Saturday, December 28, 2013

Obligatory Year End Lists!

Oh god, it's December already... how did this even happen? Months go by and I forget I even have this blog. And then I remember and it's like Christmas morning.

OMG I have a blog!
I love the end of December - that week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Christmas is cool and all but what I really love is end of the year lists. I love reading about bests and worsts. I love writing about bests and worsts. So, here are my top and bottom five books for 2013. These aren't necessarily books that were published in 2013 - just books I read in 2013.

Best

1. World War Z by Max Brooks

I was late to the game with this book because I was so tired of zombies. But this isn't so much a zombie book as it is a book about the fragility of the idea of civilized society. This book was brutal and terrifying for a whole set of reasons that had nothing to do with zombie specifics. I loved it.

2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This book surprised me. I was familiar with Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, which is a whole different sort of story - dark, brooding, gothic. I am really glad that I gave this book a chance because it is one of the most fun, funny, and endearing books I have ever read. Teenage beauty queens toughing it out on a deserted island, sexy pirates, evil corporate/military machinations combined with Bray's awesomely twisted sense of humor - yes, please, more please!

3. More Than This by Patrick Ness

I think this is the only book that came out in 2013 that I read in 2013. Seth drowns. He knows that he is dead. He felt himself die. But then he wakes up in front of his childhood home, naked, starving, and all messed up. There's no one else in the house... or in the town. Everything is covered in dust and weeds. What the hell, man? Which is what I kept asking myself with every page. As the story unfolds, we find out how Seth drowns and where he is and why but the journey is heartbreaking.

4. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

When Julia is 12, the earth's rotation on it's axis starts to slow. Days and nights become longer and longer until it's impossible to operate on a 24 hour schedule. While the physics of the universe deteriorate, so does every day life. There's no sweeping explanation for why the Slowing happens and there's no grand attempt to save the world. There's just Julia and her observations on how life crumbles around her a little bit at a time, day after increasingly longer day. Yes, this book is sad, but it's also beautiful and it's stayed with me months later.

5. Deathless by Catherynne Valente

Marya watches as her three sisters are whisked away to marry birds in fairy tale weddings. She waits for the day when this will also happen to her, but it never comes... until it does. Marya is to marry Koschei the Deathless and she is drafted into his never ending war against the living. Russian folklore meets Cold War politics meets horror love story. There's really no classifying this book but it's one of the most impressive things I have ever read.


Worst

1. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Sweet baby jeebus, this book was a hot mess. When someone this young publishes something so incredibly flawed, I have to wonder what kind of connections he/she has. Rambling plot, nonsensical world building, inconsistent characters and a general sense of aimlessness made this book hard to finish. I have never in my life wanted to give up on a book with only 50 pages until the end.

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth


I don't get it. The appeal of this book... I don't understand how many people enjoy something so poorly written. This book also has nonsensical world building. I don't care how much information is revealed in later books - if the first book doesn't have a solid baseline of information, the rest of the series will feel like it's made up as the author goes along. The characters are not only unlikeable, but taken from stock. There's not an original idea in this entire book. And it was boring... so hideously boring.

3. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

OSC's craziness aside, this book is a bloated, unnecessary abomination in regard to the Ender-verse. I've always been curious as to what Ender got up to between Ender's Game and Speaker For the Dead. There's a compelling story in there. But this is just an account of Ender flying through space with a general who wants him dead and a crazy woman who tries to get him to marry her daughter. There's also a lot of weird passages on the biological imperative to mate and the role of women in marriage. The only reason I finished this book is because I was listening to it on a hideously long car ride and the alternative was Jesus radio.

4. The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett


I couldn't even finish this book. The first in the series, The Warded Man, sent up some red flags. One of the main characters is brutally raped and deals with it in an unrealistic way. I've never been brutally raped, so maybe I don't get to say what is and isn't realistic. But by the time we catch up with this character in The Desert Spear, she's un-ironically and in fact happily come to the conclusion that being raped was good for her because she had been too prudish about sex. The book had a lot of other problems, but this was the one that made me put it down.

5. Deathless by Catherynne Valente

Oh hai! Wasn't this already in the best of list? Yeah. It's a really well-written book. But very few things have ever made me feel so hopeless about life. After I finished this book, I kind of stagnated for a bit. I couldn't even go to my book club group to discuss it because I didn't want to think about it anymore. I don't want to think about it now. Until Deathless, I had never finished a book that was good and wished I had never read it.

