The Compulsive Reader: November 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Classics Corner: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Classics Corner feature is just a little friendly commentary on my own experiences with the classics in the hopes that I can convince you to pick one or two up and not send you running away screaming. We all know how awesome and wonderful YA novels are, but really, these books are very important to read as well, so make an English teacher happy and read them. They're really not as boring as your teacher would make them out to be, promise.

So, Uncle Tom's Cabin. I thought this would be more about the cabin in the title, but it's really not. It's is a little lengthy (my edition was just shy of 500 pages), but as far as readability, I was able to get into this one much easier than The Scarlet Letter. The narration is direct and very full of detail, but it wasn't over the top.

A summary: The Shelbys live in Kentucky sometime before the the Civil War, and they own a fair amount of slaves. Mr. Shelby somehow is indebted to a nasty slave trader, and in order to settle his debt, he agrees to sell him Tom, one of his most dependable and capable slaves, and a little boy named Harry. Harry's mother Eliza hears of the plan and with gumption I was surprised to see, runs away with Harry and warns Tom.

Tom, however, doesn't run away. He is that honest that he refuses to let down his master, and allows himself to be sold away from him family and home to go down the river, where it is common knowledge that the slaves are treated worse than they are in Kentucky.

And so the story follows Tom as he changes masters and goes down the Mississippi River, and Eliza and and her family's perilous journey to Canada.

I really liked how the novel focused on two different storylines, allowing you to see the only two options that the slaves had: be sold away from family, or risk it all to try and reach freedom. Both paths took an amazing amount of courage. As you got deeper into the story, Tom's story took the lead and left Eliza and her family dangling in danger in the back of your mind for a couple hundred pages before returning to them once more, which was a little awkward, but Tom's journey was intriguing enough that the book didn't necessarily drag.

As this is a novel about slavery, it was full of the many different sorts of brutality that the slaves faced, all of the physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse is present, but since the book was written in the 19th century, the author does refrain from going into too much detail in some areas. However, the most startling and heartbreaking events weren't always happening to the main characters: they came in the small stories and backgrounds of the supporting characters. Those were what oftentimes brougth me to tears.

Another thing I really enjoyed about Uncle Tom's Cabin was how religious it was. A great deal of people were Christians in that time period, and it was so heartening to see Tom cling to God and the promise of eternal life after death with an unshakable belief and trust. It was what got him through every single one of his hardships, and it reminded me of Job and how God tested him. It was heartbreaking to see Tom struggle, but to know that God was with him every step made it more bearable to read.

Obviously in a book such as this, it's unrealistic to expect a happy, peaceful ending where everything turns out all right--we know better than that; extreme racism still exists in our country even if slavery doesn't. However, the ending did surprise me in some sad and some happy ways, certainly making it worth reading. Uncle Tom's Cabin caused quite an uproar in our country when it first came out, and I can see why. Though fiction, everything in Stowe's book is based in truth, and the truth is oftentimes more startling than anything we can ever dream up. If you were to ever pick up a classic, read Uncle Tom's Cabin. It's important that we remember what those slaves went through, and too many people don't realize just how horribly and deeply wrong the practice of slavery is. Uncle Tom's Cabin won't let you forget.

Now, go pick it up!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Cheer Giveaway!

Hello everyone,

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is the day my family and I decorate the house and bust out the Christmas carols. My family is BIG on Christmas. By the time we finish decorating (it usually takes all weekend, and then some), our house could rival Bronner's Christmas store. We have three Christmas trees in our living room alone!

So, the madness has really gotten me into the Christnas mood as well, and I've pulled together a Christmas prize-pack of books to give away to a lucky reader this season, sort of like Teenreads.com holiday basket of cheer. I've got eight books together, half of them favorites of mine from the past year, and half ARCs set to come out next year, and I'll be giving it away along with some yet to be determined holiday goodies. The books are:

  • A signed copy of my favorite Ellen Hopkins book, Burned
  • A signed copy of Amy Huntley's fantastic and thoughtful debut, The Everafter
  • A copy of one of my favorite releases this year, Willow by Julia Hoban
  • A copy of the fantastic sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • An ARC of Jillian Cantor's second novel, The Life of Glass
  • An ARC of Angela Morrison's second novel, Sing Me to Sleep, which I have on good authority is a tear-jerker
  • An ARC of the thriller Numbers by Rachel Ward
  • An ARC of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Sounds like fun, right?

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite thing about the holiday season is. And if you don't celebrate any holiday, tell me what your favorite thing about the winter is. The contest is open to US residents from today until December 21st! Good luck!



ETA: I am loving the great response to this contest! I've decided to add another book the giveaway--a copy of LET IT SNOW by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle! Keep those entries coming, maybe if we reach 200 entries, I'll throw something else into the prize pack!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Lonely Degree by CK Kelly Martin

I remember when CK Kelly Martin's first book, I Know It's Over, came out, tons of people were absolutely adoring it, so i was really eager to read One Lonely Degree when it was nominated for a Cybil award (I'm a panelist for the YA contemporary books, remember?). Now I am bemoaning the fact that I don't have time to pick I Know It's Over up--I can't wait! CK Kelly Martin is an awesome author!

