The Compulsive Reader: July 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eve by Anna Carey

Eve is the best and the brightest of her graduating class at the School. She's confident that she'll have a promising future as an artist beyond the contained walls of School, where her real life will start. But her dreams are rudely disrupted the night before graduation, when she learns the truth about what happens to girls after graduation—nothing but a miserable future strapped to a bed and producing children to repopulate their post-apocalyptic world. Devastated and terrified, Eve flees School into the wilds of what used to be the western United States. There, she meets Caleb, the first male she's seen in over ten years. Despite being a bit rough around the edges and the lies that the teachers told her at School, Caleb becomes a friend and ally, and the two dare to imagine a better future, despite the viscous world that's bent on prying them apart.

Eve's story is a compelling and terrifying one, and Anna Carey does an excellent job at constructing a creepy, cut-throat, and desolate setting out of the remains of the American society. This is a book full of tragedy, as Eve's dreams are shattered and she discovers a tough world full of victimized orphans just trying to survive, but also one of strength. Eve, despite all of her book learning, is put to the test in every way imaginable when she flees into the wilderness and is forced to learn how to survive, how to interact with males for the first time, and realizes the importance of having an education, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. She's a capable character who goes through a lot, but adapts quickly, while still making some inevitable mistakes that readers can empathize with. The importance and complexity of relationships is shown in her tenuous connection to Arden, a caustic fellow classmate at the School who has some secrets of her own, and in Eve and Caleb's cautious friendship that slowly morphs into the expected romance. Eve is an absorbing novel about self-discovery and growing up with some smart and effective pop culture references and high-stakes action sequences that will keep you on the edge of your seat and steal your breath away.

Cover Comments: I like the cover and interesting mix of colors. It's different, but appealing. The bridge does hold some significance in the story, so I like that it's included, and that what lies on the other side is shrouded in the mist. I guess the only thing I really object to is the odd position of the model's left arm...it just looks really awkward to me.

This one will be available on October 4th, 2011, but don't worry--you'll definitely be hearing more about this one between now and then.

ARC picked up at the HarperCollins event during BEA week.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cover Talk: The Fever Cover Reveal!

So, one of my favorite dystopia releases this year was Wither by Lauren DeStefano. (You can read my review here.) It was gorgeous, dark, thrilling, and a bit horrifying in some ways, and it reminded me of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I've been eagerly awaiting the second book in the trilogy, Fever, and the full cover has finally been revealed!

I have to admit, I am so intrigued. The style is very similar to the Wither cover, in what the model is wearing, what she looks like, and her pose, but the contents of what appear to be a children's room fascinate me. I can't wait to see how it all plays into the book! I'm sure there's some significance to it, what with the way children are such a commodity in this series, and with how Wither ended. I can't wait to read about it!

What do you all think?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peeta and Gale in the Flesh

Check out this cover of Entertainment Weekly, with the actors who are playing Gale and Peeta in the Hunger Games movie, which is scheduled to release in March. As I only sort of follow all of the movie news, this was the first time I had seen the actors. They aren't exactly what I pictured in my head, but that's all right--they're going to represent the characters well, I think.

What do you think about them?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Away by Teri Hall

Away is the sequel to The Line! Read my review of that one here.

When Rachel decided to help Pathic, the stranger from the other side of the Line, she never imagined that she'd find herself retreating to Away with him and his strange group. But she is forced to flee when danger arrives to the Property. Rachel isn't in Away for very long before she meets the Others, who she discovers are people just like those she grew up with, struggling to make it in a harsh world. She's shocked and overjoyed to learn that they know her father, Daniel...and that he is still alive. But reuniting her family--and Pathic's--with the Enforcement Officers on their trail will be harder than Rachel imagined. Is anywhere safe?

Teri Hall packs a lot of action in this sequel to The Line. Away is constantly shifting viewpoints and settings to propel this suspenseful read forward. There's a lot of angst going on in the beginning as Rachel, desperate for a link to the mother she just left, pursues any news of her father, and Vivian struggles to deal with Rachel's departure and the stress of the Enforcement Officers putting the Property under scrutiny. There are some very interesting new characters introduced, with varied and even dangerous "gifts" that border on the supernatural. Some just are understandably upset and angry at the Unified States, and by extension, Rachel, so emotions tend to run high throughout the story. The same themes of courage in the face of injustice continue in Away, though a newer and stronger one of balancing the discovery of new love and the loss of loved ones in life is very prevalent. As the book winds toward the end, the plot speeds up considerably, and Rachel and company begin to make new plans and take new journeys that take them far away, and will leave readers hanging. This is a series whose books read more like episodes in a longer installment, so it's great for reluctant teen readers who may be easily distracted, but the constant tension and continuous action will keep them enthralled.

Cover Comments: I just love this cover. The colors, the images, and the font are all so cool. I love the implications of the shattered glass and the dual images, and what they mean for this book.

This one will hit shelves on September 15th, 2011.

ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Steal Alert: 13 Awesome YA Titles Under $4

Amazon.com is kicking off another huge Kindle book sale called The Big Deal, with tons and tons of Kindle books $3.99 or less. I went through all the YA titles on sale, and picked out 13 I thought you might be interested in (and somehow managed to only buy one myself):

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta is the author of Jellicoe Road, which blew my mind with its awesome-ness. I'm excited to read her fantasy novel!

