(inspired by a couple of weeks of dealing with fall orders, or trying to deal with fall orders, and because I do not yet have time to talk about the LIAR cover issue, except to say that I am angry enough about it that I'm not buying the book for the shop and am ordering extra HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY to try to make up for that because it's not JL's fault but I just can't)
Warning: I got crankier as I went along.
In no particular order:
--any book ending in "ology"
--any book imitating one ending in "ology"
--bad books that make noise, thus making them worse
--werewolves (exception: SHIVER)
--zombies (exceptions: Carrie Ryan and Stacey Jay - but could we otherwise please stop trying to make zombies happen)
--girls with dead mothers
--girls who are dead themselves
--girls who are in love with dead people
--Magic Tree House
--new books about characters whose creators are dead (new Winnie the Pooh, I'm looking at you)
--books that say "based on characters created by"
--unnecessary sex scenes that keep me from being able to sell a book to a tween
--books about teachers having affairs with students
--books about the city of New York (HONESTLY. I love New York but NO ONE LOVES IT THAT MUCH.)
--publishers making it impossible for you to find their backlist
--publishers making it impossible for you to read a picture book ahead of time (.pdfs, people. it's not hard. I'd read a .pdf galley, too - anything to avoid having to take a chance in this economy.)
--marketing people who never actually talk to booksellers deciding what covers should look like
--bad rhyming picture books
--picture books that take place in New York City
--picture books that take place in New York City that feature no minority characters
--YA novels getting more and more expensive (know why we're not selling ALONG FOR THE RIDE? because it's $19.99 and we can't afford to discount it 30 or 40 percent.)
--people talking about everyone having an e-reader as being "inevitable" (huh. everyone having a computer was supposed to be inevitable, too.)
--governments viewing libraries as expendable
--parents complaining about their boys reading nothing but fantasy (or nothing but sports)
--the answer to the question "what has she/he been reading lately?" being Harry Potter whether the kid is seven or seventeen (despite popular belief, that doesn't actually tell me a lot about the reading level or interests of most kids)
--bad movies of books I love (I am SO HAPPY that the option on A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY lapsed - LB got some money and I don't have to fear the movie)
--publishers spending a fortune promoting authors who don't need promotion (James Patterson) and nothing promoting others, so good books get swept under the rug every single day
--picture books about the Obama dog
--people sounding the death knell for books. books are not going anywhere.
Be cranky in the comments with me, okay?
This absurd review by Tina Jordan (Entertainment Weekly) of Gayle Forman's spectacular, heartbreaking IF I STAY annoyed me more than it surprised me. It's short, so I'll quote it in its entirety:
Though it's touted as the next Twilight — with a fat movie deal in place and Catherine Hardwicke set to direct — Gayle Forman's slim novel is no Twilight. If I Stay is a sweet little piece of fluff, beautifully written, but lacking the compulsively readable story line and brewing sexual tension of Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster. Budding cellist Mia, 17, is in the car with her parents and little brother when it spins out of control on an icy road, killing everyone except Mia. She soon clings to life in a nearby ICU, shuttled in and out of the operating room. Should she make the effort to will herselfback or should she take the easy route and allow herself to die? You can read the book and find out — or just wait for the movie. B
First of all, it's not "touted as the next Twilight." One widely quoted story wondered if it was, but the author really meant "is it the next big YA hit, the next big YA movie," not the "next Twilight." It was badly worded, and then, I suppose, badly quoted. What made the whole thing...worse, I guess...is that Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight's director) is attached to direct IF I STAY. So there are four similarities between these books: they're both YA; they're both about teenage girls; they're both by female authors; they're both turned into/being turned into movies directed by the same woman. That's it.
