Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in Review: Music

I bought --130 new songs this year (only about half as many as last year) including the albums My Woman - Angel Olsen and Currents - Tame Impala,

2016 songs on heavy rotation (* indicates top 7)

*Lucky - AURORA (+ Winter Bird + Murder Song)
Free - Broods (+ Couldn't Believe + Full Blown Love)
*Higher - The Naked and the Famous (+ Laid Low + The Water Beneath You)
2AM - Bear Hands
Big Ideas - The Boxer Rebellion
How - Daughter
Dust - Haelos
Open Your Eyes - School of Seven Bells
Something to Believe In - Young the Giant
Sunday Love - Bat for Lashes
Somebody Else - The 1975 (+ The Sound)
You Don't Get Me High Anymore - Phantogram
*New Song - Warpaint
*Not Gonna Kill You - Angel Olsen (+ Shut Up Kiss Me + Intern)
Brand New Moves - Hey Violet
What Am I Becoming? - POP ETC
Still Breathing - Green Day
Love Me Better - Love Thy Brother
*I Won't Let You Go - Switchfoot
*Your Best American Girl - Mitski
Washed Up Together - Knox Hamilton
I Am Chemistry - Yeasayer (+ Silly Me)
Bad Decisions - Two Door Cinema Club
Sweet Disaster - DREAMERS
*Ladies Don't Play Guitar - Tennis
What We Live For - American Authors
Lose It - Oh Wonder
Live While I Breathe - The Moth & The Flame (+ Red Flag)
Fall Together - The Temper Trap
Past Lives - Local Natives
Love Is A Disease - Honeyblood

Favorite finds from previous years 

Roses - The Chainsmokers (2015)
This Year - Cooper (2015)
Destruction - Joywave (2015)
Queen - MisterWives (2015)
When You Were Mine - Night Terrors of 1927 (Feat. Tegan and Sara) (2015)
High Dive - Andrew McMahon (2014)
You Are Enough - Sleeping at Last (2014)
Here With Me - Susie Suh (2014)
You Ruin Me - The Veronicas (2014) 
Do I Wanna Know? - Arctic Monkeys (2013)
Diamonds - The Boxer Rebellion (2013)
Cigarette Daydreams - Cage the Elephant (2013)
Out of My League - Fitz & The Tantrums (2013)
As It Seems - Lily Kershaw (2013)
It's Real - Real Estate (2011)
Help I'm Alive - Metric (2009)
My Mistakes Were Made for You - The Last Shadow Puppets (2008)
The Middle - Jimmy Eat World (2001) 

Live Music in 2016

+ Metric with Joywave (March 5) in Indianapolis, Indiana

+ Daughter (April 6) in D.C.

+ Florence and the Machine with Of Monsters and Men (June 4) in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

+ Purity Ring (June 8) in D.C.

+ Angel Olsen (Sept 15) in D.C.

+ Switchfoot (Oct 26) in D.C. 

I'd love to hear about your favorite music of the year - share with me!!

2016 in Review: Movies and TV

Even though I don't usually blog about movies or tv, I do like my year end list summaries.

2016 Movies I saw this year

Ghostbusters (2016 version)
How to Be Single (plane)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Finding Dory (video)
Star Trek Beyond (video)
The Secret Life of Pets (video)

Total of 8 (6 less than last year)

Notable movies I saw in 2016 that were released before 2016

Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2
The Croods

2016 movies I still want to see

Rogue One
Kubo and the Two Strings
La La Land

TV series I watched in 2016

Mr Robot - Season 1
The Expanse - Season 1
Colony - Season 1
Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 - Season 1+2
Game of Thrones -Season 5+6
Orphan Black - Season 3+4
The Mindy Project - Season 4
Arrested Development - Season 4
Stranger Things - Season 1
Criminal Minds - Season 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
The Bates Motel - Season 4
Master of None - Season 1

How was your year in movies and TV?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Talk: Amy Stacie Chelsea Dee by Mary G. Thompson

The creepy doll cover promises a scary read, but this novel explores the psychological after-effects of a traumatic kidnapping instead of a fright-fest.

Amy comes back to her hometown years after she was kidnapped, but she can't talk about what happened to Dee, her cousin who was kidnapped with her. Over the course of the novel, the reader discovers the heartbreaking reason why.

AMY STACIE CHELSEA DEE is a page turner with a sympathetic main character and a ripped-from-the-headlines plot. Highly recommended for fans of dramatic contemporary YA fiction. Find out more about it at the author's website

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Guest Post: Intertextuality in Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel for the Barnes & Noble Teen Fest with the fab authors Jessica Spotwood, Kate Hattemer and Lisa Maxwell. We got to talking about intertextuality and l noted to Jessica that I loved her shout out to Noelle Stevenson's graphic novel NIMONA, which I had just read. Of course, Jessica's main shout out is to a poet - but I'll let her talk about that.

Take it away, Jessica! 

WILD SWANS has changed a lot from its original conception – perhaps the most of any of my books – but the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay has always played a role.

Back in the fall of 2013, I’d just read April Tucholke’s brilliant BETWEEN THE DEVIL & THE DEEP BLUE SEA. I loved the creepy-gorgeous atmosphere of it and admired how the Citizen Kane, the family’s crumbling old mansion by the sea, functions almost as another character. I’ve always loved setting-heavy books, and I’d just finished my historical fantasy trilogy and wanted to write something completely different. I set out to write a sort of Gothic-flavored contemporary mystery. I decided that the setting of my new book would be an old white farmhouse on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, with the Chesapeake Bay right in its backyard.

In the book’s early incarnation, the house was haunted. Not – as it is now – figuratively, by the weight of being a Milbourn girl. (Everyone in their small town knows what it is to be a Milbourn girl: Talented. Troubled. Cursed.) Originally, there was the ghost of a famous novelist, Dorothea, who had written one Great American Novel and then, like Harper Lee, become a recluse. Over the course of the summer, as Ivy worked with her granddad’s cute poetry student to archive Dorothea’s journals, they discovered a series of clues that perhaps Dorothea hadn’t written the novel after all. Perhaps she’d stolen it. Perhaps she’d murdered someone to keep that secret. And perhaps her ghost was willing to murder again to make sure it stayed secret. One of the clues that Ivy and Connor would stumble upon was the Millay poem “Dirge without Music.”

Unfortunately, I don’t actually know how to write a mystery. I am constantly surprised by TV whodunnits. I do not have a suspicious, logical, clue-parsing mind. The book, in that incarnation, was clearly not working.

An editor who read the beginning suggested that perhaps I could take the ghost and the mystery out and still have a summery, character-driven novel. And so Dorothea became Ivy’s great-grandmother, who was selfish and talented and troubled, but not murderous. Now the plot revolves around a family legacy of both artistic talent and mental illness. Ivy and Connor still work together to archive Dorothea’s journals, but Dorothea’s a famous poet, not a novelist.

And Connor is a poet, too, with tattoos of poems he loves. Ivy loves his talent and his passionate focus even as she's a bit jealous of it. One of those poems – one that means so much to him that it’s tattooed right over his heart – is “A Dirge Without Music.” (I’ll let you read the book to find out why, but it's a subject of fascination for Ivy - and not just because seeing it means seeing Connor shirtless.) In early days, lines from "A Dirge Without Music" were the epigraph for the book, but unfortunately it is not in the public domain.

My editor, searching for a title, read some Millay and came across “Wild Swans.” She suggested we use that as the title. And when I read it, it felt like a perfect fit:

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

To me, this poem speaks to the yearning that the Milbourn women feel. Ivy, like her mother and grandmother and great-great-grandmother, is ambitious and ambivalent about small-town life. She clings to the comfort of it even as she finds it suffocating. House without air, I leave you and lock your door – this line particularly resonates with me; it is exactly how I think Ivy’s mother feels about the house and the town. Erica is desperate to escape the version of herself that she is there, even if she hurts her own daughters in the process.

I’m so happy that this poem is in the public domain, so I can share it here and as the book’s epigraph.

(NOTE: A variation of this post was originally published on Miss Print's blog and is modified and reprinted here with permission)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Book Talk: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

I love that this novel works on so many levels. On the surface, it is a fun paranormal story with a breezy tone (and a genuinely creepy reveal regarding the source of the magic), but beneath that it is a thoughtful examination of free will with incredibly high stakes.

Aspen has gone through life with a gift of "reaching" - that is, if he touches something that belongs to someone, he can see inside them and take away anything from motivations to aptitudes for math or even physical markers like freckles or burn scars. Because of this, he's quite selfish and entitled. He uses his power for his own gain without much thought of the consequences to others, despite evidence that his magic has caused people serious harm. He doesn't know them personally, so he thinks "so what?" His justification lies in a family secret: they are the protectors of the town, and if they don't perform a ritual to keep a magic cliff satisfied, the cliff will crumble and the town will be crushed. It's the sacrifice of a few for the greater good argument - but is that what is really going on here? Aspen starts to have his doubts after questions arise about the truth of his cousin's death ...

Ribar has a gift for banter and writing complex relationships between flawed, authentic characters. The magic system is imaginative and logical. I loved the parallels between his romance with Brandy and his parents failed marriage, and the examination of how even our negative qualities are necessary to shaping our identities.

Reminded me a lot of Maggie Lehrman's The Cost of all Things, which I also highly recommend.

And guess what? It's out today!

Buy it on Amazon.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Talk: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

This is the type of novel I love - great, high-concept premise, relatable characters, unique structure and storytelling. And it's SO different than the Chaos Walking series (which I also adored) so plus points for that too.

Let's start with the premise. Basically, Ness pokes fun at the "chosen one" trope by making his protagonist just an ordinary guy who lives in an extraordinary town. Mikey is not an "indie kid" so he doesn't have to worry about being the one who is essential to fighting off demons or vampires. He has his own stuff going on: his sister has an eating disorder, his dad is an alcoholic, his mom is running for office, and he has OCD and is in love with a friend of his.

So structure-wise, there's a short run-down at the start of each chapter telling us what is happening in the "main plot" and then Mikey tells us what's going on in his life for the rest of the chapter - and it's clearly much more interesting and authentic.

I love the underlying theme of being the hero of your own story, and I rooted for Mikey the entire novel.

You'll enjoy this if you like meta-fiction, originality and gentle satire.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Books Read in 2016

YA Fiction

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
Calvin by Martine Leavitt
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
I Crawl Through It by AS King
Juba by Walter Dean Myers
Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Rook by Sharon Cameron
Tyrell by Coe Booth
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hattmer
Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Tumbling by Caela Carter
Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
Amy Stacie Chelsea Dee by Mary G. Thompson
The Memory Book by Laura Avery
I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Gretchen McNeil
Replica by Lauren Oliver


Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
The Secret Place by Tana French

MG Fiction

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky
Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker


Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer
Stoned by Aja Raden

Graphic Novels

Prez by Mark Russell
Hereville by Barry Deutsch
Scott Pilgrim Vol #1 by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta (Lunch Lady, #3) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson