Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Author Book Picks: Steve Brezenoff of Brooklyn, Burning

Today I have Steve Brezenoff courtesy of The Teen {Book} Scene sharing a few of his favorite books. It's no secret that I loved both of Steve's novels, so I'm thrilled to have him on the blog today. I took the liberty of adding the covers and links to Goodreads to make it easier to add these titles to your lists!

Here are a few recent reads that I’ve really enjoyed. I’ll stick to young adult books.

Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma
I’m opening with a title we can probably call paranormal, which is not my typical read. But Suma does such a good job with character development, striking and stirring prose, real emotional depth, and full and sympathetic relationships between characters that Imaginary Girls really stands apart from we realistic fiction fans might expect from a paranormal title. It’s also creepy as heck.

I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, by John Donovan
Someone one said this title is the hippie-era gay The Catcher in the Rye. Actually, I might have said that. Flux has recently released a 40th anniversary edition, after the book was out of print for a number of years, and I can’t recommend it highly enough to fans of contemporary fiction. Sure, the occasional turn of phrase will feel dated, just like Holden’s often do, but it never makes it difficult to connect with the narrator, Davy Ross. He’s a rich (as in chocolate, not as in money), smart, funny character, and you’ll miss him when you finish the book.

How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr
The Story of a Girl is still my favorite book by Sara Zarr, but How to Save a Life is now her best. That does make sense, I assure you. Anyway, this dual-narrator story of finding love of all kinds and choosing the right family is a brilliant piece of realistic fiction. One narrator is Mandy Kalinowski, and her voice is so real and so well tuned and so desperate and moving, at times it was difficult to read her, in a very good way.

The House of Tomorrow, by Peter Bognanni
This one’s a bit older, and though not marketed as a young adult novel, it very definitely is one. (In fact, if you need proof that YA is more than a marketing term, look no further, because if you can read this as an adult, non-YA title, I’ll be shocked, even though it’s shelved as adult.) Bognanni’s first-person voice—an odd one, indeed—is spot on, as is the search the narrator goes through as he comes of age a little late, discovering punk rock and girls and something like independence, and even real familial affection, all with one broken-hearted family down the hill from his grandmother’s geodesic dome.

Thanks, Steve, for stopping by bookmarked today! I've only had a chance to read Imaginary Girls (which was amazing), but I look forward to reading the other titles as well. I appreciate you sharing a few of your recent faves with me :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

ALA Recap

Yoouuu guuuuuuuyyyss...

How could you let me forget to give you an ALA recap?! It's been weeks, and I haven't even talked about the books (THE BOOKS!), or the authors (THE AUTHORS!), or all the awesome bloggers (THE BLOGGERS!) I got to meet. Shame on me you for forgetting!

So way back in June I had the great opportunity to attend three days of the ALA annual convention. Believe me though, it was really due to sheer luck this year's conference was in New Orleans. Had it not been literally down the river I would have never convinced Josh to go after dragging him to NYC just a month before. However, he was a good sport and agreed to be my packhorse loving companion for the weekend.

ALA for me started Friday night sans Josh with the opening ceremony. I was really stoked about attending because the keynote speaker was none other than Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better Project. I am a huge supporter of this foundation, so hearing him speak was an incredible honor. During his speech, I laughed, cried, probably garnered a few side eyes from the guy sitting next to me, and left feeling incredibly proud of the progress being made toward equality.*

After the opening session, the show floor opened. I made a few rounds, picked up more books than I could carry comfortably, and headed home to get some rest for the next day.
Josh and I headed out bright and early Saturday morning as I had a tight schedule for the next two days. Author signings included Ruta Sepetys, Cassandra Clare, Laini Taylor, Ilsa J. Bick, and Mette Ivie Harrison. There were lots of books and swag picked up in between, but we left the convention center around 4:30 to hit Bourbon Street. There Josh and I met the lovely Rachel of Parajunkee who organized a blogger meet and greet! We also met Sasha of Sash & Em, Christy of The Fiction Enthusiast, Patti of Caught in a FAB Romance, Laura of Life after Jane, and Jen of I Read Banned Books. After hanging out there for a while, we headed over to another blogger meet up hosted by the talented ladies of YA Highway. Rachel, Sasha, Christy, Patti, Josh, and I headed over to meet a slew of other bloggers and authors. I didn't take any pictures, but I did shamelessly steal this one from Kirsten Hubbard ;)
LtoR: Kate Hart, Kirsten Hubbard, Rachel, Sasha, Josh, and me
By the time we left our new friends, Josh and I were pretty exhausted. Luckily we had a hotel room in the city, so we were able to catch up before heading back the the convention center the next morning.

