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The Compulsive Reader

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Scorch Trials Giveaway

I had the pleasure of watching The Maze Runner with my family last Christmas, and it was a lot of fun. I was really impressed with the movie adaptation and everyone in the family really enjoyed it, even though it invited a lot of questions from my parents. ("Wait, where are they? Is this the jungle? No? Is the maze magic or electronic? Is that thing alive, or is it a machine? Is that the kid from Love Actually?")

Going to see the sequel, The Scorch Trials, in theaters might be too much of an outing for the Price family (theaters generally frown upon incessant talking), but you can definitely go, starting September 18th! And to celebrate the release (yay!), I'm giving away some cool stuff courtesy of 20th Century Fox!


That's a copy of The Scorch Trials, Scorch Trials stickers,  a SURVIVAL NOTEBOOK (tips on how to survive not included), plus you get a $25 Visa gift card to go see The Scorch Trials in theaters. (Bringing your parents is optional.)

Check out this amazing trailer:

https://youtu.be/SDofO3P2HpE



Visit the Official Website
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#ScorchTrials

All you have to do to enter to win is fill out this handy form!

Friday, August 21, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

So this morning, I was flipping through my tiny notebook of Books I've Finished, in which I've (unsurprisingly) kept track of every book I've ever finished and the date I finished it, all the way back to 2010. Frankly, I'm stunned that I didn't lose this notebook in March of 2010, so I can only deduce that it's thanks to divine intervention that the notebook is still with me, and that it's not fallen to tatters.

And as I was flipping through this notebook, I was reminded of how very behind I am on blogging about all of the books I love. A lot of it is final semester of grad school backlog, because in April, I finally read I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and still haven't blogged about it, and you guys, we can't not talk about this incredible book.

I'll Give You the Sun is the story of twins Noah and Jude. It's told in alternating viewpoints, but what makes this book so cool is that Noah's chapters are from the past, and Jude's are from the present. It's the sort of set-up that makes you go, "Wait a minute..." when you think about it too hard, but Nelson pulls it off beautifully. Noah starts the story the summer the twins are thirteen, when both Noah and Jude begin thinking about applying to an arts high school. Jude's story begins three years later, after a tragedy has occurred and the twins have stopped speaking to each other.

I think oftentimes when you have a book with multiple viewpoints, the author tends to gravitate towards one viewpoint as being the protagonist, even if that viewpoint shares the same amount of page time as the others. And even if that's not the author's intention, readers are biased and tend to form attachments to certain characters. I totally expected this to happen to me as I was reading I'll Give You the Sun. I thought that at first, maybe I'd love Noah because he starts the book. But then Jude came blazing onto the page and I was completely swept up into her story and her pain and tragedy. But the entire time that I was reading this book, I loved each character fiercely and equally. I was fully invested into each of the storylines, and I was so, so impressed at how they entwined and surprised, all the way until the end.

I also loved how the love of art and magical realism fed into each other throughout the story. Noah and Jude are both creative and very gifted, but in different, interesting ways. Jude is being haunted, which is why she believes that none of her artwork survives. Noah sees and experiences the world on a another level than most other people. Their search for art and avoidance of the truth and tragedy are what ultimately bring them face to face with each other and what happens at the end of the summer they were thirteen.

The writing is superb, and the imagery is beautiful. The characters are fascinating and flawed. I don't have any more words to describe this book. I'm so happy it won the Printz. Just go read it and love it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

FALL IS COMING!

In case you didn't know, or you were avoiding the fact.

I love fall. I love the leaves, and I like sweaters and I like boots and tea and pumpkin everything. And I love fall because I get look at the changing leaves and wear the sweaters and boots and drink all the tea and eat everything pumpkin while reading moody, creepy books like this one.


Cara Morris and her family have always feared October. October is the accident season. Bad things, unavoidable things happen then. It starts with small accidents--paper cuts, ripped clothing--and escalates to broken bones and major injuries. Sometimes, people die. Cara, her older sister Alice, her ex-stepbrother Sam are just hoping to get through this one without losing another loved one, but when Cara's best friend Bea predicts that this accident season will be the worst yet, Cara becomes intent on finding the reason behind it all.

