The Compulsive Reader

Sunday, February 26, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately

If you don't follow me on Litsy, here's a round up of my February reads (so far)! It was a pleasant mix of new releases and books I've been meaning to read for literal years, so all in all, a good month!

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This book has such a compelling premise: Naila is a Pakistani-American teen who follows her parents rules and wishes in all things, except one--she's got a secret boyfriend, also Pakistani-American, named Saif. But Naila's parents don't approve, and when they find out about Saif they whisk Naila away to Pakistan to visit family for the summer. The stakes ratchet up when her parents force Naila into an arranged marriage, and she faces the possibility of being trapped in her new husband's house for the rest of her life. Whether or not Naila will risk everything--even her life--to escape is the driving force behind this tense story. I felt like I was going into a family drama about the crossroads between cultures and halfway through stumbled into a thriller, but despite the tone switch I was totally and completely into this book! I read about two hours past my bedtime and didn't even realize it, that's how caught up in Naila's fate I was!

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

This is perhaps one of the most tightly plotted thrillers I've read in ages, and I haven't read an unreliable narrator so twisty since Merricat of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Mary B. Addison allegedly killed a baby when she was nine, spent some time in prison, and now lives in a volatile group home. At sixteen, she's pregnant and much smarter than anyone gives her credit for. Motivated by a desire to keep her baby, Mary reluctantly re-opens her case in an attempt to prove once and for all that she didn't kill that baby--but that means revisiting that night, her relationship with her mother, and the hazy chain of events that led to her imprisonment. The pace is unrelenting and the timelines are twisty, but the story is put together so cleverly that I was tempted to re-read it from the very beginning only moments after finishing.

Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier

I am a huge sucker for anything Jane Eyre, so I was slightly disappointed to find that these stories aren't necessarily inspired by that resilient heroine we all know and love, but by her iconic line "Reader, I married him." As a result, this collection of short stories was a little light on Jane inspiration, but heavy on relationship stories! It was worth procuring for the Emma Donoghue story alone, and it was delightful to read more of Patricia Park's writing (her novel Re Jane is excellent and a straight up retelling of JE, with Jane as a Korean American, living with her immigrant family in Queens!). Alas, this book is like most short story collections--a mixed bag of varying quality with some utterly forgettable pieces and a few good eggs. Oh, and there's a Lionel Shriver story in here and I didn't want to like it, but reader, I liked it. 

Also, since we brought up Jane Eyre, Ruth Wilson in the BBC miniseries is the best Jane ever. Fight me.

10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

Sixteen-year-old Maeve suffers from severe anxiety that sometimes impairs her function, and never abates. The first fifteen pages or so just chronicle her every anxiety as she makes the trip from Seattle to Vancouver to live with her dad for six months while her mom volunteers in Haiti, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to handle an entire novel of her relentless anxious worries. But Mac quickly balances out Maeve's intense inner thoughts with outer actions and events, and Maeve's self awareness and humor offers some relief from the somewhat claustrophobic nature of anxiety. I wrote more the book when I interviewed Carrie Mac last week. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful book about complicated families and anxiety and falling in love for the first time!

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

This collection of essays and interviews with a variety of writers on writing and money was illuminating, oftentimes humorous, occasionally depressing, and expansive. I so appreciate these writers' candor and Martin's bravery in tackling a very personal and multi-faceted subject. While its appeal to writers is obvious, I think that this book is important for anyone who loves books and literature and wants to better understand how they are made and processed, and how writers live.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I'm a huge Nina LaCour fan, but even if that weren't already the case this slim book would've completely blown me away. Marin is a college freshman who is staying at school in New York for winter break, hiding from the tragedy that occurred over the summer. Mabel is her best friend from San Francisco, come to visit in an attempt to repair their broken relationship. The book unfolds in present and past tense, and slowly builds up to the explosive moment that sent Marin running. The language is lovely and intense, and while the plot isn't punchy, the quiet moments sit with you for a long while. The beauty of this story is found as Marin ever so slowly realizes that she is not alone, and she is going to be okay.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier

As a young teen, I loved Rebecca with such an intensity that I didn't even bother to seek out any of DuMaurier's other novels. Therefore, I am not ashamed to admit that what drove me to finally picking this up was discovering that Lady Sybil plays Mary Yellan in the 2014 BBC miniseries adaptation. Sold. DuMaurier's historical novel about the sordid history of Jamaica Inn and the smugglers who lived there is told from the perspective of Mary Yellan, a young woman who travels there to seek out her only remaining relative, Aunt Patience. Patience is married to a brute of a man and Mary quickly realizes that Jamaica Inn harbors terrible secrets. She stays in an attempt to rescue Patience, but finds herself quickly sucked into the mystery of the place and strange appeal of her uncle younger brother, Jem. Du Maurier has the maddening habit of writing over the racier aspects (basically all the kissing scenes and the actual murder-y bits), but nevertheless Jamaica Inn is a riveting and suspenseful mystery. Plus, the miniseries was gorgeous.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Fabiola and her mother come from Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Detroit in the hope of finding "une belle vie" with her mother's sister and daughters. But when her mother is detained by customs, Fabiola must go on to Detroit alone. Fabiola struggles to learn a new culture, navigates complicated family dynamics, experiences a surprising romance, and discovers a dangerous situation, all while striving to live life on her own terms, within her belief system. Her voice is compelling, and the flavors of magical realism throughout the story are beautifully rendered. Ibi's writing is exquisite, through every heartbreak and triumph. 

I'm currently reading Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (I know, like two years late), and I've got an enticing stack of spring and summer ARCs that I'll be working my way through after that! Plus, March may finally be the month I actually read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie because, um, the BBC miniseries looks good. I spent a lot of time talking about BBC miniseries this month, huh? What can I say, the world is terrible and they bring me joy. Even (especially?) when they're murderous.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Q&A with Carrie Mac, Author of 10 Things I Can See From Here

One of the books I was most excited to get my hands on this month was an ARC of Carrie Mac's 10 Things I Can See From Here, a contemporary YA about Maeve, a girl dealing with severe anxiety. When her mom goes to Haiti for six months, Maeve is off to Vancouver to live with her dad, pregnant stepmom, and twin brothers. For Maeve, nearly every moment is wrought with fear and constant worry that she can't ever turn off, so when her dad starts messing up his sobriety and her stepmom wants to have a home birth and her little brothers are running wild, Maeve has no idea what to do. Then she meets Salix, a violinist who doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. Salix is cool and brave and she likes Maeve a lot, but having a girlfriend means that Maeve has to reveal just how crippling her anxiety can be--and somehow find a way to live with it.

I loved this book a lot--it's funny and upbeat, and the humor balances out the seriousness of Maeve's anxiety and her fear that her family may be falling apart. The story is both romantic and nuanced, and I liked that Mac shows that falling in love with Salix isn't a cure for Maeve's anxiety, but rather Salix is able to help Maeve make room in her life for it, and figure out ways to better manage it.

To celebrate the release, Carrie Mac was kind enough to answer a few of my questions!

TCR: I love how you cut through the more serious angst and emotional trauma that Maeve experiences with slices of humor. The obituaries were some of my favorite parts. How did those develop during the drafting process?

CM: I love obituaries. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve turned to them first in any newspaper. When I was a paramedic I always looked for obituaries for patients who died on my watch or were sure to shortly after.

I read obituaries start to finish, tedious lists of family members and good deeds and charities included. I’m always drawn to the obituaries of younger people who died, and especially and quite morbidly, the ones for children or babies. After that, the ones I’m most interested in are from fatalities that show up in the news. I like to check the obituary against them and see if there is any mention of the suicide or murder or freak accident at work. It fascinates me when there isn’t.

After that, I read all the elderly people’s obituaries and try to tease out something authentic from the carefully and respectfully composed words that condense a complex lifetime into a slim file of a few hundred words.

Truth be told, I write imaginary obituaries in my head all the time. Doesn’t everybody? I gave that habit to Maeve, because it is exactly something she would do.

TCR: What was the most challenging aspect to writing this book? The easiest?

CM: 10 Things needed to be the right balance between Maeve’s often crippling anxiety and the world outside of her. In various drafts, the scales would tip one way or the other, which was great because I got to know more about either her internal life or the ‘real’ world.’ I needed both those things—more of Maeve so that I could understand her better, but more of her world so that I could build it accurately and bring it to life to be as vibrant and compelling as Maeve’s interior world. Thankfully I love writing my books over and over again, and with each revision, Maeve’s internal world and external world became more fully realized until they complimented each other perfectly. Balance achieved.

