pardon my mess + hinty hinty blogoversary month upcoming!

I'll be tinkering with some design elements in the next few days, so pardon any mess you might come across. The blog is not usually so hideous, I promise. My room, on the other hand...

ANYHOW, I think the layout will look lots better when I'm done. There will definitely be a different header and maybe one less column than usual and definitely different color schematics. I can't say more than that because more than that, I don't know.


It came to my attention that my blogoversary (am I really that old? Is this blog really that old?) is approaching. This blog here will be exactly one years old in August.

So, maybe that calls for a little celebration? A hey, how-the-heck-did-this-blog-stay-alive-post? Maybe, a....contest?

Keep you eyes peeled, I'll be figuring out details soon :)

a (late) waiting on wednesday fangirl fest

It is late and I am already half asleep and time has run away as it so often does these days. But I need to write this Waiting on Wednesday post.

You see, I'd planned it to be about a certain book.

A book called BRIDGE OF CLAY.

As of now, there's only a snippet of a blurb:

It's about a boy.
His name is Clay.
He's building a bridge.
And he wants that bridge to be something truly great and miraculous.

And there isn't a cover yet. It's coming out (supposedly) in half a year. February 3rd, 2011. I'm marking that day on my calendar. It's got a big heart around it. I know my reading mind will be blown on that day--

because--ladies and gentlemen--

that's when the latest Markus Zusak book comes out.

Most of you know him from authoring the famous, the wonderful, the amazing, THE BOOK THIEF. Maybe you've read I AM THE MESSENGER too. Maybe you're a crazy fangirl/ fanboy too. I've probably squealed with you together about Zusak before--he seems to come up so often and whenever he does I have to join in and say my part--

that his words are so beautiful. That they changed my life. That I like to pick up his books in misplaced minutes of the day and spend a few breaths fingering the smooth pages. Reading them over again.

Zusak is one of the reasons--one of the authors--that are the reason I love to read.

And his new book?

That I've been so eagerly awaiting? Even when they changed the release date from September 2009 to 2010 and now to February 2011?

The book that I've been burrowing my nosy nose into the interwebs to find details about? (I found relatively little: that Zusak has been wanting to write this book for something like ten years. That he wants it to be better than The Book Thief. That he spends a painstaking amount of time making sure his drafts are as perfect as can be.)

I don't know anything about it. I have a title and a small blurb, but there's something to be said when you know nothing about a book, but already know you'll love it just because of who's writing it.

I'm excited and hoping and wishing that I had BRIDGE OF CLAY in my hands right now. 2011 can't come fast enough.


review: hold still

An arresting story about starting over after a friend’s suicide, from a breakthrough new voice in YA fiction.

dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.

My Opinion:

Hold Still is the latest YA book that I've fallen in love with. And to be honest, I don't fall in love with books that often. I think it's mostly because of the beautiful writing--LaCour's prose can only be described as lyrical and breathtaking. And as you might know by now, I'm a sucker for gorgeous novels.

Hold Still tells the story of Caitlin, but also of Ingrid, her best friend. Ingrid--a talented photographer with a future, a girl that seems happy before she kills herself. Her suicide devastates Caitlin, who doesn't know how to carry on in the year following Ingrid's death--and the halting and painful interactions she has with others only complicates her sense of loss. The combination of unwanted sympathy and morbid curiosity from her classmates leaves Caitlin feeling isolated at school. Her parents are convinced that her grief needs an outlet--they're worried that she's depressed. Her once friendly photography teacher won't even talk to her. On the other hand, Taylor, a skater-boy who's far too nice, keeps trying to talk to her.

Caitlin dwells on memories of Ingrid; remembrances of her best friend seem to materialize everywhere. Under her bed, Caitlin finds Ingrid's journal, and she knows she's meant to read it. The short journal entries, including Ingrid's confessions and sketches, appear periodically throughout Hold Still. They illuminate Ingrid's state of mind--one minute agonizing over her crush, the other confessing that she "can't stop crying." These excerpts are heartfelt and earnest--and quite touching. Other elements of the book--Caitlin's projects, involving photography and woodwork; and the fact that her lesbian friend Dylan's sexuality is a non-issue-- are also captured well.

It's really not the premise of Hold Still that caught my attention (YA already has it's fair share of girl-getting-over-death-of-loved-one)--but the execution. I did a little happy dance inside after reading the first pages of Hold Still--right away, I knew this would be one of the rare times I had to buy a book. So I did. And I'm really glad I did. It's by the grace of LaCour's language that Hold Still is able to hold it's own against the multitude of grief books already out there. To me, it's what allows the book to stand out.

