suffering from extreme glare issues.

There’s a quite a selection here, but there are a few on this list that I’m particularly excited for. I’ve talked about the Buzz books I’m psyched for like Room by Emma Donoghue and obviously my glee for The Passage cannot be denied. (Speaking of which, Powell’s is giving away a signed first edition of The Passage. You can enter here: http://wfi.re/1hoga). But there are a few others on this list that I’m also really excited for.

  1. Peep Show by Josha Braff (yes, the brother of Zach Braff). Published last month by possibly my favorite imprint, Algonquin, this one caught my eye since I adored his first novel, The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green. It follows a teenager in the 70s who must choose between helping his ailing father in the Times Square adult theater business (hence the title of the book) and his mother’s growing Hasidic faith. Sounds like a fantastic read, and a story that I’ve never seen before, for sure. Plus Algonquin rarely disappoints, so I’m looking forward to this one.
  2. The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope. I picked this up completely by accident in the Random House booth (Other Press, a RH imprint, is the publisher) and thought it sounded good just from the blurbs on the back cover. But then I started to see it popping up in lots of places, like Trish at Hey Lady featured it in her “Peeing My Pants” series, and then yesterday morning it showed up in The Pass’ Fall Preview Supplement. Seems I’m not the only one excited for this book.
  3. Sunset Park by Paul Auster. Sad to say, my experience with Auster’s work is extremely lacking. His The New York Trilogy is one of those that I can’t believe I haven’t picked up yet, and I bought Invisible for my dad last year, with the full intention of reading it myself. I hasn’t happened yet, but Auster’s new book is coming out in November and I fully intend to get to it before it goes into paperback ;). I’m mostly kidding, but I am excited for this book.
  4. Mr Toppit by Charles Elton. Another Other Press find that I didn’t intend to get, but which I’ve now heard great things about. Other Press’s Web site has this to say: “Spanning several decades, from the heyday of the postwar British film industry to today’s cutthroat world of show business in Los Angeles, Mr. Toppit is a riveting debut novel that captures an extraordinary family and their tragic brush with fame to wonderfully funny and painful effect.”  Originally released in 2009 in the UK, the reviews have praised the “pitch-black humor.”  The U.S. version will be released in November. 

There are so many fantastic books in these stacks though, it’s hard to know when I’m going to find the time to read them all! Ohh look more!! Anything in these that you like? (I am still in the process of updating my Goodreads to reflect the aquisition of these books, along with the books I got at ALA here in DC a few weekends ago.)

A couple other pieces of news that I mentioned at the beginning of this post: I’m quickly approaching both my one-year anniversary on this blog, and my 100th post. I think that calls for some giveaways, don’t you?? Keep an eye out later this week for the details.

Also, I don’t make it a habit to make shoutouts, but my girl Lilu is up for the job of a lifetime as MTV’s first TJ (that’s Twitter V-jay) and needs some votes to make it happen. Voting starts at 11am today, you can vote on Facebook here: http://facebook.com/zync. Go do it. She’s the bomb, and she likes books. So yay for that 🙂

NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 5

18 Jun

Wow, five wrap-up posts?

Who am I and what have I done with myself?

This will be the last of the “this is what I did with myself that whole time” posts, I promise, but Book Blogger Convention day was mostly the whole reason I went to NYC in the first place, so it deserves its own post. I have to admit that this long after the con, it’s been tough to remember what happened and what the sessions were about. So I’ve been skimming a lot of other fantastic posts like the one from Fizzy Thoughts, Girl from The GhettoKim’s at Sophisticated Dorkiness and a really comprehensive round-up from Kittling Books. The Reading Ape also wrote a great reaction post that highlighted some of the things I was also feeling, post-BBC but couldn’t quite articulate.

I don’t think I’m going to re-cap each of the panels individually because those great bloggers above (none of whom I got to meet, I would like to note — ::sadface::) did such a great job of it. But my reactions to the day’s events I think is more pertinent (at least to me when I go back and read this post later).

First of all, Maureen Johnson was amaze balls. I was familiar with her and her writing before BBC, even though I’m not primarily a YA reviewer. I read Suite Scarlett on my nook and have purchased the follow-up Scarlett Fever as an eBook as well. I’ve been following her on Twitter for quite a while, and she consistently makes me laugh at least once a day. I was expecting great things from her keynote and wasn’t disappointed.

There were some great quotes that I wanted to highlight (which lots of others have highlighted as well — I’m not that unique):

  • “Writing is something you do by yourself, but not because you want to be alone.”
  • “Bloggers are book activists.”
  • In response to the question I asked about a phenomenon I’d heard about on the BEA floor the day before, of an author having a “ghost Twitter-er”: “Writers should write their own stuff. It’s the least we can do.” This concept apparently stirred quite the pot — both from bloggers and from publicists, who emphasized that authors are encouraged to build their own audiences but shouldn’t lie about it.

In general I was really enthused by her encouragement of bloggers as a driving force on behalf of books.

