Tag Archives: I read books

in which THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS is released into the world

Late in the summer of 2013, I had just finished up taking part in a great contest called The Writer’s Voice. I had also just signed with my agent, was ready to dive into submission of the first novel, about to start my MFA, and testing the waters in the YA community, a community in which I felt like everyone knew each other but me.

Alongside me in this contest was another writer called Anna-Marie McLemore. I knew nothing about her, except the first hundred words of her novel and the pitch. Which I think I read a dozen times. “Wow, I wish this was a book I could read right now,” I remember thinking. “Wow, that Anna-Marie McLemore seems so cool and awesome and talented. I’ll be she is the bomb diggity.” I then proceeded to shyly internet stalk her. Like the big creep that I am. 

So imagine my surprise when a few months later, I got a direct message on Twitter from here which read, nearly in its entirety, “Wanna CP/beta?” (for those of you who are not writers, she was asking me if I wanted to be critique partners, meaning people who send their manuscripts to each other and trade feedback).

That’s right–this writer whose work I had had a big old crush on for MONTHS was asking ME if I wanted to be HER critique partner?

I think I fainted.

I wrote her back an email that was crafted with all the attention and care and redrafting of asking someone out on a date. I did my best to make myself appear far more interesting and intelligent than I actually am. This was the equivalent of the taped-glasses math club nerd getting asked to the prom by the dreamy captain of the football team.

I was not going to screw this up. I wanted this girl to like me.

So I sent my new friend a draft of the book that would become This Monstrous Thing. She read it. She had great and helpful things to say about it. Turns out she was also smart, funny, articulate, and kind.

“Damn,” I thought, “This girl is even cooler than initially anticipated.”

We kept reading each other’s writing. We traded more personal emails with that writing. We started talking about things other than books, and we eased slowly into friendship. We went from being CPs to pen pals to proper friends in opposite time zones. Over the past two years I’ve known her, Anna-Marie has been an incredible source of strength and inspiration for me–both as a writer and a human being. And one time she drove me around western Mass and I was pretty sure we were going to die. Also her and her cute husband are the kind of pair that make you believe in true love. That has nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to mention it. 

I remember exactly where I was when I heard This Monstrous Thing sold–it was such a special moment, I’ll never forget it. I also remember exactly where I was when I read that Anna-Marie’s first novel, The Weight of Feathers, had sold to St. Martin’s. It was also a pretty freaking special moment. Probably moreso for her than me. But I pretended I was a part of it. 

Today, that exquisite book by this exquisite human being, is released into the wild.  

TheWeightofFeathers2

The Weight of Feathers is an astonishing book. Of course I am biased because I know and love the author, but also I am a person with fantastic taste and I would think this book is gold whether or not I knew her. It is magical and evocative and lush and delicious and gorgeous. It is about inherited hatred and impossible love, about performing mermaids and tree climbers, about family and abuse and learning how to love others and yourself. It is about magic and culture and the way our families make us who we are, and how we break free of that and make ourselves. And the prose is so beautiful and sweet it will give you a cavity.    

So here are some recommendations for you:

  1. Get yourself a friend like Anna-Marie McLemore.
  2. Get yourself a copy of The Weight of Feathers.

Here are some helpful links to make it even easier for you to obtain this book:

Indiebound

Amazon

Porter Square Books 

GET YOURSELF THIS BOOK. I promise you will love it. And if you don’t, we can’t be friends anymore. Simple as that.

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in which I profess my undying love for books

Today is February 14.

Absolutely nothing special happens today.

Okay, so in actuality, I’m not a bitter single person in denial on Valentine’s Day. I am single, but not bitter or in denial about that fact. I like Valentine’s Day, and I always have, in spite of spending most of them without someone to snuggle1. I have never felt particularly lonely when I’m not dating someone, and I generally use today to express my love for the other things and people around me, even if that love isn’t in a romantic capacity2.

So speaking of other things I love, let’s talk about books.

This year, I would like to write some special valentines to some very special books that I love very much. Because it’s generally my policy to replace as much human interaction as possible with reading, so why not carry that into the holiday of love?

Man I love books.

Mackenzi Lee’s Sappy, Romantic, Gushy Love Letters to Books

 verity

Dear Code Name Verity,

It’s like falling in love, discovering your favorite book.

Love, Mackenzi

 wild things

Dear Where the Wild Things Are,

I’ll eat you up I love you so.

Love, Mackenzi

virginia wolf

Dear Virginia Wolf3,

I’ll paint you a garden any day.

Love, Mackenzi

raven boys

Dear Raven Boys,

Are you Chainsaw, because you came straight out of my dreams?

Love, Mackenzi

leviathan

Dear Leviathan,

Barking spiders!

…that’s all. You’re great.

Love, Mackenzi

 Frankenstein

Dear Frankenstein,

You make me feel ALIVE.

Love, Mackenzi

dosab

Dear Daughter of Smoke and Bone,

Let’s have a night of cake and puppets.

Love, Mackenzi

bloody jack

Dear Jacky Faber,

I ship4 you and me.

Love, Mackenzi

night cirucs

Dear Night Circus,

My love for you is black and white.

Love, Mackenzi

tfios

Dear Fault in Our Stars,

I fell in love with you the way you fall asleep–slowly, then all at once.

And then I cried a lot, okay?

Love, Mackenzi

Happy V-day from my bookshelf to yours.

Leave your own book valentines in comments!

  1. Unless you count my stuffed Appa, and I do.
  2. I did have grand plans to go see a matinee of The Last Five Years by myself on Valentine’s Day, like a boss, but that plan was foiled because it hasn’t come out yet. CURSES.
  3. The feel-inducing picture book, not the depressed authoress.
  4. Get it? Ship? These are pirate books, in case that wasn’t clear.
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in which I recommend holiday books

December is always a quiet month in blogland for me. This December has been no exception.

Things have been busy here at Chateau Lee. Good, but busy, between starting new jobs, finishing old ones, and working other random side ones I sometimes have. Plus revising a novel I shouldn’t be working on and not working on a novel I should be working on. Plus social life, because there are so many great things happening in Boston this month, plus reading, because I gotta plow through the 45 library books I currently have checked out from the library1. Then the MT is coming to visit me next week, rendering this week the longest week of the year because WAITING, and after some adventuring in Boston and beyond, we will head home together for a few weeks and ring in 2015 with the family.

So don’t expect to see me much around here this month2 but I will be back in January, likely with exciting news about THIS MONSTROUS THING as we ride boldly ride into its debut year3!

Now, with that said, let’s talk about books4!

This past week, I was reminded that there is nothing better than being a bookseller during the holidays. Yes, the crowds are crazy, and the giftwrap gives you paper cuts, and you will go hoarse counting out change and asking people if they want a bag. But being a holiday bookseller is great because you get to spend all day recommending books to people and generally during the holidays, people will take those recommendations without question. So these past few weeks have mostly been me shoving Code Name Verity into the gloved hands of Boston shoppers, no matter who they tell me they’re shopping for.

As I’ve been thinking about my reading year and the books I want to handsell this holiday season, I decided to put together a list of my favorite books I read in 20145 and who they might be good for. So you can enter your local independent bookstore armed with recommendations!

Mackenzi Lee’s Guide to Holiday Book Buying

For Fault in our Stars fangirls…

Chance you won't return

The Chance you Won’t Return by Annie Cardi

For Dauntless initiates and District 12 Tributes…

not a drop to drink

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

For fans of Firefly…

retribution falls

Retribution Falls by by Chris Wooding

For Westeros transplants…

plantagenets

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

For “what to read after Harry Potter”…

last dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

For adventurers…

Airborn

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel 

For readers who like their words with pictures…

sparky

Sparky by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans

For Sherlockians and Whovians…

jackaby

Jackaby by William Ritter

For Marvel fanatics…

Vicious

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

For Serial addicts…

Devil in the White City

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

For readers of the classics…

Rooftoppers

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

For Frankenstein fans6

lady and her monsters

The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo 

And looking ahead, here are some books that aren’t out until next year, but I’ve been lucky enough to read advanced copies of. Look out for them in 2015!

Bones and All

Bones and All by Camille DeAngelis 

Zeroboxer

Zerboxer by Fonda Lee

22548098

An Exaggerated Murder by Josh Cook

COnviction

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

2015 is going to be a good year for books. Get excited.