I hope IF I STAY isn't full of brooding sexual tension; its main character is a GIRL IN A COMA. And it's not a piece of fluff. I mean, seriously - even if you hated the book you'd never say it was a piece of fluff. Forman is an immensely skilled writer and IF I STAY is many things - wrenching, funny, lovely, riveting. But fluff? No. It features one of the most authentic teenage voices I have ever read, and is easily one of my favorite books of the last decade. My gut tells me that EW's review was written by someone who read A. the jacket copy and B. some things they found through Google, rather than the actual book itself.
But a major media outlet would never do that...right?
Hey, EW: there are about...oh, nine million people who would write you a review that made it clear the reviewer had read the book, AND get it right, AND not encourage people to skip the book entirely in favor of waiting for the movie (???). You might want to try hiring one of them.
Dearest, dearest editors/publishers/agents/writers:
Where are the Matt Christopher books for girls? Where's the girls' Mike Lupica?
Where is the awesome middle-grade girls' series about friends who play soccer/ice skate/play field hockey/shoot hoops? Where's the stereotypical girls' sports series, for that matter? Most days I'd give my left arm for a fair-to-middling book about short girls on a gymnastics team.
Horse books are coming back, it seems, but there just aren't sports books for girls. (Things like DAIRY QUEEN don't count. That book isn't about SPORTS, it's about D.J.) I am so tired of having to tell girls that no, there just isn't a great book about a girl who plays lacrosse (or fill in the blank with whatever sport you want to). And even if there is one terrific book about an ice skater, that's it - there's just one.
I love fantasy, and I love fluff, and I love gritty real-life stuff, but I need sports books to sell. (For that matter, I need more sports books for elementary kids, period, not just girls - could someone please do a series about a t-ball team? Something like ROSCOE RILEY RULES but with soccer? Something?)
If you can think of anything, please let me know. I'm really not looking for a girls' book where one of the characters just happens to play something - I'm looking for books where the sport is a major plot point. (I already know about MIRACLE ON WHATEVER STREET, the Lupica with the girl on the cover.) And honestly, it's the elementary and middle-grade girls coming in looking for books about girls playing sports - teen girls have mostly moved on to Edward Cullen.
Sports, please? Any sports? Something like ANIMAL ARK (SPORTS ARK? just kidding) but with a different sport in each book? Something like BEACON STREET GIRLS, but about a middle-school traveling soccer team? Something like CANTERWOOD CREST, but with gymnastics?
Girls need sports books too!
Jodi Picoult allegedly dismisses all YA as featuring unclothed girls on the covers, thereby being unsuitable for her 13 year old.
If this is true (it's a secondhand account), I'd enjoy five minutes with Picoult to explain exactly how A. wrong B. ridiculous and C. potentially damaging to an entire genre (considering how wide-ranging Picoult's audience is) her comments were. I suspect this opinion/statement, if reported accurately, was formed by scanning the endcaps at her local Barnes and Noble.
I'm guessing Picoult has a local independent bookstore, one that no doubt stocked and sold her books long before she became a bestselling sensation. Perhaps she could take her daughter there and get a little re-education on the actual state of YA literature.
I loved Whoopi Goldberg's SUGAR PLUM BALLERINAS. I also thought the galley cover was quite nice:
And then the book came out, and this is the cover, and I hate it:
It's kind of hard to see their faces, but man, I really don't like them at all. I like the having-multicultural-color-on-the-cover part, which we definitely need more of, but I really, really wish the art was better.
There's going to end up being a bit of a rant in this review, so I want to preface it by saying: I enjoy Buckingham's writing very much. I loved DEMONKEEPER, his first book, and sold a lot of it when I was a bookseller. I was very much looking forward to reading GOBLINS! and did ultimately enjoy it, but I have a major problem with it that I'm going to have to rant about in a minute. But first, here's the plot.
Sam lives waaaaaay up north in Washington State, right near the Canadian border. There is absolutely nothing to do in his tiny town, so at 12, he's already becoming something of a juvenile delinquent. Right now he's sitting in the local jail because he couldn't resist swiping some fireworks out of a truck parked at the Stop-n-Sip, and of course, Officer Myrmidon - the town's only policeman - caught him immediately.