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan

Okay, despite the rather lame title, I really did enjoy this one and its sequels. It's a very imaginative and funny book with a great male protagonist.

Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

If you're looking for a supernatural read, check out this vampire series!

Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

Written by a brother and sister, this is a retelling of Faust, with some very peculiar teens at the center of the story.

Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

This was an awesome, unique book about pirates, reincarnation, destiny, and the lives of dogs. I definitely recommend it. Click here to read my review.

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

This book about some very different sorts of angels was buzzed about at Book Blogger Con. And if you're not sure about purchasing it, you can get a free digital chapter sampler.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

An oldie, but a goodie. I love the Princess Diaries series so much...if you haven't started them, DO SO NOW!

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

So, you've just finished Forever and you're moaning about how The Scorpio races isn't coming out yet...well, pick up Maggie's first, much over-looked book. I liked it a lot. Read my review here.

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Similarly, if you're waiting on Chain Reaction, here's something else by Simone Elkeles to keep you occupied.

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

This looks like an interesting fantasy book--I have a print copy of it that I am going to read soon!

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney

Here's another supernatural book that seems to be popular among YA bloggers!

Breathless by Jessica Warman

I haven't read this one yet, but it looks good, and Warman's other book, Between, was getting loads of hype at BEA!

Happy reading!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Legend Trailer!

So, another book that was buzzed about at BEA this past May was Legend, by Marie Lu. It has a pretty cool cover (that actually reminds me of The Hunger Games and Divergent) and I think it sounds pretty cool too. Cool enough to brave some crazy crowds and get elbowed in the head for (I wish I was joking).

I stumbled upon the Facebook page for this series, and I found the trailer. Now, besides the fact that voices are a little bit cheesy, I like this video--short, affecting, and to the point.

What do you think? This one comes out November 29th, 2011.

Cover Talk: Elizabeth Scott's Latest

I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Scott (I about died when I randomly met her in May), and what I really, really love about her is that in the past, we've always been able to expect 2-3 books a year from her, which is like, heaven. This spring, she released Between Here and Forever (my review here), which was awesome, but I am pumped for this fall's release, As I Wake, which comes out September 15th. (Follow that link and show it some love on Amazon...I can't believe that I'm the only person to "like" that book!)

First off, here's the cover:

Pretty awesome, right? I love the way the girl is hiding her face, and how her hair turns into smoke...so cool. It's very edgy and intriguing, from the use of colors, to just the amount of skin she's showing. The orange pops, and I like how this is a cover that doesn't have just three hues; there's a lot of shadows, the orange is in varying shades, and there's a lot of depth. 

I also confess to a bit of a fascination with books pertaining to amnesia. Here's what this one is about:
"Ava is welcomed home from the hospital by a doting mother, lively friends, and a crush finally beginning to show interest. There's only one problem: Ava can't remember any of them--and can't shake the eerie feeling that she's not who they say she is. 
Ava struggles to break through her amnesiac haze as she goes through the motions of high-school life, but the memories that surface take place in a very different world, where Ava and familiar-faced friends are under constant scrutiny and no one can be trusted. Ava doesn't know what to make of these visions, or of the boy who is at the center of them all, until he reappears in her life and offers answers . . . but only in exchange for her trust."
Okay, so I love the sound of this one, where not everything is as it seems, and the struggle is more mental and emotional than physical. And knowing Elizabeth Scott and the amazing books she has written, I'm confident that she'll pull this one off in a manner that will surprise and impress us all!

Also, since I mentioned my weird fascination with amnesia stories and such, I feel it's also pertinent to inform you all that if I ever hit my hand and have amnesia, put the Harry Potter books in my hands so I can get that "first time" reading experience again. That's all I ask. Thank you.

Anyway, back to Elizabeth Scott and As I Wake...what do you think of the cover? Are you excited for this one?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Kate Grable is shocked to find a multitude of unmarked vials in the medicine cabinet in the football coach's office at her high school. As assistant trainer to the football team and an aspiring doctor, she's well aware of the danger of unknown substances, and she knows that something isn't quite right. But before she can report anything, team members are being injected, and the side effects are quite...zombie-like. Not only does this strange illness give everyone infected a taste for brains, but it's also extremely contagious, and as the first person to realize this, Kate takes it upon herself to find a cure—and quick—before it spreads to her friends, her brother, and her crush, quarterback Aaron.

Bad Taste in Boys is a hysterically funny novel with a savvy and kick-butt heroine. Kate Grable is smart, sarcastic, and driven, so she doesn't waste any time in trying to help the infected when the virus breaks loose among the members of the football team. Her eagerness to help out puts her quickly on the mystery of the drug's origin, which leads to some surprising revelations. She's helped out along the way by friends, her crush Aaron, who definitely seems interested in her, and her younger brother Jonah, whom Kate is very close to. Their relationship is funny, exasperating (as brothers are), and even a little sweet as they work together, fighting zombies and keeping the truth from their father. The zombies are depicted as slow (yet no less frightening) and a bit comical, with good amounts of blood, gore, and guts, all of which Kate combats with courage and no small amount of nerdiness. I'm not really sure what I want more...Kate Grable as my personal zombie protector, or my best friend—preferably both

Cover Comments: Though this cover doesn't scream, "Zombies! Gore! Missing appendages!" it really is cool. The sugar lips against the dark background are striking, and I like the pink tones! Very awesome!

Review copy provided by publisher.

And, one of my favorite pictures of Carrie Harris:

Signed and bitten by Carrie Harris.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Carrie Harris' Launch Party!

Today Carrie Harris had a launch party at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, MI to celebrate the release of her hilarious and kick-butt book, Bad Taste in Boys!

First, we went out to lunch at a nearby restaurant with Carrie, her ninja doctor husband, Aimee Carter (author of The Goddess Test), and some fun librarians, bloggers, and teachers. We talked about a variety of things, including zombies, nanotecnology (which is in Carrie's next book, Bad Hair Day), the most offensive picture book ever, high school required reading, and Amy Winehouse. Also, our waitress was delightful...she kept calling us all "baby", and we would have loved to bring her with us to the bookstore. She also told Carrie it was a good thing that she was married to a ninja doctor because she needed help. It was quite lovely.

Then, the bookstore! Nicola's is an adorable little independent store with a GREAT selection of books! If you're ever in the Ann Arbor area, I definitely recommend stopping by! It's not too far from downtown.

Yay for Carrie! This greeted you the minute you walked through the door!

The zombie unicorn dress!

Here Carrie is signing a book for Valerie!

The zombie-licious door prize. It included a zombie shooting range kit. For real.

Carrie and I!

Signed and bitten by Carrie Harris.

Here's a random picture...this is a poster signed by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of The Shadow of the Wind. My heart did a little flip when I saw it, for real.

Anyway, there you are! The event was fun, it was so fun meeting some new people, and I am so glad that Bad Taste in Boys is out in the world so you all can read it! Go read it now! It's very funny! Review will be up sometime tomorrow!

And also visit carrieharrisbooks.com for more last minute info on her huge release virtual event, Night of the Giving Dead! Also, Carrie has one of the coolest websites ever, so CHECK IT OUT!

Monster Party!

Carrie Harris, awesome author of the fabulous and funny book Bad Taste is Boys, is having her launch party today! Definitely expect pictures and fun later, but in the meantime...if you're in the Ann Arbor, MI area and want to come out and see her, be at Nicola's Books at 2 PM! It's going to be awesome! Carrie will be wearing a zombie unicorn dress, and zombie pumps. You know you want to see that.

And if you can't make it at all, follow me on Twitter (I'm @compelledtoread!) for all the fun updates and pictures! O'll tweet the whole thing with my Crackberry. Except the parts where I'm driving, which is boring and illegal anyway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Forever Blog Tour: The Character of Beck

Hey everyone,

The release of Forever, the final book in the Shiver trilogy, was huge deal to me. I just love this series for its complicated and fascinating characters, and one of those is Beck, Sam's foster father and the human leader of the wolf pack. He's a pretty enigmatic guy, and if you've read Forever yet, you know that there's a lot of drama and speculation about his past and the decisions he made as Sam and Cole view the same man very differently. Is he a generally good guy who once made a grave mistake, or has Sam never truly seen the real Beck? Just who is he and how did he get where he is now? All are very important questions in this wonderful finale.

Maggie Stiefvater has created a character sketch and playlist to go along with Beck, so please check it out!

1. Where Have You Been? - Manchester Orchestra

2. 9 Crimes - Damien Rice

3. Blue Carousel - Vyvienne Long

4. Ungodly Hour - The Fray

5. Flames - Vast

6. A Clock is Ticking - Snow Patrol

7. Never Bloom Again - The Perishers

8. First Floor People - Barcelona

9. Vökuró - Björk

10. Heimkehrerlied - Peterlicht

If you want to read my review of Forever, please click here.
And as always, you can check out more awesome books at the This Is Teen page!
Finally...I have a pretty cool contest here. One winner will receive an original framed sketch of Beck, done by Maggie Stiefvater! Pretty neat, huh? Just fill out the form below.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Classics Corner: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I've been wanting to do a post about the awesome-ness that is Jane Eyre ever since I re-read the book...six months ago. Well, better late than never. And we know Jane is pretty darn awesome if she's managed to stay so popular for so long.

I feel like I need to stick a disclaimer on this post and let you know that even though I think Jane is a rocking protagonist now...I didn't always think so. I used to LOATHE this book. I couldn't stand trying to get through it, and I thought Mr. Rochester was the biggest you-know-what on the planet. Then I re-read the book for a class six months ago, and now I am in love with Jane. So, moral of the day: sometimes you need to wait four or five years to re-read classics because then you might like them.

So, Jane Eyre. She's an orphan. The whole world has turned its back on her. She's a plain, book-ish, intelligent, and rebellious child at the complete mercy of her relatives...which is basically the most undesirable position a girl can be in during 19th century England. She ticks off her aunt and amidst some odd supernatural-esque activity (didn't expect that, did you?), and gets herself shipped off to Lowood, a boarding school for girls.

