What Are You Reading?: New Book Recs!

Quite a few people have asked me for book recommendations lately. So, for this week’s post I thought I would make a list of all of the books that have either been released recently or are coming-soon that I am looking forward to. Without further ado, here we go.

1. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman My school librarian and another of my mentors, Ms. Maza, recommended this book to me and said it was for readers who liked The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I loved The Night Circus. This looks magical, intriguing and fun.

2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt There has been a lot of hype about The Goldfinch. Personally, I have heard mixed things. The description looks interesting, I always like a little mystery, a little intrigue and some missing artwork. It’s on my shelf, it’s coming soon.

3. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline I was fortunate to meet Ms. Kline when she came to speak to a few of us at my school last year. We had a very nice conversation and I have been meaning to read Orphan Train for some time. I am always amazed by the amount of research writers do to make their work great and Ms. Kline discussed the work that she did to prepare to write this story.

4. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton So, the description makes this seem like YA fantasy, but I have heard really great things about this.

5. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling, coming June 2014). So, I haven’t actually read The Cuckoo’s Calling yet, but I am excited to do so. This is the sequel, which comes out in June, so I thought I would link to it here. It will be interesting to read Jo when she isn’t writing as Jo.

6. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd I loved The Secret Life of Bees. Kidd’s new book (it came out in January) follows the journey of a young girl and the slave she is given for her tenth birthday. If anyone could do this type of story well I think it would be Sue Monk Kidd and I look forward to it.

7. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira The premise of this book is intriguing. The main character learns about herself and the world around her by writing letters to dead people. Some of them are famous, some of them are not. I am interested to see how the writer treats the idea that I frequently play around with and the idea that I think is at the core of meaningful work; learning through writing.

8. The Storied Life of A.J. FIkry by Gabrielle Zevin It’s about a bookstore and bibliophiles. I don’t think I need to elaborate.

9. The Swan Gondola by Timorthy Schaffert I was attracted by the title and then by the words “reminiscent of The Night Circus.” A young romance in the midst of the Omaha World’s Fair? I will take it.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman I have heard nothing but good things about this and Neil Gaiman is a genius, so there’s that. The Amazon description is very short, so basically I am intrigued.

So, there you have it. New/coming soon books that I am looking forward to. I realize that this is historical fiction/mystery heavy, so I learned something here. If you have thoughts on any of these please leave them in comments!

Read on,

Making Stuff

Yesterday, John Green made a video that was largely about how artists create. In that video he said: “Individuals don’t really create stuff so much as they process their influences and try to build upon them in order to create something helpful for others.”

So, this is a pretty bold statement. Creators don’t really create, they synthesize. I tend to agree. I think that all artists, their work and their consumers are part of a community and partake in an unending dialogue that reflects our cultures and the human condition. Just for fun, here is a list of my favorite influences.

Here we go (in no particular order other than in which I thought of them):

Pablo Neruda
Hank Green
JK Rowling
Jane Austen
The Lives of Others
Julio Cortazar
JD Salinger
Ray Bradbury
Jonathan Safran Foer
The obituary section in any newspaper
The band Fun.
Garth Brooks
Erin Morgenstern
Sharon Creech
EB White

What are your influences?

Read on,

Putting Yourself Out There

Happy mid-March! It’s finally warmer than 10 degrees here, which is a lovely fact. This winter I have come to realize how central the weather is to life. It is all anyone has been talking about, which is strange. What on earth will we talk about once there are no longer catastrophic storms to prepare for or recover from? I love conversations about writing and the writing process. I am taking a class this semester called Writers Craft and it is largely focused on habits that writers have. We’ve been talking about observation, detail, writing constantly, and emulating other great writers.

One of my favorite blogs is Christian Mihai’s blog. Mr. Mihai is a young author who grew up in Romania. He has several short stories, a novel and a novella. He helped to start an online magazine called Irevuo. That is everything that I know about him personally. What I know about him as a writer is that he is very good at articulating his writing experience and habits to which he subscribes. Yesterday, I read his most recent post “Write, Write, Write.” He opens the post saying, “there are two main rules to becoming a writer: read a lot and write a lot. You can’t do one without the other, no matter how much you try.” I agree with this. However, if I agree with this, then I have to say that there are three main rules to becoming a writer. *Disclaimer: I am still working toward this* The third is putting yourself out there.

I suppose that it depends on your definition of “being a writer,” but to me, sharing what one has created is an important part of the process. In fact, it can be a refreshing and integral part of the process. Writing requires a lot of alone time, so when there is an opportunity for someone else to read what’s been created, it is exciting, nerve wracking and valuable to the writer. Mr. Valentine, writers craft teacher/published author/very aware of writing life, told me once that no one will come to find my work, I have to put it out there. Especially at the beginning, no one will seek out a writer, he or she has to put himself and his work out there.

The great thing about blogging is that it makes one more comfortable with sharing, it forces one to write and it connects people to one another. Three great practices/habits for anyone who loves literature.

