All in Listorama

List-O-Rama: Thinking About Summer Reading

Summer reading tends to be feast or famine for me.

My work schedule gets a bit weird, so I alternate between no free time and loads of it. As a result, I tend to be a bit more random with my reading choices (which is saying something, since I specialize in random and don't keep a reading "schedule" like many folks do) and binge on series or authors and try a lot of stuff out that piqued my interest that I previously passed up due to business, etcetera.

Here are a few (actually, a whole lot) of books I'm thinking about tackling this summer.

Darkest London Series by Kristen Callihan

I picked up the third book in Kristen Calligan's Darkest London Series at ALA earlier this year, not realizing that it was part of an ongoing series (I started reading Winterblaze and was promptly confused). I find myself more and more intrigued by historical fantasy (is that what the sub-genre is called?) and this one while having pretty trashy covers, comes highly recommended by several folks whose taste I trust.

Amazon | Goodreads

The Paranormal YA Series Enders

I have a weird habit with series endings: I kind of hate them. There's so much pressure for series to end "right" and in the case of paranormal YA, since there's not a lot that I love, love, love, with Jeri Smith-Ready's Shade trilogy, Rachel Vincent's lengthy Soul Screamersseries and Kim Derting's Body Finder quartet, it's not just series ending stress I'm facing--I'm also looking at not having a lot left in the genre that intrigues me.

Shade Series on Amazon | Goodreads
Soul Screamers on Amazon | Goodreads
The Body Finder on Amazon | Goodreads

Verse Week List-O-Rama: For the Verse Averse

We know despite our saying over and over again that verse novels are absolutely nothing to fear, some of you may still be nervous about trying out a verse novel.

As a result, I thought I'd point those of you who may want to ease into verse to some traditional novels with poetic or verse elements. Similarly, easing into verse novels with books for the younger set can be a fun way to test out the form without committing to a long, complex verse novel for teens or adults.

Once you've tried a few of these on for size, head over and give our Verse Week 2013 podcast a listen for more first-verse recommendations.

Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder | Simon Pulse (2013)

Lisa Schroeder is well known for her verse novels, but her most recent YA novel, Falling for You, is told in prose format, but contains loads of poems (the narrator is a teenage poet) that are key to the story. I really, really enjoyed this book, but I will warn you that the summary, cover and title aren't particularly related to the actual story. This is really a novel about finding family where you least expect it.

Review | Amazon | Goodreads

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley | Knopf Books (2012)

Graffiti Moon is one of my favorite all-time books, it just so perfectly captures that type of night that can only happen the summer after high school. Told from multiple points of view, Graffiti Moon includes a perspective entirely in poems. Some of my favorite moments are the poems evoking the Melbourne night--they're absolutely vivid.

Review Amazon | Goodreads

Verse Week List-O-Rama: Got History?

While novels in verse tend to focus on contemporary settings and situations, historical novels in verse, like May B--which Sandra reviewed earlier today, historical fiction has a pretty strong hold in the verse format as well. 

Let's take a look at a few.

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost | Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2009)

Laura highly recommends this novel in verse by Helen Frost which chronicles the experiences of two families during World War I. ​The main character, 18-year old Muriel, becomes interested in the women's suffrage movement, so it's a good choice for folks who are also interested in women's history.

Amazon | Goodreads

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards | Knopf Books (2010)

I recently bought this slim novel in verse which focuses on two teens in the late-1800s who cross class barriers to forge a friendship, and eventually a romance. Their happiness is threatened when the Johnstown flood sends 20 million gallons of water into Johnstown, Pennsylvania. ​This definitely falls into the "poetic" side of the verse novel spectrum.

Amazon | Goodreads

The Top Ten Lyrics from Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience

One of my favorite things about running this blog is that as owner of said blog, I can write about whatever I damn well please.

In that spirit--and as a service to the world--today, I'm counting down the top ten best ​lyrics from Justin Timberlake's new album. ​Someone had to do it, right?


And now it's clear as this promise
That we're making
Two reflections into one
Cause it's like you're my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me

Mirrors is kind of narcissistic if you analyze it literally, now that I think about it, but still... Anyway, I'm going to go with the belief that this is a song about Justin & Jessica and the idea of two halves of the same whole, yada yada. 

