Monthly Archives: May 2014

Project: Bookshelf with Amy Garvey

Welcome to PROJECT: BOOKSHELF, a continuing series in which Mackenzi Lee tries to read every book on her bookshelf in the course of a summer while friends, writers, and readers drop in to tell us about their respective shelves. This week, we’re hearing from Amy Garvey, whose book, Cold Kiss, knocked my socks off and you should all read it immediately. I am so excited to have her on the blog! But prepare yourself–she has a rather tragic tale of books loved and lost. 

But first, let’s take a look at my reading wrap-up.

This week, from my collection of unread books on my shelf, I read…

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

  • Genre: Young adult post apocalyptic
  • Where I got it: It is on long-term loan from a friend  who rescued it from a box of homeless books
  • What I thought: This book was excellent. The landscape of the novel is unbelievably detailed and imaginative. I have not had this much world building envy since Scorpio Races. While this book definitely had its issues, they paled in comparison to how complete and real and gorgeously gritty the world of this book was. Love.

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Cavern by S. S. Taylor

  • Genre: Middle grade adventure
  • Where I got it: Purchased when the author and illustrator did a signing at my former bookstore
  • What I thought: In spite of the fact that this might be the most beautifully designed book I own, the story itself was not as pretty as the packaging. While this was by no means a terrible book, I think I was just too old for it. Ten year old me would have loved this, but adult me could not suspend my disbelief far enough to swallow it. Also there was 100% more cursing in this book than any other middle grade I’ve ver read. So that’s something.

Jackaby by William Ritter

  • Genre: Young adult historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Picked up from a box of ARCs at work. Sadly for you, this book doesn’t come out until September.
  • What I thought: Why did I read this book? Well it was pitched as Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who so……it’s elementary, really. This book was so charming, witty, and a very clever play on genre while still being it’s own thing. I really loved it. I took a bit of issue with the end, and with our narrator as the central character, and the romance (just leave it out!!!!), but in general it was so much fun. An essential read for Conan Doyle fans.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

  • Genre: Young adult urban fantasy
  • Where I got it: Once upon a time I read queries for a literary agent, and she sent me this book as a thank you.
  • What I thought: While the premise of this book is dynamite, I hate to say I quit after one hundred pages because I could not get over how unrealistic everyone’s reactions were. About fifty pages in, our main character’s father is brutally murdered. That night, she is giggling over this boy and almost kissing him in his driveway. Um, nope. Life’s too short to read a book you are just not buying, and I could not get over that.

And now, meet Amy and her bookshelf!

I don’t remember life without books. One of my mother’s favorite stories to tell is of me sitting on the plastic potty she used for toilet training—with a stack of picture books on the floor beside me. I don’t doubt this, although I’m glad there’s no photographic evidence. In elementary school, I was that girl, the one who came to the dinner table still reading, the one who knew exactly when the Scholastic Book Fair was scheduled, the one who volunteered in the school library during recess. I inherited a lot of my mom’s books, well-worn copies of the Nancy Drew mysteries and Black Beauty and The Five Little Peppers and Little Women, and my daughter shelves are now full of my copies of the Little House books, among lots of others.

My point is this, I guess. If someone asked me what my interior decorating style is, the best answer would probably be “books,” with a subcategory of “furniture upon which to read books.” I’ve had more than one mover look at my boxes of books with something like true despair. I’m the kind of person who likes to go to the bag sale at the library and come home with multiple bags. Being a writer has always justified the purchase of any book—one day, I could be writing about a 17th century parlor, so The Illustrated Guide to Furniture Through the Years was clearly an essential book to own, am I right?

But over the years, I have accumulated some other stuff—kids, for one, who come with their own array of paraphernalia. Suddenly making room for an entire wall of IKEA shelving takes a back seat to finding a place for said kids’ to sleep and play and store their toys (and books).  Culling became a necessity. A painful, time-consuming necessity, but a necessity nonetheless.

A few years ago we moved, and a lot of books ended up in in boxes in storage. I had chosen the absolute essential books to keep in the house—things like my Chicago Manual of Style and my childhood copy of Little Women, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and The Big Book of Dates—as well as books I hadn’t read yet, because I figured this was a good time to give them a little love.

And it worked! I read a whole slew of books I had bought on impulse and had never gotten around to reading, although I also bought more new and used books, because…well, because that’s what I do. I slept soundly at night knowing that the rest of my books were waiting for the day I would have the chance to display them all again.

Then I discovered that many of the boxed books had suffered water damage. Hundreds of books were moldy and swollen into monstrous Hulk versions of themselves. And I was soon a raging Hulk version of myself, frantically trying to salvage whatever I could. The survivors weren’t anywhere near as many as I wanted.

full shelf, Amy GThe bookshelf I use today is another IKEA special, a big black rectangle of cubes that holds everything but the currently-reading pile next to my bed and a collection of mass market paperback favorites that live in a hand-me-down bookcase in the hall. I don’t know if it’s the cubes or my own tendency to compartmentalize, but my shelving system is unique. I have all of my poetry (and biographies of women poets and writers) in one cube, and all of my books on writing in another or reading in another. There are two cubes for YA books (one paperback, one hardcover), a cube for graphic novels and anything oversized, and a cube Harry Potter shares with vintage children’s books. And every one of these cubes is double-shelved—that is, there are two rows of books in each, and sometimes books laid on top of the rows. I’m not even going to get into what’s on my Kindle. The cube with the wicker basket is winter gloves and hats, because I figure everyone needs a little room to grow.

One of my favorite cubes is where the books I’ve written live, and even some of those are missing—foreign editions of some of my romances, a copy of the first romance I wrote, which I published under a pseudonym, and the first volume of a YA series I wrote a long time ago through a book packager. When I’m sitting at my desk, I can turn around and seen them at eye level, more or less, and they’re an important reminder of not only what I’ve done, but of what a lifetime of reading and writing has meant to me.

my shelf, Amy GI’m learning to live without books I loved—my collection of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries, for instance, which would have been perfect to loan to my mom, and a bunch of older contemporary novels that were never bestsellers were true favorites, like Summer by Lisa Grunwald and Points of Light by Linda Gray Sexton. It’s harder to deal with my mom’s copies of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights being gone—they were oversized hardbound editions with woodcut illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg, and when I was a kid I pored over them for hours. Those are books I’d like to find again someday, simply because the books themselves were so beautiful, even though I have the text version of both books on my Kindle.

All of which is a long way of saying that time and the water damage disaster have taught me a few things about my books. One, books are, for the most part, replaceable. The text of them, anyway. Two, particular editions of specific books can sometimes mean something more, like the faded paperback copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs which I’ve had since I was about twelve. I don’t really believe there’s any truth to astrology anymore, but picking up that book with its cracked spine and dog-eared pages takes me right back to junior high, when I was certain I could figure out everyone in my life if I just knew their birthdays.

Does that make it less a book and more a memento? I don’t think it matters. Some of my books are for reading and reference, and some of my books are a window into another time, when hardbound copies of Grimm’s Fairy Tales were something my mom actually used in her second-grade classroom. What I’m trying to do now is create my ideal bookshelf, even though it means buying new copies of books I loved but don’t have anymore, the ones I can’t stop thinking about. It also means giving books I’ve never read or won’t read again a new home when I can, possibly because I’ve seen Toy Story 3 too many times. No book should sit on a shelf forever unread and unloved, right?

I think one of the moments when I knew I had actually grown up (well, sort of) was when I realized that I wasn’t going to desperately adore every book that crossed my path. It makes the ones I can’t part with that much more beloved.

ImageAmy Garvey is the author of nine novels for kids and adults, including Cold Kiss from HarperTeen, as well as essays, novellas, and some bad poetry she doesn’t let anyone else read. If you run into her, she’ll probably be reading something. You can find her on Twitter, and on Tumblr.  

 Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf! 


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in which some big things happen

I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for about a week labeled “Things I Should Probably Talk About.” Because I am often really good at writing about the weird little stories of no consequence that happen to me, but not always great at hitting the big things, and these last few weeks were chock full of big things.

So here are a few that I felt were worth talking about:

Big Thing #1: I finished my MFA!

Two weeks ago last Friday, I donned a funny looking hat, a wrinkled robe1 and a shroudy hoodish thing that made me feel a bit like a sorcerer, piled into a bus with four thousand of my closest friends and drove to the Bank of America Pavilion which, it turns out, is a terrible place to host anything when it is even remotely cold, and oh man, was it cold. Rainy and grey and the wind off the water was merciless. At one point, the girl I was sitting next to and I realized we could actually see our breath. In May. It was a cold, cold place to be forced to sit still on uncomfortable folding chairs for two hours while name after endless name was read off.


But in spite of sounding very negative about the whole affair, it was a good time. Graduation ceremonies are a bit silly if you think about them too hard, mostly because of all the pomp and circumstance, but every time I’ve gone to one, I’ve had a genuine moment of pride and coolness when I got to walk up on stage, hear my name read, and get the little fake diploma. So overall the day was enjoyable. And my lovely family came in from Utah for the occasion, so I got to be with them. And, true to our usual classy selves, while everyone else went out to nice fancy dinners afterwards at places with multiple forks and cloth napkins, we went to my favorite eccentric diner and ordered a cookie sheet of onion rings.

So I’m now a master. I expect you all to refer to me as such from now on.

Big Thing #2: We went to Maine!

After a day of graduation and another of doing Boston things3, my family and I packed up our rental car and drove up to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we spent a very enjoyable week doing enjoyable and Maine-ish things, like hiking in Acadia, riding on boats, and tearing apart lobsters with our bare hands2. Maine was lovely and quiet and not anywhere near as cold as graduation, so we spent our time overdressed and marveling at how easy it was to breathe when the hiking trails are level and at a low elevation4.


Maine was impossibly lovely, and after a rather arduous two years of graduate school, I really enjoyed a week of doing little to nothing that required any brain power5.


Big Thing #3: I got a new job!

Okay, job is a relative term. It is an internship. But not just any internship. My dream internship, an internship I have been chasing and applying for over and over basically since I got to Boston. At last, they either got sick of reading my resume or decided I was actually maybe worth considering, because they hired me. I am over the moon about this news, and I feel really lucky to be putting my children’s lit knowledge to use so quickly after graduating from school.

And speaking of children’s lit things…

Big Thing #4: The PEN-New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award Night!

So as you may remember, a few months ago I went nuts with excitement over being one of the winners of the PEN-New England Susan Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Last week, there was an official awards ceremony, at which I was invited to read from my winning manuscript. And guys, it was amazing. I polled some friends who came to see if it was actually really that awesome or if I was biased because I was one of the guests of honor, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was genuinely awesome. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were enthusiastic about children’s literature and me as a writer and my possible contribution to the field.


Myself, Rebecca, and Pamela, this year’s three discoveries.

Everyone deserves the experience of being shepherded around a room full of witty, intelligent people who all tell you how much they love the art you are creating and the things you are doing, which was basically what the whole night was for me. Everyone also deserves the chance to be introduced by someone you really admire and hear them say nice things about your work, which I was also lucky enough to have happen when Lois Lowry introduced me and my manuscript. I did my best to not freak out when this happened.


Miss Lowry and myself

After Lois’s very generous introduction, parts of which I am considering getting tattooed on my forehead, I got to read from my manuscript6. I am pleased to report that I did not lose my place, drop a page, say “Ingolstadt7” wrong, or pronounce “Frankenstein” the way they do in Young Frankenstein, which I was worried might happen since the MT and I spent the whole week in Maine quoting Young Frankenstein in honor of my impending reading. Then there was a lovely Q&A, where I got to talk very fast8 about Mary Shelley and how cool she was and about the Danny Boyle production of Frankenstein that inspired the whole thing9. And then I ate cookies and talked to more amazing people and showed off my Frankenstein tights and basically just had an amazing night. It was a fairly once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure and carry with me as a badge of courage as I go forward with my writing career.


