Inside My Beach Bag: Vacation Reads

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Me reading The Selection on the beach

On September 26th, I packed up my bags, crammed some books in my satchel, loaded up my iPad with eBooks, and hopped a plane to St. Martin with my fiancee for a few days. I put an out of office email up at Quirk, scheduled an online discussion with my college students from my hotel, and tried my best to actually take a real vacation and relax.

I’m one of those weird people that have a hard time relaxing or taking breaks. I always want to be working on my books, dreaming up marketing campaigns for other people’s books, or fussing over blog posts.

So for this vacation, I left my laptop at home. Which seriously hurt, you guys. Like… ugh.

But, what I did bring were books. A lot of them. Some I picked up on my way (our first layover was in Miami, and I couldn’t help myself at the airport bookshop), some I crammed in my messenger bag (yay paperbacks!), and others I downloaded long before I left.

And while I told myself I’d be off the grid for the trip… I ended up tweeting a lot about the books I was reading. There was WiFi in my hotel, and it stretched out to the beach. Sorry, I’m not sorry. No one was surprised.

Anyhow, I loved all of these books, and you should check them out. Here’s what was in my beach bag while I was on vacation.

And pst. Suzanne. Thanks for handling Quirk’s social stuff while I was gone. You rock.

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SEPTEMBER GIRLS (Bennett Madison): When it comes to reviews, I try to use my best judgement. This particular book had some incredibly polarizing reviews. Some really negative ones by bloggers I adore, and some really positive ones by authors and bloggers I also adore. It was really hard to find any kind of middle ground with this one. So I decided to see for myself. And wow. I’m so glad I did.

Madison’s YA fantasy novel takes readers to a mysterious beach, full of girls that are… well, something isn’t quite right. And our protagonist, a young kid named Sam, finds himself swept up in a summer of beauty, magic, love, and loss. It’s a book I genuinely wish I would have read long ago. The first book I finished while on my vacation, it’s a novel I’ll be recommending to everyone I meet. And I can’t wait to read more of Madison’s books! There are a lot of them.

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UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY & BLIGHTBORN (Chuck Wendig): I’ve always enjoyed Chuck’s hilarious ramblings on his incredible blog Terrible Minds, and I’ve had his book Blackbirds sitting on my Kindle for quite some time, but I’d yet to dive into any of his novels. I have no good reason for this what-so-ever, especially considering I read his blog actively. However, when my friend Erin Morgenstern saw him tweeting about a Quirk title I was working on, she connected us. And with my vacation coming up, I decided it was time to dive in.

I read his first two young adult novels in two days.

These books! I couldn’t put them down. If you’re a fan of Chuck’s blog, that voice, that creative, hilarious, rapid fire voice… it fills these pages. These are the first two books in his Heartland trilogy (GIVE ME THE THIRD BOOK NOW, CHUCK), and these novels take you to a world that’s ruled by the Empyrean, powerful, wealthy people living in floating cities while the remaining Earth-dwelling citizens scavenge and basically slave for them. The world is covered in the Empyrean’s genetically engineered corn, which fuels and powers their super cities, while damaging the average folk and the planet.

There’s just so much to like here, and the sequel, Blightborn… man. It’s so rare that I stumble upon a sequel that is better than the first book, and this one… it’s just unbelievable. The world building! The action packed plot! AHH. Just everything. Get these. Post haste.

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THE MAZE RUNNER (James Dashner): Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I know I’m like, the last person ever to read this book. I know I’m like, trying to be a Young Adult author. I should read the most popular books in the genre, right? Right.

Nena and I had one day on vacation where we just sat on the beach from morning until sundown. It was pretty glorious. And on that day, I read this entire book. It should come as no surprise that I loved it, and I’m really curious about the movie now. At least now I can see it guilt-free, having read the book.

I also picked up The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure, but haven’t started them yet.

And speaking of popular YA books, I also picked up the first two books in THE SELECTION series. I’ve been having a hard time writing romantic / swoony scenes in what I’m hoping is INKED’s sequel, so this was research. And I’m enjoying them.

