2012 Favorites + Giveaway!

December 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , )

This was going to be the weekend I got back into the full swing of things, but then life happened in a pretty amazing way. After a weekend spent crashing around Orlando with very good friends I haven’t seen in far too long, I came home to our rescheduled Thanksgiving, with lots of food, laughter, and card banter.

Cards are a blood sport, at least in my family, and the banter that flows through the games is truly inspiring.

And terrifying.

So, to make up for another lost week, I’m hosting a giveaway!

There are two prize packs up for offer. Prize pack one includes the paperback of Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, a hysterical, utterly creeptastic in the best possible way book that pits Rory, an American student currently enrolled in a London school, with a mysterious murderer re-enacting the murders of Jack the Ripper- with no one seeing him. Prize pack two has the paperback of Laini Taylor’s amazing and grogeous The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, with the enigmatic Karou, the mysterious Brimstones, and an ancient war that could destroy entire worlds, in one of the most beautiful expressions of language I’ve ever read. BOTH PACKS include a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card.

And there are lots of ways to get entries.

The only mandatory one is to leave a comment below telling me what your favorite book of 2012 has been, and why. There have been so many amazing books out this year, and I want to know which ones you’ve loved. (And tell me if you have a preference for a particular prize pack)

For example, although it’s really hard to choose, I’d have to say my favorite of the year so far has been John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. That book was beautiful and shattering and uplifting and devestating, and probably the only book that’s ever made me laugh and sob simultaneously. It’s an astounding work of art, something so much more than the sum of its parts, and has become one of my favorite books to handsell at work because it’s one of the very few books that I genuinely believe EVERYONE needs to read.

But there are extra ways to enter!

For +1, follow this blog, and in your comment, tell me that you’ve done so. If you already follow, tell me that too.
For +1, follow me on twitter at @dothutchison, and in your comment tell me your twitter handle. Again, if you already follow me, just tell me.
For +1, add A Wounded Name on Goodreads, and tell me in your comment. Again, if you’ve already added it, just let me know.
For +1, like my Facebook page, link on the sidebar, and tell me that you’ve done so. If you already like me (they like me, they really like me!…okay, done now) just tell me so.
And for +1 for each medium, you can tweet about it, blog about it, mention it on facebook or what have you, and just include the links in your comment.

I’d like to stress that the only thing you HAVE to do to be entered is to comment with your favorite book of the year and why you love it. Please make sure you leave the correct email address so I can contact you if you win. All the other ways to enter are purely optional, and additional- it’s your choice whether or not to do them. If you DO choose to get the extra entries, please make sure you tell me what you’ve done- I’m not going to troll through the deep stretches of the internet to see what people have done. I’m going to trust y’all on this, so please just include the links and handles.

And it is US only, I’m sorry. International gets very pricey, so I’m going to save that kind of shipping for when I have ARCs of A Wounded Name to give you. Just a few months til ARCs!

So, enter in the comments below, entries accepted through Saturday, 15 December, and best of luck to you all!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

October 12, 2011 at 11:04 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Rippermania has gripped London in the wake of a series of brutal murders emulating one of the most famous unsolved crimes of all time, and not even the labyrinthine system of CCTV through London’s streets can capture the killer. Into the middle of this walks Rory Deveaux, a Louisiana teenager bound for the boarding school of Wexford- right in the middle of Jack the Ripper territory- while her parents take a year’s sabbatical to teach in Bristol. She just doesn’t realize that middle? Really does mean middle. Soon she’s the only witness to actually see the murderer and she’s going to have to trust some people with a pretty bizarre story, or she’ll end up as a new victim.

Have you ever read a book that had you simulataneously on the edge of your seat with suspense and falling off of it with laughter? After you read this book, you can honestly say you have.

For anyone who follows the incomparable Maureen Johnson on Twitter, the humor is hardly unexpected, and what we get is classic. Between her tales of small-town Louisiana and the way she meets the Head Girl- dancing on a table in front of a mirror in partial uniform- Rory is an absolutely hysterical narrator. Within the narration it’s effortless, but every now and then in the dialogue it tries a little too hard and falls flat- which is perfect for the situations of the time. She’s resourceful and clever with a wide pragmatic streak, but she also has an openness that allows for the impossible. Not to say there won’t be some sputtering about the impossible, but she adapts pretty quickly.

Rory’s a new girl in London, which lets Johnson teach her American readers without an info dump. Because it’s new for Rory, it’s okay that it’s new for us. It’s not a tutorial, it’s not a lecture, it’s a “hey, here’s a new experience!”. From juggling classes to remembering which side of a car to climb into, we get to shall all those new things with Rory, which helps reinforce her Lousisiana background. Guaranteed, no one in London worries about gators in the backyard. Her entry into the school, the way she has to adapt to the completely different classes and class schedules, even the way she’s always colder than everyone else, all contributes to this new world of hers, one that is excellently crafted and rich with atmosphere.

What initially drew me to this book was the Jack the Ripper storyline. I love Criminal Minds, I’ve done research projects on serial killers in general and on the Ripper specifically, and I’m one of those people who finds the whole notion disturbingly fascinating. Jack the Ripper is a part of our popular culture, so the notion of someone coming along and exactly replicating his crimes is both terrifying and amazing. Add in all the Ripper-experts and the expectation- almost the sense of macabre excitement- that comes of waiting for the next kill and you have a chaotically charged atmosphere where any number of things can happen. The two storylines comes together gradually, weaving into a single thread that suddenly rushes forward and doesn’t slow until the very end.

The characters are gorgeously crafted. Rory, of course, is vibrant and larger than life, but the connections she makes are very real. Her roommate Jazz and her rivalry with Charlotte, the boy she may or may not be dating but certainly has something with, Alistair the moody boy in the library, and of course a trio of people, secretive in different ways, who mean to keep an eye on Rory. Don’t want to give away too much about them, but seriously? LOVE THEM. I just wish, these and the school friends included, that I could have known them a little better. There’s a bit of reserve there- unsurprising if you think about it- but it feels like surface friendship, hanging out with people because it’s better than not having any friends at all. There’s more to them than neurotic attention to school work and Ripper expertise, but I never really got to feel like I saw that.

One of the things I loved most about this book was the refreshingly original take on the paranormal. NO, there are no vampires or werewolves, but there are ghosts, with very interesting stories to tell. They interact with the world in peculiar ways, ways as unique and telling as the people they were in life, but they’re all around us. Sometimes they’re strong, sometimes resigned, sometimes confused, sometimes mischievous, but they interact with us in ways we try to ascribe to other things. Most of all, they’re important.

This book makes you gasp, makes you keep a finger under the next page so you don’t lose even a second turning it, laugh out loud (pages 166 and 167 made me snort soda, I laughed so unexpectedly), and more than anything, makes you want the next book in the Shades of London series.

Want more Maureen Johnson? Check her out on Twitter (@maureenjohnson) or at her website.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Ask Your Booksellers

August 21, 2011 at 9:00 am (Industry) (, , , , , )

I come from a rather specific viewpoint when it comes to books and the book industry. I’m an enthusiastic reader, I’m a hopeful writer, and I’m a bookseller. It looks a little bit like this:

The one thing that marks all three of these is passion. As a reader, as a writer, as a bookseller, I bring passion to what I do. The thing is, that same passion marks a lot of people within our industry, no matter what part of it they’re in. From the writer’s mind through so many other hands until it finally reaches the reader, it isn’t just a job. It’s a life. Even where there’s the coldly practical element of needing a job to pay the bills, we’re there because we want to be there, because we want to be working with books and the people who love to read them.

What that also means is that we have a tendency to get very excited when people attack a perceived flaw in our happy little world. Back in early June, the Wall Street Journal (always a dubious source when it comes to YA) published an article saying that YA was too dark. There were some excellent rebuttals, including that of Maureen Johnson , as well as an impromptu #YAsaves on twitter, wherein thousands of people, within the course of just a few hours, sent in personal, impassioned, brutally honest confessions of how reading YA has helped them in their lives. (To be fair, the WSJ did collect some of these to present as a slideshow on their site.)

When I read that article, I was pissed. Not at the writer- though I certainly had a few choice words about her opinion- because I’ve gotten used to the misconceptions most people have about YA. Even people who read YA sometimes voice the most appalling, ill-informed inanities until it’s all I can do to nod and smile and bite my tongue. It was actually the bookseller that really got me pissed. It isn’t remotely reasonable to expect that booksellers will know every book on the shelves. We all have certain types of books that we prefer to read.

The thing is, any bookseller worth his or her salt also knows what the other employees read. Everyone on staff knows that I’m the one to ask for anything kids, and they know I also read in Sci-fi/Fantasy, History, Science, writing reference, and skim through mystery, fiction, and some others. I don’t read horror but I know who does. I don’t read current events or business, but I know who does. If a customer asks me about something I don’t read, I know who to take them to. If that person isn’t there, I can pass along books I’ve heard them mention, and I give the customer their name so they can come back for more recs. My co-workers know to pass customers to me for middle grade or teen questions.

