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The Compulsive Reader

Friday, November 21, 2014

Support #WeNeedDiverseBooks


The comments made during the National Book Award ceremony this week just go to show how very important campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks are. The good news: The funding goal of $100,000 has been reached! But we can keep donating and raising money to allow this organization to do even more to promote diversity in publishing.

Today, Daniel Handler donated $10,000 to the campaign as part of his apology to Jacqueline Woodson. He'll also match all donations TODAY ONLY, up to $100,000.

Donating the first time felt awesome. Donating a second time, knowing that my money is being matched by Handler, felt even better. I encourage you to see what you can spare to donate today as well. We could easily reach $200,000!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson!

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson, the winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature! 

Pick up a copy of Brown Girl Dreaming as soon as humanly possible!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

I've been a pretty loyal follower of the Vampire Academy series almost since the very beginning, and I was happy enough when the Bloodlines series came out--I liked Sydney in the VA series, I was grateful Adrian finally got over Rose (let's be honest, his puppy dog act over her was pathetic), yay witchcraft, etc., etc. But Silver Shadows... Silver Shadows takes my love for the characters and the world and stretches it. So far. So thin. Silver Shadows doesn't just ask you to suspend your disbelief a while--it required you to kick your disbelief right over the edge of a cliff...or a Las Vegas tower (we'll get to that).

So let's get started. This will be spoiler-y.

We start out with Sydney locked away by the Alchemists because she dared to see the humanity (ha) in vampires and because she likes the sexy times with Adrian. NEVER MIND the fact that the Alchemists have been using vampire magic and powers and literally tattoo vampire blood into their skin. Being friends with a vampire? Not cool.

There was a lot of talk about how The Fiery Heart was going to be like, The Shadow Kiss of the Bloodlines trilogy. I would't quite go THAT far, because, 1) We all knew that Sydney was going to go to re-education the minute Mead told us such a program existed (that's called creating reader expectations and making good on your promises) and 2) Nothing was as heartbreaking as Dimitri turning Strigoi right after he and Rose finally had the sexy times. Even still, yikes. Sydney in re-education. It can't be good, right? I mean, they like, lobotomize people and make rapists these really wimpy, weak human beings. (For the record, I don't feel sorry for that rapist, not a bit.)

But I was willing to go with it because I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity for Adrian to finally get off his ass, put away the vices, and do something after being a terrible noodle of a character for ten books.

Nope.

N

O

P

E

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

He broods attractively for weeks after she's kidnapped, whining and complaining and basically being the opposite of attractive until Marcus freaking Finch shows up and is all like, "We going to rescue Sydney or what?"

(Also, where the hell is Ms. Crazy Pants Witchcraft Instructor in all of this? Talk about lack of loyalty. She doesn't even poke her nose out in this book, much less offer her help. And after Sydney saved her life from that crazy-ass witch and house fire!)

So Sydney has to do what any strong, resourceful, intelligent woman her age would so--save her own goddamn self. And let me say, she works at it pretty well, using magic and making allies and slowly, subtly thwarting the uber Alchemists. Only...she's caught! Because the Alchemists are just that good. Good thing that Adrian is finally done feeling sorry for himself at this point, and he and a bunch of other people rescue not just Sydney, but EVERYONE stuck in re-education. That's how gallant Adrian is. And Sydney is eternally grateful.

Adrian and Sydney take off on their own because Sydney knows the Alchemists are going to be after them, and thus begins the truly spectacular part of the book. Go get a refill and a snack because you're going to need it.

I would like to nominate Richelle Mead for the "Longest Chase Scene" award. Because the chase that ensues covers not just blocks, but miles and days and I don't think they sleep at all, plus they're injured, and in between all that THEY GET MARRIED. Yes, you read that right. The chase takes them through Vegas, where OF COURSE they decide to get married. Because love. But also because the Moroi are all major dicks who won't stick their heads out to protect Sydney because she's an Alchemist. NEVER MIND that Sydney helped put Lissa on the throne. Nope, Lissa is all like, "Let the Alchemists do what they want, I don't care, I've got exams coming up." And Rose is like, "Meh, Sage was cool and all but I think I'll defer to Lissa on this one." So rather than appealing the Moroi conscience, Adrian is all like, "Hey, wanna get married?"

And Sydney goes, "Yeah, sure."

And Adrian is all, "That's cool, cause we love each other. But it'll also give you Moroi protection."

And Sydney is like, "Dude, I could so use that right now. Plus a bath."

So because this is Vegas, Adrian manages to get into a high-stakes poker game, win big, and use that money to bank roll not just a Vegas wedding, but the finest, classiest goddamn Vegas wedding that money can buy.

