The Compulsive Reader: October 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Kendall has lived her entire life in the minuscule town of Cryer's Cross, Montana, where everyone knows everyone and the disappearance of one girl rocks everyone. Four months later, the town is still struggling to move forward and Kendall and her best friend and sort-of boyfriend Nico are starting their senior year at their one-room high school. The school year hardly begins before another teen--this time, Nico—vanishes, shattering the town once more. While people are busy pointing fingers and trying to find some sense in the tragedies, Kendall struggles to accept the friendship of new student Jacián and deal with the mystery of what really happened to her oldest friend. It's then that, thanks to her obsessive-compulsive disorder, she observes something perplexing about both missing teens--something impossible, startling, and deadly.

Cryer's Cross is creepy, mysterious, and completely absorbing. The intimacy of McMann's small town setting makes this novel especially gripping--and foreboding. Kendall is an excellent protagonist, and her struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder not only add a whole new fascinating dimension to the story, but the way McMann uses it to uncover a vital clue to the mystery of disappearances in Cryer's Cross is brilliant. McMann also does an excellent job at portraying the relationship between Kendall and new student Jacián. At first, they hate each other, but through the circumstances of the disappearances and the tumult of emotions affecting the both of them, they slowly work up to friendship, and both are able to help each other in unexpected ways. Cryer's Cross is peppered with snatches of narrative from the force behind the disappearances, which gives the story extra urgency and suspense, so by the final chapters, you'll hardly be able to keep still. Tragic, emotional, sometimes humorous, and full of tension, Cryer's Cross is one stand-out novel and possibly Lisa McMann's best book yet.

Cover Comments: CREEPY! I love it. It's so perfect for the book, and it will have you shivering when you read the book and make the connections. So perfect.

Cryer's Cross will be out on February 8th, 2010!

ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YA Discovery Contest

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 first 250 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 of Writing 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.
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.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKSThe top 20 submissions will all be read by a panel of five judges comprised of top YA editors at MacMillanScholastic, Candlewick,  Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Penguin. The first 100 will receive free autographed copies of Writing 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 Writer magazine. ONE Grand Prize Winner will win a full manuscript reading and editorial consultation 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 WritingClasses.com/YAPitch. One entry per person; anyone age 13+ can apply. Open to the U.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), November 30th
So enter now! http://bit.ly/YAContest
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, Scholastic, Macmillan, Penguin, Harlequin, Candlewick, and Sourcebooks. In addition, they will receive a year’s subscription to The Writer magazine! 
YA literary agent Regina Brooks and her team , will read all of the entries and determine the top 20 submissions. These submissions will then be read by Nancy Mercado, Executive Editor at Roaring Brook Press(Macmillan); Nicole Raymond, Editor at Candlewick; Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at Arthur Levine Books (Scholastic); Leila Sales, Editor Viking (Penguin) Evette Porter, Editor at Harlequin and Leah Hultenschmidt, Executive Editor at Sourcebooks. These judges will whittle the top 20 down to five, and each of the five winners will be provided commentary on their submissions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Steal Alert: The Dark Divine for Less Than $3

Hey, everyone who has a fancy eReader, check this out--for a limited time, the eBook version of Bree Despain's The Dark Divine will be available for just $2.99 (and I'm pretty sure it's only $2.39 on Amazon.com....)! That's an amazing price! And quite helpful if you need to re-read the book (or read it for the first time) before The Lost Saint hits shelves in December!

If you haven't quite made up your mind about reading it yet, check out the first chapter:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Rhine lives in a world that is slowly decaying. Thanks to leaps in science and technology, scientists managed to create one perfect human generation, with an extraordinary flaw: their male offspring only live to age 25, and females to age 20. At sixteen, Rhine and her brother have managed to create a decent life for themselves, until the unthinkable happens. Rhine is kidnapped at the order of a wealthy man, and forced to marry him, along with two other girls. On the surface, their new lives are beautiful, glamorous. They have everything they want within the confines of their husband's estate. But when Rhine befriends a servant, Gabriel, and begins to dig deeper into the hidden activities of the household, what she finds terrifies her, and escape becomes paramount.

Wither is an exceptional novel that begins with a bang and doesn't let you go--it's gut-wrenching, shocking, incredible, and completely and utterly absorbing all at once. Rhine's plight will certainly elicit sympathy, and DeStefano keeps the reader on edge the entire time as she constructs Rhine's mysterious, opulent, and dangerous world. Polygamy and the lives of sister wives is a mainly uncharted area in YA fiction, but DeStefano not only makes it fascinating, but heartfelt and relatable as Rhine and her sister wives live, work, and argue, sometimes against each other, and sometimes united, trying to make sense of their lives and purpose. Rhine has the maturity of one that has had to grow up too quickly, and it makes her an insightful and absorbing narrator. She is a fighter, and despite knowing that her days are numbered, she's determined to do the only thing she can do--live on her own terms. But her determination doesn't make her mission easy--she still struggles with guilt and compassion for those that would hold her back.

