Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book + Movie = Reader Gold

I have to say, it's been fun watching our Hunger Games display at work. Like pretty much every other bookseller, my store has been doing what it can to cash in on the movie coming up in a few weeks. The books were a big enough deal in their own right, but a blockbuster movie based on those same bestselling books with an incredible marketing campaign? That's gold.

At the very front of our store is a huge display. There's an eye-catching sign of the movie's logo (based on Katniss's mockingjay pin), floor stacks of the first book in several different versions (original paperback, original hardcover, movie version paperback), table stacks of the other two books, racks with additional tie-in books (books about the stars of the movie, books about the tributes, the "official movie guide", even a Hunger Games-inspired cookbook!), t-shirts, wristbands, pins, etc. I don't know the numbers on how well the merchandise is selling, but I do know we receive new items in our shipment every week. Of course, as a fan, I also try to keep an eye out for anything that might tempt me to part with a few of my precious dollars (those t-shirts have come awfully close).

But really, the best part has been seeing whom the books have attracted. Granted, the majority have been teen girls. They're readers who happened upon the books, Twilight or Harry Potter fans looking for their next fix, or just stereotypical teens following the advice of friends. I have fun talking to those fans because they're so ebullient and intense. They have fun discussing every detail as I ring up their purchases and then squeal with anxiety when I mention anything that even remotely sounds like it could lead to a spoiler (unless, of course, they've already read through Mockingjay, in which case they're in one of the stages of grief).

Everyone after Mockingjay
In among the teen girls, however, are the other readers. The older, college-age women (usually also trying to fill a Twilight- or Harry Potter-sized hole) who admit to sneaking in "just one more chapter" between final exams. The mom who comes in to buy the last two books for her ten-year-old son because he read through the first one in only a day and couldn't wait for the rest. The macho, ripped twenty-something men nearly vibrating with anticipation. The older guy who comes in to buy the book for his daughter and ends up reading it himself.

Hunger Games is awesome, y'all. Nine times out of ten, I see only girls in the YA section, but this book brings in just about everybody. Sure, they're coming in because of the movie, but they're staying for the books. And why not? It has action, tension, blood and guts, romance that's tender but not over-the-top, suspense, emotion, high stakes, everything! The main character is a strong female who avoids being obnoxious or overbearing, and guys play roles just as important (Peeta is the bomb-diggity). The violence might worry some parents, but gore seems to bother people a lot less than profanity or sex, so the book remains open to a wider swath of people.

All it takes is one book. Once we find out someone likes Hunger Games, then we can say, "Hey, have you tried Divergent? What about Under the Never Sky? Graceling is pretty awesome, why don't you give it a go?" We give them books close to what they just read to keep them comfortable, but they won't stay there. Because maybe they came for the romance or for the dystopian setting or for the gore or even for the hunting. They'll start to find other books that aren't quite so close but still have just enough of that particular theme to catch their attention. And then they'll explore some more. They'll branch out. Maybe some of them will never branch out as far as Jane Eyre or Dune or The Marriage Plot, but that's okay. In the long run, I don't care if our customers are diverse readers.

I just care that they're readers.

So what are you all thinking about this Hunger Games craze? Is it a good thing? Just another example of oversaturated marketing? Who are some of the most unlikely Hunger Games fans that you've met? And what book would you recommend for a Games fan?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mr. Lessmore at the Oscars

Yes, that's right. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore just won an Oscar. It was for Animated Short, I believe, but I wasn't paying attention until the name popped up on my TV screen. It even beat out Pixar's La Luna. Hooray for the book love!

See my original post regarding Mr. Lessmore and his flying books.


Let me get this out of the way: Divorce sucks. It's sucks, and it's crap, and I hate it. Believe what you want, but anything that normalizes divorce really grinds my gears. This is a book that portrays love as something that comes and goes, like a that really cute dress that was great for you in high school but really doesn't work any more now that you're a college graduate, rather than something that takes work. I knew I was going to get a lot of that crap going into the book, and even though I knew it, reading about how a grown man can ditch his family over "love at first sight" with some leggy British chick still made me furious. (Do you think it was "love at first sight" with his FIRST wife, too? Hmmmmm?)

Okay, that's the end of my rant. I promise, that's the last of it. Maybe it wasn't my place as a reviewer, but I'm new to this gig, and I felt that if I said nothing that I was being dishonest somehow. But the rant is out of the way, and you can do with it what you wish. Now for the rest of my review.
TSPoLaFS, Jennifer Smith, Poppy
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A. 

