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Tag: Margo Lanagan

Study Break Books: Books for when you really don’t have time to be reading.

study_break_booksIt’s AP Exams season where I work, and finals time for many a college and high school. Which means legions of bleary-eyed students trying to summon up the discipline for a last surge of studying, even though they just want to be done. The sunshine is calling. I hear it too, and even though I’m well past the exam-taking phase of life, I’m still in crunch mode, trying to power through to many deadlines.

For the dedicated bookworms among us, studying for exams generally requires two sets of reading; the materials we’re actually supposed to be reviewing, and the reading we sneak for “study breaks.” This is a calculated strategy (no, really!) designed to achieve the perfect balance of discipline and release, allowing us to get all the necessary reviewing in while also getting enough of a break to feel revived and ready for…still more reviewing. Because the internet and everything that lives there can rapidly turn into a vast time-suck, all responsible students (and worker-bees) know: if you’re serious about getting something done, you have to stay (temporarily) signed out of all the stuff, especially this close to the finish line. And the pitfalls of streaming-binges are obvious, so the TV’s got to stay off too (as do the game consoles).

But a book…a book feels studious, even if what we’re reading isn’t likely to show up on any exams, or help cross anything off a task list.

So. What to read when you don’t really have time to be reading at all, but you absolutely must get a little escape in if you have any hope of staying motivated long enough to cover everything you’ve still got to do?

Unless you are a reader with very good self-discipline, novels are probably out. Novels are what we get to read when everything on the task list is actually done, when grades are in, school is out, and your to-do list is all inked-out lines.

Page count matters when you’re on a deadline. Short-ish graphic novels and short story collections are what we need when time is at a premium; pieces vivid enough to truly escape into, and short enough that we emerge from our work-respite refreshed and ready to dive back into the task at hand.

Here, then, are some suggestions for quick escapes, to tide you over until the freedom of summer is a reality, and not just a highly-anticipated future fantasy.

lips touchLips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor. Are you a fan of sweeping fantasy shot through with romance, like Taylor’s epic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Well, here are three short stories about three different girls who’ve never been kissed, told in Taylor’s distinct, dramatic style, with brief page counts (but high pulse rates). A 2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults book.

Through the Woods by Emily CarrollThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll. This is an I’m-too-busy-to-read jackpot of a book; short chapters in graphic format, thematically connected to make one creepy wave of foreboding descend over the reader. Gorgeous colors, stick-with-you-after-dark frames, and spare, haunting prose combine to make this 2015 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens pick a fast – but memorable – escape into the murky depths of the woods.

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By the Pricking of My Thumbs: A Witchcraft Round-up

Witches EngravingHappy Halloween! Out of the many staple characters that pop up every Halloween–the ghosts, the vampires, the mummies, etc.–few have the depth and diversity as the ever-evolving, always enchanting witch. One of the last vestiges of Pagan culture to remain with us, the witch is a reminder of feminine power, of matriarchy, and of the dark histories that have accompanied these women throughout the ages. In honor then of the witch and all she represents, enjoy this round-up of recent and older tales that are steeped in the world of witchcraft and witch lore.

Let’s begin with one of the great classics of Pagan-inspired literature and, by many accounts, the best retelling of the Arthurian legend, Marian Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. The book (and series) relives the events of King Arthur’s court through the eyes of the women involved, namely Morgaine, Gwynhwyfar, Morgause, and Viviane. Largely the story of Morgaine, a sorceress and Priestess, the book is notable not only for its overt feminism but also for providing such a rich, emotionally layered, and ultimately thrilling story centered on the dynamics of power–between men and women, Christianity and Paganism, love and duty. Written for adults, it is entirely suitable for older teens many of which will devour it in one sitting!

Lynne Ewing’s series, Daughters of the Moon (a YALSA Quick Pick), is an older series that deservesdaughtersofmoon to be rediscovered by current teens! It follows the lives of four teenage girls who each possess special abilities because they are daughters of Goddesses. They are destined to fight an ancient evil named The Atrox, a task that drives the majority of the plotline. The series offers a nice blend of romance and adventure, while also realistically exploring the ins and outs of teenage life. Great for both middle and high school students, this epic urban fantasy is a quick read that is sure to appeal to lovers of the Mortal Instruments and Bloodlines.