This is the sort of book that totally sold itself to me based solely on the premise of an accident season. I can't stress enough how much that appealed to me and intrigued me, and yes, I realize how dark that sounds. But compelling premise aside, the characters in this novel are all deeply fascinating to me. Cara, Alice, and Sam have each experienced terrible loss, but they never talk about it directly. They're incredibly close, and yet they struggle to acknowledge what's right in front of them.  The weight of all the things they don't say to each other generations very subtle but genuine tension that adds to the unsettling atmosphere of the book, and Fowley-Doyle withholds just the right amount of information and delivers it at just the right time for maximum impact on the story.

The writing is also lovely, and the elegance of the the language makes me want to classify this novel as magical realism rather than supernatural. Although there is talk of ghosts and hauntings and changelings and tarot cards are read, this story feels very grounded in reality and the accident season is such an integral part of these characters' lives and identities. The question of what is real and what is fantasy, and how we remember the past is a big part of the mystery of the novel, and the conclusions that the characters came to were surprising, but also very fitting for the story. It's difficult to categorize this book--it's part mystery, part family story, part romance, part ghost story. It's original and memorable, and it's definitely going to be my number-one spooky October pick this year.

Book acquired from my indie.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

I've had Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews on my to-read list for ages and ages, but it finally took seeing the movie trailer to get me to pick up the book. (Hey, whatever works, right?)

One blurb calls this book the "funniest book about death you'll ever read," and I'd like to say upfront that this is completely accurate. Greg Gaines is a high school senior who is proud to have gotten through his entire life not being friends with anyone, but just sort of skimming through all of the social groups at his school. The closest thing to a friend he has to a friend is Earl, who's more like a co-worker than a friend (Greg and Earl have been making terrible films since they were kids). But his mom decides to ruin Greg's carefully maintained social non-status by making him befriend Rachel, a classmate who has just been diagnosed with leukemia, and that's when things start to get messed up.

First off, I dare you to pick up this book, read the first three pages, and then not keep reading. You won't be able to put it down. Andrews nails Greg's voice just perfectly. He's snarky and sarcastic and very honest, and frankly, sometimes he's kind of a jerk. But his ramblings are very genuine, so you don't mind. Greg's descriptions of his family, pseudo-friends, the films he and Earl create, and his dialogue with Rachel and others is relentlessly entertaining and fresh. Andrews uses a mix of prose, lists, film reviews, and screenplay formatting to tell the story and it's all very in the moment and appropriate for each scene.

Every character in this novel is brilliantly done. My favorite character was Earl--his background is pretty bleak, but he's hilarious and straightforward and he doesn't take any shit from anyone. Greg's mom is also pretty wonderfully realized, and his dad adds plenty of quirkiness without being over the top. But even minor characters who only make one or two tiny appearances in the narrative are distinct, and they round out the novel perfectly.

At its heart, this novel is about being self-centered. Greg is very self-centered, even when he doesn't realize it or when he flat-out denies it (he has what he calls Excessive Modesty Hour, during which he refuses to be acknowledged for doing anything nice or being a decent person at all, and he knows this can be annoying, but he can't help it). And Andrews explores this narcissism brilliantly through Greg's avoidance of allying himself with any social group, his refusal to acknowledge the people in his life as friends, and ultimately, through Greg's attempt to create a film for Rachel as she's dying. The books resists preaching and the notion that every shitty experience is the perfect opportunity for character growth. Instead, the message seems to be more along the lines of, Shit happens. Sometimes it changes you. Sometimes you learn stuff from it. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes it just sucks. And Andrews does this better than other popular books that tackle the subject of teenage narcissism--like The Spectacular Now and Paper Towns. (He also doesn't cast Rachel in a manic-pixie-dream-girl archetype, which, just, THANK YOU.)

Basically--read this book. It's hilarious and sad, and I found it deeply relatable.

Here's the trailer for the movie. Ron Swanson plays Greg's dad. Enough said.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shadows of Sherwood: A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure by Kekla Magoon

I'm having a really hard time finding words to properly convey my excitement over this book, because it's that awesome. Basically...this is Robin Hood, only Robin is a twelve-year-old biracial girl living in a futuristic society that experiences a sudden coup, leaving Robin parentless on the streets and...are you in?

Of course you are, because that's just awesome.

