Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year-End Tidying-Up

First of all: to those of you celebrating holidays in the last several days, I hope they were everything you wished for. I had a great Christmukkah with my big complicated family, but I had no idea what a blur this week would be. Between traveling for celebrations, helping my mother move to a new house, and doing my best to get a year's worth of sick out of the way in my week off, I must admit that it's been all I could do to even keep up with reading blogs, let alone commenting or posting.

I have gathered that most everyone is taking stock of what they've read this past year, in a few different formats, and I want to get some listing in before 2012 sneaks up on me.

 First and foremost: best books I read this year. I am totally overwhelmed by the number of books I read this year, so figuring out which ones actually came out in 2011 would be next to impossible. But here are a few highlights of my reading life over the last 12 months:

1) Teaching Dystopian Literature, twice. I introduced tons of my students to The Hunger Games books, and I made a point of really delving into the genre. Hits included Divergent, Matched and Crossed, Delirium, The Ship Breaker, the Forest of Hands and Teeth series, and Variant.

 2) Reading Pride and Prejudice over again this summer while emailing with one of my students as she read it for the first time. If only that's what all English classes were like!

 3)Re-reading The Great Gatsby for the first time since it was summer reading before 10th grade English (hated it then, along with Wuthering Heights, which I have also re-read and loved since then!)I had no idea Nick Carraway was such a lyrical and frequently funny narrator!

 4) Looking For Alaska. I can't even.  You can see my thoughts here.

 5)Discovering this blogging community! You have no idea how my TBR list has grown since I started following a handful of YA-focused bloggers.

 So--segue into-- top ten TBRs (that are already out) heading into 2012. I'd like to point out that I'm in the middle of The Scorpio Races, a very exciting Christmas present, or that would be on the list as well. (I'm totally loving it, btw--I believe I mentioned my horsey reading streak from childhood, and this has all the best parts of that...with all the best parts of YA.)

 1) Ash by Malinda Lo
2) Legend by Marie Lu
3) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
4) Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
5) Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
6) Across the Universe by Beth Revis
7) Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
8) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
9) Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
10) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Fire by Kristen Cashore
Paper Towns by John Green
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Where She Went by Gayle Forman

 That's my year in review, and a little bit of looking ahead...but stay tuned just after the new year for some resolutions and my first-ever giveaway! Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday--Where Do They All Come From???

Today's RTW is a potentially controversial one--but I like it.

This Week's Topic:
Where do you buy most of your books? No one is judging!

First of all, let me say that sometimes I look around and I'm pretty sure they just come creeping in the windows at night, because there's no WAY they all could have gotten in the door with me.  I would remember buying thousands of books, right?  I estimate my classroom library to be about 500 volumes, with loads more--maybe another 500 or so--in my apartment.  Someday I will really catalog them all.  Someday.  Right now I have a GoogleDoc of my classroom books, but I know many of them will have walked away by the end of the year.  
So anyway, where do they come from???   

1) I have to cop to an old and undying love of Barnes and Noble.  As a child, we went to the library a LOT, and I didn't have a lot of opportunities to buy books.  Don't get me wrong--I LOVED my library, a lot.  And I also loved the occasions when my parents would take me to the little WaldenBooks at our local mall, and I could pick out a book from the like, three shelves of children's books.  But I will never forget my first trip to Barnes and Noble.  I must have been about seven, which is when I got the horsey bug bad and couldn't get enough of Marguerite Henry.  So anyway, I had never been to a freestanding bookstore before, ok?  Just a little one tucked into the mall.  And then one day my parents drove the twenty minutes or so to the Barnes and Noble in the next town over.  And you guys.  For whatever reason, there was a Marguerite Henry display in the window, with the books, and some hay, and I don't know, that was probably really all it was, but.  It was like a palace for books.  It was bigger than my library, even (and we went to the central branch which is pretty big and nice.)  And my very very very favorite books were in the window, with horsey stuff around them--if you listen carefully, you can still hear the echoes of my tiny little mind EXPLODING WITH JOY.    So, Barnsey, you will always be my first bookstore love.

2) We also have some great indie bookstores near us, and I try to patronize them as much as I can.  Favorites include BookBook, Three Lives and Company, and Books of Wonder.  Three Lives is especially well-curated--whenever I go in there, my immediate reaction is, "I want EVERY ONE OF THESE BOOKS."  Books of Wonder wins the "Happiest Place" award, as it is both a truly excellent children's/YA bookstore AND a cupcake bakery.  (Think Meg Ryan's bookstore in You've Got Mail, then add cupcakes.)  I have to be careful with my wallet in these stores, because the awesomeness is so highly concentrated.  In a store like Barnes and Noble, there's a lot I don't want mixed in...but not so much at places like these.  Recently, I pulled my husband in to Three Lives and pointed out books I wanted for Christmas--and made him promise to buy them there, which he did!  (And, since it's such an awesome place, he was inspired to add a few to the list--score!)

3) The Kindle store.  Hmmph.  I am really ambivalent about my Kindle.  On the one hand, I mean, it's awesome.  Because I am Rory Gilmore.
So being able to carry around a bus book and a backup book and a backup bus book (or in my case, train books) got a lot easier with the Kindle.  On the other hand...I love having actual books.  And now that I'm starting to follow some of the business pieces of the book industry, I have some anxiety over e-book pricing, etc.  But for the time being, while I have an hour-long commute with a hill on one end and a 3rd-floor walkup on the other, I will be Kindling at least some of the time.

 4) DonorsChoose.  Technically, I'm not buying these books, and they aren't mine, but they live in my classroom library and I get to pick them out.  I'm super grateful to the people who have donated books to my classroom in the past--I've gotten four projects funded, all books: a fiction mix, a non-fiction mix, and twenty copies each of Catching Fire and Mockingjay (our school bought class sets of The Hunger Games last year so I had a lot of desperate students.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RTW--A Christmas Gift For Campbell

Road Trip Wednesday!  Huzzah!

This week, the question is:

What would be the ideal holiday present for your main character (or favorite character)? 
This is actually a pretty loaded question, because of the world my girl Campbell is living in.  Goods are limited pretty strictly, so either she would want something totally frivolous and consumable (gifts of things like candy bars and fresh flowers are pretty rare and noteworthy) or something she could share with her family.  
But really, if she could have one wish, she would wish for her best friend to return the feelings she's starting to be aware of...or at least to understand those feelings a little better.  (I have a friend from college who insists on fast-forwarding through the "conflicty parts" of romantic comedies because they're so painful--and I confess I read the painful parts of books more quickly, so I don't know how I will push myself to complicate this relationship as much as I need to--but what must be, shall be.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Fives: Christmas Stories!

Ok, so I skipped out on RTW this week, as I sometimes do when it has a particularly writerly focus.  (It kind of seems like everyone else waited to start their blogs until they had finished at least one MS...)

Anyway, I'm super excited about this week's Friday Fives from Paper Hangover!

What are your FIVE favorite Christmas/holidays stories or novels?

1) "A Pint of Judgement" by Elizabeth Morrow--This is one of many stories in my all-time favorite Christmas anthology: Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book.  This one is about a little girl who overhears--and misunderstands--her mother's Christmas wish.

2) "Christmas Every Day" by William Dean Howells, also known to me from this anthology.  The title sums it up, and it's a tired concept at this point, but this story is one of the older takes on the idea and I really like the way it's is written.

3) The description of Maria's first Christmas with the vonTrapps in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.  The house is all a-bustle with present-making and suspense and it just sounds magical.

4) Laura and Mary going through their stockings in what I'm guessing is Little House On The Prairie--but maybe Big Woods?  They get sticks of candy AND and orange AND a penny EACH.  (I think reading the Little House books at a very young age really contributed to the notion I had growing up that my family was fairly wealthy.  Our house had glass window panes, we used white sugar at the table, and our Christmas stockings were so full they didn't ever stay up where we hung them.   I was way off base--money was often tight in our house then, but it never occurred to me to notice.)  

5) Ok, I have to cheat and say A Christmas Story!  It goes on as soon as we get to my dad's house and doesn't go off all day.  One of my all-time favorite movies in general, this has to make my favorite Christmas stories list.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

RTW again? Already? ...and late?

Wow, no posts between last RTW and this one.  And technically, it has become RTThursday.  I don't even know what happened to me, honestly.  It took me ten minutes to remember where I was on Friday, because I realize that I missed Friday Fives (I was at my in-laws' house, because it was the day after Thanksgiving.  I legit just forgot that for a little while.)

And somehow, even though this prompt is always the same, it always catches me unprepared.

What is the best book you read in November?

I read some doozies this month:  Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver and If I Stay by Gayle Forman were both pretty great, but completing my trilogy of [SPOILER!  SPOILER ALERT!] car-crash novels was the real stand-out, Looking For Alaska by John Green.  It absolutely demolished me in a way a book hasn't done in a while.

And now, November is over, and we are on to December.  A new marking period is starting soon, it's almost Christmas, and one of my classes just finished a very big and onerous project.  I started a project I'm really excited about during NaNoWriMo, and even though I didn't make NaNo-speed progress on it, I'm feeling good about it.  Onward and upward!