But this isn't a nice girls' school, or a Hogwarts experience Jane Eyre style. This school is poorly managed by one dictator of a guy who singles Jane out to humiliate her, is hardly funded, and all of the girls are in similar positions to Jane's. There, she meets Helen Burns, who is appropriately saint-like, and finds a nice teacher, Miss Temple, and finds her motivation to become a good pupil and Make Something of Herself. Fast forward to the future, Jane is now a teacher at Lowood, but she's restless and wants another job. Which is how she finds herself at Thornfield Hall, the governess of Mr. Rochester's ward, Adele.

Jane loves Adele, Adele loves Jane, Jane loves Thornfield...but weird things happen. Like, Mr. Rochester is uncommonly interested in her opinion and conversing with her. There are strange noises in the attic. There's this crazy lady, Grace Poole, who laughs a lot, and not in the happy way. And then Jane does the unthinkable: she starts to fall in love with Mr. Rochester, even though she knows that he could never love her back. But through dinner parties, haughty ladies, crazy-sounding mediums, midnight attacks, arson, and pleasant walks in the gardens, Jane carries her love, and...finds out Mr. Rochester loves her back. They're going to get married. Life is beautiful.

And then Jane finds out what's really going on in the attic at Thornfield Hall.

I would come out and say it because I think it's pretty obvious to anyone in the English-speaking world what Mr. Rochester's secret is, but if I learned anything while reading this book for my lit class, it's that cultural literacy isn't as strong as I thought, and I hate a spoiler. So, he has a secret. You probably know it. For those of you who don't, go read Jane Eyre for heavens' sake!

So, this secret devastates Jane (and pisses her off), so she leaves Thornfield and a broken-hearted Rochester. She struggles a lot, but falls in with some good people. She has the chance to make a good life for herself. She might even take the chance. Until some more supernatural-esque stuff goes down, and she must decide if she wants to make a go at this new life, or go back and find out what happened to Rochester, whom she still loves very much. And that is where I'll leave you.

So, a lot of reactions to Jane and this book are, "She's so dumb! She never does anything!" or "She only cares about love," or "This novel is sexist." To which I say, "Whaaaaaaat???"

Not. True. Here's why I love Jane so much:

  • She's smart--even as a child. She's got a spark and a bit of a temper, but she knows how to take care of herself.
  • She's resilient. She goes through a lot of crap early on in her life, but she pulls through and finds happiness. Then, she goes through more drama at Thornfield, but she makes a new life for herself once more.
  • She's forgiving. It's hard for her early on in the book, but ultimately she does learn the value of forgiveness, which is an extremely important (and hard) lesson for everyone of us.
  • She's curious. She's not a passive person and she doesn't let things just happen--which is good. Her curiosity and activity save more than one person's life.
  • She's unconventional. She doesn't really believe in religion (which I'm not saying is good), and she questions the conventions of life. There's a reason this book was controversial when it was first published.
  • She doesn't sacrifice her values, no matter what. Even if she has issues with religion, she knows that staying with Rochester is wrong, no matter how much they both want it. She goes through a lot of pain and inconveniences so she can live a life that she can look back on and be proud of her actions, and that's AWESOME.
  • She gets her happy ending on her OWN terms.
Don't mess with Jane.
These are all very good reasons to read this book, but here are some practical ones as to why you might want to pick this up for your school project...it's a sentimental novel, which means that it is BRIMMING with meanings and not-so-hidden metaphors. This one has a lot of good stuff to work with if you need to analyze it. A LOT. It's a bit of a long read (though, if you're like me, get it for free on your e-reader and you can read it even faster), but if you get through Jane's Lowood experience, it'll be a breeze--it'll suck you right in, I promise.

Now, go get it. Read it, read it, read it! If not for school or for all the reasons I've listed above, but so that I don't make you mad when I talk about Rochester's big secret on this blog, because I swear to you, this is the only spoiler-free zone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chain Reaction Trailer!

One of the cool things about Simone Elkeles' first two Perfect Chemistry books is that they are not only awesome, but they arrived with good trailers. Perfect Chemistry (my review here) has a bit of an ironic, satirical one, and then the Rules of Attraction (my review here) trailer is like a mini-movie. I have high hopes for the final book in the trilogy, Chain Reaction, which hits stores next month, and I was excited to see the premiere of the trailer on figment.com yesterday! Check it out:

While I like about these trailers is that they aren't like many out there (I mean, they're a little cheesy, but mainly I like that they're a bit sexy...so what, don't hold it against me), and they really get you hyped up for the book. If you're like me and can't wait for Chain Reaction, watch this blog next month for the official Chain Reaction blog tour! It should be fun!

What do you think about these books? Are you a fan? Excited for the final book?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cover Talk: Cinder Cover Reveal

Author Marissa Meyer is doing something that I think is pretty awesome: she's writing a four book series called The Lunar Chronicles, which takes classic fairy tales and re-imagines them in a sci-fi setting far into the future. So. Unbelievably. Awesome.

The first book is going to be Cinder (based off of...you guessed...Cinderella), and it will be released in January! The cover reveal was today on the MacKids blog, where they were posting some pretty funny "rejected" covers. But, here is the final cover:

What do you all think? I like the leg with all the mechanical bits and the red shoe...I just am not a fan of the title font. However, despite the fact that I am a cover junkie, this one sounds better than it looks, and I'm excited for it! Here's the description:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.
Also, thanks to Rachael, blogger at thebookmuncher.com and marketing intern extraordinaire at Macmillan, for basically hyping me up all day long with her emails about how awesome this book is!

Frost by Marianna Baer

Leena is excited to start her senior year at boarding school—this year she'll be rooming at a small place, Frost House, with her best friends, instead of in some huge dorm. Her happiness is dampened slightly when Celeste Lazar is placed with them as well. Celeste is weird and caustic, and Leena is finding it difficult to get along with her, despite her developing friendship with Celeste's brother, David. But Leena bites her tongue and puts up with Celeste with a smile...until Celeste's behavior becomes seriously weird, and she starts claiming that there is something in Frost House that is messing with her. So then the question remains: is Celeste right about Frost House, or is she going crazy?

Frost is a creepy and atmospheric that preys on the uncertainty of its characters, and the reader. This New England boarding school in the fall is the perfect setting for the book as Leena starts the school year off feeling totally at ease within Frost House and eager for the year to begin, but Celeste's discomfort and agitation is immediate. The strange happenings in their bedroom and closet seem only odd at first, and not threatening, but as the weeks go on, the tension in the house begins to tear apart at everything—the roommates' friendships, the tenuous peace between Leena and Celeste, Leena's growing relationship with David, and Leena's schoolwork and ambition. The added element of Celeste and David's mentally ill father keeps readers on edge, wondering if Celeste is or isn't crazy, until the matter is decided, leaving all the residents of Frost House in danger. Frost is fantastic debut, with wonderful character and plot development, dialogue, and some seriously suspenseful and intense scenes. This dangerous book is not to be missed.

Cover Comments: I like the creepy looking house on the cover, and the colors used here--perfect. I thought that the way the girl is looking up, with her hands positioned the way they are, was a little odd, but it's grown on me. I like the cover.

Frost will be available on September 13th, 2011. You can pre-order it here.

ARC picked up at BEA.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reading Rants: Why Faith in YA is Important

The question of the importance of faith in YA books was brought to my attention last night when, after posting my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (which was so glowing, a blind person could see the light), I got over 15 individual comments, tweets, and emails that basically went like this: "Oh, it sounds good, but I don't know about the religion, so I probably won't read it."

That about killed me because The Girl of Fire and Thorns is probably one of the best books I've read so far this year, and for people to dismiss it because some form of religion was in it seems so baseless and silly. As I mentioned after the review, there are a lot of really popular fantasy and science-fiction books out there with some sort of religion unique to the setting, so why is this book any different in the reactions it is receiving?

I can appreciate that not everyone is religious, and as a Christian girl who grew up attending a Lutheran private school, I'm very used to dealing with people telling me they disagree with my beliefs, or that my faith is wrong or misplaced. People disagreeing with me is fine. But what I can't seem to understand is why in the YA genre, where every other subject is no longer taboo, faith is too often pushed to the side. Books with faith in them, in general, receive the reactions that I received upon the posting of my review, and so many people simply won't give them a try.

We've always said that YA is about exploring those subjects that are hard, that are difficult to talk about, that have to deal with learning and growing up. And like it or not, religion plays into that. I believe that a very integral part of your teenage years is deciding what you believe. And when it comes to deciding what you believe, religion is taken into consideration.

Another thing that perturbs me is the intolerance I've encountered. Just because you've decided that you want nothing to do with religion doesn't mean that you shouldn't give books that have elements of it a try. And I do realize that this is a very subjective issue, but it just bothers me to see perfectly good books dismissed because they might mention a god. I'm a Christian, but I really do find it fascinating to read books with Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, and any other religious characters. They're a part of our society and culture, and I believe it's important to know more about them and their customs, even if I might disagree with their faith. Not every writer who writes about religion has some secret agenda to shove their beliefs down your throat, or try to convert you, despite the growing amount of bad press that those people receive.

The bottom line: It's okay to disagree with others' beliefs...it's not so cool to be intolerant or ignorant. Keep an open mind, be willing to read and learn about new things, and don't pass up a good book because there might be a trace of religion in it.

I'm going to be compiling a list of books that have to do with faith and religion--any religion--over the next couple of days, which I'll post here. What do you all think about faith in YA? Is it important? Which books have you read and enjoyed that have dealt with faith and religion?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is the second princess of Orovalle, and has always felt inferior to her beautiful, intelligent, and politically capable older sister. But surprisingly, it's Elisa who is arranged to be married to the young king of the great country of Joya d'Arena, a situation Elisa is quite unprepared for. She may be bookish and religious rather than imperious and confident, but Elisa does have one thing that her sister does not: the Godstone. Given to her on her naming day and destining her for a great act of service, the Godstone leads Elisa on a journey full of danger, love, and surprising outcomes that she never could have foreseen.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a magnificent fantasy debut, and it's hard to say which is more spectacular: the setting, or heroine Elisa. Carson's world is so vibrant and three-dimensional, with wonderful descriptions of the food, decoration, language, mannerisms, and lifestyles of the people of Orovalle and those from all over Joya d'Arena. Everything has a wonderful Spanish influence that makes this tale unique and authentic. These lands also have their own religion, a bit akin to Christianity, which ties in with the Godstone Elisa carries and is a prominent part of the story. Elisa herself is a lovely character to observe as she starts off her adventure an insecure, plump girl uncertain about her future and her place in Joya d'Arena. She combats those feelings with pastries and self-deprecating humor, unsure of how to act despite her intelligence. Circumstances beyond her control rip her from comfortable surroundings a second time, and this time Elisa is forced to face her unwanted future and duties, beginning a transformation into the powerful, incisive leader that was lurking beneath her surface the entire time. Elisa's mistakes and doubt about her destiny as the bearer of the Godstone are quite similar to the doubts we all face in life, making her a very sympathetic character, and all the more likable when she triumphs over her own indecision and the real enemies she faces.

