Greetings, all! It’s no secret I love to make local recommendations (I recently popped over to Cassie’s new blog adventure to chat about Queens eateries) so my heart positively pitter patters when I see the excitement start to grow for those bloggers heading to NYC for BEA. With over a month to go, I’m kicking off the BEA Part of It blog series (coming up on YEAR 3 — ah!) with a few friendly faces from around the interwebs and a little guidance on how to make the most out of your NYC getaway.
In the past, I’ve focused on beer & Broadway, caffeine & spirits, and more Broadway (are we sensing a theme here?), but I really wanted to focus a lot on budget this time around. NYC, like any desired destination, can be super hard on the wallet but there is certainly a way to have a blast and not feel like a pauper. (Let’s be real… I’ll be talking about beer and Broadway again because who would I be if I wasn’t?!)
Here we go…
your caffeine fix: Gregory’s. This coffee shop has plenty more locations than it did three years ago, and all of their pastries are made fresh. The best cup of iced coffee out there is the perfect way to jump start your day of sightseeing.
the highline. The Highline is an old railroad tack turned park, and it’s the perfect place to a) take a book and read b) chat endlessly c) discover there is actually some green in New York City. I love this spot for its views, the people watching, and how it almost feels like walking through a forest. It extended last year and you can walk from 14th Street to 34th Street — nice way to avoid the usual crowds on the street. Plus you can buy a lovely paleta or enjoy a brew. (Be sure to have some cash for the vendors.)
lunch break: Empanada Mama. Warning: the location closest to midtown is pretty small but waiting is so worth it. The food is delicious and it’s amazing how inexpensive it is. I wouldn’t necessarily go drinking here but they do have margaritas and fresh iced teas.
happy hour: The Pony Bar NYC. Last year during BEA, my two best friends from college were visiting and I met them here for happy hour. A true craft beer bar, they have a revolving selection and happy hour (4:20pm – 5:20pm) means all beers are a dollar less than usual. Worth checking out, for sure.
book stop: Book Off. Are we ever tired of books? I think not. The Book Off is a spot that buys used books, and you can usually find some gems in the $1 section. (They even take credit/debit cards so you don’t have to worry about having cash here.) I love to wander in here whenever I get the chance… and if you are in desperate need of something, you could always go to the Barnes & Noble on 46th and 5th. (Then circle back to Gregory’s which is nearby.)
dinner. John’s Pizzeria. This seems like SUCH a tourist choice, right? It’s located in the heart of the theater district but I don’t give a damn. I love the food, the crazy crowds — it’s my favorite way to experience New York sometimes. Pizza comes by the pie, it’s not a place where you have to linger and hang out if you don’t want to, and it’s worth the wait. (Some of my favorite pizza in all of New York and I take this very seriously.)
a show. As book people, I think we all understand how important it is to support the arts. There are ways to do this affordably too. I can’t emphasize this enough — if you are going to see a show and you don’t want to wake up early for rush tickets, please buy them before you come. The TKTS line is fun but it will also eat up some very valuable time in your trip (plus you don’t always know what will be available). My first tip is to go to BroadwayBox.com, a site that lists all the current discounts. My second is to check out this rush policy list and see which shows offer up discount tickets as the box office opens or by raffle a few hours before the show starts. Last year during the same weekend, we had no problem with early rush tickets so it’s a good time for you to try it too. My current recommendations (based on what I want to see, not what I’ve seen): Gigi with Vanessa Hudgens, An American in Paris, On the Town, and The Heidi Chronicles.
be fancy. THIS IS NEW YORK. Even though I’m all about spending wisely, please don’t come to NYC without having a ritzy cocktail. It’s going to cost more than you’re used to, I’m sure, but it’s so worth it because YOU ARE ON VACATION or SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO FEEL LIKE YOU ARE ON VACATION. Two stops: Library Hotel where all the drinks are named after famous authors (there’s a rooftop bar!) and also the Broadway Lounge in the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square.
I guess I did a good job if I’m jealous of this kind of day… because I’m definitely jealous of this day. I can’t let go that easily so here are a few runner ups:
- Pushcart Coffee on 25th Street: Wine, beer, coffee, and tea in one place. WITH SNACKS. It’s sort of remarkable and adorable inside.
- Oddfellows NYC: Until we get a great ice cream place near the theatre district (please!!!), I can’t say enough amazing things about this place. Fresh ice cream, fresh cones. Hands down the best ice cream I had last summer (and probably this summer too).
