Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Whenever I go to Half Price Books to sell something, I always have to give myself a rather stern talking-to as I walk in: "Alright, Bish, this is the deal: You are here today to SELL books and RECEIVE money. You are not here to SPEND money and GET books. All selling, no spending. That's the purpose of this visit. Got it?" And I always promise myself that, really and truly, I'm on board. This time will be different!

It never works. It might, but they have so many Clearance shelves.

So anyway, yesterday I bought thirteen books ---

--- for twelve dollars and eighty-three cents.

1. Calling the Swan by Jean Thesman
This was the one that started to crack my resolve. It was fifty cents. How was I supposed to resist that? Fifty cents! Jean Thesman! I freaking adore Jean Thesman!
Just how much do I freaking adore her, you ask? Well, she was My Favorite Author Who is Not Neal Shusterman in middle school.* She writes historical fiction, fantasy, and straight-up "normal" YA. Whatever genre she dabbles in, though, she's always brilliant. I've read at least half of her books, and I've only ever come across one that I didn't absolutely love.
Having said all that, this particular book isn't quite my favorite one of hers, but that's sort of like saying that "The Gift" isn't quite my favorite episode of Buffy.

*Just so we're clear: Jean Thesman was most definitely not my second-favorite author in middle school! Neal Shusterman was My Favorite Author Who is Not Jean Thesman. I loved them both for different reasons, but couldn't have told you who I loved more. These days, I'd probably have to say that she has a better way with words than he does . . . but, in all fairness, it's been years since I read anything by either of them.

2. Swallowing Stones by Joyce McDonald
And this was the one that grabbed my resolve --- which, you may remember, had already started to crack --- and shattered it. Shattered, I tell you!
I can't remember how old I was when I first read Joyce McDonald's Shades of Simon Grey, but I do remember loving it so much that, when I stumbled upon Swallowing Stones years later, I snatched it up without a second thought. Sometime between that one and this one, I discovered Alice Hoffman, and something about this one reminded me of her. They both have a way of telling a story that's just . . . I mean, the story itself is really good, but you almost don't want to keep reading to see how it ends, because their way of telling it is so --- what's the word? Lyrical? Poetic? Sublime? --- that you want to quote just about every line.

Also, the main characters are a) a boy who gets a rifle for his seventeenth birthday and fires it off into the air like an idiot and b) a girl whose dad gets hit by the bullet and dies instantly. You'd have to try really hard to mess up such a premise.

3. Holy Bible: The New Testament
I know, I know.
But I bought it for two reasons:

  • When I was a kid, I had one just like this.
  • One of the sadder facts of living in Indiana is that, sooner or later, you are going to encounter a hypo-Christian who feels the need to preach to you even though, you know, you're just trying to get some coffee. Generally, the best thing to do in this situation is avoid eye contact and run like hell . . . but sometimes I'm in the mood for a healthy debate, so I listen to what they have to say and then trounce them. Because, you know, I was raised as a pastor's kid, so I know my Scripture backward and forward and upside-down and sideways; in other words, I know Jesus better than any of these bitches.* So I guess what I'm saying is, I bought this book for ammo.

*Seriously, some of the people who try to lecture you about the sanctity of the Ten Commandments don't even know where they are. That is, if you hand them a Bible and ask them to actually read the Ten Commandments, they wouldn't know where to look.

4. Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler
I've read this once before, but it's been about a decade (more? less?). I don't remember much of it, but it's about a boy and a girl, both of whom have strained relationships with their parents. They bond over that, and it's really sweet. Actually, you know, I'm not certain it's really sweet; my memories of it are that faint.
But I do remember that the story is told in chapters that alternate between the boy's point of view (written by Brad Barkley) and the girl's (written by Heather Hepler), and (largely due to my fondness for Paula Danziger & Ann M. Martin's P.S. Longer Letter Later and its sequel, Snail Mail No More) I have a serious weakness for stories that are told this way.

5. Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls by Bennett Madison
This is another one that I've read once before, a number of years and years ago. My memories of this one are slightly better: Lulu Dark is a girl who despises "girl detective" stories, but finds herself sort of living one when someone steals her favorite purse and she investigates. She has a best (straight male?) friend who helped her realize that it really wasn't a big deal when her dad got a boyfriend.
That's all I got.
Also, the author (who wrote this when he was twenty-three!) is a cutie.