Which of course, the Alchemists crash.

Adrian and Sydney go running down the strip in their fancy pants clothes (just married!), lugging a tote bag of all of their possessions. They climb a freaking tower to a helicopter pad, have a major showdown with the Big Bad Alchemist, and then jet off to Moroi court.

The end?

NOPE.

At court, everyone is all WTF, Adrian? You can't just marry an Alchemist! She's like, human!

And Adrian is all, "You have to protect her! She's my wife! I love her!"

Then the Alchemists show up there, along with Sydney's father and sister, and are all, "SYDNEY SAGE, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE."

And Sydney. Precious, charming, bad-ass, magic-wielding Sydney, who not just thirty pages earlier told Adrian that she wasn't changing her name because feminism, goes, "My name is Sydney Ivashkov."

And everyone freaks out, and is all like, Man this shit just got real, but first, they decide that maybe the newlyweds should get some sleep, because they haven't slept since chapter five.

THE END.

*brain explosion*

#wtfRichelleMead #wherewasyoureditor

And there wasn't one single Strigoi in the entire novel!

The Ruby Circle comes out in February. It's the last one, and I think it's a good thing because I don't know if I could handle much more after this book. I just can't, guys.

Cover Comments: The covers continue to be awful.

Book purchased at an indie. I had a coupon. I am grateful to that coupon.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Tarot Tour: The Devil

Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle is one of the most enticing, magical, and artfully-written YA series that I follow. It's also one of the most complicated, twisty, and maddening (in a good, oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-that-just-happened way). To celebrate the release of the third book in the series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, bloggers from all around the YA lit worlds are doing a Tarot reading of the series so far.

Today's card is...

The Devil


(Maggie Stiefvater drew that. She's such a multi-faceted artist!)

The Devil card is a tricky card. It might not be as ominous as you think. Here's what it means according to this source:
"When the Devil card appears in a reading it usually shows that you are not in control of your life, sometimes as a result of your own actions, but more often as a byproduct of inaction. This loss of control often leads to loss of hope, and a lack of faith in your own abilities. Sometimes ignorance and materialism are the tools of the Devil, and those traits will be evident if you focus on worldly possessions and power while ignoring the spiritual power you have inside of you. As a result, your creativity and energy can be seriously impaired, and you may not wish to regain control of yourself."
Oh, Adam. I love Adam, even when his pride and hang-ups and insecurity and fierce determination to not accept any help, ever, even if it means getting beaten to death makes me want to punch him myself.

But then there's RONAN. Ronan who's messed up and is ruled by his secrets and demons and keeps stealing expensive cars out of his dreams and racing them and wrecking them, because CARS. He's got a lot to overcome, too.

Heck, they all do. What I love about Maggie's books is that each and every character is fully developed, complicated, and dealing with their own inner demons in really interesting ways. Things get REAL interesting in this series, and frankly, I'm terrified to see where these characters will end up. (Please don't kill Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan...oh wait, Noah is already dead...um...) But I am also crazy-excited! Bring on Blue Lily, Lily Blue and untitled book four!

About Blue Lily, Lily Blue:

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Follow the tour, and check out the Pinterest page to see all of the tarot cards! Learn more about the series on the official site.


Have some opinions about what the Devil card means for the Raven Cycle? Share in the comments, and don't forget to enter to win a set of all three books, plus a Maggie Tarot deck of your very own!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Josephine Alibrandi is both proud to be of Italian descent and frustrated that her heritage separates her from the rest of her “Australian” classmates. But she’s got a plan to become a lawyer and free herself from the expectations of her overbearing family. When the father she’s never met walks into her life during her final year of school, Josie is challenged to re-examine everything she knows about her family and her plans for the future.

Looking for Alibrandi “swept the pool of literary awards for young adult fiction” when it was first published twenty-two years ago in Australia, and I can certainly see why. It has a certain timeless quality that makes it instantly accessible and Josephine is the kind of brash, imperfect, engaging, and lovable character who doesn’t cease to exist after the final page. The scenes between Josephine and her father are perhaps the most entertaining, and his appearance in Josie’s life gives the novel a bit of cohesion to cling to, as Marchetta covers a lot of ground in Josephine’s life throughout the course of the book. A number of chapters end with Josphine’s opinions and questions about society, which are interesting and do a great job of giving her life and experiences a wider context. The tragedy, family secrets, intense emotion, lack of a traditional happy ending and Josie’s emotional growth make this book deeply satisfying and memorable.

