The Compulsive Reader: March 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

Jade has had a hard time living her life ever since she started getting panic attacks. The only thing that helps her stay calm is watching the elephants at the nearby zoo. She watches them from her bedroom on the webcam the zoo has installed, and that's where she first notices Sebastian. Jade watches for him and the baby he carries every day, curious. But when she meets him face to face months later, Jade begins to fall for him. She doesn't tell her parents, who are too preoccupied avoiding each other to notice her love life. She's afraid of what they might think about Sebastian being a teenage father, but for the first time in her life, she starts living without fear and worry. Things with Sebastian aren't simple or conventional, but they're right. But Sebastian is hiding a big secret, one that forces Jade to really decide what's right and what's wrong, and could threaten ruin everything.

The Nature of Jade is a thoughtful, sweet, and romantic novel with some very unique elements that will pull you right in. Jade is a very engaging and lively narrator that many readers will like immediately. She struggles with her anxiety disorder, but she refuses to let it define her or control who she wants to become. She fights it by finding what she's passionate about--caring for the elephants--and she gets involved. Her family is dysfunctional, but she deals with them the best she can, and her precocious little brother provides lots of comic relief. Sebastian and his little boy can't appear enough in this book. He's everything a girl could wish for in a guy, but he's not perfect either. Their romance is sweet, but not uncomplicated and he and Jade work well together. However, this book's main emphasis is on the importance of family and doing what's right, which Jade struggles with. Her journey has a lot of pain and hardship in it, but also a lot of hope and happiness, and readers will appreciate the fact that Caletti keeps this book realistic. The Nature of Jade is a one of a kind book--incisive, funny, real, and full of emotion.

Cover Comments: The cover shown isn't the original one, but I like this one best. It conveys a lot of emotion, and I think it's just so sweet. I love the smile on  the girl's face, and how the sky is a bit cloudy. It's perfect.

Review copy purchased!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Plus an Interview and Contest

Lina's entire world is shattered the night that the NKVD storms into her home and takes her and her mother and brother away. Her father is missing and their family is torn apart, forced into cattle cars along with thousands of other Lithuanians, and taken to Siberia. Lina doesn't know what her family has done wrong, but her life becomes a constant struggle for survival as winter approaches and the prisoners are treated less than animals by the NKVD. The only thing that keeps Lina alive is her hope in reuniting her family, her friendship with fellow prisoner Andrius, and her artwork that she uses to document her experiences and communicate with others. But, as the bitter winters set in and the months stretch into years, she has to wonder...is it enough?

Between Shades of Gray is heartbreaking, horrifyingly brutal, yet important book. It tells a story long covered up and forgotten, and Sepetys boldly illuminates the tragedy of the forced deportations of hundreds of thousands of people in Lithuania and the Baltic region during World War II and the terrible crimes committed against those people by the Soviets. The novel is packed with emotion, and Sepetys tells it in short chapters of affecting prose that will grab hold of the reader and not let go. Lina is an observant and intelligent narrator who deals with the atrocities by committing them to her artwork, and at the same time she also attempts to send messages to her father and give hope to the small community of people her family has aligned themselves with. Through all of their trials, Sepetys illustrates how terrible hardships bring out the best and worst in people, and that the human body and spirit is far more resilient than anyone could ever imagine. Despite how tragic and impossible Lina's plight is, Between Shades of Gray is also not without its small triumphs as Lina fights to survive and come to peace with the circumstances surrounding her family's imprisonment. This impeccably researched novel is terribly important, and it is my hope that it will find a home in every classroom in the country.

Cover Comments: Beautiful, hopeful cover. It's perfect.

ARC picked up GLIBA.

Ruta was kind enough to stop by for a moment and answer a couple of questions about her book:

TCR: Why did you choose to give Lina the ability to draw as the means to express herself?

RS: When I was doing research for the novel, I learned that many survivors voiced their pain through art and music. It was the only way they could express themselves as speaking of their experience would have meant punishment or imprisonment by the Soviets. Also, my father is an artist and I thought it would be a small tribute to him.

TCR: Did having a personal connection to this story make it easier or harder to write?

RS: On one hand, it made it easier because I was familiar with the dynamic and culture surrounding the history. On the other hand, it was difficult because the horrible things I was writing about had happened to people I met.

TCR: Can you recommend any other books to readers looking to educate themselves on Stalin's purging of the Baltics?

RS: Thanks so much for asking! I’d like to recommend:

DVD: Red Terror on the Amber Coast by Domedia Productions
DVD: The Singing Revolution by James Tusty & Maureen Castle Tusty

TCR: Do you think that you'll write any other books set in Lithuania or set during Stalin's reign?

