Thursday, March 31, 2011

Natanya Reviews Obasan, by Joy Kogawa

Title/Author: Obasan, by Joy Kogawa
Publisher/Year: Random House, 1981
How I got it: Amazon
Why I read it: For my Comparative American Literatures course

Maybe it’s because I’m an American, or maybe it’s because the times I’ve been up there have been for vacation, but I have a very romanticized view of Canada. Growing up in Seattle, I spent a decent amount of time three hours away in Vancouver, BC. In fact, I’ve decided (upon discovering the sizeable book publishing industry there) that I want to ultimately live in Vancouver, which, conveniently, is rated by Businessweek as the #3 “most livable” city in the world. What I never really knew, though, was the history of Vancouver (or BC in general). I still don’t know much about it, but Joy Kogawa’s Obasan opened me up to a history I barely even knew existed—that of the Japanese Canadians during WWII. I initially assumed, like most people I’ve spoken to, that the US’s treatment of Japanese at this time was far worse than the Canadian treatment. I was wrong. While the Japanese Americans were protected by our Bill of Rights, the Japanese Canadians had no such constitutional protections. Unlike in the US, the Japanese Canadians’ land was seized and sold by the government, they were forced to pay for their own food and housing once interned, families were broken up, and, perhaps the worst part, they weren’t allowed to return to the coast of British Columbia until 1949, a full 4 years after the end of WWII.

Kogawa’s Obasan tells the story of the Japanese Canadians through the eyes of Naomi, who was a young child at the time, and her aunt. Kogawa uses various narratives, including Naomi as an adult struggling with her tragic past, Naomi’s memories from her childhood, her aunt’s diary entries from the 40s, and various government letters. I’m not much of a historical fiction person, but I found this novel so interesting, probably because it’s so real—Joy Kogawa is a Nisei, or a second generation Japanese Canadian, and Obasan is based on her own experiences. I loved the varying perspectives, and had little trouble distinguishing between them—Kogawa pieced the different narratives together beautifully to create a poetic and haunting novel.

This is by no means a fast novel, but I found it continuously engaging and beautiful. It is worth taking your time to read. I unfortunately had to read it in 2 days for class, but I really wish I had been able to spend longer on this deep, moving, and heartbreaking piece of literature. While it is not a book I would ever have even thought of reading if it weren’t for my class, I am so glad I got the chance to read it and learn from it.

4.5 stars

[P.S. You may know of my obsession with Margaret Atwood. Well, this week I GOT TO MEET HER! She did a reading at my university, and then I attended a Q&A the following morning (and got her signature!). She's amazing. Keep an eye out for a post about that in the next few weeks! :) ]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jen Talks About Food & Beverages While Reading

When I read I also need to have some type of beverage beside me.  Reading makes me thirsty I guess?  If I start my book with no drink I can't concentrate until I have something to quench my thirst.  Even though there have been many times that I've been so engrossed in a book my beverage was completely ignored.  So my hot drink became cold and my iced drink turned watery and room temperature.

Lately, my "reading" drink of choice has been tea.  I've been sipping green tea or white tea while reading.  Since the majority of my reading done at night, a book and some tea is a great way to unwind from a busy day.

But as the seasons change so does my choice of "reading" beverages.  During those lazy days of summer I love reading at the beach or by the pool with a glass of lemonade or unsweetened ice tea.  In the cooler fall months I usually prefer apple cider or a hot vanilla chai.  In the winter (after shoveling massive amounts of snow), I sit curled up with a blanket, a book, and a cup of dark hot chocolate.

Now eating...I like to snack but I usually don't eat while reading.  I find it to be too inconvenient.  Unless it's something small like crackers, a granola bar or my favorite Easter candy (Cadbury Mini Eggs anyone?).  But there have been a handful of times that I've eaten a meal while reading. For example, I had about fifty pages left in Perfect Fifths but I was starving (seriously though, my stomach was making obnoxious 'feed me now' noises).  Luckily, there were leftovers to quickly heat up because I didn't want to put the book down for long.  That's been one of the few times I've ate while reading.  Although I think I got more reading done than eating.

I want to know if you eat or drink while enjoying a book, or are you afraid of crumbs and spills?  Do you read while eating a meal or just during snacks?  For drinks do you use a regular glass or are you so concerned about a potential spill your cup has a lid? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Jessi's Top Ten Authors That Deserve More Recognition

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers’ answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND post a comment on our post with a link to your Top Ten Tuesday post to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. 
If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!

This week's topic: 
Top Ten Authors That Deserve More Recognition
Click here to see the future Top Ten Tuesday schedule. Next week Capillya from That Cover Girl is tackling top ten book covers you wish you could redesign (doesn't even have to be because you don't like it...just maybe if you have a cool idea for it!)

We all have our favorite authors--mine including J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. But what about those favorite authors of yours that people don't recognize when you mention them? We all have those authors who we LOVE but for whatever reason aren't as well-known. And here are mine: 

1. Louise Erdrich: I have now ready several of her books, and each one of them blows me away. She writes so poetically and beautifully. It sounds corny, but she is what I like to consider a "soul read." Her books are just so beautiful. 

2. Jeanne Birdsall: I read The Penderwicks over this past summer and fell in love. It was one of those books that I know I would have loved as a kid. It's up there with Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, and I'm surprised that more people haven't read it and fell in love. 

3. Howard Bahr: For the history buffs out there (specifically Civil War history buffs), it blows my mind that Bahr is not mentioned along the likes of Jeff Shaara. I read a few of his books and found them both historically accurate and completely engaging. 

4. Juliet Marillier: Besides Louise Erdrich, Juliet Marillier is probably the author I most frequently push onto people. Seriously, if you haven't read Wildwood Dancing, go read it--now. She crafts an incredible tale. Why she is not more recognized, I'll never know. 