So, what were your best and worst of 2013?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Meet Six the Cat

Weclome to Wizards and Rockets, where we discuss books. And cats. For today anyway. I want all of you to meet Six.






She was found this morning at the library I work at, hiding inside the giant HVAC unit outside the back entrance. I named her Six because that's short for 636.8, the Dewey Decimal number for cats. Finding her was especially poignant because the Fondulac District Library is getting ready to move to a new facility. In another week or so, we would have all been gone and poor Six would have been left on her own.

A few of us on staff really wanted to adopt her as our library cat, but for a variety of reasons, that's just not possible. Currently, Six is staying in the office/library/spare bedroom at my house and she's made herself at home where she feels most comfortable - with the books.


Despite Six's incredible taste in books (she made a beeline for The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch), I cannot keep her because my husband and I already have three cats of our own in a house that isn't very big.

So, I'm looking for someone to adopt this adorable, sweet baby. Library staff pitched in to pay for her initial vet bills today so she's had her first round of shots and been treated for fleas and roundworm. She's sweet but shy and prone to hissing, but if you think about it, she's had kind of a traumatic day. She likes to be held but prefers cuddling with books.




If you can give this darling girl a loving forever home, please contact me. My email is gypsycab79 @ gmail.com. Parting with her will be heartbreaking, but I need to be fair to all parties involved - feline and human.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Humor and Genre Fiction, or I am a Crabby Old Lady

I don't like humor in my sci-fi or fantasy. I like my genre fiction dark, serious, and brooding, much like Sayid from Lost.

If he were a book, I would lick - I mean read it.
Much to the chagrin of almost everyone I know, I can't stand Doctor Who. It's too silly. You've got this guy, who is essentially a man-child, tear-assing through space and time, making messes and ruining peoples' lives. And everyone thinks he's adorable so it's okay. "Oh, the Doctor just sentenced Rose to an eternity in time/space hell, but we forgive him because he's totes hot." Why anyone would get into that phone booth with that crazy bastard is beyond me.

But this isn't a post about Doctor Who. It's a post about how I was pleasantly surprised by quite enjoying two books by Libba Bray when I wasn't expecting to. The first is Going Bovine and the other is Beauty Queens.

A few years ago, I read Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy. Those books are serious, dark, and brooding and I loved them. Gemma and some other girls from a Victorian boarding school discover an alternate world that at first seems full of fairies and sunshine. But this world gets darker and creepier as the trilogy goes on.

Omnomnom
Bray's next book, Going Bovine, came out in 2009, and then Beauty Queens came out in 2011. By looking at the covers of these books and reading the dust jackets, I couldn't believe this was the same author.


I ignored both of these books until this month. I couldn't figure out what the September book would be for my teeny tiny YA book club and my boss suggested Going Bovine. I was all, "Ugh... this looks stupid." But it won the Printz and I liked Gemma Doyle so I gave it a try. Going Bovine is the story of Cameron, a high school kid who doesn't really care about anyone except himself and is kind of a jerk. Cameron gets diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease and sees all kinds of crazy stuff. He can no longer tell hallucinations from reality. One evening, while researching his illness online, Cameron is told to "follow the feather" and is sent on a roadtrip/planet saving mission by a punk rock angel named Dulcie. There is also a paranoid dwarf, a Norse god in a garden gnome's body, and a drag queen. I only mention the drag queen because, HOLY CRAP I LOVE DRAG QUEENS!

Bitches.
Going Bovine was darkly funny and also bittersweet. It's a satire on what it really means to live, even if the space of time in which you have to do so is cut drastically short. One of my favorite parts is when Cameron and company encounter the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack-n-Bowl. Are the good parts of life worth anything if we never experience the bad? This book made me laugh out loud, or lol as the kids say. That's a rare thing.

