Tag Archives: she is too fond of books!

in which I recommend some books

So I have not been great at blogging lately….

….is a gross understatement.

I’d rather not talk about life things right now. Honestly I’d rather not talk about writing things either.

So let’s talk about book things!

Because over these past few months, some totally brilliant books that I love with all my heart have come out. And I want to tell you about them. And then I’m going to give one of them away. So stay tuned.

  1. Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

I refuse to shut up about this book. Because it is about zero gravity boxing on the moon1. And if that doesn’t make you want to drop everything and run to your local independent bookstore to get a copy, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

  1. Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

On an ordinary night a few months ago, I sat down on the couch while dinner was in the oven2 and had the following conversation with myself:

Me: I will read one chapter of Bones and All while I make dinner.
Me: Well that was the most disturbing first chapter ever and now I have completely lost my appetite and will probably have to read another chapter.
Me: Oh look at that, I’ve read half of this book.
Me: My legs are starting to cramp because I have been on the couch for so long and because I keep curling them up to me the more horrified I get.
Me: Oh, it’s midnight and I finished this book in one sitting without even meaning to.
Me: AND I LOVED IT.

If you are a fan of Stephen King but with a little more emotion and a lot more feminism, this is a book for you.

  1. My Near-Death Adventures (99% True) by Alison DeCamp

If you like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this book is for you.

If you don’t like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this book is also for you. Because it’s way funnier than Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And also set in an 1800s lumber camp3.

  1. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

So basically I wept my way through this book. Which was bad news, because I mostly read this book on public transit. The writing reads like jazz and the characters feel like people and this book is as pretty as its cover. It’s a thing you should read if you have good taste.

  1. Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

So I’m cheating because this book isn’t out for a few weeks but GUH THIS BOOK.

Here is a dramatic reenactment of me reading this book in Switzerland:

Marx: Um, Mackenzi, why are you being so gloomy and sad today? And why are you curled up on the floor, wailing, with your eReader clutched to your chest?
Me: THIS BOOK! THESE FEELINGS! MAKE IT STOP, IT HURTS.

In honor of these excellent, excellent books that I love with all of my big, stupid heart, I am giving away a signed copy of BONES & ALL! It can be yours! All you gots to do is fill out the little rafflecoptery thing below and then cross your fingers. Because trust me, you want this book in your life.

Click this thing! This is how you enter!

  1. It is also about sports and marketing and celebrity and racism and honesty and one of my all-time favorite young male protagonists.
  2. Okay fine it was in the microwave.
  3. If you want to know more about how I feel about this book, I made it my staff pick at Porter Square Books! Also this book is aggressively read aloudable, mostly because there is so much grown up appeal and ten-year-old appeal living side by side in it.
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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 i visit an imagined place

My first night in Geneva, I was lying in a stranger’s bedroom, reading Mary Shelley on my phone, and hovering on the edges of a panic attack. Golden light from the streetlamps filtered in through the open window. Somewhere down the road, the tram bell rang.

Maybe I should explain.

DSC_1060

First of all, in spite of how it sounds, I was not having a one-night-stand with a handsome Swiss cheesemaker. I was in a stranger’s bedroom because Marx and I were doing Switzerland cheap, so we were staying with a woman who we found on a couch surfing website. She was an environmentalist, spoke little English, and offered us a variety of extravagant teas1.

I was reading History of a Six Weeks Tour by Mary Shelley on my phone because I have so far only been able to find it online, and this was our first real wifi in a while. The book is a compilation of letters written between Mary Shelley, her husband, and their friends while the pair was living abroad, including in Geneva, which is where she wrote Frankenstein.

Which is why we were in Geneva. Oh yes, the panic. My novel—the one that comes out next year, and is a reimagining of Frankenstein, if you’re new here—is set there.

DSC_1051

So here I was, in a stranger’s bedroom, trying to fall asleep reading, waiting for morning so I could walk through a place that had up until this moment only existed in my head.

Visiting Geneva felt like coming to an imagined place, like Narnia or Gondor, or visiting my own thoughts. Geneva was the first place I had ever written about that I hadn’t visited. Sure, I spent hours on Google maps, read books—of both the historical and the vacation-prep variety—along with every travel blog and photo essay and newspaper article about Geneva I could find.

But I hadn’t been there. And being there is something totally different.

DSC_1024

I’m a very setting-heavy writer. The word that most frequently gets tossed around to describe my writing is atmospheric, and I am one-hundred percent okay with that. I love travel. I love place. I’ve had whole novels spring out of places I’ve visited2. But atmosphere is more than just streets and geography and place names. It’s a feeling, and that’s why I love traveling—to feel a place.