Rebecca, Susan (form whom the award is named), Cathie (head of the Simmons program) and me.

And those are the big things worth noting that have happened over the past few weeks. It’s been rather eventful here at Chateau de Lee, and I have enjoyed very much having a few weeks of good news and fun things. I’m bracing myself for real life to set back in again.


  1. Because some genius had the idea of making our gowns eco-friendly by crafting them out of recycled plastic bottles, meaning they couldn’t be ironed or else they would melt. To which I say, “A plague upon environmentalism!”
  2. The MT and I got very into naming the lobsters we met/ate. Or maybe that was just me and the MT indulged me. Whatever the case, over the course of the trip we met/ate Aloysius, Randall, Gob the Lob, Buster Bluth (because he was missing a claw), katniss, and Hannibal (because, it turns out, lobsters are cannibals).
  3. Such as treason, living free or dying, and protesting intolerable acts.
  4. Upon completing a particular hike, we were greeted by a sign boasting that we were now 520 feet above sea level. The Utahans, who live their lives at four thousand feet above sea level, were unimpressed.
  5. Though this doing nothing was interrupted by some strange and unexpected distractions, when I shall discuss in big thing number 3…
  6. This is the post modern revisionist steampunk Frankenstein book I have talked about a little bit here. In case you were wondering.
  7. Far and away the hardest and most German word in the manuscript.
  8. “Fast” meaning both briefly and at break neck speed, which I often do when I am nervous or excited, and I was definitely both.
  9. I also very nearly got set up on a date with Benedict Cumberbatch. Really.
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Project: Bookshelf with McKelle George

Welcome to PROJECT: BOOKSHELF, a continuing series in which Mackenzi Lee tries to read every book on her bookshelf in the course of a summer while friends, writers, and readers drop in to tell us about their respective shelves. This week, we’re hearing from McKelle George, a writer friend I met after we both interned at The Friend magazine. McKelle writes, among other things, dynamite Shakespeare retellings for young adults, and we have bonded over our shared love of the Bard, steampunk, and, as we learn in this week’s post, book thievery. 

But first, let’s take a look at my reading wrap-up.

This week, from my collection of unread books on my shelf, I read…

Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

  • Genre: Adult historical fiction
  • Where I got it: Rescued from the free book box at my former bookstore
  • What I thought: Ugh. I wanted to love this because I love historical fiction. This book reminded me a lot of Z, about Zelda Ftizgerald, since they’re both books about famous guy’s wives that straddle the line between historical fiction and non-fiction. And that’s not a  good thing. There was no plot structure, and almost everything in this book was told in summary so you really couldn’t feel for any of the characters. Plus anachronisms. Ugh.

To keep up with my Project: Bookshelf reading, follow me on Goodreads

And now, meet McKelle and her bookshelves!

I like yoga and meditation and lot of my “Zen-thinking” friends are into the idea of minimalism, particularly the challenge to keep your personal and worldly possessions down to 100 Things. I would die, if I did this—naked, deprived, unhygienic, surrounded by a hundred books, and a little irritated about the ones I’d needed to sacrifice.

I’ve tried to keep my book collection under control. My parents divorced when I was 17 and each moved into separate places, shortly after which I went off to college and adulthood (one is still pending, I’ll let you guess which). In short, I’ve lived in a lot of places and had to pack up my books. Each time, I decide what books I can bear to part without. These are almost always thriller paperbacks my stepdad lent me or books that were given to me as a gift and it turned out I didn’t like it that much. And even though I downsize, I still seem to end up with more than what I have room for.