Easiest? The twins. I love them. They were so easy to write that I had to cut out dozens of pages starring them because they don’t get to be my protagonists this time.

TCR: The issue of time and money aside, if you could write a story about any secondary character from this book, which one would you choose?

CM: Easy! The twins. Like I said above, I love them. And they were so easy to write. I’d love to write a middle grade series starring them and Gnomenville. Add a little magic realism to those kids and the possibilities would be endless. I want to read those books. I can’t stand it when I want to read a book that hasn’t been written.

I would also like to read a book about Dan, Maeve’s neighbor. I think he’s a very interesting character and I’d like to know more about him and how he ended up living in a cabin in the woods wearing a unicorn footy-jammies to bed and raising chickens. And I’d like it to be a quirky love story, so he’d end up with a lovely boyfriend. So I’d have to write it if I want to read it. Not enough writing hours in a lifetime to get to all the books I want to write!

10 Things I Can See From Here is out next week, February 28th!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Excerpt of Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Today is the release date of a fantasy novel that has been on my wishlist for ages because it hits all of my reading sweet spots--fantasy, winter, goblins, magic, music, winter, fantasy...Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is definitely my kind of read!

To celebrate the release, I'm running an excerpt! Read on below for some delicious winter magic, then get thee to a bookstore!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

I hate compiling my favorite books of the year in a single post until the year is actually dead, partly because, well, what if I read my most favorite book on December 31st? It would be ridiculous and untrue to include it in 2017's list (and anyway, I might not remember it very well a year from now). But I'm fully aware that most people stop caring about best of lists after January 1st, if indeed they ever cared to begin with, so here we are. If I read something truly great in the next three days, I promise that I'll let you know about it.

This was a weird reading year! For the first time since I've been keeping a reading record, I had no assigned reading for school. None! I was a free bird, and I used my newfound reading freedom to re-read a lot of childhood favorites. Most notably was the Great Harry Potter Re-Read of January, the first time I read all of the Harry Potter books straight through. That was wondrous, and I found myself enjoying the books just as much now as I did 10+ years ago, and reading them all in a row brought about some really interesting insights. Other re-reads include Phillip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series (oh, Freddie!!!) and Garth Nix's (original) Abhorsen trilogy. Now, I'm not saying that my re-reads caused this, but look, I re-read those books and suddenly 2016 gifted us with a Harry Potter sequel and an Abhorsen sequel...so...I mean...maybe I should re-read Sunshine by Robin McKinley a few times in 2017!? Hope springs eternal.

Anyway, all that aside, here are some of my favorites read in 2016, in no particular order, from no particular publication year, because 2016 was the year I embraced reading chaos:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This middle grade book made my heart grow three sizes. The protagonist is believably discriminated against and neglected in an awful way, and her life begins when she escapes London during WWII and finds a home for the first time, and therapy in a delightful little horse. Plus, no terrible animal peril! Plus, there's going to be a sequel. I can't wait.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This book has been getting incredible buzz since 2014, so I was suitably blown away when I finally read it. It's smart and emotional and dark. I loved the Michigan setting, and the fact that many pivotal scenes occur in very familiar (local) landscapes. The way Mandel beautifully wove in between present and past to connect a great many characters still astounds me.

The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders by Erin Bow

I'll admit, I didn't read the first book in this duet as soon as I should have, and what sent me running to it was the fact that there is a f/f romance. I'm both shallow and predictable like that. But I am so glad I picked them up--these books are razor-sharp smart, with a memorable antagonist AI who speaks like a millennial and a plucky, strong protagonist who wants to be strong and do what's right, but learns that doing so requires great sacrifice...just not that kind she was prepared for. I desperately want Erin Bow to publish more books about Greta and Talis and Xi, so please please please support these wonderful books!

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Alaska, 1970's. Four teenagers growing up in a very distinct, wildly beautiful, and sometimes harsh setting. Their stories stand independent at first, but slowly wind closer and closer together over the course of a year. The writing, the characters, the snapshots of life in Alaska were all so very beautiful. This is probably one of the most overlooked books of the year.

