The Compulsive Reader

Monday, December 15, 2014

Guest Post: Romina Russell, Author of Zodiac

Zodiac is a new sci-fi novel with twelve worlds, each affiliated with a different house based off of the Zodiac. When one of the planets is compromised, sixteen-year-old Rho must become a leader in order to figure out how to save the Zodiac galaxy.

Author Romina Russell is here on the blog today to talk more about the world (universe) building that went into her first novel (and the upcoming sequels)!

The absolute best part of penning the ZODIAC series is the chance to invent new worlds. The reason I write is so I can spend more hours of the day in my imagination than anywhere else—and getting to make up new planets with varied customs, governances, technologies, topographies, wild life, and so on, has been indescribably fun.

Besides adding color to the story, the world building is the foundation of the whole series, plot- and character-wise. In the Zodiac universe, just as in our own, people aren’t born into their worlds—they’re born from them. A person’s House affiliation informs much of their identity and development, everything from its geography to its politics and culture—just as on Earth, our nationality, race, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, and so on, determine much about us.

Since the plot of book one is pretty speedy, we don’t get to spend a whole lot of time on the first few Houses we visit, so there’s plenty I couldn’t include about each world. For instance, Gemini has two planets, and the one we don’t get to see (yet) has a fantastical city built deep within its rocky mines. We get to visit Virgo’s main planet, Tethys, but not its twelve minor planetoids, which are so small that their days are twelve hours long instead of twenty-four, so Virgos don’t live there year-round—they only come seasonally to grow grain. On Aries, they have the Everblaze—a huge fire with thirty-foot flames that has never gone out. When Arieans die, their bodies are cremated in the Everblaze so their souls can rise to Helios.

And, of course, we barely get to see House Cancer before it’s destroyed—but it was a beautiful world. The planet was ninety-eight percent water, and from Space it looked like a ball colored every shade of blue, streaked with barely perceptible slices of green. Hundreds of low-lying islands were scattered across the globe, while Cancer’s cities were built on massive pods that floated calmly on the sea’s surface, like giant, half-submerged anemones. The largest structures—buildings, commercial centers, schools—were secured with anchors. The pod cities used to light the horizon with their gleaming, cascading buildings and sun-bleached streets.

Book two’s structure allows us to spend more time on each House we visit, so I’m definitely getting to include more details in the sequel, which has been so much fun. For more ZODIAC world building, check out the descriptions of each House on the site, www.ZodiacBooks.com.

About the book:
At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain…. 
Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories. 
When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts. 
Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians. 
But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?
Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

I have to work a little harder to find middle grade novels I enjoy, but when it came to The Great Greene Heist, I knew that I had found a winner. I fell in love on page 2. This book is my number one go-to when it comes to recommending middle grade books this holiday season.

Jackson Greene is a mostly reformed prankster and con artist still suffering the consequences of his last job going wrong—his best friend Gabriella will no longer talk to him. But when news that a corrupt student threatens Gabriella’s campaign for student council president, he slides back into his old ways to pull together a crew for his biggest, most complicated heist yet.

The Great Greene Heist is pure fun. The novel has a semi-serious tone that really works for the story, building suspense and mystery. The characters take their roles very seriously, but they’re also not afraid to have fun. One of Jackson’s rules, “If you’re going to pull a con, know how to pull a con in style” is felt on ever page, from the dramatic dialogue to the complicate maneuvering and surprise double-crossings. Johnson writes the nuances of middle school interactions and dramas well, and the emotional heart of the characters is what makes this far-fetched and hilarious book so easy and fun to read. The Great Greene Heist is an Ocean’s Eleven for the middle grade set, and one can only hope that it’s not the last heist Jackson will pull.

Cover Comments: I love this cover--very bright and it completely coveys the playful, sneaky, clever tone of the book.

Book borrowed from the library.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gathering Darkness Giveaway

I love epic fantasy series. I love binge reading epic fantasy series even more. If you're like me, this blog post is for you.

I'm giving away the Falling Kingdoms series. Right here, right now. Let's do this.

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed…and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even love.
In AURANOS, privileged Princess Cleo is forced to confront violence for the first time in her life when a shocking murder sets her kingdom on a path to collapse.

In LIMEROS, the king’s son, Magnus, must plan each footstep with shrewd, sharp guile if he is to earn his powerful father’s trust, while his sister, Lucia, discovers a terrifying family secret about her birth that will change everything.

In PAELSIA, rebellious Jonas lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Witches, if four, are put to death, and Watchers, immortal beings who take the shape of hawks to visit the human world, have been almost entirely forgotten. A vicious power struggle quickly escalates to war, and these four young people collide against each other and the rise of elementia, the magic that can topple kingdoms and crown a ruler in the same day.
The first books, Falling Kingdoms and Rebel Spring, are available now in paperback! The third books, Gathering Darkness, is out today! Check them out on Facebook.

