Monday, June 22, 2015

Taking A Break

We've been blogging at STACKED for over six years now. Through that time, Kimberly and I have both moved (more than once), switched jobs/careers, and taken on a ton of outside responsibilities in our personal lives. We've maintained a lot of consistency here, too -- the longest we've gone without posting is a week.

Kimberly's newest adventure in home buying and my need to buckle down a bit on my anthology means that we're going to do something we've never done before: we're taking an extended vacation. July tends to be a quiet month in publishing, as well as in the blogging world, so we're going to take advantage of this time to relax, refocus, and take care of the things outside the blog.

We will return from our vacation on July 20 with our regular posting schedule. It's possible a post will pop up between now and then, but we're taking this chance to read, relax, and unwind a bit.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Giveaway: Sarah McCarry's "Metamophoses" series

Kimberly and I are about to announce a bit of a blogging vacation. This will mean that we won't be posting anything new for a while -- but we'll get to that next week in more detail.

Because of that, we won't be talking about July releases immediately. This is okay, as July is generally a very slow month in publishing. Few titles are released, so we don't feel we'll be doing a huge disservice not highlighting them as soon as we can.

That said, one book hitting shelves in July is really important, really good, and one I absolutely want to make sure I mention before we vacation. It's the third book in Sarah McCarry's very loose "Metamophoses" series, About A Girl. This book features, like the rest of the series, a diverse cast in terms of ethnicity, race, and sexuality. It's got a killer, important, necessary cover to go along with it.

I've written about this series before, but each of the titles are related, building upon one another. They're takes on mythology, though familiarity with those myths isn't necessary. Neither is reading the books in order, though readers who do will see not only the growth of a writer, but the growth of a series of interconnected, fascinating, enveloping, lush worlds.

These are books that are perfect for readers who love fantasy, mythology, or books by authors like Francesca Lia Block or Nova Ren Suma. They're rich stories with rich, fully-fleshed characters. Readers who like literary fiction -- especially the kind that doesn't "feel" like YA but adult fiction -- will eat this series up.

To celebrate the release of About A Girl and to encourage more people to pick up this fantastic series, I'm giving away a complete set of "Metamophoses" books. You'll get All Our Pretty Songs, which was a YALSA pick for the Outstanding Books for the College Bound title, Dirty Wings, and About A Girl. I'll pull a winner around July 15, and this give away is open to US and Canadian residents.

Good luck!

I don't know whether I need to make a disclosure or not, but Sarah has become a friend over the last couple of years, is a contributor to Book Riot where I work, and she will be contributing an essay to my Feminism for the Real World anthology (hey, there's your first spoiler at who is involved!). I won't be writing a review of About A Girl for these reasons, but my enthusiasm for the series and the book are real and authentic. I want more people to read them.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hardcover to Paperback Makeovers: 5 Changes To Consider

How about another round of books getting new looks in their paperback editions? I've been letting these pile up in a draft post and I'm ready to talk about a handful of them now; I'll talk about some more soon since I've got a ton.

Let's take a look at five of them this time -- some of which are great makeovers and some which aren't maybe as solid as their initial look in hardcover. Which do you think does it better? Have you seen other recent changes you'd love to talk about?

Ally Condie's Atlantia is getting a pretty dramatic makeover in paperback. Where it looks like an adult science fiction title in its hardcover edition on the left, the change in paperback looks a lot more like a generic YA novel geared toward teen readers on the right. The paperback tells the readers almost nothing -- it could be a book in any genre, since it's nothing more than a big face. The tag line, which is repeated from the hardcover, doesn't give much insight, either.

While I think there's maybe more teen appeal on the paperback, I think that's at the expense of being distinct and memorable. Also sort of interesting is that the author name seems to have shrunk in the new edition. Where it took up two lines and was more prominent than the title on the hardback, it's gotten smaller on the paperback and the title has sized up.

The hardcover is a stronger image on this one and wins for me. The paperback edition will be available October 20.

