The Compulsive Reader: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Winners and Articles and Twitter, Oh My!

Hey there,

Thanks for entering the Author Spotlight, everyone! The vlog from Anita Liberty is coming soon!

The winners are: Katlin S., Anita Y., Brett R., Jennifer R., and Pamela W.! Your book will be going into the mail this week! And for everyone who didn't win, don't worry! I still have five more copies that I'll be giving away over the course of the next weeks!

In other news, here's an interesting article about one librarian does about bridging the gap between children's books and YA.

Have I mentioned that I now Twitter? I don't think so. Well, I've been doing it for about a month now, and it is pretty addicting and fun. You can follow me at twitter.com/compelledtoread (thecompulsivereader was too long. *sigh*).

Enjoy the rest of the long weekend!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Sex in YA

As time goes on, it seems that there are more and more YA books coming out that deal with sex--whether it's just mentioned in passing, alluded to, or actually described.

I know that many people wouldn't expect sex in YA books, but let's face it--teens aren't ignorant of it, as many aduts would like to believe, and for many, sex is a big part of their lives. However, there are also some teens who aren't ready to read sex scenes, and for them to pop up in a YA book might come as a bit of a surprise, therefore causing many adults to judge the more risque books unsuitable for teen minds, which leads to book banning and slamming, and all sorts of civil rights violations.

So I want to hear your thoughts. How far is too far, or is there even a limit? Do you believe that teens should be responsible for self censoring, or that such books should be "branded" with a warning? Let me know.

Getting the Girl by Susan Juby

There is only one thing--one girl, to be more specific--on Sherman Mack's mind as he starts his freshmen year Harewood Tech, and that is Dini Trioli. But the unlikelihood of her ever recognizing short, geeky Sherm as a datable guy increases when she starts going out with the most popular senior in their school. That doesn't discourage him though, because it's not long before he finds evidence that Dini might be Defiled--the ultimate humiliation for any girl at Harewood. Lives have been ruined by the Defiler, who cleverly destroys a girl's social standing just by posting a few pictures in bathrooms with the letter D on them, causing his fellow classmates to do the rest by ostracizing the girl.

Sherm is outraged that anyone would ever dream of Defiling Dini, so under the influence of his friend Vanessa, he launches a crazy, risky, and hilarious investigation, only looking for the person responsible for ruining Dini. But the forces that are the Defilers are more powerful than Sherm realizes, and he finds himself taking on more than he anticipated. But with the help of his eccentric friends, a book on private investigating, and his excellent cooking skills, he might just make social history.

Susan Juby, who became known for her wit and intelligence is her Alice series and her sensitivity and humor in Another Kind of Cowboy, emulates a truly authentic and reachable character in Sherm, who doesn't shy around the nitty-gritty details, no matter how embarrassing or personal. Her knack for creating the most outrageous and zany characters and circumstances with the utmost seriousness punctuates her story with reality perfectly.

The mystery aspect of the novel was kept unnecessarily uncomplicated, but readers will have to pay real sharp attention to the details in order to catch all the tiny hints and clues that are easy to miss. The final showdown is a surprising and tiny bit dragged out, but it works nicely with the flow of the book and the effect is true to the voice and characters of the novel. Full of quirks, laughs, and a dash of serious social problems, Getting the Girl is one book that you won't want to miss.
Getting the Girl will be available from HarperTeen September 30th, 2008!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Author Interview: Matthew Milson

Matthew Milson, author of Young Arcan and the Garden of Loc is with us today to answer a few questions about what makes him tick and what his new book is all about.

What's one thing that makes you laugh?

Watching John Cleese do a silly walk or try to return a dead parrot. Classic.

What makes you write?

If by this question you are asking why I choose to write, then the answer is simple: I can't draw and I don't play any instruments. However, if you want to know what inspires me to write, then the answer is a little bit longer. What really inspires me I would have to say is reading another author's work. Whether it's a novel, a short story, a poem it doesn't matter. When I read a line or a passage that makes me think wow, there is no other way that could have been written, then I instantly want to sit down and start plugging away at the keyboard, because I want to be able to do the same thing for someone reading a piece of my writing. As an author, I think you can tell when you are writing something like that too, because it just comes so easy and your hands are moving as quickly as possible to keep up with your brain before the thought gets lost somewhere in between.

Why fantasy?

I think the main reason I chose to write a fantasy novel is because of the freedom it affords. I've always been fascinated by the idea of creating an entirely new world, somewhere that no one has ever been before, and then writing about it as if it has always existed and has a history of its own. Then, once you have this world set up, you can do whatever you want with it. Anything is possible, and no one can say otherwise. It is an extraordinary amount of freedom for the writer, and in some ways I feel challenges their creativity. You now have a world where basically anything goes, so how far can you take it? It really gets you thinking outside the box as far as what can happen and how problems are solved.

What other books do you have planned/what are you working on now?

There are two projects that I am working on at the moment. First, I am in the revision process of the second novel in my Tales From Emberthel series (Young Arcan and the Garden of Loc being the first one) which will continue Arcan's story and give the reader a better look at the world of Emberthel and the numerous creatures and beings that inhabit it. I have yet to decide on an official title for it, but I have narrowed it down to a couple of choices.
The second project is in the early stages of writing. It's a novel, but not a part of the Tales From Emberthel series. This one is geared more toward an adult audience. I suppose it could be considered in the fantasy genre depending on your viewpoint, but it is set in our modern world and draws on real ideas and beliefs – that is to say, there are no creatures that I invented myself, and the ones that do appear in the novel, somebody somewhere believes that they really exist.

What influences you to write Young Arcan and the Garden of Loc?

I think my influence to write Young Arcan and the Garden of Loc was my desire to tell a good story. I wanted to write something that was original, and could be enjoyed by children and adults. A lot of times I describe the story as 'a fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously' because while I wanted to create a world that was rich and had a sense of history, I did not want to write a story where the reader skips over the names of people and places because they are twenty letters long with hyphens and apostrophes. I just wanted to write something that was a quick and enjoyable read.

Can you describe Young Arcan and the Garden of Loc in three words?

Yes. Oh you actually want me to say them? Ok. Fantastically Unique Narrative – or in one word: FUN! That's clever, right?

What were some of your favorite books when you were younger?

In grade school I would read what all of the other kids where reading, which were books by Bruce Coville and R.L. Stine. I could not begin to recall what any of the books were called without looking them up online. Once I got to junior high and high school, that is when I really became interested in reading however. That was when I discovered The Old Man and the Sea, A Tale of Two Cities, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and many others. That is when I started reading for fun, and not because somebody simply told me to.

What's the last book that you read?

The last book that I read was Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, which is a collection of short fictions and wonders as it is described on the cover. Actually, it's a book of short stories and poems, but I think since the word 'poems' tends to turn people off, they changed it to 'wonders' which just seems more magical.

Currently, I am close to finishing American Gods…also by Neil Gaiman. I've recently discovered Neil's work, and have realized that I have been missing out. Now I am trying to play catch-up.

Is there anything I didn't ask that you wish I had?

Yes. If you would have asked "What is your favorite movie based on a book?" I would have said, "The one they haven't made yet." Then I would have winked and pointed at the cover of my book.
Thanks so much! Be sure to visit Matthew at his website, http://www.talesfromemberthel.com/, if you'd like more info!

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Day after day, Alice lives a life of confinement, inflicted on her by her abductor, Ray, who kidnapped her five years previously. Her life now is full of constant pain, from starvation to sexual abuse, without any hopes of escaping...except through death. It's a route that Alice is willing to take, if only she could find the chance. But then even her desperate hope for death is marred by Ray's one last request: find a girl to replace Alice. Despite the horror of his demand, Alice sets about doing it, with only one thought on her mind: freedom.