Rhine's journey and her gradual unveiling of her life prior to her kidnapping will caution readers against the dangers of the pursuit of perfection, remind them of the frailty of humanity, and emphasize the importance of perseverance, faith, freedom, and of course, love. DeStefano is a fearless writer, and though it is firmly its own book, Wither will remind readers of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Cover Comments: This cover is beautiful--so perfect! The model captures the glamour and beauty of Rhine's new life, but the caged bird also expressed how trapped she really is. I also really like the title treatment--modern, and sophisticated, but yet it blends with the cover image very well.

Wither is the first in The Chemical Garden Trilogy, and will be released on March 22nd, 2011.

ARC provided by the publisher.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna Oliphant is quite unhappy when her father decides to send her to an American boarding school in Paris. Despite the allure of the famed city, she'd much rather stick around home and spend her senior year with her friends. Anna doesn't have a choice in the matter though, so off to Paris she goes, where the students, language, and city are way more intimidating than she imagined. But, she finds friends that are willing to take her under their wings, and she meets St. Clair--an American guy with a French name and gorgeous English accent, and she falls hard. But, he's taken...and things get complicated. And suddenly, Paris doesn't seem so dull after all.

Anna and the French Kiss is a positively charming, lovely, and romantic novel! Anna's voice, her Parisian boarding school, and her trepidation at exploring a foreign city are all so convincing; it's simply impossible not to fall in love with her and her story. Perkins gives such detailed and precise descriptions of Paris, it's easy to picture yourself there with Anna and her friends walking down a narrow street, or ducking into a small movie theater. At its heart, it is a love story, but Perkins includes so much more than the heart-melting kissing scenes and romantic tension that the flirty cover would suggest. She shows that love is messy and complicated through both St. Clair's and Anna's parents' failed marriages, and in their own struggles to be honest with each other. It’s a book about love and lust, and knowing when it’s right to let someone go, and when it’s worth it to keep fighting. And, it’s a book about learning how to deal, and how hard it can be when people you love change. Perkins doesn't over-do a single bit--Anna and the French Kiss is everything you could want in a romance novel, and it will stick with you for a long time--you won't regret picking it up.

Cover Comments: Oh, I love the light colors and flirty atmosphere of this cover! It's so charming!

Look for Anna in stores December 2nd, 2010!

ARC received from publisher.

Halloween Giveaway!

If you are in the mood for something a little creepy this time of year, here's your chance to win some scary books in time for Halloween.

Three winners will each receive:

All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below! And have a scary (and safe) Halloween full of lots and lots of candy!

Cover Talk: 2011, or The Year of the Pretty Awesome Covers

I judge books by their very pretty covers. Yes, I am terrible. No, I don't care. And, um, YAY for these books that come out in 2011 and their very kick-butt, creepy, and cool covers.

Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins. I love it. Very striking, very appropriate (because I've read this already and I can tell you with much authority and bias that it ROCKS). I love how they're keeping in with the reflection theme that started with Hex Hall

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann is a standalone, and completely different from her Wake trilogy. I snagged a copy at GLIBA, and I've already read it. And just, WHOA. I thought it was creepier than Wake, and I adored it. At first, I didn't understand what the picture was of...and then a lovely S&S marketing person told me it was about a girl with OCD who links two disappearances in her town to a desk that the two students both sat at...and received messages in the graffiti. Then, I was freaked out! But, seriously, you need to read this book when it comes out in February! 

Whoo, Defiance indeed! May I just say...THANK YOU, RAZORBILL! I think it they had smacked another Barbie with a boy on these covers, I might have been very upset. (That being said, I will confess that I haven't read Jealousy yet. Yes, I know. I have it, it will be read ASAP, I promise.) Oh, and the tagline, "Nobody tells Dru what to do." Totally reminds me of a certain line from Dirty Dancing...

Ooh, very seductive! I am very interested to see which direction this series will take with Entice. I loved Need and Captivate, and I had always adored Nate and Zara, and then things got complicated, and I don't know what to think now. So, yay for Entice!