5. Kathleen Grissom: To be fair, Kathleen Grissom is a new author with only one book out there. But I was blown away by her book The Kitchen House. She is one to keep an eye on and one who certainly deserves recognition! 

6. Beth Hoffman: Oh, dear Beth deserves so much recognition. Now, her first novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt sparked a lot of attention, and she certainly deserves it for that. (It was really good--go read it!) But I also think she deserves recognition for being on of the friendliest authors I have ever interacted with! 
7. Chris Crutcher: Ahh, Chris Crutcher. He's another author that I push a lot. If you enjoy YA, and you're looking for something real and thought-provoking, I highly recommend him. His books are up there with The Perks of Being a Wallflower but for some reason, not many people have heard of him. 

8. Mildred D. Taylor: She wrote one of my very favorite childhood books and one of my favorite books that I read for school--Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I remember being really moved by it as a kid, and I'm surprised more people haven't heard of it.  

9. Robert C. O'Brien: He wrote another one of my favorite childhood books: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH For fans of books like Charlotte's Web, Ralph the Mouse or other "animal" books, I highly recommend this. He deserves more recognition for this wonderful book! 

10. Galway Kinnell. Switching things up a bit--he is one of my favorite poets, but he doesn't seem to be that well-known. He came to speak at my college when I was a freshman, and he was incredibly well-spoken. He's another "soul read" for me, and I'm surprised he isn't more recognized! 


Monday, March 28, 2011

Heather reviews Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Bad Girls Don't DieBook: Bad Girls Don't Die
Author: Katie Alender
Publisher/Published: Hyperion, 2009
How I got this book: bought a copy at Borders
Why I read this book: I read some good reviews and thought it looked interesting
Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary (from Goodreads): When Alexis's little sister Kasey becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own Goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in. Kasey is changing, too. Her blue eyes go green and she speaks in old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time.
Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey's shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister — but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?

My thoughts: Bad Girls Don't Die was one of those completely unputdownable books. It has the appeal of a classic ghost story with plenty of twists and turns in the plot. Our protagonist, Alexis, is somewhat of a self-proclaimed outcast at school and is notorious for causing trouble. Her parents don't pay much attention to her and her younger sister has been acting stranger everyday. When weird, unexplainable things start happening in their big, haunted looking house, Alexis begins to suspect the paranormal.

I've always loved scaring myself with ghost stories but it's been awhile since I've read one that really got me spooked. There is almost nothing creepier to me than a doll that comes to life or a child that is possessed. A child possessed by an evil spirit living in a tattered doll hidden somewhere in a creepy old house? It's like Alender looked into my worst nightmares. Needless to say I read Bad Girls Don't Die with the lights on and was spooked by every little noise I heard. I kept thinking about the old American Girl doll I have back at home in my closet and how I was really glad it wasn't at my apartment with me because I would probably have to throw it in the trash!

The characters also had more depth than a lot of the paranormal books I've read. Alexis hung out with the goth kids at school but didn't really fit in anywhere. It was refreshing to read about such a smart main character. I also felt a connection to her because of her interest in photography. It's always nice to read a book about such a likable character. Megan, the popular cheerleader, also turned out to be so much more than just a ditzy teenager and the friendship that develops between the two of them is really interesting. Kasey seemed like a realistic 13 year old girl struggling to hold onto her childhood. Despite her sister's odd behavior, Alexis is still very protective of her, even when she discovers Kasey is not really Kasey anymore. I loved that even though they weren't the picture perfect family, there was still such a sense of family values. Alexis is one of the most level headed characters I've read about.

Bad Girls Don't Die also stood out from other paranormal young adult books because there wasn't an overwhelming amount of sex. There was the flirtatious relationship between Alexis and Carter but it felt more realistic to the way high school romances often play out. It took some time for them to get to know each other and they had their share of setbacks. I love that Alender used a minimal amount of romance and was able to focus on the paranormal aspect of the story.

There is a sequel to Bad Girls Don't Die that will be released later this year. I'm interested to see the direction Alender takes the second novel and will definitely be running out to grab it right away. If you enjoy a well written ghost story, I highly recommend this!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Daisy's Review of Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title/Author: Wither (Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Publisher/Date published: March 22nd 2011 by Simon & Schuster
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley
Why I read this book: are you kidding me? This book sounds totally awesome. YOU should read it.

Goodreads summary: "What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb — males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape — to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left."

So, the whole blogging world is buzzing about this book. Or at least the ones I've read lately. And with good reason, I might add. This book is a stunning debut. Reading this, I should have been looking for a topic for my evidence-based-medicine paper (while writing this review, I should be finishing said paper). But I just could not force myself away from this book, and not just because I don't like writing EBM-related papers. It was really amazing.

The world DeStefano has created is horrifying. Though cancer is a thing of the past thanks to genetic manipulation, you now only live to see the age of 20 if you're a girl, and 25 is you're a guy. The whole idea of a virus being triggered and killing you (pretty horribly might I add) is definitely scary and not so unimaginable for a med student like me.

A big effect of this, which I hadn't thought of, is that most kids loose their parents when they're 6 years old (if they're lucky, cause that would mean your mother had you at 14). Most kids live on the streets, stealing to make a living. Can you imagine being 5 or 6 and having to look after yourself? I was tucked into bed and read a bedtime story at that age.

The relationship between Rhine and her two sister-wives is very complicated and amazing. I loved how both the other wives had their own voice and were really fleshed out characters. Rhine is a strong girl herself and really just wants to go back to her twin brother, who I hope we'll get to meet in the next book.
Linden, the husband, is a confusing character and so naive I wanted to slap him on the back of the head sometimes. Seriously.
His dad is totally creepy and seems evil, though I get that he wants to do everything in his power to make sure his son will survive.

The romance isn't over the top and while it's there, Rhine doesn't let her universe revolve around it. Which is pretty nice in my opinion. I thought the whole thing was very sweet and would love to see it develop further in the series.