Bonus: This is a rare song which is better with the video--and not just because of the crazy dancing at the end.​


C'mon and dance,
C'mon baby dance with me
Take my hand,
Get on the floor
C'mon baby dance with me
Please don't hold the wall
Please don't hold the wall tonight
We're gonna do it all,
So please don't hold the wall tonight
--Don't Hold the Wall

I'm conflicted. What do you do when Justin Timberlake encourages you to dance, dance? I mean, you'll never be able to match JT's moves, so that's a lot of pressure. However, I suspect that Justin also doesn't judge bad dancing, as long as you're feeling the music or what have you. ​

List-O-Rama: Tangled Like/Love/Lust That Doesn't Suck

I know, I know... the love triangle is everyone's favorite trope to hate. But sometimes... just sometimes, it's kind of fun/intriguing/compelling.

Here are a handful of like/love/lust triangles that I've enjoyed--seriously.

The "Summer" Series by Jenny Han: Belly, Jeremiah, Conrad

Triangle Type: The Classic - Two Brothers Heart One Girl; Girl Hearts Two Brothers--Yo, It's Complicated!
This series not only features a love triangle (and it's really "love") because Belly really cares about both brothers, Jeremiah and Conrad, and they care about her. Their shared history of summers spent together at the shore makes the complexity of the relationships completely believable--it's achy and the dramatics are irresistible. Read my review here.

Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Let's Get Musical

This past week, I started and finished reading Jennifer Echols' July release, Dirty Little Secret (which is so, so good). I enjoyed so much about this book, but the stand-out element for me was the way music played such an important role in both the plot and in developing the characters. 

I'm kind of a doofus when it comes to music: I play the ukulele poorly and was a flutist in marching band in high school until I quit band to protest the ill-fitting polyester pants. (That was super-effective.) Because of my musical doofusness, I really admire people for whom music is so ingrained in their lives. I realized that as a result of that, I tend to gravitate to novels featuring music or musical people. Sometimes, much like books featuring sports, the music is just window dressing, but when it's feels real, it's so very good. 

Here are a twelve (!!!) of my recommendations for musically-infused novels you'll want to check out.​

Adios to My Old Life & When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer

​Caridad Ferrer is one of my favorite authors you're probably not reading. Both Adios to My Old Life and When the Stars Go Blue are infused with passion for music and the arts in general. (Interestingly, both of these could easily be considered thematically as "new adult.") Adios to My Old Life is focuses on an American Idol-style singing competition, while Stars follows the structure of the opera Carmen and features an incredible touring marching band. 

Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Beginner's Guide to Awesome WTFery

A couple of weeks ago, I detailed my favorite fictional Awesome WTFery. I love explosions, random ghosts and fake relationships with a possibly unhealthy passion. Much of my love of WTFery manifests itself in my movie and television watching, but it creeps into books too. 

Are you wanting to delve into a big of Awesome WTFery escapism? Here are a few I dare you not to secretly devour.

The Lux Novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Entangled Teen)

Why It's Awesome WTFery: Hot aliens live in West Virginia, hijinks ensue. 
Bonus Points: Sex-Positive YA; No Love Triangle

I just blew through the first three Lux novels by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and while I'm not normally ​one to be embarrassed by my reading, I'm not exactly proud of not being able to put these books down. The plot of these (marginally) sci-fi young adult urban fantasy romance series is incredibly absurd and has continuity issues, but damn... the plot just moves along at a swift clip and Armentrout manages to make the reader care about snarky teen book blogger Katy and her good-looking pain-in-the-ass alien neighbor Daemon. 

Amazon | Goodreads

List-O-Rama: In Praise of... Awesome WTFery

It's no secret that I have a soft spot for a bit of awesome WTFery in my books. I mean, what's better than a random ghost or punny names for one's body guarding agency?

No, I'm not exaggerating. Some people like sweet, fluffy reads, and that's great--but me, if I want fluff, I want it to be ridiculous, nonsensical and downright nuts. I call it Awesome WTFery. 

Here are some of my favorite WTF elements.

The Random Ghost

Dude. Hate on the ghost that pops up and gives characters advice all you want, I freaking love it!