Robyn Loxley is naturally stealthy and inquisitive, and when she avoids capture by pure luck on the same night her parents disappear, she's left to fend for herself in Nott City. As new governor Ignomus Crown restricts the civil liberties of the citizens of Nott City, Robyn falls in with a bunch of street kids and finds herself fighting against Crown by accident. Her cause starts out small--stealing food that Crown confiscates and returning it to the hungry people--but escalates quickly. As she becomes the most wanted outlaw in all of Nott City and Sherwood County, Robyn uncovers a mystery about a prophecy that is somehow connected to her parents, Crown's hostile takeover, and her own destiny.

I enjoyed reading this book so, so much. Robyn is a fantastic character, and Magoon does a really great job of portraying her as the privileged kid from the upper crest who is jolted to reality when she hits the streets and learns about what life is like for the lower classes. Robyn is naive at first, and she grapples with doing what's right, but she doesn't shy away from doing what she needs to survive and help others. While she is certainly a brave and caring person who is motivated to help the less fortunate, Robyn's actions are mainly motivated by the desire to discover the truth about what happened to her parents at the beginning of the story, and solving the mystery her father left behind for her--sometimes at the risk of alienating her new friends.

Fans of the Robin Hood legend will really enjoy the little nods to the original tale, but Magoon is so great at world building and creating complicated characters that this novel feels very fresh and original. Middle grade readers who are fans of The False Prince and the numerous fantasy novels based on world myths will love this first book in the Robyn Hoodlum series, but it's no stretch to assume that YA readers will be attracted as well. It hits all of the sweet spots of a good futuristic adventure novel--a controlling government, vivid details that ground readers in the world, a well-developed and fascinating cast of characters, and a highly compelling plot. I loved every page.

Basically, the world needs at least five more Robyn Hoodlum books. And you need to get your hands on a copy. That is all.

Book purchased at my indie.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll

I fell in love with Emily Carroll's work when I first discovered Through the Woods last summer. Her fairy tale with a twist short stories are deliciously dark, and they have just the right playful or romantic elements in just the right places. I've been eagerly looking forward to a new book from her, and this one is, sort of. Baba Yaga's Assistant is written by Marika McCoola, and Emily Carroll's fantastic illustrations bring the story to life.

Masha is a lonely teen who misses her grandmother, the only mother figure in her life since her mother has long since passed away. When her distant father begins a relationship with a new woman with a bratty daughter, Masha flees home and decides to become Baba Yaga's assistant.

Baba Yaga tests Masha, both mentally and magically. Masha is able to rely on her own wit and knack for magic, in addition to the stories that her grandmother told her to prove that she has what it takes to be Baba Yaga's next assistant. But when the darker stories about Baba Yaga prove to be true, Masha will have to figure out a way to not only pass her tests, but outsmart her altogether.

I really enjoyed the many different incarnations of Baba Yaga, and how McCoola incorporated many stories about her character within the narrative. Baba Yaga may remain somewhat of an enigma, but we learn a lot about Masha from her determination and sensible approach to dealing with Baba Yaga's pranks and tricks. Carroll's colorful artwork does a wonderful job at capturing both the playful and dangerous sides of the Baba Yaga myths, and the desperation that Masha feels when she leaves home. I only hope that there are more tales about Masha in the future, because I was very sad when this book ended!

Book perused while I was at work. (Contrary to popular belief, booksellers don't just stand around and read all day, but hey...I had one slow morning.)


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Guest Blog from Kelly Oram


Happy Thursday everyone! Today marks day 4 of Science Geek Appreciation Week. I hope you're having as much fun with it as I am. So far we've been introduced to The Avery Shaw Experiment, we've been teased about the upcoming The Libby Garrett Intervention, and we've gotten to know a little about the author behind all the geeky goodness, Kelly Oram. Today, it's time to get to know the stars of the Spanish Fork High science club a little better with a peek in their personal journals.

 If you missed any of the previous posts about The Avery Shaw Experiment or The Libby Garrett Intervention, be sure to stop by the Facebook event. Along with the posts, there are all kinds of extra bonus material, games and giveaways going on. Lots of chances to win signed books and swag, talk to the author and just have fun with other science geek loving friends. There's a new giveaway every day. CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE PARTY!

 As part of the Avery Shaw Experiment, Spanish Fork High science club president, Avery Shaw, and her new recruit, Spanish Fork High basketball star Grayson Kennedy were required to keep journals throughout their study. I happen to have a few of those journal entries, and am very excited to share them with you. Before I do, just in case you haven't read the book yet, (For which there is no excuse because it's on sale for $0.99 this week. ;) ) I believe I should give you a tiny bit of insight as to what, exactly, The Avery Shaw Experiment is. But since this is the day to get to know Avery and Grayson, I'll let them explain it in their own words.