Ever since the disastrous party in September, Finn feels like she's been drifting away from everyone else, alone in the world as her parents' marriage breaks apart and she tries to get over that horrible night. The only person who knows about what happened is her best friend Audrey, and it is Audrey that helps her get through it all. Then, things change when Jersy, Finn's friend from childhood, moves back into town. Finn likes Jersy, but can't bring herself to admit it. Audrey also likes Jersy, so with Finn's approval, they start dating. Then comes summer...and Audrey is away. Left alone with Jersy as her only friend, Finn finds herself growing closer and closer to him. Finn doesn't want to betray Audrey...but when she's with Jersy, for the first time in months, everything just seems right.

CK Kelly Martin's second novel is fascinating as it follows Finn, who is still reeling from her traumatic experience and is completely dependent on her friend Audrey to get her through every day life. When Audrey leaves for the summer, Finn is forced to learn to stand on her own and find the strength to not only get over the party, but also deal with her parents' break-up, and that transformation is what makes this book so enjoyable. Finn learns that there is a chance at happiness after horrible experiences, and that the same bad things can happen to other people as well, not just her. Martin reveals the details of what happened at the party in September somewhat early on in the book instead of drawing it out for the suspense element, which is interesting and helpful as it lets readers understand why Finn is so timid and lonely. The characters in the novel are also refreshing in that none of them do the right thing every time, and they realistically do the selfish thing sometimes. The end is somewhat optimistic, but also realistic and will leave you wondering and dreaming about Jersy and Finn and Audrey beyond the final page.

Cover Comments: I like the bright colors in this cover. The pool blue really stands out, and the yellow bikini is really fun. I also am loving the font for the title and how it is being used in every one of Martin's books. Great cover!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Win The Real Real by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin

Hello everyone,
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus are probably best known for their book The Nanny Diaries (which was made into a movie and has a sequel coming up, The Nanny Returns), but they've also published a YA novel, The Real Real, which comes out in paperback on the 15th of December.
About The Real Real:

The bestselling authors of The Nanny Diaries introduce a new heroine to root for: Jesse O'Rourke, coffee barista, high school senior, and unwitting reality TV star.

Imagine there was never a Laguna Beach, a Newport Harbor, the shimmering Hills. Imagine that your hometown—your school—is the first place XTV descends to set up cameras.

Now imagine they've trained them on you.

When Jesse O'Rourke gets picked for a "documentary" being filmed at her school in the Hamptons she's tempted to turn down the offer. But there's a tuition check attached to being on the show, and Jesse needs the cash so she can be the first in her family to attend college. All she has to do is trade her best friend for the glam clique she's studiously avoided, her privacy for a 24/7 mike, and her sense of right and wrong for "what sells on camera." . . . At least there's one bright spot in the train wreck that is her suddenly public senior year: Jesse's crush has also made the cast.

As the producers manipulate the lives of their "characters" to heighten the drama, and Us Weekly covers become a regular occurrence for Jesse, she must struggle to remember one thing: the difference between real and the real real.

Sound good? Well, I'm giving away three copies! All you have to do is comment below for a chance to win! The contest is for US residents only, and ends December 8th, 2009. Good luck!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Girl on the Other Side Trailer!

Hey everyone,

Remember Canadian author Deborah Kerbel's first book, Mackenzie, Lost and Found? It was a great story that took place in Israel, and I made the book trailer for it. Well, Deborah's newest book, Girl on the Other Side, comes out this month, and here's the trailer that Deborah made:

Look cool, huh? I have the book in my never-ending pile to read, and I really must get to it ASAP! Has anyone else read it yet? What did you think?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

Sophia FitzOsborne lives with her cousin Veronica, and her younger sister and tomboy Henry on the small island of Montmaray, located in the Bay of Biscay. They, along with Sophia's older brother Toby, are the last descendants of the royal family of Montmaray, and despite their titles, live in near poverty in their crumbling castle. Sophia begins writing about her life and dreams in her journal as war brews in Europe and crises strike the small island. Then, when a small group of Nazis arrive at Montmaray, wanting to see the castle's library, everything changes irrevocably for the FitzOsbornes and their tiny country.

A Brief History of Montmaray is simply divine. It is the best imaginable combination of wit, hardship, love, adventure, and history. Sophia is such a genuine and truly likable character, and her clever descriptions of her home and the quirky and unique individuals that inhabit Montmaray are unforgettable. The wry and self-deprecating humor that comes with being poor is endearing, and as much as they struggle, the characters are dignified and strong and completely engrossing. Sophia is a dreamer, and while she loves her home and her family, she can't help but want to see London and experience the balls and parties and dinners her aunt frequently takes part in. She is torn between wanting to leave and loyalty to her home and Veronica, who refuses to abandon Montmaray. The life these orphans live and the history of their island is fascinating and impeccably detailed and researched, making it hard to believe that Montmaray and the FitzOsbornes don't actually exist. The action scenes towards the end are quite harrowing and filled with surprising revelations, making for a suspenseful conclusion. A Brief History of Montmaray is a lovely, unique, and entertaining book in the spirit of Daphne du Maurier, Eva Ibbotson, and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, and one that will make the rest of the books in your reading pile seem lackluster and boring in comparison.

Cover Comments: The cover to this one is not the most striking one, but I really do like it. The drawing is simple and well-done, very appropriate for this historical fiction, and also effective at conveying just how small Montmaray really is. I also love the font that that title is in. I like it much better than the Australian cover.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Gatlin County, South Carolina is perhaps the dullest place on Earth, and Ethan Wate cannot wait to get out it. To him, it's as familiar and ordinary as a shoe. But then Lena Duchanes arrives to stay with her uncle Macon Ravenwood, the town's shut-in, and her uniqueness is met with opposition. But Ethan feels as if he knows her, and knows they have an inexplicable connection. It's as he and Lena grow closer that Ethan discovers that Gatlin is harboring a lot of secrets, and that by getting involved with Lena, he's putting himself directly in harm's way. But it's too late to pull back...

Together, Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia have pulled off an amazing, epically long and engaging novel that will engross readers from the very first chapter. Their writing style is packed with details, and straightforward, which works well with Ethan as the narrator. His voice is authentic and the change of view is a refreshing variation from the multitudes of female voices clamoring for attention in YA books today. The complex details of Casters and the power they possess is revealed slowly, along with the finer points of the curse that plagues the two main characters, but the book never drags. Stohl and Garcia are constantly revealing little tidbits of information as the book progresses, making for quite a build-up of suspense. Their plot is solid and intricate, but not confusing, and just when you think there couldn't possibly be any more revelations, the dramatic climax confronts Lena and Ethan with a whole new slew of problems. This wonderfully unique book with a rich, historic setting is perfectly conveyed to give readers shivers and hypnotize them completely. Garcia and Stohl will have readers eating out of their hands and hanging in suspense for a sequel.

Cover Comments: This cover is very, very striking! I just adore the smoky look to it, and the title treatment is gorgeous! It does an excellent job at appearing creepy and mysterious, but also modern and appealing. Excellent, excellent cover!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

In the two years since her older sister Nina disappeared, Ellie Wrigley has been plagued with unanswered questions: why would Nina leave? Where is she now? Is she even alive? Everyone has given up on Nina, but Ellie can't let go. So when she finds a drawing, obviously done by Nina, in a thrift store, she commences a crazy, quirky cross-country journey in pursuit of Nina, following the clues she left behind with a most amazing guy she barely knows. But as Ellie gets closer and closer to Nina, she'll find that the truth about her vanishing may be more astonishing than she ever imagined.

Lynn Weingarten has written a delightful, witty, zany, and heartfelt novel. Ellie is a very grounded and authentic character, and her pain at her sister's disappearance is very tangible. The book is peppered with clever clues that aren't too obvious and the book flows easily, bouncing around from one clue to the next, though it never feels like the story revolves around just those clues. Ellie's journey is about much more than just finding her sister: it's about love and grief and relationships and growing up as well. The mystery is solid and well devised and will keep you guessing up until the end, when a shocking twist is revealed that will make you want to reread the book to reexamine the clues and character motivations from an entirely new angle. Weingarten has a catchy, unforgettable style that varies easily from insightful and serious to wacky and hilarious and will make you laugh and think at the same time. Wherever Nina Lies is an entertaining and wonderfully written novel that will have you hooked right away.

Cover Comments: I love the style of the cover with the road map as a background, and the letter cut outs that make up the title. I think it's a really cool look and fits the mystery in the book well. I am not fond of the model on the cover though. She looks nothing like Ellie, and I don't really like how she's posed with her finger over her mouth, but this is a really good cover nonetheless!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cover Talk: The Two Sides of The Lonely Hearts Club

This past summer while in NYC, the lovely publicists at Scholastic showed me an ARC of a January book they're very excited about. I fell in love with the cover immediately and wanted kidnap the book that very instant, but they promised they'd send me a copy when they were ready, so I refrained from any illegal activities.

Well, yesterday I got that book, The Lonely Hearts Club, in the mail, only to find that the book has gone through a cover change. I was pretty bummed (the cover was really awesome to begin with), but the more I look at the new cover, the more kick-butt it appears to me. So check it out...

The Lonely Hearts Club retro style:

The Lonely Hearts Cover, a la Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road:

So. Cool.

Granted, I don't really like the font for the new one. I think it's too swirly and girly and just doesn't really fit with the attitude-filled strut across the street, but oh well. I am very curious to see how this book plays out now because to me, this cover just says "Pick me up, I'm awesome and hilarious and smart," in a way that a Stephenie Meyer quote just doesn't, you know? I suppose I shall find out for sure soon enough as it appears that somehow it's snuck it's way to the top of my TBR list (stealthy little thing, that book is).

What do you think? Are you for the old cover, new cover or neither?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gone by Lisa McMann

Ever since she learned the startling and dreadful truth about her abilities to visit other people's dreams, Janie has been horribly conflicted. She's torn between her love for Cabel and the want for companionship and her guilt at being such a hardship for those around her. The way Janie sees it, she has two choices, none of them good, but maybe one will give her some peace. But just when she thinks she's chosen her path, an unexpected person shows up...causing her to rethink everything.

The third and final book in Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy is a quick, engrossing read. Though it lacks the pulse-pounding action of Fade, Gone never lacks for excitement as secrets from the past are unveiled and Janie is forced to confront issues she'd rather bury. Written in third person present tense, Gone has a very realistic air that makes it very easy to become immersed into, even as most of the drama unravels in Janie's own head as she pieces together bits of her past in order to decide what she must do about her future. Some of the scenes that might have been more emotionally intense, like when Janie and Cabel finally talk through their relationship issues, are glossed over, and the ending may seem a bit anticlimactic coming right after the intensity of Fade, but the denouement wraps up nicely, leaving readers satisfied. Gone is a thoughtful, absorbing conclusion to a wonderful trilogy.

Cover Comments: I do like the drama of all of the covers in this trilogy, and I especially like how the green is used in Gone. The single chair is a very neat, almost chilling look, and it ties in with the story nicely. This cover is very modern and appealing, and I think it'll be popular for a long time.

Gone will be available from Simon Pulse on February 9th, 2010!

 P.S  You can only reread Wake and Fade so many times in anticipation for Gone...so check out Lisa McMann's website (lisamcmann.com) to read a short story in Cabel's point of view!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Karma for Beginners by Jessica Blank

Tessa is used to being portable. She and her hippie mom have never really had a true home, instead they just wander around, following random guys and crummy jobs. And now they are moving yet again, only this time to an ashram for an "extended retreat". While her mom loves it there, Tessa just thinks all of the people are weird, and she can't help but feel a bit hurt at how everyone seems to overlook her. But then she meets Colin: twenty-years-old, funny, and normal. They connect through their shared love of music and begin to spend more time together. But as time goes by, Tessa finds herself drifting farther away from her mother and taking more and more risks until one day, everything backfires.

The concept for Karma for Beginners is really intriguing and entertaining. Tessa's voice is funny, smart, and authentic, but in her narration you can really feel her insecurity and yearning for a normal life, to know her father, and to have a mother who isn't a flake. Tessa's perception of the other people at the ashram is humorous and oftentimes insightful as she learns more and more about the place, and it even takes on a slightly creepy air as its cult-like inner workings are slowly revealed. The romance between Tessa and Colin is sweet, despite their age difference, and will leave you smiling, but about three quarters of the way through the book everything turns sour as drugs are introduced, and many pages are spent on Tessa's meandering thoughts as she is high. The secrets concerning her mother and what really is going on at the ashram are glossed over in the end, leaving you wondering about the details of what all really happened, and the conclusion seems a little too rushed and a little too unrealistic. However, overall Karma for Beginners is an interesting and unconventional novel about one girl's coming-of-age with an engaging and sympathetic narrator that teens can really identify with.

Cover Comments: I love the colors used in this cover. I think they work well together, and I like how it is a picture of the inside of a car as that is where Tessa and Colin spend most of their time together, even if the inside of their car didn't look like this. It's whimsical and very easy to picture a scene like this in the ashram Tessa describes (sans the kissing couple, of course!); an excellent cover.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas remembers only one thing when he wakes up in the dark elevator, and that is his first name. The elevator deposits him a glade where he finds himself surrounded other teen boys. Like him, the only thing that they remember of their lives is their names, and they all have found that they must survive in the Glade, surrounded by massive walls that close every night and protect the Gladers from the nasty creatures that roam the maze that surrounds their home. During the day, while most of the Gladers work for survival, an elite number of boys run out into the Maze, looking for an escape.

But everything changes the day Thomas arrives—he vaguely recognizes the Glade, and he knows he is meant to be a Maze Runner. And then the day after he arrives, a girl is deposited into the Glade. She's also vaguely familiar, and her arrival triggers a series of events that force the boys find a way out of the Glade. They can only succeed if somehow Thomas can unlock the secrets in his own lost memories.

The Maze Runner is intensely compelling from the first page, and James Dashner does an excellent job at drawing out the suspense as he reveals the truths about the Glade, the boys, and the Maze slowly and steadily. At the beginning of the story, Thomas doesn't know what sort of person he is, and it is very interesting to read about his reactions to certain situations and he tries desperately to remember anything about his past. He is a very sympathetic character as his frustration at the lack of information about the Maze often mirrors the reader's, but the story never becomes too vague or boring.

Dashner's action scenes are written extremely well, with just enough detail to put the reader into the moment, but not so verbose that readers will find themselves rushing through the paragraphs to discover what happens next. The plot moves at a steady, quick pace and the interactions between the boys provide plenty of laughs and drama. The Maze Runner is like a combination of the most interesting elements in Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games, but infused with its own unique humor and slang and smart problem-solving skills that keeps you guessing all the way through, with an ending that will leave you hanging in suspense, with many unanswered questions and theories. The Maze Runner is a chilling, creepy read reminiscent of the TV show Lost, a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Cover Comments: I do like this cover though I don't think it's anything too spectacular. The images of the walls and the Maze beyond are neat, and I think they are interesting and a bit creepy looking. I like the font that the title is in as well. The cover certainly looks like it belongs on a dystopia novel.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Steampunk Love

Ever since I read and adored Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld's latest, people have been tweeting me, emailing me, whatever, proclaiming how much they are in love with steampunk! This is very gladdening indeed, especially since there are two steampunk novels I love that I think are a teensy bit overlooked.

For those of you who are wondering what the heck I'm talking about (it's okay, I honestly didn't know what steampunk was and that these two books I'm recommending are considered just that til, oh, about three weeks ago), steampunk novels that usually take place in a world that is similar to ours, yet different. As opposed to science fiction, they don't really take place in the future per se, but in the past(usually the Victorian era)...but they're in an alternate past that is a blend of futuristic elements and the ways of the past. Are you still with me? I don't blame you if you're not. I'll give you examples of some steampunk-ish books, as I learn best by examples anyways.

The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

Sophie's life at her boarding school and great-aunt's home in 1938 Edinburgh is a satisfactory one. Never one for athletics or too much excitement, Sophie occupies her time studying, and plans to go to University, or become a trained assistant to the country's business leaders. But a frightening series of terrorist bombs soon disrupts her quiet life, and after a unsettling encounter with a medium at a séance, Sophie begins to unravel a deadly plot that will not only affect her future, but the fate of her schoolmates, family, Scotland, and even the rest of Europe.

What would have happened if things had transpired differently? This age-old question is answered in this chilling and fast-paced novel that weaves a tale of what might have happened had one day in 1815 turned out differently. Set in a world that is at the same time technologically advanced and backward, The Explosionist is a thrilling journey full of mystery and suspense, with a careful balance of politics, science, and supernatural intrigue. Though the story starts off slightly confusing, Davidson's characters are perfectly crafted and her plot cleverly constructed, resulting in a haunting, tremendous novel that will attract readers of all ages.

You see what I'm getting at now? Same world, but different circumstances. Here's another one of my favorites, only this one is set more in the present, based off the idea of what would have happened if in response to the Vietnam War, one man looked to find a safe outlet for the violence and anger many were feeling during that time.

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Lyn's whole life has always been about gladiators and the GSA (Gladiator Sport Association). Her mother has married seven gladiators in Lyn's lifetime, the limit for a gladiator's wife. But when Tommy, Lyn's seventh father, dies, her dowry bracelet is also taken by the victor, a young man named Uber, and the law states that Lyn must now marry him. Lyn hates the gladiator lifestyle and doesn't want to follow in her mother's footsteps, so in order to save herself and her family from poverty, she makes a daring choice; instead of marrying Uber, she will fight with him to the death in the arena—even though she's beginning to develop feelings for him.

Lise Haines' Girl in the Arena is set in an alternate world, very similar to ours, that poses the question, What if, as a result of the Vietnam War, one man made gladiators popular in America? The world Haines crafts is chilling, with violence a regular part of every day life, but yet also offers many similarities with our society now. Historical details are included as well to help form the world and tell the story of the evolution of gladiators in the US.

Lyn is sick of the gladiator culture and would like nothing better but to get away from it, but she also has resigned herself to the fact that it may be difficult to do so. She is a very realistic and resourceful teen, and her indecision and emotions are quite believable, especially with when she interacts directly with Uber. The book is very fast-paced, which occasionally makes it easy to miss some crucial details or sentences, which may make the story a little confusing at first. Those incidences aside, Girl in the Arena is a heart-pounding, suspenseful read with twists and turns you won't see coming, leaving you to wonder, How can this end? Yet Haines wraps it all up cleverly and realistically, giving the readers and characters hope for a better future while imparting a moral lesson that isn't glaringly obvious or in your face. Girl in the Arena is a very intriguing and well-written novel about violence and entertainment, how easy it is for people to latch on to it when the two are strung together, but also about the courage of one girl wanting to make a positive change in her world.

Cover Comments: I like the mix of modern elements and the classic, gladiator styles in this cover. It fits the book well, even if the girl on the cover doesn't look like Lyn at all. I think it looks a bit edgy, and I like it a lot, even if there do seem to be too many fonts on the cover.

And of course, if you haven't already, check out Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, another fabulous, fabulous read! And enjoy all of the steampunk-ness!

Do you have other steampunk recommendations? Leave them in the comments!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog Tour: Sara Kadefor's Are U 4 Real?

Swedish author Sara Kadefors is visiting the US this month, and her number one bestselling book in Sweden is making a virtual round of the blogs as well! Check it out:

Both Kyla and Alex are lost. They feel so alone, despite everyone around them, and don't have anyone that truly understands their uncertainties, fears, and insecurities. Both deal with their feelings in different ways. For Kyla, it's partying and the never ending parade of guys. Alex, an introvert, seeks comfort in ballet. When they meet up in an online chat room, they find understanding and acceptance in each other. But despite their connection online, meeting face-to-face is different, and they find that neither of them are exactly the same as they are online. Can their relationship endure?

Written by Sara Kadefors, a Swedish author, Are U 4 Real was originally published in Sweden and is its bestselling YA novel of all time, and with good reason. Kyla and Alex's characters are full of depth and dimension, from Alex's uncertainties about dancing and wanting to discover his true motivations for continuing it, to Kyla's confusion and her fierce protectiveness and independence. Both Alex and Kyla are struggling with their identities and figuring out who they are and who they want to become. Their efforts and the pressures exerted on them don't always make them the best people, and they continually mess up in their search for acceptance. Both make mistakes, and both learn how to correct them and admit they were wrong, which is one of the most important and endearing aspects of the novel. Kadefors also deal with the issue of coping, and demonstrates how different people can be, despite how they may feel inside.

