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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.

Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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!

Play therapy

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by annakjarzab

So as you know, I finished my most recent draft of The Opposite of Hallelujah a week ago and sent it to my agent. It’s at this point, when you’re a writer, that you end up sitting in your pajamas on a Saturday morning wondering, “What do I do NOW?” That’s if, like, you’re single and childless–I’m sure authors who are also parents have plenty to do with the time they usually spend writing. Anyway, I don’t have children and I’m all caught up on my TV, so I did two things this weekend: I read, and I wrote.

First I finally finished Brother/Sister, which is this CRAZY mystery told from alternating perspectives. Is it really a mystery? I’m not too sure about what to call it. It’s certainly a thriller, perhaps a psychological thriller? Anyway, it has these two narrators who are both unreliable in their own ways, the writing is really great and the suspense is really well done and subtle. And then–AND THEN–the end of the book turns everything that you think you know about what happened completely on its head! I was out singing karaoke on Saturday for my friend Monica’s birthday and I didn’t get home until 4 AM, but if you don’t think I stayed up even later to finish Brother/Sister then you don’t know me very well. I also read a really great manuscript for a book we’re publishing in Fall 2011 and it was ALSO awesome and totally scary. I’m shocked I didn’t have nightmares last night.

I also started working on a book that I’ve been thinking about writing for a while. It’s basically a sci-fi thriller and I am LOVING writing it. The best part about writing it is that I don’t have to ever show it to a single person (except maybe Alex, who might kill me if I don’t let her read it after all the talking we’ve been doing about it). It’s mine. I don’t owe to anyone, and I don’t have to worry about other people liking it. Of course at some point I probably will worry about those things, and I’m not saying that every time I see a deal on PM or PW I don’t jump out of my skin a little, but that’s only natural. In those moments I just keep reminding myself, this is your book. You’re writing it for you, not for anyone else. Enjoy it.

And I am enjoying it. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun writing a book in years; it’s a nice change of pace from what the last year or so has been like, writing-wise, for me, which is extraordinarily difficult and not nearly as rewarding as it once was. But this book is cool. Alex once said to me that she tries to write books that her brother would read, and for once I’m trying to do that, too. I’ve only got 60 pages of this book (let’s call it Book 3 for tagging purposes) and so far there has been a 2-on-3 physical fight and a car chase, and I plan for there to be escapes and imprisonments and espionage and betrayal and love and heartbreak and double-crossing and science! All in one book! One hopefully not 800 pages long book (I don’t think it will be that long, but Hallelujah is, inexplicably, like 400 manuscript pages, which is almost 100 pages longer than AUT and I do not know how that happened).

ALSO: Jeopardy! Man vs. Machine* starts tonight! I may or may not have made this clear in my last blog post, but I DVR Jeopardy! every night. Sometimes I watch them nightly, but most of the time I let them build up and watch them all in a row on the weekends. Right now I’m a little behind, but I’m going to be sure to watch tonight’s IMMEDIATELY. I love Jeopardy! I even violated my own very strict “no paying for iPhone apps” rule to download the $4.99 Jeopardy! app.

So that’s my life right now. Reading (I also plucked a copy of Diana Mosely: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler’s Angel from my shelf; I’ve had it for a while, bought it for $5 at the Strand, because as you may or may not know I love anything having to do with the Mitfords and hope someday to read everything there is by or about them, but Diana is not my fave so I hadn’t actually ever started this biography of her), writing, and Jeopardy! You would think that would give me plenty of time to update this blog, but apparently that’s not true, although you might be interested to know that I do update my Tumblr way more often and recently I posted a bunch of songs over there that reminded me of The Opposite of Hallelujah, so you might want to head over there and have a listen.

*I don’t think that the Jeopardy! people are calling it this, that’s just what I’m calling it.

One week

Posted on January 7th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Aaaaand now I have the Barenaked Ladies song in my head.

The last time you heard from our intrepid heroine (me, duh), she was trapped in Newark International Airport, rueing the day she first sacrificed convenience for price in choosing a flight to Chicago for Christmas. Then came radio silence all through the holidays. I really tried to use my long break to relax and sleep in and spend time with my family and friends I haven’t seen in a while. I did a good job at that, but as soon as I got back to New York (and trekked home from Newark–NEVER AGAIN!) I hit the ground running, because my friend Brigitte from my good old University of Chicago days was in town with her husband, so I saw them on both Sunday and Monday night.

Any illusions that I might have given my poor, addled mind a rest over break were completely dashed on Tuesday, when I wrote my friend Nikki an email inviting her to my house for “kiesh.” YES THAT IS RIGHT. I didn’t even notice my painfully egregious spelling error until I got an email from my friend Cambria later that night saying, “Still making quiche? What time should I come over?” And I was like, “OMG ‘QUICHE’!” I think that’s the worst spelling error I’ve made in my entire life. It’s like I had never seen the word “quiche” written out before. I was mortified when I realized my mistake–like I said, HOURS LATER.

The quiche was delicious, though, despite the fact that I put too much filling in the pie crust so it spilled out a little from the sides and then rose like a souffle in the oven. Considering I didn’t measure anything and just threw some stuff in it, I think it was a success! It had broccoli, onion and Swiss cheese in it, if you care.

Anyway, on to business. So, now that it’s Thursday, we’re less than a week away from the publication of All Unquiet Things. Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve spent the bulk of my free time the past few days answering interview questions and posting on Random Buzzers, which you should totally check out if you’re not a part of it yet. My forum is here, but there are a couple of interesting activities posted here that I can’t wait to check out. I thought the AUT playlist was just a link to the playlist I created, so I didn’t even look at it before, but now I see that it’s a section for other people to post their playlists, which is far more interesting to me.

In other news, I came across this article John Green wrote for School Library Journal the other day and found it entirely fascinating. It’s all about the future of reading, and what it means if books become practically free to produce (i.e. entirely digital) and thus publishers cease to exist and there’s no quality control (or just plain control at any rate; people have their own opinions about whether or not quality has anything to do with it–I’m not one of them, but I’ve heard that a lot, that publishers are just pandering to the lowest common denominator, etc. etc.) and the world of literature falls into anarchy (not democracy, which is different). Basically, libraries rule the world is his argument.

Anyway, I’m not going to advance my own opinions because I don’t really believe that the book world will ever become entirely digital in the way John predicts (okay, I guess that’s an opinion, but whatever), but I will say that last night, for some reason, I got into this discussion about The Future of Reading with three people–two strangers I met at a bar, and my cab driver on the way home. The strangers differed on this issue; one said to hell with publishers, let schools be the gatekeepers (which is not a very good solution, if only because not everyone is in school at any given time, but he’s forgiven because he’s an educator); the other was a big believer in libraries, and also argued in favor of publishers.

Better still, the conversation I had with my cab driver. He was extremely chatty, which I normally do not like, because when I’m in a car, or really on any form of transportation, I like to be silent and stare out the window and sometimes fall asleep. I don’t want to be beholden to a conversation with a stranger. But this cabbie was nice, and he asked me what I did, so I told him, and then he asked me if I thought books would go the way of the dodo, and for a moment I was like, “Deja vu!” but then I said that no, I didn’t think that, I think digital and physical books will find a balance someday and neither will become completely dominant. Then he said, “Oh, that’s good, because books are just so charming.” He was completely sincere, and I fell a little bit in love with him. I never would’ve said that books are charming, but they are! QED, books will never die. (Not at all logically sound, I know, but whatever. I never claimed to be a master of debate!)