- Draught 55: I’m a broken record, I know, but everyone we take to this place really likes it… the food is spectacular, the beer selection is amazing (they also have a nice cocktail menu) and if you decide to skip a show on Saturday night, the happy hour from 8pm – 9pm is the absolute best.
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Enough from me… Brooklynite and debut writer of the charming THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY Bethany Chase was kind enough to share her top recommendation to those visiting NYC too: “My favorite suggestion for someone visiting NYC for the first time would be to go to the Met Museum on a Friday or Saturday night. The museum stays open ’til nine, and it feels wonderfully transgressive to wander around past all those dark windows, and with a much thinner crowd than usual. The Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian wing at night is a truly unforgettable New York experience.”
[Note from Estelle: her book would be PERFECT for your carry-on. Don’t forget to check out my review.]
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Thanks so much for hanging out today! I hope I’ve gotten you properly revved up for your trip (at least for today) because I can guarantee the rest of the series is going to make you wish it was the end of May right now!
The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: Austin, relationships, career
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Summary: Living in Austin, Sarina is on the brink of a successful architecture business, and in love with Noah — a guy she is planning to spend the rest of her life with. (No, they aren’t engaged yet but they will be soon!) But when Eamon, a one-night stand from years ago reenters her life, she can’t help think about what would have been — if he had actually called her the next morning, if she wasn’t in a relationship now…
Sarina. She’s hungry two hours after she eats. (I can relate.) She’s creative. She is protective of her independence. She’s also completely confused about her path, and I don’t blame her. How many times have we made the safe choice that makes us somewhat happy because we are too scared, too apprehensive to switch gears even if it means the possibility of extreme happiness? Too many times to count, I’m sure.
Here we have Sarina perfectly content with her relationship (even if it’s mostly long distance right now) and diving head first into her new business, trying to make a name for herself. She has great friends, a cat who loves her, and yet when Eamon comes back into her life — a guy she had such a connection with years ago but never called her after their night together — something shifts. I don’t for one second think that Eamon is the sole reason why she started questioning the way her life was going. The catalyst would have come sooner or later. Maybe, just maybe, there is more to the life she has carefully crafted for herself.
From the very beginning, the chemistry between Sarina and Eamon is off the charts but I have to give my girl some credit — she has self-control. Sure, many of her thoughts revolve around him, she loves spending time with him, but the boundaries don’t exactly breakdown like they could have. (Like I’ve seen them do so in other books.) Instead, Sarina and Eamon build a professional relationship (she’s helping him fix up a house), laugh together, and slowly begin to lean on each other. At the same time, Sarina deeply cares about her boyfriend and doesn’t foresee ending things with him. She throws herself into work, skypes with the boyfriend, visits with her beloved stepdad, and silently obsesses over Eamon until she realizes things can’t remain the same anymore.
Does her partner understand her? Is her business going in the direction she wants it to? Should she have to choose between her career and the kids she doesn’t have yet? Will she ever stop mourning her mother’s death? Is she scared of being happy? Of being honest with herself? Debut author Bethany Chase attacks each of these questions thoughtfully, peppered with humor and sexy moments. Halfway through, the ache associated with ending a book was already (!!) setting in. I already knew it would be hard to leave Sarina, her Austin, these friends, and her journey. That feeling is so heartbreaking but, at the same time, that’s how you know a book is special, right?
The One That Got Away covered a larger expanse of time then I imagined it would, and Sarina was constantly surprising me. Ice cream in bed, road trips, sweet supporting characters, late night drinking, and the promise of rustic home decor mixed in with all those difficult, big kid moments we hate to deal with — I am a solid supporter of this novel and can’t wait to check out what Bethany is cooking up next.
Add THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
All the Rage by Courtney Summers [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: rape, growing up in a small town, missing person
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Romy can’t wait to escape her small town, where she’s ridiculed for “claiming to be raped”. (That’s what they say; the townspeople refuse to believe a cop’s son could do such a thing.) Romy can’t escape the truth and must face it head-on when her ex-best friend goes missing and all of her hidden fears and feelings are forced to the surface.
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Pre-motherhood I read purely for enjoyment. I could read tougher, hard-hitting subjects and be emotionally distraught, but not in the same way they’re affecting me now that I am chasing after my own little one. All the Rage by Courtney Summers certainly sent chills up my spine and made me hope and wish and pray for a better future for my daughter. It prematurely worried me into thinking about all the future boys and parties and experiences she’ll have that I’ll have zero control over.