Despite the writing being occasionally vague and slightly bumpy in spots (which may be a result of how the novel translated into English), Are U 4 Real is a realistic, straightforward, and appropriately and believably complex novel for anyone who has ever felt alone in life. It’s a book about reaching out, searching for connections, and learning how to deal with differences and mistakes. Are U 4 Real? is as genuine as it gets.

Cover Comments: Though I would have expected something a little more serious for the cover of this novel, I do like it. The computer mouse influence is cute, and I like the colors used, though I would argue that it makes the book appear to be more of a light-hearted romance than it is. I don't love the cover, but I like it, and it works just fine.

I also was able to ask Sara a few questions about her book!

Was it hard changing certain aspects of the story so that they would translate well to an American audience?

I didn't change anything myself, the publishing house made the changes. They asked me if I would agree to make the characters American. I understood that if I didn't sympathize, the novel may not be published. I thought: the editors at Penguin know how difficult it is to sell novels from other countries, and if I say yes, young people in the US will read my story. Since making the characters American wouldn't change my story much, I approved.

What is one thing that you would like your readers to glean from your book?

Most of us are very much the same, or at least similar. We have the same kind of needs no matter if we're male or female, living here or there, or are of a certain age—we all want to be loved and respected. Many adults have read my book and say that they, as grownups, recognize themselves in the book. People my age are also thinking about existential matters. We're not so different from each other.

What was the hardest part about writing Are U 4 Real? What was the easiest?

The hardest part was to believe in myself and the story while I was writing it. I had only written one book before and I wasn't so confident with myself. I didn't dare to show the text to anybody during the process because I suspected it sucked. When I finally finished, I was so proud of myself. I hadn't given up although it was tough! The easiest thing was to express Kyla and Alex’s feelings. I felt sixteen again while writing about them. We were like the same people.

Many thanks to Sara, and I hope you all will pick up this awesome book!

Also, follow Sara to her next stop at www.cupcakewitch.blogspot.com!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christmas Giveaway: The Christmas Magic and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King!

Christmas is coming up sooner than we think, and these two picture books are great for younger children and the whole family!


On Christmas Eve, Godfather Drosselmeier has arrived with gifts of marvel and enchantment for his young godchildren. Goddaughter Marie falls in love a bewitching nutcracker doll and claims him as her own. Yet when the clock strikes midnight, something terribly amazing happens to Godfather’s handcrafted toys…they come alive. Marie is swept off her feet on an incredible journey with the Nutcracker in this astonishing classic story by E.T.A. Hoffman. Critically acclaimed artist Gail de Marcken’s stunning illustrations bring this spellbinding tale to life.


Far, far North, when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa begins to prepare for his big night of giving. He gathers his reindeer, feeds them parsnips and berries, and polishes his bells and his sled. Then lovingly, he chooses toys for every child in the world. For Santa loves them all, and he knows what each child at heart wants most. Then, with the thrum of magic that makes reindeers fly, he spreads the Christmas joy and warmth throughout the world--as he always has -- and always will until the end of time. From best-selling author Lauren Thomas, and Caldecott Honor Artist Jon J Muth.

And here is the trailer for  THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC:

And if you want to know more, click here:

I'll be giving away two sets of each book to two lucky winners! All you must do is comment below for a chance to win! Sorry, US addresses only. The contest will run until December 1st! Good luck!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Undead Much? by Stacey Jay

This novel is sequel to You Are So Undead To Me!

It's been a few months since Megan Berry was betrayed by her best friend and attacked by RCs (Reanimated Corpses). Now all she really wants is a short break from her training to hang out with her boyfriend Ethan. But no such luck, because in between a zombie that just won't go away, no matter how many times Megan settles him, a group of super-fast, indestructible zombies, some crazy family secrets that are casting all suspicion on to her, and her former worst enemy becoming her friend, Megan has zero spare time.

Stacey Jay's follow up to her first novel, You Are So Undead to Me, has the same smart wit, quick thinking, and awesome zombie butt-kicking, but is also a little more serious. The continuous boy-craziness present in the prequel is toned down, and Megan is a bit more mature after being betrayed by the person that was closest to her. Nonetheless, Undead Much is filled with just the right amounts of teenage insecurities, angst, and romance to make it relatable, but is made all the more exciting by dark family secrets, mysterious forces, and a tempting new love interest. The book is slightly predictable towards the end, but Jay manages to surprise readers in the very end. Undead Much is engaging and riveting, a book you will want to tear right through!

This book will come out January 21st, 2010!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cool Videos from Penguin!

I've finally had a moment to take my time and browse the Penguin Group's Young Reader's YouTube page for the first time in a while, and I discovered some really neat videos. Here are a few notable ones:

A trailer for upcoming read Incarceron by Catherine Fisher! This one looks so good, I am tempted to move it up my TBR list!

A new teaser video for Paper Towns by John Green, which is now out in paperback!