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Celebrating YA Authors from Down Under

Australian authors even smaller imageAustralia Day is January 26th and what better way to celebrate the achievements of their country by highlighting its many Australian YA authors — and there are a lot! So many that it would be unwieldy trying to list all of them and their books in a blog-sized post. I decided instead to create a word cloud of as many as I could think of using Tagxedo (forgive me if I missed anyone). The program “Globalize Me! Young Adult Literature from Outside the U.S.” that I attended at the YA Lit Symposium in November focused mostly on Printz Award-winning Australian YA authors both familiar and unfamiliar to us in the US — since not all are published here yet.


America’s Next Top Book Cover: Season 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, everyone on the interweb is reflecting on the “best of” from the past twelve months. Here at The Hub, we’re joining in the fun by listing some of our favorite book covers of the year. Enjoy a look through the image gallery, then read more to find out why each cover was selected. Tell us your favorites in the comments!


The Completist: Margo Lanagan

I’m back with another installment of The Completist, in which I take a look at the complete YA works of one lucky author — in today’s case, Margo Lanagan. Lanagan presents a somewhat tricky case for reading her complete works. If Wikipedia is to be believed, Lanagan started her career by writing a stunning nine teen romance novels in three years, all under various pseudonyms, followed by a number of novels for children under her own name. Since the teen romances are under different names and the others are too young (and since they are all unavailable in the States), I’m excluding them from this particular installment of the Completist.
Her “complete” work, then, encompasses two early YA novels (The Best Thing (Allen & Unwin, 1995) and Touching Earth Lightly (Allen & Unwin, 1996)), two much later novels (Tender Morsels (Knopf, 2008) and The Brides of Rollrock Island (Knopf, 2012)), and three short story collections (White Time (Eos, 2006), Black Juice (Eos, 2005), Red Spikes (Knopf, 2007)) in between. She has also published a new short story collection called Yellowcake (Allen & Unwin, 2011) in Australia, which should be making its way to our shores in 2013. I wasn’t willing to pony up the $40 to get a copy, so I’m excluding it as well. We’ll call this article “the Complete-ish-ist.”


Most Anticipated YA Galleys at BEA

I always look forward to Book Expo America (BEA) and I usually attend all three days, but this year I could only go on Thursday, the last day. I know I missed a wonderful children’s book and author breakfast and a number of opportunities for autographs by some of my favorite authors. Luckily, some of the publishers had galleys left over from signings from previous days so I was still able to get some great ones.

Just as the exhibit area opened on Thursday I joined a line of other eager attendees that snaked though the Penguin booth and grabbed Marie Lu’s book Prodigy, the second book in her Legend dystopian series that continues the story of June and Day. I recently listened to Legend, the first book, on audio and loved it.

There have been a number of second or third books in series by authors I love that have already come out that I’ve missed, so I was thrilled to see Kristin Cashore autographing Bitterblue. More than an hour early, I joined the line waiting for her and got the scoop from the woman behind me in line on some of the other hot galleys she’d snagged over the previous days. She was excited about the galley she’d gotten called Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Luckily, that was a leftover one that I’d picked up that morning. The author first wrote it when she was 16 on an online writers’ forum and now, ten years later, it’s been refined and published by Bloomsbury. It features a notorious female assassin turned captive who must compete against thieves, killers, and warriors to win her freedom from prison to serve as the king’s champion, and it’s being marketed for fans of Games of Thrones. She also said that there was a long line to get a signed copy of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion–and who can resist anything Austen related?

Another galley and autograph I was very happy to get was that of David Levithan’s Every Day. I’d heard him read from the first chapter of his book in early May at a publisher’s presentation, but no galleys were available then. I can’t wait to read it because it sounds amazing! It’s a unique story about A, who wakes up every day in a someone else’s body–without any choice about who A will be. A has learned not to get attached, until as Justin, he falls in love with Justin’s girlfriend.