Monday, February 20, 2012

    Follow the Reader: My Latest Book Binge

    Oh, it was a good week for a book binge.

    Purchased brand new from Barnes & Noble
    I was first introduced to this book when I saw it sitting next to Lisa See's other books on a special table in the bookstore. 
    I chose to buy this book because I triple-puffy-heart-LOVED Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. In fact, I loved that book so much that I'll by anything Lisa See writes. My love affair with Asian and Asian American lit began in undergrad, when one of my favorite professors was an Asian American literature scholar. I took every class she offered, she was that good. 

    Purchased brand new from Barnes & Noble
    I was first introduced to this book when I read about it in a gazillion different book reviews. Seriously, was this not one of the most beloved books of the last few years?
    I chose to buy this book because it had all those great reviews, and a trusted friend of mine read it and gave it a really interesting review on Goodreads. It sounds like this book reads more like a collection of short stories than a novel, which is something I typically love. Also, I really liked this interview Egan gave for Opening Lines.
    Purchased brand new from Barnes & Noble
    I was first introduced to this book when I saw it sitting on the Buy 2 Get the 3rd Free table at Barnes & Noble.
    I chose to buy this book because it sounds super interesting, based on the back cover and first few pages alone. And, I was already buying two other books from the table, and so the third would be free. :) I buy a lot of books on impulse like this, it's a weakness that comes from loving books too much.
    Purchased brand new from Barnes & Noble
    I was first introduced to this book when I saw a color ad for it in the Book Review, I believe. It could have been in another paper, though. 
    I chose to buy this book because I saw it on display and remembered liking the blurb I read in the ad. It's a beautiful cover, and after re-reading the back I thought I want to read this. So, I will.
    Purchased brand new from Barnes & Noble
    I was first introduced to this book when I read about Amanda Hocking's incredible transition from indie author to traditionally published author. Interesting NPR piece about that here.
    I chose to buy this book because I want to know what all the fuss is about. Hocking has millions of readers, so there must be something great here. I want to get in on that! I've already purchased one of her books on my Kindle, but I can't remember which one, so . . . let's hope it isn't this one. 
    Purchased brand new from Sam's Club
    I was first introduced to this book through John Green's Vlogbrothers videos.
    I chose to buy this book because well, I've already shared my John Green obsession with you. So, there's that. I planned on buying TFIOS once it came out in paperback because I just plain prefer paperbacks. And, I didn't get to the store fast enough to snag one of the first-run copies that John Green signed, himself. Or did I? Yup, that's right, I found a signed copy, and it was just this past weekend, long after they should have all been gone. 

    This is how it happened: My husband coerced me into going to Sam's Club with him on Saturday. (I hate large stores, especially of the warehouse variety.) So, whenever I find myself in a store I naturally wind up pacing back and forth in the book section, provided they have one. If they don't, I follow my husband around muttering complaints about the lack of books. 

    There I was, looking at the books, and I saw it. That beautiful, yellow sticker:
    Now, I thought it couldn't be true. How was this one signed copy just sitting there waiting for me to grab it. There were several other copies there, but none of them signed. No, siree.
    I braced myself for disappointment. I opened the cover, flipped to the first white page, and there it was:

    So, I had to have it. And no, I'm not sleeping with it under my pillow or anything, thankyouverymuch.

    All of this recent talk about bookstores disappearing has motivated me to buy more books, to do my part to keep them around. It's a struggle, really, buying all these books. :)

    Like this post? Here's a whole page of related ones.

    What about you? What books have you bought lately?

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Follow The Reader: January 2012 Reads

    A Recap and a Reflection

    Ooh, it was a good reading month for me. I read seven great novels, as well as two full manuscripts for my fun internship as a reader for a publisher.

    Look at all those stars! These were some seriously great books.
    Matched by Allie Condie ★★★★
    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs ★★★★
    Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles ★★★★
    City of Bones by Cassandra Clare ★★★★
    Mortimer's Book of Whatifs by Mandi Tillotson Williams ★★★★
    Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves ★★★★
    Evermore by Alyson Noël ★★★★

    Some things I've been chewing on since reading these books:
    Because that's what a good book does, after all. It feeds the reader, and not just in the moment.

    I've thought about the pills the characters carry around in Ally Condie's dystopian YA novel Matched. The link between control and medication is so compelling, probably because we are already living a less organized (yet still altogether terrifying) version of this reality right now. 

    The lack of parental involvement in Jo Knowles's Jumping Off Swings has stuck with me like a popcorn kernel skin that just won't budge. When I taught high school I was often shocked at how much more I knew about my students' lives than their parents. A common complaint I've seen in reviews of YA books is that the parents are non-existent, but I think this is actually more realistic than we'd like to admit.

    I used to have this habit of grabbing on to a person's quirks and running away with them. I'd exaggerate the quirk in my mind, and create a new person there, with the extra quirkiness. The quirk became exceptional, a point of pride. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing this, but rediscovered the habit after reading about the delightful individuals of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Thank you, Ransom Riggs.

    The possibility of evil. (It's not just a great short story.) Dia Reeves's Slice of Cherry has sort of turned the way I consider characters upside-down. See, one of my favorite things about story is that it often explains why people behave the way they do. Especially the people we have the hardest time understanding--the villains, the bullies, the foils. I love the way a really skilled writer can sometimes make me thing You know, he's not so bad after all by exposing that sensitive underbelly most people work so hard to hide. Not Dia Reeves! Slice of Cherry reminded me that sometimes, there is no redeeming quality or explanation for the bad things people do. It's unsettling, but in a good way.
    What about you? What did you read in January? What's stuck with you since?

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge

    Chuck Wendig says Write and I say How long? 

    You’ve got up to 1,000 words to write a tale featuring an unlikable protagonist that still remains readable and compelling. 

    Here's my entry. Comments welcome.

    What's Inside
    Lori Oster

    The boys kept their eyes on the wide front window. It always started with a small flick of the drapes. Their bikes stood at odd angles, each within an arm's length. It had become almost too easy, lately. She was getting slow.

    Kevin stood the farthest in from the safety of the sidewalk. Seth and Micah hung back, their hands clamped tightly in the hardened work gloves. Any other day, Seth would have been embarrassed to ride his sister's bike with its white banana seat and wicker basket. But today it was just what they needed.

    They all stiffened as the low whine pierced through the air. Kevin lifted a fat canvas finger to his lips, then towards the metal weather vane on the old lady's roof. They resumed breathing as he ventured closer to the dilapidated porch.

    Kevin bent down in front of the first one and looked back at his friends. He bugged his eyes and jutted his chin at them. Seth crouched forward as he moved in. Micah kept his eyes on the window and took slow, measured steps.

    They thought it would be a quick job, that it would come out as easily as the last time. The thorns seemed the only new obstacle, but that's what the gloves were for. Kevin smashed his features in as he pulled, his face flushing with the effort. Nothing.

    Micah leaned back on his hands to peek through the porch rail. The drapes hung untouched, but they knew she was in there. Always was. Last time she'd come out with a real shotgun. They knew it was real because she fired it. Kevin swore she aimed at the sky, but Micah wasn't so sure.

    Now Seth was going at it too, his face nearly as red as the prized petals shaking from his effort. It wouldn't budge.

    Micah saw it first. The fabric moved languidly, as old and tired as its owner. Desperate to get at least a small haul, they all three grabbed handfuls of stems and ripped them away before they raced back to their waiting bikes. The basket wasn't full, but at the sight Kevin felt a small flush of victory bubble up above the metallic taste of fear. The bitch deserved it. He would have raked the thorns across her papery face if he had the chance.

    There was no gunshot this time. She did nothing more than open the wooden door and peer out at them through the bug-mottled screen. They knew she'd make them hurt, anyway. She did it to all the kids, even the ones who never set foot on her property.

    This was only Micah's second time. His first was the week after she'd called his parents, told them about him and Kate Conroy in the school bathroom. How she found out, he'd never know. But Micah's father drank an entire handle that night, and Micah had the bruises to show for it.

    The first time he freed a beam from her porch rail. That was when she used the shotgun. Emboldened by the rush of revenge, Micah drove two nails into his bedroom wall and placed the rail on top of them. A prized trophy.

    She stood behind the screen long after the boys pedaled off. The muscles of her jaw pumped beneath the thin, translucent skin. She didn't bother to move the wiry hair that stretched across her face in the breeze. She just steadied her breath and repeated the old mantra to herself: In time, the truth will out. In time.

    Her words held the slant of a trained hand, though she could no longer steady her wrist, so the letters jutted out at aggressive angles. They were legible enough. She would heed the reminders tomorrow, when the parents would be at work and easily found. It's hard to hide in a small town.

    She performed all the necessary tasks before she headed to her small room, and lowered herself into the deep rut that cradled her tired body all these years. She had forgotten to switch off the light, but she was too tired now to get up and do anything about it.

    Days later, Kevin insisted that they go back and finish the job. Micah hesitated. This was the first time she hadn't retaliated. Seth was sure she had, but that whatever she revealed had been too unbearable for the victim to share with the other kids. Sometimes it happened that way. They shared an unofficial moment of silence then, Darby Sugarbaker's limp body flashing in all of their minds. The long note. The things left unsaid after the “accident”.

    They loaded the basket with the gloves. This time, Kevin brought a switchblade. Nobody had to ask where he got it. Without realizing it, Kevin rubbed the scar on the left side of his neck and shoved the blade in his pocket. Seth and Micah looked down. Some scars were harder to hide.

    They heard the sirens before they made the turn onto her street. The boys initially feared the cops were waiting for them. Seth leaned forward, crushing the basket with his elbows. They hopped off their bikes in unison, and walked towards the house.

    The gurney almost looked empty, she was so small. Her slippered feet poked out from the end of the sheet. Kevin recoiled. He always pictured her bigger.

    A man called from the back of the house. Sheriff Buckley emerged minutes later, his hat clutched to his chest, head shaking. “It ain't easy to hide a thing as big as that in a town this small.” He turned to the three boys, “Did ya'all know she had a vegetable of a grandson in there?” They stared back blankly. “Hell if I know how she kept him so well.”

    When the story came out in the local paper, Micah's mom shook her head and said, "You never can tell what's inside, sweetheart. Never can tell" 

    © Lori Oster, 2012

    Book Review! Carrie Harris's BAD TASTE IN BOYS, 5 of 5 stars

    I felt kind of like a zombie while reading this book. But not a flesh-eating zombie, a book-devouring zombie. Because I couldn't. Stop. Reading. Nomnomnomnomnom.

    5 of 5 stars 
    First: Best. Cover. Ever.

    BAD TASTE IN BOYS is camp at its best. Brainy teen MC Kate Grable's over-the-top editorializing had me laughing out loud as she worked furiously to save her town from an impending zombie outbreak. I started collecting hilarious lines to share in this review, but quickly realized that there were too many to fit. You will just have to read this book yourself.

    Seriously, go read this book. Step away from the computer, and get your hands on BAD TASTE IN BOYS.

    I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a long time. In fact, I woke up this morning with Tim Curry singing "Anything Can Happen on Halloween" in my head. I can only pray that someone will turn this book into a movie worthy of a Tim Curry cameo. I would definitely participate in the cult following that is certain to follow. I can see the merchandise now--finger key chains and PVC swords lining mall store displays next to THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS shoulder bags and ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW t-shirts.

    I picked this up on a whim at my library, because let's face it, the cover is amazing. I ended up sitting there for an entire hour because I couldn't stop reading. I'm going to buy a copy today so I can share it with my students.

    Fun, fun, fun. I cannot wait to read Carrie Harris's next book, BAD HAIR DAY. Bring on the weres! Or vamps, or whatever it is that hits next. I'm sure Kate Grable can take 'em.

    Link to my Goodreads Review

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Thursday Thirteen: Time Suckers

    Thirteen things you're 
    w a s t i n g 
    your time doing
    when you could be 
    R E A D I N G

    1. Clicking frantically through a series of uninteresting blogs
    2. Posting about how bored you are on Facebook
    3. Re-tweeting content that you didn't even check out, yourself
    4. Watching mindless reality TV shows
    5. Texting your friends about how bored you are
    6. Watching YouTube videos of kittens
    7. Going through this entire site because it's hilarious
    8. Culling through your friends' bookshelves on Goodreads
    9. Watching videos of this guy for the millionth time. This week.
    10. Pinning photos you'll never look at again to your Pinterest account
    11. Watching reruns of Seinfeld
    12. Laughing at people who clearly don't read enough
    13. Laughing at people who are genuinely hilarious, yet still huge time-sucking traps

    I'm proud to say that I never engage in #2.
    As for the others, I'm staying mum.  

    What about you? What little things do you allow to creep into your day and suck up all your reading or writing time? Have any good techniques for tearing yourself away?

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Check It Out!

    I'm so excited to have a Teaching Tip featured on the IRA's Teacher to Teacher blog!

    The tip focuses on the Juicy Words Project that I use to help students acquire new word knowledge. It really is a lot of fun!

    IRA (the International Reading Association) is one of my favorite professional organizations.
    IRA's goals are to:
    • improve the quality of reading instruction
    • disseminate research and education about reading, and to 
    • encourage the lifetime reading habit. 
    Of course I love IRA!

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Thursday Thirteen: Signs You're Addicted

    Addicted to books, that is.

    That's right, I'm going there. It's time we do away with the shame, the fear, the guilt. It's time we face our addiction for what it is: a lifeline. A game changer. The foundation for everything good that we have ever experienced. My habitual (obsessive?) devotion to reading is one of the greatest things about my life. And I'm not ashamed to admit it. 

    But I know you might be.

    I see you, you closet readers. With your iPhones in your hands, thumbs flying, pretending to send text messages when you're really reading John Green's latest release. You think you're pretty sly, but as they say, you can't trick a trickster. Readers know a fellow reader when they see one. It's really easy if you know what to look for.

    13 Signs You're 
    A D D I C T E D
    to Books

    1. You can't walk past a bookstore without stepping inside. 

    If you're with non-reading friends, you'll feign a sudden and intense need for water. If the store lacks a cafe, you'll say that you're mom is making you send a book to your Great Aunt Ida for her birthday. Either way, you usually end up forgetting that you were with your friends in the first place, and they find you hunched over on the floor, 40 pages into a new release.

    2. You have used any of the following as a bookmark: 

    A receipt, a corner from the essay you wrote for that day's English class, an old envelope from a piece of mail, a dollar bill, a food wrapper, or a piece of loose change. Basically, anything to avoid dogearing a page. (Disclosure: I'm all about dogearing pages. But I know I'm in the minority on this one.)

    3. You have paid more in library fines than most people pay for a month of cable. 

    Because sometimes, two weeks just isn't enough, and you'd rather spend the money than risk losing the book.

    4. You've cancelled plans with friends to stay home and finish a book.

    What? Doesn't everybody?

    5. You could sell every one of the tables in your home, replace them all with stacks of books, and actually gain tabletop space.

    Again, I don't really understand why this is a big deal.

    6. You would break it off with someone if you learned, even after several great dates, that he doesn't own any books. 

    Of course you would. Is there even any viable alternative?

    7. When someone tells you they don't read, you automatically assume they're trying to be funny. 

    Because a) Why would anyone admit that? and b) Why would you be talking to this person in the first place if it were true?

    8. Your Goodreads To Read shelf has at least three times as many books as your Read shelf.

    And it just keeps on getting bigger by the day.

    9. You would rather eat Ramen noodles every day for a month than waste your money on real food, so you can reserve an advance copy of your favorite author's newest book before its release date.

    Far better to eat chemicals and preservatives than to have to wait to read the latest book. I mean, does no one have priorities anymore?

    10. You only buy gallon-sized purses so you won't ever be faced with the decision between carrying a book, or your wallet.

    We all know the book would win. Because it's much better to have something to read during your lunch break than something to eat.

    11. You have yelled at a loved one for interrupting you during a   
    really important part. 

    You're really in it deep if you refuse to apologize because they should have known better. 

    12.You have considered leaving your career to work in the local bookstore. More than once. 

    We know you've gone so far as to fill out the application.

    13. You have ended a friendship after learning that a person's favorite book is Twilight. 
    Not that there's anything wrong with Twilight. But if that's her favorite book, then, well, this just won't work out. Let's be honest now and make everything easier on ourselves.

    If you or someone you know has shown any of these signs of book addiction, there's help. As we speak, there are thousands of groups formed to help sufferers of book addiction. They go by many names, but are most often called Book Clubs. Please join your local Book Club today. You are not alone.

    Does this describe you? What are the other signs? What's the craziest thing you've done to get in some more reading time? 

    I'd love to hear them, so please share your experiences in the comments. Tell me I'm not the only addict.
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