DSC_0969

So what if I got out in Geneva and realized that I got had got that feeling wrong? As soon as I visited, there would be a right and wrong answer to what I had written. Maybe this was a terrible mistake, I thought. I almost woke Marx up right then and asked her if we could maybe just hang out at the airport for the next three days until our flight left. I’m a rational human being.

But I didn’t. The next morning, we woke up and set out to explore Geneva.

Mary Shelley did not like Geneva. When you read her letters, she goes on and on about how much she loves the countryside, and the Alps, and even the wildlife3, but when she writes about Geneva itself, she sounds sort of grumbly and unhappy. She thought the buildings were too high, too ugly. She hated that the guards at the city gates couldn’t be bribed into letting you into the city past ten pm. “There is nothing… in [Geneva],” she writes, “that can repay you for the trouble of walking over its rough stones.”

DSC_0982

On the afternoon of our first day in the city, I left Marx by a fountain on the edge of the old town and went wandering on my own, thinking about what Mary had written, and what I had written, and the things we had both imagined happening on these streets, and mostly how much I liked Geneva. I liked the rough cobblestones and the hills. I liked the silt-colored buildings that made the streets into hallways. I liked the fountains, and the window boxes, and the wind off the lake. I liked the sound of people speaking French. I liked the Alps in the distance, and the foothills, and the vineyards that climbed up them.

Screw you, Mary Shelley. I liked Geneva.

DSC_1070

So I walked the streets of Mary’s book, and my book–the one big thing we shared–and thought about what we didn’t share, and the filters though which we saw this city. There’s the space between us–both the time, and the distance, and places we’d come from. The experiences we’d had. Who we were and where we were and what we were doing there and why. All the things we’d done and the things we hadn’t and all the things that made this city different for the pair of us.

This city existed in both of our heads. It was both of our imagined places4.

 

  1. We declined.
  2. Including large parts of this novel, which came from my Christmas market trip with Magwitch two years ago.
  3. One of my favorite lines from the letters is, Did I tell you there are wolves among these mountains? Someday I plan to analyze the crap out of that line, and make it into some poetic metaphor that hipsters will Photoshop overtop of their filtered Instagram landscapes.
  4. Also we found this steampunk carousel and I loved it and it didn’t fit anywhere in the post, so I’m just going to stick it here instead. DSC_1127
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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 Annie Cardi

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 Annie Cardi whose debut novel, The Chance You Won’t Return, is absolutely stellar and I’m honestly a bit confused as to why you’re still reading this instead of running immediately to your local independent bookstore to get yourself a copy. She has some bookshelf confessions to share with us this week….

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…

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

  • Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
  • Where I Got It: Advanced copy from the bookstore. Also MarcyKate is both a fellow Bostonian and debut 2015 author, so I was super excited to get this one!
  • What I thought: This book is pitched as Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a beautiful love letter to classic fairytales and modern fantasy, and I think it would be a great book for kids transitioning out of middle grade and into YA.

Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell

  • Genre: YA magical realism
  • Where I got it: Courtesy copy from work
  • What I thought: This book is so creative, and so atmospheric, and so Maine. All of those are things that I love…but I didn’t love this book. I think it just lacked some tension, and needed just a little more going on to really keep me engaged.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

  • Genre: YA dystopian
  • Where I got it: So technically this is Marx’s book. But it’s on the bookshelf in the living room that we share. So it comes from my bookshelf. So it counts.
  • What I thought: The ending didn’t quite live up to all the build up, but over all it was a fast, enjoyable read and I’m super excited for the movie. I think the visuals will translate really well to film.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

  • Genre: YA contemporary realism
  • Where I got it: Another advanced copy of a fellow 2015 debut-ers book
  • What I thought: I knocked this one out in a single sitting. Without even meaning to. It just sort of happened. It’s a very heartfelt and sincere look at depression and suicide, and the use of physics to look at those subjects is brilliant. I also love the family dynamics at the core of this book, and the question of if children are destined to become their parents. Guys, there are so many great debut novels coming out next year! Get excited.

And now, meet Annie and her bookshelf!

I get nervous in a house without a lot of books. If I go to someone’s house, one of the first things I do is check out their bookshelf—not even purposefully, but because it’s the most interesting thing in the room. (Okay, if they have a dog or cat, I crouch down to pet said fuzzyface while checking out the bookshelves.)

Bookshelves can also tell you a lot about someone—what they generally like to read, what they enjoy enough to buy, what they love enough o have multiple copies of, how organized they are, etc. etc. Since I can’t invite all of you over to scan my shelves, here are a few of my bookshelf confessions:

photo 1Confession #1: Organization is for libraries and bookstores…

When I want to borrow or buy a book, I appreciate shelves organized by category and author’s last name. At home, things are a lot more haphazard. I try to keep things arranged by general category (YA, fiction, nonfiction, etc.) but within those categories authors get mixed up and books in a series get separated and sometimes books are shuffled into different categories if there’s not enough room on a shelf.