Wither by Lauren DeStefano! This is another one that is going to fall under my OMG-YOU-MUST-READ-THIS category. Not only is the cover knock-out gorgeous, but the story...oh my word, the story. It is certainly its own book and story, but it really reminded me of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Only, unlike Atwood's book, this one will be followed by two more books. Yes!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reading Rants: Read This Book. Like, NOW!

So, it's not too often when I lapse into fangirl-ish episodes of adoration here on the blog, but give me the right book, and I dissolve into puddles of incoherent declarations of love. And my latest read seems to have evoked such behavior...StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce.

I loved Bunce's previous book, A Curse Dark as Gold. Nay, I adored it, treasured it, reveled in the story for weeks. Not only is it a fairy tale retelling (and you all know how I am with those; this one retells Rumpelstiltskin), but it's a beautifully written book that combines two of my favorite genres, fantasy and historical fiction, and it was breathtaking. I've recommended it to more people than I can count, and I've even fought a couple of battles for that book.

So, naturally, when I saw that Bunce was coming out with another book, I was excited (more precisely, I freaked out). And, a FANTASY! I cannot tell you how much I long for more nice, long, complicated, truly entertaining fantasies. It was thrilling.

I have to confess, I was a little confused as to how StarCrossed would play out in the first few chapters...so many characters, so many names, so many subplots... But then, I don't know...it just clicked. It made sense and the next thing I knew, I was running to class, terribly late, with my nose still stuck in the middle of it and people yelling at me to watch where I was going. And then I couldn't focus on Peter the Great as a major military figure for an hour and a half because all I could think of was of what was unfolding in a snowbound fortress in the mountains. And then my entire evening was gone, swept away in the story.

I love the sort of books that can take you away completely, can make you fall in love, and even cause you to jump up and pace with excitement, only to sit back down again and get sucked in once more. If you love those sorts of books, read StarCrossed.

Here's a preview of the first chapter to convince you!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cover Talk: Black, White, Red

I don't know about you guys, but whenever I talk about Holly Black's Curseworker's series, I've been prone to mangling the title so it's Black Cat by Holly White. And then, of course, it doesn't really help that the cover is red, white, and black. And then you throw in the title of the next book, Red Glove, in the fray, and I want to just start referring to it as "that series with cats, curses, and gloves".

But anyway, I ran across the cover for the next book, Red Glove, and the paperback cover of White Cat. You all remember my issue with cover changes in the middle of series? Yeah, it generally annoys me, but I actually am not going to complain this time around. I thought that the original cover did a very good job as a relevant, male/female friendly cover, but I like the new font even better.

I guess my only complaint is that I really liked the red mist across the model's eyes...but I've also heard that this new cover isn't final, so maybe that will still change?

And, like I mentioned above, I really like the new font, especially because I think it makes the Red Glove look a bit tougher and edgier...if you had put this girl on the cover with the old font, I'm afraid some potential readers would have dismissed it for another clichéd paranormal.

What do you all think? Is this a good change, bad change, or are you totally ambivalent?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Looking for bookshelves?

Hey everyone,

I was just talking with a couple of bloggers who were looking to solve a problem that is always recurring--where to put all of our books. It seems like every time I turn around, there are more stacks on the floor, and less room on shelves.

So, I had to tell you all (again) about CSN. It's an awesome online retailer that sells everything from drop leaf tables to office supplies, and I have gotten two of my bookshelves and my desk chair from them, and I them! They have a great selection, and their stuff is really unique! So be sure to check out csnstores.com!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers by Deborah Reber

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a life-defining question that all are faced with at some point, and for some teenage girls, it can be overwhelming. Deborah Reber strives to make sense of the many options available in today’s job market with her straightforward, informative, and fun guide, In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers.

This handy resource profiles scores of jobs, and even includes a list of options related to the job in focus, giving information and advice on over 200 available careers total. Some of the more familiar jobs are described in great detail, but there are also some that you might not know much about, including:

  • Business executive
  • Architect
  • Professional athlete
  • Talent agent
  • Relief worker
  • Museum curator
  • TV show creator
  • Systems engineer
  • Photographer
  • …and over 40 more!

With input from real-life women and Reber’s down-to-earth and engaging narrative, this book is not only easy to read, but fun too. The women profiled are all very knowledgeable, from the average person to well-known senators. Their words are inspiring, and they offer helpful advice and insight on what you need to know about their jobs.

Reber includes the “big” details pertaining to the jobs, like:

  • Daily responsibilities
  • What an average day in the life is like
  • Salaries, including numbers for those starting out, and how much one can expect to earn over time
  • Education requirements
  • Career timelines

But what makes this book stand out are the “little” things you’d like to know about, but may have a hard time learning, such as:

  • How stressful a job might be, with each job rated on a scale from 1 to 10.
  • The required dress code. Can you get away with wearing jeans, or will you be donning pumps every day?
  • Where to find a job geographically. Do you want to live in a big city, or in a quiet town? Would you have to move away from home, or is there a career available nearby?
  • A breakdown of how often you can expect to be on the phone, working along, reading materials, etc.
  • Tips on how to begin working toward your dream job right now, even as a teenager.
  • A list of related jobs in the field you might not have thought of before. Does this job sound interesting, but not quite what you want to do? Chances are that you could discover a career you never knew existed at the end of each chapter!
  • What it takes, beyond school and education. Some jobs sound fascinating, but besides an interest and the right education, do you have the passion, talent, and drive to be successful in a certain field?

Reber’s book is an excellent resource if you are looking for more details on a field you intend to pursue, or if you just want to find a sense of direction. She makes brainstorming for ideas and looking to the future fun, not intimidating. Reber will get you fired up about your future and your goals, and the hardest part about reading In Their Shoes may be picking just one job to pursue! You can read through the guide entirely or skip around, but no matter what your approach, girls and women of all ages will appreciate this helpful and motivating book.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Natalie has her senior year perfectly lined up. She'll win the student council election, become the best female president her school has seen in years, impress her favorite teacher, and get into the perfect college. And with the perfect best friend, she can do it and not have to worry about the distraction of guys. But, Natalie's plans are derailed quickly when Spencer, a promiscuous freshman, challenges Natalie's beliefs. Soon she's losing a grip on her responsibilities, her carefully laid plans, her friendships, and most surprising of all, finding herself attracted to the wrong sort of boy...is it too late for Natalie to figure out what sort of girl she is before she loses everything she's worked for?

Not That Kind of Girl is a very absorbing and interesting read that addresses the important topic of identity and expectations that teens are faced with, though it may take a little while for the reader to become absorbed in the story. At first, Natalie is a bit of a flat character--she is endlessly nice and perfect--and not much seems to be happen in the first fifty pages or so until she begins slipping and is confronted with the issue of sexuality versus empowerment and is unable to answer the question of where you draw the line between being confident in yourself and acting inappropriately. Vivian also deals with the issue of using a romantic relationship as an escape from life's issues very well, and portrays the challenges that arise with that sort of behavior. Despite a few rough passages that sound off, Not That Kind of Girl is a great book that does a great job at discussing appearances, peer pressure, and figuring out what sort of person you are without being preachy or judgmental.

Cover Comments: I like how the couple is so close but not quite touching--it somehow gives the cover a more electrifying feel than if they had been kissing! Very nice!

Review copy provided by publisher,

Not That Kind of Girl is available now, as are Siobhan Vivian's other books, A Little Friendly Advice and Same Difference! I have Same Difference, and am hoping to track down a copy of the other one very soon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena and Ethan have lived through the day that they had been dreading for months, Lena's sixteenth birthday, but not without some sacrifices. With Macon's death, Lena is depressed and lost, and there doesn't seem to be anything that Ethan can do to help her, despite his own experiences with grief. Then Lena begins pulling away and taking risks, and Ethan, still not aware of what really happened to him the night of Lena's birthday, can't understand why. So he digs deeper into Caster lore and his mother's research to look for a way to save Lena and what they have before it's too late. But once you've entered the Caster world, you can never go back, and some secrets Ethan uncovers will put him and everyone he loves in far more danger than he can imagine.

Beautiful Darkness is a very detailed and layered sequel that won't disappoint fans of Beautiful Creatures. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's world is vivid and rich, with an old south backdrop, lore, and traditions--the setting is really what sets their work apart from the endless options in the paranormal genre. Though it picks up where Beautiful Creatures leaves off, the book covers a good amount of time as Lena and Ethan struggle with conflicting feelings about the night of Lena's birthday, the consequences, and the grief each are experiencing. Ethan's voice is especially strong in this installment, as he has to stand on his own and discovers a whole new world right beneath his own nose. Garcia and Stohl also introduce a few new characters that add new tension between the main characters and open the way to new, surprising secrets about Caster powers and the battle of Light vs. Dark. All the twists, secrets, and surprises culminate in a journey through the Caster tunnels and a suspenseful showdown between family members that will leave some dead, and some very much alive. There might be some confusion as to who is left standing at the end, but one thing is for certain: this story is not over, and readers still have another deliciously thick and dark gothic book to look forward to.

Cover Comments: I am in love with the title treatment! So cool! And I like this background--the steps are very relevant as you learn a lot more about the caster tunnels in this book!

ARC received from publisher.