Ron Hogan’s talk on professionalism was great, especially his opening line: “The war between critics and bloggers is over. And the bloggers won.” Talk about a cheer from the crowd. I really took a lot out of his presentation, even though I wasn’t very familiar with his site Beatrice beforehand. The biggest point was that bloggers and traditional critics shouldn’t be held to the same standards of professionalism because we operate in different ways. Newspapers don’t have to tell the FTC where they get the review copies they read, but bloggers do? (Apparently not anymore, as the FTC guidelines changed again.) But the question is, why wouldn’t we want to hold ourselves to a high standard? Isn’t it important that readers know who we are and potentially where our books are coming from? It’s something I hadn’t really considered before, since before BEA, I’d never received an ARC from a publisher to review. I never before felt that I had the audience to support ARC requests, and in all fairness, I wish there were a few more specifics in terms of guidelines for bloggers. As a relative newbie, I still feel a lot of times that I’m fumbling for answers or for “rules of the game.” I assumed that most of my readers knew that I own most of the books I’m reviewing (okay, I own all of them). But in the future, when I review a book that I received from a publisher, it’s something I plan on disclosing, because I don’t want any question of my integrity to be called into question. He definitely gave me some things to think about for the future of this blog.

After lunch, the panels were a bit hit or miss — I really enjoyed the Writing and Building Content panel and the Marketing panel. But both seemed to be kind of one note — Keep doing what you’re doing and be yourself. The Reading Ape made the point that I think can be used for both of them: What if what you’re doing sucks? I admit to feeling the little green jealousy monster when blogs that I think are fairly similar to mine and started after mine have more commenters, more followers, more everything, and I can’t seem to jump start an audience. Especially when I’m aware that one of the criteria publishers are looking for is number of commenters. I also know that Building Content is something I need to work at, but finding the time to blog regularly is tough. Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog gave me some great encouragement during a break between panels, that I think can apply to most of us struggling with content and writing. She asked how long I’d been blogging, and when I told her it’d been just less than a year, she told me that she (and most bloggers) took at least a year to find their voice, so to not beat myself up for not having it down pat yet. Most of the bloggers on the building content panel have been blogging for a long time, so developing a strategy and a schedule for blogging seems to be one of those places I need to work on.

The second two panels — Blogging With Social Responsibility and Impact of the Relationship Between Author and Blogger — felt less relevant to me. Both of those topics seem to be something that are only relevant if you have an audience to pay attention, and I’m still working on that part. Though I don’t discount anyone’s ability to create author relationships or to create change by blogging about it, its personally not something I’m focused on.

In short, what I’m taking away from BBC is that blogging takes work, but that there’s room for everyone out there. As long as you stay dedicated to your own voice and to your own reading, you can’t help but be successful. And that the only definition of success that matters is your own.

NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 4

16 Jun

While my posts about BEA etc. have been pretty detailed to this point, my descriptions of Wednesday and Thursday are going to feel like a blur. Because that’s what they felt like to me. I came into BEA with a plan, I swear I did. I had a spreadsheet and maps and highlighters, and I was pretty successful at sticking to it. Okay, so success is relative, but I did make it to about half the things on my schedule, starting with the Children’s Author Breakfast. Being the poor student I am, I didn’t bother with the more expensive breakfast tickets and I sat in the back in theater seating, for the event hosted by Sarah Ferguson (fresh from her news-making scandal) and featuring Cory Doctorow, Mitali Perkins, and Richard Peck. Each of the authors was someone I was familiar with by name, but not by work. Mitali made some great connections about children’s literature providing “windows and mirrors” for kids, which is one of the most beautiful and accurate descriptions of children’s literature I’ve heard. Richard Peck was hysterical. He said one thing in particular that made me laugh and cringe at the same time: “The English invented childhood, but we Americans invented adolescence….And then we invented graduate school to make adolescence last longer!” Oy. That’s so me — and so true. I loved his talk.

I’d also gotten up early to get a ticket for Joyce Carol Oates’ signing for her new collection Sourland: Stories — however, Ms. Oates never showed and I didn’t stick around longer than 15 minutes to see if she would. Unfortunately, the publisher gave each of the people in line a copy of the book anyway, after I bailed. Oh well. I had places to go, people to see. I popped into see a few minutes of the “You’re Reading That!?! Crossover YA/Adult Readers Come of Age” panel, but it was a full house, and I had to get in line for Scott Turow’s signing of Innocent, which had just been released that week. This is a sequel to his nearly 25-year-old blockbuster Presumed Innocent which I’d never read. Standing in line though, I started chatting with a bookseller who pressed me to read the original before I picked up #2. He told me that Presumed Innocent was essentially the genesis for all crime/procedural fiction of the last quarter century, and that he literally wrote the book on the genre. Considering one of my guilty pleasures is crime fiction (hello, Greg Iles and Tana French!), I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it. So I got my copy of Innocent and promised the bookseller I’d read the original first.