I just finished Beauty Queens yesterday. I liked Going Bovine so much that I ran out and bought it. I devoured Beauty Queens in big gulps, taking out half the book in one sitting. Beauty Queens is about a group of girls competing for the title of Miss Teen Dream. Their plane crash lands en route to a tropical island getaway where they were to practice their moves and get prettied up. All adults and more than half of the contestants die in the crash. The remaining girls are left to figure out how to survive on this island with nothing except what they could salvage from the plane wreckage. Every girl has a secret, some dire, some depressing, some fantastic, and learning about each one kept me turning the pages. Bray goes even further down the road of satire in Beauty Queens, providing footnotes and "commercial breaks" throughout.
 
I loved that Beauty Queens was empowering without being cliche or preachy. Each girl was her own unique self with merits and faults. Each girl also came to her own self realization in very natural ways. The overall message was one of being comfortable with who you are even if it takes a while to figure it out, and even if you mess up along the way. Aside from that, Beauty Queens was just so much frigging fun! I really wish this book had been around when I was a teen.

So, Libba Bray has taught me that I can appreciate humor in my fiction. But only if it's dark humor. Dark and brooding humor...


Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Trauma of Fantasy


I just finished Deathless by Catherynne Valente. Only one other time has a reading experience made me so utterly depressed that I never wanted to read another fantasy oriented book ever again. That was The Magicians/The Magician King by Lev Grossman. I'm not saying that these are bad books. On the contrary, all three of these books are very good - quite breathtaking, nearly impossible to put down, and so beautiful at times that reading them hurts. It's the hurting part that got me though, because these books still hurt (or will hurt) long after the reading experience is over.

Like most people who read fantasy, I read it for escapism. I have a good and happy marriage. I love my library job. I love my cats. I have good friends. But I really wouldn't mind being an expert swordsman or knowing magic. Or the ability to fly. I could go on... But none of these things are going to happen, so I read.

I would fall for this.
Fantasy literature was more powerful for me as a kid and teen. Without going into details, I had a fairly unhappy growing up experience. There wasn't nearly as much young adult oriented fantasy then (way back in the ancient decade of the 1990s) as there is now, but I obsessed over what I could find. I was reading both YA and adult fantasy from the time I was about 12. I would sit outside at school during recess and wish for a talking white horse from Valdemar to come over the hill and take me away. Or to stumble into Narnia, or for some cosmic being to come knocking on the door in a storm and ask for my help in saving the universe. I would have settled for developing mutant powers, as long as they weren't lame like Jubilee's. The first Harry Potter book didn't come out until I was a freshmen in college, but if I had been younger I probably would have cried over the Hogwarts letter that never came. I wanted these things to happen so very badly. Obviously, they never did, but I ended up growing up and living more or less happier ever after in a non-fantastical way.

"Go to your room and think about how shitty your mutant power is."
However, there is still a sense of trauma that comes from reading fantasy literature because I think that no matter how old we get or how happy we are, a part of every true fantasy lit. fan still wishes they would stumble into that magic world that we've always known was there, lurking but never showing itself. This is why books like Deathless, The Magicians, and The Magician King hurt so much. They are all about real people who wish with all their heart for these fantasy worlds and when they do finally stumble into them, they completely blow it.


In Deathless, Marya Morevna sees her three sisters all get married to birds who turn into men. She cannot wait until this happens to her and just when she thinks it's been too long, that no bird will ever come for her, one does. She marries Koschai the Deathless but eventually leaves him and the magical Country of Life to return to Leningrad and starve to death. Grossman's protagonist, Quentin Coldwater, gives a giant middle finger to the fantasy world not once, but twice. He is first accepted to a very exclusive school of magic (Brakebills) his senior year in high school. He excels at magic but then graduates and returns to the real world and squanders his knowledge, becoming an emo, alcoholic asshole and doing nothing with his days and nights. He then discovers that the magical land of Fillory that he loved as a child (heavily based on Narnia) is real. He and his friends go on a hero's quest in Fillory, but not even this magical land makes Quentin feel whole. He completes this quest but ends up going back to the real world again after the girlfriend he cheated on dies.