Right now, after much shuffling, my books are located in four separate locations.

The primary location, where I put my books when I shipped off to England, is at my dad’s:

Picture 1

80% are my books. My dad has squeezed in his Louis L’amour and Zane Grey collection where he can and I forgive him. He better hope I don’t pick any of them up and like them, or he might find they’ve become permanent additions.

Get a load of this bookshelf, by the way. It belonged to my Great-Grandpa Humphrey. This is no plywood decorated with wood-looking paper. This is the real deal, solid carved oak. I inherited it as a teenager by being, without question, the biggest reader in my family (nobody knows where I came from). It’s really heavy and until it relocated in my dad’s house, everyone who ever helped me move hated me and it.

The second place is at my mom’s, where I stayed briefly after my England trip while I did an internship in Salt Lake City (she lives only half an hour away):

Picture 2

I came with only three books. A copy of Jane Eyre, Great Expectations and a collection of Wordsworth’s poems. From ENGLAND so how could I resist?

I only stayed four months, but now it looks like this.

The third place is my current apartment. Again—I ARRIVED WITH ONLY TWO BOOKS. A collection of C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction works and Greenblatt’s collection of Shakespeare comedies. I had access to three different libraries within the area and I knew I’d only be staying six months (still true!) so I shouldn’t bring a box of books with me.

But THIS has happened (it’s been four months):

Picture 3

This is the stack of library books I currently have checked out:

Picture 4 (1)

And finally, last but not least I include my Kindle:

Picture 5

There are 159 books on my Kindle right now. So technically when I said I only came to my mom’s with three books and to my new apartment with only two, that was a lie. I actually have a portable library with me at all times and that’s why I can feel comfortable traveling to a new home with but a handful of books. I know many book aficionados shake their fists at the e-book, and I, too, will always, always prefer to read a book with pages I can see and touch.

I adore my grandfather’s massive bookshelf and heavy boxes of books I will inevitably have to cart somewhere, but in the meantime, it sure is nice having a library that slips neatly into my purse.

I blame my book hoarding on two things:

First: Books, to me and to many, many other readers, are like friends. I reread them. My sister never rereads a book. Once she knows what’s going to happen, it’s not as entertaining. I read Winter’s Tale every winter (usually around Christmas). I’ve read Jane Eyre and Speaker for the Dead and Howl’s Moving Castle 3 or 4 times each. I read Princess Bride every year, no exceptions. My family never owned the movie and I discovered Princess Bride in high school, tucked away in the juvenile section of my library—this beautiful maroon book, no cover jacket, just the gold embossed title. For years I totally believed William Goldman was actually just abridging a historical fairytale. I WROTE THE LETTER ASKING FOR THE REUNION SCENE. I could go on and on about each book. The point is, I love them. And I like sharing them. My family always asks, “Listen, do you have a book I can read?” and we go to my bookshelf and pick just the right one I think they’d like.

Second: I don’t admit this casually, but . . . book thievery. Not the good kind. Not the endearing Liesl Meminger kind. I mean, I flat-out, no apologies used to steal books. A few years ago, when I made the conscious decision to become a professional writer, I vowed to never steal another book because I was robbing beloved authors of their living. I have (mostly) lived up to that. But back in the day, we were poor, my family didn’t treasure books the way I did, and I lived in a small town with small security at libraries, etc. I would borrow books and “lose” them; I’d read them at libraries, at community shelves, at doctor’s offices, at stranger’s houses, and just walk out with them.

One of my favorite books I stole from a prison. Not kidding.

My dad works in a prison as a caseworker and I was waiting around in this employee hang-out room. There was one of those spinny-shelves of books, like the kind they have in gas stations. Mostly westerns and thrillers, but one had a gun and a ribbon on it (clearly a female book). I opened the cover and the author had scrawled over the title page: John—just close your eyes over the “nasty” part. Enjoy!

