“In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.” Nicola Yoon

I’ve finally had a chance to start reading some of the Advance Reader Copies I brought home from Book Expo America. First up, one of the top YA picks for the fall- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.

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I have to admit, the premise isn’t one I would normally gravitate to, but after hearing it discussed at BEA, I added it to my must read list. In this story the protagonist, Maddie, has a rare disease and faces some insurmountable odds. She’s basically a bubble girl, allergic to the world, and unable to leave her house.

And then a boy moves in next door.

I’m not usually a fan of girl meets boy and life finally gets interesting, but Yoon gives the old archetype some new life and the book is insanely readable. There’s a love story, sure, but it’s part of a larger narrative and that’s what keeps you reading. Maddie makes you want to root for her.

Also, being a big supporter of diverse books, I have to say that I appreciate that the protagonist was racially diverse, but was allowed to tell a story that had nothing to do with race. Stories about learning to accept what makes you different are important, but equally important are stories where diverse characters are accepted as part of the story without having to highlight the ways in which they are different.

Kudos and congratulations to Nicola Yoon on writing a story worth reading. I couldn’t pull myself away from the book until the end, and even then I wanted to know more. Everything, Everything comes out on September 1, 2015 and I highly recommend finding yourself a copy.

Oh, and of you want to read it first, leave me a comment below. If at least five people comment with their favorite book featuring a diverse character, I’ll pick one commenter randomly to win a copy of Everything, Everything before it goes on sale. The winner will be posted next Friday, July 10th. Good luck and happy reading!

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me…

C.S. Lewis totally gets me.

Hello, friends! I have to start by saying, I went to a blogger conference last week and the two rules they gave me were:

  1. Don’t apologize for absences
  2. Don’t write long blogs.

I’m about to break the heck out of both of those rules.

I have not written one single little word in here for nine months. I could birth a new person in that amount of time. I didn’t. But I could have. So my apologies are dual. One to anyone who occasionally checks in on me and finds nothing new to see here. Another to myself for not taking the time to do something I enjoy.

There are a couple of reasons for my going AWOL. Initially, it was because the wife and I were busy getting settled into our Brooklyn abode and having panic attacks on alternating days that we’d just sunk our entire savings into this move. To b fair, that still occasionally happens, but here we are. After that the holidays descended full force and I decided to vent my creativity by becoming Betty Crocker. I did impress myself a couple of times. My first attempt at a Yule Log was more than respectable (and even if it hadn’t been, it was soaked in so much booze no one would have noticed if I’d made the whole thing of Playdoh.)

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Pretty, right? And you could basically get drunk off the fumes!

After that (drumroll please!) I started a new grad school program. One that actually kind of makes sense for a girl who can think of no better situation than being surrounded by books and drinking tea. I enrolled in Library School (name withheld because, well, stalkers) where, in two years, I can have a Masters in How To Be A Librarian. I go back and forth a little on whether or not this was the right choice, but the reality is that I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether or not to pursue performing again for a couple years now and that wasn’t doing much for me. So, I figure if I’m going to waffle indefinitely about pursuing a dream, at least I can be productive while doing so and, at the end of the next year, if I still haven’t decided, well, at least I’ll have a way to make some money while I vacillate.

Truth be told, though, I’m actually really glad I enrolled in this program. I took a children’s literature class this semester that lit a spark in me that I haven’t felt in awhile. In some of my research projects, I focused on LGBT books for kids and what I found is that there aren’t many. I know, big surprise right? But I had no idea how severely underrepresented LGBT characters and ideas were for younger kids. It was while I was in the midst of this (not actually shocking) realization that Andrea Davis Pinkney came to talk to us and something she said really stuck with me. She said she was having a conversation with her husband about the lack of diverse books available for kids and he told her that if they didn’t exist maybe she needed to write them herself. So she did. And I was floored. Because, despite being someone who writes, someone who finally managed to finish a book last year, someone who has been keeping a journal/blog for almost two decades, a solution that obvious had not even occurred to me. So I sat down and thought about it. I thought about the books I’d been reading for class and the books I’d read when I was younger. And then I thought about the books I didn’t read, the literary mirrors I never had. It took me a decade to realize I had a crush on a girl because I had no vocabulary to explain what I was feeling to myself. And then I started thinking about all the stories I wish I could have read. And I started to think maybe I could be one of those voices missing from the library shelves. Hmm…

Cut to the end of the semester and I had survived the project from hell (seriously, group work should be banned after like third grade) and all of the final papers and assignments, coming out with a 4.0 and a brand new happy dance. I spent a solid week telling anyone who would listen that I had managed a perfect GPA my first semester of grad school. Not even humble bragging it like any respectable braggart. Nope, I was shouting that news from the rooftops and inserting it in essentially every conversation I had. (Sidenote: I think, somehow, we’ve been conditioned to somehow downgrade our own accomplishments out of some bizarre societal norm that says humility somehow outranks pride when it comes to personal accomplishments. Well, eff that, I say! I worked my face off for those grades and I am gonna be as effusive in praise of myself as I would be in praise of anyone else.) As a reward, I bought myself a pass to BookExpo America’s Bloggers Conference and a weekend pass to BookCon.

So let me just tell you about that if you’ve never been. BEA is a professional conference for people whose careers revolve around books (librarians, publishers, authors, etc). That’s the official declaration. Unofficially, it’s more like Woodstock for nerds (I’m including myself in that description before anyone can be offended haha.) It is three days of literary bacchanalia, where authors are the rock stars and all the rest of us are either the screaming fans or the caretakers of the rock stars. And if Woodstock was a bit of a chemical free-for-all, well, let’s just call books my drug of choice. And there were plenty. Advance Reader Copies everywhere you turn. Books of every variety offered to you around every corner. It was one crazy trip, man. It started on Wednesday and my week went something like this.

Day 1: I shall go to all the conferences and learn many things. I don’t need to bring a suitcase like everyone says because I am here to gain wisdom and knowledge. During a break, I make the fatal mistake of going to check out the exhibition floor. I will only be there for a few minutes, I think. I have many more things to learn this afternoon. And then someone handed me my first ARC and I fell down the rabbit hole, emerging dazed and glassy eyed an hour later to attempt to regain my day and resume my schedule of learning things. I am still convinced this week is for learning. I go to a few more panels and then head home patting myself on the back for not being sucked into the madness. I only left with two big bags of books.

Embarrassing Event of the Day: Not realizing I was holding a Bernadette Peter’s book until I glanced up and she was two feet in front of me. Not bad on its own, but I proceeded to gape like a fish before walking away with what I thought was a free ARC only to be chased down by one of her people and firmly advised that I could NOT have that book. I am fairly certain the shade of red I turned is not one my face has ever experienced and I hope it never experiences it again.

Day 2: I think perhaps I need better shoes. And maybe a suitcase. Just in case. But I am going to learn things. That is why I am here. I attend a panel and then, mysteriously, I find myself suddenly in the exhibition hall. I have no idea how I got here. But the books! They are everywhere. There are more than yesterday and all of these people want me to have them. It is possible that I am dreaming or that it is Christmas or that I have died and this is heaven. I will go back to the panels later. Really. I will. Probably. Only this line to meet Brandon Stanton (you know, Humans of New York. And if you don’t know, look him up. You’ll thank me.) is very long so perhaps I better just skip the learning things.

Embarrassing Event of the Day: I spilled coffee all over my white shirt. On the plus, I managed to do it after meeting Brandon Stanton. Small favors.

Day 3: I have given up on all pretense of educating myself. Today I am hanging out with my favorite Syracuse librarian and we are going to get all the books. This is the plan. It turns out she is a very good accomplice in this mission, possessing a stunning combination of fearlessness and speed. Mission accomplished. We part ways in the afternoon and I line up to see Mindy Kaling. This is pretty much the rest of my day.

Embarrassing Event of the Day: Mindy Kaling asks if I am R* as that is what it says on the sticky note I am clutching. I reply that R* is my roommate and that I am getting this autograph for her. MK calls me a good friend. I reply that I try. She says, “Well, I hope she enjoys it.” Says I, “We’ll see.” We’ll see. Yes, I said to a best selling author that there is some possibility that my roommate will not, in fact, enjoy the autograph and preview chapter that she has just given me. I realize my mistake and attempt to rectify it calling helplessly over my shoulder that my roommate introduced me to MK’s book and I feel like she deserves the autograph as thanks. MK appears to be simultaneously be bored and also possibly slightly concerned about my sanity. I could, however, be attributing this to her because I am questioning my own sanity at this point. I am a spaz. Also, I don’t even watch the woman’s show. I just really liked her book. From this, I conclude that apparently the only people I turn into a babbling idiot around are authors whose work I enjoy. (And possibly Naya Rivera, but I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t?)

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The results of Book Expo 2015- Books for days!!!!

After such an embarrassing week, I was only cautiously optimistic about not making a raving fool of myself at BookCon over the weekend. BookCon is the greatest thing in the world for book lovers not lucky enough to work in the field. It’s BookExpo-lite, with a few less giveaways maybe, but with much less pressure to rationalize to your boss why you should be allowed to attend on the company’s dime. The crowds are completely overwhelming and the amount of people crying over missing out on an autograph from a Kardashian makes me concerned about the future of this world, but minus that, it’s quite a fun weekend. My wife and my roommate came with me on Sunday and it is no exaggeration to say that we could have made real use of a pack mule trying to schlep all of our swag back to Brooklyn. By the end of the day, people were begging you to take books off their hands so they didn’t have to ship them. A volunteer handed my wife a stack of a big name, big deal, up and coming novel and told her she could have extras for her friends. Not people to turn down free books, the three of us ended the day bent practically in half and running for the bus in a sudden downpour, trying to make sure the books weren’t destroyed before they even made it home. It was some combination of amazing and terrible. Terribly amazing?

So, that’s a little update. I have many more words, but since I’m already approaching 2000, I’ll cut myself off here and promise a solid effort on my part to update more often.

One more thing. I’m thinking about adding the occasional book review in here and in the spirit of that, I thought I’d try a little contest. If I can get ten comments on this blog telling me about a book on your To Be Read list (whether it’s published yet or not) I will put names in a virtual hat and pick one to receive an advance copy of Auggie & Me, Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio. Get your comments in this weekend because on Monday June 8, 2015 at noon I’ll choose a name!

Until then, happy reading!

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And, thank you, BookCon, for all the beautiful books!