Cover Comments: I am not a fan of this American cover. The colors are weird, the way they cut off the girl's face is weird, the font is okay...sigh. I hate when amazing books get less than stellar covers. It's almost as bad as the American Saving Francesca cover.

Book purchased from my indie.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Entangled Blog Tour: Amy Rose Capetta On Angry Girls (Plus a Giveaway!)

Amy Rose Capetta's novel Entangled is a high-stakes, science-y, adventurous sci-fi novel that I adored when it first came out last fall. It's out in paperback TODAY, just in time for you to add it to your Christmas wish list if you haven't already. Whether you've read Entangled or are eagerly awaiting the sequel, Unmade, check out what Amy Rose has to say about angry girl characters in YA fiction, and her inspiration for her protagonist, Cade! Plus, a fun video excerpt and a giveaway!

About the book:

Entangled is the story of seventeen-year-old Cade, a fierce survivor who lives solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar until she finds out she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

The rest of Cade’s story is coming in Unmade, which hits shelves January 13, 2015!

(For my review of Entangled, click here!)

Here's Amy Rose!


I love angry girls. 
Let me explain. 
The main character of my first two novels—Entangled, and its soon-to-come sequel Unmade—is an angry girl. Cade has plenty of reasons to be unhappy. She lives in a hostile universe where humans are treated like space trash. Her planet is a glorified sand trap. The bar where she has a standing gig is filled with less than savory types, run by an alien who would love to feel Cade up with one of his MANY hands. On top of that, there’s no refuge from this terrible world in some sort of inner life. Cade’s head is filled with The Noise—a glorified static that’s with her every minute. She can only chase it away by playing her guitar as loud as humanly possible. 
When I first started writing about Cade, the words raced each other to reach the page. The emotions felt true. The story formed as I went. The whole thing thrilled me.

The whole thing terrified me, too. 
I was so worried that Cade’s story wouldn’t do well if I sent it out into the world. 
Because we don’t love for girls to be angry, do we? It’s…well. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE. It means that girls aren’t always brave and pretty and perfect and giving and good. Our society doesn’t really want them to step outside of those boxes.

So we dismiss them. There are so many ways that girls are dismissed on a daily basis, so many words we have for how they act that we don’t apply with the same freedom to boys. We call girls emotional, hysterical, silly, bossy, crazy. We act like everything they think and feel is out of proportion. We call them hormonal and bitchy and whiny and… 
The list goes on. 
I’ve always wanted to write angry girl characters. I think some people look at me now, with my optimism and my enthusiasm and my knitted hats, and figure that I’ve always been this way. But when I went to a recent party with people from my high school, no one knew who I was. The kids on my bus? The ones I sat in homeroom and English with and ate glorious cafeteria fries with and endured terrible tests and pep rallies with? They literally did not recognize me. Because the girl I used to be was awkward and acerbic and, yes, angry. People at that party were confused that I was standing in a social group and speaking to them because teenage Amy would rather have stepped on a cactus. Intentionally. For fun.   
Cade is the closest character I’ve written to my own teenage experience.

My life at seventeen was infinitely better than Cade’s. I had a loving family, one amazing friend—she’s the one I dedicated Entangled to—and I lived in a relatively safe environment. (Although the school system that seemed so idyllic at the time was recently the site of the Newtown school shootings. Which, yes, made me angry. Angrier than anything has in years.) Despite my nice upbringing, in some ways, I still lived in a hostile universe. Everywhere I turned, I was hit with information about how terrible the world actually was—how many people were being hurt. All the time. How many of those people were girls and women. Sometimes it felt like there were less than savory types waiting for me everywhere—and it was my job to avoid them. On top of that, I had no refuge inside of my own head. It was filled with a kind of interference, too—the grey blanket of depression. I could only rip it away for a little while by writing as much as humanly possible. (And, yes, long drives with loudloud music helped.)
I was an angry girl. 
That girl is still with me. She’s not all of who I am anymore, but I still respect the hell out of the teenager I used to be. She was the first fully awake version of me. She wasn’t engaged with the world, not yet. Engagement looked too hard, too painful, and not really worth it. But that’s what Entangled is about, too—about giving Cade the choice that I had, the choice that we all have, to step outside of ourselves and risk too much to find other people who will understand.

So I had my manuscript and my truths clenched in my fist and I thought I would have an impossible time finding a home for them. I thought I would have to defend every word. I was ready for a fight.

But when I let Cade out into the world, she started to make friends right away. Agents were intrigued by her story. Editors didn’t seem scared away. And one amazing editor—Kate O’Sullivan at HMH—became Cade’s biggest champion. Maybe the universe was ready for this girl’s anger. Maybe it helped that I grounded it so much in my own teenage feelings. Maybe I just got monumentally lucky.

It was probably all of these things.

I’m glad that I didn’t keep myself away from this story. I’m a writer. I’m supposed to face the UNCOMFORTABLE. If this was about selling you something pretty and nicely packaged, I would be in another business. The world is always trying to sell girls something. Usually it’s the story of who we’re supposed to be. Happy and easy and pretty. Satisfied and strong and sexy and smart (but not too smart.) In a word: Perfect. 
And there’s no room for angry in perfect. 
But girls aren’t perfect. We have shitty days and sex drives and selfish moments. We swear and make enormous mistakes and then make them again. And we are brave and generous and funny and strange and completely amazing.

Denying someone’s full humanity because it makes you uncomfortable? 
That makes ME uncomfortable. 
(And, yes. Angry.)

For an exclusive excerpt of Cade and her angry girl ways, watch below!



Fill out the form below for a chance to win a signed, personalized paperback copy of Entangled!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want a signed copy right away? Order from Amy Rose's local indie bookstore and she'll sign and personalize the book for you! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Let me introduce you to my new favorite graphic novel...


“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.”

Three sisters are stranded in a house in the middle of winter. A bride hears the ghostly song of her new husband’s first wife. Two brothers find themselves irrevocably changed after one night in the woods. A girl thinks she knows everything about her best friend and her ability to talk to the dead. A sister discovers the terrifying truth about her brother’s fiancée.

What I love so much about this collection is how nicely, cleverly feminist these stories are. With the exception of one story, the protagonists are all female, and they’re not just naïve girls or witches. They’re heroes, anti-heroes, friends, and antagonists. Each of these original stories is very different in tone, voice, and time period, but Carroll’s darkly whimsical art and portrayal of the woods unifies them. She favors unexpected twists, usually delivered in the final frame in the form of one striking word or image. These twists and surprises encourage multiple re-readings and the violence and ambiguity of each store contribute to the sense that these stories are as old as anything the Grimm brothers ever recorded. Through the Woods is a book you most definitely want to own.

I love, love the art. I love how Carroll inserts herself into the collection with the chilling prologue and epilogue, and the image of the woman in the blue cloak. If I could, I would frame and hang the spreads of this book on my walls.

Purchased from indie Schuler Books & Music, whereupon finding it on the shelf I hugged it and did not let it go.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Images That Inspired Atlantia by Ally Condie

Atlantia by Ally Condie is out now, and to celebrate here is the last post on the "Team Below" leg of the blog tour! Ally shares with us some images that inspired the book, as found on her Pinterest page!



Here's Ally!
 I’m a really visual person—I know where I’m going by landmarks rather than addresses, I have to see someone demonstrate something before I can figure out how to do it, and my strongest memories are all in images, not in words. So, as I began to create Rio’s world for her, I realized I needed to be able to see Atlantia in order to have her walking around and living in it. There were a few pictures that I found early on that helped in the process and it was so fun to have these images serve as inspiration.
The very first picture that inspired Atlantia was this one—I came across an article about an underwater city in China, an ancient city full of temples and buildings that is now underneath a lake (but still intact)! I found this idea absolutely haunting, and it influenced the way I created the gods and the buildings for Atlantia.

Later, as I was building the temple where Rio and Bay and their mother lived and studied, I knew I wanted a blue door on the temple since that was symbolic of the colors of Atlantia. I hunted around to find the perfect blue door for the temple, and this was it. 
 
In ATLANTIA, Bay and Rio’s mother has a special ring, one made of blue stone and of wood, that represents both the Above and Below. This was a case where an image came first, before the idea, and when a friend sent me a picture of this ring I knew exactly where I wanted to put it in Rio’s story and what purpose it would serve. (I am still a bit tempted to buy the actual ring!) ;)

 
I knew fairly early on in the process of writing ATLANTIA that I wanted a single animal from the Above to stowaway and survive in the Below, and as I was deciding which might be a likely candidate, I settled on bats. I wanted an animal that could fly because of the symbolism, but felt like a bird would be too heavy-handed. In the end, I decided that bats would be perfect because they are so resourceful and they don’t mind the dark. And I know all of this because there were bats that lived in my high school auditorium that periodically flew out into the hallway and BIT students, and the school authorities never seemed to be able to get rid of them, no matter how hard they tried.

 
When Rio meets True and notices the beautiful metal fish he’s created, I could imagine what they looked like fairly well, but I wanted to find a picture that was exactly what I had in mind so that I could show Rio’s reaction to them, and so that I could write them in a way that readers could understand. (Just because I can see something clearly in my mind doesn’t mean that I’m getting it right on the page!) So when I found this picture, I was thrilled. 
 
And, last of all, an image that is both a picture and a quote. This line stood out to me when I read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and had the initial idea for ATLANTIA, and it served as a touchstone for the entire writing process. I felt that it applied to Rio and the way she’s had to contain her emotions, and that it applied to the sirens of ATLANTIA as a group as well. It’s a line that breaks your heart, because we’ve all had those moments where we wish with all our hearts we could cry, and we can’t, and it hurts beyond almost anything else.

Atlantia is out now!

About Atlantia:

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all Rio’s hopes for the future are shattered when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected choice, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long silenced—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the corrupted system constructed to govern the Divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cover Talk: Two Girls Kissing

A few weeks ago, a blog post I wrote about how YA books with lesbian protagonists get some rather stereotypical (and LAME) cover treatments caused a bit of a stir. I called out all of the covers that portrayed characters holding hands--and there were a lot. Hand-holding covers are fine, but I wanted hot make-out covers for lesbian love stories too, like the covers of books with straight couples, or David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing. (David Levithan gets all of the cool things.)

But! The universe listens, my friends.

A few months ago (okay, a year ago), by friend Amy Rose handed me a book called All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarrt and told me to read it ASAP. I didn't. I am terrible and full of regret. It's still sitting on my shelf, although it's now at the top of my TBR stack. It's the first in a trilogy, and the third book, About a Girl, had its cover reveal over at MTV today.

All I can say is...


HELL YES.

It's beyond thrilling to not only see greater LGBTQ representation in books and on covers, but look! Characters who aren't white! This cover wins on so many levels.

I trust that this will only be one of many diverse covers that we'll be seeing from now on. Also, want to support diversity and diverse authors? Give to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks indiegogo campaign!

About a Girl will be out in July. Which gives us pleeeeeenty of time read All Our Pretty Songs and Dirty Wings. Go get 'em.

About a Girl...definitely a hotter kiss than Two Boys Kissing*.


*Not that I'm like, biased or anything.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Creepy Short Stories to Get You in the Halloween Mood

I've spoken before of my love for all things spooky and creepy and decidedly eerie in fiction--but I cannot do horror movies. No, no, no. Horror movies put me in a weird, crazy headspace where I become convinced that someone is coming through my window in the middle of the night or that knives are going to fall from the ceiling and impale me, and I can't enjoy the story unfolding (the only exception being The Cabin the the Woods because Joss Whedon FTW.)

But stories and novels are completely different! I can go at my own pace and read and re-read creepy parts and I'm oftentimes creeped out even more by the written word than by axe murderers jumping on screen and crazy gore, but I can also appreciate the story. I've covered some thrillers perfect for Halloween on the blog before, and there are a ton of lists of YA horror out there, but here are two short stories that are perfect for some creepy before-bed reading, between class entertainment, or your next coffee break:

"The Game of Boys and Monsters" by Rachel Wilson
(Available as a digital download from the Apple store, Kobo via your indie bookstore, Google, BN, or that other place that sells e-books for $0.99.)

Lesley and Evy are best friends. They entertain each other by playing a game with every boy they meet--they must decide what sort of monster he is. When the Marsh brothers come to town, Evy begins to pull away from Lesley and their game, once harmless, is suddenly dangerous.

Wilson’s story is effortlessly eerie without any direct mentions of violence or danger. Instead, she uses the disintegration of the girls’ friendship to build mystery and suspense, to the point where the reader is unsure if anything weird is going on, or if Leslie is simply unsettled by the loss of her friend. The final scene is deliciously creepy and memorable--this story is more than worth it's price.

Want to play the game with some familiar faces? Check out this blog post.

"Resurrection Bay" by Neal Shusterman
(Available as a digital download from the Apple store, Kobo via your indie bookstore, Google, BN, or that other place that sells e-books for $0.99.)

Anika likes in a tiny Alaskan town, not far from a looming glacier. One day that glacier begins to advance towards the town, claiming roads and buildings before swallowing the local graveyard.

Anika is direct and reasonable, and her reluctance to believe that the ancient spirit of the glacier is up to no good helps build suspense, and also sets up the tragic climax that forces Anika to confront the glacier’s powers. Shusterman’s prose is very tight and efficient; world-building details reveal character, and also serve as crucial props in the climax. This is a fascinating short story that combines the ruthlessness of nature with a very popular trope in a unique way.

Let me know what you think of these stories! Do you have any short story recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments!