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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.

Archive for August, 2012

Hats off to Rube

Posted on August 30th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Pawel (pronounced PAH-vel–it’s Polish, as is Pawel*), one of the secondary characters in The Opposite of Hallelujah and the love interested/boyfriend (that is not a spoiler) of the protagonist, Caro, is really into Rube Goldberg machines. His bedroom–as Caro eventually discovers–is full of these odd devices, which he builds out of K’nex (“Just so we’re clear, they’re not toys,” he says before he allows Caro into his room. “WHAT aren’t toys?” she asks in trepidation. Well, it made me laugh.).

Rube Goldberg machines, for those who aren’t familiar, are complicated machines that do very simple things. The best example I can think of that anybody’s ever seen is the board game, Mousetrap. You know how you build this whole contraption and at the end all it does is land on the mouse? Another great example is the music video for OK Go’s song, “This Too Shall Pass”, which really should be on the Opposite of Hallelujah soundtrack but weirdly isn’t. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who did all these illustrations depicting complex devices that, like, wipe someone’s chin with a napkin or whatever (real example). Inventing these machines is something real nerds like to do; Purdue University and UC Berkeley have national competitions every year. I like to imagine that Pawel will someday enter and win one of these competitions, when he’s in college.

I first learned of Rube Goldberg machines (I tried to get away with calling them simply “Goldberg machines” in The Opposite of Hallelujah, but my copy editor insisted I use his full name every time; I don’t like it, but I DO like accuracy, so…) from, of all things, an episode of The X-Files. Who am I kidding, that’s where I’ve learned roughly 57% of the things I know. The episode in question (“The Goldberg Variation”**) is from the seventh season and guest stars both Shia LaBoeuf (one of my fake boyfriends, ye ken) and Willie Garson, who played the lovable Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City. In that episode, Willie Garson’s character is an amateur inventor of Goldberg machines (ain’t nobody copy editing me in this blog post!) who accidentally stumbles into a lucky streak. There are many scenes in which Willie’s character narrowly escapes certain death at the hands of people whom he owes money by a series of improbable events reminiscent of a real live Goldberg machine.

The idea of having one of the characters be obsessed with Goldberg machines was something that came up in the process of writing the book, one of those magical epiphanies you yearn for as a writer and don’t often get. It’s something that, as a mere character quirk, would have gotten smothered by the various other, heavier goings-on in the book, so I’m glad I didn’t think of it before I started writing, or else it probably would’ve come off as silly. And in the hands of another character instead of Pawel–like, if Caro had suddenly developed an interest in them–it would’ve been one detail too many, kind of besides the point.

Instead, the Goldberg machines did a couple of things for me. First, they gave me a metaphor that worked on a few different levels (the machines, as Hannah points out, are a great way to think about the intricate causality of the universe–you could basically think of your life, and the lives of everyone around you, as one huge Goldberg machine, events causing other events causing other events and so on; they’re also an external manifestation of the overwrought goings-on in Caro’s head and heart regarding her feelings for her sister, and the machinations Hannah has undertaking to hide her personal tragedy from those who love her most). Second, they gave me a really organic way to show Caro’s character development and capacity for empathy (I cannot explain this further without spoiling). Not to mention that it shows both Caro and the reader a different facet of Pawel, in a series of scenes that provide both insight into his character and a counterpoint to Caro’s own life. Caro, God love her, starts off the book as pretty self-involved, not in a malicious way, but in a myopic, childlike way. It takes a while–and a lot of different mistakes and emotional confrontations–for her to really see the people around her. And once she sees them, she has to earn them. To do right by them, in whatever way she can. The Goldberg machines help her do right by Pawel.

*It’s the Polish version of Paul, which I knew, of course, but until this moment I hadn’t realized that it’s my second book with a character named Paul (Carly’s father in All Unquiet Things is also named Paul). Not intentional!

**I guess this is sort of a pun? The Goldberg Variations is a musical work for the harpsichord written by Bach and, I guess, first played by some dude named Goldberg (not related to our buddy Rube).