The lyricism of the writing, the sentence fragments, and the setup of the book--the chapters are fragmented, brief vignettes of scenes from Caitlin's life-- all combined to make this one of the best YA books I've read in the last few months. Through the space of 200-something pages, readers are taken along a journey with Caitlin. A heartbreaking, poignant journey of grief that still manages to resonate with beauty.

My Rating: I give it a 9/10. I haven't given out a 9/10 FOR TWO MONTHS, peeps. AKA this means you really should pick up a copy ASAP. Really.


my trip to strand bookstore

While gallivanting around NYC, we were too stingy to hire a cab, or too smart*. But by late afternoon, I was dragging my feet across Lower Manhattan after walking what must have been literally ten miles. I was waiting at the crosswalk when I looked up and--there it was--the red signage of Strand Bookstore. A crowd clustered around book bargain shelves outside. I could see the promising outlines of books from where I was standing. I felt this little jab in my chest, because Strand had just appeared out of no where, and this bookstore that I'd wanted to visit for ages was suddenly smack-dab in front of me.

It was like something out of a dream.

I'd heard of Strand before--mostly on the blogosphere--and I knew what a huge reputation it had. So when I saw the steady crowd entering and leaving--I knew this wasn't a chance I could miss. I'd be lucky if I made it to NYC again in the next ten years. So I ran inside before my Mom could stop me. The air conditioning** was like the icing on a cake.

Inside there was a whole lot of wood, and a whole lot of books. A crowd milled; the checkout line snaking from the cashiers to the beginning of the bookshelves. I'd honestly never been in such a crowded bookstore--except, in NYC-- everything's crowded. The first level was fiction--I took a quick glance before vaulting up stairs, passing an mezzanine to arrive on the second floor. I hadn't a clue where the YA section was, but at this point I was just trying to burrow my way as far into the interior of this bookstore, and hope I'd never be found. I felt like I could spend a week in there, buried in books, and be completely content.

I turned left and spotted a banner that read "Children & Young Adults." I'm sure I half-fell, half-sprinted in my eagerness to get there. The bookshelves were extraordinarily tall, reaching up to the ceiling--the top shelves only accessible to eight-foot-tall giants. So I craned my neck up, and craned my neck down, and knelt on the floor and craned my neck every which way to get a good look at the titles.

Once I'd spent maybe a minute there, I knew this was the best bookstore for YA I'd ever been in. It probably had ten times the selection of my local bookstore. And to top it off, the prices were all at discounts--cheaper the Amazon, cheaper than almost anywhere I'd been. I saw so many titles I recognized, but a whole bunch I didn't, and it was honestly quite overwhelming. Add in the fact that I knew my parents would find me any minute and tell me we had to leave, like RIGHT NOW, and I was sort of jumping back and forth in between shelves and raking through them in a crazed manner. I took a quick glance at the children's section--stared longingly at the sign that proclaimed that rare children's books could be found a level or so up--and vaulted back downstairs in search of lost parents.

But lo and behold--parents were miraculously engrossed in books of their own! So I frantically raced back up the stairs and started looking more at the YA section. I think at this point I knew I was in trouble--THIS WAS A SERIOUS DECISION, here. I had to buy something, but I didn't know what to buy.

Indecision is a terrible thing.

I looked for books I'd been wanting to read, looked for ARCs (as I heard the Strand was rumored to carry some). But sadly, there weren't copies of the books I'd been looking for a long time and hadn't been able to find--like Fighting Reuben Wolfe by Markus Zusak. Still, there was an ample amount of selection. Just as I was about to grab a title, my Dad appeared.

"Your Mom's already checking out."

Darnit. Darnit. Darnit.

So I leapt back down the stairs. The thing about the Strand was, that even though the lines were really, impressively long--they moved fast. By the time I got there my Mom was halfway through the line. I spent a few precious minutes sizing up the Strand bookstore bags they had, and then the very awesome t-shirts styled after book covers (They had ones for Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, and Slaughter-House Five, to name a few.)

Then I went billowing down the first floor again, and snatched up a copy of Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night, which has come up before on this blog (wahoo!) and that I wanted to read because it'd been sort of chasing after me for a while (blog mention, several real-life mentions.)

I got back and it was my Mom's turn.

Bespectacled Mom: "Are you getting the bag?"