Confession #2: …Except when it comes to color.

One bookshelf is organized by color, ROYGBIV-style, with black and white at the end. I’m actually way more likely to find a book on this bookshelf, because mostly I remember a physical book by how it looks.

Confession #3: I judge books by their covers.

The bookshelf in our living room, the one that gets seen most by guests? Yeah, books are specifically selected for that shelf based on how pretty their covers/spines are. (Books that are especially cool or emotionally important also get priority.)

Confession #4: You can find me in the YA section.

I write YA, so it makes sense that I would have a solid collection of YA novels. It’s one of the categories I buy the most, and I have several shelves devoted entirely to YA.

photo 2Confession #5: Rereading is my excuse for buying more books.

I’ve always been a rereader. When I was younger, I’d reread books all the time—even just paging through sections that I enjoyed. I reread less now, but when I want to read a book and have to choose between buying it or getting it from the library, I ask myself, “Will I want to reread this?” If I do, it goes on the purchase list. If not, I get it from the library first, and then if I love it, I can buy it and add it to the collection.

Confession #6: My books stay on my shelves.

There are generous people in the world who, when you say “Oh, I want to read that,” will take that book off their shelves and give it to you and tell you that you can give it back whenever. I am not one of those people. I lost two copies of The Princess Bride in high school by lending them out, and I still haven’t gotten over the loss. (I’m petty, yes, but they were my books and they don’t make that cover anymore!) If I let you borrow a book, it means I deeply trust you as a human being. You might be named a godparent at some point.

Books are more than just the words on the pages. They contain all the excitement and emotions of your reading experience, all the memories that surrounded your reading experience. They’re a little part of who you are, right there for you to see.

*Some books also from husband’s collection; love means never having to ask to read a book.

Annie CardiAnnie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at: Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.

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

 

 

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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 Anna-Marie McLemore

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 Anna-Marie McLemore, whose magical debut novel, THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, comes out next year (and guys, you’re going to want to put this one on your “buy the moment it comes out” list. Or maybe your “will sell my soul for an ARC” list. It’s infuriatingly beautiful.) 

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 Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde

  • Genre: YA urban fantasy
  • Where I got it: Let’s just say through creative connections.
  • What I thought: My love affair with the Kazam Chronicles has been no secret, and this one, the third, might actually be my favorite out of the bunch. My only complaint was that there was not nearly enough quarkbeast.

The Broken Lands by Kate Milford

  • Genre: YA historical fantasy
  • Where I got it: Free bookshelf at work. Man I love that free bookshelf
  • What I thought: I liked this one a lot. It’s very vivid, and the history and magic are both very alive and well drawn. But I just never felt it. None of the emotional connection I really wanted. I will, however, be picking up its sequel, The Boneshaker. 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

  • Genre: Middle grade historical fiction
  • Where I got it: So I bought myself a copy of this with the intention of having Lois sign it at the Susan Bloom Awards. But me, being a forgetful moron who was totally caught up in everything else going on, totally forgot to have her sign it. F.
  • What I thought: I had read this book before, many years when I was in elementary school, and it was one of the first books I remember really loving. Reading it as an adult, I’m even more impressed with how tight and powerful this book is. What a great story about empathy, love, and courage. Bravo, bravo Miss Lois!

And now, meet Anna-Marie and her bookshelf! 

lepetitprinceWhen Mackenzi asked me to join in on Project: Bookshelf, maybe I should have mentioned that I don’t have one.

I have a dresser that I keep a few books in. A freestanding counter in my kitchen that I store some books under. But I don’t actually have a bookshelf.

Two years ago, I was working part-time, the Boy had just gotten out of school and was looking for a job, and our apartment search was getting a little desperate. For many of the places we saw, we did not meet the income requirements. For a few, we were told in thinly veiled terms that we could apply, but they would never rent to us. I don’t think there’s anybody else like you around here. Or, You’d probably be happier somewhere else. Or, what do you mean, you’re married?

We knew what they meant. The Boy is transgender, and did not pass as a biological male.

AMbookshelfThen we found a tiny but adorable studio apartment, and with it, a property manager who didn’t seem to the mind the look of us the way so many others had. A week later, we were moved in, and it was just as well that we had no bookshelf since we didn’t have the wall space for it.

So I only unpacked a few of my books, slipped some into a free space in the cube storage unit we used as a dresser, found a place for a few in the kitchen, and tried to settle into the feeling of not knowing where our lives were going next.