The Opposite of Hallelujah full playlist

Posted on August 24th, 2012 by annakjarzab

I’ve been posting YouTube links to a few of the important songs from my Opposite of Hallelujah playlist on my brand! new! Facebook! page! (I know, I know, you’re like, “Stop flogging the FB page, Jarzab, we get it. YOU HAVE A FACEBOOK PAGE.” Just making sure.) But I’ll tell you a secret–those are the only songs I can remember, because my new beautiful iPhone doesn’t even have the Hallelujah playlist on it because I got the phone after I finished the book. I had to power up my old iPhone to get to the playlist, which I’ve finally remembered to do! So, without further ado, here it is (could there be anymore OneRepublic on it?):

1. Wolfmother – “Vagabond”

2. Islands – “Switched On”

3. Jens Lekman – “The Opposite of Hallelujah”

4. OneRepublic – “Secrets”

5. Passion Pit – “Little Secrets”

6. Florence + the Machine – “Dog Days Are Over”

7. The Mountain Goats  – “Genesis 3:23”

8. Nicki Minaj – “Massive Attack”

9. OneRepublic & Sara Bareilles – “Come Home”

10. Radical Face – “Welcome Home”

11. Timbaland – “Marchin On (ft. OneRepublic”

12. OneRepublic – “Good Life”

13. Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”

14. Chanta Kreviazuk – “Time”

15. Sara Bareilles – “King of Anything”

16. Uncle Kracker – “Another Love Song”

17. The Killers – “Human”

18. Bob Schneider – “Read Let’s Roll”

19. Rob Thomas – “Real World ’09”

20. Ingrid Michaelson – “Mountain and the Sea”

21. Adam Lambert – “Whataya Want From Me”

22. Sugarland – “Stuck Like Glue”

23. B.o.B. – “Magic”

24. Carrie Underwood – “Undo It”

25. Train – “If It’s Love”

26. Lady Antebellum – “I Run to You”

27. Eminem – “Love the Way You Lie (ft. Rihanna)”

28. Taio Cruz – “Dynamite”

29. Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man”

30. Wild Sweet Orange – “Wrestle With God”

31. Radical Face – “Wrapped in Piano Strings”

32. Ida Maria – “Oh My God”

33. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson – “Relator”

34. Paddy Casey – “Saints and Sinners”

35. Eleisha Eagle – “Rocketboy”

36. Paul Freeman – “The Girl Who Broke In Two”

37. Paul Freeman – “Tightrope”

38. Caitlyn Smith – “Crushed & Created”

39. Natasha Bedingfield – “Strip Me”

40. MIKA – “We Are Golden”

41. Sara Bareilles – “Let the Rain”

42. Paul Freeman – “That’s How It Is”

43. Indigo Girls – “Galileo”

44. Robyn – “Hang With Me”

45. Ingrid Michaelson – “Parachute”

46. Matchbox Twenty – “How Far We’ve Come”

47. Marianas Trench – “Beside You”

48. Ingrid Michaelson – “Creep (Live)”

49. Emilia – “Big Big World”

50. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – “Home”

51. Rod Stewart – “Rhythm of My Heart”

52. Rod Stewart – “Ooh La La”

53. Sarah Mclachlan – “I Will Remember You”

54. Kim Wilde – “Schoolgirl”

55. Freelance Whales – “Hannah”

56. Ryan Calhoun – “Who We Are”

57. Vertical Horizon – “You’re a God”

58. The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony”

59. Lily Allen – “Back to the Start”

60. The Belle Brigade – “Losers”


Posted on August 20th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Just dropping by to say that a long-overdue excerpt of The Opposite of Hallelujah has now been posted here. It’s just Chapter One, but it’s a pretty long chapter. I’ve been posting smaller excerpts from elsewhere in the book on my brand new Facebook page, which I encourage you to check out. I’ve also been posting there about the epigraphs of All Unquiet Things and The Opposite of Hallelujah, links to songs from my Opposite of Hallelujah playlist with explanations of why they remind me of the book, and basically anything that strikes my fancy and is somewhat related to my books.

Also, I finished Ready Player One–I felt like the romance was a little weak and a lot of things were overexplained, but overall I super enjoyed it and recommend it to nerds around the world (and even non-nerds–my nerd cred is severely malnourished, and I still enjoyed the heck out of it).

Summer Reading

Posted on August 19th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Obviously, I love to read. Every year I set myself a goal of how many books I want to read and generally I surpass that goal. I’ve been inching up toward 100 books a year for a long time, but I’ve never quite made it. The goal is 90 (I just use Goodreads’ reading challenges to keep track–right now, I’ve got 66 that I can track, which Goodreads helpfully tells me is 10 books ahead of schedule), but I think I might make it to 100 or over this year.

Not that this is even remotely interesting to anyone, EXCEPT that the result is that I’ve read a lot of stuff and I’ve got some great summer reading recommendations! Without further ado:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I tried reading Outlander once a long time ago and I couldn’t for whatever reason get into it. Then Alex told me she was really digging the series and I agreed to give it another shot. Cut to me two months later, having devoured the first three books in the series (I would say that I enjoyed Voyager, book 3, as much as or even more than I enjoyed Outlander, which I loved) and bought the 20th anniversary edition of Outlander even though I already owned it on my Kindle. I’m about 34% through The Fiery Cross (book 5) and I’m liking it, like I have every other book in the series, but maybe a little less–it just seems to be a lot of unrelated events that don’t stitch together into much of a plot, but I know better than to doubt La Gabaldon, so I’m just going to reserve judgement till the end.




A Discovery of Witches & Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches was another book I tried to read a few times and gave up. I have no idea why. Sometimes I think I can get intimidated by length, especially on my Kindle, when your progress bar stays on 2% FOREVER. But anyway, I tried again several weeks ago and got sucked in. A Discovery of Witches can be most accurately described as Twilight meets Outlander–Matthew Clairmont (the male protagonist, super old but super hot vampire, etc.) is of the Edward Cullen mold, and Diana (female protagonist, fiesty witch, etc.) reminds me a lot of Claire from Outlander. I find the Twilight-y parts kind of distracting, but I really like the Outlander-y parts, so I tore through the first book and moved immediately on to the second Shadow of Night, which came out in hardcover just this past July. Shadow of Night is even more Outlander-y than Discovery of Witches, and I liked it even better. Both are very beach-friendly, melodramatic, fun reads. Highly recommended, though if you’ve just about had it with vampires you should probably skip them.


The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The theme of this list seems to be “I tried reading this before and I gave up and then I gave it a second try and I loved it.” Apparently that’s the kind of reading I’ve been doing lately. Anyway, the first time I tried reading The Magicians, I think I was just way too close to Harry Potter still (this was a few years ago) and it just felt derivative and self-indulgent to me. HOWEVER, when I revisited it a few months ago, because my friend Lauren had picked it for book club, I just about fell head over heels in love with it. This was a totally unexpected but very welcome outcome. Be warned: the main character, Quentin, is a self-centered, mopey asshole for all of book 1 and a lot of book 2. He can be incredibly infuriating, makes terrible choices at basically every opportunity, and blames everyone else for his problems. But he’s very realistic and relatable (at least, if you’re being honest with yourself), the story is so interesting and fun, the writing is really great, and that which bothered me upon my initial reading–the Harry Potter and Narnia references–were some of my favorite things upon this read. The Magicians toes the line between homage and parody very well and I can’t recommend the books more. I’m waiting impatiently for book 3!

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I love romances. I just do. When a book doesn’t have kissing in it, or the potential for kissing, I get bored. I’m the opposite of Fred Savage in that way. I’ve never aspired to be a highly sophisticated reader, so this doesn’t bother me about myself, but thankfully romance is almost a given in YA, which I read a lot of because of my jobs. My Life Next Door is a book I actually picked up because we publish it at Penguin, upon the recommendation of my friend Mia. And I loved it so much you guys! I literally read it on the beach and between the sun and the sound of the waves and this wonderful, romantic book, I was probably as close to heaven as I’ll ever get.




Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I read Gillian Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places, on the recommendation of my agent many, many years ago and thought it was great (although I didn’t quite buy the solution of the mystery–otherwise, fantastic, and even that didn’t really bother me all that much)–sort of a modern, fictional In Cold Blood feel. Since I already knew I loved Flynn’s stuff, when Gone Girl published and people started talking about it all the time, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up myself and devour it in a short period of time. It’s just such a crazy, scary, compelling read, you guys. When I first picked it up and started it, I kept going back to the flap copy, really not understanding what the book was and why it was getting such big hype, and then–AND THEN–it totally turned around and slapped me in the face for my hubris at doubting it. You get to a point in the book where you literally cannot put it down. Best thing I read all summer, I think. I also read Flynn’s debut, Sharp Objects, which was freaky and disturbing, good and definitely a harbinger of better things to come, but in comparison to Gone Girl kind of underwhelming. Still, Sharp Objects is also really worth a read. All of Flynn’s stuff is. She’s an extremely talented writer, no doubt about it.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I originally heard about this book from Alex Bracken, who is good friends and critique partners with Sarah. High fantasy isn’t generally my jam, but I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones (the TV show; for some reason, I can’t really commit to the books) and having recently read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Bitterblue I was in a mood for more good fantasy. I was lucky enough to get a galley at BEA, and a few weeks ago I sat down and pretty much read it in one or two sittings. I love Sarah’s main character, Caelena, a teenage assassin who’s been brought to the palace of a tyrannical king to duel against a bunch of other criminals and killers for her freedom. Throw in a gruff but lovable captain of the guard (Chaol, <3 <3 <3), ancient magic, and palace intrigue, and it was the perfect YA summer read. It’s pretty clear just how much world building Sarah has done and how many stories still have yet to be told in the world of Throne of Glass–can’t wait till book 2! Until then, I’ll still have the four digital prequel novellas to whet my appetite.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

It seems kind of mean to write about books that aren’t available yet, but The Diviners comes out like September 4, which is not that long to wait. This is another title I was lucky to get a galley of, and it was the only thing I read during my Oklahoma vacation over Memorial Day (it’s a fat book, y’all). It is SO GOOD you guys! So detailed and well-researched and interesting and scary as HELL. Highly recommended historical paranormal thriller!





This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

I could not speak high enough about my estimation of Courtney Summers’ talents as a writer and storyteller. This is Not a Test is her fourth novel, and, dare I say, best (although Some Girls Are will always have a special place in my heart). I’m not a zombie novel person (I read Warm Bodies and kept thinking, God, this is so great, if only it weren’t about ZOMBIES!), but for some reason that didn’t make any difference as to my enjoyment of This is Not a Test. It has Courtney’s trademark tight, effective writing, wherein every sentence seems so carefully thought out to pack a maximum punch. Her characters are, as always, pitch perfect, and her blending of real-world problems (familial abuse, abandonment by loved ones) and high concept ghoulies (the aforementioned zombies) is something I really haven’t seen anyone do quite to this level of achievement. Another home run, Ms. Summers.




At the moment I’m reading Ready Player One (already loving it; it’s got a Westing Game/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory type feel, but with video games and for adults, although I wish there was less detailed explanation, more stuff happening, but like I said, only 20% in at this point) and The Fiery Cross (as mentioned earlier, the fifth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series; it’s fine so far, hoping it picks up a little). Will check back in a few months from now with more reading recs!

I like you

Posted on August 14th, 2012 by annakjarzab

I’ll admit: I’m not great on Facebook, personally, for myself. I know a lot about it because I use it ALL THE TIME for work, but I rarely use it for myself–like, to communicate with/keep in touch with/stalk people–and I use it even more rarely for my books. But that’s all about to change! Because I’ve relaunched the Anna Jarzab Books Facebook fan page! I even did some design and coding work on it; at the risk of patting myself too hard on the back, I think it looks pretty snazzy. I’ve posted some outtakes from the ALL UNQUIET THINGS photo shoot on the page (which I poached from the photographer Eva Kolenko’s Tumblr) and the full version of the photo on the cover that even I’d never seen before recently! I’m also going to be putting up some sneak peeks (just a line or two) from THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH every day or so until October 9th, since THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH is less than two months from release now, which is BLOWING MY MIND.

It’s so funny, I can’t believe this is only my second book and it’s not even out yet. I’m in the middle of working on TANDEM 2 right now, and an adult book, so in my head I have about five books published–even though actually it’s just the one right now, soon to be two. I am excited to tell you, though, that TANDEM is going to be out in Fall 2013 sometime (no firm date yet, you know how these things go) with, I’m assuming, if everything goes smoothly, TANDEM 2 coming out in Fall 2014 and TANDEM 3 (THERE ARE GOING TO BE THREE!!! Probably) coming out in Fall 2015. But, obvi, who knows? I’ll keep you posted.

I really can’t wait to tell you more about TANDEM. I’ve seen the cover, which is GORGEOUS and THE BEST, but I can’t share it yet, not sure when I’ll be able to. No description, yet, either, except for what you already know, which is that it’s an epic romantic adventure set across parallel universes. I could write my own synopsis, except that I tried and it’s really hard and I gave up. Boo hiss I’m the worst. Instead, I’ll post some photos that helped inspire me while I was working on TANDEM to give you an idea of what it’s about. The below gallery is only a taste; visit my Welcome to Aurora Tumblr to see even more.