A video of Susane Colasanti talking about her books Waiting for You and When It Happens!


Friday, November 6, 2009

Break by Hannah Moskowitz

Ever since his baby brother Will was born eight months ago, Jonah's life seems to be getting worse and worse. His sixteen-year-old brother Jesse has severe food allergies that make it hard to even live in his own home, and he's having more reactions lately. Will won't stop crying, and Dad and Mom seem pretty clueless. Jonah knows that when a bone breaks, it grows back stronger…so he sets out on a mission, breaking his bones to become stronger through skateboard “accidents”. But will his only release break him?

Hannah Moskowitz's debut novel is startling, blunt, and complete absorbing. Jonah is a wholly believable character, and the first person narrative makes it easy to immerse yourself into the story, but will also have you cringing constantly as Jonah plans out which bones he will break next, keeping a tally, and carries out his schemes. Moskowitz is skilled at balancing a myriad of issues that threaten to overwhelm Jonah: his worries and fears for his brothers, friend issues, guilt, and the need to protect everyone, making them believable and engrossing.

The pacing of the novel is excellent; Jonah's dry sense of humor help keep the plot from being too morbid, and Moskowitz's dialogue is pitch-perfect. Though Jonah does allude to certain issues that happened in the past and might have been interesting to learn more about, and the wrapping up of the novel is slightly confusing, the style and pace do stay consistent, making for a riveting and suspenseful read, and the ending isn't cookie-cutter perfect and unbelievable. Break is both gruesome and stunning, one of those books you cringe to read but can't put down.

Cover Comments: This is an excellent cover; it's simple, but quite effective. I like how it isn't completely black and white and red, but has the gray in it, and and the broken bone on the cover has the appropriate effect.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Top 25 Pages on The Compulsive Reader

I've had some people express an interest lately in what my most popular posts are on the website, so with the help of Google Analytics, I generated a list of the 25 pages that have had the most unique hits (excluding old contests). Here is the list as of right now:

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
2. Ghosts Need Some Love
3. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
4. Being Nikki: An Airhead Novel by Meg Cabot
5. Along for the Ride Excerpt, Read by Sarah Dessen
6. After by Amy Efaw
7. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
8. SLAM by Nick Hornby
9. The Everafter by Amy Huntley
10. Chosen by PC and Kristen Cast
11. Kristin Cashore's Blog Tour: Getting to Know the Characters of Fire
12. Swoon by Nina Malkin
13. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
14. Fire by Kristin Cashore
15. Moonlight: A Dark Guardian Book by Rachel Hawthorne
16. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
17. Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
18. Suzanne Collins Event!
19. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
20. Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
21. Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley
22. Penguin Sneak Peek!
23. I'm Back and Sea Change by Aimee Friedman
24. Immortal by Gillian Shields
25. Willow by Julia Hoban

I'll be updating the list weekly right here if anyone's interested (I'll also add the link to the sidebar). It was kind of neat going through and looking at all of the popular posts. Some on that list surprised me, some did not. It shall be interesting to track the progress!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shiver Fans Rejoice, Linger Cover and Excerpt Revealed!

Today, Maggie Stiefvater unveiled the cover art and the first few paragraphs of Linger, the sequel to her wonderfully amazing book Shiver. Check it out!

Awesome, right? I can't say as I like it as much as I liked the Shiver cover, but I love the style, and the greens in it are gorgeous! Also, Shiver was really neat in that the entire book had cool blue touches throughout, making it fun to page through, so I'm eager to see a finished copy of Linger.

Also, here are the first few paragraphs of Linger!


This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.

Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. His was the disease we couldn’t cure. His was the good-bye that meant the most. He had the body that was a mystery, too strange and wonderful and terrifying to comprehend.

But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies. Sam stays Sam, and Cole stays Cole, and it’s only me who’s not firmly in my own skin.

Yay! I can't wait! What do you think will happen?

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Cassie Dasent has always lived in the remote Arctic research station where her father is a scientist studying the movement of polar bears. She loves the cold and ice and never wants to leave, but on her eighteenth birthday, her father and grandmother try to make her do just that. But before they can whisk her off to Alaska, a gigantic speaking polar bear approaches her, luring her away toward the North Pole with tales of fairy tales and a mother who really isn't dead. Cassie is hesitant, but soon she finds herself on an amazing adventure around the top of the world, risking everything for those that she loves.

Sarah Beth Durst's novel Ice is one of the most engaging, imaginative retellings of the old fairy tale East of Sun, West of the Moon around. Durst mixes breathtaking magic and wonders with modern day technology and conveniences to craft an unexpected, entertaining, and engrossing tale of love, friendship, and sacrifice that is both adventurous and romantic. Cassie is a daring, obstinate character who is hesitant at first when it comes to love, but when her true love is wrenched away from her, she confronts the obstacles facing her head on, and tirelessly works to get him back, learning the true meaning of love, both familial and romantic, in the process. Ice is as much a fairy tale as it is Cassie's coming-of-age as she balances a myth-like romance with modern day values and ideas.

