All in Books

Book Snapshots: Quick Thoughts on Recent Reads

Hey y'all! I know it's been quiet around these parts as of late--I have no excuses except that my workload has been CRAZYPANTS as of late. We do have a new podcast episode coming at you, basically a follow up to some of the discussion around the first two episodes of this season and I'm also working on retooling the focus of CEFS a bit as well, so it is in more alignment with what feels more "right" for us these days. 

But, I have been reading and posting some quick thoughts on Instagram, but since most of you aren't over there, I thought I'd share some of my recent reads over here with recommendations for who'd like them. Enjoy!

Recommendation Tuesday: Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen

Cordelia Jensen's debut novel first got on my radar thanks to Stasia Ward Kehoe's guest post for our Verse Week celebration this year.  While I don't read all the blogs, it seems like it's not received much attention and I'm here to remedy that, because folks, Skyscraping is a special book. 

I coined the term "nostalgia lit" on a podcast episode a couple years ago, and I'm generally a fairly reluctant about books set in near history, but Skyscraping is a wonderful example of this particular almost-contemporary setting.

BEA, NYC & Falafel

I really enjoyed my trip to Book Expo America and have so much to say, but, honestly, I just need to talk about falafel for a minute. Because, hot damn, I had a lot of awesome falafel in New York. Guys, I just really love falafel a whole lot. 

My source was Taim, which was conveniently located in the nifty West Village neighborhood I stayed in. (Seriously, guys, if you go to NYC, skip the hell that is Midtown and stay in the Village, it's so pleasant.) Here are some of my falafels. 


Listorama: 11 Romance Novels for Clever Ladies

Recently, The Mary Sue--a website I have deeply conflicted feelings about--posted a super-ignorant, click-bait-y piece about romance novels and romance readers.

Rather than rebut the silliness (because what's the point), I thought I'd offer some recommendations for clever ladies looking to try out the genre, want to try a new subgenre of Romance or who want to revisit it after an absence. I'm not an expert, but I've read reasonable widely in the genre and appreciate that it is, in many ways, a deeply feminist field of offerings, particularly in recent years. 

The following are 11 smart big-R romances (read: happy ending of a central love story, as defined by the Romance Writers Association) I recommend for Clever Ladies who are interested in the genre. Keep in mind that there's just about something for everyone in this genre, so if there's not something that's up your alley on this list, there's probably something out there--leave a note in the comments and I'll see what I can do. 

Recently Read: Comics Edition

You may recall that I've slid far, far down the comics rabbit hole. I even have new releases on my calendar so I remember to get say, the new Saga, on the Wednesday it releases. 

Here's what I've recently read.

Hawkeye, Volumes 1-3.

These combined volumes feature the archer Avenger and his mentee Kate, who's also known as Hawkeye and is super rad. I knew nothing about The Avengers going into this and found it incredibly accessible and liked the healthy does of angst. Fraction writes Sex Criminals, which I love, so I shouldn't be surprised by this one, but I was. My favorite was the third volume, LA Woman, which is just a Kate story.

Sandra's Favorite Verse Novels & Some Reflections

Novels in verse come from a tradition of putting stories into language that flows with the magic of poetry. The Iliad and the Odyssey is something that any freshman high school student can tell you about. Verse novels stem from this oral tradition dating from 1600-1100 BC; the power of verse flows like music with the beauty of epic and poetic language.

Not to neglect Old English and Geoffrey Chaucer’s raucous and rowdy tales of those on a pilgrimage, I must mention those monks of olden days who told tales that to this day make us smirk and smile. In verse, Chaucer painted tales of the good folk who laughed about and flaunted their rowdy and raucous adventures.

Give Verse a Chance by Marie Jaskulka

So many people claim they don't "get" poetry, then they quote some lyrics from their favorite songs. 

I understand this prejudice, this preconception that poetry is difficult. I understand it, but I disagree. I think poetry takes a big, emotional idea and distills it into a few potent stanzas. It packs a lot of force in its compressed punch, and therefore, it hits the readers' feels hard.

While fiction is a meandering walk, poetry is a sprint. When it's good, at the end, you should feel breathless and sweaty. Your heart should beat wildly.

Guest Review: Tricks by Ellen Hopkins (Allie of In Bed with Books)

Full confession: before Tricks, I had never read an Ellen Hopkins' novel. Novels in verse are right up my alley, but I just couldn't get over my perception of Hopkins as the drug writer. 

Reading about people getting hooked on drugs and terrible things happening seemed about as interesting as listening to a friend tell you about that totally awesome trip they had once.  But I saw her speak at the Montgomery County Book Festival, and she spoke very passionately and personally about the books she writes.  I chose to read her 2009 release, Tricks, because the sequel, Traffick, is coming out this November.

Audiobooks: How I Came to Love Verse Novels by Molly Wetta

I’ve always loved poetry; I used to hate reading novels in verse. 

Part of my aversion to verse novels can be attributed to my first experience, which was Crank by Ellen Hopkins. The angsty, dramatic, dark story of addiction that is perennially popular with teenagers didn’t appeal to me at all. 