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

The story itself was surprisingly charming in its own simplistic way. Hadley is seventeen and late for her father's wedding. She missed her flight by four whole minutes, so now she's stuck by herself in an airport and might not make it to London in time. Not that she cares. She didn't want to go to her father's wedding anyways, and her dress is probably a wrinkled mess. In the midst of Hadley's impressive internal snit comes Oliver, a charming British boy who steps in to help her with her luggage. They hit it off... and keep hitting it off, all the way across the Atlantic.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: CINDER by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Feiwel & Friends
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Confession: I am a huuuuuge fan of fairy tale retellings. The idea of taking such a well-known, beloved tale and keeping its heart and frame while reframing the story in a way that makes the readers rethink what they previously knew... Mmmm, shivers of delight. I particularly like retellings told from another (preferably minor) character's perspective, but I was eager to give Cinder a try anyways. I mean, look at that cover. Just LOOK at it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Letter

Dear Ms. Megan Whalen Turner,

I love you. Please don't be creeped out, but I love you. You are the Mount Olympus to my Death Valley, the VY Canis Major to my Sol (and I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about, you clever lady). Your genius and verve soar to the greatest magnitude, and I am in awe.

I first became acquainted with you in the children's section of my local library. A simple spine caught my eye, emblazoned with yellow type that read The Thief. Thieves were interesting, so I picked it up and took it home with me. I read the entire book in one day, certain even from the beginning that this was no mere children's book and that I would become good friends with your Gen. Then I reached the end and yelped out loud.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi

UNDER THE NEVER SKY, Veronica Rossi, HarperTeen
Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky. 

UNDER THE NEVER SKY is a dystopian third-person dual narrative. To be honest, when I read the description, I wasn't very interested. I hate switching to different perspectives, the whole girl-from-a-supposed-utopia-goes-to-the-wild trope is getting a little old, and I figured I knew exactly how the relationship between the two characters was going to play out. He's a jerk, she gets feisty, aw he's a wounded soul, smoochie smoochie smoochie, the end. I was right... and I was very, very wrong.

The official description quoted above does the book a great injustice. The best taste of the book comes from my favorite quote, found on page 125: 
"Do the clouds ever completely clear?" she asked.
"Completely? No. Never."
"What about the Aether? Does that ever go away?"
"Never, Mole. The Aether never leaves."
She looked up. "A world of nevers under a never sky."
She fit in well then, he thought. A girl who never shut up.
That's Aria, inquisitive to the point of irritation, intellectually curious, artsy, and poetic. And that's Perry, rough, blunt, and dry.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Cover Awesomeness

Here I am, your benevolent dictator, to give out something FUN and something FREE. That's right, fun AND free! Granted, this fun and free thing is not of my own making; I am not that fantabulous (and yes, that's a word because I say so, so stop picking on me!). However, these three ladies ARE fantabulous.

Sarah Enni, Tracey Neithercott, and Erin Bowman are three superbly clever book nerds with an eye for a niche market. Sparked by a "Go Away, I'm Reading" pin from etsy, they began to discuss the irritation felt when rudely yanked out of a good read by a well-meaning friend/relative/stranger on a bus.

This irritation is something I have discussed with my mother and sister just recently. What is it about having one's nose in a book that seems to invite any Joe Blow to start up a conversation? Yes, sir, the weather is a bit warmer than normal; no, ma'am, I don't want to see a picture of your dog. Can't you see that I am in the middle of battling zombie griffins and am only six pages away from freeing the prince?! Oh... no, I don't suppose you can. All you can see is the cover of a book.

Well, these three genius women have come up with a solution. TADA!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi, HarperTeen
"You can't touch me," I whisper.
I'm lying, is what I don't tell him.
He can touch me, is what I'll never tell him.
But things happen when people touch me.
Strange things.
Bad things.
No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.
But Juliette has plans of her own.
After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.
SHATTER ME is a first-person narrative from Juliette, a seventeen-year-old girl from an Orwellian future, who is locked in solitary confinement to protect others from her lethal touch. Now really, if that fact alone doesn't grab you, I doubt anything in this review will convince you otherwise, but I'll try.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tribute News

I know Hunger Games madness has descended at an alarming rate as the release date nears, and I know the unaffected minority is seeking a safe place to weather out the storm.

This is not that place.

I read the first Hunger Games book a few years ago on the advice of a classmate. To be honest, I didn't expect it to be very good, because I wasn't impressed by the synopsis she gave. I expected the book to be tortured and gloomy and probably just a bit cheesy, a la Twilight (she liked that series, too). Instead, I found myself completely lost in this amazingly kick-tuckus world with fantastic characters and believable relationships.

I could gush about the series for hours, but that's not the point of this post. Lionsgate, the company producing the movie, has just released the second theatrical trailer. Bibliophiles around the world shouted for joy, and I could hardly consider myself a proper blogger or a proper shelver if I didn't share for the ignorant few who have somehow escaped the frenetic social media blitz of thousands of teenagers typing "OMG!!!!1! HUNGER GAMES TRAILERRRRR@!!!!11!!1"

Missive to a Customer

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your patronage in our store. I appreciate that you are willing to come out on this fine evening to buy books at our establishment, even if it means leaving your wife and children to wait in the car. You spent a sum of money here that, while not extravagant, is not trifling either. But sir, I must tell you one thing that I could not while wearing my employee name tag.


You may look in the mirror and see the same virile, young stud that you were in college, and assume that I see the same thing. Or perhaps you see more of a suave silver fox, a la George Clooney. Perhaps you note my polite smiles and assume I'm charmed by your leering looks and cheesy pickup lines.