So why didn’t that bookseller do the same thing? When Amy Freeman of Bethesda, Maryland walked into her bookstore, why did the bookseller- who admitted she didn’t know the section- sit and pass uninformed judgments rather than handing the Ms. Freeman over to an employee who did know the section?

But the thing was done, and the furor eventually died down.

And then there’s a new article. It’s the New York Times this time. I made a post a while back talking about the difference between boys and girls where reading is concerned. By the time they become teenagers, boys are reading substantially less than girls. It’s largely a function of how reading is perceived by society as a whole and the fact that boys aren’t encouraged to read the way girls are. Can part of it be blamed on packaging? Absolutely. Girls don’t mind reading a book with a boy on the cover.

Most boys wouldn’t be caught dead reading a book with a girl on the cover, because to be seen with such a thing would, of course *insert sarcasm here*, be a grave insult to their masculinity and be the equivalent of committing social suicide. Saundra Mitchell has some great things to say about that.

To paraphrase probably more than I should, the new article basically says that boys aren’t reading YA because there are too many girls in it. Editors are purposefully seeking female-centric manuscripts at the expense of books that boys would read, publishers are marketing too much to girls at the expense of boys who might otherwise buy books, etc etc.

To which I say: SHENANIGANS.

Maureen Johnson – who really is an amazing person, and if you don’t follow her on twitter you should (the passionate defenses of reading are balanced by sheer insanity, it’s lovely)- pulled out a post from her blog archives that answered that beautifully. It speaks to the way we’re educated, the overwhelming mindset that forms the way we view books and reading and gender.

But this also goes back somewhat to the bookseller mentioned in the WSJ article. What this really highlights is the amount of people talking about the books in the teen section that have no idea what’s actually in the teen section.

Are there dark books in YA? Yes.

Are there a lot of female-centric books in YA? Yes.

And?

THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER KINDS OF BOOKS THERE AS WELL.

What about Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series? Or Charles Higson’s Young Bond? Or the Cherub series? All high-octane, high-action spy thrillers aimed towards teenage boys. Anything Orson Scott Card, John Green, David Levithan. How about Scott Westerfeld? How about Suzanne Collins? Boys are devouring The Hunger Games, and the fact that it’s written by a female doesn’t factor into that at all- her MG series, Gregor the Overlander, is also a boy favorite. How about Hannah Moskowitz’s books, which are by the way narrated by boys? Catherine Fisher’s books? Too many books about vampires? Vladimir Tod is a vampire, and his story has certainly sold- TO BOYS. He mentions Walter Dean Myers, but what about Christopher Paolini and Christopher Pike and Riggs Ransom? What about Sherman Alexie? Markus Zusak? James Dashner? Paolo Bacigalupi? How’s about Michael Scott? Want me to keep going? D.J. MacHale, Neal Shusterman, Joseph Delaney, Michael Grant? And that’s not even continuing the list of female authors who write strong, central male characters.

And you know what? If boys- and their parents and friends and teachers- didn’t get so hung up on what the covers look like, there’d be even more amazing stories for them to discover, books with strong stories and strong guys. Authors like Sarah Rees Brennan, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare offer stories that should not, under any circumstances, be limited to girls. Holly Black’s White Cate? It’s about a boy from a family of magical con artists. IT HAS A BOY ON THE COVER. I wouldn’t call that a female-centric book, never mind that it’s written by a female author or that it includes female characters.

It isn’t about the number of males writing in YA (male writers make up most of the adult fiction ranks and yet it’s mostly women who buy the books), it isn’t about the books that are out there. The books are there.

What we need to change is the attitude that keeps the boys- and the parents- from finding all of the amazing options that are already out there.

Teens, parents, as a bookseller, I am begging you: ASK US. Ask your booksellers. If you’re looking for books for boys, for younger precocious readers, if you’re looking for books that stay away from the magic or the vampires or the sex/drugs/angsty issues, ask your booksellers. Ask your school librarians, who work so hard to keep up to speed on what kids want to read. Ask the blogging community, ask twitter, but ask us. We’re out here. YA isn’t just my passion or hobby, it’s my JOB. Don’t be content with people who don’t actually know the section. If that bookseller doesn’t know, ask if there’s another employee who does, and when they’ll be there. Ask us.

It makes our day as well as yours.

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