Me: "Err. Um. *claws at price tag* It's only twelve dollars!"

BM: "It's a nice bag. You should get it. "

Me: "Urm. Um. Still...*stinginess overrides buyer's compulsion* Ummmmmmmm. *vacillates* I'll just get the book."

So my dad's book--The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century--was scanned. Mine was scanned. The worker slid the two books into a frightening shade of yellow bag.

And just like that, we were officially proud costumers of Strand Bookstore. I was grinning ear to ear as I stepped back into the sweltering heat and into the mob-crowd populating NYC.

All in all, my Strand experience was a little panicky, and quite a bit rushed. I think that maybe we were in there for fifteen minutes. To be fair, my Mom would have stayed longer if there were any chairs, which there didn't seem to be, and fifteen minutes of standing after walking nonstop the whole day was pretty painful.

I don't know how I'll make it back to the Strand, but next time I think I need to set aside a few days so I can spend some quality time in there, haha. And I'll actually buy books--I had to keep my load light, since we had a ways to go until we got to the train station. :)

And now, the end result...


1 abbreviated Strand experience = 2 books + 1 strand bag + 1 overexcited blogger.

* traffic in the Big Apple quite honestly s
cares the crap out of me. It's like you're battling for your life at every moment, haha.
** It was about 100 degrees outside. *dies*


why book tv is the shiz

Don't ask me how, but it's happened: I've increasingly found myself doing things for fun that I would've classified as boring just a a few months ago.

I'm enjoying myself whilst:

1. I get my hands on some nonfiction books. Not memoirs, but these sort of factual, research beasts of books. This is monumental, since I've stayed as far away from nonfiction as possible for a long time.

2. I've found out that mushrooms taste sort of okay now. I used to hate them. (Just throwing that out there.)

3. Instead of frying my brain with the latest episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, I've been flopping in front of news shows of the dry variety. And also, um, a certain TV channel called Book TV.

Now, Book TV basically consists of mostly old and incredibly smart people getting up in front of a microphone and talking about very complicated things for a very long time. There are usually shots of the audience that come on screen every once in a while to interrupt the monotony of filming nothing but an old guy's speech for an hour. The audience is usually slumped in their seats, about ready to fall asleep.

So what's so great about this seemingly boring network?

At first, I thought nothing. I was disappointed that whenever I flipped Book TV on, it didn't cover the books I wanted covered. Children's books. YA books. I've heard maybe one mention of YA the whole time I've been watching--a publisher rep saying that sales were doing great in the YA section.

After a hammering on my remote to look ahead at the show schedule, I figured out that Book TV basically covers nonfiction books.

The things is, I'd at first hoped that Book TV would be the TV counterpart of book blogs. But it's not. It couldn't be more different. But somehow, I still want to watch Book TV.

Because those people who are rambling on my TV screen? Who are so passionate about a topic that they're experts? Who are talking about mind-blowing theories they've come up with? They're not just people--they're authors. And I find that fascinating. I find it wonderful that there's actually room on TV to host programs on authors and their upcoming books. And Book TV features book signings and lectures and in depth interviews. A few days ago, my eyes were glued to the screen as Alan Brinkley talked about the life of Henry Luce (the publisher of TIME) for an hour. And I thought it was a pretty darn amazing program.

I think maybe this ties into getting--for the first time in my life--to go to a a few author readings this summer. What those authors said--when I sat down in front of them--was pretty amazing too. I meant to ask them questions; I swore I would--but I never managed to work up the courage (next time, I promise). But people around me did. I especially loved it when an author said flat-out: "that topic you feel like you shouldn't write about ? That's exactly what you should be writing" to a member of the audience.

That's pretty great advice, in my opinion.

I think seeing an author talk in front of you is invaluable. Especially when they're talking about their book or their writing or their reading or anything. Their words are gold. Sometimes, you even come across authors that speak like their writing--the same amount of eloquence and thought behind words that are conjured up right in front of you. It's sort of like magic.

So that's why Book TV--for all it's shortcomings--is really the shiz on tv nowadays.

If you're a history nerd or you like nonfiction or you just like listening to people who are smart, I'd recommend that if you have C-SPAN2, flip to it on the weekends (it transforms to Book TV by some unfathomable process). It might seem a little dull at first, but it's amazing once you settle down and realize that it's really very cool.

Or, better yet, attend some book readings with Q&A's if you haven't already. I live in an area where it makes it hard, but it's definitely worth it. By now, I think I've become addicted to listening to authors talk. Luckily, there are worse things to be addicted to. :)

new email address!