So, now that we know what kind of experiment Avery and Grayson have embarked on, lets get a peek inside those journals... The following is a short story written as bonus material for The Avery Shaw Experiment. It is not an excerpt from the book and is spoiler free. Enjoy!

"I See London, I See France"
(Avery)
Dear Diary,
Though I am clearly past the shock, denial, and bargaining stages of grief, I have not attained guilt yet. If I had to describe myself as anything right now, I would say I’m simply empty. Sad, hurt, and empty.

What happened between Aiden and myself was tragic, but, really, it was nobody’s fault. Aiden has as much right to his feelings as I do mine. He did what he did because it’s what he needed, not because of something I’d done. Even Grayson agrees that I did nothing wrong. He’s told me a hundred times already that I have nothing to feel guilty about.

Grayson’s right. I have nothing to feel guilty about. And I don’t. Feel guilty, that is. It’s been days and still the guilt won’t come. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to feel guilty about. I just know it’s the next stage in the grieving process.
As part of the Avery Shaw Experiment, I have decided to try and let the stages of grief occur naturally. However, that doesn’t mean that I will sit around waiting for acceptance and a cured heart to find me. No one has ever achieved results by being stagnant. 

I’ve decided that the best thing for me to do is that which true mourners do—try to move on with my life. I need to stop dwelling on the past. I need to accept that my relationship with Aiden will never go back to the way it was, and that my life has changed in a very permanent way. I will never be the same. 

I figured step one of “moving on” was to purge my life of all things Aiden Kennedy. Tonight I had Grayson come over to my house and help me remove everything that reminded me of Aiden. My theory was that if I see nothing that sparks a memory, then I would be able to think of Aiden less and it would be easier for me to forget him.

This experience was much harder and more painful than I thought it would be. I never could have done it without Grayson’s support and encouragement. Crying in front of him was embarrassing, but he didn’t seem to think any less of me for it. I’m grateful to have such an understanding partner.

After it was all over—Grayson had to pry the garbage bag full of memories from my hands and drive away with it, or all of that stuff would have ended up right back in its place—I expected to feel better. I expected some sort of closure or sense of relief. Instead I looked around at all the bare walls and dust outlines on the dresser and cried even harder. 

The empty spots where the pictures and souvenirs once were now stand as reminders themselves—big empty voids just like the one in my heart that used to be filled with my best friend. Part of me is missing. It’s as if I am an amputee missing an arm or a leg. 

The spot on my wall where I used to hang a poster of Albert Einstein that Aiden had given me after I’d dressed as the brilliant physicist for Halloween in middle school was the most obvious gaping hole. I took one look at that spot and broke down.

When I lost it, Grayson wrapped his arms around me, told me he knew how to fix the problem, and then disappeared slamming my bedroom door shut behind him. After a minute, he came back and I watched, bewildered, as he pinned a pair of smiley face boxer shorts to my wall where Einstein used to watch over me.

I couldn’t help the way my horrified gaze dropped to Grayson’s pants. He burst into laughter, knowing what I’d been thinking, and insisted that the shorts now on my wall were his emergency pair—clean and washed—that he kept in his gym bag, and that this was most definitely an emergency.

I asked why he tacked his underwear up on my bedroom wall and he told me because now every time I looked at that spot I would think of him and laugh instead of thinking of Aiden and crying. He was right. I can’t help smiling at the ridiculous smiley faces.  

He also told me that they would help me have good dreams. When I asked why he said because I would dream about him being mostly naked instead of having nightmares of Aiden leaving me. I’d freaked out so badly that he’d had to prompt me to breathe again. I don’t know that I’ll have any dreams at night, but the daydreams are already ridiculous. I can’t stop picturing him in those shorts! I’m going to have to get something to replace them. Soon!


"Purging"
(Grayson)

Avery is crazy. Girls are slightly insane in general, but Avery is especially nuts.  She called me up tonight and asked me to help her purge Aiden from her life. I have been asked by a lot of girls to do a lot of things, but never to help them purge. Whatever she meant, I was sure it wasn’t going to be all fun dates and playing like she’d promised me when I agreed to this whacked-out experiment.