  1. Finally swallowed my pride and paid my $15 in library fines so I am now allowed in the building without sirens going off. I showed my displeasure at being forced to pay by putting EVERY BOOK on hold. They all came in. Simultaneously.
  2. I know between posts you all just sit and hit refresh over and over and over hoping I will have posted again. I know.
  3. If you can’t wait until then for more details about it, the lovely blogger Kathy Coe picked THIS MONSTROUS THING as one of her 15 most anticipated books for 2015 and interviewed me in conjunction. You can read it here. I talk about tea and time travel and, of course, Frankenstein.
  4. Smooth transition is smooth.
  5. Note: Not all these books were published in 2014. That’s just when I read them. However, they are all outstanding.
  6. I CAN’T NOT.
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in which dead authors meet

My friends tolerate me.

That’s really the best way to explain it.

I’m sure they must find at least a few redeeming qualities in me because they’ve stuck around this long, but if you hang out with me long enough, you will start to realize that I am that person who will interrupt a totally lovely and normal conversation with an out-of-the-blue phrase like, “Guys, we should take mushing lessons1!” And then they all sort of pat me on the head and say, “Yes, Mackenzi, that’s a great idea,” and then go back to their totally lovely and normal conversation.

So when I sent out an email a few weeks ago telling everyone that another friend and I were having a joint birthday party and I wanted them all to show up to my apartment dressed as a dead author so we could have a literary salon, I expected them all to say, “Bless your heart,” then show up with the food but not costumes, and definitely not be on board for the whole literary salon thing.

So imagine my surprise when a parade of my lovely friends arrived at my house dressed as dead authors and were totally game to play along with my weirdness. I was very pleased by this. I was even more pleased when David Foster Wallace and JK Rowling2  discovered they went to the same elementary school3.

Lately I’ve been feeling like everyone is leaving me and I’ve been sort of glum about this. Most of my friends stem from my MFA program and since most of us have graduated, people have begun to disperse across the country to start their respective lives post Simmons. But having a night of hanging out with people who both tolerate my crazy and embrace it because they apparently sort of like me made me sad and happy all over again. I’m so glad to have had a group of people in my life who will show up to my house dressed like Jane Austen and Edward Gorey just to humor me, even if they inevitably abandon me for their respective lives. I will try not to hold that against them.

  1. This is a real thing. I am still on a campaign to get someone to take mushing lessons with me so I can fulfill a lifelong dream of being a musher in a dog sled race.
  2. Who is not dead, but we made an exception because my friend’s boyfriend looked so smashing in Marx’s wizard robes.
  3. Where they did a lot of flu powder
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Project: Bookshelf with Kylie Brien

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 are joined by Kylie Brien, a bookseller, writer, and fangirl with a serious addiction to buying books. 

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…

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

  • Genre: YA Gothic/pseudo-historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Advanced reading copy sent to the bookstore
  • What I thought: You might not know this, but I have been praying for a Gothic, steampunk reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera with a little bit of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle thrown in. And that is exactly what Sarah Fine delivers. I loved this book. Very creepy, very visceral, very smart retelling.

Bloody Jack by LA Meyer

  • Genre: YA historical fiction
  • Where I got it: Free books from work!
  • What I Thought: Not sure how I haven’t read this book before, because it is everything I love. Voicey historical fiction with a smart ass protagonist who does the right thing in spite of thinking herself cowardly. Also cross dressing. And sass. Did I mention the sass?

And now, meet Kylie and her bookshelves! 

Working at a bookstore became the catalyst for a book-buying problem—well, some (i.e. my coworkers, family, and friends) would say problem. I say “I just really like books” and everyone else says “but Kylie, you have like fifty that you haven’t read.” Except for my dad who gently reminds me, “Kylie, you have to pay rent.” The most important thing here is that I don’t consider the entire bookshelf of unread books a problem. I think of it as an investment.

Bookshelf1

Everything on this bookshelf is unread.

I’m building towards having my own library one day when I’m a homeowner. I’m talking like a Beauty and the Beast style library that I will present as a grand gesture of love and friendship…to myself.

Beauty and the Beast

While I’m slowly plowing through my investments, I have a shelf full of read books that hold some of my favorites.

Bookshelf2

This is my shelf of read books and textbooks.