So finally, I've decided that I've had enough. Mostly because every time I check my email, I encounter a wall of 50 or so spam messages. Since my email inbox is such a catastrophe, it makes it harder for me to respond to everyone and keep organized and generally keep my brain from exploding.

Here's my solution:

My new blog email address is inwhichagirlreads@gmail.com

From now on, I'd appreciate it if you sent any emails for me to that address. I'll be updating the contact information on my blog accordingly in the next few days, and I'll still be checking my old email, chocowrites@gmail.com, from time to time. But I'm trying to gradually transition away from the spam breeding ground that is my email.

Thanks and I hope the switch won't inconvenience any of you :)


back in gear


How has everyone been this summer? Anything really exciting, monumental, gorgeous, otherwise comment-mention-worthy happen to you? I think the most exciting thing that's happened to me this week is being reunited with my computer, and therefore the interwebs. Also, logging onto this blog, which will hopefully be having regular updates again starting NOW.

I totally mean this.

Post-fright? Totally not gonna win.
Summer vacation? Neutralized by suburbia, and 24-7 access to the internet
ALL MANNER OF THINGS THAT HAVE STOPPED ME BLOGGING? Dealt with. Sort of. (kinda haven't dealt with eradicating homework and the human need I have to sleep at times.)


There. It's in concrete (bold) writing, and you guys are fully allowed to complain if I don't start posting again. And commenting, and visiting all your blogs, and just generally being a blogger again. In the next few days I'll be catching up with all the emails I have sitting in my inbox (a scary amount). I just wanted to remind you all that if you've sent me an email and I haven't got a reply, and you want one, just go ahead and resend it. I don't mind at all, and it gives your email more chance of it standing out from the hordes of spam :) The spam problem is quite a big one, so I might be switching to another email address. I'll let you guys know when it happens.

On another side note: it's pretty sad that the airport bookstore (which is teensy) has better selection than my own local bookstore. I snagged a copy of STORMGLASS by Maria V. Snyder (after being miffed that they had book #2 MAGIC STUDY but not #1 POISON STUDY) to start off my Snyder experience via airplane ride, since I've heard from many awesome bloggers that Snyder and her books are completely awesome (I finally bowed down to the pressure of all that awesome) . And also I have an copy of THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger lying about six inches away from me, and I am SO excited to dig in--it's one of the 2010 books I've been anticipating the most.

But enough about me and my oh-so-shiny books. WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What are you guys reading, doing over the summer, and DOING AT THIS VERY MOMENT (besides reading this)? TELL ME!


brain-spewage (1)

Inspired by the comments on my previous post, I decided I'd write (and then post) whatever the heck that comes to mind at this moment. Sort of as an exercise against post-fright.

I am reading Hemingway. It's a war book: For Whom the Bell Tolls , "intensely emotional"; it says on a cover with soft rolling mountains melding to golden sky. I'm reading Hemingway for a number of reasons: 1) I was told it'd cure me of liking purple prose (which it hasn't yet) 2) I sort of feel obligated, since I haven't read Hemingway yet, and feel like an ignoramus whenever someone fawns over him and says, "Ah, yes, Hemingway. The greatest writer of the 20th century." 3) It was closer on the bed table to me then Tender is the Night. I find it hugely funny that I'm reading Fitzgerald and Hemingway at the same time. Such a clash of styles: one beautiful and flowery prose, the other simple and plain prose. It's sort of making my brain dizzy--and I'm feeling like I should just dive into T.S. Eliot solely to make a triumvirate of expatriates.

Anyhow, reading as much literature as I am this summer is getting to be life-changing. I just finished Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, and it was mind-bogglingly good and just sort of added to my feeling that I'm madly in love with Atwood and everything that she writes. (I will have to do a review of EW soon).

And what can I say of the poetry I've been reading?

Ah, poetry. Frank O'Hara sort of captures the mood I'm feeling today: the intensity of the now. At this moment my feet are planted against the wall, I am in pajamas, and the fan is fluttering in the air. Outside is violet dusk; I am expecting to hear the crack of fireworks, see colors splashing the sky at any moment now.

And these lines* are ringing in my head, a trapped song playing over and over again:

oh god it's wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

I just realized that this has been happening a lot--getting words stuck in my brain. But it's not annoying in the way songs can be. I don't think I can get annoyed by lines like:

"and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars."

It's sort of like getting bits of beauty rumbling around in my mind. Which I quite like.