But Summers’ book also helped me realize that I hope I’m not Romy’s mom. I hope I don’t ignore a terrible situation for Everett like Romy’s mom did when she was raped by the town’s golden boy, Kellan. When word got around that Romy was raped, her town rallied against her — they called her a liar, cast her aside and made her life more difficult by harassing her, and labeled her as attention-seeking. She bides her time at school, works at a diner just outside of town where no one knows her story, and is just trying to pass the days until she can get away.
When Romy’s ex-best friend goes missing after a large party, her anxiety worsens and so do the attacks from her peers. People disturbingly murmur wishes and lies that are so downright cruel they made me shake with rage. She is determined to bypass all the crude remarks and outright stares to make sure another girl’s wellbeing isn’t threatened or overlooked like hers was.
Summers’ tackles the challenge of rape and abuse by telling Romy’s alarming story. In every possible way, Romy is completely distraught — she’s broken and shattered after no one listened to her outcries. Though she wants a physical relationship with someone, the truth is she can’t escape the terrifying place her mind resides 90% of the time. It broke my heart when she learned of someone’s pregnancy and hoped the baby wouldn’t be a girl so she wouldn’t know the struggles women face.
Romy is compelling and gosh, I just wanted to hold her tight and tell her everything would be okay. Sometimes she came across as a bit cloudy and murky because she was reflecting on past events and I had a bit of trouble distinguishing present day versus past, but it all made sense in the end. Her present was consumed by the past. Summers has gifted us with a girl who thinks she’s damaged beyond repair, that makes some really poor, frustrating decisions because she can’t mentally break free of her suffering. In her typical refined manner, Summers forces us to stand up for victims all over the world to say, “Enough is enough.”
Add ALL THE RAGE to Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
Author Paula Stokes reached out to me via social media when she saw I had read a review copy of LIARS, INC. Several changes went into the final edits of LIARS, and she created a document so her readers could be aware of them before reviewing. (I’d like to add that reading the document only allowed me to love Paula more. There was one tidbit of information I was happy to see changed because it was a clue for me in the ARC.) Writing back and forth with Paula led to realizing she and Estelle had connected last year and I couldn’t stop thinking, “I really adore her! She’s so great and nice and I just want everyone to feel this way about Paula!”
Even after 3.5 years of working on Rather Be Reading with Estelle, I still get nervous when I reach out to authors about interviews. I’m not sure why I worried because Paula is the nicest person ever, and I’m so extremely grateful she set some time aside for us. I hope you’ll adore her as much as we do after reading her interview with RBR below and I sincerely hope you’ll pick up LIARS, INC. (in stores as of 3/24/15) and THE ART OF LAINEY.
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Estelle called THE ART OF LAINEY a pick-me-up-book after a rough day; I called LIARS, INC. trippy and suspenseful. How difficult was it for you to shift gears after writing a feel-good story to one that involved a lot of meticulous detail work to make sure everything flowed well and you weren’t contradicting yourself?
It wasn’t difficult to switch gears because I wrote LAINEY at the same time I was finishing up VENOM and I wrote LIARS at the same time I was drafting BELLADONNA (my work-for-hire books for Paper Lantern Lit) so if anything, writing LAINEY just felt like a break from keeping track of clues and red herrings, more like an exercise in catharsis than work. Lainey isn’t me and her breakup isn’t my breakup, but her pain IS my pain and as much as I wanted THE ART OF LAINEY to sell, I wrote that book to heal myself more than anything else. Along the way, I realized I had a knack for writing swoony contemporaries so I sold a couple more.
As an author who has written several very different books, what do you hope to produce in the future? Have you enjoyed writing one particular story more than another or found that you’ve really discovered your niche? (We love how diverse you are!)
I don’t really prefer one type of story so my brand is just going to have to be brandlessness, I guess. Or maybe my brand is writing books that people don’t want to put down. Those are the ones I prefer to read so I try to write prose and chapters that propel readers through stories. In the future, I hope to produce both dark and light stories every year (I’m set for 2016 and 2017) and then I’m also finishing up the beta draft of an NA book right now and toying with an adult medical thriller idea. I would also really like to write a Parvati companion novel—totally different from LIARS, a spy girl story in the vein of Homeland meets Nikita. This book is about 25% written, but I’ll have to wait and see how LIARS does before making any decisions.
I fully, fully support you completing Parvati’s story, and hope I get the chance to read it one day. You’re a woman of so many talents! You’re an RN, an author, a world-traveler (who has snuggled with snakes? *shivers*), and you’re crazy talented at staying connected to your readers via social media. How do you balance it all, and what’s your best tip for creating an online presence and making lasting connections?
