Thursday, August 21, 2014

Five Business Days

In five business days, I will leave this store and cease to be an official Brookline Booksmith bookseller. It's such a strange thing to think about, and it hasn't fully settled in my mind, but it's official. I've given my two weeks notice, I've come up with my goodbye present to the store, and my congratulatory new job presents to myself arrived at my apartment a few hours ago. I'm getting my affairs in order and I'm leaving, I'm really leaving.

As much as I'm looking forward to my new job, I already miss this one. I walk into work every day and say hello to my coworkers, who have become some of my best friends in the world. Next week, I won't know if Paul is wearing a bandana that day, or if Shuchi has gotten her hair cut and nobody has noticed except for me, or if something ludicrous happened on the floor yesterday. I won't know if a shipment of event books is late or if a cool new promo poster came in, but I will find out when lentil soup is back in stock at Trader Joe's. I won't know if Anna found her perfect snack, if anyone convinced Amy to get a burrito today, or if Ric went kayaking with his wife. I won't know the myriad of little details that have been imprinted into my mind, ones that have taken me years to learn and predict. Slowly but surely I'll learn new things about new people, but for now? Honestly, is Paul wearing a bandana today? That's my favorite version of Paul.

Brookline Booksmith is hiring right now, and if you're interested you should apply. E-mail Dana Brigham (, she's a good judge of character. She's grouped together this staff of booksellers, and she needs a few more. Maybe you'll get to sit in the chair I'm sitting in, be the new person who shelves history, or work in the Giftsmith. Maybe you'll really like hosting events and join our events team. Maybe you'll really like heading to Anna's Taqueria and getting a quesadilla with your new coworkers. Maybe you'll be excellent at puns.

I'll go gently into this good night. Goodbye, Brookline Booksmith. It's been fun.
My entire personality whittled down into a gif.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Inevitable Movie Post

I'm only going to do the one because I'm legitimately that excited about it.

1. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
IT'S HERE! IT'S FINALLY HERE! You need it in your life! NEED it. You have no idea. I might need to go reread it now, or maybe the whole trilogy...

This is the time for YA books. Not only that, this is also the time for YA movie adaptations. It seems like every time a YA book gets a decent following some studio or another is grabbing the rights. It seems like a good bet, I mean these are films with built in fan bases. What could go wrong?

Oh, so much.

If you're adapting existing text with existing fans into a movie that you've put so much money into promoting how do you mess it up? Is it bad casting? Bad screenwriting? Really bad CGI? We all seem willing to forgive the writers of the books for a multitude of sins, why not the screenwriters? Is it because the characters aren't their creations? It's not their world to play with? Whatever the reason we are all over bad movies.

But what makes an adaptation good? I know it's pretty subjective but there's usually some form of semi-consensus about the quality of the movie. People like it and stand up for it for the sake of their favorite book but they know it's not really that good.

I'm going to talk about and sort of rate some of the more recent attempts to find the next big YA adaptation.

The Fault in Our Stars
For a story like this one casting was essential. There are no big action sequences or wild plot twists to drive this movie. The weight of the entire story rests on the shoulders of whoever is playing Hazel and Augustus. They drive the story. Just them. I was skeptical when the casting was announced but they really won me over. They were exactly what the adaptation needed to be successful.

The Hunger Games (both)
These have a lot more going on in them. This is a blessing and a curse. There's so much plot that it's easier to hide any casting missteps (I'm still not sold on Kravitz as Cinna). The downside to this is that there's more material to cut. There are plenty of things that I really wish had been kept, a lot of world building and examples of just how terrible the Capitol is but I see why they cut what they did. Aside from Kravitz I think the casting is pretty solid. Lawrence owned the first movie and Sutherland is delightfully sinister as Snow. The movies are definitely flawed but they're still some of the best adaptations to pop up.

Vampire Academy
I can almost feel the eyerolls. If you saw the trailer for this you know how ridiculous it looked. It's true. It is definitely ridiculous in parts but, funny story, so are the books. The books cover all sorts of ground without taking themselves too seriously and the movie manged to do that. Sure, there are a lot of high school politics but the characters are 17 and in school, there should be. I was surprised when I saw it how awesome of a choice Zoey Deutch was for Rose. She was perfect. The movie didn't do well as a whole but it's a great adaptation. Unfortunately the plot of the series really starts in the next couple.

I love these books and the movie is decent. It's more than decent and the cast surprised me, again. But I had a major problem with how the end was handled and how much they softened Tris' character. If it weren't for that I would have loved this one much more (but seriously, she doesn't hesitate)! They took a major plot point for the series and blunted it to make it more palatable for audiences and I think that was a mistake.

City of Bones one wasn't the best and that really surprised me. The Mortal Instruments fanbase is pretty rabid (I mean that in a good way, I swear). They were all over this movie. All over it and they're not small in number. No one in the cast was what I imagined but they were all the same sort of off so they worked as a whole. But they changed too much in the story to make it outside audience friendly and I think that made them lose people that should have stuck with them. Also, the humor in the series is all in Clare's fast-paced snarky dialogue and they tossed in too much slapstick to make up for the lack of snark.