Living Dead Girl is a spine-tingling novel. It is all at once alarming, disturbing, and powerful. Though short, it demands your attention as Alice slowly reveals the details of her life, and her state of mind is brought to light. Scott is daring, not leaving anything out, and offers intriguing insights concerning Alice's refusal to speak out against Ray. Readers won't help but feel conflicting emotions of immense pity and exasperation for Alice, especially as she resolves to escape from Ray at the cost of another little girl's life and innocence. Brilliantly executed and sensitively written, Living Dead Girl is a harrowing, heart-pounding experience that will make you cringe, give you hope, force you to think differently, and ultimately haunt the mind for weeks to come.

Living Dead Girl will be available to purchase from Simon Pulse September 16th, 2008.

Also reccomended: Identical by Ellen Hopkins and Dirty Work by Julia Bell.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm Uber Jealous of the Brits

So when do us Hamburger-a-go-go Land gals get to see this?

And, am I really out of it, or is this coming as a very pleasant surprise to my fellow Americans as well?

ETA: Check out this totally awesome Georgia Nicolson sweepstake!

This Year's Model by Carol Alt

Melody Ann Croft is a little creeped out when a man she serves at the restaurant she waitresses at insists that she must be a model. Certain that he's a pervert or just plain crazy, she really doesn't think much of the business card with phone numbers of top modeling agencies scrawled on the back, or his insistence that she use his name to get an appointment. But curiosity wins out in the end, and Melody schedules a few appointments just to see what happens.

What happens is she's snatched up in a minute by Delicious Models, and put to work right away. Melody becomes Mac, the svelte, chic, and sophisticated model whose dreams morph from attending Penn State and becoming a nutrionist into picking up an ad campaign and making it big. Nothing in this business is easy, but with the help of her new best friend Jade Bishop, Mac is getting by, making money and becoming famous. But even the prettiest facades of modeling have a darker underbelly that Mac can’t ignore.

This Year's Model is yet another fiction book written by an insider, model Carol Alt, to hit shelves. The novel contains all of the obligatory topics covered in such stories: the glamour, the pressure associated with weight and BMI, alcohol and partying, and snippets of drug abuse, and the plot unfolds in an interesting and engaging manner. Mac's disbelief that she could become a model is genuine and not overdone, but how easily she adapts to her new life is a bit surprising.

Alt also glazes over details of running to and fro castings, and instead focuses more on Mac and Jade's friendship and the jobs they land rather than the times they've been turned down, giving readers a slightly skewed impression of the competition involved, but readers won’t mind as the name dropping and lavish events are detailed.

Mac is a more daring character than those seen before as well, at first wary of lecherous men and nudity in modeling, but gradually she becomes willing to shed all of her inhibitions—and clothing—in the name of art. Despite this, she remains grounded and realistic, even as she's exposed to drug users, alcohol abusers, and men with lacking morals. However, Mac is no Mary-Jane—she deals with friendship issues that are just as familiar to us regular girls as the attractive and famous, which punctuates the book with reality nicely.

This Year's Model leaves off with a twist that gives the cliffhanger at the end an abrupt, underdeveloped feel, but promises of a sequel, Next Year's Model, and advice and extras from the author herself soften the blow and cause excitement for more dish on the modeling lifestyle.

This Year's Model is in stores today!

Are you an aspiring model? Well, here's your chance to break into the modeling business. Starting today, the NEXT YEAR'S MODEL Search Online Sweepstake is accepting entries for candidates to grace the cover of the sequel to This Year's Model. For full contest info, go to www.harpercollins.com/nextyearsmodel. Good luck!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sleepless by Terri Clark

On the outside, Trinity Michaels might be just another teenager, enjoying her last summer before college. But inside, there's a secret—while Trinity dreams, people can visit her...people she knows. And when a girl named Kiri that Trinity once met comes to her one night, begging for an escape from her kidnapper, Trinity is crushed when she doesn't get Kiri the help she needs in time.

Trin hoped that she'd get some closure over Kiri's killer, Rafe Stevens' incarceration. But instead, his lawyer uses shady tactics and gets Rafe into a mental hospital...where he promptly breaks out! And there's something else: while at the mental hospital, Rafe somehow managed to attain the ability to walk into Trinity's dreams, and now he's bent of revenge. Trinity will be forced to team up with an unlikely ally—Dan Devlin, son of Rafe's lawyer, as she struggles for a solution that will save her life…if only she can stay awake long enough.

From newcomer Terri Clark is a fast paced and heart pounding novel that will keep you up at night! Clark handles her plot like a pro, and her fun and modern voice, along with many well placed pop culture references, entice and encourage readers into the story. The characters are those that readers can't get enough of—amusing, intelligent, savvy, but yet a bit fallible as well. Sleepless is a quick read, and the storyline is one that is simple enough to ensnare reluctant readers, but complicated enough to still be highly engaging. With all the suspense and danger of Lisa McMann's Wake and the sharp wit and supernatural allure of Meg Cabot's The Mediator series, Sleepless—and Clark—are sure to be a success.

Sleepless will be available in stores on September 2nd, 2008!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Martin Dubow

You all remember Martin Dubow and his book Francey, right? Well, he's hard at work at his second book, a horror novel called Mrs. Trollope, and is looking for some feedback. He'd love for you guys to weigh in your opinions on, so go and check it out! Also, if you comment, he'll throw your name in a hat to win a copy of Francey every month. It's a win-win situation!

BIG PLANS and Madam President by Lane Smith

BIG PLANS and Madam President, two great picture books from Lane Smith, are perfect picks for any child. In Madam President, a girl describes what her role would be as the president of the United States—from civil duties to security to handling disasters (messy rooms? No problem!). It’s an important and hard job, but someone has to do it!

BIG PLANS tells the story of a boy who has BIG PLANS, and with the help of a mynah bird, they plan to spread the word all across the world—even to the moon. Soon he’ll become president, and use his BIG PLANS to make the world a better place!

Both books are extremely catchy and fun, and the art is big, loud, and engaging. Both of these energetic books have an extremely appealing and enthusiastic flair and wit that will make them popular with the younger set.

The Time Cavern by Todd A. Fonseca

When Aaron moves into an old Amish farm in the country, he's surprised at all the things that he discovers--a new friend named Jake, who is actually a girl, a mysterious secret surrounding his house, and an old chest containing a diary, a map, and odd mechanisms. These things all lead Aaron and Jake to a time machine in a secluded part of the forest and on an adventure they won't forget.

The Time Cavern is a great adventure for younger readers, with a unique setting that is at once interesting and educational, and not at all boring. Aaron is a well developed and lively character, and although his adventures are far fetched, many kids will be able to relate to his curiosity and his home life. Full of enough details to keep younger readers happily occupied, but not too many as to confuse them, The Time Cavern is well balanced. However, towards the end and during the climatic chapters, some kids may have a little bit of trouble keeping up, as it does get a little confusing, even for an older reader. But once they wade through those turbulent and fast paced chapters, they'll be begging for more adventures with Aaron and Jake.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Dominique has got everything pretty well planned out: finish her senior year of high school with good grades, get into the college of her choice, and start a pre-med program. Guys don't really factor into her plan, not because she doesn't want them to (she is an average, warm blooded female after all), but because she's never found the right one.

And then she meets Wes. He's sweet, polite, and funny and seems to be into her. After long weeks of exchanging IMs and emails and just hanging out, their relationship finally starts to get romantic—and physical. Dom and Wes are completely caught up in each other, and soon they find themselves going further than they've ever gone before.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is arguably this generation's Forever... In her debut novel, Snadowsky doesn't waste any time with euphemisms or by dodging the issue, and instead boldly sweeps readers off their feet as she captures the awkwardness, confusion, joy, heartache, and angst of first love, leaving absolutely nothing out. Rather than come across as inappropriate or too mature, as many adults will surely think, Anatomy of a Boyfriend is surprisingly earnest, painfully honest, and wholly realistic.