All in all, I thought this book was amazing and it nearly brought me to tears due to something I won't mention, cause I don't want to spoil anything. But in case you want to know, light up the following:
Jenna's death. So, so sad!

Oh, and have I mentioned the cover love I have for this one? The details are incredible (the ring, the bird).
Go read it. Now. I promise it's not overly hyped. It's hyped just right.

My rating: 5 stars

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kimberly Reviews Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney + Giveaway!

Kimberly’s Review of Dark Mirror by
M.J. Putney

Book: Dark Mirror
Author: M.J. Putney
How I got it: From the publisher!
Why I read it: The plot intrigued me, and when it was offered to me I took it!
Ok, first of all. I really like the cover. I like the colors and the muted tone, and the image of the girl.
Here is a plot summary that I stole from Goodreads.
“Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.
Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.
When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.
But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.”

This book really pulled me into the story. I kept sneaking a page here and there while I was supposed to be working. (Shhh!) The book was completely new to me, as was the author, and yet there was something about the characters that made me feel like I was on the third or fourth book in a series. Within a few chapters I felt like I knew each of the characters, when they said or did things it just made sense. Everything the characters did felt natural to me.The story has plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed. I was NOT expecting some of the stuff that happened, but I liked it!

However, there were a few points in the book where I felt like the characters accepted what was happening too easily. The ‘taint’ of magic and the way that some of the characters felt about it was a little too much, but at the same time the author needed to establish how people felt about magic early on, so it was important. It was just that occasionally I felt like saying “really? Did you really have to say it like that?” But more often than not I was too interested in what was happening to even notice stuff like that.

Overall, a great read. It’s been a while since I’ve been so pulled into a book, I finished it in about a week. Considering that I’m taking 8 classes and working 40 hours a week, that’s a short amount of time for me!
4.5 Stars!

The publisher has kindly given us a copy of Dark Mirror to give away to one of you lovelies! Please leave a comment below with a way to get in contact with you  (email, Twitter, blog, etc.). US only. This giveaway will end April 1st.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jessi Reviews "The House of the Scorpion"

Title/Author: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer 
Publisher/Year: Atheneum Books, 2002
How I Got This: From my local library! 
Why I Read It: My good friend highly recommended it to me 
Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis: At his coming-of-age party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón's bodyguard, "How old am I? ... I know I don't have a birthday like humans, but I was born." 

"You were harvested," Tam Lin reminds him. "You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her." 

To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. But for El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium--a strip of poppy field lying between the U.S. and what was once called Mexico--Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA. 

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister, grasping cast of characters, including El Patrón's power-hungry family. He is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards and by the mindless slaves of Opium, brain-deadened 'eejits' who toil in the poppy fields. 

Escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect. Around every turn in this vivid, futuristic adventure is a new, heart-stopping surprise.

After hearing good things about this book from a friend, I decided to give it a try. Now, I'm not much for science fiction, so I was surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. This book is more dystopian than science fiction, which is probably why I loved it. Farmer paints a feasible and slightly disconcerting picture of North America a ways down the road from now. This novel actually was difficult to read for me in a few places--not for language or anything, but because of the subject matter. Farmer presented an excellent moral question to her readers regarding the humanity of clones and their treatment. Granted, we haven't cloned humans yet, but the situation that Farmer creates is not so farfetched that it is unbelievable.

On the contrary, it is not difficult to imagine humans down the road wanting to clone for organ harvest. But clones aren't just clones--they're humans too, which raises the interesting moral questions that Farmer touched upon. Matt's treatment at times was heartwrenching to read, but to me that just proved that Farmer knows how to write. This novel had a bit of a slow start for me, if only because the beginning was difficult to read. After that, the novel was an absolute page-turner for me. The only thing that bothered about the novel was the whole Lost Boys plot towards the end. I don't know if it was just me, but it seemed very jarring. It all arose out of seemingly nowhere, and it seemed as though Farmer just threw it in there for the hell of it. Not that it was particularly bad, but it just didn't seem to go with the way the rest of the novel had been going. Overall, though, this novel was the best YA novel I've read in a long time--since A Northern Light actually. I'd highly recommend to fans of YA or fans of dystopic novels.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tahleen reviews: "Angelfire" by Courtney Allison Moulton

Title: Angelfire
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperTeen), 2011
How I got it: The publisher provided a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ★★½

Ellie considers herself to be a normal girl, nothing too out of the ordinary. She is not the best in school but tries her hardest, has a group of close friends, and enjoys going out and having fun. But she has been having the strangest nightmares for weeks, and there's a strange guy hanging around her school who seems interested in her. Then, on the eve of her 17th birthday, her worst  nightmares come to life.

It turns out she is the Preliator, the biggest defense Heaven has against Hell. She is destined to hunt reapers, monsters that drag human souls to hell, a job she has had for centuries and has died for countless times, always coming back in another life. The strange tattooed guy she's been seeing around her school is her Guardian, Will, who has known her for 500 years. But it seems like this life, as Ellie, is different from her past ones; according to Will, she is more human than she has ever been, and she is having a harder time remembering her past lives. Plus, a deeper evil exists that could to destroy Ellie forever—if it awakens.

The concept for this book is a good one. Mystery surrounds Ellie, her past, and what she is, something not even Will is sure of. She can destroy demons with an awesome set of blades that can light on fire (angelfire, a special kind that won't burn anyone except demonic reapers) when she wishes it. There is forbidden romance. On paper, it looks pretty good, but the execution was not particularly spectacular.

Despite the book's length (the ARC has just over 450 pages), I felt like there was too much crammed in too fast. Much of the worldbuilding was done through dialogue via Will, though Ellie would have the occasional flashback, which I wish there had been more of. Those were much more interesting than listening to Will explain everything. It's clear Moulton knows her world well, but it all felt rushed and confusing.

The writing was a bit clunky, as well. There were a lot of cliches, and certain phrases and words were used far too often, especially "my heart sank," and there was a lot of perking up and scoffing going on. It got to the point that I winced whenever I saw one of those phrases.

There was a lot of materialism in the book, in the form of consumption and name-dropping, especially with cars, that seemed very out of place. Ellie comes from wealth, as do her friends, and this is made abundantly clear throughout the book. The gross consumerism was just a hair shy of the fantasies that can be found in series like Gossip Girl and Blue Bloods—the consumption in those books are deliberately over the top and fun to read about, but here it just seemed unnecessary and forced.

Some people will find Ellie and Will's relationship romantic, especially fans of forbidden paranormal romance. Though I found it tiring and got bored with the long descriptions of how Will looks and the way he makes Ellie feel, I'm sure there will be at least some swooning over Will by others.

But despite all the negative aspects of the book, it was certainly a page-turner. There were a lot of action scenes that kept me interested, and the mysteries of who each character might be made me want to keep reading to find out what I could.

Overall, I don't think there is anything particularly special about Angelfire. It's a typical paranormal romance with a mixture of folklore, mythology and Biblical influences. The action makes it a page-turner, but I found myself skimming and not missing a whole lot. I'm not sure I'll pick up the sequels, but this book will find a number of fans because of its inclusion in an increasingly popular subgenre.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves With Ginger From GReads!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

This week the LOVELY Ginger from GReads is doing a guest post Top Ten Tuesday about her top ten bookish pet peeves because we ran into a jam here on the blog this week with Top Ten Tuesday and Ginger volunteered to step  up so I could have this for you all in a timely manner :)

Next week-- Top Ten Authors That Deserve More Recognition

1. Happy Endings.  Wait, before you think I am some depressed person I am referring to the overly cheesy cliche happy endings.  I like to read books that are real & guess what's not real?  Happy endings.  Ok so maybe I do sound a bit depressed lol.

2. Whiny Characters.  Nothing annoys me more when the MC goes off on tangents, whining about off topic subject matters.  Stick with the story people! & quit your griping!

3. Too Much Detail.  I tend to lose interest in a story when an author describes a shirt for 3 pages.  I'd like to know what the shirt looks like, but I don't necessarily need to understand the shirt's feelings.

4. Grammatical Errors.  Yes, I understand we are all human & mistakes can be made.  But it bugs me when I find words misspelled, or the wrong use of punctuation while I am reading.  And before anyone starts to critique this blog post, I never claimed to be a published author :-)

5.  Plot Holes.  I find it frustrating when I am reading & just when I start to immerse myself in a story, the plot shifts to something else & I am left completely hanging on what just happened.  Finish one thought before jumping to the next.

6. Smelly Books.  I purchase all my books & sometimes I go the cheap way & buy from used bookstores, which there is nothing wrong with.  When the book arrives smelling like stale cigarette smoke & garlic, then there's all kinds of things wrong with it.

7. 10,000 Books Series.  Ok so I have never heard of a series being that long, but one of my pet peeves is when a story gets dragged on forever & ever.  I feel compelled to read it though because I want to know how it ends.  But do I really have to go through all 847 books first?

8. Unidentifiable Genres.  Yes, this has happened to me before.  I thought I was reading a contemporary piece & then all of a sudden there were talks of vampires.  I'm sorry, what?  That just ruined the whole story for me & I was completely lost after that.

9. Hyped-Up Books.  I love twitter & I love my bookish friends.  But when a new book gets SO much hype, it tends to make me want to wait awhile before I read it.  It's like the shiny new toy that everyone wants, but I'll just hang out in the background with the used beat up toys for a bit ;-)

10. Readers/Reviewers Who Love Every Book.  No you don't.  Don't be afraid to have a negative opinion about a book.  Isn't that what we're here for? to be honest?  You can be respectful & tasteful & still not like a book.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kelly's Review of "Jane Austen: A Life Revealed"

Title: Jane Austen: A Life Revealed
Author: Catherine Reef
Published: Clarion Books, April 2011
Where I Got It:

Jane Austen may be the author of easily one of the most popular novels of all time, but how much to her readers actually know about her? In my case, not much. Sure, I knew a few things about her, such as that fact that she never married, and....well, that's it.

After finishing Jane Austen, this is in no way true anymore. Catherine Reef's book, while favoring a younger audience, is extremely well written, interesting, and very  informative. The book covers Jane's entire life and almost every aspect of it: her upbringing, schooling, parents, siblings, young love, sickness, and of course, her writing. All of her novels are summarized rather extensively; I initially thought this was an unnecessary part to the story, but the author lets the summarizations connect to Jane's life and the modern movie adaptions are also visited.

Now we all know that every single one of her six novels focus on young women whose economic and social future depends on the fortune they marry into. While this simple plot may sound trivial and petty to us, this was probably the number one worry of females in this era. Historically, women typically did not inherit anything from their parents, except maybe a small sum of money, so they had to look to potential husbands to assure their futures. The richer the man, the better. If women could not find a husband, they were written off as spinsters and became financial burdens to the family members that had to support them for the rest of their lives. Jane Austen experienced these troubles firsthand; though she received several offers of marriage in her youth, she never married and was passed around from her parents and brothers until her death. The fact that she was still able to inject so much humor and wit into her stories puts her miles above what the typical 'spinster' would have done. She obviously loved her family very much, particularly her fellow unmarried sister Cassandra.

Faults? I can only think of one: the pictures included don't really have anything to do with the page they are placed on. You may be reading a section about Jane's writing, and here's a picture of her brother talking about his political career. Sometimes the pictures even served as minor 'spoilers,' alluding to things that hadn't been mentioned yet in the text. Maybe this is only because I was reading an early version of the book, hopefully this is cleared up during publication!

I'd give Jane Austen somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stars. Like I said before, it was an extremely interesting read and I learned a much so that I was able to use some of this knowledge in a paper I wrote for my Theories of Literature class. Recommended if you like biographies, history, and obviously, the wonderful works of Jane Austen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Anna reviews 'Stolen Time' by Sunny Jacobs

Name: Stolen Time
Author: Sunny Jacobs
Publisher: Doubleday, 2007
Why I read this book: I was at a talk Sunny gave at college and I instantly went out and bought her book.
Rating: 5 Stars

"I now know from hard-earned experience that each of us, male or female, must at some point take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. That's the way it is. "

This is the biography of Sunny Jacobs, a woman who, at the age of 28 she was sentenced to death for her role in the murders of two policemen in Florida, a crime she never committed. Her death sentence was later commuted to life in prison, and in total, she spent seventeen years in jail, five of which were in solitary confinement. It is an incredibly moving book and makes you think long and hard about whether the death penalty should be allowed.

The book opens with Sonia describing her early years- she got pregnant as a teenager and swiftly married the father of the future child, Kenny. The marraige didn't work- both were too young and immature and they ultimately separated. She moved to Miami in 1973 where she became involved with the mysterious, charismatic and troubled Jesse Tafero. The two moved in together and began trying to make things work as a family. By 1976 they'd been living together for three years and had a child together, their daughter Tina. The night that would shape the rest of their lives happened in 1976 when they were driving to Palm Beach with their friend Rhodes. Two cops pulled them over and a shoot-off happened that left both of the policemen dead. Despite there being absolutely no evidence that either of them took any part in the crime- in fact there was plenty of evidence that neither of them had done it- both were sentenced to death. Her children were taken from her and put into her parents care.

The book then goes on to describe her life in jail. She spent five years in solitary confinement where she passed the time doing yoga and meditating. She continued her relationship with Jesse, where they sent each other letters of love, hope and despair. Ultimately her death sentence was overturned to life in jail. Her parents died in a tragic aeroplane crash in 1982. Naturally she is devestated and her children are put into care. She then describes the horrific murder of her partner Jesse. Jesse was given the electric chair, where it took 13 minutes for the state of Florida to murder him- flames came out of his head while he was still alive. The inhumanity of his death can scarcely be described. Finally, in 1992 after a lengthy court process, Sonia's sentence was overturned and she was released.

"In 1976, when I went in, I was a young mother, a daughter and a wife. When I came out, in 1992, I was an orphan, a widow and a grandmother."Sonia is an incredibly inspirational person and her courage, intelligence, humanity and wit shine through in every page. What she suffered is unimaginable- it is absolutely disgusting that she was sentenced to seventeen years in jail for a crime she never committed, and her husband was brutally murdered for a crime too was innocent of. Although she has plenty to be angry and bitter about, she never loses her sense of humour, she keeps herself busy and she never ever loses her incredible sense of humanity. I was lucky enough to meet this amazing woman last year when she and her partner Peter Pringle gave a talk at my university. I highly, highly recommend this book. It is a womans story of being convicted for a crime despite ones innocence, as well as a broader reflection on the death penalty as a whole.

RIP Jesse Tafero.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Natanya Reviews Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Title/Author: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Publisher/Year: Random House, 1968
Where I got it: Every year, my university has the incoming freshmen read a book. Last year, I had to read The Grapes of Wrath, and this year the freshmen had to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? My parents are alumni, and for some reason the university sends alumni free copies of the books, as they do with the freshmen. So I got this from my parents’ house.
Why I read it: It sounded like something I’d like. Well, really, I just liked the title.

From Goodreads:
World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't ‘retiring’ them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal -- the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were never that simple, and his assignment quickly turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit -- and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted...

I have to admit: I haven’t actually seen the movie Blade Runner, which was based on Dick’s novel. From what I’ve heard, though, Blade Runner is quite the action/thriller. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, though centering around Rick Deckard’s search for and elimination of Nexus-6 androids, is much more about perception, introspection, and the emotional reasons behind humanity. While these traits might not have led to quite as good of a movie, I think that the emotional challenges faced by the bounty hunter Deckard and the “special,” or “chickenhead” J.R. Isidore are what have allowed this novel to stand the test of time.

While the Goodreads summary above doesn’t even mention Isidore, a good portion of the novel centers around him and his struggles as someone deemed too unintelligent to leave Earth. These were the portions of the novel I found the most fascinating. One of the novel’s main themes is the difference between androids and humans, namely the android’s lack of empathetic abilities. While Deckard is supposedly the “normal” human, in comparison to Isidore he could nearly be classified as an android. Isidore has such an interesting way of thinking and responding, and is much more poetic and real than the often petty Rick Deckard, and consequently I loved reading about his thoughts and feelings.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a short novel and a very quick read, but I think that Dick fit in as much character development as possible in such a small space. I loved that the novel is filled with juxtapositions of the emotions and perceptions of Deckard, Isidore, and the androids. While there are, of course, parts of the plot that could have been developed further, such as the nature of the androids (and specifically one android), I still found this to be a great novel, and one that bridges the gap between science fiction and literary fiction.

4 stars

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club (movie tie-in)Book: The Jane Austen Book Club
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Published: A Plume Book, 2004
How I got this book: bought it at a thrift store
Why I read this book: I love books about book lovers so I gave this one a try!
Rating: 3 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): In California's central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behaviour and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.

My thoughts (*possible spoilers*):  I read quite a few negative or mediocre reviews about The Jane Austen Book Club before picking it up off my shelf. I was hesitant to read it, but I actually enjoyed this novel for the most part. The title is a bit off putting; once you start reading you will see that this is not a novel about Jane Austen, but about the people in the Jane Austen book club. I found the characters to be interesting, although somewhat pretentious. The women of the book club were very snooty when it came to discussing the works of Jane Austen. Some of the thoughts they had about the man in the club, Grigg, bothered me. They accepted him into their group but often turned their noses up at his ideas because he wasn't as familiar with Austen as they were.