The original look for Una LaMarche's Like No Other followed in the tradition that began with Eleanor and Park -- an illustration depicting two teens who clearly have some sort of romantic relationship with one another. It's a cover trend I've never been fond of, since I think illustrated covers like this tend to not only tell you too much as a reader, but more, they actually begin blending together after a while (imagine someone asking for the book that's got an image of a couple that's illustrated -- you could probably name a pile of them that all came out around the same time). I also think they tend to look a little young. Which isn't to say I hate all illustrated covers, but rather, I dislike the ones that look like they're modeling a trend. More, this one bothers me since it's a story with people of color at the center and we don't get to see them face first. We just get their backs.

The paperback for this one is a winner, though. While I'm not wild about the models' faces being cut off, the fact we have their faces facing the readers is noteworthy. These are two people of color, and seeing that on a book, especially with the implication that they're in some sort of relationship in the story and aren't the same race, is important. This is a book you face out on a shelf because you know that readers are not only looking for these books, but readers are going to instantly identify with these faces. 

However, because we can't skip a beat with following in the footsteps of trends, I find the pull quote on the paperback unnecessarily distracting. Any comps to The Fault in our Stars at this point feel like they're a real reach, and while I get it's an EW review, I think the fact that it's called "one of the best" since a book published in 2012 really undermines so many other books at the expense of the one it's featured on. I much prefer the blurb as featured on the hardcover. 

Though frankly, you could ditch the quote all together on the paperback and use just the title and image to sell the hell out of it. This is a book that has a nice look that will appeal to teen AND adult readers easily.

Like No Other will be available in paperback on July 14. 

I've got complicated feelings on the cover remake of Delilah S. Dawson's Servants of the Storm, and it's not because I dislike either of the covers. I think they're both pretty great for depicting a horror story that follows in Gothic traditions. They have similar color schemes; the difference is primarily that they feature a different central image. The hardcover uses a girl who looks creepy, while the paperback makes use of a sign, a storm, and what is probably a not-too-happy carnival in the background. 

The paperback's biggest difference in terms of the feel it gives off is through the tagline: "When we die, we belong to her." Imagine that on the hardcover. THAT, I think, would offer up a different feel with that cover and be more effective. On the paperback, who does the "her" refer to? There's not a person on the cover, and thus, there's not a lot of intrigue in terms of who we're supposed to be fearing. If the tagline were pulled off the paperback, it would be more effective, as there's a lot of feeling in the image alone that isn't necessarily contradicted by the tagline. 

I'm not sure one of these covers is better than the other. Both are actually pretty intriguing and would appeal to the same type of reader. 

Servants of the Storm hit shelves in paperback on June 2. 

The redesign for Sara Polsky's This is How I Find Her might be one of the most dramatic in terms of the feeling it gives off that I have seen in a long time. The hardcover on the left has, since I initially saw it, made me immediately think of an Amish story. I don't think that's the intent, as this is a story about a girl dealing with her mother's bipolar disorder and suicide attempts. The hardcover, aside from that, does give off a more somber feel than its redesigned paperback on the right. 

I'm having a hard time understanding the paperback. This looks like a lighthearted beach read, complete with a repeat of the tagline from the hardcover but in a context that makes it sound like a summer love, as opposed to dealing with a family challenge. More, I'm not sure I understand the font choice (I dislike the font here, period) and the decision to make the "I"s and "How" and "Her" pink, leaving the rest black. Is there something symbolic in it? Am I supposed to read another word in there? I am confused, rather than intrigued. 

Neither of these covers tells me anything about the story and neither is particularly appealing or memorable to me, except for how they don't work. The hardcover might appeal more to older readers, whereas the paperback looks like it might reach younger readers more readily...even though it doesn't exactly get to the heart of the story. 

The paperback edition of This is How I Find Her hit shelves on May 1. 

I saved the biggest change to talk about last because there's so much to talk about with this one. The book on the left is Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders, a standalone novel that came out from Geoff Herbach last year. I love this cover for so many reasons; it's bright, it's different, and the can is representative of the story and actually plays a role in it. This cover is memorable and stands out on a shelf.