I’ve compiled a list of books I’ve loved that have made it from the unread shelf to the read shelf in the past year:

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This book is gorgeous. I want to live inside of this book. I have a grand plan to run away from home and join the Night Circus. I think I would make a good mime. I’d even help clean up after the lions or something.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami: This is the first Murakami book I’ve ever read and from it, I learned that I love his writing. I want to read anything and everything he has ever written. I just don’t want to run. Like ever.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak: This book is full of smart and funny stories. Reading this collection has solidified my giant crush on B.J. Novak. (No, but really, B.J. if you’re reading this: wanna take me on a date sometime?)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Someone out there gets me and every other girl who spent the better part of her teenage years writing fanfiction at a time when fanfiction was still fanfiction and not—well, I’m sure you’ve all seen the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer by now.

Matilda by Roald Dahl: This book and every adaptation of it hold a special place in my heart. To this day whenever I eat cereal, I put on Send Me On My Way and try to use my mental powers to help me eat it. (It only works sometimes.) I just really relate to the voracious reader in Matilda but also, I want magic powers.

I highly recommend all of these books. Read them. Go. Go out and buy them right now—or if you don’t have an addiction to investing in books like I do, borrow them from your library. This option is probably better if you have to pay rent.

Kylie PhotoKylie M. Brien is a writer, reader, and bookseller who lives in Boston and has great aspirations to travel to Wonderland, Oz, and Hogwarts but settle down in Neverland (most likely she’ll be a pirate). You can follow her blog. And occasionally she tweets. 

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with Susan Dennard

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 am SO EXCITED to have one of my favorite authors, Susan Dennard, here to talk about the ongoing conundrum of what to do with books when you move. Susan writes amazing steampunk zombie novels, the newest of which, Strange and Ever Aftercomes out July 22 from HarperTeen! 

Also, there might just be a giveaway attached to the end of this post, because Susan’s books are so great I want to share them with everyone. 

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…

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

  • Genre: Gothic Classic
  • Where I got it: So maybe this one technically isn’t a Project: Bookshelf book, because a friend lent me her copy…but it was still on my bookshelf, and I hadn’t read it. So….counts?
  • What I thought: I’m really into Romantic/Gothic monster books right now, so this was perfect for my mood. Dark, creepy, atmospheric, and so much better than the play!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

  • Genre: YA fantasy
  • Where I got it: Free books shelf at work
  • What I thought: I unintentionally read this series out of order. Whoops. But even backwards, they are outstanding. If you’re looking for smart British humor with a fantasy twist, this is that book.

Historical Heartthrobs by Kelly Murphy

  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Where I got it: Gifted
  • What I thought: This book is awesome. Very tongue-in-cheek biographies of historical figures that are tight and interesting. Also I appreciated that they didn’t just feature the good guys (because let’s face it, John Wilkes Booth was crazy, but also a stud) and highlighted some lesser known historical hotties (hey there, Ada Lovelace).

Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden

  • Genre: YA contemporary
  • Where I got it: The Great Simmons Book Grab of 2014
  • What I thought: So I was prepared to not like this book. Way outside my comfort zone subject-wise, abrasive narrator, voice that hits you in the face and it hurts. But then about seven pages in, there was a Lion in Winter reference. Lion in Winter is one of my great loves, and I will follow any book that references it to the end of the earth. So I stuck it out. And while this was not totally my cup of tea, I liked it.

And now, meet Susan and her bookshelf! 

So, I wish I had some super cool bookshelf to share with you all. Or even better, I wish I had a library worthy of Belle and the Beast, but the truth is, I’m super disorganized and super lazy. How does that equate to my bookshelf? Well, I’ll explain.

In the last 2 years, I’ve moved 4 times. Books make up (no joke) the bulk of my moving boxes. For the first 3 moves, I actually went to all the trouble of unpacking all those books, arranging them nicely (by genre!)…only to then have to frantically re-pack said books and move to another new house*. (See the carefully arranged books in our tiny condo? Even my dog, Asimov, was impressed.)

Reading nook

My husband and I finally bought a house one year ago, and in that time, we’ve renovated the crap out of it. SO much work and SO many weekend trips to Home Depot. One of the many, bright-eyed ideas we originally had was to do an Ikea hack of Billys (built-in shelves are, obviously, every reader’s DREAM). We bought the Billys, we set them up…

And then a year passed. No “building them in” ever actually happened (and in our defense, there were much higher house priorities–like building a freaking kitchen). My books stayed packed in our basement, and my shelves became the perfect cubbies for receipts, dust, and cats who insist on climbing things they can’t get down from.