A few months later, the Boy, thankfully, got a job. We might have been able to move somewhere a little bigger, somewhere with enough space that the Boy and I did not have something just short of a romantic interlude every time we wanted to get by each other at the dresser or the kitchen sink. But we’d gotten attached to our tiny but adorable apartment, our neighborhood, the sound of the chickens that lived down the block.

lovespeaksitsnameHalf my books are still in boxes. I rotate them in and out by mood, by season. Every March, I pack up my old set of The Chronicles of Narnia, like folding away a favorite winter coat. My Allende and my Saint-Exupéry come out right around the time the first crocuses are breaking up through the cold ground.

At first I saw it as an annoyance to dig through boxes every time I wanted to reread Sophie’s World or pull out the book of poetry I’d bought in Bloomsbury. But then I grew to like it, this minimalism of only having on hand the books I needed and wanted. It made it easier to take in all the power and beauty of all those words, just a few at a time.

One day, the Boy and I will have a bookshelf, a whole one. We’ll display all our books at once. But for now we’ll enjoy our little apartment, and the rhythm of putting books away and taking them out, rediscovering their pages like meeting up with old friends.

AMbookshelfbiophotoAnna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter @laannamarie.

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!

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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 Rebecca Podos

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 hosting none other than my fabulous agent, Rebecca Podos, who is not only an agent to the stars but an author with her debut novel, The Mystery of Hollow Places, coming out in 2016. What’s so awesome about her library? Let’s just say it’s a little Gorey…

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…

Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

  • Genre: YA Contemporary
  • Where I got it: Purchased for myself, since this is published by the imprint that will publish my novel and I am trying to familiarize myself with their list
  • What I thought: This book was outside my usual genre, but I really loved it. It was complicated and messy and sort of riveting. Also I loved the exploration of both online ethics and young women coming into their sexuality.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

  • Genre: YA….adventure? Spy novel? Thriller?
  • Where I got it: Snagged off the free books shelf at work
  • What I thought: This book had a little bit of Chuck, a little bit of Taken, a little bit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and I loved every page of it.

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan

  • Genre: YA magical realism
  • Where I got it: ARC from the bookstore
  • What I thought: This is the YA brothers book I have been searching for! Not a YA sibling story that actually ends up being about a love interest. Not a sibling story that really doesn’t have anything to do with siblings other than two of the characters happen to be them. This book was really truly about these two twin boys, and I adored it for that alone. Plus it was so creepy and gut-wrenching and heartfelt. The plotting could have been a little tighter, but the two boys at its core and their relationship are just outstanding.

And now, meet Rebecca and her bookshelves!

1

This is what my library looks like from the doorway, with my back smashed up against the hallway light switch so I can photograph as much of it at once as possible. Welcome. Let us begin! Because my bookshelves are tentatively organized by genre, that shelf on the right is a sliver of my Anthologies/ YA section. Unsurprisingly, this section is the biggest – I almost never get rid of a YA book, am always collecting new ones, and spend my pennies on childhood favorites (shout out to the amazing Book Barn in Niantic, CT, where you can find a copy of Number the Stars inside a gutted vegetable stand.)

2

This is our Adult bookshelf. Notable pieces: an extensive Stephen King section (Bachman books too), Lots of undergrad Eggers, the copy of On the Beach I read one million billion times in high school, and my husband’s unlikely Anne Rice collection. He and I actually combined our bank accounts before we combined our libraries; my main objection was that he was going to displace so many of my books with his Anne Rice. So we got a bigger Adult bookshelf. Marriage is a compromise.

3

My library is the tiniest room in the house – and yet it just had to have the litter boxes in it – so there are clumps of books all over to maximize space. This is the favorite-childhood-fantasy-series-and-favorite-grownup-fantasy-series clump. They hang right next to my Bob’s Pit armchair for easy access.

4

Here’s the Literary Journals/ short story collections/ graphic novels section. It’s pretty slender – a weird mix of Bradbury/ King/ Gaiman/ Proulx. That empty bottom shelf is an access tunnel for the cats to get to their litter boxes, and I have to keep it that way, so I must carefully ration the collections I bring on.

5

This is definitely the jewel of the room, accumulated through library sales, book shows and probably e-bay. It’s the Edward Gorey section! Within two seconds of meeting me, it’s pretty obvious that Edward Gorey is my favorite illustrator (I don’t always permanently affix pictures to my skin, but when I do, they’re Edward Gorey drawings.) If I had to pick one out as the treasure among treasures, it would be The Curious Sofa: a pornographic work by Ogdred Weary. It is not pornographic, but it is suggestive:

6

picRebecca Podos is a graduate of the MFA Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College, whose debut YA novel THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES will be published by Balzer & Bray in 2016. She’s also a literary agent representing Young Adult and Middle Grade at Rees Literary Agency in Boston, and is thrilled to represent books by talented clients like Mackenzi Lee!
Note from Mackenzi Lee: I did not bully her into writing that last line.
Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf.  Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.

 

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