Though the astute reader will pick up on the many parallels between Snadowsky's book and Blume's hit Forever..., they serve as a sort of tribute to the groundbreaking author. However, Snadowsky's characters have a more fully realized relationship, and Dom especially details her insecurities and discusses her sex life in a more in depth manner than approached in Forever... Anatomy of a Boyfriend is controversial, but it is also to a certain extent a beacon for girls who are confused and don't know where to get answers to the questions they have, and a source of empathy for many more. It is obvious that Snadowsky's ability to connect with her audience comes naturally, and the utter ease in which she exudes the voice of this generation of teenage girls is sure to be welcome with wide open arms.

Also reccomended: Forever... by Judy Blume and Play Me by Laura Ruby.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Calling All Teen Writers!

Look what popped up in my inbox this morning:


We are a small independent company in Phoenix, AZ that publishes material written by authors ages 13-17. Our imprint, Youth-Full, Too Books publishes YA fiction written by authors 18 and over.

We're a new company looking to fill our "house" with young--and young at heart--writers. Not only are we youth conscious, but we're Earthconscious, too. All of our books and promo material are printed on 30% postconsumer recycled paper.

Come check us out at www.YouthfulWisdomPress.com

Banshee by Hayden Thorne

Love prudently. This is what Nathaniel's mother has told him throughout his life. He and his parents live modestly in a vicarage, his mother unwelcome to her family because she married below her. But as Natty gets older and his mother slowly starts reconciling with her family, Natty is exposed to his cousins' rich world. When he is seventeen, he goes traveling with his youngest cousin, and is introduced to Miles Lovell.

Natty is drawn to Mr. Lovell for reasons he cannot explain, and finds himself struggling with his mother's growing coldness. Then, when he seems to hit his lowest points, a ghost of a woman appears to him. He's certain that she is a bad omen, but isn't sure what she is supposed to foretell as he struggles with lies and deceptions while combating his own feelings.

Banshee is an interesting and thoughtful read, with dashes of supernatural intrigue and suspense. It is also a coming of age novel as Natty struggles to find his own identity and at the same time keep his reputation and please his family. Sometimes his narration seems rather slow, but all in all Banshee is an intriguing and captivating novel as Natty learns the true meaning of loving prudently and struggles to forge his own way in a world that is very closed off to gay men. The novel is also full of historical details that are cleverly interspersed throughout the book so as to not make the story seem too didactic. There's a little something for everyone in Thorne's Banshee.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

John thinks he's a cynic. He takes a bit of pride in the fact that he claims not to feel emotion, and blames it on his father who always seems glad to get rid of him after every weekend, and his mother hasn't touched him since he was ten years old. John's escape is zines, his own and one called Escape Velocity, written by Marisol, known as a "Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee lesbian". When they finally get a chance to meet, Marisol makes John swear never to lie to her. But even as he makes that oath, John already has, and as his little lies (both to Marisol and himself) get bigger and he and Marisol get closer, both of them will have to learn to stop lying and tell the truth, no matter what the consequences.

From the moment you meet John, you're hooked on his very distinguishable voice and cavalier attitude, even if his behavior does seem despicable at times. Readers will have no problem summing up sympathy for him and in the same moment exasperation as he continues to lie his way throughout the story. But as John is continually exposed to Marisol and truly explores his feelings, the reader will find surprising depth and character. It's the complex, three dimensional characters that make this novel so indelible and irresistible, and their imperfections that give it life. Hard Love leaves off without a clear, positive ending, but instead with hope for the future, which is a million times better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Revealers by Amanda Marrone

Nestled in a regular Connecticut community is a coven of witches that have been keeping their area safe from werewolves, vampires, and demons for hundreds of years. For the youngest generation of the coven—Sascha, Margo, Zahara, Dani, and Jules—this is their life, and though they wish for a little more freedom, they recognize their responsibility.

They are all eager for their eighteenth birthdays, when they will be initiated into the inner circle of their coven along with their mothers and learn all of the coven's secrets. But as their birthdays start to pass by, Jules—the youngest of the witches—begins to realize that there is more going on in the coven than what their mothers are letting on, and her friends can't talk about—something that she's finding that she can't condone.

The overall impression that Revealers gives to the readers is rushed. While the plot is one that is unique and attention grabbing, many elements of the story, such as Jules' romantic interest, her training and background, and the twist towards the end of the novel fall short of expectations and instead the story races ahead to the next scene without taking sufficient time to cover each new event.

However, the dynamics between the girls are realistic: they're not the best of friends, they oftentimes frustrate each other, but they have a strong bond and know they're lives depend on them working together. The typical drama and angst when it comes to crushes is also present, and grounds the story to reality. And each girl's coping mechanism to the news their mothers have kept secret is also authentic—anger, aloofness, alcohol, denial, and determination.

The result? Revealers is an intriguing tale with realistic characters and emotions, full of relatable teenage tendencies, and fun bits of supernatural and magic, but the execution is weak and rushed, with gaping holes that could have been filled in easily to make the novel seem more like a complete story. Marrone should be willing to elaborate more and write a more extensive book, or keep her next book simple.

Also recommended: Night World No. 1 by L.J. Smith and Shadowland by Meg Cabot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Author Spotlight: The Amazing Anita Liberty

For all you teens out there—being a teen sucks sometimes, doesn’t it? You’re forced to attend high school, which, let’s face it, is completely useless. You have to deal with parents, who seemed to be experiencing some early Alzheimer’s and don’t recall what being a teen is like, and can make life generally miserable.

Well, in The Center of the Universe (Yep, That Would Be Me), Anita Liberty totally feels your pain. She knows how it goes, and her book is full of snarky humor that will help you get through the day and survive the suckdom that is being a teenager in her new book.

Anita Liberty is also the creator of two adult books How to Heal the Hurt by Hating and How to Stay Bitter Through the Happiest Times of Your Life. She lives in LA with her family. The Center of the Universe (Yep, That Would Be Me) is her first YA book.

Anita Liberty is a teenager. And it sucks. She's subjected to her parents' craziness and other cruelties that the world saves especially for teenagers. Throughout her junior and senior years of high school Anita is put on a platform, given drama lessons, dumped by a French boy, dumps an egomaniac, and has a curse cast upon her, among other painful, embarrassing, and sometimes joyful things. Ah, the life of a teenager...

Told completely in hilarious, heartrending, and very candid poems, diary entries, and lists, The Center of the Universe (Yep, That Would Be Me) is a wonderfully fun and quirky cross between The Princess Diaries and The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. Anita Liberty is you, your best friend, that girl who sits next to you in English. Amazingly perceptive and full of wry humor, fun times, awful times, and many, many cute guys, this is one book that reaches out to teens and sends a message that is loud and clear: YOU'RE NOT ALONE!

Wanna read this book? Well, here’s your chance. I’ll be giving away 5 copies for the next two weeks while Anita Liberty is in the Author Spotlight. Just send your name, address, and email to thecompulsivereader@gmail.com with AS CONTEST in the subject heading and you’ll be entered to win. Entries will be accepted until August 30th at midnight, and I’ll announce the winners on or around the 31st. Good luck!

Also, keep checking back for an exclusive guest vlog from Anita Liberty herself! How awesome is that? Mull it over…

Monday, August 18, 2008


For a few of you who noticed my Paper Towns review, here are a few cool links as well: Margo Roth Spiegelman is on Facebook and MySpace. She is taking over my shelves. And, I have it on good authority that there will be a scavenger hunt to find Margo beginning September 1st. Hm...