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STUMPTOWN: VOLUME 1 and STUMPTOWN: VOLUME 2 (Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth): I was first introduced to Greg Rucka after picking up copies of White Out on the cheap (I wrote a bit about it over on BookRiot), and just fell in love with his writing. Super strong female characters, thrilling plot lines, and always, always gorgeous art to accompany all of it.

I picked up Volumes 1 and 2 of Stumptown thanks to a sweet Comixology deal, and was not disappointed.

Taking place in Portland, Stumptown introduces you to private investigator Dex Parios. She’s an unflinching, tough, and occasionally awkward woman, who has a knack for getting caught up in cases way bigger than she anticipates. Both books can be read in an afternoon, and are a lot of fun. Highly recommend them.

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QUEEN & COUNTRY: VOLUME 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Greg Rucka): Yes, yes. I read more Rucka while on the trip. I read FIVE VOLUMES of Queen & Country. What can I say, there was a Greg Rucka sale a few weeks ago on Comixology and I just stocked up. And I still have TWO MORE volumes to get through! But I don’t mind. These books are an absolute joy to read.

Illustrated in beautiful black and white, Queen & Country is Rucka’s amazing espionage series, published by the Oni Press crew (same folks who put out White Out and Stumptown). You meet a lot of awesome characters, and the cast is large and well developed, but the story really centers on Tara Chace, an agent with SIS.

There’s a lot to like here, with Rucka delivering a lot of action and plenty of heated, intense office-drama within the SIS organization. In fact, I think the scenes inside the headquarters are just as exciting as the ones with people running and shooting.

New York Comic Con 2014: Quirk, Signings, And Cory Doctorow

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So New York Comic Con is this week, and I’m really excited.

I head to NYCC every year with Quirk, and I’ve been going there anyway for… well, years. I went a few times with Tim for the ol’ Geekadelphia, and I’ve gone plenty of times just for kicks. But this New York Comic Con is extra special.

Because it’s my first New York Comic Con signing books and hosting a Q&A. Saturday is going to be incredible.

SIGNING: On Saturday at New York Comic Con, from 11:00am to noon, I’ll be signing copies of The Geek’s Guide to Dating at the Quirk Books booth. I’ll be joined by my friend (and upcoming Quirk author) Sam Maggs, who will be signing The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy posters.

I’m really excited about this, particularly because Sam’s book is going to be incredible. We wrote together on Geekosystem for a while, before it was absorbed into The Mary Sue. She’s a talented gal, and I’m thrilled Quirk is publishing her. And we get to do a signing together!

The Quirk booth is at #2236.

CORY DOCTOROW Q&A: In October of 2012, I was thrilled to help bring Cory Doctorow to Indy Hall for a talk about his YA novel Pirate Cinema. It was an awesome event that I still talk about. And now, two years later, I’m hosting his Q&A at New York Comic Con.

From 1:00pm to 1:45pm, you can attend the Spotlight on Cory Doctorow in Room 1A10. I’ll be moderating the Q&A, and I’m just absolutely thrilled and honored. We’ll likely talk a lot about his latest graphic novel, In Real Life, which you might have seen me ramble about over on BookRiot in the Best of August 2014 post. You should seriously check it out.

And that’s my Saturday morning. I’ll likely be found sleeping in the Quirk booth right after the Q&A.

I’ll also be there the whole convention, Thursday through Sunday, doing my thing and talking to people at the Quirk booth. Come by to meet plenty of other awesome Quirk authors, including Ransom Riggs, on Friday.

Just Because: Win a Bundle of YA Books & Graphic Novels!

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One of the many joys of working in publishing AND blogging about books, is that I get a lot of free, awesome books. But what do I do with all the ARCs afterwards? I either dish them out to friends, colleagues, or put them on the Internet. Which is what I’m doing right now.

Behold, a giveaway of these amazing titles.