From there, it was a blur of signings (Allison Winn Scotch, Elizabeth Scott, and more) and finding my way around the floor. I think I managed to eat at some point in the day…maybe? Then I made my way down to the BEA YA Author’s Buzz panel. The editors included: Julie Strauss-Gabel, Associate Publisher, Dutton Children’s Books with Ally Condie’s MATCHED; Jennifer Weis, Executive Editor, St. Marin’s Press with Rebecca Maizel’s INFINITE DAYS; Cindy Eagan, Editorial Dir., Poppy with Kody Keplinger’s THE DUFF; Farrin Jacobs, Executive Editor, Harper Teen with Sophie Jordan’s FIRELIGHT; Arthur Levine, VP & Editorial Dir., Arthur A. Levine Books with Erin Bow’s PLAIN KATE. Publisher’s Weekly has a great wrap-up of the panel here and I’ll admit I wasn’t as jazzed about the titles in the YA Buzz panel as I was about the Adult Buzz panel, I came away from it wanting to read at least a few of these titles. I picked up copies (both right after the panel and over the course of BEA) of Matched, Infinite Days , The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and Firelight. Following recent YA trends, there are several trilogies in the making, dystopian fiction, dragons, and fantasy in this collection of titles. Keplinger’s The Duff is the only real life book in the pack, and I’m really intrigued by this book, as the author was only 17 when she wrote it, which according to her, only took a month and half. I don’t know if that’s an indication of the quality of the writing or of the truth behind the story. It actually reminded me of a quote from Richard Peck’s speech earlier in the day: “No one grows up in a group. They grow up one at a time despite the group.”

After BEA (and a few more signings and booth visits), I made a pit stop at my cousin’s place to drop off books and gussy myself up for HarperCollins’ Blogger Roundtable — which was really just an open bar with bloggers, authors and HC editors and publicists. Fine by me!! I’d run into an old college friend at the 7 x 20 x 21 panel the day before who is an Associate Editor for HarperCollins, and I got a chance to catch up with him. I also met some great authors like Teddy Wayne (Kapitoil), Jennifer McMahan (Dismantled) and Rachel Shukert (Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour). I mingled with bloggers I didn’t know of and bloggers I was secretly obsessed with and would never ever introduce myself to (omg, they’re like celebs — what?). I also met Lori of The Next Best Book Blog who instantly became my blogger buddy for the rest of the week.

After a long day on Wednesday, I was starting to feel the pain of the conference. My shoulders ached, my feet hurt, and I was exhausted. But power through I did, and Thursday turned out to be a great day.

I started my day a tad late (sleeeeep deprived!) and walked into the Author Breakfast right after John Stewart took the mic. Oh. Dear. Lord. Funny. Seriously, my sides ached, my face hurt, and I was crying. If anyone was like me in that breakfast and had walked in feeling really sleepy and unenthusiastic, they certainly didn’t walk out that way. The authors on the panel were no slouches either: Condelezza Rice, John Grisham and Mary Roach. Stewart intro’d each of them appropriately; after giving a run-down of Rice’s resume, he said, “You know, I’m not all that familiar with her work…yeah…I don’t really know anything about her.” She then got up and talked about the book that she’d written about her parents, their encouragement of education, and about spending the first decade of her life or so in Birmingham, Ala. in the midst of the civil rights movement. Stewart, of course, immediately said after she was done, in a totally fake crying voice, “Don’t… make… me… like… you.” Big laughs with that one :). He then introduced John Grisham as “a really handsome guy. He’s written like 80 million books.” But Grisham’s portion actually was pretty poignant and he told the story of how he got the idea for his first and only non-fiction book Innocent Man. It came from an obituary in the New York Times, about a guy who’d been freed from death row after being wrongfully convicted, and who’d died at the age of 51 in a nursing home. The story stuck with him and he continues to work to get innocent men out of jail. In fact his new book, The Confession follows a similar line of thought — what happens if someone confesses to a crime that someone else is already serving jail time for? Finally, the last of the authors was Mary Roach, who joked that the breakfast had been billed as “Stewart, Rice, Grisham and More!” She was “More!” Mary was my favorite of the authors, by far. I own but haven’t read her books Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. She really knew how to make a mark on the panel and told us that she’d warned the organizers not to have her speak during a meal. For example, she talked about the process of bowel movements in space (the “plop”), and what happens to dandruff in space? Does it just float around? She was an excellent “more” and I’m excited to read not only her new book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void but her previous ones as well.

After Stewart skewered the audience in the Q&A session (“Don’t you people have any questions where we don’t have to help you? Aren’t you interested in the shit we do?”), I spent most of the morning in lines for autographs from authors like David Wiesner, Joshua Braff, Deanna Raybourn, and Steve Berry. I’d intended to attend a panel around mid-day (The Next Decade in Book Culture: A Conversation sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle), but I ran into my uncle (father of the cousin I was staying with) in the middle of the Expo floor. I knew he was attending BEA, to support and promote some kind of partnership between publishing houses and the hospitality industry, but I figured that I’d have to track him down since the Expo was so massive. Nope, I was wandering through the aisles and heard someone call my name. Since “Rachel” isn’t the most uncommon name, I turned around expecting the shout to be for someone else. It wasn’t, of course, and I spent a good hour chatting with my uncle and his colleagues. He was also there as an agent for a book by Rebecca Costa, The Watchman’s Rattle , and I met a few other agents and did a little bit of schmoozing (which I’m apparently terrible at — oh so awkward!). At that point, I had to book it to get to the Author Lunch and promised to meet up with him and my cousin for dinner that night.