On the way to the police station, Myrmidon had pulled over a Camaro that ended up being driven by his son PJ, on his way up from California for a visit. And then he'd gotten a call that some cavers were missing, so he'd taken off to help and left PJ and Sam alone.
Big mistake, of course.
The police motion-detector that's set up at the US-Canadian border goes off, and PJ decides that he and Sam should go and check it out - in his dad's police cruiser. On the way they run over what they initially think is a person, until they get it into the back of the cruiser:
Thick, black fur covered its entire body--it was not wearing a fur coat. Its hands were leathery, like those of a gorilla, and its fingers were tipped with long, yellow claws. It pushed its face up against the glass and stared back at Sam and PJ with huge yellow eyes. Two long tusks jutted up from its lower jaw. It was definitely not human.
Soon they meet two mysterious people and learn that the creature comes from a land beneath the Earth. After the creature is dispatched with and the people return to whence they came, PJ realizes Sam is gone. He quickly figures out that Sam followed the UnderEarth people, finds the entrance that goes underground, and reluctantly enters it himself. Soon both boys are caught up in a war between the UnderEarth humans and the Goblins who desperately want to take over everything that the humans control and possess all their power. Unfortunately PJ and Sam, each in his own way, makes everything UnderEarth a lot worse - but maybe, in the end, they'll help make it a lot better.
There's a lot of humor in this book and PJ and Sam are both likable characters. A lot of the Goblin stuff is hilarious. The plot moves quickly and the end, while drawing to a satisfying conclusion, clearly paves the path for a sequel. I think this could be a pretty successful middle-grade series.
Here's my problem, and the rant.
This book is listed as being for ages 8-12. So why, then, does PJ say things like No friggin' way, backwards-ass, my friggin' gravestone and I don't mean to bitch? Does a third-grader really need to read that? Or a fourth-grader? The language adds absolutely nothing to the story. Nothing. Yeah, PJ is 17. But this isn't a YA novel. And it's not a novel with a character who needs these words to show readers who he is. The book isn't full of this language - the phrases cited above are it. So why bother? If I were handselling this book to an elementary school librarian, I would have to tell her about the language and you know what? She wouldn't buy it.
I am finding this over and over and over - stuff just shoved into a book that doesn't need to be there - that does absolutely nothing to advance the story or define the characters - that should have been removed during the editing process. I'm thinking of YA novels that'll be squeaky clean until 3/4 of the way through when suddenly everyone gets drunk for no reason. I'm thinking of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, which is getting tons of Newbery buzz and which is one of the most age-inappropriate (for how it is leveled and covered) books I have ever read. (That, incidentally, will be an entire post, but I read the galley awhile ago and need to get a copy so I can quote specifics.)
In my perfect world, Buckingham's editors would remove those four words before printing the book in paperback and make sure that the sequels don't contain anything like them. The humor in Goblins! counteracts the scary parts quite nicely, and it would make a good read-aloud. It's a book I would have been happy to have in the shop where I worked, because you always need books for boys that have freaky creatures in them.
But the whole reading experience was marred for me by those age-inappropriate words - they jarred me right out of the story. I really, really wish they weren't there.
Dear Publishers (and Editors, and Authors):
If you are going to use the names of actual celebrities in your books, FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY PLEASE SPELL THE NAMES CORRECTLY.
Two names that are almost constantly misspelled in print:
1. Lionel Richie. RICHIE. R-I-C-H-I-E. There is no T in Richie. It is NOT spelled RITCHIE. EVER.
2. Danielle Steel. STEEL. S-T-E-E-L. There is no E at the end of Steel. It is NOT spelled STEELE. EVER.
Seriously, what the heck?
Yes, I have seen both of these mistakes in recent galleys. And yes, I am surprised that either of these celebrities was mentioned, but they are big-time famous, whether they've had any recent hits or whether you hate their books or whatever. They're famous. Spell their names correctly.