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Thursday, March 31, 2011

What have I gotten myself into?

  I recently found out I'm on the American Booksellers Assocation NEW VOICES of 2011 committee. The goal of the committee is to pick 10 middle grade and 10 young adult authors whose first book (in any genre) came out this year. 

It's just dawning on me what a momentous task this is. To be fair, I did agree, even volunteered, to do this. I thought "Hey, I read tons of books each year. I love discovering new talent to follow. This will be fun." But as the books have started trickling in, I'm seeing the future more clearly: This is going to be a lot of work.

I've started reading and so far so good. Let's see if I can keep up the pace AND continue reading some of my favorite authors who have books out this year too.

And speaking of keeping up, I finished the electronic version of Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Jennifer Choldenko. It was wonderful. So nice to visit Alcatraz again. This time, there are more convicts, more intensity, and we finally meet Al himself. As usual, Choldenko tells a good story that is both suspenseful, well-developed and accessible for kids of many ages.

Keep reading.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting Ahead of Myself

Sometimes it's difficult to keep time straight in the book buisiness. Often when I'm working on the shelves of new books, I have to stop and check the publication date on the computer. Why? Because the Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) arrived at the store 5-7 months prior to the publication date. That means I've seen it on our basement ARC shelves or my personal pile at home, may have read it, and have already discussed it with our sales rep. By the time it hits the actual shelf, it seems like it's an old book -- and I hear myself saying, "Why is this book on the NEW shelf still?"

I know this is going to be the case for the book I just finished. It's been on my personal pile since January and doesn't arrive until August.  THIS DARK ENDEAVOR: THE APPRENTICESHIP OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN by Kenneth Oppel is excellent. Basically, it's the prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but understanding the new book does not require having read the original. Oppel explores the possible events that led Frankenstein to take the horrific path he chooses as an adult. We get a glimpse of how his love for Elizabeth started and a hint of the monster's origianal identity.

I also finished THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson in electronic version. This was not my cup of tea. But this is not to say it wasn't a good book. I certainly found the writing to be superb. It's just that the audience is clearly teenage girls -- which I am definitely not. That said, it's clear the book deserved all the accolades it has received and all the buzz it garnered about possible awards.

Keep reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alan Gratz was Awesome!

Alan Gratz was at The Blue Marble!!!!

We had a such a great time with Alan this past Saturday, along with his wife Wendi. I love talking books with her. Anyone want to know whose book recommendations I take seriously? Wendi's are at the top of my list. And I finally got to meet the famous Jo Gratz -- their daughter. Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. What a bright, well-spoken, creative young lady.

While Alan signed pre-ordered books and stock, we chatted about his current book Fantasy Baseball, his upcoming Star Trek novel, and sadly, the shelved Hortio Wilkes series. Interestingly, Alan has a special stamp he puts on his series books, his Samurai Shortstop, and his two baseball books (Brooklyn Nine being the other one).

Thanks, Alan, for stopping by. Come visit us again.

Keep reading.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So Many Books....

The "buying season" is almost complete for the season, which is a good thing because my pile of advanced reading copies (ARCs) teeters on my dining room table. Some days the pile just reminds me of work, but most days I see it as a tremendous opportunity to explore new worlds.

I do try to keep up, and there are times when the pile gets shuffled if something new catches my eye, or there's a buzz about a new book coming out. That's what happened this week.

I became an instant fan of Tom Angleberger when The Strange Case of Origami Yoda came to my attention. Great book -- and something to give the Wimpy Kid fans who have exhausted their supply of reading materials. So, when Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery or Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset [Amulet, May 2011] arrived, I had to read it. From the beginning, there's humor - laugh out loud humor that kids will love -- along with a mystery and some great characters. This one's a keeper, for sure. And I hear there's a sequel to Yoda on it's way entitled Darth Paper.

And I finished another audio book, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan [Dutton]. Sometimes, I may skip a book simply because I know the topic or language in the first chapter will keep it off the shelves of teachers or librarians I work with. (Please don't holler censorship. These are people who must follow guidelines put out by school boards and districts. What they want and can do are often very different.And as much as I realize those kids may be missing out on some spectacular things because of those guidelines, I am well aware of how much those same kids would miss if they did not have these dedicated people in their lives.)

I read an excerpt of this book, and as much as I admired both writers, I knew the work wasn't for my clientele, and the book would have to wait until I got time to read it.

I'm glad I finally did get time. This book was awesome! Hilarious in many places. And heartbreaking in others. The characters are memorable (I too appreciate Tiny Cooper, for those of you who have read the book). And I was correct in knowing I couldn't sell it to my clientele. It does have a VERY generous helping language with liberal use of all the words that parents and others believe our kids have never heard or have ever used. That said, take some time and read/listen to this one. You won't be disappointed.

Keep reading.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Tis the Season

I don't know if many people realize there are "seasons" in the book publishing industry. Fall, Winter and Spring/Summer for most. Some publishers work on two seasons, but for the most part, there are three. And with them are author visit seasons too: Spring and Fall.

At the store, we have two more seasons as well for speaking/inservices/conferences. Late summer is when I go out to many schools and librarian gatherings to talk about new books. Fall, when many local conferences are in full swing, and Spring when, once again, local schools and organization do book fairs, reading events, and teachers become frantic for CEU's. If you notice, Spring and Fall seasons happen with all three. So now is a frantic time for me.

I'm reading every spare minute, trying to get caught up on all the books I missed in Advanced Reading Copies (and browsing picture books by the dozen as they arrive in the store), trying to get a jump start on the ARCs for the next season (we have them through October already in our storage area), and trying to keep up the with speaking engagements and new orders coming in for conferences and author visits.

It is because of this I decided to give the new Playaways a try. Now, I've never even owned a Walkman (dating myself here) yet alone an ipod, so I was a little reluctant. But last July I started a walking program, so I thought I'd give this new technology a chance. My first endeavor was Richard Peck's THREE QUARTERS DEAD. I have to admit, it made my hourly walks very enjoyable, and after several days, I had a new book I could talk about. BTW, this book takes Peck back to his roots as a writer. He started with teen thrillers and this one certainly is. Imagine your friends dying in car crash while one is on the phone with you. And months later you get a text from one of them. Enough said.

I don't think it will replace my typical reading habits -- there's something about a real book that makes reading worthwhile and important to me, but when I can't have a book, I think I'm going to like this alternative. And, it gives me a chance to catch up on the books I "missed" in previous seasons.

Speaking of author visit season, I get the opportunity to meet an author this Saturday whose work I've admired for several years now. I discovered him because his wife was our sales rep for another publisher. When she told me he had a book coming out, my curiosity was piqued. The title? Samurai Shortstop. The author? Alan Gratz. This book has one of the best first chapters I've ever read. Read this aloud to any group of kids, and you'll have a waiting list for the book. And, since then I've been impressed with everything he's put out.

This Saturday, he's stopping by the store (with his wife and daughter) to sign some stock, have a chat, and talk to whoever decides to drop by. If we're lucky, his new novel Fantasy Baseball will arrive in time for him to sign copies. Now, I've eaten lunch with Gary Schmidt, had a manuscript critiqued by Jerry Spinnelli, eaten dinner with Linda Sue Park, and even gotten a tattoo after a long conversation I had with Laurie Halse Anderson. So, you would think that this should be old hat for me, meeting a new author -- especially one whose wife is a friend, but I have to admit, I'm pretty stoked about his visit. He should be here some time around 2:30 in the afternoon. If you're in the area and would like to meet him, do stop in and say hi.

If you can't, I'm sure I'll be letting you know how it went soon.

In the meantime, keep reading.