Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mark’s 2012 Wrap-up

Mom,

I too will not finish any books today, so here’s my year end summary.

Statistics

  • Books Read in 2012: 303
  • Books Read in 2011: 165
  • Books Read in 2010: 115
  • Books Read in 2009: 144
  • Books Read in 2008: 132
  • Books Read in 2007: 136
  • Books Read in 2006: 71
  • Books Read in 2005: 35
  • Books Read in 2004: 95

In addition to the 303 books I read, I reread 15 titles this year.  As you can see, this year was a pretty staggering one for me, in large part because I set out (around March) to see if I could keep up the reading load that would be required for being on the Printz or Newbery committee.  I think I passed.  Next year will in all likelihood be back down in the 100s, for my own and my wife’s sanity.

Average read per month: 26.5
Average read per week: 6
Number read in worst month: 18 (May)
Number read in best month: 33 (July)
Percentage by male authors: 49.4% (157)
Percentage by female authors: 50.6% (161)
Nonfiction as a percentage of the total: 22.6% (72)
Fiction as a percentage of the total: 77.4% (246)
Books published in 2012 or 2013: 160 Continue reading

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End of the Year Wrap-Up

Mark,

Although I have several more books I’m currently reading, I think it is highly unlikely that I will finish any more books today. So, here is my end-of-the-year reading wrap-up:

Total  Books Read in 2012 132
Total Books Read in 2011 105
Total Books read in 2010 101
Total Books read in 2009 118
Total Books read in 2008 100
Total Books read in 2007 107
Total Books read in 2006 114
Total Books read in 2005 138
Total Books read in 2004 134

As you can see, 2012 was a good reading year for me, due in no small part to this blog. Of the 132 books, I read 59 of them in September, October, November, and December, trying to keep up with you and to have plenty to say for this blog. By the way, the totals don’t count my re-reads, and there were several of those, mostly for the purposes of blogging about them.

So here are a few statistics for the year:

2012:
Average read per month: 11
Average read per week: 2.5
Number read in worst month: 4 (March)
Number read in best month: 20 (December)
Percentage by male authors: 28% (37)
Percentage by female authors: 72% (95)
Nonfiction as a percentage of the total: 11% (14)
Fiction as a percentage of the total: 89% (118)

Hmm . . . I thought I had read more nonfiction than that. I did start a few nonfiction books that I never finished, and I didn’t count those. Continue reading

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Ask the Passengers, My Take

Mark,

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to take another look at Ask the Passengers and to respond to your friend’s criticisms. On the whole, I don’t agree with the criticisms, although I suppose each one has a kernel of reality to it. So let’s go through them:

1) assumptions about the characters’ relationships:  I am perfectly willing to accept Kristina and Astrid’s relationship without a lot of “show.” They’ve known one another since they were ten, and they have that easy familiarity that works for me. I see the point more with Astrid and Dee, but here again, it felt real to me. I think that a big piece of Astrid’s attraction to Dee was the sexual piece. This felt very accurately teenaged to me: Astrid is strongly attracted to Dee, she’s excited about the whole idea of who Dee is, and her sexual attraction to her, but at the same time, she wants to slow things down and know more about her. They do have interactions–singing in the kitchen, making up their own language, etc.–that shows there’s more of a connection there. Frankly, I don’t believe this is a relationship that, in real life, would last more than a few months, but it still feels real for what it is. I remember high school relationships like this, that were more about the excitement and the moment than real, lasting friendship.

2) “false starts’: I don’t get this criticism at all. Josh and Kristina are central to the book, in that they are the ones who get Astrid to Atlantis, which is what breaks open the plot. Also, I disagree that either Kristina or Josh disappears from the story. Kristina is always part of it–even when her part of it is that she has essentially abandoned Astrid and then, it turns out, lied about her. Josh is always there mainly as a companion to Kristina, and not as a direct friend to Astrid, so that also didn’t bother me (and he does show up again at the end). Continue reading

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Problems with Ask the Passengers?