If we thought Saturday was tough, Sunday proved to be more of a marathon. Author signings included Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, Maureen Johnson, Janne Teller, Brian Katcher, A.S. King, David Levithan, Sara Zarr, Lucy Christopher, Maggie Stiefvater, Jeff Hirsch, Brian Selznick, Karen Healey, and Lauren Myracle.

I feel like this post is already epic-ly long, but I would like to share two stories with you.

First, my main reason for going to ALA was John Green. He was scheduled to be there with Will Grayson, Will Grayson co-author David Levithan, got sick, and had to cancel. I was devastated mildly upset. I lugged all his books to New Orleans, went over witty things to say to him, and dreamed of how the picture of David, John, and myself would look on my office desk. I was actually looking forward to standing in a ridiculously long line to see David and John together and was pretty bummed about missing it. You see, I had David sign my copy back in New York. But then I had this idea. What if I stood in line anyway? What if I had David write a note to John in my book? What if they thought I was freaking crazy? So I took the chance anyway, being herded into line by none other than Julie Strauss-Gabel. I sheepishly told David my idea, to which he happily abliged, and stood there a very long time while he wrote this:
It is now possibly my most prized possession. Having to wait a little longer to meet John doesn't feel so bad now. It also makes me feel a little better about UPS letting my BEA box get wet...

My second story requires a brief explanation. I had, for some time, been working on a super secret project. It was kept secret not because I didn't want to share it, but because I was pretty sure it would fail. Fail it did, and despite already guessing the outcome, I was upset. So, naturally, I whined about it on twitter. I expressed my disappointment and asked what to do. And then, this crazy thing happened.
And then another crazy thing happened. And I kid you not, someone texted me to confirm that I was ACTUALLY HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH ELLEN HOPKINS ON TWITTER. To which I responded: "Yeah, I can't believe it either."
So I apparently emailed her because Ellen Hopkins did indeed email me with resources. (If you're wondering what this is all about, I promise to fill you in later. This post has been long enough.)

So anyway, back to ALA. Ellen was scheduled to be there, so I really wanted to introduce myself and thank her again for her words of encouragement. Josh basically shoved me into the lady, and in my attempt to convey to her how much her tweet and later email meant to me, I completely embarrassed myself by crying. Okay, I didn't sob or anything, but I was definitely teary and had a little trouble forming sentences. And then... Ellen Hopkins freaking hugged me! And then I may or may not have cried and hid at the back of the convention center to regroup.

Despite John Green's absence and my Ellen Hopkins mishap, I had a fabulous time at ALA. I met some wonderful bloggers, talked to authors I love (JENNY HAN GAVE ME AN "I HEART CONRAD" BUTTON!), and probably picked up more books than I can read. If you ever have the chance to go, I highly recommend it.

*This was of course the same day gay marriage was legalized in New York. You could imagine my elation when I came home to that news!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In My Bag (36)

In My Bag is my version of the weekly meme, In My Mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren, and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.

For review:
The Radleys by Matt Haig (Thanks to Claire at Simon & Schuster!)

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick
Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson
Slam by Nick Hornby
Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

I finally swung by Borders to take advantage of their closing sale. I found the Laurie and Libba at a thrift store and the Hornby in a bin at Walmart for $1. Not too shabby! What'd you guys get this week?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff (+ Giveaway!)

Brooklyn, Burning
Steve Brezenoff
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Released: September 1, 2011
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 210
Source: BEA
When you're sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you're lucky, you'll find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you're really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.
Last summer, one of the very first review copies I received via blog tour was a debut titled The Absolute Value of -1. I honestly don't recall what drew me to this novel - my love for contemporary or my excitement over actually getting a review copy - but it blew me away. It was gritty and beautifully Courtney-Summers-esque. I named it one of my favorite books of the year and called it the most under-appreciated debut of 2010 - a title I don't give out flippantly. I heard about Steve's new novel some time in the spring and was completely stoked to see him on the signing list at BEA. I had the great pleasure of meeting him and getting signed finished copies of both his novels. So, when it came time to read Brooklyn, Burning, I was a little nervous. What if I didn't like it?

I picked it up first thing upon arriving home from New York and I didn't.

And then I freaked out. As someone who reviews books, who via twitter and email and conferences can "befriend" authors, there is a fine line I must walk to keep my credibility. I sang Steve's praises after reading |-1| last year, and I mentioned in my BEA recap post he was a really nice guy. So if I don't like his book I can a) be honest and feel guilty or b) lie and lose all integrity.

The third option would be to not read it, not review it, and pray Steve never asked me what I thought of it. But, lucky me, I signed up for a blog tour. So I had to read it. By today. So I picked it back up yesterday, and hoped that I could get further than the first chapter (which is about as far as I'd gotten the first time I picked it up.)

And can I just say that there are some books out there that deserve a second chance?! The beginning was a little tough - the ambiguousness of the main character, the first person/second person point of view. It's definitely different, but different is why I liked Steve's first novel.