Take Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay trilogy-cum-quartet (the existence of the fourth book still confuses me). Each of the three brothers is visited by their adoptive father's ghost and then at the end of the series, they all realize they've all been talking to the same ghost and it's an awesome brother bonding moment. Of course.

Could these books have worked without the random ghost? Sure.

Would they have been as awesomely crazypants? No way.

List-O-Rama: 2013 Mysterious Reads

I used to adore mysteries and crime fiction, but at some point the genres went in two extreme directions: incredibly gory or incredibly campy.

But hope is on the horizon! I've seen a number of intriguing-looking new or upcoming releases that look like they walk a nice line of mysterious and atmospheric without being too extreme. Fingers crossed!

Ratlines by Stuart Neville | Soho Crime, Jan. 2013

The folks at Soho Press were the best "book talkers" at ALA and got me incredibly excited for a number of their titles, including Stuart Neville's thriller, Ratlines, which promises to name names regarding the Irish government officials who granted asylum to Nazis following World War II. 

Amazon Goodreads

What We Saw at Night by Jacqueline Mitchard | Soho Teen, Jan. 2013

What We Saw at Night is another Soho title, this time from the new teen imprint. This one is about a group of teens who are allergic to sunlight and witness what they think is a murder. It's the first of a series that involves Parkour and sleuthing and secrets. I'm nervous, though, because reviews have mentioned a cliffhanger, which annoy me in mysteries. 

Amazon / Goodreads

List-O-Rama: Celebrating 8 Difficult Female Characters

Challenging, difficult and unlikable characters are a funny thing. When they're done well, they make for some of the most memorable characters in books. 

However, they're often misunderstood as readers tend to want characters to whom they can relate, and no one wants to admit to related to someone who's well, kind of a jerk. It's even tougher for female characters, whom are often held to higher standards than their male counterparts (a subject I intend to write about eventually).

So, I thought I'd use this week's List-O-Rama post to give a shout-out to some of my favorite challenging female characters.

Every character in every book by Courtney Summers. (YA)

Namely, Sloane from This is Not a Test and Regina from Some GIrls Are. These two girls are definitely people people I would not want to hang out with--and neither would even think of letting me be their friend. But Summers is such an adept writer that she makes me care about these girls and want things to be okay for them. I wanted Sloane to want to survive the zombie apocalypse; I wanted mean girl Regina to triumph over the other mean girls. 

This is Not a Test on CEFS / Amazon / Goodreads 
Some Girls Are on Amazon ($4 paperbacks!) / Goodreads

List-O-Rama: 6 Upcoming Grown Up Novels

2012 was a bit disappointing for me in terms of adult fiction, with the exception of a couple of great genre reads. Optimist that I am, I'm hoping that 2013 will be better.

Here are a few that look promising. *crosses fingers*

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy (U.S. Release: Feb. 12, 2013)

A Week in Winter is beloved Irish novelist Maeve Binchy's last book, which she completed shortly before her death last year. It's already out in the U.K. and Ireland and has gotten some very positive reviews. I received an ARC of this one, and am looking forward to reading it soon. (I do prefer the U.K./Irish cover, though--it looks less dour.)

Amazon / Goodreads

He's Gone by Deb Caletti (May 7, 2013)

I have really enjoyed Deb Caletti's young adult novels, and I think he style will be well-suited for an adult novel. He's Gone sounds like it has a bit of mystery to it, which really intrigues me, since her YA novels tend to be family drama-type stories. I'm really digging the cover, too. 

Amazon / Goodreads

2012 Official List of Awesome

Some blogs have “best of” lists, Clear Eyes, Full Shelves has an Official List of Awesome. 

We’re honoring the reads that were most memorable of the year, using an extremely random scientific methodology. 

Favorite Debut - Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Nominated by Sarah 


CEFS Review / Amazon / Goodreads

Best Under-the-Radar YA Novel - Miracle by Elizabeth Scott 

Nominated by Sarah


CEFS Review / Amazon / Goodreads

Book That Changed the Way I Think About Romance Novels - Can’t Buy Me Love by Molly O’Keefe

Nominated by Sarah


CEFS Review / Amazon / Goodreads 

Best Paranormal Not Written by Maggie Stiefvater - Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Nominated by Laura, Seconded by Sarah


CEFS Review / Amazon / Goodreads

Ten Wishes for the Year in Reading

I’m not one for resolutions—I completely agree with the theory that goal-setting can actually lead to failure or mediocrity. In fact, the lowest-functioning organizations and people I’ve worked with have all been extraordinarily preoccupied with goal attainment.