Beautiful CreaturesThe tricky thing about this movie seemed to be translating a book where there's a male protagonist into a movie that would appeal to it's primarily female fanbase. I don't know why this is tricky. Ethan is a great protagonist. He's, hands down, my favorite character in the series. But the movie somehow managed to become more about Lena, which would be okay, but I never felt like it was quite as much her story as it was Ethan's and then completely changing the end, pretty much doomed the last two books in the series. They managed to take this great story with this amazing setting and mangle it. And they had such a great cast! Jeremy Irons! Emma Thompson! How do you mess that up?

I used to be one of those hardcore "BUT HE DOES'T HAVE GREEN EYES!' 'THAT'S NOT WHO SAYS THAT' people. Admittedly, the movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban ruined that for me. After that, nothing felt quite so bad (admittedly, I have a soft spot for Marauders and they were just gone). Now, I hope that they cast well and do the spirit of the book justice and try not to hope for too much.

And I think that's where adaptations sink and swim. Fault in Our Stars is such a good adaptation because the filmmakers knew who their audience was. They kept in the lines and the jokes that people wanted (I honestly think that helped Twilight too). They made the movie for fans of the book and the fans of the book (while already numerous) responded to that. They didn't try to make something that clearly already had wide appeal different to give it wider appeal (that rarely seems to work). They trusted their audience to take care of the project and the audience did.

So, here's to hoping that the filmmakers of If I Stay (friday!) and Maze Runner (September 19th) chose to trust the audience to take care of the film (I've already heard mixed things about The Giver).


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jamie's Summer 2014

This summer has gone by in a flash. Maybe it was the reappearance of the polar vortex, reducing the nights I fell asleep with my face pressed against my a/c unit dramatically. Maybe it was because I started being excited about summer at the end of April. Maybe it was actually a short summer.

A lot of things squeezed themselves into this summer. I had a week-long vacation. My events team and I won Boston Magazine's Best of Boston 2014 Best Reading Series. I discovered the joy of having an undercut when it is humid outside. I lost my office key at least 20 times. I bought a bird from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum gift shop. Garrison Keillor rubbed my hair. I read at least 30, if not 40 books this summer. I discovered how wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert is. I went to the beach. I planned our fall event calendar. I had a good time.

I'll end this with my submission for the Booksmith Staff Talent Show. I wrote a sestina about spatial reasoning and filmed myself in my parents' backyard in the Southwest. It was 107 degrees outside, and I would have done more takes if I thought I could survive any longer. My siblings helped out by showing off their skills (my sister is especially brilliant at it but not when she's trying really hard not to laugh), and poetic magic was born. Enjoy.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shut up and listen, and other bookselling tips from an almost-alum

Friends, you have no idea how much fun I've had blathering at you about kids' books every other week. But two weeks from now, I'll be settling into a new job at The Horn Book. Only a venue for even more blathering about kids' books would get me to leave the Booksmith, where I've learned so much and gotten to know so many people worth knowing. In my parting post, I thought I'd share some advice for current and future booksellers.

Shut up and listen. When I started, I thought "being helpful" meant "letting information pour from my mouth as fast as possible." Sorry, customers who encountered me in my first few months. If I had paused when you said, "I'm looking for a gift for an eight-year-old," you would probably have told me more, whether it was "she loves funny books" or "I don't really know him, but I remember loving poetry around that age, so maybe that would work." We would've arrived at a better gift, and probably faster.

Be ready to switch gears. You might find yourself discussing The Hunger Games and Moo, Baa, La La La! in the same breath. You also might find your day going from sleepy to crazy in the time it takes the door to swing open and the phone to ring (simultaneously, of course).

Language barriers aren't immovable. Most people will get the gist of, and appreciate, a friendly "Finding everything okay?" And here, at least, books are physical objects that you can show people. One thing I've noticed, very anecdotally: "How many years?" makes more sense than "How old is (s)he?" to speakers of a lot of languages.

When in doubt, handsell like Clarissa. This involves jumping up and down, hugging the book, and declaring, "GAAAAH! THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD! SO GOOOOOOOOD!" It works.

Or literally handsell, like Amy. This involves getting a tattoo on your forearm of a quote from the book you'd like to recommend.  (In Amy's case, the book is Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley.) 

Twitter likes puns. The store's social media platform is a great place to mistweet the English language.

Know whom to ask.  You're probably surrounded by experts in every niche of the book industry. Getting to know people's tastes, including but not limited to the sections they run, gives you access to a wealth of information.

Know how to figure it out for yourself. That perfect person to ask won't always be available. Pay attention to what you're ringing up a lot. Pay attention at rep nights. Pay attention to back room conversations. Try to know what the bestsellers are, and know that everything can be Googled, including "If you liked [bestselling title]."

Do not get emotionally involved with the eight-by-eight spinner.  Pouring your heart and soul into the organization of the Barbie, Thomas, Spiderman, Spongebob, Caillou, Clifford, Dora, Disney, Pixar, Batman, Superman, Power Rangers, and Scooby-Doo books will only result in heartbreak.

Wear comfortable clothes on Tuesdays, especially in fall and spring.  There will be new releases. You may find yourself building cardboard displays, destroying old ones, and bringing huge quantities of overstock up and down ladders.

If you attend a store event, hang out until the end of the signing line. A bunch of us got to chat with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan. We're totes besties now. No biggie.

Don't let fall stress you out. People may be a little on edge as they prepare for The Holiday Season. You may find yourself thinking, "If we're stressed now, what will The Actual Season be like?" But once The Season starts (November), bookselling gets a lot more fun. Oh, it's busy and exhausting. But for the most part, everyone's in a sugar-fueled good mood as they push their favorite books out the door. And if you're lucky, you might even have a boss who hires a masseuse for her aching employees!

Try to eat something besides sugar in November and December.

When award season nears, don't shrink-wrap anything eligible for a Caldecott. If it wins, you'll want to put it up on display, and customers will want to check inside to see if you have a first printing.

Pay attention to the larger book community. You might just get clued into something like the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement or its bookselling-specific baby, the Great Greene Challenge. 

Pay attention to your own community. Local schools play a major role in our kids' section, particularly when summer reading lists come out. If you suddenly get two or three requests for a title that's not normally a bestseller, ask if there's a school reading it or discussing it or putting on a play about it. If there is, get more copies as fast as you can.

Shop local. Dude, you get a discount. 

Always offer help, unless it's July and the customer is searching for Waldo.

Get to know your coworkers. They are awesome.

Stay in touch with departing coworkers. This is more a request than a tip.

Thank you, Booksmith, and thank you, Brookline.

Monday, August 4, 2014

What Makes a Book Worth Waiting For?


Three exciting new books in the kids section!

1. The Princess Who Had No Kingdom by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb
I do have such a soft spot for these two. It feels like a traditional fairytale but set with Gibb's beautiful combination of detailed images and silhouette art.

2. Eye of Minds (Paperback) by James Dashner
Dashner's follow-up series to The Maze Runner's first book is out in paperback. As soon as you've ripped through Runner, grab this one.

3.The Young World by Chris Weitz
A dystopian set after a strange illness has wiped out most of the human race. This has been dubbed "Good. A quick read" by Clarissa.

It sometimes happens in the world of books that we have to wait for the next in the series (I mean, that usually happens, unless you're one of those people with remarkable self control who can wait on a series until the whole thing is out. If you are, I applaud you). It's a fact of life. Writing books takes time. Editing books takes time. Printing books takes time. It's unfortunate, but here we are. Honestly, I think a little anticipation is a good thing.

But sometimes, oh sometimes, it takes a little longer for the next book to come out. It can be for any number of reasons. Authors are people they need breaks, things come up, life is rough. I mean, we can't begrudge them the fact that they're human, and honestly, they don't owe us anything. That being said, that often only makes the waiting slightly more bearable.

One year between books is manageable, I mean look at all of the work that goes into the whole book process! A year and a half is do-able, WORK! Two is a bit rough. More than that is sometimes physically painful. I still get it, I want all of my favorite authors to be happy and to take breaks and release the book that they want to release.
Still, the waiting part is rough.

As a couple of my favorite series draw to a close this year I've been wondering what gives a book staying power like that? What is it about a series that keeps us eagerly awaiting the next book for THREE YEARS? How often do we have to wait three years for anything? We're not used to that. Would we wait three years between episodes of a tv show (if it is Sherlock the answer is 'yes')? But when it's a new book in a series that we love we will wait almost endless amounts of time as long as we can, one day, have it in our hands.

I've read series that I've enjoyed but when the next one comes out, even a year later, thought, 'ehhh, I'll get there eventually.' But there are other books I wait and wait and wait and almost resort to Twitter stalking the author and still need to read them immediately. What makes them different?

I'm completely willing to believe that it's different for each book like this. Books are different, that makes sense. But I can't quite figure out what it is about them. When I break down things that I love about them, I often find that they have similarities to other books that I've loved but didn't need to read right away.

Maybe it's a magical combination of everything lining up just right. Perhaps it's the anticipation (though, I don't think so, I've lost interest in series that I like but make me wait too long). Is it just a need to find out what happens?  But there's something about certain series that stick. That make waiting years between books so so worth it.

Harry Potter was worth it.

On the 14 the final book in Stephanie Perkins' Anna-Lola-Isla companion series (Isla and the Happily Ever After) is out. I'm so so lucky to have been able to read it early and guys it is so worth the wait.

In November the last book in Michelle Hodkin's Mara Dyer trilogy is out (The Retribution of Mara Dyer). I haven't read this one yet but it's been about two and a half years since Evolution came out and I will wait more years if I have to. I still can't get that series out of my head.

I can't quite figure out what it is about certain books that give them this staying power. I've changed as a person since I read the first in these series but I am just as eagerly awaiting these books as I was when they were first announced.

What do you think it is? What makes you hold on to a series so long?