There are also many different and interesting supporting characters in this book that make Elisa's journey complicated and rather entertaining: Cosme and Humberto, enemies who aren't at all what they first appear to be, Alejandro, Elisa's husband who is a stranger to her, and Lord Hector, guard and surprising ally to Elisa in her new foreign home. Their presence complicates and lightens the story in different manners, and each one teaches Elisa important lessons about life and being a leader. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a beautiful and impeccably written novel, with heart, suspense, action, betrayal, and triumph--all of the makings of a truly epic fantasy.

Cover Comments: I really love this cover! I like how the blue stone is on the cover, like the Godstone, and how it shows the girl's reflection, and the magical feel to the images surrounding the stone. Also, the font for the title is just awesome. This is a beautiful cover!

This one will be released on September 20th, 2011! I can hardly wait!

ARC picked up at HarperCollins event.

ETA: I'm getting a lot of feedback from readers who are put off by the religion in the book. I compared it to Christianity in my review, but it IS NOT Christianity. It has some similar elements, but it is its own religion, unique to this fantasy world. I definitely encourage you to pick this book up and not let any worries about religion deter you. I also think that it's beneficial to remind you all that many great fantasy reads have their own form of religion--Tamora Pierce's Tortall books do, Elizabeth C. Bunce's StarCrossed does...it's just another element that makes the world more realistic, and it doesn't necessarily reflect any religion known in our world. So, let's keep an open mind, okay? Don't miss out on an AMAZING book because you are unsure about one element of the plot.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cover Talk: Shatter Me Cover Reveal

Twitter was all abuzz this morning over the cover reveal of Tahereh Mafi's debut, Shatter Me, on the MTV website. This one was HUGE at BEA! We got ARCs without a cover image and some very imposing font, so everyone's been wondering what will be shown at the cover reveal. And not having read the book yet, I didn't quite know what to expect. But, check it out:

I don't think I was expecting something quite so shiny, but I like it! It's ethereal and imposing and it really conveys a sense of power. I definitely think this is one that will catch eyes in bookstores!

What do you think of the cover? I'm thinking I might have to move this one up on my TBR list...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perfect Reading Accessories!

While at Book Blogger Convention in May, I discovered Lightwedge, a source for reading accessories of all kinds, for print or e-reading. They have accessories for lots of different devices, and some really cool book lights.

I picked up this cool little book light at the convention, and I like it a lot because it's super lightweight, it clips easily on to my paperback, hardcover, or Kindle (without scratching it!), and the light isn't too bright for my Kindle screen. I've taken it with me on a few flights (I always seem to have a seat partner who gets annoyed when I want to turn my light on, and anyway, that light is really weak in a dark plane) and it's just so handy.

Lightwedge has a LOT of different lights and other cool things as well, and I am in love with these book lights right here, which come in all sorts of designs (and they're not just girly, so guys can find one they like too). And the cool thing about these ones? They roll up and snap into the clip so you can store it easily. Plus, it's only $10!

Lightwedge is running a deal for bloggers and their readers now...so check out the website and see what you can get 25% off! I can't recommend their book lights enough. I have never had one that is so versatile and convenient...I just love it!

UNrequired Reading Contest!

Unrequired Reading is what Disney Hyperion is all about this summer, and after long semesters of reading countless books, essays, and poems I am required to analyze and pick apart in class, I am SO with them!

This is their second summer of promoting awesome books that you can relax with, and some of this year's titles are From Bad to Cursed (sequel to Bad Girls Don't Die...read my review here), Uncommon Criminals (sequel to Heist Society...my review here), and The Near Witch, which I totally recommend that you check out.

In the meantime, "Like" their Facebook page for tons of cool news and updates here (especially about Ally Carter's books)!

And...I have a contest for you all! One lucky winner will receive an UNrequired Reading water bottle and a deck of cards. Check it out:

These are AWESOME! I love the deck of cards, and the water bottle is cute and durable. These are perfect to take with you to the beach, pool, park, on a road trip, whatever! 

So, all you have to do enter is fill out this form and let me know what you're reading this summer that ISN'T on your required reading list! This contest will end on July 27th, 2011!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Libros en España!

While in Spain, I had the lovely opportunity to visit a couple of bookstores! It was such a fun experience, and it was really fascinating to see what sort of books were available in their YA sections. I'd say that in all three bookstores I visited, half of the YA selection was by Spanish authors I'd never heard of before, and half were translations by American or British authors. Here are some pictures from the first bookstore I visited in Madrid:

Shiver and Linger! Aren't those covers awesome? Dare I say it, but I think I like them better than the American ones...

And, here's Wake by Lisa McMann. This title, Sueña, means "dream".

Matched! The Spanish title, Juntos, means "together".

Beautiful Creatures! This one and Beautiful Darkness were in every bookstore I went into, and their spines and covers REALLY stood out!

And of course, The Hunger Games and Mockingjay! These books have taken over the world! 

And here are Alyson Noel's books and Ruby Red AND Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier! The fact that Sapphire Blue was available in Spanish and not English is killing me! I almost bought it, but didn't, and now I'm wishing that I had! I really just need it to be translated into English and available for Kindle NOW!

And here are the Vampire Academy books! Yay, Richelle Mead!

A Sarah Dessen book! This Spanish title translates to A Song for You, and the book is This Lullaby. And you can sorta see a House of Night book on the left!

Cassandra Clare's books!

Here's Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, with a Lauren Kate book chilling next to it!

And look what I found in a bookstore window when walking around Salamanca:

It's The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg! I was just randomly walking with some friends when it caught my attention. It was sadly siesta time and the store was closed, but I totally went back that evening to check out the bookstore. I bought a copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Prince of the Mist (El principe de la niebla), which is available here in English, along with its sequel, The Midnight Palace. At the last minute, I decided to get this one as well, but I made the bookstore owner REALLY angry! I had been talking with him about how I was American and from Michigan, and how I wanted to start reading books in Spanish to help me improve. I had read some of Zafon's work before and was really excited to be reading a YA book written first in Spanish. He told me that was the best way to learn, so when I grabbed this book, he got upset because it was a translation, and he insisted that it would be harder for me to read it. I thought he was overreacting a bit, and that he should just be happy I was buying two books and not one. (And let me tell you, those books AREN'T CHEAP.) But, oh well. Turns out he was right. I brought back Shiver (Temblor) as well, and the easiest to read so far is Prince of the Mist, which I haven't even read in English yet--go figure.

I also visited another bookstore in Salamanca, but the owner there DID NOT like the fact that I wanted to sneak some pictures, even after I tried explaining I had a blog about YA books and they were for a blog post. I don't know what he thought I'd do with them! That store was the biggest, but it didn't have quite as many YA books. I noticed Beautiful Creatures, and a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which was pretty neat.

YA books are kind of expensive there. I brought two paperbacks and a hardcover, and they each cost around 15 to 17 euros, which is approximately $21-$25. Ouch! I don't know how prices compare in other foreign countries, but for foreign YA readers--you have my sympathies! (However, some of you, stop emailing me and begging for illegal digital copies of books--not gonna happen!)

All in all, it was an interesting experience, and I would have loved to have connected with some passionate YA readers from Spain to just talk about YA trends and what's popular over there, but sadly it didn't happen.

I am, however, interested in any recommendations anyone can give me of books written in Spanish that aren't translations. If they're YA, even better. I know of Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Isabel Allende, but sadly that's about it. I have to agree with the bookstore clerk and his assessment that you learn more reading books originally written in the target language, so I definitely want more! Let me know if you know of any in the comments!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

For months, Tom Culpeper has had it out for the wolves. And now he is finally going to do something about them. Sam has finally been "cured", and now he stays human...but now it's Grace who is unstable, and this time she is the wolf in danger in the woods. When Sam and Cole get word of the hunt that Culpeper has orchestrated to finally kill the wolves, they know there's no way to stop him. And so they're forced, with Isabel's somewhat reluctant help, to somehow find a way to not only understand the virus that makes them turn into wolves, but save the entire pack.

Maggie Stiefvater is at her very best here. With equal parts action, romance, and moral contemplation, Forever is a lyrical and breathtaking conclusion. The excellent character development in Linger continues into this finale: Sam is forced to face the looming unknown of the future much quicker than he'd like, and become a leader, sometimes without the support of Grace. Grace has Sam, and has finally grasped onto the independence she's been fighting for—but at a large cost. Isabel, despite desperately not wanting to care about the wolves, and sometimes even her new friends, finds herself helping them in ways that could drive a wedge even further between her and her family. And Cole is forced to accept who he has become, for all his failures and successes, and work incredibly hard to create and preserve a new life for himself.

Along the way, both Cole and Sam are at odds with each other and how they view Beck and his actions, both good and bad, and are forced to live and work together to find a way to save the pack. Some unexpected characters step in, and other unseen forces work against the characters, culminating in an ending that is a suspenseful race against time, with some less than perfect consequences. Forever finishes out perfectly, with a note of finality but an open future for the characters of this intensely beautiful trilogy.

Cover Comments: As always, the Wolves of Mercy Falls covers are gorgeous! The red has grown on me, and I like this depiction of Sam and Grace. Beautiful.

ARC picked up at BEA!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Ever night, London's memory resets, and she is unable to remember anything from her past. Instead, her only "memories" are of what will happen in her future. Life isn't easy for London, but she has a supportive mother and best friend, and diaries filled with notes and memories to remember her past, so she gets by. Then she meets Luke. He's not in any of her future memories, yet she encounters him day after day, until he's her boyfriend. London might be willing to overlook this strange occurrence, except she keeps having strange and tragic dreams that don't seem to fit into her future. Now London is forced to face the fact that with Luke, she is beginning to remember a painful past that's been long forgotten.