Paper Towns by John Green

To everyone who surrounds Margo Roth Spiegelman, she is an adventurous, unconventional, and intelligent person and a highly admired someone that everyone puts on a pedestal. So when Margo sneaks into Quentin Jacobsen's room one glorious night and involves him in her crazy exploits, he can't help but feel as if a new page has been turned, and just maybe he can be a part of the marvelous Margo's life.

But the next morning all of Quentin's hopes are dashed with Margo's disappearance. Her parents and the police think this is just another one of her stunts, but Q's not so sure. Cause Margo has left him a string of clues, one right after another, which just might lead him to her. But the thing is, he's not sure what he'll find.

John Green brings readers another surprising, witty, and fully honest book in Paper Towns. His writing is captivating from the very beginning as multitudes of details, no mater how large of small, flow seamlessly together. Green has a knack for highlighting the little distinguishing factors that make us human, making for more believable characters and completely enthralling book.

The mystery in Paper Towns is clever, and will leave readers scratching their heads as Q and his friends struggle to piece together the clues with some frustration and tons of humor. But the teens are just as quick to get serious as they contemplate what has actually happened to Margo and as Quentin especially comes to see her in a completely different light with a little help from the poetry of Walt Whitman.

Though Paper Towns did drag a little bit in the middle of the book as Quentin hits a brick wall in his search, this novel is suspenseful, hilarious, and quirky, and especially appealing to the well read teen. The characters are as real as your own friends, and teens can't help but see pieces of their own lives in this amazingly candid book. Read at your own risk though--Green's works are completely addictive, and once you start, it's impossible to stop.

Paper Towns will be released on October 16th, 2008.

(A side note...the girl on the covers totally looks how I imagined Alice to look in the Twilight Saga...random, I know.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Shipped off to England from her Manhattan home by her father and his brand new wife, who is most certainly the spawn of the devil, Daisy isn't sure what to expect of her aunt and cousins, with whom she'll be staying with indefinitely. She is surprised to find that her cousins Osbert, Isaac, Edmond and Piper live a mostly independent life while her aunt works long hours, and feels a special connection with her Edmond, who is her own age.

But then the war comes, and Daisy's aunt is stuck in another town, far away from them. They must learn to survive on their own. It all seems surreal as they live nestled in the country, away from rules or adults or expectations. Daisy and Edmond fall in love, despite what others may think. But it is all destroyed when the soldiers come. Daisy and Piper are sent away, and the cousins' separation is almost more than anyone can bear. Although torn apart, they must find away to come together.

How I Live Now is a remarkable novel of survival, loss, pain, love and hope. The story is told from Daisy's sharp and sarcastic perspective ("I don't get nearly enough credit in life for the things I manage not to say," she says on page seventy-seven), and as her narrative progresses we come to find that although strong in her own way, she also has a vulnerable side. The book takes a momentary foray towards more spiritual ground when Daisy insists that she can communicate with Edmond at certain times even though they are miles apart. But besides that, the book is full of thought provoking ponderings, human observations, and musings on true love that will leave the reader with much to think about. The story focuses less on the actual war that is being waged around characters, and more on their individual struggles for survival, which give it a more philosophical air that is intriguing, but some readers may feel the urge to know more about the politics of the unknown war. How I Live Now, while heart breaking, through its strange style, conveys a sense hope and unconditional faith, and is a powerful reminder of the strength of love.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

For generations the Scarborough women have been doomed to live eighteen years in sanity, until the birth of their first and only daughter, and then continue the rest of their lives in madness. Their only hope in avoiding insanity is to solve three tasks laid out for them in the Ballad of Scarborough Fair. None of the women have ever come close to solving them.

Until Lucy. Unlike her ancestors, she possesses a loving foster family, and Zach, her childhood friend who has loved her from afar for years. When she finds herself seventeen and pregnant, her unconventional family will band together, with the aid of Lucy's mother's diary pages from before insanity overtook her, and find a way break their curse once and for all—Lucy's future, and those of her mother and unborn daughter, depend upon it.

The haunting and mysterious words of the Ballad of Scarborough Fair take on new meaning in Impossible as Lucy, a young, determined, and modern heroine is faced with insurmountable odds. Werlin's prose is wonderfully magnetic; a pervading mix of magic, romance, and apprehension. Suspense is skillfully built throughout the book, and is sure to make readers squirm in excitement. Further knowledge of Lucy's ancestors might have added some appeal and interest to the story, but the lack of information on them does not detract from the story in any way. Werlin proves not only to be a captivating writer in Impossible, but also a uniquely clever and sensitive one as well as this unusual, romantic, and enchanting novel unfolds.

Impossible will be released from Penguin Group on Spetember 18th, 2008.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

From the ashes of the civilization that was once North America came the Capitol, nestled high in the Rocky Mountains. Surrounding the Capitol are the thirteen Districts. As time passed, the Districts rebelled against the Capitol's harsh rule. Their punishment was the creation of The Hunger Games. Each year each District is required to send one boy and one girl to the Capitol, and there they will be thrown together in an arena and forced to fight to the death. Their fight is broadcasted on live television, and each citizen from all Districts is forced to watch.

In isolated District 12, Katniss Everdeen passes her days in school and illegally hunting in the woods beyond the fence that encompasses their community, scavenging and bringing down game to sustain her family. But when her younger sister is chosen to represent their district in the games, Katniss wastes no time in taking her place, even though she knows it mean near certain death. But when circumstances beyond her control twist the Games around, she'll have to fight against both the Games and what she knows is right in her heart to keep her life. One thing is for certain—people will remember this year’s Games for a very long time.

Suzanne Collins has created an absorbing and utterly fascinating look at a futuristic world where a government has employed a brutal and heartless system in order to maintain complete respect. She paints a picture of a plausible future, adding to it interesting tidbits of information that you would come to expect of your average science fiction novel--mutant species, hoverboards--while at the same time showing readers a simpler view of life--homes without hot waters and towns barely able to feed themselves.

Collins’ heroine Katniss Everdeen is a fierce and determined, angry at the ways of the Capitol, but conscious of the fact that there is nothing that she can do to protest. Her fear is tangible as she approaches the Games, and her wonder at a lush life in the city infectious. However, she really shines as she is immersed in the Games, where her wit and intelligence make themselves known, without understating the fact that she is a scared girl, struggling for survival. Hers is a coming of age story as she is forced to decide what she believes in and act accordingly amidst brutal circumstances.

Though the book doesn't introduce topics with quite as much depth as expected, it doesn't avoid them all together. Katniss's insecurities about death and love, for instance are still very present, and it is evident that throughout the story the author is laying the groundwork for the next two books in the Trilogy.

With an unexpected ending, dashes of tongue in cheek humor, and lots of quick thinking and riveting, suspenseful moments, The Hunger Games succeeds in capturing attention, and provoking thoughts. In its own way, it ranks high up along with Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and Neil Shusterman's Unwind; a completely scintillating book and wholly promising start to what's sure to be a spectacular trilogy.

The Hunger Games will be released in October 2008.

(A bit of a side note...my mom read this book, and absolutely loved it as well. We both read it in one day. Not the same day, I mean. She read it one day, and I read it the next. Okay, the point I am trying to make here is that it's REALLY REALLY REALLY good, so can you just go and pre-order it already? Please and thank you.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I have a bit of a conundrum...I am confused about the order of two series. I've heard too many different answers, so I thought I'd ask you guys to see if anyone knows.

I have copies of both Prom Queen Geeks by Laura Preble and Fringe Benefits by Valerie Frankel. Both appear to be a part of a series. What order are they in? First or last? If last, can they be read out of order? If not, can anyone tell me what order they go in and/or lend me a copy of the previous books?

Thanks for your help, guys. I've heard so many different things, I don't know what to believe!