I was 17. Of course I grabbed that thing. It was called the Dark Angel, by Robert Kirby, and judging by the cover I thought it was going to a historical, moralistic romance thing about a bandit with a heart of gold or something. But I ended up loving it. I still love it, read it several times now. I can’t tell if it’s a really good book or I love it because of my history with it, but whatever, I love it.

Anyway, sad to say, the majority of my collection I did not pay for, but I have since mended my ways. I use libraries, or I go without food (if necessary). I’m going to shut up now, because I could literally keep talking about my books and how they’ve shaped who I am for many, many more pages. But that’s what’s great about books—and what’s great about this blog series—books are simultaneously universal and personal, they help us connect with other people, but they’re a reflection of who we really are inside.

mgeorgeMcKelle George is a senior editor at Jolly Fish Press and is an author repped by Don Congdon Associates, currently working to get her YA novelA Merry War on submission. She reads like a carnivore, loves Shakespeare and yoga, and retains an unwavering belief in the transformative brilliance of a good book. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or her website

Join us next week for more Project: Bookshelf. In the meantime, congrats to Katja (@katjawlockjaw) the winner of the first giveaway! 


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in which I hold my mistake up

Something I’ve talked a little bit about on this blog is that I, like many people, sometimes struggle with bad anxiety. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is by my brain wandering during a mundane task1 and filling itself with a fast-motion replay of everything stupid I have ever done or said, or every awkward interaction I have ever caused. Then, after playing these memories back to me in quick succession and excruciating detail, my brain reminds me that the reason all these horrific moments exist is because of me and my inability to function as a normal human being.

Then it laughs maniacally and walks away, leaving me wilting into a puddle of anxious self-loathing.

When this happens, the only thing I can do is stand there, helpless and immobile, and say things like, “Brain….brain, wut r u doing? Brain, SHTAP.”

As you can imagine, this is not very effective.

Another thing I have talked about a little bit here on the blog is my passionate obsession with the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Recently, a friend shared with me an amazing blog called Terrible Yellow Eyes, an art project dedicated to collecting artistic interpretations of WTWTA. Naturally, I spent a few hours looking at and drooling over all of them, and then proceeded to pin most of them to my Pinterest board2.

There was one in particular I fell in love with, this sketch of a defiant Max by artist Dustin Nguyen. I liked it a lot the first time I came across it in my casual scrolling through the blog. Then I read the title, and fell in love with it.

The sketch is called “Hold Your Mistake Up.”


Image Credit: Dustin Nguyen and Terrible Yellow Eyes

If you haven’t read WTWTA since you were a kid, you might have missed that at its core, it’s a book about getting angry, doing something thoughtless, wallowing for a while, then letting it go and asking for forgiveness. Pretty lovely and relatable stuff. But one of the key parts of this journey is the messing up, the saying or doing something dumb or mean or just plain stupid. Not necessarily because you’re angry or upset. Sometimes just because we all say and do dumb things.

So what do we do after we, like Max, have returned from our wild rumpus of stupidity or awkwardness or thoughtlessness? After forgiveness, then what?

Well then you have to forgive yourself, and part of that includes holding that mistake up and acknowledging you made it. We don’t have to hide it or let ourselves be shamed by it. We thrust it up and say, “Once I did this thing, and it was dumb or wrong, but now I’ve learned from it and will try not to do it again.” Will we do it again? Probably. But the point is that you’re trying not to. You learn from it. You get better.

I love this idea of holding up things in our life that made us who we are, good and bad, and this picture, with Max with that defiant look on his face thrusting up his staff, the memory of his wild rumpus, captures it perfectly for me. So next time my brain is a jerk and starts nudging me with its elbow while whispering, “Hey…hey, remember that time you made a complete idiot of yourself?” I shall fling my metaphorical staff into the air and say, “Yeah, Brain, I do. What about it?” Let’s see if that shuts the old brain up4.