I participate in the Goodreads reading challenge for the sole purpose of having that handy count of books read in the sidebar, not because I want to reach a specific threshold. (Though I will admit, two years in a row, I’ve been a couple of books shy of 150 during the last week of the year and have power read through to ensure I have a nice, round number.)

So in the spirit of ignoring the idea of goals, I’m eschewing the reading resolutions posts that abound on the web today and would like to share a bit of what I’d like to see in the upcoming year in reading, publishing and book culture.

#1 An end to the divisive, unproductive, ridiculous discussions of e-reading versus print reading.

Why anyone cares in what format people choose to read books is beyond me, particularly in a culture in which a quarter of the United States population has not read a single book in the last year. Whatever helps ensure people get a book—digital, print or etched in a stone tablet—in their hands is fine by me, and it should be for anyone who truly cares about promoting reading culture. 

#2 An end to the term, “Mommy Porn.”

Thanks to the legion of ridiculous articles about 50 Shades of Grey, “mommy porn” is used to dismiss the reading choices of women by people who are threatened by women reading about S-E-X. I wrote about this early last year and it continues to frustrate me. 

Are you a book-loving introvert who finds the intense socialization required of holiday celebrations overwhelming?

Would you rather have your nose in a book than spend your time decking the halls (whatever that means)?

Me too. 

To help you get in the holiday spirit without any actual social interaction, here are some recommended reads. None of these are heavy, so if you hit the mulled wine (please, not egg nog—that stuff is vile), you should be able to get the gist of these quickie stories.

Jaci Burton’s Kent Brothers Series (Carina Press)

I discovered this series about three brothers in a small town in Missouri through the first Carina Press holiday anthology, after reading rave reviews of Shannon Stacey’s contribution. The three brothers run a construction business together and while romance is at the center of each of the stories, my favorite scenes are those featuring, Wyatt, Brody and Ethan—their good-natured bickering and teasing (which can be amusingly mean) actually sounds like the sort of conversations real guys have. The most recent, The Best Thing, clocks in at around 35,000 words and is my favorite in terms of reading like a complete story. I’d recommend reading these in order, just to get a sense of who all the characters are, but it’s not necessary. (eBook only)

American classics have long held my interest. They bring into focus the eras in which they were written and capture moments in our nation’s diverse and unique history.

I’ve selected six of my favorites to recommend, ones that I enjoyed teaching as well. I’m not listing them in a specific order, rather I’m arranging them as they came to mind. Enjoy!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne*

Hester Prynne who lives in Puritan New England is condemned by her peers as a scarlet women who must wear an A upon her bodice to proclaim her adultery to all. She skillfully creates this letter embroidered onto fine red cloth with elaborate style in gold thread. The book delves into the murky world of sin, punishment and retribution with the saving grace of love woven in.

Pearl, her daughter, comes into a world where she becomes the physical embodiment of sin. Hester’s partner in passion is the Reverend Dimmesdale who allows Hester to sacrifice and carry the punishment for their crime alone while he moves about their village as a veritable saint. Hester’s husband, Chillingworth who has  long been absent, returns to see his wife with babe held in her arms pilloried in the town square for all to despise. A trap ensues by Chillingworth to snare Dimmesdale in a vicious web of lies and treachery. This is not an easy read but one that I find so complex and fascinating that my opinion about various characters changes each time I revisit it. 

I do have one caution. The introduction titled “The Custom House” is tedious. It can easily be skipped without impacting your reading of the novel.

Amazon / BN / Goodreads

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This tale of George and Lenny who travel from ranch to ranch earning a subsistence living in the 1930s will break your heart, but you will love the novel and think about its implications long after you’ve read it.

Big and strong, Lenny is a sweet child in a man’s body. Smaller and smart, George is the classic tragic hero. He loves Lenny and has promised to care for and protect him. This slender 100 page volume packs emotion into every page. You’ll laugh, frown and cry over what occurs but you’ll  love George and Lenny. The language will not challenge you but the sophistication of the plot will alter your concepts of what is or is not moral and what choices are right or wrong. 