Can We Step It Up A Little, Please?

So I just read an interesting article over at Huffington Post about blog reviewers. You can read it here. In it, the author claims that blog reviewers don't go in depth enough to really take the place of professional reviewers--we're too short, too informal, and not as analytical as professional reviewers.

Well, I have to kind of agree.

I'm going to make a confession here: I hate reading reviews of any kind really. Just give me a description of the book, maybe throw in an accompanied , "It's really though provoking!" or "It really analyzes such and such." But other than that, I generally don't care what others think. Is that mean of me? I know it's pretty hypocritical, seeing as here I am writing reviews myself.

So that's why when I started doing this reviewing thing, I realized that I had to write reviews that I myself would want to read--and that is, short, easy to follow, and above all, professional reviews, like that's found under the book at Amazon.com. Anything else I can't really stomach. No personal pronouns (a teacher I had once told me, "No one cares what you think!"), and please, for the love of God, do NOT write "This book was so adjective, adjective, adjective. The characters were so adjective, adjective, adjective. This book will appeal to anyone who likes such and such." Boring. (And just to cover my bases here, yes, I probably have been the creator of such reviews...but we all need to work a little harder at being better than that.)

And, I am deathly afraid of a spoiler. I hate spoilers with a passion. Lots of blog reviewers inadvertenly give away spoilers, and don't think they're doing so, which drives me insane.

So, for those reason, I pretty much had to agree with the article. For someone who is looking for in depth reviews, maybe blog reviewers aren't the best place to go. Now, before anyone goes and bites my head off, here's the other side of the arguement:

Blog reviewers are totally powerful. I get hundreds of views per day on my website, a lot of them teens looking for something to read, and many teachers and librarians just looking for what's cool and will appeal to their students/patrons. I've also been on the receiving end of many comments such as, "I read your review and bought/pre-ordered the book right away!", which I am sure the publisher and author appreciates. There's a difference between "book reviews" and selling books, and I believe blog reviewers fall into the lattter category...something that article didn't really give us credit for. And let's face it: In YA, word of mouth is everything.

As for me...I'm trying to find a happy medium between the two. I enjoy writing reviews, and helping publishers sell books. I know that my writing had improved, and that it still has a ways to go. I also think that blogs could step it up a notch and write better reviews without becoming boring...it's just a matter of how willing and passionate you really are.

So what's your opinion? (C'mon, I know everyone has one!) Chew me out, tell me what you think, or just comment.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rumors by Anna Godbersen

Manhattan has never before had more juicy gossip to spread ever since Elizabeth Holland's mysterious "demise". But as the New Year approaches, rumors fly and the Holland family is bombarded with endless questions...and endless bills. Diana Holland finds her own way of making money, and she and Henry Schoonmaker fall in love. But Penelope Hayes is determined to make Henry hers--no matter what the cost. Elizabeth is living blissfully out West with Will, but then a panicked note from her sister brings her rushing back to the city. And in between it all is a former maid who has the inside sources and ambition that will threaten them all.

Fast paced, elegant, and full of intrigue, Rumors proves to be much more engrossing and complicated than its prequel. Penelope becomes the villain that you come to feel sorry for, Henry the man with surprising depth, Diana the unlikely and lovable heroine, and Lina the dreaming girl you have to pity and admire.

Moving beyond the standard plotlines that dominated The Luxe, Godbersen weaves an intricate and convoluted story via the many colorful and wonderfully unique characters that builds and builds until it takes on a life of its own. In this glittery, elusive and sly world seeping with secrets, things aren't always as they seem, a secret told is worth a tidy sum, but a secret kept is worth more, and you should never underestimate the power of money and reputation. Godbersen builds suspense until the very end, giving us both a happy and unhappy ending, and leaves readers wrapped around her little finger, begging for more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Violet by Design by Melissa Walker

In the spirit of August's Book of the Month, the third book in the Violet series by Melissa Walker, here's a review of the second book, Violet by Design!

After the flurry of bad press, fights with friends, and a bold abandonment of the New York modeling industry in the end of Melissa Walker's first book, Violet on the Runway, Violet Greenfield is back home in Chapel Hill, resolute in her decision to never return to the twisted modeling business. But when a famous foreign designer requests her especially and a free ticket to Brazil is waved in front of her eyes, Violet can't resist the allure of international travel. Before she knows it, she's swept back up in the glamour as she takes Brazil, Madrid, and Paris by storm.

But some tough decisions may leave her fumbling, and put her relationship with her best guy friend Roger in jeopardy. To add t her stress, Violet can't help but feel like a total hypocrite when she joins a campaign that promotes healthy living and inspiring girls to love themselves the way they are, but then is asked to drop five pounds before the shoot. But with new friends like Veronica and the support of her friends and family, she just might be able to get through it all.

Violet by Design won't fail to feed the insatiable appetite for name dropping many readers will have acquired after reading Violet on the Runway. But this installment reaches greater depth as Violet faces the many pressures of modeling head on--and doesn't always win. Though it may take a little while for the real drama to kick in and the book to pick up, readers are well rewarded by Walker's solidarity in refusing to condescend to her readers by giving them an ideal character who is relentlessly valiant in her refusal to succumb to the pressure of the modeling business. Instead we get the pleasure of reading with Violet as her vulnerable side is revealed, and she bends to the pressure, but doesn't break--and instead is able to admit that she's wrong and bounce back in a truly admirable way. Violet the Valiant once again will charm readers as she continues in her quest to find where she belongs.

Also be sure to check out Model: A Memoir by Cheryl Diamond, and the other Violet books.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Thanks a ton for all the great comments, guys! It sure was fun reading them all. Congratulations to constantlywishing for winning this week's contest. Send your address to thecompulsivereader@gmail.com and once ZGoogle lets me back in to my account, I'll get your copy of PANTS ON FIRE on its way to you!

The Sisterhood Makes a Comeback

From the author who brought us The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants comes a new sisterhood of girls who are about to enter the same high school that the previous quartet of girls attended. The first book, called 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows is set to come out in January from Delacorte, the same publisher who put out The Traveling Pants series. I'm excited to see what Brashares is going to do with a new set of characters and a setting that she's not tackled before--school. Click here to read the Publishers Weekly announcement.

Total Knockout: Tale of an Ex-Class President by Taylor Morris

Lucia Latham is driven, focused, and determined to succeed at being her school's first ever three-time class president and running the most successful annual fundraiser ever. It serves as a good distraction from the tension of her home life. Surrounded by her two best friends, she's got a plan that will leave her presidency branded forever in the minds of her class, and is quick to put it to action—maybe a little too quickly.

Before she knows it, she's been impeached, and her friends, left in office, aren't speaking to her. But Lucia knows better than to ever back down--boxing taught her that. She'll have to come up with a way to right all of her mistakes, and come up with a way to save the fundraiser from certain disaster.

Total Knockout is yet another delightfully candid read from Taylor Morris, who is rapidly proving herself very talented in navigating through middle school politics in her second novel. Lucia is a passionate character, and she struggles with the desire to be the very best president and still being a friend and a good person and comes to find a happy medium. Her honesty and uniqueness, coupled with her conflicting feelings about her struggles with her parents, make her character shine, and Total Knockout is one story that middle grade readers will eagerly devour.

This book will be available from Aladdin M!X September 16, 2008!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Deep within the shadowed and mysterious forests of Transylvania live five sisters; Tati, Jena, Iulia, Paula, and Stela. Each Full Moon the sisters slip through a secret portal into the Other World, where they dance the night away with the place's peculiar but inviting inhabitants. But back in their own world, the sisters' quiet lives are thrown wildly off course as their sickly merchant father leaves for warmer climates during the fierce and bitter Transylvanian winter. Jena is left in charge of the business until he returns. But their cousin Cezar is dubious at Jena's abilities, and begins to strip her of her responsibilities, until the sisters are prisoners in their own home.