Of Fire & Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

I could say a lot about this book, but I'll leave it to this: Fantasy! Princesses falling in love! Magic! HORSES! KISSING! This book is pure fun, heart-flutteringly romantic, and quite adventurous. I could re-read it every month.

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Gertie is memorable in the same way that Ramona Quimby and Gilly Hopkins is--a well-intentioned, sometimes misbehaving kid who wants so much, and who runs head-first into things without fully thinking them through. Her adventures are funny and real and sometimes painful, but always uniquely her own.

You Know Me Well by David Leviathan and Nina LaCour

This book! Is so gay! And I mean that in the best way possible, of course. It's like Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, only everyone is gay. And it's set in San Francisco during Pride Week. If those sentences haven't sold you, I honestly don't know what will.

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

You already know that I believe Melina is the Queen of Everything, and The Piper's Son is just proof of that. I loved this book as much as Jellicoe Road, if not more. It's an odd duck, not quite YA and not quite adult. But the writing is lovely and the emotions are real, and I read it in almost one setting, sobbing along the way.

Georgia Peaches & Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

I love this swoony, Southern romance about Jo, who falls for a girl she knows she shouldn't fall for, and struggles to prove that she can be both an out lesbian  and a good Christian. Brown gets all the props for tackling the gay and Christian issue so fearlessly and so gracefully, plus, you guys, this book is REALLY ROMANTIC.

Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

TECHNICALLY a 2017 release that I blurbed, and by a fellow VCFA writer. I heard Bonnie read an excerpt from this at her graduation in 2014, and trust me, it'll blow you all away. I so cannot wait for it to be out in the world, so look for it in May.

An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone already knows how amazing this series is but I just finally read it this year, okay? So I'm jumping on the caboose here, but let me tell you, I am here. An Ember in the Ashes was tense and exciting and then A Torch Against the Night was even better. Plus, Tahir took something that is usually a pet peeve of mine (adding an additional first person POV to a sequel) and made it incredible!

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

So, I read all of Fiona Wood's YA books this year (Six Impossible Things and Wildlife) and they are all great. I just wanted to say that upfront. Read them all. But this one was my favorite, because it has the sweetest love story at the center of it, and because the protagonist Van Uoc wants and wants so much, and her life and her emotions are messy, but she battles through her fears and doubts, and she is strong. I love her.

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I mean, ditto what I said about Tahir's books here. I finally read this duet and I am in love. All I can say is that Bardugo is Queen of Plot. I bow down at her throne. Also, I sobbed buckets at the end, damn it!

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

It's always a special sort of delight to read writing that is so lovely, a story that is so heartbreaking and enchanting, a book that is so very important for our world. This is one of those books. It's a fairy tale set in the real world, and it's about the power of love, and identity, and names. I will happily thrust this book on anyone and everyone.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

My girl Melina took a step out of her usual YA category and released an adult novel this year. I was so very worried that I wouldn't like it because it was so different from what I was used to, but I ADORED it. It's an adult mystery, but all of the things I love about her writing--strong ensemble casts, memorable teen characters, heartbreaking back stories, beautiful emotional arcs, and meditations on the immigrant experience--were present here. It was like a brand new recipe using all of my favorite flavors.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This was a surprising little story. I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, and when I mentioned it to my mom, she exclaimed, "That's one of my favorite books!" I immediately borrowed her copy and was completely absorbed in this story about wartime courage and strength and resistance, and how the two characters who only chanced upon each other during the war found each other again years later and, together, built something greater than themselves. I truly enjoyed this book, and part of my sentimentality towards it is the connection it gave me to my mom.

What were your favorite books of 2016?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Books for the next four years

Well, last week was a week.

I can't pretend that I have any startling insights or, let's be honest, many coherent thoughts. I'm still trying to reconcile the hope and exhilaration I felt drawing the connecting line that made the arrow that pointed to Hillary's name with the horror and fear that came with learning the results. I've had more time to process, time to reach out to the people I love, and time to talk. I'm so inspired and comforted by all the action that's been taken over the past week and all of the planning for the future. I keep looking for actions to take, and inevitably find myself falling back on my strengths, the main one being Super Book Recommender. As I advocated for reading widely and diverse literature, a friend asked me for a reading list and I happily complied. I thought I'd share it, too.

And I should note that there are TONS of reading lists going around--check those out, too. My list is by no means complete, but a good start if you're looking for awesome (mostly intersectional) YA for teens (and adults!).

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Waters, etc.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (just finished this and WOW)
Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levitahn
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
George by Alex Gino
How It Went Down by Kekla Magon
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

And check out American Street by Ibi Zoboi (I know Ibi from VCFA and I've heard her read her work--she's astoundingly good!) and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas when they come out in February. Or better yet, pre-order them. I'd LOVE to see those books debut on the New York Times bestseller list, and pre-order help make that happen.

Another thing I'd suggest doing is considering adopting a classroom in a local community and making a commitment to donate at least one diverse book per month to that classroom. Coordinate with the teacher to see what's needed and where interests fall (and, I hate to say it, to make sure the books will actually be put in the classrooms), but make an effort to give diverse books that will show kids another perspective and help them gain empathy for others. I'm particularly fond of this idea because it supports diverse authors, and it benefits kids. Donate to classrooms where there might not be a lot of money for books, but don't hesitate to give to more privileged classrooms either. Just last week I subbed in a classroom at a predominantly white private school, and I left them with copies of Brown Girl Dreaming, I Am Malala, Shadows of Sherwood, and Kinda Like Brothers in the hopes that those kids, privileged as they are, start seeing other experiences.

Someone on Twitter said that the next four years are going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Keep going, friends. And know that I'm here for you.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Litsy Has Stolen My Heart

When it comes to apps and technology, I'm pretty set in my ways for a millennial. I didn't even download Instagram until four of my friends got sick of me saying, "What photo where?" and formed a pact behind my back to refuse to update me on anything so I caved, and then even my fifteen year old brother was all, "Welcome to the 21st century, no you cannot follow me." So I don't really know what made me download Litsy earlier this spring, when it was still in beta testing and no one I knew had it, except maybe fate because I am in LOVE.

The best way to describe Litsy is to say that it's like if Instagram and Goodreads had a baby, only without the drama of Goodreads and the insane pressure to create impossibly beautiful tableaus that make you think your life is somehow less fulfilled because you don't have fresh flowers and perfectly whimsical knickknacks and beautiful backdrops and everything you own isn't covered in dust and dog hair. (Quit judging me, Instagram.) Litsy is chill. Litsy just wants you to pick a book, snap a pic, and talk about it. Litsy doesn't care if the only backdrop you can find is a wrinkled t-shirt.

The basic gist is this: you pick between posting a blurb, quote, or review. Then you pick a book. You MUST pick a book, so all of your conversations are book-centered. You can include a photo, but no pressure if your immediate surroundings are a mess and the lighting is utter shit. Then you post stuff. When you tap on the book title, you get a timeline of what everyone is saying about the book, and it's all awesome until you find the one person who bailed on a Melina Marchetta novel and waste twenty minutes of your life judging their Litsy feed.

Blurbs are for just casual notes of observation, quotes are (obviously) for book quotes, and reviews include tags "pick," "so-so," "pan," and "bail." Can I just take a moment and tell you how refreshingly AWESOME this it is that Litsy doesn't mess around with the bullshit star system? I loathe stars. Stars tell me nothing. Stars are the laziest way to judge or review a book. I find fault in stars for book reviews every single time. And the people who try to keep making stars happen with emojis in their reviews can keep them, because I do not care. I want your words, people. The reviews are kept to a 260 word limit, so things never get to be too much for your phone screen. Plus, there is a spoiler screen that you can enable, not just for all of your posts but for COMMENTS, TOO! That's right, the comments section is truly a safe space on Litsy.

The Litsy community is also SUPER nice! Their tagline "where books make friends" couldn't be more true! I didn't have a lot of YA folks to follow at first, so it was great to follow just a bunch of funny, smart-sounding people and really diversify my reading lists right away. No one is judgmental when it comes to genre or reading category, and there is something really, really awesome about watching people's reading habits unfold in real time, with all their quirks and whatnot. I love seeing what quotes stick out to others, observing what they're excited about, the characters they love, at what point readers bail, at what point readers fall in love. When a review is finally posted, it feels like the culmination of something, and not just another blog post.