The title, though. While it's accurate -- this is a story about Gabe, a fat boy, and it's about the things that happen to him in a turf war at school -- it's also sort of a turn-off. It generalizes the characters and creates a strange stereotyping of characters in high school. Since there's not a lot to go off in terms of the story's feel from the cover, even though it's a good one, that title becomes the anchor for readers in terms of what the book will be about. And the title isn't telling them a whole lot (or maybe it's telling them everything and that's not great, either).

The paperback makeover for this book means not only a facelift, but it received a title change, too. Rather than being Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders in paperback, it became Gabe Johnson Takes Over, which is a title that is so much better, more engaging, and less reliant upon stereotypes, which really are not at the heart of the story itself. The cover itself is fun, looking like a defaced school notebook, along with ephemera that is relevant to the story. The pop can hasn't disappeared, though it's taken a backseat. In many ways, this is a much more generic cover, but it's not generic in the way you'd forget about it, like a large image of a girl's face is. Where I usually don't love when a review or blurb from a review is used on a cover, it works here. Part of why it works is that this book really got lost in the shuffle and because the title changed, this signals to readers that it's a book that's earned recognition before. It's clearly not brand new or fighting for a spot. It's instead working toward reaching its audience better.

What I like about this makeover, too, is that the cover doesn't hide that it had a different original title. This is a useful tool for not just readers who may have picked up the book before, but it's extremely useful for those who will wonder whether it's a book they've purchased for a collection before.

While I'm sad that the cover isn't the pop can anymore, I think the makeover, both the title and the image itself, does a huge service for this book. The paperback of Gabe Johnson Takes Over is available now.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Read by the Author

Authors who narrate their own books produce audiobooks of mixed quality, in my experience. Often authors who read their own memoirs or autobiographies have more success than authors who read their novels (presumably because they lived the words and therefore feel them more authentically), but even then, I've run across some real duds. Some authors just aren't meant to be narrators.

During Cybils season last year, I listened to a lot of audiobooks as part of my strategy to read as many nominees as possible. One such book was Night Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann (who narrated). The book itself was just OK, but it could have been elevated by some truly excellent narration. Unfortunately, Melanie Brockmann isn't really up to the task. Her narration isn't terrible, but it has enough negatives to impinge on the listening experience - she sounds like she runs out of air a lot (probably not helped by the really long sentences), and she doesn't voice any of the characters at all. Sometimes voicing can negatively impact an audiobook when it's done poorly, but here it was just confusing and pretty dull.

There are a few novels read by their authors that I've really enjoyed, though. Sherman Alexie's narration of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is so good that I didn't even miss the illustrations, and Neil Gaiman has a voice made for narration. I also really love Philip Pullman's treatment of The Golden Compass and its sequels for Full Cast Audio. He provides the general narration while a full cast of other readers provide the dialogue. His calm, even voice is a perfect backdrop for the more energetic characters performed by others.

When it comes to nonfiction, I've really enjoyed David Sedaris' works, though it took me a while to warm up to his style of narration. He's quite dry and it doesn't always seem like he's telling a joke - though of course he is. Now I can't imagine listening to his books read by anyone else. Stephen King's On Writing is also an exceptional example of nonfiction read by the author (though Stephen King's writing is so good, I'm not sure even a bad narrator could ruin the experience completely).

Audiobook lovers - what has been your experience with books read by their authors? Are you a fan?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How Do You Organize Your Books? (Follow-Up)

Thanks to all who answered my informal poll about organization of your personal books! I thought the results were pretty interesting, if unscientific. Because we're clearly all nerds, I thought you'd appreciate seeing the results in graph format. I've also shared some of the more interesting "Other" responses below.

Click on the graph to make it larger.

A total of 111 people responded, and most of you selected more than one option, which I assumed would be the case. Leading the pack is "by genre" with 52 responses, which was pretty surprising to me as it's never something I've done before (though I've always wanted to). I also think it's interesting since it seems like genre separation is something public libraries are moving away from. People clearly think it's important for their personal collections, though.