The sentences
just seemed so 
The line breaks

Shari Green's Favorite Verse Novels

When I offered to write a post for verse novel week, I thought I’d review three of my favorite verse novels. Easy, right? And then … I flipped through my reading journals to choose which books I wanted to highlight, and I realized how hard it was going to be to narrow it down to three!

(Granted, this is a very good problem—so many great verse novels out there!) 

So, no top three. Maybe I could focus on a single stand-out? Or maybe go for something old and something new (something borrowed? --thanks, Vancouver Island Regional Library--something blue?).

The Raw Emotion that Comes with Fewer Words… {Or,} Why I Felt Naked after Writing A Verse Novel by Stefanie Lyons

First, the caveat: 

I’m not saying prose novels can’t deepen emotion, of course they can—and do. I’m just saying this was my experience in the verse novel writing process.

Okay, I feel better getting that off my chest. Now, let’s talk about exposure. Say, for instance, you wrote a verse novel. One that started out more prose-like. Perhaps it had a particular voice that you explored while getting your masters in creative writing, if you will. And let’s imagine that as you combed through the scenes and fine-tuned the story, you pared back the language—just playing around during your time in Higher Education. It could happen. And, maybe as you dabbled in voice and tone, words fell away. A sparseness happened. What’s that all about? You thought, while typing away in your writer cave. What just happened to my story?

The Nakedness. That’s what.


Recommendation Roundup: Winter/Spring 2014-15

Well, I got a bit behind on, like, life, so I thought I'd bundle a few months of our recommended reads for you, rather than trying to catch up month-by-month. 

I did a bit of re-reading over the last few months, which has been pretty fun. I think I will continue to revisit my favorites as a matter of course, because there's something enjoyable in revisiting a beloved story. We all read The Carnival at Bray for book club right before it was a Printz honoree and we all loved it so much, so if you haven't snagged that brilliant little book, do so!

As always, click on the cover for more information. If we have a review available, it will be noted.

Recommendation Tuesday: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

You know all the ways you can kill a girl? 
God, there are so many. 

Courtney Summers' new novel, All The Rage, is out today and it's a difficult, important book that you need to pay attention to. 

Al The Rageis an indictment of a culture that shames and silences girls when they need support the most, that tells them that they are not valued; this is the culture that creates the Steubenvilles. (Let's be honest, Steubenville is not one place, it is everywhere.)

Recommendation Tuesday: Edgar Allen Poe's Spirits of the Dead by Richard Corben

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.

View all of the past recommendations over here. 

Richard Corben captures the gothic sensibility and the fears that plagued Edgar Allan Poe in his graphic representation of the great master’s work. Poe’s soulful poem Spirits of the Dead is a fitting title for Corben’s work. 

Thy soul shall find itself alone
        Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone ——
            Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
                 Into thine hour of secrecy.

Giveaway & Mini Review: The Remedy by Suzanne Young

Suzanne Young's The Program and The Treatment duology is one of the most underrated series I've read. It's just so smart and insightful and just plain fascinating. And while that series closed with a very satisfying ending, I was thrilled when I learned that Suzanne was revisiting the world of the series with a prequel, The Remedy. 

(Hint: Read this entire post--there's an awesome giveaway sponsored by Simon & Schuster happening too!)

Recommendation Tuesday: Trade Me by Courtney Milan

Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. Basically, this is my way of making Tuesday a little more awesome. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.

View all of the past recommendations over here. 

Have I ever told you guys what prompted me to pick up my first Courtney Milan book?

Obviously I'd heard of her, but I didn't decide to read one of her novels until one date I was screwing around on Tumblr (as one does) and accidentally tapped on the notes link on the bottom of a Tumblr post from one of the many Australian Shepherd Tumblrs I follow and noticed that the person who'd like the post of a cute Aussie puppy was Courtney Milan. Obviously, this was important information! A quite look at Courtney's Twitter feed told me that yes indeed she shares her life with one of these wacky dogs too. So, I picked up one of her books, even though historicals set in England aren't usually my cup of tea and enjoyed it.

And this, my friends, is why book marketing is such a tough nut to crack.

Friendship, Diversity and Adventure in Stacey Lee's Under a Painted Sky

A fantastic historical novel is a special thing--and I sometimes feel like it's a unicorn situation. The last historical novel I loved (that wasn't a verse novel) was Jennifer Donnelly's luminous A Northern Light and that was quite awhile ago. 

Fortunately, Stacey Lee's debut young adult historical novel about two girls on the Oregon Trail in the early 1800s, Under a Painted Sky, landed in my mailbox at just the right time, as it was the historical novel I've been looking for for ages and ages. 

Father always said, If you cannot be brave, then imagine you are someone else who who is. So I imagine myself as him, my optimistic father, whose steps never wavered, whose face never hid in shadows. Lifting my chin, I march after Andy as if my cares were few and my outlook, golden.

Under a Painted Sky starts off with a bang, with narrator Samantha--a skilled violinist of Chinese descent--being left with no choice but to flee her Missouri town. Dashed are her dreams of moving back to New York and pursuing a music career.