Well, about a month ago, I decided I really wanted at least a few of my books out for perusing. So after 3 back-and-forth basement trips, I had 3 (out of 7) boxes in my office. I unloaded the books…and then ran out of space before I was even through box 1.

Crap. Okay, I thought, back in the condo I had books vertically. So I, yet again, turned all the books vertically. This got me through 2.5  boxes. The other half-box got returned to the basement (where it is now a favorite place for cats who insist on shredding boxes).

As for the books actually on the shelf…well, look for yourself. There is no rhyme or reason–I’ve just got stuff squeezed wherever I can fit it. The only slightly organized spot is the middle shelf with my special Star Wars, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys collection (half of which are–you guessed it!–still in a box).

Bookshelf3

So that, my friends, is why my bookshelves look like a disaster and why most of my books remain in the basement. Funnily enough, we’re now considering moving again, so hey! Maybe I just saved myself a few hours by never unloading those boxes. And double hey! Maybe in our next house, I can finally get those Billy built-ins. ;)

*This makes me sound like I’m being evicted or doing something nefarious that forces me to flee. Nope, sorry. Alas, I just keep picking homes that the owners decide sell, so then I’m forced to move out. Again.

SusanDennardSusan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels–and not novels about fish, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues. You can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blogtwitter, facebook, or newlsetter. Her Something Strange and Deadly series is now available from HarperTeen, and look for her new Truthwitch series from Tor in 2015.

And now, to celebrate the release of the release of Susan’s third book, Strange and Ever After, I’m giving away a copy of the first book, Something Strange and Deadly, as well as an ARC of Heir of Fire, the new book in the Throne of Glass series by Susan’s critique partner and bestie, Sarah Maas.

strange 2heir
Want these beauties to be yours? Just click the link below and fill out the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends 7/25.

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

 

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Project: Bookshelf with Anna Staniszewski

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, Anna Staniszewski, queen of the quirky middle grade novel, joins us to celebrate the release of her new book, The Prank List, which is out nowAnna’s is a home with more bookshelves than people, one of which is a shrine to what I think is the greatest movie franchise of all time. Which movie? Read on to find out…

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…

Lincoln’s Graverobbers by Steve Sheinkin

  • Genre: YA nonfiction
  • Where I got it: Won in a book design contest in one of my classes
  • What I thought: So if you know me at all, you know I am a sucker for stories from history that nobody ever tells. This is one of those stories. So cool, so interesting, and really well written and well presented. Fantastic read.

That’s it. Light reading week for me. So let’s not waste anymore time–here are Anna and her bookshelves! 

I’m generally a pretty organized person, but you would never know it by looking at my bookshelves. There is a bit of a method to the madness, though. This, for example, is my “teaching bookshelf.”

bookshelf 1

These are many of the books I use when teaching courses on writing and children’s literature (with a few titles from grad school thrown into the mix). The top shelf is my particular favorite because it’s full of books on the craft of writing. These are the books I come back to over and over if I find myself stuck with a project or in need of inspiration.
And here we have what I think of as the “owl shelf” (for obvious reasons).

bookshelf 2

It’s currently weighed down with many of the books I’ve picked up at conferences and other recent events. I’m hoping to make some serious progress with these books over the summer, much like Mackenzi’s bookshelf challenge!

Here is what I consider my “overflow shelf” since it’s the newest addition to our shelf family.

bookshelf 3

One section is dedicated entirely to picture books. (It bothers me that picture books are a totally different size from other books, so I like to put them on their own.) And below that is my “Polish shelf” which includes some of the books I grew up with. This one by Jerzy Ficowski (the title translates to A Branch from the Sun Tree) is a collection of Polish Gypsy folk tales that I was obsessed with when I was young.

bookshelf 4

You might have noticed some photos displayed in the middle of the bookcase. Those are collages that my husband and I made for our wedding a few years ago, so we could showcase some cute and embarrassing pictures of ourselves from when we were young. And in between them is one of my prized possessions: the award I received from the PEN New England Discovery Award committee back in 2009–the illustration was done by Lois Lowry!

bookshelf 5

Now we move on to what I’ve dubbed the “public bookshelf.” This one stands in our living room so we actually have to keep it in some kind of order.

bookshelf 6 (1)

It’s full of some of our prettiest books, and it also serves as a temporary dumping ground for library books, recently purchased books, etc. It’s also where I like to keep a stack of my own novels so that I can look at them sometimes and grin like a fool.

bookshelf 7

Finally, we have the messiest (but arguably the coolest) shelves in the whole house. These are full of books from years and years ago that my husband and I don’t read very much anymore, but on top of those shelves is pure gold.

bookshelf 8

Yes, that is a Lego Star Destroyer. It was a wedding present to ourselves, and my husband and I spent hours working on it. Above it is another prized possession–a Polish movie poster for The Empire Strikes Back that we received as a wedding gift.

bookshelf 9

And what Star Wars room would be complete without a Star Wars pop-up book? (And a Transformers one, for added fun.)

bookshelf 10

So to sum up: I’m messy with a purpose, I like to keep embarrassing photos of myself kicking around, and I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. Clearly, bookshelves reveal all!

Anna StaniszewskiBorn in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.

Happy book release to Anna and The Prank List and thanks for checking out Project: Bookshelf!

prank list cover 2

Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with J. Anderson Coats

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 hosting J. Anderson Coats, whose book, The Wicked and the Just, should be on the reading list of everyone who loves historical fiction. Or Wales. What does she have on her bookshelf besides some creepy-ass candles? Read onto find out! 

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…

Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

  • Genre: Adult historical fiction
  • Where I got it: Purchased for myself after the author did a reading at Porter Square Books, complete with a theremin demonstration by a local thereminist. What is a theremin, you ask? Aside from being the first electronic instrument and the subject of this novel, it is the weirdest music making device you will ever come across. You can find video here, and I encourage you to watch and be mystified.
  • What I thought: This book is stunning and haunting and I’m so glad I read it. The language is beautiful and poetic without ever feeling trite. However, like so many adult books in this genre, there are huge stretches of time where I felt like nothing was happening. It wasn’t happening beautifully, but I still got a little weary. It read very slow. But still highly recommended!

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

  • Genre: Tween contemporary
  • Where I got it: Picked up during the great Simmons book grab of 2014
  • What I thought: While the emotional landscape of this book is impressive, there was too much going on. Too many characters. Too many emotional journeys. Too much wrapping up of those emotional journeys. In the end, it felt muddled, and the emotional impact was lost in the amount of it. Also the ending was so corny! Lots of over the top eye rolling was happening on my end.

Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

  • Genre: YA fantasy
  • Where I got it: Snagged from the free books shelf at work
  • What I thought: This book is so funny! Contemporary fantasy in the style of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. And Jennifer Strange is much like her fictional sister, Thursday Next, in her unfailing practicality.

And now, meet J’s bookshelf! 

I’m a bookshelf decorator. As in, my home has a lot of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves to spare me needing to paint the walls a nice color or purchase art or really expend any effort whatsoever when it comes to decorating.

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #0 Decorating I2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #0A Decorating II

I’m also a librarian by profession.

You’d think this would mean my books are organized in some way.

But they’re not. By and large, they’re organized in one of two ways: 1) order of acquisition; or 2) size.

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #1 Order of Acquisition2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #2 Size

There are some exceptions. One of them is a small but growing collection of books by people I know*:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #3 People I Know

*If I know you and your book isn’t here, it’s probably because I gifted it to someone. Please don’t throw things. :)

Another is a two-shelf unit across the hall from my bathroom known as the medieval bookshelf.

“Medieval bookshelf” is somewhat of a misnomer, as there are books about street ballads, historical artisans and craftspeople, and folklore that live there. But it is where all the books I use for research live, and they are organized by place and/or subject. Some of my most favorite things live here, notably a copy of Brut y Tywysogion (Welsh: Chronicle of the Princes) that came from Japan of all places and cost something like 17,000 yen.

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #4 Medieval Bookshelf

Another is my husband’s textbooks from back in 2006 that haven’t been read since but apparently have been legacied onto this shelf:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #5 - Textbooks

(The creepy-as-hell candles need to be regifted STAT)

Also, here’s another legacy. When my son was little, he was allowed one shelf in the living room to keep whatever books he wanted so he didn’t have to keep running to his room to bring his favorites. He’s sixteen now, but this is what was left on the shelf from the last time it was used:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #6 - Kid Shelf Legacy

(And yes, Skepticism and Animal Faith was placed there by him, at age ten or so.)

And here’s why we’re about due for another bookshelf:

2014-6-2 Project Bookshelf #7 - Overflow

Being surrounded by books is comforting, which is why I’m not keen to impose an order. They remind me of people I know, people I love, so it really doesn’t matter where they are as long as they’re easily at hand.

Coats - Author Photo 200J. Anderson Coats is the author of historical fiction for young adultsthat routinely includes too much violence, name-calling and pettyvandalism perpetrated by badly-behaved young people. Her first YA novel, THE WICKED AND THE JUST, was one of Kirkus’s Best Teen Books of 2012, a 2013 YALSA Best for Young Adults (BFYA) winner, and a School Library Journal Best Books of 2012 selection. It also won the 2013 Washington State Book Award for Young Adults. 

 Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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Project: Bookshelf with Amitha Knight

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 joined by Amitha Knight, a fellow Boston-area kidlit writer and Susan Bloom Discovery Award winner! She’s here to tell us about her bookshelves, and one special book that stands out. 

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…

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

  • Genre: YA historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Thieved. But I won’t tell you from where.
  • What I Thought: Oh this one started out so strong. The writing and the setting are so, so pretty, but pretty isn’t everything. It lost steam about halfway through, and the plot drags, with too much of it is packed into the last eighty pages.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

  • Genre: Middle Grade Steampunk
  • Where I got it: ARC picked up from the bookstore
  • What I thought: I think my expectations were too high for this one, because it did absolutely nothing for me. Unobjectionable writing, but I had zero emotional investment in anything that happened. The world was underdeveloped, characters were flat, and there was none of the imaginative charm factor I was hoping for. The prettiest thing about this book is the cover.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

  • Genre: YA fantasy
  • Where I got it: Purchased for myself to complete the trilogy
  • What I thought: I really love this series, and while this wasn’t technically a bad ending, it just left me sort of unfulfilled. So much of what could have been done….wasn’t. Argh. I’m beginning to think there’s no such thing as a good way to end a series.

Guys, I am in such a reading slump! I am not liking anything I have picked up recently!

….And on that vaguely depressing note, meet Amitha and her bookshelf! 

We have several bookshelves in our house: my writing/research bookshelf in my office, my kids’ bookshelves in their rooms, a scifi shelf, and not to mention the growing pile of books at my bedside table. But our largest bookshelves sit in our living room, where we can see them, admire them, and be appalled at what a haphazard arrangement of books it is.

Amithasbookshelf

Once upon a time, our bookshelves were organized by author with a few categories separated out (my books from India that don’t have barcodes, his scifi collection, and my rapidly growing children’s literature collection), because my husband, the son of a former librarian, downloaded a program that allowed us to scan in our books and organize them. So we had all our books in order and cataloged on the computer…

…And then we moved. In our haste to unpack and feel moved in, we thought we’d just empty the books onto our shelves and then reorganize them later. That was a few years ago now and of course, “later” still hasn’t happened. Ah well.

Dragon

As far as the books themselves, I go to a lot of book signings and have numerous signed books from children’s authors (Shannon Hale, Gene Luen Yang, and Neil Gaiman, to name a few of the more famous ones), but one of the books I love the most is a book I tracked down and bought used online: a copy of The Secret Garden. This book isn’t particularly valuable (and I was dismayed to discover that it is abridged), however this specific edition has a lot of sentimental value.

Secret Garden

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite novels as a child almost certainly because I fell in love with this specific book cover. I remember checking this book out from the library and thinking it was one of the most beautiful books I’d ever held. Obviously, I had to return the book, but for a few years afterward, whenever I went to a bookstore I would look for this specific edition of The Secret Garden, just to see if it was just as pretty as I’d remembered. Many years later, I tracked it down online. Interestingly, the thing that had fascinated me the most—the sundial—was actually on the back of the cover, when in my mind it had been embossed in gold and on the front of the book, instead of the girl. While the actual cover (which is still lovely) isn’t as amazing as my memory of the cover, just looking at it brings back one of my very favorite reading memories of rocking in our backyard hammock over summer vacation and being so caught up in this story that I never wanted to put it down. Little kid me would be so excited to know that I found this book. Grown up me thinks it’s pretty cool too.