In second place was "alphabetical order by author's last name" with 41 responses. This one doesn't surprise me at all. It's a really easy organizational scheme both to set up and to use for locating titles afterward. On the opposite end, almost no one organizes their books by Dewey or Library of Congress. Either this means our readers don't have much nonfiction (I realize fiction can be classified this way too, but that's just silly - I'm looking at you, academic libraries), or these classification schemes just aren't that easy. Or both. (I'm in the both camp.)

If I combine "wherever they'll fit" and "organize? What is this word organize?" into one category, it comes in third place with 38 responses. These people seem to be in the same situation I have been in for the past several years: limited space means books just get shoved where they can fit, and organization is not as important as making sure the books don't get stored in, say, the oven.

The "other" responses were the most interesting. Many of you wrote that you organize by size, which is something I should have included in the original poll. It's something I do, too, without really realizing it. For example, I keep all my mass markets separate from my hardbacks (which is something I'll probably continue to do in the new house). Many of you mentioned space as a factor, and a few mentioned giving away lots of books due to space or just not feeling the need to keep something you won't read again.

Here are a few of my favorite "other" responses, with my own comments in italics:
  • I have a shelf dedicated just to books I haven't read yet.  (I had this at my old place where we had a ton of built-ins, but in my current place, the books I haven't read tend to just sit on tables.)
  • My other shelf is for books I've read and LOVED.
  • By books I've read and books that are unread and then by genre. (An organizational scheme after my own heart. Perhaps something I'll do in my new place.)
  • Importance 
  • Personal interest
  • By imprint (all NYRB together, all Penguin black spines together, etc) (By far one of the nerdiest responses, and I mean that lovingly.)
  • If they were purchased for a class, they tend to stay with their "classmates."
  • Release date then author's last name
  • Loosely by genre-- for example, British mysteries are separate from cozy mysteries, etc, but I do keep series together.
  • By "themes" and by favourites vs. non-favourites. (Organizing by favorites was a popular reply.)
  • Crammed into boxes by size. I only have space to have out books I am actively reading. Very unhappy. (This would make me unhappy too.)
  • Stream of consciousness
  • Alphabetical and then by publishing date except for series... it's complicated.
  • Genre first, then beauty (series are kept together, no matter what).
There were a lot of great, more in-depth comments on the original post, too, so be sure to check it out if this topic interests you.

Continue reading...

Monday, June 15, 2015

June Debut YA Novels

It's time for another round-up of debut YA novels of the month.

Like always, this round-up includes debut novels, where "debut" is in its purest definition. These are first-time books by first-time authors. I'm not including books by authors who are using or have used a pseudonym in the past or those who have written in other categories (adult, middle grade, etc.) in the past.

All descriptions are from WorldCat, unless otherwise noted. If I'm missing any debuts out in June from traditional publishers, let me know in the comments. As always, not all noted titles included here are necessarily endorsements for those titles.

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz's weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times -- as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him. A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, about two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine. 

Between The Notes by Sharon Huss Roat: When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life.

And it isn’t pretty.

Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them.

As things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were, including herself. (via Goodreads).

Dancing with Molly by Lena Horowitz: High school junior Becca is just a "band geek" until when her friends introduce her to molly, a form of ecstasy, and she finds herself with new friends--even a boyfriend--but soon learns there is a price to her newfound popularity.

Deadly Design by Debra Dockter: Kyle McAdams races to find out what's killing kids conceived at the Genesis Innovations Laboratory before he becomes yet another perfect, blue-eyed corpse.

Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott: Because she sees herself as ugly and a misfit, tolerated only because of her friendship with pretty and popular Lila, Charlie dreads her senior year, but a crush on the new charismatic English teacher, Mr. Drummond, makes school bearable until her eighteenth birthday, when boundaries are crossed.

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout: Grace Wilde is hoping for a fresh start from her family, famous in the music industry, and escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, but when her roommate Sophie's twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame and love.

Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca: Although Kelsey has fallen in love with her best friend, David, she cuts ties with him before moving from Connecticut to Rhode Island, believing they need a fresh start, but David moves nearby at the start of senior year, threatening Kelsey's relationship with Ryan.

Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian: As one of The Essential Five theater students at her alternative high school, Rebecca Rivers is preparing to become an actress and enjoying junior year with the perfect boyfriend until life-changing rumors threaten everything.

Mindwalker by AJ Steiger: In a futuristic reality, one girl falls in love with the boy whose memories she tries to erase. 

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera: After enduring his father's suicide, his own suicide attempt, broken friendships, and more in the Bronx projects, Aaron Soto, sixteen, is already considering the Leteo Institute's memory-alteration procedure when his new friendship with Thomas turns to unrequited love.

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer: Four former friends are transported back in time to a pivotal summer in all of their lives during a camp reunion. 

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes: A handless teen escapes from a cult, only to find herself in juvenile detention and suspected of knowing who murdered her cult leader. 

Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen: In 1993 in New York City, high school senior Mira uncovers many secrets, including that her father has a male lover.

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibraldi: Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life. 

But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.  (via Goodreads).

Those Girls by Lauren Saft: Eleventh grade at Greencliff, an all-girl school near Philadelphia, is momentous for long-term best friends Alex, Mollie, and Veronica, as the secrets they are keeping from each other about boyfriends, eating disorders, and more begin to undermine their relationships.

Where You End by Anna Pellicioli: Overwrought when she sees her ex-boyfriend with another girl during a class field trip, seventeen-year-old Miriam Feldman races into the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden and pushes over a priceless Picasso sculpture, then finds herself blackmailed by the mystery girl who saw what she did.

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker: Set in an alternative 16th-century England, Elizabeth Grey is the only girl in the king's elite group of witch hunters. When she's framed for being a witch herself, Elizabeth finds freedom at the hands of the world's most wanted wizard and her loyalties are tested. 

Continue reading...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Links of Note: June 14, 2015

It's been a long time since I've done a "This Week in Reading" post or a "Links of Note" post. Since I have been keeping so many of these links in Pocket for weeks (maybe months!), I thought it'd be worth a giant dump of them into a post. Most of these are book or reading related, but many aren't. They're things that have caught my eye or been interesting reads in their own right.

If you've read something interesting lately you think would be up my alley, which is pretty obvious from this collection, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

  • First: here's a teaser for the upcoming YA Quarterly Box I am curating for Book Riot. I LOVE this box so much. I managed to get three books inside it, along with two bookish items, and there will be exclusive content from the authors, as well. This will be well worth your $50. 

  • Did you know I'm working on a new project with librarians Faythe Arredondo, Hannah Gomez, and Angie Manfredi called Size Acceptance in YA? It's exactly what it sounds like.  

  • John Scalzi's post on what he is and isn't obliged to comment or write about has been on my mind a lot lately. I've made significant changes in my social media lately, and I continue to think about these decisions. Scalzi hit on some of the things I've been mulling over here.

  • The role of black dolls in American culture left me thinking about Addy from American Girl in ways I never had before. I have a complicated relationship with American Girl dolls in general, since I was a kid who could never have one because they were too expensive, but I remember Addy being my favorite when she was introduced. 

  • Speaking of writers without agents or contracts, I'm a judge for this year's Elephant Rock Books Sheehan Prize. If you have a completed YA manuscript, you might want to enter this. The last winner of this prize was Jessie Ann Foley, who went on to earn a Printz and Morris honor. 

  • I love this round-up of 84 films by and about women of color. "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" is one of the most enjoyable movies I've watched in a long time and features this scene which will never, EVER not be the best. This is a skateboarding vampire: 


  • This post talking about the evolution of the cover of Me and Earl and The Dying Girl ticks all of my boxes: cover design, image evolution, and the feelings artists hope to create in a book cover. So, so good

  • This is a very, very tough read about mental illness, social media, and about how we can present one image to the world while struggling with something miserable inside. I think, though, this is important reading, especially for anyone who knows or struggles with mental illness themselves. 

  • Finally, this piece about how horror movies are the one place where women are told their fears are real is SO good. I saw "It Follows" earlier this year, and this article sort of hit on why that movie really stuck with me and why it is I keep thinking about it. It's about fear, about the things that follow and haunt us, and about how society doesn't want to give credence to those very things that torment us. 

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