What I liked most about this novel is that it's a love story - not a romance - a love story. It's about Kid's love for Felix. It's about his love for Fish, for Jonny, for Konny. It's about his love for Brooklyn, for the warehouse. It's about his love for Scout. And, ultimately, it's about his love for himself. This novel could easily be described as an "issue" book, and it is, but it's also more than that. Because while it involves a runaway teen, drugs and booze, sex, and gender non-conformity (although we never actually know Kid's gender), it is the truest love story I've ever read.

So thanks, Steve, for writing it.

While in New York, I picked up an extra copy of Brooklyn, Burning for one of you! Just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Entrants must be 13 years of age or older and a resident of the United States. Deadline to enter is Sunday, September 4, 11:59PM CST. (Pssst... by the way, IT'S SIGNED!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (30)

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It features upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

This week's pick is...

 The Rogue's Princess
Eve Edwards
Coming 2013?

Originally published in the UK, the first book of the Lacey Chronicles made its US debut last month. I scored an early copy of it and enjoyed it so much I questioned why I don't read more historical fiction. So when I saw book two was available on Netgalley, I downloaded it faster than you can say "Queen Elizabeth." I'm assuming book three won't be out for some time, and I just don't think I'll be able to wait that long. Looks like I may be ordering the UK version via Book Depository...

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Fall in Love with YA

One of my favorite bloggers, Jordyn at Ten Cent Notes, listed her very own guide on How to Fall in Love with YA a few months ago. Because I thought it was such a cute idea and I've been feeling very reflective the past few weeks, I decided to jump on-board and share with you my own steps to falling in love with YA.

Step 1: Read Twilight.
This was back before the movie came out when EVERYONE was reading these books. Between my personal vow of never seeing a movie before reading the book and genuine curiosity, I picked up Twilight and didn't eat, sleep, or move until I'd read the entire series. Say what you will, but I owe a lot to Twilight. I had forgotten what it was like to get lost in a book, and Stephenie Meyer reminded me.

Step 2: Get on the Nest.
Around this time I was expected my then boyfriend to pop the question soon, so I started playing around on the Knot. This led me to the Nest community boards where there was an online book club. This was back before I knew about blogs or Goodreads, so this was the one place I found where I could talk books with people. I signed up for different challenges and read-a-longs and got some amazing recommendations from some awesome ladies.

Step 3: Read Harry Potter.
Although I read as a kid, I never picked up the HP books. Wizards and magic and secret schools? Pssht . . . whatev. I didn't think it was my thing. Then I ended up seeing the first movie because my mom wanted to go, and I loved it - but, I still wasn't interested in reading the books. Thank God for the ladies on the Nest who convinced me that watching the movies was simply not enough. The movies are fantastic, but the books are just so much . . . more.

Step 4: Read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Even though Twilight and Harry Potter are young adult/children's books, it wasn't until reading Nick and Norah that I realized what today's YA was all about. This book spoke to my inner sixteen-year-old in ways that no book I read at sixteen had. I loved and still love this book tremendously. I owe all the remaining steps to this book - to Nick and to Norah, to David and to Rachel.

Step 5: Start a blog.
During my time on the Nest, I discovered blogs, more specifically, book blogs. I set up a google account, came up with a title, and never looked back. It has been a truly amazing experience, and it continues to amaze me everyday. I've been given so many opportunities, made so many friends, and had such great discussions with people. I love blogging and being a part of the YA community. Everyone is so supportive and talented; they are truly some of the best people in the world.

Step 6: Travel.
Whether it's hopping from blog to blog or conference to conference, traveling in all sense of the word has been quite possibly the best experience. I was lucky enough to attend BEA and ALA this year, but I realize not everyone has the means to do this. But there are so many places you can go while sitting comfortably in your desk chair! Blog hops, read-a-thons, armchair conferences - you name it, they've got it. The more you interact with this great community, the more the community has to offer you.

Step 7: Keep reading.
This may be the most important step. Because with each great, new book I read, I fall in love with YA all over again.

What would YOUR steps to falling in love with YA be? If you decide to create a list, please link back to Jordyn, as I'm sure she'd love to hear about your lists, too :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, the lovely ladies and guy at The B&B pick a topic and participants create their appropriate lists.

This week it is TTT Freebie - we can create a list about ANYTHING in literature. I'm going to cheat a little and revisit last week's topic: Top Ten Underrated Books. There are just SO MANY great books out there, and unfortunately not all of them get the attention they deserve. Here are a few I think you should give a chance:

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff
This is a gritty, raw contemporary that is sort of like the boy version
of Courtney Summers. It leaves you feeling dirty . . . in a good way.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
DLev's first novel and always my favorite. It's basically a utopian love story.
I wish I lived in Paul's world.