The beginning of the book had more discussions about Austen and quotes from her novels. I was enjoying how Fowler applied the events in whatever Austen novel they were reading at the time to the stories she told about her characters lives. About halfway through The Jane Austen Book Club, I felt like that really dropped off and it became a book about the characters completely. It didn't seem as cleverly written anymore. Some of the relationships in the novel really bugged me, such as the one between Jocelyn and Grigg. It seemed to me that Jocelyn was just settling in the end when she decided to take their friendship to another level. There wasn't very much chemistry between the two until she found out he had a crush on her. It felt very middle school and honestly, kind of a cop out. Fowler meant for there to be a happy ending, between Jocelyn & Grigg, and Sylvia welcoming her husband back home and into their book club. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was another matter of convenience for them to get back together.

I think too many people were expecting a book all about Jane Austen and her writing and this really wasn't that. If you are able to go into it knowing that, you will probably enjoy it more for what it is. Most of the characters are likable and it was a relatively quick read (for me). If anything, I have an urge to read all of Jane Austen's novel, and in order. If you enjoy a story about the lives and relationships of people, most who happen to be book snobs, I'd suggest you give The Jane Austen Book Club a try.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Jamie Would Want As Family Members

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

This week is all about those characters in books that we wish were in our family! Next week the topic is Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves (all those things that annoy you in a story, with book covers, bookstores, etc. My (Jamie's) personal pet peeve--stickers on my books!) 

So here it goes---these are some characters that I, Jamie, would adopt into my family. 

1. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice -- I want her to be my sister. I feel like we would bond over books and have lovely and wonderful conversations..and I doubt we'd fight. Although, as soon as Darcy is in the picture...those sisterly bonds are OVER. :P

2. Oskar from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -- Oskar is the cutest damn kid in the world. I would totally want him to be my little brother. I've always wanted a little brother. I would hug him and hug him so he didn't have heavy boots anymore and I'd go on all his random scavenger hunts with him.

3.  Roger from Amy and Roger's Epic Detour-- Let's forget that I have a book crush on him. Let's pretend that he isn't totally swoonworthy. I'd totally want him to be a cousin that I could hang out with and actually be excited about seeing at family functions. We'd make an adventure out of everything and swap mix cds at every family gathering.

4.  Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice-- I love my dad..but if I had to choose a fictional dad..Mr. Bennet is a good choice! He wants what is best for his daughters and lets them grow into who they really are and accepts them or that!

5. Mrs. March from Little Women -- Again, I loved my real mom when she was alive..but I'd definitely choose Mrs. March for a fiction mom because I loved her! She was such a great mother. I loved the relationship she had with all of her daughters.  

6.  Liesel's parents in the Book Thief -- This is one of my all time favorite books and I would totally want parents who stood up for what they believed matter the cost. They instilled such great values in Liesel and I appreciate parents like that.

7. Jacob from Water For Elephants-- I would totally want 90 year old Jacob to be my grandfather. I would have loved (as a child) to sit on his laps and hear the stories about his life with the circus and I have a feeling he'd tell them so vividly and with some enthusiasm that I'd eat them right up! 

8. Vera from Please Ignore Vera Dietz -- I'd totally like Vera to be my sister. She is so down to earth and genuine...and smart! I think we'd get along really well. I really felt like I knew her when I was reading this.

9. Finnick from The Hunger Games series -- Finnick is one of my favorite characters in the whole series. He is all sorts of badassness and I think I could attribute some of my inner badassness to him if he were my uncle or something. 

10. I'm slightly embarrassed about this one. But if I were a vampire..I'd totally want the Cullen clan to be a part of my vampy family....minus Edward. I legit love Carlisle. And Alice would be the perfect sister to share clothes with. Rosalie would be the sister that I'd want to bitch slap most of the time but she'd have my back. And the boys..they'd be protective big brothers and I'd need that so I didn't get my ass kicked by the Voltaire or some stinkin werewolves. 

What about you? Which fictional characters would you like to adopt into your family?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Non-Fiction Challenge: March -- Submit Reviews Here!

Welcome to the March of the Non-Fiction Challenge! Please link up any reviews to books you have read in March. You do not have to link up reviews to participate in the challenge but anyone who links a review at any point up is eligible to be entered to win a book of their choice (under $15) at the end of the year. How many reviews you link up determines how many entries you get.

This month I am happy to announce that I have one ARC of Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli to give away to anyone who links up a review this month! Definitely a perfect read for the travel category!

Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

The winner of the Loud in the House of Myself ARC is Sarah from Sarah Reads Too Much.

Jana Reviews "Firelight" by Sophie Jordan

Title and Author: Firelight, by Sophie Jordan

Publishing Info: Harper Teen, 2010

How I got this book: Bought it from Amazon.

Why I read this book: I liked the premise of a dragon falling in love with a human!

Stars: 5

Mythical creatures in love with humans are all the rage right now… Vampires, mermaids, werewolves, fallen angels, beasts, fairies, immortals, etc. are flooding the shelves of bookstores everywhere. I had never heard of a story involving a dragon before, so I was quite intrigued. The story of Jacinda and Will grabbed me from page one and had me reading long into a night I should have spent sleeping instead of reading. I’ve often wondered if my bookishness is detrimental to my health and personal well-being, but I digress! Back to the subject at hand… I’m having a hard time reviewing this book, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written a review probably 5 times already, and I’m still not happy with it. Maybe it’s because the story has a lot in common with other YA Paranormal romances out there. I’m not saying it’s not worth the read, I’m just not sure what I can say about it that’s new, other than the fact that we’re dealing with dragons. I’ll try! Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

“Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life, until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.
Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.”

Jacinda’s glowing orange skin and intricate wings are not all she has going for her. All Draki have a special talent. Some can breathe underwater, some can control human minds, and some can fly extremely fast. Jacinda breathes fire—a talent that was thought to have died out long ago before she was discovered. Thus, she is extremely valuable to pride. Things were planned out and set in motion for her to marry the Draki prince, Cassian, and create a ton of little fire-breathers just like herself. This unappealing future, mixed with her rebellious nature, mixed with the fact that she barely came home alive after being tracked and shot by a group of hunters prompted her mother to sneak Jacinda and her non-draki twin sister, Tamra, out of the pride and move to Arizona. Her mother chose Arizona because drakis can’t survive in such dry and barren conditions. Jacinda’s draki would eventually die off just like her mother’s, and they could live normal, safe lives as humans. Jacinda was not ok with this and did everything she could to keep her withering draki alive. Then, she saw Will—one of the hunters she encountered the night her mother forced them to flee. He was the one who stared into her draki eyes that night and let her go, leading his family of hunters away from her. They lock eyes in the hall at school, and an instant connection is made. He ignites the draki within her, and she captivates him for a reason he can’t quite figure out. Even though he’s the one who keeps her draki alive, she has to constantly fight her attraction to him (and resist his to her) and keep her distance. She can never let him know what she is without risking the lives of all those she holds dear. The hunters can never find out their best-kept secret—that draki can take on human form.

I really enjoyed this book! First off, how refreshing is it to finally have the girl be the paranormal one? Yes, there are a few mythical heroines out there, but we all know it’s usually the guy. It was fun to read how a girl deals with being different. Jacinda is SO driven by her emotions. She goes through highs and lows, and she’s always freaking out about everything. She’s not calm, cool, and collected like our mainstream paranormal heroes in other novels. I’m not saying she’s spastic and annoying. She certainly handled things better than I would have. I just enjoyed reading about her inner struggle rather than a guy’s, like I usually do.

This book moved really quickly! The tension built up fast, and I found myself trying to read faster than my brain could handle. There was no lollygagging in this book, and I really enjoyed that about it. I never got bored.

The romance between Will and Jacinda was believable, but maybe not for their age group. I never thought of them as high school juniors. They have a very mature relationship, which I was happy about, as I have a hard time enjoying the whiny teenage romances. Even though the romance did not seem realistic for their ages, the high school life was pretty real to me. I remember when I moved to a new high school, I struggled with fitting in. I was picked on. Jacinda went through the same motions I did, and I felt for her and could relate to how she was feeling. She was a total fish out of water, with only one friend who wasn’t even really a friend—more like a person to sit with and talk to. High school’s really hard, and Jacinda dealt with it.

Unfortunately, there were not a lot of characters to like in this book. There was an overabundance of villains: the alpha of her pride (who wanted her for selfish reasons), her mom (who lied to her frequently, and tried to kill off an important part of Jacinda), her sister (who should have tried to be more supportive of Jacinda’s situation), Will’s family (who were complete and total jerks to Will, and almost perverts towards Jacinda), the school bullies (who tried to make her life a living hell, and even attacked her). I’m not used to only liking the two main people. I guess the author chose to do this in order to emphasize the odds against Will and Jacinda, but I really wanted to like more people!

I loved that Jacinda was so true to herself, against all these odds. She didn’t just sit back and let her mother get what she wanted (a draki-free Jacinda). They argued and fought all the time. Her mom kept so many secrets from her, and then when she finally told Jacinda the truth, she wasn’t even nice about it. This woman is just not a good mother figure—and I found her character to be a bit hard to believe sometimes. I know she was trying to protect Jacinda, but she rarely ever showed any compassion, empathy, or even love.

For the most part, I enjoyed the writing style. Several reviewers have mentioned that the book was laced consistently with sentence fragments, which got rather annoying. I totally agree. This is definitely not a book for people looking for pristine literary writing. I had to re-read and re-think some of the passages, just because my mind was not following the choppy writing style. It helped to add to the suspense, but it detracted a bit from everything else. Other than that, the action scenes were done very well and the author’s descriptions left little to be desired. She gave me enough information to be able to picture everything in my mind, but not so much that my mind couldn’t take a few liberties and allow my creative juices to fill in the gaps.

So, why the 5-star rating? Good question. Regardless of a few complaints, I loved the premise, the story, the character development of both Jacinda and Will, the fact that Jacinda is such a likaeble heroine, the descriptive passages that painted pictures in my mind, the fast-paced storyline that kept my eyes glued to the pages into the wee hours of the morning, and the fact that now I think dragons are sexy. I must warn you, the book has a total cliffhanger ending. If you’re not the type to wait around for months and months to see what happens next, wait for the sequel, Vanish, set to come out in September of this year.

Happy reading! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Paula discusses her favorite quote, from a book, about books

“A half-read book is a half-finished love affair” –David Mitchell

The first time I read this quote, I stopped in my tracks, went back to the top of the paragraph and read it again. This quote is the epitome of how I feel about books. I cannot not finish a book. I love this quote so much that I now have it hanging above my bookshelf. It fills me with happiness every time I glance at it.

I have always been the kind of person who can only read one book at a time, so I can’t really understand how some people can be half-way through three different books at one time. If we continue Mitchell’s love affair metaphor, I feel like if I am half-way through two different books, I am cheating on them! How dare I lead on one book while I’m involved with another? I must fully devote my time and attention to one story line at a time if I am truly treating my love affair with a book right.

For the most part in my reading experiences, this quote is a non-issue. It makes sense that if you start a book, you will finish it. But there are some books I really want to cheat on. There are some books that are just awful and they drag on. But alas, I am cursed with the inability to put a book down. My mindset is along the lines of, “if it got published, someone must have found something good about it, maybe I will too” I am always hoping that it will get better. Maybe the last hundred pages will redeem it and make it worth my time. I cannot put a book down because it feels unfair to the book. And maybe, no matter how god-awful the book is, I want to know what happens in the end. Sometimes this trait has served me well and the book treats me well. Other times (majority of the time) I am disappointed that I slogged my way through it. But no matter what I am incapable of changing my ways.