I’m not currently working as a nurse, though that will probably change once I get caught up on my deadlines, because even writing for two publishers, money is tight without a reliable day job. My work-life balance is currently slanted way, way, way in favor of work and not anything a healthy human should emulate 😉 I do try to take at least one cool trip a year, which often ends up with me having odd animal encounters.
As far as making lasting connections online, I start by treating bloggers like industry professionals, like equals, and I think that goes a long way. I also don’t quit talking to people because someone doesn’t like a book. I hate a bad review as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean the person who wrote it doesn’t have anything to offer me in the way of conversation or information. It doesn’t mean they won’t like my next book. All my books are different so it would be ridiculous for me to expect anyone to like them all. Finally, I remember there are real people behind the screen names. If someone is worried about a sick pet or a parent in surgery or has a real world concern I can comment on meaningfully, then I do. I love reading and writing books, but there are more important things, and I try never to forget that.
We love a lot of different things here at Rather Be Reading; we’re huge nail polish, Zac Efron, make-up, and Fossil fans. For a little lightening round, name your favorites:
- Everyday make-up essential: eyeliner
- Favorite nail polish brand: It would be a complete lie to pretend like I have a favorite brand. I have a fave color—blue/teal. Aside from that, anything decent that doesn’t chip off immediately works. Right now it’s Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy.
- If you could only shop at one store for the rest of your days it would be: Again, I feel like the correct answer here is something like Sephora or [insert fashionable clothing store I can’t even name] but the real answer is probably Kohls 😉
- Character most like yourself that you’ve written (ha! snuck in a writing one): Parvati. (Apparently I need one of those Unlikeable Heroine IRL shirts.)
- Your go-to favorite food to order when you eat out: Korean
- City you hope to travel to on a book tour: Prague
- Your daily mantra is: Don’t look back. The mistakes you made, the things you gave up, the things you should’ve known but didn’t—those will swallow you whole if you let them.
We’ve been working on the Dive Into Diversity challenge this year with Reading Wishes to highlight diverse aspects of the books we’re reading. Liars, Inc. was a fantastic example of a really well-rounded set of characters and backgrounds. What are some of the best diverse book examples that you’ve read? What do you hope to see in the coming years in the young adult world in regards to diversity?
I would point out Antony John’s FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, which has a well-rendered deaf protagonist and April Henry’s GIRL, STOLEN, which has a very believable blind protagonist. What I like about these books is that the main character’s disability figures into the plot without being the whole story. DUMB is a fun contemp about a rock band and GIRL is a kidnapping mystery.
I guess what I hope to see in the coming years is that readers, bookstores, and publishers really embrace all sort of books and main characters, and that a culture is created where authors can feel comfortable writing inside or outside their zones of experience. At one panel I recently attended, a white writer asked how best to create authentic diverse characters without falling into the trap of relying on stereotypes and was quickly told that if readers want good diverse books then they need to support diverse authors—end of story. I’m all in favor of supporting diverse authors, but the subtext there—white authors shouldn’t even try—was really troubling. I felt marginalized and excluded as a human being. Isn’t that the antithesis of this movement?
Can you share three of your favorite under-the-radar books that you think deserve more attention? And how about three authors you will auto-buy books from without even reading the summary?
HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly, THE BREAK-UP ARTIST by Philip Siegel and SAME DIFFERENCE by Siobhan Vivian.
I don’t really do the auto-buy concept, because a lot of my favorite authors also write books that are different from one another and I don’t have the money to buy books I’m not sure if I’ll like. I do have a group of author-friends who have supported me along the way and vice versa, whose books I’ll always buy and read as a show of support, but there are more than three of them. 😉
Thanks for having me on the blog!
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Thank you so much for stopping by, Paula! Looking forward to soooo many more books from you! <3
Friends, don’t forget to add LIARS, INC. to your Goodreads, or read my review if you need a bit more convincing. xo
Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) by Amy Spalding ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Audience: Young adult
Keywords: music, dating, romance, best friends
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thanks!)
Summary: Riley and Reid — friends and bandmates — vow to inject some excitement in their love lives by actually pursuing love lives. Craziness ensues.
Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys) is the most fun I’ve had with a book in 2015. Do you know this about me? It makes a lot, a lot to make me laugh out loud, and this book had my husband laughing because I couldn’t stop. We need more romantic comedies in young adult! Laughing is nice for my heart.