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
My first book by Lisa. My first book in verse.
I always come back to this one.
God Is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein
You know how endings are always hard? So few are right?
This one surpasses that and is perfect.

This book reminded me a little of Center Stage; I loved that movie.
It's also a great story of friendship.
Think you're tired of vampires? Pssht. Try this one.
Lucius makes vamps er...mouthwatering - Dracula style.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Beautiful imagery made me want to get on the next flight to Wyoming.
Painful honesty made me realize maybe I just want to be like . . . me.
Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Like Jessica, this one is another gem in the wide world of paranormal.
Throw in a little mystery and suspense, and you have a great adventure.

Such a fun, fast paced story. It's Nick and Norah meets Dash and Lily.
And you wondered why I loved it?
The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
This one only just came out, but historical fiction never gets the attention it deserves.
Hot English boy + forbidden love = win!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In My Bag (35)

In My Bag is my version of the weekly meme, In My Mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren, and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.

It's been a really long time since I've done one of these, so hopefully I remember everything I've received over the past several weeks.

For review:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Rock On by Denise Vega
(Thanks to Hachette Book Group!)

Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
(Thanks to The {Teen} Book Scene!)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
(Thanks to Karen of For What It's Worth!)

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
(Thanks to Rowena of The Book Scoop!)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
(Thanks to Melina of Reading Vacation!)

Going Too Far, Forget You, and Love Story by Jennifer Echols
(Thanks to Tara of Fiction Folio!)

signed Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. bookmarks
(Thanks Medeia!)

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

What's that? Oh, you're wondering why I started using Netgalley all of a sudden? Well, that's because my mom got me super special present:
Happy Birthday to me!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Character Interview: Vi from Ten Things We Did + Giveaway

Today I have Vi from Sarah Mlynowski's Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) for an interview! She is here courtesy of The {Teen} Book Scene blog tour.

1. Twitter style: describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

Strong. Sexy. Smart. Modest.

2. What was your first thought when April asked to move in with you? I know you excitedly agreed, but did you initially have any doubts?

Doubts? I don’t doubt. I do.

3. You and April come from very different home lives. What was the hardest adjustment you had to make?

The girl had never done her own laundry. Other than me having to teach her basic life skills, we got along perfectly.

4. What do you REALLY think of Noah?

He's a skinny, lame, pathetic, cheating scumbag. TEAM HUDSON. 

5. You and Dean have been best friends for most of your lives. Tell us something only you know about him.

If you tickle his feet, he screams like a baby.

Thanks, Vi (and Sarah) for stopping by bookmarked today! I have to say, I can't help but agree with your fourth answer. TEAM HUDSON FOR THE WIN!!

Thanks to HarperTeen, I have a finished copy of Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) to give to a lucky reader! Fill out the form below for your chance to win. Entrants must be 13 years of age or older and a resident of the United States. Deadline to enter is Friday, August 19, 11:59PM CST.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)
Sarah Mlynowski
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: June 7, 2011
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Source: BEA
2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.
You know, sometimes I get a lot of grief for reading YA. People find out I like to read and immediately ask what. I answer them, and they look at me confused and ask, "What's that?" When I explain it stands for young adult they immediately give me this look that screams, "Why?" And sometimes I wonder, too. I mean, you get so many of the same reactions and you start to question your own taste. I am an adult. I do adult things like go to work and plan my wedding and pay bills (ick). So sometimes I do wonder why I don't read about adults; shouldn't I relate more to those characters anyway? And then I read a book like this one, and I remember why I read YA - because it's fun.

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) is quick and easy in the best way. Sure, there are a few lessons to be learned, but for the most part this novel is pure pleasure. April gets what every teen wants - complete freedom from her parents to do whatever she pleases for an entire semester. Realistic? My parents would have never gone for it, but then if this were a book about my teenage life it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining. The point is, this actually does happen to April and the reader is taken along for all the shenanigans that ensue. This is a hilarious read that had me hooked from page one. I laughed out loud so much, it garnered me several strange looks while reading.

April is a great protagonist. Reading her point of view is like having a conversation with her. She skips around a lot, giving the reader enough back story to understand things better, while focusing enough on the present to keep one's attention. This style may seem a little scattered at times, but it kept me on my toes. I also think I am similarly scatter-brained, which only made me like April more. Aside from the whole I-never-could-have-gotten-away-with-that thing, I definitely think teenage me would have done the exact same things April did. Seeing myself in her made this a really fun read.

Can someone please explain to me why I've never read one of Sarah's books until now? I have so been missing out! She is so witty and clever and funny, and I want to go buy all of her books right now. Plus she wrote me a really cute message at her signing at BEA, which makes me super sad Josh got to meet her instead of me because I was in line somewhere else. Sadface.

Stay tuned because tomorrow I'll have Sarah on the blog for a character interview, and there just might be something in it for one of you!
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