And to make matters worst, Tati has fallen in love with a mysterious and dangerous man, one who is in the company of the feared Night people, whose strengths are unknown and must drink blood to survive. Tati insists that he is harmless, but Jena is not so easily convinced, and must take it upon herself to right the circumstances and keep their family together throughout the long winter.

This updated and completely unique take on The Twelve Dancing Princesses will leave you breathless. While not quite as dark as her Sevenwaters Trilogy, Wildwood Dancing holds in its pages wonderfully despicable villains, amazingly strong and motivating heroines, eerie settings, and dark deeds that will make you gasp. Cesar's takeover of the Jena's responsibilities will cause righteous indignation, and her struggles against both her worldly foes and her magical ones are completely engrossing, with new revelations and twists every which way. What makes this novel especially poignant is Jena's eventual realization that she can't protect every person she loves from the outside world, and sometimes you just have let them face the dangers of the realms on their own. Both worlds are beautifully depicted and detailed, and the plot itself is an exciting froth of greed, betrayals, dark secrets, strength, courage, and true love that will surprise and enchant readers.

You might also enjoy Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier and The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn.

I Do Declare...


So go ahead and comment your hearts out on all of August's posts so far, and I'll throw your name in a hat to win a copy of PANTS ON FIRE by Meg Cabot! Tonight at midnight, I'll pick a winner! Good luck!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

Frankie and his brother Steve are very different. While unpopular Frankie spends his time playing with explosives with his best friend, working at his parents' restaurant, and dreaming about Rebecca Sanchez, Steve is the widely respected soccer star with a scholarship and the perfect social standing.

But then John Dalton, son of the man who practically owns their little New Mexican town, picks a fight with the brothers, and Steve is bent on retaliation, especially when John starts fights with Frankie when he's alone and outnumbered. As things escalate and Steve begins to take more and more risks all in the name of respect, Frankie will come to realize that garnering respect and doing the right thing don't always go hand in hand.

The Brothers Torres is an unassuming novel that carries a powerful message within its pages. This unlikely coming of age story is punctuated by the rich Hispanic culture and influence and its pages are scattered with Spanish words and phrases that give it a completely authentic and genuine feel. All at once serious and humorous, poignant and full of everyday occurrences, this book speaks volumes about what it is like growing up in today’s society, with the urges to do what is right and the expectation of acting tough. Voorhees gives his characters a larger than life feel and wields control of his plot with great skill. His wholly unique and entirely relatable cast of characters and clock of situations make him an author to watch.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Model: A Memoir by Cheryl Diamond

When she was just fourteen years old, Cheryl Diamond ventured to New York City to become a model. She experienced rejection after rejection until she finally found an agency that would offer her a contract. But then came September 11, and her agency went out of business before she could even land a job.

At sixteen, Cheryl returned to New York, hoping for a second chance. She got it. Now she is faced with the task of building her portfolio and making a name for herself--no small job when the head booker is always giving her a rough time and the manager of her agency is seeking revenge on her for standing up to him and refusing to let him yank her around. But Cheryl is tough and sensible, and if anyone can make it in this ugly modeling business, she can.

And she's making it…until one man lies to her, destroying her image and bringing her career to a screeching halt. Desolate, she's sent home. But she's determined to do what's unheard of in the modeling biz...make her comeback.

Model: A Memoir will leave you shell shocked. Cheryl Diamond is an extraordinary young woman who is role model material for girls everywhere. Without succumbing to the many temptations models are exposed to on a daily basis (eating disorders, drinking, drugs, excessive partying) and without losing a grasp on her values (like refusing to change clothes in front of a roomful of people just to land a job), she has built her career without allowing herself to be bullied. Her novel is a whirlwind of shoots, castings, runway shows, and showdowns with her boss that besides being completely enthralling, are all true. Her writing style has the fast paced appeal that is present in biographies and memoirs, but is as detailed and gripping as any work of fiction. Teens especially will delight in this resilient, strong, and intelligent heroine who is beautiful inside and out, and will eagerly anticipate more from this talented model and writer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August Book of the Month: Violet in Private by Melissa Walker

Hello again,
Well, it's back to the regular Book of the Month feature, and what better book to focus on this month by Melissa Walker's latest in the Violet series, Violet in Private? This fabulous, glamorous, and totally candid series is highly entertaining and completely enthralling.
Violet has become a Vassar Girl. As the spring semester rolls around, Violet finds herself in a place that's way more intimidating than a photo shoot or the runway—college. At first she's apprehensive about making friends and how her fellow students will receive her, but after befriending the flamboyant Kurt and meeting her cool new roommates, she's starting to feel like she belongs. She even lands an internship at Teen Fashionista, which is pretty cool, even if it does mean more time spent with Chloe, Roger's annoying and in the way girlfriend. But with the continuous pressure exerted on her from all directions about her weight and career, Violet is having a bit of trouble figuring out how to get what she wants.

Violet in Private is Melissa Walker's most frank, profound, and honest book yet. Violet's fears concerning her new life are completely valid and within reach for many girls, even as her old life refuses to release its tenuous hold on her. The topic of weight and eating is once again breached, but this time Violet is strong in her decisions, and instead has to fend off those who would degrade her for them...with mixed reactions.

It is evident that this series is evolving into something much more than simply a story of a young model and the troubles that come with being one, but is a coming of age story as Violet takes the long way to find her purpose in life and turn her short modeling career into something that is much more rewarding and positive and has a longer lasting effect than a span of a few years. Though it would have been interesting to see more character development in a few of the minor characters, Violet in Private is a shining example of how one girl can take negativity and turn it into something beautiful.
Check back every Thursday this month for special Violet-themed features and for visits by the author, Melissa Walker! And don't forget to pick up a copy of Violet in Private! If you're new to the series, start with Violet on the Runway!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Have I Mentioned...

...that I have a personal blog? It's located here, and it's all about non-bookish life stuff, and writing. I've posted a few pieces there for some feedback, but haven't gotten any yet. If you are so inclined, feel free to check it out.

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

Something sinister is happening at the royal palace in the kingdom of Tyralt...assassination attempts have been executed on the crown princess, seventeen-year-old Aurelia. Each one is narrowly avoided, and each one is getting more bold and daring. The king and his advisors are determined to keep this information from the princess, even as the killer seems to be getting closer and closer.

But Aurelia is smart, sensitive, and savvy. Everyone expects that she'll be a better ruler than her father, but no one would dare say so, and to keep her assassination attempts secret from her is no small task. The king's advisor is wise enough to recognize that they need help with this ever present threat, and writes to the retired spymaster, now living across the kingdom on the lonely frontier, with a plea for help. What he gets instead is his son Robert, Aurelia's former classmate. Who better to protect her from a danger she must never know about?

The fabled tale of the headstrong, intelligent, and suppressed princess who falls for the wrong person and together they must overcome great odds is reborn once again in Aurelia...but with a punch. Osterlund's world is one that is more sophisticated than your average fantastical kingdom, on the cusp of progress, but with the same charm and realities of the classic fairy tale kingdom. Aurelia is also more than just a headstrong princess yearning for her taste of power...the author cleverly reveals her more vulnerable side and brings to light her imperfections without overdoing it, giving Aurelia an admirable and believable quality.

Osterlund gives us also a royal family that is not completely perfect, leaders who don't always do what is right, and princesses—no matter how likable, stubborn, or clever—who don't always get their fairy tale ending. All of this entwined with a mystery that nags at the mind, tempting the reader to peak (but you better not!), and demanding to be solved. Part mystery, part fantasy, and part romance, Aurelia is full of intrigue, glamour, dark deeds, betrayals, and suspense—the perfect story for those who are looking for a more grown up fairy tale.