If anyone has any comments on this or thoughts or advice, please leave comments below or send emails to bookstomark@gmail.com. Also, check out the video from last week: The Ultimate Book Tag

Read, write, put yourself out there, do things that scare/challenge you.

Read on,

One More Thing: Thoughts and Other Thoughts

There has been a lot of hype recently about B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. This book of fiction with a minimalist cover is described as entertaining and original. I have never seen The Office, so I was not familiar with Novak’s work prior to reading One More Thing. I was excited to read it because of the format in which it started . Novak originally told all of the stories in One More Thing to audiences around the world; he tried out the material on them. I had never heard of an author approaching his work in that way and, with my increasing interest in Slam/Spoken Word poetry, I was curious about what had passed the test. One More Thing is a series of short stories. And by short I mean really short. Most are four pages, but they range from three lines to 15 pages. It was great because every time I finished a story, I felt very accomplished. In fact, I read the whole book in two days. I have never read anything like it. It was refreshing.

While the humor Novak uses is not quite my style, I did find the stories somewhat humorous. The satire is really effective. In one story, the main character is on a museum tour and he wants to know what dark matter is. He goes so far as to physically threaten the tour guide afterwards into telling him what dark matter is. However, when the tour guide reveals that he is the only man in the world who knows and begins to explain it, all the main character can do is think about the texts his friends did not send and the party which they may or may not have excluded him from with good or bad intentions. It was a funny way to address the issue we have with being where we are and focusing on what is important. The stories are all unique and creative, but, perhaps more importantly, they were very purposeful. Each story had a distinct meaning that I think could have been meaningful in many ways to many different people. It’s a very accessible medium. It earns a Books to Mark Recommendation. 

Sidenote: There were two young girls in the cafe where I write my posts. They were a couple of tables away from me doing their homework. I was trying to write my blog post and I heard something familiar. Looking over, I saw them each with a copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry, reading it out loud and verbally recalling different aspects of the book. One girl struggled with a sentence and the other said it quickly, followed by “keep going.” When they stood up to leave a few minutes later I learned that knowing which One Direction heartthrob the other prefers is an essential characteristic of being BFFLs. I just really liked that they were reading The Giver aloud. It isn’t often that reading can be a communal experience, but it is very nice when it is.

Spring is really on its way (let’s hope!!), I can’t believe it is the end of February. I am four books into my 40-book 2014 Goodreads Challenge! I’d say that is a good start.

Read on,

Photo: http://heebmagazine.com

Literary Love

Hi friends,

Blind Date With a book!

Blind Date With a book!

Our library has been setting people up… with books! Our literary committee set up a display decked out in hearts and books wrapped in pink and purple paper and slightly ambiguos descriptions. Since we wrote the descriptions in about five minutes, they are pretty entertaining. We do this on Valentine’s Day because we have an excuse to call it “Blind Date With a Book,” but how cool would it be if this was constant? I think every library or bookstore should have a mystery/random book section. It would be an interesting experiment: How much do titles and covers affect our perceptions of books before and while we read them? Let’s start a movement. I have quoted some of our descriptions at the end… Can you guess what books they belong to?

On another note, I am really excited to road trip to a new old bookstore this weekend. That is, unless the snow thwarts our travel plans, which at the moment is quite possible (I was just informed of my school’s 5th snow day for tomorrow). It’s called Popek’s and it’s in Upstate New York. I was digging through Narratively (sidenote: this week’s topic is “Colorful Women”) and found a wonderful article about the proprietor Michael Popek. The title “The Bank of Bygone Bookmarks” grabbed my attention, but when I read the subtitle, I couldn’t click fast enough: “In a small New York town, a bookshop owner finds his calling among the love letters and photographs left in the pages of dusty old novels.” He has spent a good portion of his life finding and collecting the odds and ends that we leave tucked into the pages of our books. I am really interested in the stories of others and there is so much potential to find something really valuable in the things we leave behind. That is a long explanation of the fact that I am going to this book store this weekend, weather permitting. I will post some pictures from that event if it happens.

Sidenote #2: I cannot put Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore down. I am completely in love with this book. It is so funny, I find myself laughing out loud. It is also just brilliant. I tweeted at Mr. Sloan and the Penumbra account, but did not receive a reply, so maybe I’ll just flood them with tweets.

If you are in the North East, good luck, stay warm.

Read on,



1. “This is a classic. If you are looking for a good romance, a strong, flawed heroine and a swoon-worthy love interest, check it out.”
2. “Wolves? Way better than Twilight. No vampires, good romance and adventure.”
3. “Whether you want to read about a human romance or one with books, you’ll love this. Romance, books and coding…need we say more?”
4. “Puppy love! (but it’s a tiger)”
5. “There is a beach involved- escape this winter insanity! A sweet romance that will warm your heart on February 14.”
6. “This book will be the ‘guy next to you’ on Valentine’s Day. Dogs, a veteran and the south– a passionate tale of love and loss.”
7. “Action and adventure, magic and love. A strong heroine and a dashing hero. Spend your Valentine’s Day captivated by the world!”

Leave your guesses in the comments!!