Mom,

ask passengersA close friend of mine just finished AS King’s Ask the Passengers, and while she generally liked it she had a number of criticisms of the novel. Since we both liked it very much (I think you said it was one of your top two for the Printz) I thought I should bring her concerns to this blog. In general, they center around the complaint that the novel was inconsistent in its treatment of various characters and situations (disclaimer: these are my words, trying to capture my understanding of my friend’s ideas–I’m sure I have lost nuances of her arguments in the translation):

1) King makes too many assumptions about the characters’ relationships with each other.  This amounts to a show-not-tell question. Thus, we are told that Kristina is Astrid’s best friend, and that Dee and Astrid have a great relationship, but most of what goes on in the novel involves Astrid’s very strained relationships with these characters.  Did King show us enough of why Astrid would like these two in the first place?

2) There are several “false starts” to the story.  The particular one my friend mentioned was that the opening chapters led the reader to believe that Kristina and Josh would be central to the book, but then Kristina vanishes for the whole middle section, and Josh disappears entirely.  I think there was more to this criticism, but this was the example I remember. Continue reading

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My Mock Printz List, plus notes on nonfiction writing

Mom,

Well, as you know, my own list of Printz-predicition failure goes back to your own Printz committee in 2004 when I summarily dismissed The First Part Last.  The last few years I have been sure that Wintergirls (2010), Last Summer of the Death Warriors and Before I Fall (2011), and Everybody Sees the Ants (2012) were among the best books of their years, and none of those four got even an honor.

So.  I’ve read or abandoned 48 of Someday’s list of contendas, and I think it has been an unusually strong year for YA Literature. There are probably at least 20 books that I would not be surprised to see win the Printz this year (not to say I’d be happy about all of them, just that I wouldn’t be surprised).  If I were holding my own Mock Printz, I would include many of the same titles as you: Ask the Passengers, Bomb, Brides of Rollrock Island, Chopsticks, Code Name Verity, and Seraphina for sure.  Since I do think the year has been so strong, I would probably choose my final four a bit more for discussion’s sake, than strictly as the best titles of the year.

  • hadesDrama or Hades: Lord of the Dead. I haven’t actually read Drama, but I’ve heard good things and I would really like to get a graphic novel into the discussion, especially to play off of the very different graphic technique of ChopsticksJonathan Hunt briefly discussed Hades’s possibilities as a Newbery contender, but I think it has a better chance (though still practically zero) at the Printz, where the art can be discussed.  Wendy Burton has said she didn’t care for the art, and obviously that would be a huge part of the discussion, but personally I loved the art, and the whole construction of the book.  Continue reading

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Back to Printz Thoughts

Mark,

Now that I’ve cleansed my palate and planned my early 2013 reading, and now that all the 2012 books have been published, it’s time to muse again about the Printz Award.

I should state here for the record that I have a fairly spectacularly bad record of predicting Printz winners (I still think E.R. Frank’s America was robbed back in 2003, but hey, what do I know?). Sometimes, after the award is announced, I can look at the book, and look at the committee members, and say, “Yeah, I can see how those particular people chose that particular book,” but as for predicting . . . nah. There have been several years when I hadn’t even heard of the book that won (White Darkness, anyone? Jellicoe Road?). Continue reading

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More to Look for in 2013

Mom,

Great list of titles.  I’m especially excited about the Sheinkin and the Flinn – Rapunzel is one of my favorite fairy tales for retelling because it has so much subtext that repays closer examination.  Looking ahead to 2013 is pretty easy for me, since as I mentioned last week, I’ve already begun reading some 2013 titles. So, before I get to the books I’m looking forward to, here are a few I’ve already read which I strongly recommend:

  • 17 and goneNova Ren Suma, 17 & Gone (Dutton). I was one who adored Suma’s Imaginary Girls, but thought it had some major flaws that kept it from perfection. This time around, Suma fixes her flaws with plot and balance and creates another gorgeously evocative story of grief and loss.
  • Margo Lanagan, Yellowcake (Knopf).  Another story collection from Lanagan. Pay special attention to the story “Catastrophic Disruption of the Head” (great title) which simply demolishes Hans Chrisian Andersen’s (incredibly creepy) fairy tale “The Tinderbox”. “Catastrophic Disruption” is probably the best thing I’ve read all year, and the rest of the collection doesn’t disappoint either.
  • Yellowcake cover[1]Alan Bradley, Speaking From Among the Bones (Delacorte). I think I missed a couple of Flavia de Luce books in there, and I’m not sure that it much matters since they are pretty formulaic, but I love them to death anyway, and this one was no disappointment.
  • Jonathan Kirsch, The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris (Liveright).  I’m reviewing this one for Adult Books 4 Teens. It’s a riveting account of a young Polish-German Jew who assassinated a low-level Nazi Diplomat in 1938, an assassination which the Nazis used to justify Kristallnacht, just two days later. Ever since, no one has quite known what to make of Grynszpan, and Kirsch does an amazing job of untangled the web of conspiracy theories, gossip, and propaganda that has stuff to Grynszpan for the last 70 years.

And a book just for you:

  • Peter Meltzer, So You Think You Know Baseball?: A Fan’s Guide to the Official Rules (Norton).  An intensely nerdy book which uses real life examples to quiz the reader on the proper application of the rules of baseball. For this baseball fan, it was pure heaven.

The number one book I’m looking forward to that I haven’t read is Laurie Halse Anderson’s Ashes, the conclusion to the Seeds of America trilogy. It was supposed to come out this year, but it appears to have been pushed back to February.

Others:

  • hysteriaMegan Miranda, Hysteria (Walker). This book just got a 5Q/5P VOYA review, and I have an egalley all lined up. Can’t wait.
  • Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor and Park (Griffin). Starred review in PW and 5Q in VOYA. Looks like a straight-forward realistic romance, but apparently a great one.
  • Marcus Sedgwick, Midwinterblood (Roaring Brook). I’ve never completely adored a Sedgwick book, but I greatly admired Revolver, White Crow, and the Book of Dead Days, so I’ll be looking for this one.
  • Cory Doctorow, Homeland (Tor). Surprised you didn’t mention this one, as you’re always a big Doctorow fan.
  • Six_Gun_Snow_White_by_Catherynne_M_Valente-200x311Catherynne Valente. Six-Gun Snow White (Subterraean). PW gave this a star, and it’s written by the always imaginative Valente, but honestly, I’m looking forward to this based on the title alone.

I’m sure there are many more books that I’m dying to read that I haven’t thought of or don’t realize are coming out.  When’s the next Diviners book?  The sequel to Seraphina?  What else are our readers looking forward to?

– Mark

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Looking Ahead to 2013

Mark,

As the year is winding down, I’m starting to look ahead to 2013, and thinking about what books are coming out that I’m particularly looking forward to seeing. Here’s my first batch of must-reads for the new year:

I’m really looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins. This is the companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. This is due out from Dutton, tentatively set for May 7.  I know I’m not alone in loving Perkins’ way with words and her delightful romantic characters, so this will be a hot book in 2013.

This next one is a bit uncertain, but here’s the word from Garth Nix’s website:
“I’m writing CLARIEL: THE LOST ABHORSEN at the moment. It is set about 300 years before the events of SABRIEL, in an extremely settled era of the Old Kingdom, where is almost no threat from the Dead or Free Magic, and the Abhorsens are considered something between an archaic remnant of worse times and municipal rat-catchers. Clariel will probably be a 2013 release.”

I may have to reread the Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen trilogy before the new one comes out–but perhaps not, since this one occurs earlier. But anyway–a new Garth Nix high fantasy–Yay!

This next one is coming soon: Steve Sheinkin’s Lincoln’s Grave Robbers (Scholastic, January). AfterLincoln The Notorious Benedict Arnold and Bomb, I am a Steve Sheinkin fangirl, so I’m very excited about this one. This is a story I’m not at all familiar with, but apparently in 1875-76, grave robbers really did attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body from its tomb in Springfield, Illinois. From what I know (without reading Sheinkin’s book), the grave robbers were fairly inept, but also security was fairly lax, so this has the possibility of being both exciting and humorous. Can’t wait!

I was a big fan of Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson, a 2007 Newbery Honor book. In February, Delacorte will release the sequel, Hattie Ever After, hattieand I’ve already requested it from Netgalley, so I’m looking forward to reading this one soon.  World War I is over, and Hattie, now that she is no longer tied to her uncle’s homestead, wants to become a reporter, like Nellie Bly, so she’s headed for San Francisco. I love the cover art, with her stylish clothes and the cable car in the background. Continue reading

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Mark’s Palate Cleansers

Mom,

Interesting question. I definitely get a little overwhelmed by constantly reading with my critic’s eyes, especially this year as I’ve been trying to juggle my reading for VOYA, SLJ (including my new duties as co-editor of Adult Books 4 Teens), and participation in Someday My Printz Will Come and Heavy Medal, plus this blog.  So there’s definitely been more than one time when I’ve felt burned out on reading.

film-adaptation-james-naremoreSo how do I cleanse my palate?  It might seem strange to some, but my go-to palate cleanser is almost always nonfiction.  Nonfiction, especially adult nonficton that I’m not planning on reviewing, engages such different parts of my brain that it really helps to clear my thoughts of all the different fictional worlds I’m trying to remember.  What kind of nonfiction?  As you know, some of my primary non-book interests are music, movies, and baseball–over the years I’ve grown fairly bored with reading about music (except anything that Robert Christgau writes), but I love reading about baseball and movies.  Anything by Jonathan Rosenbaum or James Naremore on film is great. I like these two because (although Rosenbaum still writes some short reviews) their longform work is more analytical and holistic, not endless lists of best movies or whatever.  James Naremore’s book Film Adaptation is a big favorite of mine. 

On baseball, again, I like the more analytical stuff based in Sabermetrics – so the Baseball Prospectus books, or a really great book (which I actually did end up deciding to review, but read just for pleasure) called So You Think You Know Baseball by Peter Melzer which goes through all of the arcane rules of baseball by means of crazy plays that have actually happened in baseball games. 

sanford_levinson_bookI also read a fair number of  books about political science and law.  Classic Richard Hofstadter or Kenneth Stampp, newer stuff by Glenn Greenwald, William Stuntz, Sandy Levinson, Jack Balkin, and others.  Most all of these are pretty dramatically into left-wing politics, which is another interest of mine.

I’m sure many of our readers will find this list a bit bizarre–I cleanse my palate of children’s and YA books by reading four and five hundred page political science books?  But as I said, they are helpful for me to stretch my brain in a different way.  Also, I tend to take my time with these books in a way that I don’t let myself with YA titles which I read fast and hard so I can get on to the next one. 

Good question, though–anyone else have something they use to cleanse their palates?

– Mark

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Palate Cleansers

Mark,

Sometimes I just need to take a break from issues, and serious themes, and heavy literary style, and 500-page bricks of wonderful world-building fantasy and just read some fluff to cleanse my palate, so to speak. I’m in one of those places now. I looked at my stack of still-to-be-read Printz contenders, and Morris Finalists, and Nonfiction finalists, and I just couldn’t. I have been reading so many books this year, especially since we started this blog, with my “Printz eyes” that I felt I was only reading “important” books.

Also, I was looking at Kirkus’s top 100, and noticing books that were good but not great, and I suddenly realized I was being a bit harsh in my judgments (“Not Printz quality. Ergo not good.”)  I’ve read a lot of the books on that list, and if I were still working in a library, I would definitely use it to help with collection development (although–no Bomb? On a 100 best books of the year list? Seriously?)

Most often if I want fluff, I’ll look for a good old romance. I find that I am drawn to contemporary realistic fiction, and in the mood I’m in now, the less heavy the themes, the better, although I can also enjoy a good cry, as you’ll see below.

So, looking back over the past year, here are some not-bad books I have read and enjoyed: Continue reading

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