Here are a few pictures I took while in a plane. And no, I don't where this is.

Thinking about it, this is definitely my most exciting summer I've ever had--

the fireworks have started and my dog is going crazy. I put down Hemingway for a bit, run outside without shoes on. I am in time to watch as colors skim across the horizon. I take pictures until my arms ache, but nothing stabilizes. I get either smoky dark sky, or few lights sprinkled across, or edges of the fireworks. It's mostly the sound that stands out; too late, I realize that I should've taken a video.

I guess it's all about timing.

Now I'm thinking about the dialogue in Hemingway's--it's so choppy, with periods where I'm used to commas--and also, remembering someone saying how it's strange that we actually read our literary tradition backwards. I read 21st century authors before I did 17th century authors. Cormac McCarthy's prose makes sense in light of Hemingway's.

And now I feel oddly better for having rambled. And managing to ramble in a book-related way. And then managing to post my ramblings, even if it's because I'm half-asleep and can't think enough to feel nervous about posting.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July :)

* From "Steps" by O'Hara, second quote is from The Great Gatsby



So I haven't been posting much lately (sans internet summer, here) or interacting much on the blogosphere at all (please forgive me?). But, something's been bothering me lately: I could've posted a least a few things if I wanted to. There are a sprinkling of posts I managed to write sporadically during a few rare moments of down time. Posting that material would've lessened the current drought of posts, at least.

But for some reason, I didn't. Post, I mean.

*steels self*

Do any of you guys ever get--post-fright?*

I'm sort of wallowing in it at the moment.

But seeing that it's gone on this long, it's getting sort of ridiculous. Now I have a bunch of posts stockpiling in my "drafts" folder, yet I can't seem to actually--y'know--post them.

Weird, huh?

I mean, this post is okay to publish because it's fluff and just me rambling, but the discussion posts I have typed up (a few reflections, rants, etc) are moldering. So are my reviews and all the other stuff I used to post.

The cause of post-fright isn't that I don't want to post, or even--despite the "fright" part of the term--because I'm afraid of my posts or of publishing them. Okay, maybe a little bit of the afraid-to-post factor is weighing in, even if I don't want to admit it.

But truly, I don't know what it is. I think it's maybe a combination of a bunch of stuff:

1. The posts I'm writing aren't measuring up to my own, personal standards:
a) I'll set off to write a post, and then it comes out quite differently than I originally intended, and then I figure I'll fix it sometime and eventually post, but don't.
b) The style of my posts. I was okay with letting a casual tone reign free (as in the post) and then trying to clean it up a bit for reviews & discussions. But now, I'm wondering what to stick with. I mean, I like that when I'm writing these posts it just feels like I'm having a conversation with you guys. (I totally write how I speak, haha), but I dunno--I feel like maybe I should be paying more attention to what I'm actually writing rather than just spewing it unedited into the nebulous tendrils of the internet.

2. I'm struggling with deciding what direction this blog is going to take, because--well, I haven't been reading much YA lately. A spattering of lovely YA books, but--I don't know, I feel almost claustrophobic when I get to my (poorly) stocked bookstore and just sort of falter in front of the YA section that I love so much and know and love--and then I end up not picking up anything. It's a strange predicament.

3. The thought that springs up occasionally: that this is my blog so I should just do whatever I feel at the moment and have fun. Yet the stuff I have in mind at the moment isn't post-material-stuff. More like put-everyone-to-sleep-stuff.


Anyhow, sorry for the ramble and then self-blogging analysis :)

But, have any of you had a similar problem of post-fright? (Please tell me I'm not the only one). How did you deal with it? What did you do?

Edit: Yikes,I had to struggle even to post this post. I think this is a very serious and advanced case of post-fright. (HELP ME!)

*seemed the best term for it.

P.P.S I'm sorry for dropping off the face of the earth
P.P.P.S Yes, I am still officially dropped off the face of the earth
P.P.P.P.S YES, I am reading. As a matter of fact, that stuff I'm reading is sort of mind-blowing and therefore life-changing--hey, maybe I should write a post about that---
P.P.P.P.P.S I'll write that post, promise.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Did I mention how much I love you guys?
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S I hope you're not finding these P.S's obnoxious*, tehe. (* I've always loved how there's a "noxious" in obNOXIOUS, like the P.S. or person or other subject is making you feel sick and queasy as well as being annoying.)
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I really should stop. Hey, have you guys ever played bananagrams? It's only the best game, ever.
Stopping now.