You might also enjoy Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier and Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


First of all, forgive me for my dismal math skills in an earlier post. Can I claim the excuse that Calculus messes with your ability to calculate simple math problems?

Also, Harmony interviewed me. Isn't she sweet? And her blog is so pretty...

Also, an article for all you Croc haters, and anyone who wants a good laugh, complete with great YouTube videos.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

This is a spoiler-free review!

Being with Edward Cullen has never been easy, as Bella Swan well knows, after nearly two years of brushes with death with her adopted vampire family. But she and Edward are finally ready to take the next step in their relationship by getting married, and then turning Bella into a vampire. It all rolls out without a hitch, and Bella and Edward are the picture of a blissful couple, until their honeymoon is rudely interrupted by a shocking event, putting not only Bella's life in danger, but the lives of the Cullen family and their werewolf friends as well.

The fourth and final installment of the Twilight Saga does not disappoint. Though it lacks much of the mystery and elegant descriptions of the dreary setting of Forks that entranced readers in Twilight, Breaking Dawn is overflowing with romance, action, and danger that sufficiently do their job in keeping the reader enthralled. However, certain parts of the story do feel a bit rushed, such as the wedding, and could have stood to be beefed up a little bit. Also, wedged almost midway through this weighty 750 page tome is a block of about 200 or so pages told from Jacob's perspective. While the story is served much better from his point of view at this point in the story, it does seem to break up the general flow a bit, making it harder to concentrate on the plot, and easy to countdown the pages until we can get inside of Bella's head again.

Once the story picks up again with Bella, it's hard to keep up. Bella's transformation from human to vampire is not quite as dramatic as many readers originally imagined, but is almost glossed over in light of a bigger surprise that will intrigue and delight readers. Meyers skillfully builds up suspense to the climax where Bella and Edward's lives inevitably will be put in danger, encouraging a niggling sense of doubt that was always lacking in its prequels. However, like many problems that have been presented throughout the Twilight saga, this one seems to resolve itself too easily. But these flaws are understated by breathless excitement, jaw-dropping surprises, maddening suspense, and enduring romance, which have become staples of the Twilight Saga, and will leave you dreaming long after the book is finished.

I'm going to open up the comments below to discussion. However, be courteous! If you want to talk about a spoiler, put a warning up before you do!

Cool New Reads!

Violet in Private by Melissa Walker

Violet Greenfield knows she’s supposed to be a super-confident nineteen-year-old because she’s done runway shows in New York and internationally. But now that she’s finally headed to college, she’s afraid she’ll turn back into that girl who blended into the walls in high school. Vassar is just two hours away from New York City––her friends in fashion think she’s crazy to stop modeling now. And her old friend Roger is there...but things have been weird ever since they kissed. The real question is if she’s not going to be “Violet on the Runway” anymore...who is she?

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo

Fenfang is seventeen years old when she escapes from her tiny, suffocating village, where all that awaits her is a life full of sweet potato farming. She travels to Beijing, where she works many odd jobs to stay afloat, before finally managing to become a film extra. In between making minute appearances in TV shows and films, Fenfang struggles to build a modern life for herself in the vast city of Beijing, facing sexist men, the strict Communist rules, and struggles to learn where her own destiny lies.Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth is a highly intriguing and scintillating novel that will leave the reader with much to ponder. Fenfang is a very easygoing narrator and the story unrolls smoothly from her perspective, giving the reader an educational, but still very substantial glimpse into the bustling life of China's younger generation, all in an honest and sure voice that will make a lasting impression. This is a book that demands your complete attention, through random observations, inquisitive contemplations, and a gritty and realistic grasp on life, making the connection between readers and author an instantaneous one.

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: The New Girl by Meg Cabot

After moving to a big, slightly creepy house in a new neighborhood, rescuing a turtle from certain death, and becoming a mother-to-be of a kitten all her own, you'd think that being the New Girl would be no problem to Allie Finkle, right? But things get off on the wrong foot right away when Allie's parents insist on walking her and her younger brothers to school on their first day. And then she gets caught talking in class! But the worst thing of all? Allie's new classmate Rosemary says she's going to beat her up after school!

Allie asks everyone she knows (except people who are going to tell her mom, because moms just make things like this worse!) what she should do, but no one seems to be able to give her an answer. And on top of it all, Lady Serena Archibald, mother of Allie's kitten Mewsette, gets sick, and Allie's dreams of having a kitten all her own are in jeopardy! What's a girl to do?

Meg Cabot has proven herself just as adept at reaching the younger set of girls as she is at getting through to teenagers in this fun filled, frank, and quick witted sequel to Moving Day. Allie Finkle shines as she continues to stun and delight readers and faces a whole new set of problems and takes on an issue that is very relevant to kids today--bullying. Her reactions are understandable and relatable, and her despair and confusion are emotions that are sure to ring true with many younger readers as Allie takes on her problem and searches for a solution among many that she believes is right, and grows up a little in the process. Also present are the many smaller fiascos and escapades which Cabot pulls together to create a story that flows fluidly together, coupled with dry wit and a dash of irony that has made her voice so popular among the younger generations, but will not fail in beguiling anyone of any age.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo

Fenfang is seventeen years old when she escapes from her tiny, suffocating village, where all that awaits her is a life full of sweet potato farming. She travels to Beijing, where she works many odd jobs to stay afloat, before finally managing to become a film extra. In between making minute appearances in TV shows and films, Fenfang struggles to build a modern life for herself in the vast city of Beijing, facing sexist men, the strict Communist rules, and struggles to learn where her own destiny lies.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth is a highly intriguing and scintillating novel that will leave the reader with much to ponder. Fenfang is a very easygoing narrator and the story unrolls smoothly from her perspective, giving the reader an educational, but still very substantial glimpse into the bustling life of China's younger generation, all in an honest and sure voice that will make a lasting impression. This is a book that demands your complete attention, through random observations, inquisitive contemplations, and a gritty and realistic grasp on life, making the connection between readers and author an instantaneous one.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Author Spotlight: Carol Culver

I feel like I’ve been neglecting the Author Spotlight feature recently, but no more! An author has recently come to my attention that certainly deserves a spot in the limelight: Carol Culver. She is the author of the realistic and unassuming BFF series, published by Berkley JAM.

The series includes Manderley Prep, Rich Girl, and The Guy Next Door, and center around three unlikely best friends and their experiences at the ultra rich and sometimes snobby Manderley Prep. Things at Manderley Prep are especially chaotic with a new headmaster bent on reforming the school by using military tactics, much to the students’ shock and consternation. These happenings, coupled with each girl’s own adventures, are the makings for the perfect fun and unpretentious series.

Besides writing the BFF series, Carol has also written over 30 romance novels under the name Carol Grace. She has been a TV receptionist, and worked as a translator on a hospital ship. She also speaks French and is a part of the Fog City Divas. She lives in California in a mountain top home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can visit her online by going to carolculver.com.

Manderley Prep

Everyone at exclusive Manderley Prep has the right clothes, the right car, and the right friends, which makes Cindy Ellis stand out like a sore thumb. Attending Manderley on a scholarship is her ticket to a chance at an Ivy League school, where she can get as far away as she can from her demanding stepmother and two conniving stepsisters. She intends to stay focused on her studies. But when charming Italian exchange student Marco shows up, she just can't help but fall for him, despite her intentions. Is a fairy-tale ending in the works?

The first in the new BFF series, Manderley Prep is upbeat and engrossing. It gives the reader a taste of what a privileged life is like--good and bad--without appearing conceited. Also a real breakaway from the tired modern day re-tellings of Cinderella, this story is subtle, and the fairy tale doesn't dominate the entire plot, which allows for more serious plot twists that make this story believable and easy to relate to. Readers will love Cindy, and be rooting for this modern princess with a punch every step of the way.