Anyway… the best way I can describe KTC is this: the author has basically unscrewed the top of a teenage girl’s head and let it spill all over these pages. The good and the bad parts. Loved that. Riley is not some suave rocker chick ; she’s pretty much the opposite. A fantastic drummer but inexperienced in all things relationships, and sex. Mad at her best friend for secretly dating their bandmate. Stealthily finds a reason to spend any amount of time with her crush (you guessed it): Ted Callahan. In a secret notebook she exchanges with Reid, her semi-paranoid platonic guy pal, adventures (and failures) resulting from their goal to meet someone fill up the pages.
Riley uses a lot of exclamation points and thinks a lot of Things in Capital Letters. I love how she inwardly freaks out about Ted, and then is totally seeing other guys who are not Ted. Scandal! But, seriously, she’s not married and Ted isn’t giving her any signs he’s interested and these other guys are and who’s to say she can’t go out on many dates? She can’t Not take advantage of the situation. I wasn’t expecting this. I know the title of the book kind of gives it away, but I wasn’t expecting to Like these other guys and wonder to myself if Ted Callahan was worth the Fuss. I’m pretty sure that’s how Riley was feeling too.
Who knew sex and comedy could blend so seamlessly in YA? Riley is game to be the one to initiate the kissing. She doesn’t necessarily care if she’s in love when she first has sex. Nothing feels preachy or squeaky clean or too perfect when any of this is brought up. It’s just there, and it made me wish I had this book when I was in high school because no one I know was certainly talking about it like this. In a way that felt important and big deal-ish but also, not. Just a normal part of being a teenager and being curious. It’s non-judgmental, too, thanks to the crazy maze living in Riley’s head readers get to see firsthand.
I can’t discount Reid whose entries are handwritten (very Baby-Sitter’s Club) and going to some great lengths to obtain the girl of his dreams. He’s kind of anal and really strategic, and things get clusterfucky when Reid and Riley’s original goal pushes them apart instead of holding them together. The friendship of these two is so reminiscent of what happens when groups change and people pair off in different ways. I liked how honest they could be with each other — most of the time. (Is it really possible to tell one person everything?)
It’s true I’ve been a fan of Amy Spalding since her debut was released a few years ago, but KTC elevates my love of her work to new heights. I’m not even going to try to get into the inner workings of her craft but let’s just say this: she is in possession of the pixie dust to write a book totally void of any airs, overflowing with honesty, and wrapped up with so much humor. You need this one in your collection.
Add KISSING TED CALLAHAN to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Our interview with Amy Spalding from November 2014
Today some may be celebrating Easter. Others Passover. But there is one major event we cannot forget. The first day of baseball season. Technically Opening Day kicks off tomorrow but tonight is the first major league baseball game of the year and I couldn’t let this huge moment go unnoticed. So here I am. Hello, baseball friends. Welcome back to the time of year where are dinners are spent watching a first pitch, our weekends are filled with the calm sounds of a game on the radio, and our newspapers are reporting on Alex Rodriguez instead of how the team actually performed. (If you’re from New York, anyway.)
I’ve written about my love of the game before, and even included a few of my baseball book recommendations. While I’m knee deep in nostalgia over the Sunday afternoons I spent at the ballpark with my parents to the ungodly hot Saturday afternoons I would spend with James before we were married, I’m also anticipating the upcoming season. As a lifelong Yankees fan, it will be the first one without Derek Jeter and (not only because of this absence) what I’m hearing will be a pretty lackluster game. I’m always one to root for the underdog so I’m going to be glass half full about this for the moment. Be sure to check in with me again around the All-Star Break though. Anything can happen.
In the meantime, let’s get into the baseball spirit. Don’t worry about your gloves or cleats. You might just want your wallet or your library card because this team is all about reading and not running. (Separately, maybe. I wouldn’t recommend doing both at the same time.) Here are nine books (for nine positions) that I’m challenging myself to read from today (April 5) until late October when one team out of thirty is awarded that world championship trophy. It might see far away, but it will fly by.
LF: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach | CF: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
RF: Play On by Michelle Smith
3B: Pretend You Love Me by Julie Ann Peters | SS: Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge
2B: Six Innings by James Preller | 1B: The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
P: My 13th Season by Kristi Roberts
C: Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena
So what do you say? Are you ready for some baseball? I certainly am! Here’s wishing your team great health and lots of luck this season!
Let’s play ball (or books)!
Psst: Let’s not leave anyone out. If you are in the market for some non-fiction baseball picks, here’s a great roundup featured on Esquire recently.