The best part? Litfluence. It's a completely meaningless but very, very important score that rates how much you use Litsy. Guys, it literally means nothing, but it's ridiculous how much I love watching my Litfluence rise. There is no prize! No magical number that I know of! Just rising numbers that somehow validate me in ways that I cannot explain with words. I mean, maybe if I hit a certain threshold, a golden ticket will appear and the meaning of the universe will be revealed to me (your Litfluence starts at 42, heh), but as far as I'm aware the only prize is READING. Gamification is awesome!

They also clearly have a fantastic sense of humor and a great appreciation for literary puns: 

Litsy is made by Out of Print, the same people who produce those wonderfully nerdy but weirdly fitting bookish t-shirts (and totes, socks, and scarves). You know, the company that threatens to blow your budget every month? So these people love books, they love to have fun, and they also give back a LOT. They'll host reading challenges that encourage Littens (not completely sold on that moniker, but I didn't promise everything was perfect) to give away books, and they match donations through FirstBook. So they use their platform to promote good things, which rocks.

If you want to join the fun, and if you want proof that I am still reading tons despite becoming a terribly infrequent blogger, follow me on Litsy! I'm (shockingly) TirzahPrice! I'll follow you back and we can watch our meaningless Litfluences rise and nerd out about books together!

Monday, October 24, 2016

10 years

November marks ten years since I created The Compulsive Reader.

In so many ways, writing this blog was the first step in my exploration of who I was and I wanted to be. I'd always defined myself as a Reader, and blogging was my first real outlet for my love of books and story and YA. It also led me to a community that's pretty amazing and has expanded to include some of my very best friends. So many of the bloggers I met back when I first started are now amazing booksellers, teachers, librarians, editors, and publicists and I am so incredibly proud to see how far we've come. We were a mostly teenaged crew of book fanatics who've grown up and have started to take over the book world and I know that we're going to do amazing things because we've already shown that we have the passion and the work ethic and the insane love for YA and its readers.

That said, I think it's been pretty evident for a while now that I am not really the book blogger I used to be. That change really began in 2013, when I entered into the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Believe me, if there is anything that could pull me away from blogging, I'm so glad that it's doing what I dreamed of ten years ago when I started this blog: writing my own YA books. I love writing. I take it very seriously. Much more seriously than I've taken this blog. Which is why I think I need to stop hesitating and just admit that this is no longer the book blog it used to be. It's still my blog, and I am happy to keep it around occasionally update it as a YA writer, but I won't be posting frequent reviews anymore. I'll still talk about the books I love, though! And you can always find my writing over at Book Riot (here's my author link). A lot of my former blog-writing energies have gone to producing content over there, simply because I get paid to write for Book Riot, and while this blog has always heaped wonderful and sometimes unexpected rewards, cold hard cash was very, very rarely one of them.

In addition to Book Riot and occasional updates here, you can also find me on on Twitter at @tirzahprice, and you can follow my in-the-moment reading escapades on Litsy at Tirzah.Price!

And finally, I'll end with my most exciting news of the last week--I'm now represented by Taylor Martindale Kean of Full Circle Literary! The dream has become a little more real, and I'm really excited to see what the future brings. Thanks so much for reading.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Some TCR Reading for You on Book Riot!

I've been busy over on Book Riot! Most recently, I wrote a follow-up to my popular TCR post "Lesbian Hands Are a Thing" for National Coming Out Day, which was October 11th. It's called "Out and Proud vs. Hiding in Plain Sight: The Evolution of YA Book Covers." If you remembered the original lesbian hands post, I argued that we need more covers that are out and proud. In the new post, I examine the pros and cons of that argument, and how book covers today attract and deflect queer teen readers.

I also have a 100 Must-Read list of Historical YA Novels and a separate list for YA Historical Fantasy Novels. Because they both deserve their own lists, and because there are SO MANY GREAT BOOKS.

October is my most favorite month of the year, so I curated a (non-horror!) reading list, and it's not too late to start reading!

And here are the top 5 Fictional Libraries I'd Love to Visit IRL.

If you're a YA super fan, see if you can match these taglines to their YA novels in the quiz I wrote! Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

And finally, do you #bujo? If yes, then I have some cool bookish bullet journal ideas for you!