I am not sure why I read this way. I would certainly save a lot of time if I could stop a book in the middle. But I agree 100% with David Mitchell. A half-read book is a sad thing indeed. It’s a love affair that has not had the opportunity to be something wonderful, or as love affairs sometimes go, something awful. So until someone convinces me otherwise, I will continue to stick it out until the end. Thank you David Mitchell for so perfectly capturing my feelings about reading into one sentence.

How about you guys? Do you have the inability to put down books? Or are you OK with putting down a book if you aren't feeling it? How far do you get in a book before you put it down? Do you read multiple books at once? Also, do you have a quote, like this one, that shares your general feelings about books?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bookish Jobs For Bookish People: Tom From Harper Teen

As a blog run by college aged kids, the thing most on our minds,  aside from books, is what the heck we are going to do with our lives. We  all joke and dream about having a job where we could read or blog all  day and feel pangs of jealousy when we encounter someone who does just  that. In my (Jamie's) job search, I've realized that there are so many  different types of bookish jobs out there that I had never even thought  about. In college I never thought I could be in the book industry  because I never wanted to be an author or an editor or a publisher. I  didn't think there was anything else out there. I've come to realize  that there so many types of bookish jobs out there for people of varying  strengths and abilities and I want to spotlight these jobs... and thus  began our monthly feature--Bookish Jobs For Bookish People.

As someone who frequently lusts over covers and runs amok in bookstores to see them in person, I'm really excited to introduce you to Tom from Harper Teen who has one of those jobs that I wish I could have...if only I was actually talented and artistic!

Job Title: Book Designer, Harper Collins Teen Division.  I'm responsible for designing the jackets (or covers if it's a paperback) and interiors of books for Young Adult and teen readers.

How long you've been in this position:

I've been a designer with Harper's childrens division since September 2008, and have been in the teen dept. since...hmmm...tough to say?  I was half-and-half with teen and picture books for around 10 months or so.  I've been teen exclusive since last January (2010).

What prior position(s) did you hold before this position?

I was a book designer with Rosen Publishing from October 2000-December 2006, then moved over to be a marketing designer from December '06-April '08.  I was...not a huge fan of being a marketing designer, and it was not by choice that I moved.

What type of higher education or training do you have? What degree would the ideal candidate for  this position hold?

My degree is hardly ideal!  I have a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University.  I actually didn't take one single design class in college, embarrassingly enough.  However, my first art director saw from my illustration portfolio that I knew how to "make things look good," and he was patient enough to teach me the rest on the job.  I actually know many graphic designers who have illustration degrees, but I suppose the best way to get in the field is to actually study design?

Describe what a typical day looks like for you: varies to an extent, because two days of the week we have morning cover meetings where we show other designers and editors the covers we're working on to get feedback and suggestions.  We also have a torturous Monday morning production meeting where we have to tell a roomful of people the status of our books.  Aside from that, I generally sit at my desk and either work on new designs or route jackets that have been going through the editorial and copy editing filter, making the necessary changes.  I also meet with my art director to get her ideas on books I'm working on, etc.  My day all depends on the urgency of projects.  Sometimes it's a house on fire, and sometimes I'm working on a dozen permutations of the same logo all day.

Three qualities/skills you should have to excel at this job: 

Multitasking!  Attention to detail.  And a thick skin.  You just can't get discouraged or take it personally if a roomful of sales reps shoots down your jacket.  It happens to everybody and it largely has little or nothing to do with the quality of your designs.

What is your least favorite aspect of your job?

Definitely production meetings.  I'm still not sure why I can't just tell my immediate boss where my books are at.  I feel like they exist just to embarrass people who have projects running late.  They're time-eaters.

Biggest perk of your job: 

Why free books, of course!  I read a ton, and Harper publishes lots of terrific mystery and crime authors, so it's gratifying to find, say, a whole set of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder Crime Novels on the basement free shelves.

Tell us one of your best or funniest memories on the job:

I would actually say that co-running my first model casting session.  I felt like David Hemmings in BLOW UP or something.  Like, I'm this sleazy creep in a suit looking through teenage models' portfolios and asking them questions.  It was one of those, "where has my life gone?" moments.  It was like I was dressed as "that guy" for Halloween...but I actually WAS that guy.  It was fun.

What do you think the biggest misconception is about your position/industry?

Hmmm...I can't say.  Maybe that we have less creative freedom than people would think and have to take many different voices (sales, upper management, authors, ediorial) into account when we're making a jacket.  It would be great if the buck stopped with the art directors, but that's only the first stop. 

Complete this sentence. This job is not for you if... you have grand dreams of designing the next award-winning, innovative jacket.  At the end of the day, I'm happy if my covers look nice and I've pleased my bosses.  In teen publishing, you're generally REACTING to trends...not starting them, so for every one TWILIGHT jacket, there are 50 that are made to LOOK LIKE TWILIGHT.  If you're going to chafe at trying to tailor the look of your work to fit a current high-selling trend, then you should definitely look somewhere other than Young Adult publishing.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in your position?

Go into advertising design!!!!  More money there.  Nahhh...I would say that if you love books and want to design them, then keep looking at them!  Make sure you've got a strong awareness of the market and what kinds of books people are picking up.  Then maybe mock up some jackets that have that feel, if you haven't already.  Art directors are looking for people who have covers in their portolio that look modern and fresh. 

And now for a bit of random...If you could switch jobs with one person for a week who would it be?

Absolutely, positively, without question a U.S. Marshal.  I've actually looked into the job requirements and I meet them all.  I still have three years (they don't take anyone over 36) to switch careers should I choose.

Thank you, Tom, for stopping by...and thank you for all the pretty, lustworthy covers that you have a hand in making. Harper Teen has some of my all-time favorites!

Check out Tom elsewhere on the web:

Personal website  -
Tumblr -
Blog for his work -
Collaborative Magazine That He Works On -
Related Posts with Thumbnails