broAmitha Knight is a full-timer writer, a doctor, and a mother of two. She was named a winner of the 2012 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award and received a Letter of Merit for her writing from the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2011.  If you’re interested in children’s author signings, she maintains a calendar of events for the Boston area (also on Facebook). Follow her: Twitter / Google Plus /Goodreads

 

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Project: Bookshelf with Heather Marie

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 joined by the fabulous Heather Marie whose novel, THE GATEWAY THROUGH WHICH THEY CAME, comes out this August from Curiosity Quills Press. She is here to share with us the story of a hard-won bookshelf and the volumes that populate it.

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…

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

  • Genre: YA Zombie Post-Apocalyptic
  • Where I got it: A graduation gift from the MT
  • What I thought: This book, sadly, didn’t work for me. It was by no means a bad book, and I thought the zombie world building was excellent, but overall the characters didn’t resonate and their emotional arcs peaked too fast for me.

This was a light reading week for me. Some other things happened and I was distracted, plus the new job has me reading a lot of manuscripts at work, leaving me not wanting to read when I got home from work. I promise I will do better!  

And now, meet Heather and her bookshelf!  

I’ve always dreamed of having a room filled to the brim with books. Over the years I’ve collected hundreds of them, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to hold onto them. Either I didn’t have the space, or I was moving for the hundredth time and had to donate them to local stores and friends. It always made me incredibly sad parting with them, especially when I’d become so dependent on the comfort they brought me. There’s something about the colorful spines with their elegant script. The beautiful covers that you could stare at for hours. I love the feel of the pages between my fingertips, and the crisp sound of the paper with each turn of the page. But most of all, I love plucking a book off the shelf, curling into a ball on the couch, and absorbing its words until the late hours of the night.

I’ve moved so much these last few years, which meant my book collection suffered dramatically. I went from two mini bookshelves, to none. Then I went from several boxes  stuffed into storage, to only a few with the books I couldn’t part with. As time went on, I told myself that I’d build my collection again. I begged and hoped someone would help me purchase another bookcase to display all the wonderful books that meant so much to me.

I knew I couldn’t afford a bookshelf. It was never something I’ve been able to fit into my tight budget. But last Christmas brought me the best gift, when my adorable husband went out and got me the perfect bookshelf. I nearly cried when I saw it. It came in this huge box and weighed a ton. I sat next to it all night and silently hoped we would head home soon to assemble it. No one in the room knew how attached I’d become to this gift, or maybe they did. I certainly didn’t hide my excitment. By the time we got home, which was pretty late, he asked if I needed help and I said no. For whatever reason, I wanted to put it together on my own. So I did.

photo 2 (3)

It took me all night.

When it was done, I dragged all the boxes out from storage and sorted the books on the shelves in no particular order. It didn’t matter to me where and why, it just needed to be.

When I stepped back and observed, my heart danced in my chest. I wanted to hug my arms around it and never let go. It was much taller than I thought, which meant more books! There was so much space needing to be filled, and there still is. But at the time, I knew it wasn’t complete until I added one particular book.

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver was a book I read in high school. It stuck with me all these years. There were times when I couldn’t even remember the title, and I’d find myself on the Internet scouring Google in hopes of finding it. And when I finally came across it, I promised myself I would buy it as soon as I could. But I never did.

Last year, out of the blue, I stumbled upon the book on the For Sale shelf at Tower Records. It was so random. In fact, I was struggling so much at the time financially, that I couldn’t even afford the sale price. My husband could see on my face how much the book meant, and, you guessed it, he bought it for me.

photo 1 (2)

I haven’t read this book since that first time in my 12th grade English class. And to be honest, I don’t even think I need to. I think we all have a book like this. Something we’ve read that changed us so much. Something that made you feel like nothing you’ve ever read before. A part of me thinks that reading it again will change the way it made me feel all those years ago, and all the years after. It’s something I don’t ever want to lose; that feeling of overwhelming emotion that one single book has brought to me.

I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll read it again. Maybe to myself when I’m all alone and needing that comfort, or maybe to my future children when they’re ready. But, to me, just having it on my new bookshelf is enough for now. And maybe it always will be.

Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZEHeather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband, and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another, and never looked back. Visit her online on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter

Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

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