Apparently purging was smart-girl talk for throwing out your ex’s junk. I know this is like some kind of sacred ritual among chicks—they have scenes about it in movies and everything—but I don’t get what the big deal is. It’s just stupid crap.
Pictures, CD’s, lame stuffed animals, and in Avery’s case, old science projects, reports, and even a Civil War diorama that she and Aidan had done in the 3rd grade. The thing was practically biodegrading and yet Aves nearly had a panic attack when I shoved the old shoebox into a garbage bag.

Avery was a freaking train wreck through the whole thing. I had to do all of the actual throwing out because she wasn’t really capable of anything more than pointing at stuff and bursting into tears. She couldn’t even explain why half of that crap reminded her of Aiden. (I’m still at a loss with the Diana Ross CD.)

I thought her attachment to all of it was stupid, but I have to admit the concept had merit. She needed to get over my idiot brother already. The dude was not worth the emotional pain Avery was putting herself through. If I could, I’d wipe Aiden clean from the Earth, but since murder is a felony and I’m too hot to go to prison, purging him from Avery’s life was the next best thing. Aves may have found the evening emotionally scarring, but I thought it was mildly satisfying. Punching Aiden in the face would have been more satisfying, but there was some consolation in burning his pictures.

The more stuff we got rid of, the better I felt. When I carried the garbage bag out of the house—I had to pry it from Avery’s fingers—I thought Aves would feel better too. I thought for sure there would be some kind of relief for her.

Not so much.

I came back inside and found Avery staring at her bedroom wall like some kind of mental patient.  When I walked in the room she turned to me and my heart almost broke for her. Her tears were pouring down her face again and the look in her eyes was so devastated that I felt her pain with her.

In a single stride I pulled her against me and wrapped her tightly in my arms hoping that feeling her there would stop the throbbing in my chest.

Crying girls have always been my biggest weakness. I pretty much hate this about myself, because it makes me vulnerable to them. But I seriously cannot stand it when girls cry. It’s like there is something in me, some kind of physical part of me that reacts when I see a girl cry. It makes me crazy and the feeling doesn’t go away until I’ve made them stop. I have to make them stop. I have to do whatever it takes to put a smile on a sad girl’s face no matter what it does to my dignity.

I’m such a sucker.

Tonight was no exception. Actually, it was one of my least dignified moments ever. Curse my stupid hero gene.

Aves was falling apart and I had to make it better. While she buried her face in my chest, my brain spun frantically searching for some sort of solution. I wasn’t even sure what had set her off this time, but then I looked up at the wall and everything fell into place.

Avery had had this lame poster on her wall of an old dude with crazy hair. I think it was Albert Einstein or someone. I’d taken it down, but it had been in that same spot for so long that you could see the outline of it where the sun had bleached the paint around it over the years.

The big empty rectangle spot was worse than the poster. It was practically jumping off the wall, mocking me in the worst way. I may as well have painted the words AIDEN LEFT YOU in the poster’s place when I took it down, because now it was obvious that it was gone. Just like Aiden was.

I had to fix it. I had to get rid of that spot. But I couldn’t put the poster back. I had to put something else there. Something that wouldn’t remind her of Aiden. More than that—it had to be something that would cheer her up and put a smile on her face when she saw it. It was the “smile” thought that gave me the idea.

Now, this is the part where my dignity comes into play. I was so desperate to cheer Aves up that I’d have given her the shirt off my back if I thought it could help. Unfortunately, in this case, my shirt wouldn’t do any good. But my underwear… 
That’s right, I gave Avery Shaw my underpants. The stupid, dorky ones Aiden got me for Christmas a couple of years ago because he’s a tool like that, that I kept in my gym bag. They were white with rainbow smiley faces all over them. Ridiculous. But they would make Avery laugh.

Before I could think better of it, I strolled into Avery’s room and tacked those dumb shorts right over that stupid poster spot. After they were securely fastened to her wall I turned around and grinned at her as big as I could. The trick was confidence. I had to act like I thought this was totally normal, and the most brilliant idea ever or Avery would know how stupid I suddenly felt and then she’d get embarrassed.

Avery looked slightly horrified and her eyes dropped to my waist. I burst into laughter and pulled up my shirt, exposing the band of the boxers I was wearing as proof that I was still dressed beneath my pants. Once she was assured that the shorts on her wall were at least clean she, of course, asked me why I’d just decorated her room with underwear.

