Monday, December 30, 2013

There's Always Next Year


Since this week's post is a list itself, I'm going to avoid listing my three favorites this week. Not to mention we're still reassembling the section after the holidays (thank you, thank you, thank you for ravaging our section. This is the only time I'm excited to clean).

The year is almost over, which I find really startling and a little bit terrifying (it can't possibly be 2014 yet). And there have been so many really fantastic books that have come out this year and next year doesn't look like it will disappoint either.

As everyone is winding down after the holidays I feel like I need to wind everyone back up. Or at least get them excited again...or, at the very least, get myself excited again. Why? Books, that's why and I am happy dancing (internally) over some of the releases next year has to offer.

In my riled up excitement I would like to share with you the ten books I am most excited for (keeping in mind that I am a shatterwit and I have probably forgotten some).

In no particular order:

1. Noggin - John Corey Whaley

This man shattered my heart with Where Things Come Back and I look forward to him doing it all over again with Noggin. I have every faith that he will write the best book about a head transplant ever (yes, you read that right). We can expect Noggin out in April. 

2. Ruin and Rising - Leigh Bardugo
Just the placeholder until we get to see the real thing.
The first conclusion I'm dying to read. Leigh Bardugo has set up a darkly beautiful quest for Alina and Mal and in Ruin we'll get the final showdown with the Darkling. It's going to be amazing.

3.Sinner - Maggie Stiefvater
While I'm anxiously awaiting the third book in The Raven Cycle Maggie Stiefvater has thoughtfully provided me with a Wolves of Mercy Falls companion book. Sinner follows Isobel and Cole in L.A. We can expect it in July.

4. The Retribution of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

I cannot wait to see what Michelle Hodkin does with the end of the Mara Dyer trilogy. I also cannot believe how she ended The Evolution of Mara Dyer. This book was initially supposed to come out last October but was pushed back. Now we can expect it in June.

5. City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare

I know a lot of people are waiting for this one. The final book in Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. With all of the teasers of characters dying, I expect a nice cry. We'll get this one in May.

6. The Infinite Sea - Rick Yancey
Noticing a trend with the placeholders?

The 5th Wave blew me away and now I'm waiting to see what Yancey does with the amazing world he set up in the sequel. The Infinite Sea is due out in September.

7. Lair of Dreams - Libba Bray

I was delighted and horrified by The Diviners and not just because the book is creepy. But because Bray left so much unanswered! Well we should finally get some answers in August.

8. Four: A Divergent Story Collection - Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth started writing a series of short stories from Four's point of view that were being slowly released in e-book format. Then the project grew and the stories all became longer than she had planned. So the collection was put off and will be released in July in a bound collection. I loved what I've read so far and can't wait to get any little bit she'll give us!

9. Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The beginning of a new companion series to Beautiful Creatures! Dangerous Creatures will follow Link and Ridley. Ethan will always be my favorite but Link and Ridley are such different characters from Ethan and Lena so I can't wait to see what they do. Dangerous Creatures should be out in May.

10. Darkest Fear - Cate Tiernan

I have been pretty much in love with Cate Tiernan since her Sweep days. I may not have loved Immortal Beloved as much as the others but that doesn't mean I'm not wicked excited for her new series. And this one leaves little time for us to wait since it'll be out in January.

There are quite a few others that don't have set release dates or months (keeping in mind that dates can always be moved). Stephanie Perkins' Isla and the Happily Ever After, the Holly Black and Cassandra Clare co-write The Iron Trial, Sarah Rees Brennan's conclusion to the Lynburn Legacy Unmade are all expected out in the next year (please).

As I was making this post I realized that many of these are series books. Perhaps I need to branch out some more? Anyway, these are just a few of them. There are so many more! Get geared up for the new year because there are some amazing books coming out.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

What's New in the Travel Section

The holidays just blew through the store in a twinkling blur! Now I have to go back to eating grown up food and not dreaming about all the maps selling out and Oprah choosing a National Geographic map as her Nobel Prize Book of the Month. And in the world of exciting maps, if you didn't already see it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we got some seriously cool new maps in from National Geographic, the perfect sort of thing to spend your shiny new Booksmith gift card on:

There's Shakespeare's Britain, Earth at Night, Mars(!), Antarctica (to go with the single guide book that actually exists AND is in stock!), National Parks of the USA, the Universe, and as always the classics are in stock as well. Super special stuff. Be the coolest kid on your block with a Mars map!
In other new stuff news, we now carry Wildsam travel guides. I believe we're the only bookstore on the Eastern seaboard with these beauties and they are MAGIC so come snatch 'em up before anyone else. They are beautifully designed and the perfect size to take on the go. They have a small chunk of graph paper in the back for notes and scraps to save, and the content is AMAZING. Beautiful essays from great writers, fascinating almanacs, hip hand-drawn maps of individual neighborhoods and all the things to see and do. They currently exist for Nashville, San Francisco and Austin (where they're based). Come check them out in person, my stunning photograph barely does them justice:

And finally, our Destination of the Month continues to be Brazil for a few short days. Come check out our copious books, maps and novels as you plan your southern migration and/or World Cup vacay.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear Mr. Claus,

I've never written to you before, and I'm not going to start asking for things now. I just wanted to say thanks for some gifts that have already arrived this year. If anyone else is responsible, I hope you'll relay my gratitude; I'm told you've got connections.

Thank you, Mr. Claus, for the slew of smart, fun picture books this year. Books like Xander's Panda Party for young biologists; Rosie Revere, Engineer for young logical thinkers; and The Day the Crayons Quit for young artists and activists.

Thank you for the kinds of intermediate novels that Wonder made cool, like Counting by Sevens and The Thing About Luck; for Greek gods and wimpy kids who bring the young readers to us in droves; and for the classics that parents and grandparents are still bursting to share. Every time Anne of Green Gables rings up, an angel gets her wings.

Thank you for knowledgeable, generous, funny coworkers, and for customers who express joy when they see us busy.

Enjoy the holiday, Mr. Claus. And if you need a few more book suggestions for the children of the world, my impression is that you know where to find us. We'll leave the milk and cookies in the break room. 

Yours merrily,
An appreciative children's bookseller

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Brilliancy of Audiobooks

I actually have three exciting new books this week

1. Sandry and Tris's Books by Tamora Pierce
Tris's book is the book that made me want to write. There is just something about this series that I've always loved.

2. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Paperback)
I love this series. This isn't quite as creepy as the first (The Name of the Star) but Johnson sucker punches us all at the end.

3. The Diviners by Libba Bray (Paperback)
This tome is massive but it is so worth the read. It's another that's pretty creepy. Plus 1920's New York is an awesome setting.

It's only been in the last couple of years that I've developed an appreciation for audiobooks. I blame my 8th grade English teacher for thinking that listening to random chapters of the audiobook was a substitution for reading them. An idea that might have been okay if it hadn't been an awkward, read a couple, listen to a couple, read a couple pattern that really only resulted in my going home and rereading the chapters anyway, even if I hated the book.

For a long time I associated audiobooks with being yelled at for reading ahead of the tape (yes, cassette tape) in class. They just read so slow!

But in college someone told me to listen to the audio version of Max Brooks' World War Z. I was skeptical but decided to check it out. I put it on as I was packing to leave for the summer. I was startled to find myself just standing in the middle of the room and listening. Even, abridged (they've since released an unabridged version) it was amazing.

I didn't try any others though. They couldn't all be that good. I mean, World War Z is perfectly suited for an audiobook and it's full cast is amazing.

Then, at an old job, I started making caramel. It was two and a half hours of standing in the same place stirring in a figure eight. Also known as the most boring two and a half hours of my week (and sometimes I had to do it more than once). Suddenly audiobooks started looking really good.

The first ones in my new audiobook foray that caught my attention were The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater. They took me about an hour to adjust to the voices but I fell rapidly in love with them. I started listening to them in the car on the way to and back from work too. I tried others (the Beautiful Creatures one left me thinking in a southern accent for days) and I found that I came to really enjoy them.

When I moved to Boston audiobooks became even more important when I started walking or taking public transit. I had all of this spare time and am not coordinated enough to read and walk at the same time and the bus makes me a little motion sick sometimes so I couldn't really read. So I started back up with my audiobooks.

The tricks for me are to 1: give it some time. The voices almost never sound quite like I thought and that's an adjustment, and 2: only listen to books I've already read. I know that second one sounds ridiculous but it works wonderfully for me. I get the chance to essentially "reread" books I've been meaning to and when the bus gets loud or someone starts talking to me I'm usually less angry because I already know what's going on. Also, I prefer to interpret the book myself before someone else does it for me.

Sure they're not all good. I've tried some really bad ones (nothing is worse than when a noticeably  older person is reading as a teenager and really exaggerating the drama) but there are some really awesome ones.

Emma Galvin does a really awesome job reading the Divergent trilogy (and coincidentally is also one of the voices on the last two Mercy Falls books). I never would have picked Will Patton to read the Raven Cycle but I loved them. Jesse Eisenberg reading The Curse Workers is fantastic. Alan Cumming reads Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy and does so wondrously.

Penguin Audio released a brilliant new set of Roald Dahl audio books this year too. Dan Stevens (from Downton Abbey fame) reads Boy, Kate Winslet reads Matilda, Hugh Laurie reads The Giraffe, and the Pelly and Me, Stephen Fry reads The Enormous Crocodile, Andrew Scott (Moriarty from Sherlock) reads The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar. And there are a whole bunch more. It's such an amazing collection and these readers do such an awesome job. These classics are in safe hands.

One of my favorite things about audiobooks is just hearing how the reader interprets moments differently. More than once I've been listening and thought 'But that's supposed to be sarcastic!' But sometimes you hit these moments that suddenly have more of an impact on you because of the way that the reader reads it. A character's reply could slow down a little and sound a bit more threatening or and exchange could sound more charged between characters than you thought. Certain scenes stand out to me more after having listened to them.

Since it's Christmas season I should probably tie this back. Audiobooks are brilliant gifts. Everyone has a little bit of travel time that might need occupying or some time when they're cooking and might need to hear Dan Stevens' dulcet tones. Well, we have an awesome selection and they're definitely worth checking out.

Don't let school ruin them for you.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Today's teens will be running the world soon. Here's why I'm not worried.

We had 150 people at a YA event a couple of weeks ago. Most of them were teenagers. Some of them had driven in from out-of-state. They waited patiently to meet the authors of these books (psssst: we still have some signed copies):


It was an evening about identity and lots of things that impact it, from sexuality to family to standards of beauty to fanfic.

This time of year, we keep a particularly close eye on big sellers to make sure their spots on the shelves are well-stocked. A lot of those titles at the moment are from the YA section. Among those we're checking hour-by-hour, largely because they've become popular enough for their own movies, are:

A trilogy about one way society could go very wrong, and one teen who puts everything on the line to fix it. (I notice that Mockingjay, which picks up right where the current movie leaves off, has been disappearing particularly quickly.)

A novel about the Holocaust from a unique perspective.

A novel about what makes a life valuable from the point of view of a teen with terminal cancer.

Another dystopian trilogy, which also examines how we form our identities.

Looking for a gift for a teen? We've got it. Looking for a gift for yourself? You might want to ask a teenager. They have pretty good taste.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Post About Writing is Almost About Books, Right?

I know I usually start my posts with the three books I'm most excited we received in the kids section but November/December isn't really a heavy release time so this time I'm going to skip that part. Sorry. If you want to know which books I'm excited about feel free to ask!

I am writing this post on December 1st. This is relevant because it means that I can say that last month I took part in the mammoth NaNoWriMo.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Writers are challenged with writing 50,000 words during the month of November (roughly 1,667 words a day). It's supposed to be a new project, one you haven't started yet. The idea is to have a rough draft of a novel done by the end of the month or, if you're me, to have a good start on a new one (I like words way too much to ever be done at 50,000).

This means that I spent most of the last month in a mental writing haze. You see, I have a bit of an obsessive streak and when you register for NaNoWriMo you get your very own graph to chart your word count. Let me tell you, you have not see obsessive until you give someone a graph to chart their daily progress. I start by being completely crazed about staying on track. Soon enough that is not enough and I have to do more. Those bars have to be above the line.

Basically, I have a lot of fun with it but usually end the month twitchy and totally worn out. It's worth it even if it doesn't end up being a project that I keep working on because, if nothing else it reminds me how important it is to write, even a little, every day.

Oddly enough, NaNoWriMo is kind of a controversy online. Plenty of writers are big fans of it. Rainbow Rowell wrote about half of her novel Fangirl during it one year. Erin Morgenstern's worked on The Night Circus over a couple (I can't even call her out on it because the book is so wonderful). There's a pretty awesome list of author who've written pep talks here.

But on the other side there are plenty of authors who aren't fans. My personal favorite author Maggie Stiefvater is sort of infamous for hating it. Last Monday I asked David Levithan how he felt and he agreed with her. They don't hate that people are writing, they just don't like the way the program is set up. And as much as I love NaNoWriMo I can see why.

I love NaNoWriMo because it's a tool that keeps me going. It gets me back on track after a year of letting myself get bogged down by work and the internet and my tendency to adopt new hobbies on whims. Sometimes I need to stop editing the same project to death and work on something new and NaNoWriMo encourages me to do that. But I'll admit that I could never finish a novel in a month with everything else I have to do and in my word count obsessive state my writing isn't always the best. Some people get really carried away by it and some people just can't write like that. Honestly, some people shouldn't write like that.

For me a big factor has always been what sort of project I've been writing. In 2011 my project was the perfect sort of thing for it. The sort of novel where dialogue is what's most important. I love dialogue, I could write it all day long. In 2012 I was working on a fictionalization of my time working in a chocolate store, that one didn't work as well. I spent too much time trying to decide how true to life it could or should be and reflecting. This year my project needed a lot of world building and had a plot that's intricate and involved, one that I probably didn't draft out as well as I should have.

And while I'm pretty sure that I'm going to toss a fair amount of this year's work, I learned from what I did. Learned how much I needed to have drafted, what sort of work I should have done before. I realized what kind of research I still needed to do. I didn't write a novel but I used NaNoWriMo as a tool to get started.

We get a fair amount of people in the store who want to write. I'm not published or anything, not even close but I think I recommend that if they do want to write that they try NaNo just once. They don't have to do it in November but just accept the challenge. It's a great way to find out a little more about how you do write. Skim the list of pep talks. Most of the authors didn't finish their novels but the learned from trying it out.