Marya and Quentin make me so very sad. There is a tiny part of me who still wishes to fall into a fantasy world. I don't know if I'll ever stop looking for magic, even though I'm way beyond puberty - the time when magic generally shows itself. For those who don't read fantasy, think of Marya and Quentin having won the lottery and then setting all the money on fire. These books are dangerous. They are beautiful and well written and worth reading if you aren't as wrapped up in the idea of a different reality as I am. But for me, they're also toxic and I almost wish I had never read them. That feels like a terrible thing to write. Maybe it is, but it's true. They just plain hit too close to home.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Graphic Novel Binge Reading and Locke & Key

This is what happens to all my cash after I discover a new series.
Comic books and graphic novels are dangerous. My need for a complete story is such that I will buy every volume in a series - and those suckers are expensive. If I get hooked on a series, it's all over. I have to have all of it. RIGHT. NOW. So, I have to be very selective in my reading choices in regard to graphic novels. I don't usually like to start a series unless a significant chunk of material has already been published. For example, I own but have not yet read the first two volumes of Brian K. Vaughn's Saga series. That man can do no wrong and I know if I start the series now, my brain will chew itself up waiting for the next volume. And don't tell me to read single issue floppies. Ugh. Those are worse. Reading floppies is like letting an alcoholic have a single shot every month. 20 minutes of reading followed by 30 days of waiting = torture.

I can quit any time I want.
The library I work at has the first five volumes of Locke & Key (by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez). I'd been wanting to read them for a while, but you know. I couldn't read just one. Or two. Once all five volumes were back in circulation, I checked all of them out (mine!) and read them over the course of a few days. I'm glad I waited because there's (reportedly) only one more volume coming out, which means only having to wait once.

Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke
 I very much enjoyed Locke & Key. It's about three kids who move to Lovecraft, Maine (foreshadowing!) after their father is murdered by a teenage psycho. The kids and their mom move into a big mansion named Keyhouse, where they find... keys. These keys are magic that only kids can see. They do things like open your head, change your gender, or allow you to temporarily die and become a spirit. The three Locke kids, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode, find unique uses for these keys, often get into trouble with them, and eventually use them to save their own lives. There's a lot of back story that Hill and Rodriguez reveal over time. I don't want to give spoilers, but we discover that the secrets of Keyhouse span several generations, and anything the Locke kids experience is nothing compared to what happens if someone uses the Omega Key, awakening an evil beyond imagination.



What I enjoy so much about Locke & Key is that it's about more than the immediate action. Hill's story and Rodriguez's gorgeous illustrations tell a story of coming of age in the face of personal tragedy. This is also a series where the art tells just as much story as the words. Locke & Key is a multi-layered narrative experience. I've said it before - character is king. Everyone in Locke & Key is sympathetic - even Sam, the murderer who sets the whole story rolling. I love a bad guy who can make me forget that he's bad.

So now I sit, and wait for volume six. Volume five ended with some answers, so I'm not so anxious that I'm beating my chest and gnashing my teeth. I do want the sixth volume, and I'll grab it the day it comes out, but I don't want it bad enough to torture myself with the floppies that have come out already. Locke & Key is a series I need to devour in gulps, but so is any graphic novel series worth my attention.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship With Book Series


When I ran off to ALA last month, I picked up a ton of YA titles. I should be reading them. Reading and reviewing. But before I went to ALA, I started reading A Shadow in Summer, the first book of the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, which I picked up at Sundance Books in Geneseo, NY (shout out!). If a series is good, once I start it, I have to finish it to the exclusion of all else. I notoriously did this last year with all 20 books in the Repairman Jack/Adversary Cycle series by F. Paul Wilson, and didn't really know what to do with myself after five months with the same characters.


At any rate, I'm really enjoying the Long Price Quartet, even if I haven't given the books five stars on Goodreads. And now we get to the problem with series... Sometimes, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. A series is a really long narrative, most of the time episodic in nature. So, when reading and reviewing a series, I feel like I need to have two opinions - an opinion of the series as a whole and an opinion on each book within the series. Sometimes, where individual books don't measure up to my standards, the whole series will merit a glowing review. I'm having this problem with The Long Price Quartet.

Abraham is a great writer. Without a doubt, he knows his craft. The Long Price Quartet is set in a medieval Asian world where powerful men who call themselves poets control godlike forces of nature through grammatical bindings. The balance of power between humanity and these demi-gods is a fragile thing. Throw in outside forces who want a piece of the divine action, and you have a worldwide ticking time bomb. Looking at the four books (and I'm only on book three, but I can see where the arc is going), I see a coherent narrative where every action furthers the plot and later events fill in the gaps left by previous events. The story arc that centers on two men with a deeply complicated and multifaceted (non-sexual) relationship is beautiful. Each book takes place roughly 15 years after the previous book, so readers have time to see this relationship shift through all phases of life. I've partially been reading this series as a meditation on platonic love. A lot happens in these books, but this series is not your typical hero's journey.

Bros before hoes.
That being said, I've been having a hard time reviewing each individual book in the quartet. I remember saying in my Goodreads review of A Shadow in Summer that the book fell flat at the end. But now that I've read the second book (A Betrayal in Winter) and most of the third book (An Autumn War), I see that the end of the first book was the tipping point of the series and highly dramatic. However, I don't feel comfortable going back to Goodreads to change my review. If A Shadow in Summer was a stand alone, I would feel the same. Only in looking at the series as a greater whole do I see the full merit of the first book.


Some series are like crop circles - their significance only appreciable when one can see it in its entirety. That doesn't make those series any less awesome than those whose individual books can better stand alone. I greatly respect an author who has the vision to create something so all encompassing. But I'm still left with the need for dual reviews. I don't think a single book can make or break a successful series, but I still need to look at the individual books and at how they all fit together.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summertime Comicbook Movies - What's Good vs. What I Like

I don't go out to see as many movies as I should, much to my husband's chagrin. I prefer to listen to movies and television at home while working on sewing. Movie theaters are too dark for that and bringing a portable light would be frowned upon. But I've seen two whole movies in the last two weeks. I should get some kind of gold star...


Last week, husband guy and I went to see Man of Steel. Look, I'm going to be honest here. I don't gave two craps about Superman, and I never have. I've just never found him interesting. I didn't even read DC comics until I met my husband, and I have to say that I'm more of a Green Lantern kind of gal. Or, really, a Red Lantern kind of gal. Okay... I really like Dex Starr. But Superman... meh. I've never cared for him or his creepy mom fixation or creepy horse with a human brain who's in love with Supergirl. I like Lex Luthor though. I would read a Lex Luthor comic book.

Awwwww....
I went into Man of Steel feeling indifferent, I watched it indifferently, and I left the movie mostly indifferent and mildly annoyed. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Indifference is the kiss of death. I have more respect for movies/books/music I hate. As a writer, I would rather make people hate my work than not care about it. The fact that I don't care about Superman isn't the movie's fault. But a good movie would have made the average person care. This article by Film Critic Hulk (sent to me by a comic book savvy library patron) is really long, but worth reading. Film Critic Hulk says the above way better than I just did. Man of Steel was ultimately a pretty forgettable movie, no matter how hot Henry Caville is. Not even Detective Stabler could make me care.

I'll take a ticket to the gun show, please.
A good part of my Man of Steel issue is this constant rebooting, redoing, revamping, re-, re-, re-. There's no point in caring about Man of Steel because it's going to get redone down the line. I went to see the 2006 Superman move and felt like Man of Steel was a slap in the face. Why bother caring if the same story is just going to be told over and over again, simply because someone thought the previous telling wasn't good enough? I'm tired of shelling out money for what I consider fanfiction with a budget. I get frustrated with comics retcons for the same reason. I like a solid narrative. If I want retconning and rebooting, I can get that for free on the internet. On the plus side though, Man of Steel was really pretty.

The movie I saw this weekend was R.I.P.D. It looked like stupid fun and I wasn't going into the movie expecting anything else. R.I.P.D. didn't deliver any surprises, but I sure had a good time watching it. Again, I had some prejudices going into the movie, one of them being the fact that I will watch just about anything Jeff Bridges is in. Maybe The Dude should have played Superman...


The plot wasn't anything special, but Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds had good chemistry and the dialogue made up for predictability. Mary Louise Parker was also pretty awesome. I can definitively say that this movie was not a work of genius, but I loved every second of it. R.I.P.D. isn't going to win any awards and it's been getting some bad reviews, but I had so much fun watching it, and it's made me wonder what was wrong with Man of Steel, or even what's wrong with my entertainment tastes. Sometimes, there's no explaining what I like. There are a handful of stupid movies that I just love. The same goes for books or television shows. I'd go crazy if every movie was like There Will Be Blood.