I explained my theory of them making her laugh and think of me instead of the Einstein poster making her cry over Aiden. It worked. She looked up at my shorts and actually smiled. It was the first smile I’d seen on her face since I’d arrived. I felt five hundred pounds lighter all the sudden and my smile reached goofy status.

Then, because I’m a jerk and couldn’t help myself, I made a comment about her dreaming of me in nothing but those smiley faces. She totally freaked of course. I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but I love watching her blush too much. She turned so red that I was sure she had a very clear mental image stuck in her head.

I waited until she started breathing again, then I kissed her bright red cheek and told her to have pleasant dreams tonight. It was classic. There is no one on the planet more adorable than Avery. 

To read the rest of The Avery Diaries, and find other fun bonus material visit the "extras" page on Kelly's website.


  

The Avery Shaw Experiment is on sale this week only for just $0.99.  I promise, it's worth the dollar!  Amazon * iBooks * B&N * Kobo And The Libby Garrett Intervention is now available for preorder at the early bird price of $2.99.  (Regular listing price $4.99 after it goes on sale, so order now and save yourself some money!) Amazon * iBooks * Kobo


Kelly wrote her first novel at age fifteen--a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She's obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat, Mr. Darcy.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Four Questions for Adi Alsaid, Author of Never Always Sometimes

Yesterday was the release of Adi Alsaid's second book, Never Always Sometimes. It's about two high school seniors and best friends who created a list of clichéd things they definitely would NOT do in high school during their freshman year, only to arrive at senior year and find that maybe they should break their own rules and tackle everything on their list.

To celebrate the release, Adi stopped by to answer a couple of questions!

TCR: What's one (or more) high school cliche you think readers shouldn't skip out on? 

Adi: Parties, dances, yearbook club, anything that leads you to more contact with more people. Definitely be silly, pursue the stupid ideas you get (that won’t get you killed or seriously hurt) that adults will think are stupid and other people will think are weird.

TCR:  Did you ever do any of the things on Dave and Julia's list when you were in high school? 

Adi: I definitely pined silently, though my crushes didn’t really last all of high school. And my lunch spot was usually the same, when I wasn’t being a cliché athlete and playing basketball in the gym, sneaking bites between games.

TCR: What's your favorite part about the writing process? Least favorite? 

Adi: Getting to do it is my favorite part. Least favorite is the self-doubt that often comes along at some point, usually in revisions. But the self-doubt usually leads to creating a better book, so I don’t mind it that much.

TCR: What's one thing you didn't do in high school that you wish you had? 

Ari: Speak up. I was shy and not very talkative outside of my little group of friends, and though I can still be quiet, I learned later in life that I wanted to be hanging out and talking to more people, I had things to say I kept to myself.

Never Always Sometimes is available now! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday morning enabling

Hi. Does your wishlist need to be plumped up a little? Of course it does. Here, add these two books to it:

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn

"Prepare to be blown away—or rather, carried away on huge muscular wings—by this blissfully outlandish, bracingly-smart, tour de force about a teen who has to come to terms with relinquishing control for the first time as she falls for the hot new…pterodactyl…at school. After all, everybody wants him! 
Sheils is very pleased with her perfectly controlled life (controlling others while she’s at it). She’s smart, powerful, the Student Body Chair, and she even has a loving boyfriend. What more could a girl ask for? 
But everything changes when the first-ever interspecies transfer student, a pterodactyl named Pyke, enrolls at her school. There’s something about him—something primal—that causes the students to lose control whenever he’s around. Even Sheils, the seemingly perfect self-confident girl that she is, can’t keep her mind off of him, despite her doting boyfriend and despite the fact that Pyke immediately starts dating Jocelyn, the school’s fastest runner who Sheils has always discounted as a nobody. 
Pyke, hugely popular in a school whose motto is to embrace differences, is asked to join a band, and when his band plays at the Autumn Whirl dance, his preternatural shrieking music sends everyone into a literal frenzy. No one can remember what happened the next day, but Shiels learns that she danced far too long with Pyke, her nose has turned purple, and she may have done something with her boyfriend that she shouldn’t have. Who’s in control now? 
Hilarious and relatable (despite the dinosaur), Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is about a teen who must come to terms with not being in control of all things at all times, break free of her mundane life, discover who her true self is, and, oh, finding out that going primal isn’t always a bad thing."
So I know right now you're probably thinking that this is a joke, or that this is a parody novel, not a real novel. Nope and nope. This is the latest book from Alan Cumyn (who also happens to be faculty chair at VCFA) and you guys, it is hysterical. At every VCFA residency, faculty are given the opportunity to read from their latest work or their works in progress. It's this really cool moment in the schedule where we can just sort of relax and soak in the brilliance and get all inspired. Or just laugh and laugh and laugh. I think that Alan read from Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend every single residency I was in the program, without fail. And every single time we all roared with laughter (because it is supposed to be funny!) and were also struck by just how good this novel is. 

It's already got some haters on Goodreads, but all I can do is implore you to just roll with it. It'll surprise you. I promise.


The Secret Twin by Adi Rule

"For eighteen years, Redwing has lived in hiding in a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of Mol, the great volcano. Her father hoped she would grow up to be a real human girl and not a wicked creature out of mythology, so he secretly spared her life as an infant. 
But when two priests track her down and attack, she calls forth fire to protect herself, and her secret is out. Redwing soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year-old grudge, a group of underground rebels, and the son of the Empress. And when Redwing’s sister goes missing, she uncovers a greater plot to awaken Mol and bring his lava down upon them all. 
Now, Redwing must draw a line between myth and history and prove herself more than a monster if she is to save both her sister and her home."
Adi is the author of Strange Sweet Song, which I love love love love and I recommend it to fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone every chance I get. You can read my review here, but know that Adi is the kind of writer to watch. Her writing is strong and brilliant and lovely and deep, and I cannot wait to get my hands on this novel.

And yeah, both of those books are by VCFA authors, what of it? I promise you that this blog is not turning into a VCFA parade, but hey, a lot of great writers and books come out of that program. And if you are interested in a VCFA parade, check out their official kidlit and YA blog The Launchpad!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why I Love Lumberjanes and Why I Think You Will, Too

I first heard about Lumberjanes from Robin Herrera (author of Hope is a Ferris Wheel and editor of comics), who is super cool and my graphic novel sensei ever since I started reading graphic fiction a year and a half ago and buying a lot it for the bookstore. She dropped the title in this casual way, like, "Oh, and there's this comic that's awesome and volume one is coming out in a few months and you might like it, it's called Lumberjanes..." So I pre-ordered volume one, only it didn't come for weeks and weeks and weeks even after the release date because it was busy being on backorder for being so amazingly awesome. And then when I did get it, my sixteen-year-old brother totally snatched it away from me!

Brothers.

But I finally read it this past weekend and...just, all the hearts. Lumberjanes smashes up so many things that I love--hardcore lady types, summer camp, friendship (to the max!), a sense of adventure, sharp humor, wacky supernatural creatures, and an ace ensemble cast. Like, Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with your favorite summertime novel. It's about the members of Cabin Roanoke, five super curious and hilarious and hardcore Lumberjanes (think Girl Scouts with a Joss Whedon twist) who are discovering that there is a lot more going at their summer camp than they could imagine. They encounter yeti in the woods, weird foxes, river monsters, and a super strange boys' camp in their quest to figure out what exactly is going on this summer, and they're not going to let anything stop them from having the best time ever.

The first volume contains four chapters/episodes/issues (or whatever the terminology is, I'm a comics noob, relatively speaking) that sets up the weirdness of the camp and the mystery terrifically. Strange creatures abound, the adults are being all mysterious, but once the girls have latched onto the mystery of the Kitten Holy not even their hovering camp counselor will be able to keep them from investigating. The clever twists on language keep it fresh--puns abound, their favorite "swears" are "What the junk?" and "What in the Joan Jett?" which made me cackle every single time. And can I say how amazingly awesome it is to read a genuinely funny and amusing story about girls who are being awesome and working together and living out believable relationships and tensions? It shouldn't be so revolutionary (insert obligatory grumbling about patriarchy) but it's just crazy cool awesome. And genuinely entertaining. And I love it. And I think you would, too. And your friends. And your kids. (Seriously, it's super entertaining as a YA, but it's even appropriate for MG-aged readers!) Basically, it's for everyone.

Volume One, Beware the Kitten Holy, is out now, Volume Two is out in October, and Volume Three will be out sometime next spring. Also, it looks like a live-action move adaptation is in the works! Fingers crossed!

Lumberjanes was purchased from my indie!