Cat Patrick's Forgotten is a strange, twisty tale that keeps you thinking and guessing all the way through. London's memory issues are fascinating, along with her knowledge of her own future and her routines to get herself through the days. And Luke is a pretty fantastic character—he's understanding, funny, and cool, even when he doesn't understand London's behavior, which can be pretty peculiar at times. London sees him as if it's the first time every morning, which can be an interesting perspective and makes their relationship even more entertaining. The book does turn a bit mysterious and foreboding as London begins to have memories of a funeral and must figure out when in time it is set and who it was that died. She also grapples with the idea that she can't change those memories she does have of the future, but she does slowly begin to take charge of her life when she realizes that her new memories are from the past, and perhaps she doesn't have to live the way she does for the rest of her life.

Though the ending is a bit too rushed and doesn't allow the reader nearly enough time to wrap their head around the conclusion, Forgotten does have such a cool concept, with some creepy memories, a fascinating mystery, and some interesting relationship drama. Patrick's writing and her characters are addictive, and it's hard not to read this book in one sitting.

Cover Comments: I really like how the title dominates this cover, it's very cool. And the girl in the background with the black, gray, and purple color scheme is very attractive. I like how her shadow is visible against the gray. Very nice.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Reading Rants: Spectacular Settings

I am a HUGE setting junkie. Growing up in the flattest, dullest area of Michigan ever, new landscapes really excite me, and if they're depicted really well in book, whether it's an entirely new world, or just a corner of the world I haven't yet visited, then that just makes the book ten times better in my opinion.

So, here is a list of some books I loved with settings that really stand out!

Heartbreak River and Winter Longing by Tricia Mills

Tricia's settings are two opposite extremes. The first, Heartbreak River, takes place in Colorado in the heat of summer, with the protagonist, Alexandra, working at her family's rafting company for the summer. Though she is still dealing with the loss of her father and the sudden return of her ex-boyfriend, this book oozes summer and it made me want to jump in my car and go to Colorado for the summer. Click here to read my review.

Winter Longing, as you might be able to guess, takes place in winter, in a tiny little Alaskan town. It's mainly a story of grief and healing, but the small town atmosphere and its unique location just made it all the more fascinating and even welcoming. Plus, I can't lie--I love winter, and any book that does the season justice has me in love. Click here to read my review.

The Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You, and We'll Always Have Summer are, in my opinion, the quintessential summer reads. Cousins Beach and the beach house are just so vivid and so welcoming. I just feel as if Jenny Han brought summer, and everything you'd imagine it to be, to life in that setting, and it's one I never want to leave. Click on the book titles to read my reviews of each book.

Stay by Deb Caletti

What is it with me and beach towns? I just love them. Stay takes place at another beach, this one on the west coast, at a quiet little town with an isolated house and a pretty small town with its own vibrant personality. This is just another one of those that I want to crawl right into. Click here to read my review.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

This is not a book that needs any praise from me--it certainly stands on its own well enough. But I just loved this slightly odd, fascinating, and heartbreaking world where past tragedies linger, but life continues to go on, sometimes in unexpected ways. It's another place I'd happily live. Click here to read my review.

Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I just love Garcia and Stohl's depiction of a modern Gothic South. This setting is so rich and varied, and I love how it appears to be straight-forward, old, and unexciting, but it has so many creepy and fascinating layers. These authors are just incredible at building their world. Click here to read my review of Beautiful Creatures, and here to read my review of Beautiful Darkness.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Portero, TX, the peculiar town where this book takes place, is also very layered. The reader can tell that something isn't quite right with it, but it's not until you get further into the book and explore more of the town that you realize just how weird and how interesting (and dangerous) it really can be. I loved it. Click here to read my review.

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

This sci-fi romance was SO COOL. An entire universe of setting exist between these pages. The main characters have the ability to travel from planet to planet (this Star Wars), and each one is unique. The variety and breathtaking imagery of this book made it impossible to put down. Click here to read my review of this book.

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

This book takes place in New 2, a sort of post-apocalyptic New Orleans that has been abandoned by the government, is privately owned, and inhabited by a wide assortment of strange creatures. It's surrounded by people of myths, and the devastation and areas of restoration provide an interesting balance. This was without a doubt one of the most interesting (and unique) settings I've read in a while, and I'm excited for the sequel! Click here to read my review.

The Tortall Books by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce was one of the first fantasy writers I ever read years ago, and her world, with the kingdom of Tortall at the center, is very vivid in my head to this day. She's written five series set there, The Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Immortal Quartet, The Protector of the Small Quartet, The Tricksters Duet, and The Legend of Beka Cooper trilogy. Her books explore every corner of Tortall and the surrounding countries, and never cease to fascinate and amaze me. I wish I could live in Pierce's head. She sets the precedent for YA fantasy in my opinion.

These are just a few that happen to stand out right now. What are some of your favorite settings? Let me know! I love rich settings, and I want your recommendations!