Thanks for reading and following along!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Leaping for Joy for Kate Beasley's debut Gertie's Leap to Greatness!

 Next Tuesday is the release date for of my favorite middle grade books of 2016! Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley features a bold, lovable, and intelligent protagonist who is just as memorable as Ramona Quimby or Matilda or Gilly Hopkins.

The novel follows Gertie, who goes on a mission to become the best fifth grader ever in order to prove to her estranged mother that she doesn't her one bit. Gertie's methods are anything but conventional, and it doesn't help that she's thwarted at every turn by a real life Mary Sue. Everyone thinks Mary Sue is great, even Gertie's best friends. In order to be the best, Gertie is going to have to take drastic measures.

Everything about this story is charming--the Alabama setting, Gertie's worldview, her friends (and enemies), and her funny (and sometimes heartbreaking) methods to demonstrate her greatness. The kids act convincingly, the adults are just clueless enough about the characters' interior lives and politics, but also pretty astute, too. Under hijinks and laughs, Gertie is a character who's been hurt, but she's got a great support system and people who love her, showing readers that unfair things happen even to the greatest kids, but love and acceptance can come from unlikely places. 

I love Gertie because she's bold, and she's not afraid to defend herself (or the ones she loves), even when she knows that she might be ostracized for it. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the book is when Mary Sue's mom makes an impassioned speech against oil rigs to Gertie's class, and Gertie marches up to the front and defends the rigs because it's where her father works. It creates some great tension that punctuates the rest of the book, and offers young readers a really great opportunity to grapple with big issues in an age-appropriate manner. 

(Oh, and did I mention that the book is illustrated by Jillian Tamaki!? Because it is, and she does a brilliant job.)

I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself and a kid you know and love, because Gertie will not fail to delight! And if I can't convince you, then perhaps this photo of Kate and her sister Cassie (author of Circus Mirandus!) leaping for Gertie will!

How can you not go out and buy the book now? I mean, really.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Writing Under the (Childhood) Influence by Bruce Hale

 Today we have Bruce Hale on the blog! He is the author of multiple books for kids, most recently The Curse of the Were-Hyena!

During author visits around the globe, I’ve given all kinds of answers to the author’s most-asked question, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ve said it’s a mystery (true), that they come from paying attention and asking questions (also true), and that they’re manufactured for me by a gnome called Guido who lives in my backyard (I’ll let you guess about that one).

However, it would be just as true to say that often my story ideas have their roots in my childhood. A reluctant reader at first, I was nevertheless a big fan of monster movies and comic books. Then, on a tragic day my family still calls The Day the TV Broke, my parents began reading aloud to us. The Tarzan stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs were what turned me into a reader, and I find that his influence still lingers.

For instance, about eight years ago, I wrote a hybrid graphic novel series called Underwhere about these kids who discovered a world beneath us. Not until after it had been published did I recognize echoes of Burroughs’ Pellucidar books in my wacky tales.

Flash back to little kid time: After we finally got a new TV, I used to love watching old Humphrey Bogart movies with my dad. The rat-a-tat dialog and tough-guy attitudes enthralled me, and the plots intrigued me. Years later, this influence came out in my Chet Gecko mysteries, which borrowed heavily from film noir. In fact, that hardboiled voice came so easily, I had to make a conscious effort to move away from it for other books.

But though I’d once been a huge fan of monster movies— particularly the Universal Pictures classics like Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolf-Man—I’d never tackled a horror story before. Until now. The Curse of the Were-Hyena draws directly from that childhood love. Just like my boyhood friend Billy and I, the book’s two heroes love comic books and are obsessed with monsters. In fact, even the series title, The Monstertown Mysteries, comes from a book I wrote in second grade, The Two Brothers at Monstertown.

I felt a certain comfort and familiarity writing about a subject and characters so close to home. That’s one of the joys of returning to a childhood influence. And yet there was a freshness to the process as well. Unlike me, the book’s narrator is Latino; and unlike those Universal movies, the monster is a made-up one: a were-hyena. Something old, something new.

As I grow more aware of my early influences, I feel freer to stray from them, to play with them, to mix them up with other notions. That’s what the creative process is about, after all. But I know they’ll always be there, informing my writing and providing a wellspring of ideas. In case, you know, Guido the gnome ever gets tired of churning it out.