Durst also employs the use of spectacular and beautiful imagery to describe the brutality and the majestic beauty of the Arctic, and even the boreal forests south of the land of ice. Her words capture the danger, the excitement, and the exhilaration of adventure and true love, making for a spectacular, unusual read you will never want to finish. I simply adored this book, and cannot wait for Durst’s next one.

Cover Comments: I simply adore this cover. The blues in it are gorgeous, and I love the contrast of Cassie's hair. Though you can't really see it in the photo, in real life the cover has a very neat iridescent finish that makes it look even more magical and snow-like. This is a perfect, beautiful cover, and the picture to the left doesn't do it justice.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

In Scott Westerfeld's latest book, an alternate world to our own is on the verge of World War I. Europe is divided into the Clankers, countries who favor advanced fighting machines and more modern technology, and the Darwinists, those who have embraced Charles Darwin's advanced scientific discoveries to engineer animals and ecosystems as fighting machines. Two teens—royal and wanted Alek who sides with the Clankers, and Deryn, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service and is a Darwinist through and through—meet in the great airship Leviathan, and when they do, their lives and the war are forever changed.

Like all of his other books, Scott Westerfeld's latest novel is adventurous, high imaginative, and wonderfully written. This book has so many elements that will draw in a wide range of readers: absorbing battles and escapades, political intrigue, mysteries, and intriguing scientific and mechanical descriptions that are just downright fascinating. But not only is Leviathan a gripping read for all of its action and ingenuity, it is also extremely appealing because of its two main characters, both young, bold teens who are in the midst of growing up, realizing their place in the world and defying conventions. Alek is a spoiled prince in the beginning of the novel, but having to run for his life causes him to think long and hard about his role and his country. Deryn is a spunky, humble, and down to earth girl whose courage is admirable and whose use of slang adds life and humor to the novel. Leviathan is an exceedingly clever, absorbing, and quirky read that has the perfect balance of dated and advanced technology and ideas, and humor and serious plot twists, making for the perfect steam punk read.

Cover Comments: I love the use of color on this cover, and how bold and detailed it is. It grabbed the attention of my non-reader of a brother even and had him exclaiming over it. The best part about this book is that drawing of this style, done by Keith Thompson, are displayed throughout the book, making it that much easier to picture all of the fantastic things Westerfeld describes. This is an excellent cover, I love it!

Writing Contest for YA Writers!

Get in Front of Top YA Editors and Agents with ONLY the First 250 Words of Your YA Novel!

Have a young adult novel-or a YA novel idea-tucked away for a rainy day? Are you putting off pitching your idea simply because you're not sure how to pitch an agent? No problem! All you have to do is submit the first250 words of your novel and you can win both exposure to editors, and a reading of your manuscript from one of New York's TOP literary agents Regina Brooks.

Regina Brooks is the founder of Serendipity Literary Agency and the author ofWriting Great Books for Young Adults. Brooks has been instrumental at establishing and building the careers of many YA writers, including three-time National Book Award Honoree and Michael Printz Honoree Marilyn Nelson, as well as Sundee Frazier-a Coretta Scott King Award winner, an Oprah Book Pick and an Al Roker book club selection. As an agent, she is known for her ability to turn raw talent into successful authors.

ADDITIONALLY: The top 20 submissions will all be read by a panel of five judges comprised of top YA editors atRandom House, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Sourcebooksand Penguin. All 20 will receive free autographed copies ofWriting Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. Of the 20, they will pick the top five submissions and provide each author with commentary. These five winners will also receive a free ONE YEAR subscription to The Writermagazine. ONE Grand Prize Winner will win a reading and editorial letter from Regina Brooks and free 10-week writing course courtesy of the Gotham Writer's Workshop.

Please submit all entries via the contest website at http://www.writingclasses.com/ContestPages/YAPitch.php. One entry per person; anyone age 13+ can apply. Open to theU.S. & Canada (void where prohibited). Entries for the YA Novel Discovery Contest will be accepted from 12:01am (ET) November 1 until 11:59pm (ET),


In honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org)-an international event where aspiring novelists are encouraged to write an entire novel in 30 days-this contest is meant to encourage the aspiring YA author to get started on that novel by offering an incentive for completing the first 250 words.

So apply now! http://bit.ly/1PYGaN

The Grand Prize Winner will have the opportunity to submit an entire manuscript to YA literary agent Regina Brooks AND receive a free, 10-week writing course, courtesy of Gotham Writers' Workshop.

The Top Five Entrants (including the Grand Prize winner) will receive a 15-minute, one-on-one pitch session with Regina Brooks, one of New York's premier literary agents for young adult books. They will also receive commentary on their submissions by editors at HarperCollins, Penguin, Harlequin, Random House, and Sourcebooks. In addition, they will receive a year's subscription to The Writer magazine!

The Top 20 Entrants will receive autographed copies ofWriting Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.


YA literary agent Regina Brooks, along with editors at Sourcebooks, will read all of the entries and determine the top 20 submissions. These submissions will then be read by Dan Ehrenhaft, head Acquisitions Editor at Sourcebooks Fire; Alisha Niehaus, Editor at Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin); David Linker, Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books; Michele Burke, Editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House); and Evette Porter, Editor at Harlequin. These judges will whittle the top 20 down to four winners and a grand prize winner-all five will be provided commentary on their submissions.