The Compulsive Reader: October 2016

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.