Rich Girl

Victoria Lee is living every teenager's dream: she's beautiful, rich, and she has a whole mansion to herself while she attends Manderley Prep in San Francisco and her parents run the family business back in her home city of Hong Kong. Gabe Thomas's mom's employers are moving across the country, and unwilling to uproot him, she accepts a job as housekeeper for an absentee couple and their teenage daughter. For eco-conscience Gabe, this means a new house next door to a snotty rich girl and a new school full of snotty rich and wasteful kids. And when Victoria and Gabe are thrown together, there are sure to be sparks…

Don't be fooled by the title, Rich Girl is not your run-of-the-mill YA novel. Victoria's values are true, and her honesty and her lack of an egotistical and materialistic nature will make her an instant favorite. Readers will eagerly devour Victoria's valiant attempts at being a normal American teenager, while at the same time sympathizing with her with her and her many blunders. Gabe is also a wonderfully unique character, a cool relief from the many of stale male leads. Rich Girl contains all of the essentials for this brand of YA: hot guys, mean girls (and guys!), best friends and one big party. This exciting second novel is a fun break from the norm in what continues to be a promising and rewarding series.

The Guy Next Door

Maggie's life took a nose dive after her parents' divorce. Forced to move out of the large mansion that she grew up in, Maggie and her mother now live in a small house in a decidedly less affluent neighborhood. None of their old friends talk to them, and they are always coming up short on money. Luckily for Maggie, she still attends exclusive Manderley Prep, and she's made a few new friends along the way. But she'd like nothing more than for Ethan, her childhood playmate and ex-neighbor, to notice her as a girl, and not think of her as the metal mouth tomboy she used to be. The perfect chance arrives in the shape of a class trip to Hawaii, but how will Maggie ever be able to afford it?

The Guy Next Door is a completely absorbing and unique read. Maggie is intelligent, grounded and self deprecating in an empathetic way. Her continued worries about money may rub some readers the wrong way, but they'll be happy to see as the plot goes along, Maggie comes to find that she can live a happy and fulfilling life without the deep pockets she had before. Returning readers of the BFF series will also be able to summon up a bit of righteous indignation as the headmaster of Manderley Prep continues to form the school to his expectations, causing chaos along the way. The Guy Next Door is the perfect froth of teenage angst, romance, rule breaking, and action that'll keep you reading to the very last page.

Be sure to check out this great series, and keep an eye out for more of Carol Culver novels!

And now, and interview with Ms. Culver:

Why did you choose to write YA books?

After writing 30+ category romances under my pen name Carol Grace, I was ready for a change and a new challenge. I love that YA is open to all kinds of sub-genres - Inspirational, Romance, Historical, Literary, Ethnic. You name it, you'll find it in the YA section.

Are any of the happenings in the BFF series based on personal experience?

Most of my characters' experiences happened to my kids who went to a prep school very much like Manderley Prep - the prom, the school trip to Hawaii, the foreign exchange student, class officer elections, the rich and the poor, the popular and the unpopular. I think there are universal teen experiences we''ve all gone through

Which character can you identify with the most?

Cindy, the Cinderella girl with the mean step-mother and slutty step-sisters. I don't know why because I didn't have a step-mother or step-sisters, and I don't play the clarinet, but inside she was me.

How long did it take for you to write each book?

I'm a fast writer. It took a few months.

Are you planning on writing more YA fiction?

I'd love to. This is a wonderful genre, expanding and growing all the time. I currently have a proposal for a series featuring three teen mermaids who get washed ashore and have to deal with classes in California History, Chemistry Lab and cheerleading and still have to be back to the sea by sunset or ...well, you can imagine what would happen.

What three words would you use to describe the BFF series?

Fun. Light. Real

Are you a full time writer?

Yes, I once taught foreign students to speak English both overseas and at a nearby university, but now I write full time. It's great. No commute, no expensive career clothes and no schedule.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be and why?

I'd love to go to the South Seas - Tahiti, Bora Bora, Samoa. I love warm weather and beaches. Still, I shouldn't complain, I teach writing classes on cruise ships and this year I've sailed up the Amazon, been to Alaska and will be touring the Mediterranean this fall.

What's one good book you'd like to recommend to your teen readers?

Just One? That's too hard. I love Catherine Murdoch's DAIRY QUEEN and Jodi Lynn Anderson's PEACHES and for sheer laughs, there's Louise Rennison's CONFESSIONS OF GEORGIA NICOLSON.

Book Vault’s Birthday Contest Riddle

Hey guys,

This is the next leg of The Book Vault’s birthday book riddle contest. For more information on the contest, go here.

Each correct answer counts as an entry into the drawing on August 29th!

Riddle: The circles of hell hold tortures and punishment for different sinners.
The author takes a journey to this treacherous place with a renowned poet.
What book is this?

Know the answer? Send Dominique an email at bookvault@yahoo.com with:

“BDAY CONTEST” in the subject line

The Riddle: The circles of hell hold tortures and punishment for different sinners.
The author takes a journey to this treacherous place with a renowned poet.
What book is this?
Answer: (full book title + author)
The name of the site where you found the riddle: The Compulsive Reader
Your site’s URL: (if you have one)

Please send a separate email for each riddle you answer!

Good luck!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

And the Winners Are....

Hey all,

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday, but I'm sure it won't take you three guesses to figure out what I was doing. All I have to say is that the book won't let you down, and if ya'll are interested, I'll write up a review.

And just another note...131 votes on the poll this past month is a record. I put that poll up on the first of July and scheduled it to close on midnight Thursday. That's an average of ten votes a day, and at least 131 different people who visited this site, not counting the number of people who don't vote (an return visitors). Kick me if I'm being sentimental, but I'm a bit touched.

Anyways, now on to more pressing matters...the winners of the Books That Suck contest...

The signed copy of The Summoning goes to Mari S.

The copy of Tantalize goes to Book Review Maniac

Sucks to be Me bookplates and bookmarks go to: Katlin S., Margay R., Anna L., Book Chic, Lenore, Ariella P., Quinn P., Sandra B., Jacob G., and Renee C.!

Congrats, guys and enjoy!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: The New Girl by Meg Cabot

After moving to a big, slightly creepy house in a new neighborhood, rescuing a turtle from certain death, and becoming a mother-to-be of a kitten all her own, you'd think that being the New Girl would be no problem to Allie Finkle, right? But things get off on the wrong foot right away when Allie's parents insist on walking her and her younger brothers to school on their first day. And then she gets caught talking in class! But the worst thing of all? Allie's new classmate Rosemary says she's going to beat her up after school!

Allie asks everyone she knows (except people who are going to tell her mom, because moms just make things like this worse!) what she should do, but no one seems to be able to give her an answer. And on top of it all, Lady Serena Archibald, mother of Allie's kitten Mewsette, gets sick, and Allie's dreams of having a kitten all her own are in jeopardy! What's a girl to do?

Meg Cabot has proven herself just as adept at reaching the younger set of girls as she is at getting through to teenagers in this fun filled, frank, and quick witted sequel to Moving Day. Allie Finkle shines as she continues to stun and delight readers and faces a whole new set of problems and takes on an issue that is very relevant to kids today--bullying. Her reactions are understandable and relatable, and her despair and confusion are emotions that are sure to ring true with many younger readers as Allie takes on her problem and searches for a solution among many that she believes is right, and grows up a little in the process. Also present are the many smaller fiascos and escapades which Cabot pulls together to create a story that flows fluidly together, coupled with dry wit and a dash of irony that has made her voice so popular among the younger generations, but will not fail in beguiling anyone of any age.