I caught some of the Author Lunch, hosted by Patton Oswald and featuring Sara Gruen, Christopher Hitchens, and William Gibson. Okay, really, I just popped in long enough to hear Sara Gruen talk about her new book Ape House, and her description of the bonobo apes she met and interacted with — no, developed relationships with — to research and write her book. And I wanted to snag my copies of each of the featured authors’ new books that they gave to everyone attending the lunch. But then I had to book it to the autograph sessions with Rachel Vail and Gretchen Rubin. Can you tell what a busy day I had? I was on a schedule, people!

I took the opportunity for a break and sat through the YA Author Buzz panel, in which the authors of each of the Buzzed books answered questions and talked about their “process” for writing. I was more affected by the fact that I got to sit down for more than 10 minutes, than I was by the authors themselves. Then I stopped to get an autograph from Jennifer McMahon (who’d I met the evening before) on her new book, Dismantled. After that I waved my white flag, and hit the Book Blogger Convention Reception, where I met up with Lori from TNBBC and author Teddy Wayne. I managed to not fall asleep on my feet, and made it back to my cousin’s apartment, where I quickly shed my new load of books, put on something resembling fashion, and booked it to Dos Caminos for sweet, sweet margaritas and then dinner at ilili, a Lebanese restaurant where we ate what can really be described as an incredible feast of flavors. Seriously, the tabouleh was the best I’ve ever had. A great evening to top off a great BEA.

Next: My impressions of BBC

NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 3

15 Jun

I woke up early on Tuesday to help my mom get to the train station and to drop my suitcase off with my cousin. Turns out, putting 20 books in a piece of luggage makes it REALLY heavy. I helped my mom lug the bag into Penn Station, and departed for Javitts as soon as she was settled. She tried to move the bag and rightly decided to get Red Cap service. (I followed her lead on my trip home and got help bringing my bags down to the train too. They also let you get seated early, which is great, to avoid the rush of people when you’ve got heavy suitcases to maneuver).

I showed up at Javitts expecting my quietest and most educational day of the conference and I was right. I attended the opening plenary session, “A CEO Panel on The Value of The Book,” which was incredibly interesting, though it turned a bit into a bitch fest about the future of the publishing industry in the eBook shadow. The panel included: Bob Miller, Group Publisher, Workman; Esther Newberg, Executive Vice President, International Creative Management; Skip Prichard, Chief Executive Officer, Ingram; David Shanks, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Group; Oren Teicher, Chief Executive Officer, American Booksellers Association (ABA); and Scott Turow, Author and Incoming President, Authors Guild. The overall mood of the session was simultaneously optimistic and troubled. There was the ever-present question of books as commodity and how the publishers, authors and agents can adapt to a changing landscape. Teicher of ABA made a great point that booksellers (and I would add bloggers to this statement as well) are simply curators of books; it doesn’t matter to them what format they come in, so long as bookstores can figure out how to adapt equally to the eBook revolution. And while most of the panelists agreed that eBooks are a revolution, one of the panelists — I can’t remember who but it was one of the publishing CEOs — made a point that, right now, eBooks only account for 10% of the publishing landscape. Sure, that number is growing, but it’s still only 10% and, as of this moment, eBooks are not more profitable nor easier to produce than paper books. In fact, they’re more expensive and more labor intensive to produce. But they are the future of publishing, at least in part, and the publishers are trying to adapt the old ways.

One idea that I really loved and thought was worthy of adoption by US publishers came from Turow, who mentioned that he’d just met with his Italian publisher and they had the idea of bundling multiple formats of a book together. So that when you buy a hardcover, you also receive a code to download the eBook for free. That felt like a lightbulb moment for me, because wanting multiple formats of a book is something I really struggle with. For example, my mom bought Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes on her nook, which means that I can borrow it from her via the LendMe feature, but it’s a book I think I’d like to own in hardcover as well. I’ll probably read the eBook version, but why should I have to choose? Packaging those formats together seems like a logical way to encourage purchases of both book formats, eBook and paper (either hardcover or trade paperback).