I can't say that either of these movies is better or worse than the other. But the juxtaposition of my viewing experiences with each is forcing me to revisit the idea of what is good as opposed to what we like, and accept the fact that they aren't always the same. I'm okay with that and I embrace my sometimes crappy taste. But what do you think? What do you like that you have no explanation for? What do you like that you feel like you shouldn't? And, is there anything that you don't like that has been critically acclaimed?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

I will read anything with a Michael Whelan cover.
When I was a kid, I read exclusively fantasy fiction. Any literature I read had to be set in a world based on medieval Europe. Magic was a must. Bonus points for elves and/or dragons. Everything that remotely resembled the present day or the future was an automatic deal breaker, until I was in college and read Ender's Game. Other genres crept in to what I liked, a little bit at a time. I still lean heavily on sci-fi and fantasy for my reading enjoyment but books like Devil in the White City by Erik Larson have neither elves nor dragons and I still thought it was a good book.

What do you mean there are no wizards in this book?  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
One of the things about genre lit. that I've grown to appreciate is the blending of multiple genres in a single narrative. I imagine fantasy/sci-fi/horror mash-ups have been going on forever even if I was too set in my teenage ways to pay attention to anything that wasn't straight up sword and sorcery. But I've lately been drawn away from fantasy and more into sci-fi and horror (I will contradict this statement with a very near future review of The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham). I especially love the narratives that cannot be definitively described as any one thing.

Right before I went to ALA, I finished The Last Policeman by Ben Winters. Henry Palace is a highly dedicated police detective. He's called to investigate what appears to be a suicide, but all the facts don't add up. Palace thinks the victim was murdered. But here's the catch - a meteor is speeding through space and is scheduled to hit the Earth in six months. In a world where suicide has become common, who the crap cares whether this guy was murdered or killed himself? Detective Henry Palace cares, and he ends up in a bigger mess than he bargained for.

The opposite of Detective Henry Palace.
Is this sci-fi or horror or a little bit of both? End of the world narratives can be classified as both. Other than the meteor, there's not anything about The Last Policeman that couldn't happen today. But the meteor is also what shapes the entire narrative. There is this overwhelming sense of dread in reading this book. This is a police procedural, but one set against the backdrop of suicide and despair. The economy has failed, the government can't do squat, and folks live in a militarized state, alternating between madness and denial. Whenever I paused in my reading, I had to remind myself that I did not live in the world of Henry Palace. The world as I knew it was not going to end in six months. Mad props to Ben Winters for being able to evoke that sort of feeling. The whole idea behind this book is that people have stopped caring. To create a character like Henry Palace, who has to care enough for everyone who doesn't, who forces the reader to care about a world that already appears to be a lost cause... that's pretty powerful.

I still don't know how to classify The Last Policeman, but I also don't know how much classification matters. We all have predilections toward one sort of narrative over another. No way will anyone get me to read Amish romances. But a good book is a good book. Do you stick to specific genres over others? What genres won't you read even if your life depended on it?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let's Talk About ALA 2013


I went to my first ever ALA (American Library Association) conference this past weekend in Chicago, IL. ALA takes place every year in a different city. Chicago is so close that it would have been stupid of me not to attend. I've done the convention thing before - C2E2, Wizard World, New York Comicon, etc. I figured that while the conference demographic would be different (but let's be honest - there was some overlap because most librarians are some sort of nerd), the principals would be the same. Still... my mind was blown.

My husband and I only had passes for the exhibition floor and there was still too much for only one day. I don't think I could have handled a full blown pass to attend panels for my first ALA visit. We met up with our friend Kristy and entered the opium den of books and authors that was ALA.

Before we even got there, I was excited about the author lineup. I made up a spreadsheet that included Cory Doctorow, Holly Black, Lois Lowry, Jim Hines, John Scalzi, Patrick Ness, Michael Grant, Rachel Hartman, Derf Backderf, Gene Luen Yang, and the biggest draw of all, my favorite YA author, Tamora Pierce. I didn't get to everyone because if you wanted to meet these authors, you had to get in line early. I got The Giver signed by a very distracted Lois Lowery. Patrick Ness was signing ARCs of his book coming out this fall, More Than This - his accent was delightful. Jim Hines trash talked John Scalzi's sexy lady posing, and John Scalzi remembered me from C2E2, where I was dressed as Lumpy Space Princess from Adventure Time and felt like an ass because I didn't have a copy of Fuzzy Nation for him to sign (congrats on winning the Locus this year for Redshirts, John!).