Let’s Get Lost (Adi Alsaid): I love a good road trip book, and this one was no exception. A wonderful read, and well deserving of all the hype surrounding it.

In a Handful of Dust (Mindy McGinnis): Without a Drop to Drink is one of my favorite YA reads. Seriously. I couldn’t believe a sequel came out. I devoured this book, and it’ll definitely end up in a Best of the Month post on BookRiot in the coming weeks. It was the cause of many, many tears.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone (Adele Griffin): When Adam Silvera and Meredith Barnes both tell you that you absolutely need to read a book, you read it. End of story. And I did. And it was absolutely glorious. A genre twisting book that just blew my mind. I WISH I could YA like this.

The Girl Who Never Was (Skylar Dorset): I pretty much need to have every single book Source Books puts out. This is a series I’m going to be watching closely!

Since You’ve Been Gone (Morgan Matson): My pal Jamie, who happens to be one of my favorite book bloggers, wrote a glowing review of the book on her website. Read her review. It’ll give it way more justice than my couple of sentences here.

The Wrenchies (Farel Dalrymple): I wrote about Farel coming to Philadelphia fairly recently on the ol’ Geekadelphia. First Second puts out amazing comics, and this graphic novel was just brilliant.

We Are Pirates (Daniel Handler): Hey it’s that guy who wrote the Lemoney Snicket books! And this one isn’t out for a while!

The Shadow Hero (Gene Luen Yang): One of my favorite graphic novelists, Gene Lueg Yang never EVER disappoints.

So! Want to win a bundle of these books? Enter the Rafflecopter below! You can enter by following me and some of the people I mentioned here in this post, all of whom are pretty damn great. I’ll send the books out next week. Thanks!

Oh, and all my geeky desk decor is NOT included. Sorry. Read more

Stuff Every Geek Should Know, And What Happens When a Seven Year Old Writes Her Own Version of My Book

For some bizarre reason that the world’s top scientists are still investigating, earlier this year the team at Quirk Books trusted me to help curate an eBook sampler. Stuff Every Geek Should Know.

We try to publish these themed samplers every season, with excerpts from our various books. Here’s one with cute activities to do with your kids and here’s another with fun party planning ideas.

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However, for the Stuff Every Geek Should Know eBook, we tried something a little different. There were excerpts from our geeky books (including mine), but we tried pulling in original pieces from geeky writers around the Internet. I spent a few weeks working with writer pals near and far, getting their awesome articles and essays into the free eBook.

This included bloggers like Kristin Hackett, Glen Tickle, Melissa Kay, Elizabeth Vallish, and Chris Cummins, as well as authors like Susan Dennard, Kyle Cassidy, Johnny Zito, and E.C. Myers. I linked to all their Twitter profiles, so go follow them. Thanks you guys, for being part of the project!

But the biggest thrill for me showed up via email, when my good friend (and super talented artist) Krystine Lopez sent me an email featuring her adorable daughter’s take on my book. She had written her own Geek’s Guide to Dating on her Nook tablet’s journal, and when I sent it around the Quirk office, the editorial team insisted we put it in the sampler.

You can download the Stuff Every Geek Should Know eBook here on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore. But the edited excerpt of Kaia’s take on my book can be found below. Give it a read, and enjoy. I look forward to her upcoming books, How to Train a Pet and Dogs are Mostly Good and Bad. Read more

Bees, Bots, & Bits: My Favorite Summer Books of 2014

This Summer was a season of unique young adult books, awesome sequels better than the first books, and conclusions to book series that I’ve adored. And that’s okay. I can deal with that. I’ve had a good cry (or eight), and I’m recovering.

Now that September is here, I figured I’d ramble a little bit about some of my favorite reads this Summer. These are all books that came out during the Summer, mind you. I read a lot of amazing YA novels that didn’t, like The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, Dueled by Elsie Chapman, and The Well’s End by Seth Fishman. I highly recommend you pick those three up ASAP.

In the meantime, check these Summer reads out, and add them to your to-read lists. Read more