After the plenary session, I hustled my way up to Random House to meet Kate, one of my sorority sisters, for lunch and a tour of the RH offices. She’s the Executive Assistant to the President and Publisher of Random House, so clearly has a very important job. Keep in mind I was also there on release day for The Girl That Kicked the Hornet’s Nest which is published domestically by RH. While the building was not as nuts as I was expecting (maybe because Larssen isn’t exactly doing press tours or visiting the publishing house — too soon?), the lobby was adorned with posters of the cover. I got to meet the Publisher, Gina Centrello, who was very sweet but also, I’m sure insanely busy. We took a tour of the building, after Kate oh-so-casually gestured to her very full bookcases and shelves and said to take whatever I wanted. Funnily enough, most of what she had, I already owned! I’m a good book buying consumer after all. Then we went around the corner and had some of the most incredible Thai food I’ve ever had in probably the smallest restaurant I’ve ever been in. Among other things, we discussed the industry, BEA and my decision to go to graduate school. Overall a great visit, and it was great to catch up with her.

I jumped back on the Subway to get back to Javitts in time for the 7 x 20 x 21 panel, which is in its 2nd year at BEA, but the format goes like this: 7 presenters get 20 PowerPoint slides, each displayed for 21 seconds. Each of the presenters were unique and interesting (you can find a great article about the panel on the Publisher’s Weekly site here), and I took something great from each of them. One thing that I found most intriguing — and blame this on both my Classics Challenge that’s floundering a bit and on the fact that my certificate is in the education field — is the idea of “teaching literature backwards” presented by Ed Nawotka, editor-in-chief of PublishingPerspectives.com. So that instead of starting with King Lear, for example, you start with something contemporary, like this summer’s break out The Passage, and work your way backward to Stephen King’s The Stand and eventually get to King Lear. In this way, students see the direct influence of classic, seemingly irrelevant, literature on current, popular fiction. Essentially, give them something they want to read and inspire them to want to find out what inspired it. Fantastic concept, don’t you think? One other thing to note from the panel was the presentation by author Justin Taylor and agent Eva Talmadge who are co-editing the new book The Word Made Flesh, about the rise in popularity of literary tattoos. Their PowerPoint slides were, of course, photos of literary tattoos. (The photo above is not from the book or the presentation, but from Contrariwise, a website dedicated to literary tattoos).

After that, I hit the much-anticipated BEA Adult Editor’s Buzz panel. And was completely blown away. Of the six books that were presented, I genuinely now want to read all of them.

Room by Emma Donoghue — Synopsis (from Powell’s):

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

West of Here by Jonathan Evison — Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Set in the mythical town of Port Bonita, on Washington’s rugged Pacific coast–with part of the narrative focused on the town’s founders circa 1890, and another part set in 2006 revolving around the lives of their descendants–West of Here is part romance, part adventure, and a total reminiscence on the American experience as we’ve lived it via books and film and TV. In essence, it’s about the footprints of time, about the human spirit, both individual and collective, and about the echo of human life, how something that happens in one generation keeps reverberating through all the years that follow.

Juliet by Anne Fortier — Synopsis (from Powell’s):

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key–one carried by her mother on the day she herself died–to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy. This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever–a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her–superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse–A plague on both your houses –is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre — Synopsis (from Amazon):

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren’t medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what’s, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. But he has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window in its quest to sell more copies. Now Goldacre is taking on America and its bad science in this revised version of his runaway U.K. bestseller. But he’s not here just to tell you what’s wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample size, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You’re about to feel a whole lot better.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale — Synopsis (from Amazon):

Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno’s ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys — and most affecting love stories — in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human — to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee — Synopsis (from Amazon):

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificently written “biography” of cancer–from its origins to the epic battle to cure, control, and conquer it.

I’m particularly excited by Room, West of Here and The Emperor of All Maladies. After the panel, there were a limited number of galleys available right outside the door, and the mad rush to snag copies was absolutely unreal. I managed to get Bruno Littlemore and Juliet, and over the course of BEA, I picked up Room and West of Here, both signed. And the first thing I did when I got home? Contact Scribner for a review copy of The Emperor of All Maladies. Chuck Adams, the Algonquin editor who presented West of Here, said about the book, that in his 40 years in the business, it was the best book he’s read. And he was the editor for heavy hitters like Water for Elephants. High praise indeed. Similar praise came from Cary Goldstein, the editor for Bruno Littlemore, who said that he’d waited for a year and a half for something to cross his desk that he felt was worthwhile to acquire, seeing as he only acquires one book a year for Hachette’s imprint Twelve (for the number of books they publish in a year — one a month). He also said about the infamous love scene between chimp and human, “It’s not bestiality, it’s love.”

Outside the Buzz panel and after fighting for copies of each of these awesome books, I ran into Kate, who was on her way to a Young to Publishing event, a group that she chairs for professionals new to publishing. I decided to skip the Opening Night Keynote with Barbra Streisand and headed down with Kate to The Frying Pan, which is basically a bar on a boat — yes, as cool and swaying as it sounds — where I met some very nice and smart people. On the walk to the event, I asked Kate about The Passage which is being published by Random House, and she refused to tell me what genre it falls in or even really what it’s about. In her words, it’s “genre-less.” Because, as she said, “I can tell you what it’s about and you won’t want to read it. Vampires and post-apocalyptic stuff. But its so much more than that. You have to read it. I’ll send you a copy.” Turns out she didn’t need to send me anything. I was able to get a galley signed by Justin Cronin the next day on the floor.

Coming up:

  • My last two days at BEA
  • BBC
  • And my review of The Passage (finally!)

NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 2

10 Jun

Apologies for the delay in this posting. Sometimes real life has a way of stopping blogging in its tracks.

Let’s see, where did we leave off?

Oh yes! Scholastic! So after a very busy morning, we headed over to the Scholastic offices in Soho and managed to squeeze in some lunch before the tour.

(Photo: Scouting NY)

Where there were only a few of us on the morning tours at Picador and Bloomsbury, we had a CROWD at Scholastic. I suppose that’s to be expected with the number of YA bloggers out there, but I was kind of surprised at the number of awesome bloggers on this visit. I think there were upwards of 20 people and to ease the congestion in the halls, we split up a bit. First stop was to the sub-basement to the archives, where Scholastic keeps two copies of every book they’ve published. Ever. Which produced, in the gaggle of bloggers, a muted hush at first, and then a steady hum of excitement. For me personally, I walked down one aisle and pretty much relived my late elementary school reading life. Since they catalog by ISBN, the shelves are chronologically organized. That means that all of the Baby-Sitters Club books I read in 5th and 6th grade were all together, along with several of my absolutely favorite middle readers, all in one place. I could have planted myself in the stacks for days and re-read all my first favorite books. And I know I wouldn’t have been the only one to do so in that crowd.

After the archives, the lovely publicists took us on a tour that involved several floors, several book giveaways, several departments, and two authors: Rick Riordan (who was very sweet to take time out of signing piles and piles of books to say hello) and Aimee Friedman (who is also an editor at Scholastic and talked to us for quite a while about how she started writing and how she balances her two careers). It was such a whirlwind visit, but so much fun. I was so caught up that I didn’t even take any pictures. However, we did get a group shot of all the bloggers and Aimee Friedman on the building’s roof terrace. I pulled this from the Scholastic blog (that’s me on the top row, fifth from the left):

Scholastic was also sweet enough to give us a few books, and a coupon for the Scholastic store on the first floor, with which I bought a copy of Countdown by Deborah Wiles. I’d heard lots of good things about this middle reader and since it’s set in DC, I just had to get a copy. And since it takes place in the 60s, Deborah Wiles’ website links to her iTunes iMix of music for inspiration. Love it!

After leaving the Soho offices, I met my mom and we hung out in Washington Square Park so I could put on some flip flops (already my feet were hurting!) and decompress. She’d gotten some incredible cannoli from a bakery in Greenwich Village — I don’t remember what the name was, but oh my goodness was that amazing cannoli. Great way to reenergize to explore the Village. We stopped at a great bookstore called bookbook where I managed to not buy anything but a copy of Tinkers since I’ve not been able to find it anywhere in DC. Then we browsed an old school record store and I lusted over a couple of $75+ recordings of live Beatles concerts, before we hit up a pizza place and ate a couple of slices in a park. It was a fantastic NYC kind of evening, before jumping in a cab (I had a lot of books!) and heading back to our hotel downtown. We made it an early night; we stayed in and watched Shutter Island, since we both had to be up early — me for the first day of BEA and her for an early train back to DC. To top it off, she took all the books I’d gotten at the publishing house tours back home with her. All 20 of them. Her suitcase was soooo heavy, but she was a trooper and lugged it home.

 Next time: BEA!! Finally!

NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-up, part 1

4 Jun

My apologies for being a little tardy (okay a lot tardy) with this post. I returned on Friday from eight days in lovely New York City and literally needed every moment of the three-day weekend to recover/catch up on homework. I did manage to catch up on sleep, but the homework? Yeah that got ignored in favor of the galley of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. I’ll post a more complete review of that this weekend, but this post is all about NYC, BEA and BBC (check out all those acronyms!)

You might be wondering why I was in New York for eight days when BEA and BBC only took up, at most four of those. My mom is a major NYC fiend so when she heard I was going up for the Expo, she offered to fund an extension of the trip. So we hopped on a train at a really unreasonably early hour on Friday (that’d be the 22nd — so long ago!) and booked our way up the 3 1/2 hour trip. I spent most of the trip finishing It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong (aka dooce), which was hysterical. To the point that people starting glaring at me when I cackled loudly, and my mom elbowed me so hard I ended up with a bruise on my arm. I don’t care. I loved it, and am also now rethinking this whole “I want a buncha babies!” thing.

Anydooce, we got into Penn Station and cabbed to our hotel, Gild Hall, down in the Financial District on Gold Street (which is cute, until you realized that not a single cab driver in New York has ever heard of Gold Street, nor have they heard of the cross street, which is not so cute). I only mention the hotel because, omg you guys, the library in this place was incredible. It was very manly in terms of general decor: lots of dark wood, horse-related accessories, plaid. But the staircase and second floor library was drool worthy. See:

(Photo #1: The Suite Life, Photo #2: Ryan Charles)

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time cozied up here — of course, there would have been no such thing as “enough time” with the right books and beverages (and Snuggies).

Nonetheless, I highly recommend this hotel if you’re in the city, but with one caveat: if you’re not familiar with NY, stick to something a little more midtown. There’s almost nothing going on at night that far downtown, and it can get pretty quiet. I lived in the city for a semester in college (in that neighborhood in fact), so I’m really comfortable with the Subway and with finding my way around. If you’re not though, this isn’t the best hotel choice. (It’s also really pricey, hence the reason I didn’t stay there after my mom came back home, but instead stayed with my cousin, Becks, who was in the process of packing up to move out of the city.) I pretty much died for about 2 hours by the time we checked in — yes the first thing I did in New York is nap. Sue me, this was technically my vacation. After that, my mom and I spent most of the weekend gallivanting around the city — sometimes with my cousin, sometimes without. A bulleted list if you will:

  • Dinner at a great neighborhood place, in Hell’s Kitchen, called Stecchino’s, that had possibly some of the best pasta I’ve ever had. Plus, we went with a coupon from LivingSocial so it was super cheap.
  • Pinkberry — yum! Fro-Yo!
  • A lovely 2 mile walk up the East Side, through the edge of Chinatown
  • Breakfast at Sugar Cafe in the East Village, where I had the perfect NYC breakfast (and, as I told my mom, my choice for my last meal if I’m ever on death row): a bagel, with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, red onion, and tomatoes
  • A tour through the Tenament Museum that featured a Jewish family from the mid-1800s in one apartment, and an Italian family from the 1900s in another. As my mom said, “Rach, it’s like our family!!” Very cool. If you’ve never done this museum, it’s well worth the trip.
  • Dinner at David Burke Townhouse — also incredible food. You’ll be hearing that a lot. We didn’t take a single misstep, food wise, all weekend. (The same cannot be said of my dining experiences at Javitts.)
  • MEMPHIS on Broadway. Holy awesome production, Batman. Great music, great story, great show.
  • Dessert at The Modern, which is a restaurant/lounge attached to the MOMA. We all ordered different things, and passed them around, obviously, and couldn’t come to a decision about which dessert was best. They were all that good.
  • A quick subway trip to see Grand Central and the NYC Library (which was unfortunately closed — boo, Sunday hours!)
  • Matinee show of BILLY ELLIOT — I hate to say this because I know it won a bunch of awards, but I wasn’t a big fan. If you’re interested to know why, ask, but it’s a long diatribe that I’ll spare you from here.
  • Dinner at The Harrison — also, amazing food, though we had issues with our reservations. They were quick to fix them, but it was annoying.

On Monday (yes, we did all of that from mid-day Friday through Sunday), I headed to the Flatiron building for tours of Bloomsbury and Picador, that were set up through Book Blogger Convention. Which is kind of stellar, isn’t it? It was a small group of us at these two houses: Wendy at Caribou’s Mom, Gaby at Starting Fresh, Angela at Dark Faerie Tales, and Tania at Literary Cravings. Both Bloomsbury and Picador were super welcoming and friendly. Bloomsbury gave us a few books that were discovered by bloggers, which was a great touch. Then we went to Picador, which was also great. The publicity team really seemed interested in how to reach bloggers, and it didn’t hurt that they gave us mimosas and free rein of their “book room.” I took 4 or 5 paperbacks (since that’s what they specialize in) that I’m really excited about. I’ll be posting more about my books from the week later, in more detail.

After that, Gaby, Angela, Tania and I headed to Soho to visit the Scholastic offices….which I’ll tell you about tomorrow! (This post is already really long!)

Welcome to A Home Between Pages

24 May

Book Blogger Convention

I’m in New York City this week for Book Expo America and Book Blogger Convention.

This post will be up all week, and I invite you to look around the site.

About me: I’m Rachel, I’m currently working full-time as an editor (not in the book industry), and getting a certificate in Children’s Literature through Penn State online. I’m also starting my Master’s in the fall for a program in Publishing. Obviously, I’m a book lover and with my busy schedule, there’s never enough time to read as much as I’d like.

You’ll find reviews about literary fiction, contemporary fiction, classics, young adult fiction and some memoir. You can see the list of books I’ve read so far in 2010 here to get a better sense of what I enjoy. You can also see two of my favorite posts here and here.

I’ll be Tweeting all week from @homebtwnpages as much as I can, and I’ll be posting sporadically whenever I can get in front of a computer. If you’re a  publicist, agent or author, please check out my review policy and my contact page for more information. Or you can email me at homebetweenpages@gmail.com.

If you’re at BEA or BBC, I hope to see you around Javitts. Enjoy the site and I hope to see you back here soon!

It’s official!

26 Apr

I’m going to be a Master’s student starting in the Fall!

If you’re not following me on Twitter (@homebtwnpages — go Follow!), you may not have heard the good news yet. But last week, I got the official Offer of Admission to George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies Master’s in Publishing program.  I’m absurdly excited, and I was browsing the classes that I can take over the next two years and, in my head, I was thinking, “Wait, I can’t take ALL of these?? You mean I have to pick?? I don’t WANNA!” I literally want to take every single class offered, even in those tracks I’m not all that pumped about — like technology. Blegh.

My parents took me out on Friday to celebrate, but this weekend was filled with FAFSA applications and loan research. Oh and paying tuition for my Summer semester of Children’s Lit classes. No rest for the weary I suppose, but I did manage to squeeze in a fantastic massage and facial on Saturday morning, which did wonders for my stress level.

As did a couple of games of Scrabble on Sunday with my parents. I lost miserably in the first game, and 12 hours later, tied my dad for first in the second game. (We did do other things between those two games, I swear. It doesn’t take us all day to play one round). We were inspired by this all-too-familiar article in Parade (does anyone else still get an actual paper delivered to them? I think my parents might be the only ones).

I also tried to read a bit more of Let the Great World Spin. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, because I was so excited when my Spring classes ended to have more time to read the books I’ve had to put on the back burner. But now, I seem to be unenthused about any kind of reading. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been catching up on my DVR and Netflix queues instead of reading. Perhaps reading burnout is more wide-spread this time, and I’m tired of reading anything. Let’s hope I snap out of it soon. I’m dying to finish LTGWS, and move onto The Help and Wolf Hall. I also think part of the problem is that I’m not feeling that engaged by LTGWS. It’s beautifully written and I love the portrait of New York in the 70s that McCann is painting, but it’s not a page-turner. And maybe that’s what I need right now.

And in other, totally unrelated news, the countdown is on for Book Expo America ’10! A month to go, and I’m already freaking out about all the things I want to do every day and how I’m never going to get it together in time. Anyone else having this issue? So much to do, Web site too confusing to figure out how to plan it all?

BookExpo America ’10

8 Feb

This time last year, I had never in my life heard of BookExpo America, otherwise known as BEA. But of course I didn’t know that it was “otherwise known as BEA” because I didn’t know it at all. Shocking, isn’t it?

Actually that’s not entirely true. I was aware, sort of, since BEA was held in DC in 2006. I was around, I guess, but I wasn’t really paying attention. At the time, I worked at Barnes & Noble and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, since I graduated the May before with a degree in a field I positively didn’t want to work in. Obviously, I was working in books, but who knew at the time that I would eventually want to make it part of my career in a more substantial and important way? I certainly didn’t.

This year though, I’d started seeing the buzz around BEA a few weeks ago from other book bloggers, many of whom attended last year in NYC. I checked out the BEA site and was immediately intrigued. Hold the phone! Hundreds of authors, dozens and dozens of publishers, hoards of fellow book lovers? Count me in! However, there was that small issue of ticket prices. Also, what category am I in? I’m technically an editor, but not an editor in the book world. I will be a publishing student but not at the time of the Expo. I wonder if I can just put my title as “bibliophile-at-large?”  Probably not.

And then :).

I found the Book Bloggers Convention.

Book Blogger Convention

Cue heavenly beams from the sky and cherubs singing gospel.

Okay not really, but it turns out that being a book blogger means that I quality for a FREE press pass for the entire three-day event. Seriously. Who knew? It also works out pretty well for me in terms of lodging. My cousin Becky will still be calling New York home in May, before she moves to Baltimore for med school at Johns Hopkins, so I can stay with her instead of spending a small fortune in hotel rooms.

But even with all the details seemingly falling into place, I was hesitant to go. I’ve only been blogging about books for 6 months — am I legit enough? Widely-read enough, to be considered “press”? Also, I’m really in a period of transition in terms of my role in the publishing industry. Yeah, I’ve got the blog, and eventually I’d like to move to the Big Apple and work, for real, in publishing. I’m in school for children’s lit, and in May, I will have just applied to the Publishing Master’s program here in DC. But I’d like to make some contacts that I can keep once I’m ready to make the move to NYC. Obviously going to BEA isn’t just about finding a job. After all, I’m staying in DC for at least another 2 years while I’m in school. I love meeting publishers and authors (even though I can be painfully shy/starstruck), and hopefully building an audience for this little corner of the bloggosphere. I feel so in limbo with my role in the book world right now, and I wondered seriously if I should just not bother until I’m in a better place.

After consulting a few people, including my mom who never fails to steer me wrong, I decided I’m just going to do it. I will never be in the perfect place, and I will always, always be in some sort of limbo. Pretty much everyone I talked to said, “Why WOULDN’T you go?” And I didn’t really have a good answer….

So…I’m going to BookExpo America ’10!!

And I’m incredibly excited. I’m still figuring out all my plans, but I know they will include a Broadway show, a visit to The Strand and to Books of Wonder, and I’m sure a dozen other things.

Okay so who else is going?? (I’m living and dying by the book blogger tour advice — and I’m already shopping for cute, comfortable shoes.)