List-O-Rama/Cover Chat: 7 Stand-Out Early-2013 YA Cover Designs

I spend a fair amount of time snarking on covers that just don’t do it for me, so I thought I’d spotlight a few upcoming covers that rock my world. I thought I’d focus on young adult covers, since that’s that category that seems to have the worst case of same-old, same-old in terms of cover art.

It seems like publishers are finally moving away from the frothy dress/lots of hair covers, doesn’t it? 

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff (Razorbill, Jan. 2013)

I don’t really understand what this book is about, but I will be buying Paper Valentine—in paper form, and I’m a pretty dedicated digital reader—even though it sounds like it’s not my normal thing. The cover artwork is just that gorgeous and eye-catching. I would usually hate the title’s type treatment, but it works with the intricate details of the papercut-style graphic. It feels mysterious and is more mature than a lot of YA covers (all of Yovanoff’s books have had covers I’d label as “sophisticated”).

Goodreads / Amazon

Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz (Simon Pulse, Jan. 2013)

Even though I—once again—don’t really understand what this book is about (an early review mentioned an f-bomb-dropping mer-boy) but I love the striking cover featuring fish hooks. While I’d prefer the author’s name be larger (it’s hard to see on a screen), I forgive that because the textured background is so unusual and eye-catching. This is one I’ll probably check out as well based only on the intriguing cover art.

Goodreads / Amazon

Gift Guide: Books + Things for Creative Folks

I teach at an art college and am around creative folks all the time—and I tell you, not only do they drive me kind of crazy, they are some of the hardest people to shop for. Here are some ideas for those particular peeps on your list. 

Like our previous list with gift ideas for sports fans, these are all items we own or have gifted, so they’re quality picks. 


Steal Like an Artist

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

I mentioned this in my first-half favorites posts, but I’ve recommended Austin Kleon’s inventive and accessible book to many of my students and clients who are creative folks. I think a lot of people (including myself) see creativity as a magical thing requiring a decoder ring found only in a secret box of cereal only special people are allowed to buy—Kleon debunks that perception and presents the keys to being more creative in a way that will resonate with most everyone. 

Amazon / Goodreads

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Elmore Leonard’s short book about writing is one of my favorites—it’s very… succinct. Even though I don’t do creative writing (most of my professional writing has been articles/features/profiles/columns), many of his reminders have served me well (my favorite being to avoid the word “suddenly,” which used to be a big problem for me). Like I said, this is short, but the illustrations really make the book and it’s one many people will appreciate.

Amazon / Goodreads

Gift Guide: Books + Things for Sports Fans

There are a lot of bookish gift guides floating around at the moment, and I though we’d jump on the bandwagon, but with our own twist.

The first is for those sports fans on your list. (And yes, these are all things we own or have gifted.)



Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure by Craig Robinson

This is one of the more interesting sports books I own and one I’d recommend to both sports and design fans. Robinson has created an outstanding book that describes baseball visually, both hard statistics and weird things such as how tall Alex Rodriguez’ salary would be if it were paid in pennies. Awesome, right?

Amazon / Goodreads

The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Alamanac by Free Darko

I almost didn’t include this book on this list because when I went to the author’s event in Portland a few years ago and he was really insufferable (and exercised extremely poor judgment regarding his language choices at an event with many children in attendance). However, it’s an awesome book and like the previous one, it’s graphical so even if you’re not a fan of sports, it may appeal to you non-sports fans as well. 

Amazon / Goodreads

Counting Coup by Larry Colton

I’ve written about this one before but it’s a stellar book about the impact of basketball on the lives of people in an impoverished community. This is one of those, “it’s not really about sports” sorts of books. It’s about community. 

Amazon / Goodreads

Pacific Rims by Rafe Bartholomew

I love stories about unexpected places. Rafe Bartholomew’s chronicle of basketball in the Philippines (where people, FYI, are not particularly tall) is a book any sports fan will love. The humor in the narrative is really fantastic as well. (My Twitter friend Patrick Truby wrote an excellent review of this book on my good friend Mookie’s blog, A Stern Warning.)