  1. Something ordinary and harmless, like riding the subway or shelving books at work. Or occasionally something less mundane that I actually need to be paying attention to or devoting energy to, but I am then unable to pay attention or devote energy to because my brain gets in the way. Dumb brain.
  2. I’m sorry3, Pinterest followers!
  3. I’m not sorry.
  4. These are the weird musings I sometimes have about children’s books and life.  I think it’s a result of being a recovering grad student5. Alright, now go back to your knitting.
  5. More on the recovering part next week.


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Project: Bookshelf Kickoff

Welcome to PROJECT: BOOKSHELF, a continuing series in which Mackenzi Lee tries to read every book on her bookshelf in the course of a summer while friends, writers, and readers drop in to tell us about their respective shelves. This week, I’ll be kicking off the series with a look at my bookshelf and how far it’s come since I first moved to Boston.

But first, let’s take a look at my reading wrap-up.

Reading Wrap Up: 

This week, from my collection of unread books on my shelf, I read…

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

  • Genre: Middle grade, partially illustrated
  • Where I got it from: Purchased the day it won the Newbery
  • What I thought: This was a Newbery well deserved! I am totally in love with everything about this book, especially squirrel poetry. Highly recommended.

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

  • Genre: Middle Grade historical fiction
  • Where I got it from: Gifted by Simmons College in our end of the year book clean out
  • What I thought: Meh. It read veeeery slowly which I’m not accustomed to in a middle grade book. I’m also tired of Robin Hood retellings that have no plot other than “I am a Robin Hood retelling.”

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore

  • Genre: Young Adult historial fantasy
  • Where I got it from: ARC from the bookstore I work at
  • What I thought: Quite fun. I do love an alt history book that turns into a zombie book out of nowhere. But there was some essential spark missing with this book, and while it was a lot of fun, I just never felt it.

To keep up with my Project: Bookshelf reading, follow me on Goodreads

And now, meet my bookshelf!

I came to Boston with 30 books1.

They fit in one box when I packed them. Two shelves when I unpacked them. The room I rented in Lexington came with a waist-high bookshelf that my books shared with my hats. And I have a lot of hats.

But then, as often happens, I started buying books. I started going to signings and events and meeting cool authors and having them scrawl their names on the title pages. I kept reading books I loved and then buying them, because for me, owning books is like surrounding myself with people I love.

I moved into Boston. Bought myself a tall bookshelf2 and half-filled it, bulking up the holes between books with art and photos and the assorted knitted doll from my mom.

But then I kept buying books. I started working at a bookstore and going to conferences and getting ARCS and review copies from publishers. I kept reading, and finding stories I loved like friends in this city where I didn’t know anyone.


Now, in this city that was once strange, I have both friends and books. My bookshelf is full and overflowing. I’ve not only run out of room in my bedroom bookshelf, I’ve filled up what was once meant to be a living room china cabinet in when fancy people lived here.  My books have taken over my apartment3.

There are books on my shelf that I like to brag about—my autographed Dodger by Terry Pratchett because one time I met him and fangirled so hard core, my gorgeous antique edition of Little Women that came from a geriatric neighbor, the copy of The Fault in Our Stars that John Green signed for me while we had a butterbeer together and I, again, fangirled so hard core.

And then there are the books whose value is purely sentimental to me—my battered Gone Girl, which I bought with the MT in a tiny, eccentric bookshop in Salem in the middle of a snow storm. The hardcover of Code Name Verity in which Elizabeth Wein circled the part where her character’s middle name is the same as my name. The copy of Unwind that I once creepily pulled out of my purse after literally running into Neal Shusterman at a party4. The ARC of Siege and Storm which I literally stole5 from school when I couldn’t bear the thought of it just sitting on the shelf and not being read6.


Then there are books like Tuck Everlasting and Mirette on the Highwire, my copies of which are old and battered and bought second hand at library sales, but important to me because those stories shaped my life, and those are the copies I first read them from. There is something almost the most special about those—the copies that you turned pages on in your parent’s lap or read from at school. Like an artifact from a bygone time of who I was before this book made me different.