About Gathering Darkness:
The seeds of revolution have been sown…but in Mytica the lust for power reigns supreme.

THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo slays with sweetness—and a secret that might control Lucia’s magic—as she and vengeful Jonas lead the hunt for the all-powerful Kindred.

THE KRAESHIANS join the fray. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the vast kingdom across the Silver Sea, prove to be just as ruthless as they are charming as they manipulate their way to victory.

THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally, in the flesh, with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’spowers to unveil the Kindred.

And which side will Prince Magnus choose, now that he’s been betrayed by everyone he’s ever loved?
Click here to read an excerpt!

In addition to winning Gathering Darkness, Falling Kingdoms, and Rebel Spring, you'll also be entered to win a Falling Kingdoms dartboard! Many thanks to Penguin Young Readers for the giveaway!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Devorah, a Hasidic Jew, and Jaxon, son of West Indian immigrants, meet in a Brooklyn elevator during a hurricane. They’re trapped for over an hour when the electricity goes out and the connection they form takes them both by surprise. When they learn that they live very close to each other, they risk their social statuses and their families’ trust in order to be together.

It would be a stretch to call Devorah and Jaxon star-crossed lovers as they barely know each other, and their story unfolds in the course of one month, but LaMarche certainly captures the urgency and excitement of first love, and the wonder of a whole new world opening up beyond every day life. The story is told in alternating first person, and while Jaxon’s sections are smooth and easily readable, Devorah’s often get bogged down with awkward first-person explanations of her lifestyle and family rituals. Her life is interesting and she is a sympathetic character, but her narrative feels jerky and uneven. Because the timeline is so compressed, tensions are high and drama is easily created, but the story doesn’t have much room to breathe and all of the plot points feel very carefully contrived. Like No Other is a fascinating glimpse at a world that is likely unfamiliar to most teen readers with a romance that they’ll want to root for.

Cover Comments: This is a nice cover. I like the colors. I feel bad because it looks so much like the Eleanor & Park cover that the comparison is inevitable.

ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

This Is What Censorship Sounds Like

This is what censorship sounds like.

Fat Angie was one of my favorite books of 2013. Click here to read more about the issue.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Leila keeps a low profile at school, where her Iranian heritage makes her stand out and her attraction to girls would make her even more an outcast. But when new girl Saskia arrives on the scene, Leila finds herself drawn to her, taking risks that could out her to her parents and force her to finally confront a myriad of issues she’s been carefully avoiding.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is not just a coming out story, but a coming of age story. It’s about identity and honesty, and it’s about being true to yourself in every aspect, not just as far as sexuality is concerned. Farizan’s upbeat tone and sense of humor balance out Leila’s angst and help poke fun at the many double standard’s Leila’s parents impose on Leila and her sister. Some of the drama is over the top, but the story always stays true to Leila’s character as her eyes are open to tensions between her social groups and she re-evaluates her own assumptions about other people. The outcome is optimistic, but not unjustly so—characters develop, mistakes are made, and self-awareness is achieved. Farizan’s second novel is an emotionally resonant, funny, and nuanced story, and Leila is a memorable character.

Cover Comments: Hello, awkward horizontal girls looking at each other. If lesbian hands are a thing, so are compare/contrast the lesbian covers!

Book purchased at my indie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

When Isabel Culpeper leaves Mercy Falls after the conclusion of Forever, Cole St. Clair, a werewolf, heads to Los Angeles to win her back under the guise of reviving his music career. Cole knows that neither of them is perfect, but he’s determined to find a way to be with Isabel, even if it means confronting his past mistakes head-on.

Sinner focuses completely on the weird, complicated relationship between Cole and Isabel, who were secondary characters in Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy. As a standalone, this novel is hard to follow—Cole’s crazy antics, Isabel’s dramatics, and their messy history color the plot points, and the stakes are not as clear or as pressing as in the Shiver books. At a glance, the book is a jumble of high-maintenance characters making impulsive decisions, but the elegant descriptions of Cole and Isabel’s emotions are stirring, and their emotional arc is ultimately very satisfying. Stiefvater is clearly a gifted writer, and although the plot takes more room to unfold and the werewolf elements are faint, Sinner is definitely a must-read for fans of the Shiver trilogy.

Cover Comments: I cannot speak about this cover without remembering that the Shiver trilogy got a cover facelift as well, and then crying because they took something so beautiful and made it ugly.

Book borrowed from my library.

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.







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?


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.


*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.