Oh my glob. Fionna. Fionna. We look so good right now.
But the best part of the conference was meeting Tamora Pierce and having her sign my first edition copy of Alanna: the First Adventure. She was my first favorite author when I was 13 and remains my favorite YA author 21 years later. She, Wendy and Richard Pini, and Richard Adams are responsible for shaping my literary tastes and my person as a whole, so this was kind of a big deal. I tried to tell her how much her writing meant to me, but I couldn't stop shaking. She was very nice and didn't call security on me. As soon as I walked away, I started to cry. I couldn't help it. Her characters are more real to me than most people. My love of her work is so profound - it's a difficult thing to explain.

Maybe this is when I ripped my pants and that's why Tamora Pierce is making that face.
Other highlights from the conference include getting my hands on a copy of MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, which was like fighting for the last Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas Eve of 1982 (which I understand was a lot like trench warfare), visiting with my library friends, and talking library shop with complete strangers. The only low point was somehow ripping a big hole in the crotch of my pants on Saturday. I don't remember doing it, but am thankful that I didn't notice it until after I got home. I'm just going to assume I hulked out in excitement, and hope I didn't flash anyone.

I feel a little bad that I didn't do more learning and networking. I spent most of my time in lines to meet authors. But the conference itself was a learning experience and I'll be getting spam emails for the rest of my life, from all the contests I entered, to remind me of this experience of a lifetime.

Just kidding about feeling bad. Yolo!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Someday, I Will Die Under a Pile of Books and Cats

I am an unashamed book hoarder and crazy cat lady. First, the obligatory picture of my cats:

LOOK AT MY CATS! LOOK AT THEM AND LOVE THEM!

I would like to have more cats, but the current household policy is no more cats than bedrooms, and I'm pressing my luck by claiming the couch as a third bedroom. Thankfully though, this policy does not hold for books. I have a lot of them, and I can't seem to stop accumulating more. Sometimes, I think they reproduce on their own. I'm pretty sure that my Narnia books had a baby with my anthology of Greek tragedies while I was at work one day and popped out The Magicians by Lev Grossman.


This is the face I made while reading The Magicians. It's one of my favorite books of all time.

One would think that since I work for a library, I wouldn't have this book hoarding problem. I mean, I have nearly the entire scope of literature at my fingertips - all I have to do is click a mouse a few times to make books magically appear. But, no. The big problem with the library system is that I eventually have to give the books back. I remember being a kid and checking books out all the time and dreading the day when they were due back at the library. Certain characters were like family to me. I wanted to be able to visit them any time I wanted and not worry that they'd be hanging out with someone else. I vowed to myself that when I had my own money, I would buy books and never ever give them back.

Me after returning books.
And so, the long, dark spiral of book hoarding began. When the internet became a thing, I searched long and hard for all the books I loved so much when I was younger and bought the hell out of them. I haven't read Clare Bell's Ratha books in decades, but I own them now and feel like I've reclaimed a little piece of my life.

Perhaps the worst part of this need for books, is my obsession with books I have not yet read. When I was a kid, I was terrified that I would run out of books to read. I had this insane fear that one day, no one would ever write another fantasy book ever again and I would be stuck reading the handful that I had over and over again until I died. Seriously, what was wrong with me? The idea is laughable now and I have the opposite fear - that I will never read all of the books I want to read before I die, even if I live to be 150. Put both of those fears together, and we have my need to own every book I come across that I find interesting. Assisting with collection development at my library is a very dangerous thing.

This publication is going to kill me.
I think I might rather starve than stop buying books. The bills and rent get paid, the cats get medicine and food. But do I really have to eat? Do I really need a haircut? How long can I drive around without an oil change? These are the questions that run around my brain every payday. I love used book stores and library book sales best, but I'll pay full price if I have to. I just want that book in my hot little hands. And books that get weeded from my library? Oh jeebus... it would be a shame if they didn't go to a good home...

I write this post shortly before I head off to ALA in Chicago, where I know I will get tons of free books and book related swag. I have a spreadsheet and galley guide ready, in addition to a suitcase with wheels. So, how about you? What are your book purchase and borrowing habits?