6. A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
I've read this several times, and I wholeheartedly, unabashedly, absolutely love it! Love. All the stories are good, but my favorite is Garth Nix's "Hansel's Eyes," in which part of the reason they're able to defeat the witch is that, whoops, Gretel turns out to have her own knack for witchcraft!

7. Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
There were seven or eight copies of this on one of the "normal" shelves, so I took a picture to remind myself to get it from the library (again). Then I found this copy on the Clearance shelf, and that was that.
Anyway. If you read books at all, you've probably read quite a few "unlikely friendship" stories in your time, but I bet you've never read one quite like this. A huge part of the reason Jake and E. D. finally start to like each other, which is crucial to the plot, is that --- wait for it --- they both get involved in her family's multi-racial production of The Sound of Music.
Seriously. It's about as awesome as it sounds.

8. Just Like That by Marsha Qualey
I barely remember reading Marsha Qualey's Thin Ice, but I do remember enjoying it so much that I later picked up Close to a Killer (which I also barely remember) just because she wrote it. So when I found this, I was pretty damn excited. So excited, in fact, that I started to read the description on the back cover and then stopped myself because, "You know what, that's enough. I'm buying this."

9. The Princess Diaries and
10. The Princess Diaries, Volume II: Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot
Look, say what you will about Meg Cabot (for example: you could say that, whether she's writing about a girl who finds out that she's a princess or writing about a girl who can talk to ghosts or writing about a girl who goes to a record store when she's supposed to be in art class and accidentally saves the President's life, all of her stories eventually start to sound the same --- which is partly because all of her books that are not about Allie Finkle contain healthy helpings of romance, and absolutely all of her heroines are secretly totally in lust with some guy who is completely, disgustingly, impossibly perfect; so eventually you just can't help but go, "Oh look, is Meg Cabot still writing books? I used to love her, but I AM BORED WITH THIS") (. . . you know, just for example), but she knows how to tell a story, and she is funny. Uproariously funny. Hilariously funny. Clutch-your-sides, don't-read-this-in-public, read-your-favorite-passage-out-loud-to-your-mother funny.

11. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
If you know anything about me, you're probably wondering, "Don't you already have a copy of your favorite book of all time?" To which the answer is a resounding yes. Yes, of course I do. It's hardcover, it's in perfect condition, it still has that old-book smell, and I'm fairly certain it's a first edition. (So basically, it's the most valuable thing I own.)
But now, the next time I'm having a conversation about books with someone and they say, "Oh yeah, I've always wanted to read that one," I don't have to go through Well I would love to let you borrow my copy, but the last time I did that Sarah Hersh kept "forgetting" to return it and "forgetting" and "forgetting," and then, whoops, high school ended and I never saw her again, so no, I'm sorry, you're a great friend but this is a book that I've loved since I was eight years old (so young that I figured "eleven = mature") and you could easily get it from the library YOU KNOW or go to Amazon or eBay and just freaking buy it for next to nothing so no, I'm sorry, you can't. Ever in my head; instead, I can cheerily offer to lend them this copy!

12. Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick
A book about books? YES, PLEASE.

(One of the many books to get written about is Harriet the Spy, so that tells you right away that this Lizzie Sknurnick person knows what she's talking about.)

13. The Vampire Diaries, Volume II: The Struggle by L. J. Smith
Source material for my favorite current TV show. A no-brainer, right? But wait, haven't I been rather vocal in the past about how I scanned the back covers as a child enough to make up my mind to never actually read the books?
Well, yes.
But just look at this crap:

I couldn't help it. (As if that picture wasn't unintentionally hilarious all on its own --- and it is --- there's a line on the back that sums up Damon in one sentence: "Determined to make Elena his queen of darkness, he'd kill his own brother to possess her." I keep picturing Ian Somerhalder using the phrase "queen of darkness" in a scene --- entirely without irony, mind you --- and, oh my God, I just might laugh until I die.)
Also, you know, who can say? I might actually enjoy it. I mean, I doubt it very much ---

Bonnie isn't a witch,
Caroline isn't a vampire,
Elena wants to be a vampire,
Jeremy doesn't exist

--- but it might happen.

(Seriously, though, I doubt I'll actually read this any time soon. It just amuses me to know that it's there.)


  1. Its so funny you bought a TVD book. Also, I love Harriet the Spy.

  2. I'm so stupidly used to Facebook that I dumbly looked high and low for a place to "like" the Harriet The Spy paragraph for... longer than I want to admit. But I do. Like it. Very much.