As I think about my bookshelf, I am reminded of a quote from Looking for Alaska by John Green: “When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books.” For me, what makes the books on my shelf special is the space I once shared with them. Whether that is the conversation I once had with the author while they signed it, the train stop I missed while read it, the rippled pages from when I read it in the rain, for me every book is a memory. Every book is a piece of me–who I was when I read it, and who I am because of it.

And what would the first week of a new blog series be without a GIVEAWAY!? As you may have noticed, the top shelf of my china-cabinet bookshelf is full of ARCs (advanced readers copies) of books before they were published. Enter the giveaway to win any three ARCs from that shelf! Need a closer look? Here are your options:


EDIT: I have added an ARC of Heir of Fire by Sarah Maas as part of the giveaway. I got it last weekend from a friend and read it quicker than anticipated, so I’m passing it on! It is now an eligible choice for the ARC giveaway.
Want to win three of these bad boys?
Just click here to fill out the Rafflecopter and enter!

And don’t forget to tune in next Friday for the next edition of PROJECT: BOOKSHELF!


  1. It was incredibly hard to pick which books to bring with me. Like Sophie’s Choice. Except maybe worse.
  2. And on an ill-fated day in November, painted the inside of it blue!
  3. And bless my two long suffering roommates who don’t seem to mind this.
  4. Literally.
  5. Literally.
  6. By me.
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in which project: bookshelf begins

When you work in a bookstore1 and spend a lot of your life entrenched in the book community, you have the opportunity to obtain a lot of free books. Some of them get stacked up in the backroom and left for you to take what you want. Some you win in contests. Some are handed out as party favors or thank you gifts, and you take them to be polite. Some get thrown at your face with a Post-It note taped to the front that says READ ME!

Since I love books, I rarely pass up an opportunity to come home with more books than I left with. However, this has resulted in me having a lot of books on my shelf that I have not read. They are all books I want to read. I don’t accept a free book unless it is on a subject or has a plot I am genuinely interested in. However, these books tend to get pushed down my to-be-read list in favor of library books, which come with a deadline, and books I had to read for school, which come with a different sort of deadline.

But school is now over. And I have so many library fines I’m no longer allowed to check out books.

So I have decided that this summer, I am going to dedicate myself to what I’m calling PROJECT: BOOKSHELF. I am going to read every book on my bookshelf2. There are a wide range of titles waiting for me—children’s, adult, young adult, fiction, nonfiction, poetry—and enough to keep me occupied for four months in spite of the fact that I read very fast.

Now here’s the really exciting bit!

use me

Last summer, you may remember the Four Book Friday blog series, in which a series of lovely guest posters talked about the four books that changed their lives. I loved this series, and got a lot of positive feedback from readers who also loved this series. So this summer, I’m starting a new blog series in the vein of Four Book Friday. At the end of every week3 I will post my personal PROJECT: BOOKSHELF wrap-up—what books I read from my bookshelf, how they came into my life, what I loved about them, what I did not. Along with this wrap up will be a guest post from a reader or writer. They will share with us what their bookshelf looks like, how it’s organized, and what their highlights are—maybe a rare copy of Jane Eyre, a special message from Neil Gaiman scrawled in the front of Coraline, a tattered copy of One Day carried around so much the cover is missing4. Basically they will tell us what their bookshelf says about them as a reader.

Hopefully, I will also mix up these posts with some giveaways too, because I love giveaways and now have a lot of free books that I would like to pass on.

So what do you think? Are you ready to take on PROJECT: BOOKSHELF with me?


  1. I should probably mention—I switched bookstores! The store in Harvard Square is no longer. Now I work at a lovely little independent one T stop further away from my apartment. I am continuing to get jobs further and further from where I live. But the bookstore is so lovely and I’m sort of in love.
  2. And try and refrain from getting too many new ones.
  3. Likely on Friday, because I’ve got a thing for consistency.
  4. None of these are arbitrary examples.
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