RS: Initially, I didn’t think so, but I’ve been receiving emails from readers asking me to continue Lina’s story. So you never know!

Thank you so much for having me here at The Compulsive Reader!

Thanks, Ruta!

Now, courtesy of Penguin Books, I have a signed copy of Ruta's book up for grabs for a U.S. reader. Leave me a comment below to enter to win!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steal Alert: Grab Lisa McMann's Latest for $5!

Lisa McMann is the bestselling author of Wake, Fade, and Gone, but last month she released a new book that's a bit different, but one of her best yet! Cryer's Cross is a creepy, dark mystery that takes place in a tiny town in Montana, and I couldn't put it down!

Now, Simon Pulse is offering the digital version of Cryer's Cross for only $4.99. That's a steal, especially for such a good book! I definitely recommend downloading it to your device (and gifting it to a friend). I promise you, it's totally worth it! You can read my review here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Final Eragon Book Announced!

For all you Eragon fans who have long been awaiting the final book in the series after Christopher Paolini split the last book into two: your wait is just a little longer.

Inheritance is the final book in the series, and it'll hit store on November 8th, 2011 in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand!

Check out the eye-popping cover:

Are you excited? Have you read the previous books? What do you think will happen in the final book? Weigh in in the comments!

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

Sisters Calla, Violet, and Daisy have been coming to Camp Callanwolde for years. It's one of their favorite places in the world, and this summer it’s the last one they'll be able to spend there together before fall comes and Calla heads off to college. But the future is the furthest thing from each girl's mind. Daisy is focused on her running, but distractions in the form of mean girls and cute, confusing Joel keep getting in the way. Violet's best friend isn't at camp with her this summer, she instead she makes friends with Brynn, who is a lot wilder than her. Before she knows it, she's doing things she's never done before and sneaking out to meet cute counselor James after lights-out. Calla loves camp, and even though she's not a camper this year, but the assistant office worker, she's determined to make this last summer the best one. And it will be...if she can find the courage to finally tell her long-time friend Duncan how she feels. The girls know that being at this summer camp is special, they they'll never imagine how important this summer of firsts and lasts may be.

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts is a sweet, fun, and poignant book. The summer camp setting is so much fun and so well described, and McVoy has captured the timeless feel of those moments where one point in time seems paramount and life-changing—for these sisters, it's their experiences at summer camp. The narrative is broken apart into rotating chapters from the point of view of each sister, which is a fun way to tell the story. McVoy does an excellent job at building the sisters' relationship, from the anecdotes from their childhood and funny nicknames, to the fights and arguments they share. Each sister stands out well: Calla is very caring and enthusiastic, but her commitment to the camp and her duties sometimes bar her from letting herself go and just enjoy the summer. Violet, though strong and unyielding when it comes to what she believes in, has a wild streak and finds herself bending the rules a bit, despite the inevitable consequences. Daisy, the best written character, is under a lot of pressure as she attempts to figure out her romance with Joel and deals with persistent bullying. She strives to take care of it all without running to her big sisters for help, but she is the one who grows the most when she learns there is a balance between being independent and accepting the support of loved ones. There is certainly a little bit of something for everyone in this delightful novel, and through all of the romance, rejection, drama, sunny days, and cool nights by the campfire, loyalty, love, and sisterhood prevail. McVoy will have readers wishing that they too could join Calla, Violet, and Daisy and Camp Callanwolde.

Cover Comments: I just love this cover. The font is very simple, very fitting, and the three scoops of ice cream are so cute. Fun, bright, yet not over-the-top--it's prefect!

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts comes out on May 3rd, 2011!

ARC provided by publisher.

Also, please be sure to check out Pure and After the Kiss, also by Terra Elan McVoy! They're delightful books, and I just adore anything Terra writes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Today is the release day of Lauren DeStefano's new book and first in the Chemical Garden trilogy, Wither!

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 twenty-five, and females to age twenty. 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.

ARC provided by publisher.

Jane Eyre Giveaway

If you've been reading this blog lately, you'll know about my love for Jane Eyre. Jane is one tough chick who goes through a lot, but refuses to compromise when it comes to her beliefs and values, even if it costs her true love, and that's something that I can admire. I'm excited to see the latest movie adaptation, which is showing in select cities right now, and to celebrate, I'm hosting a contest!

Here's what's up for grabs!

· Soundtrack sampler

· Bookmark

· Journal

· Pencil

· Copy of the book [movie tie-in edition]

(Giveaway is sponsored by Focus Features.)

You can also check out the Twitter Libs widget:

And the reading group video...

And click here to download the Reading Group guide!

All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell me your favorite scene or favorite thing about Jane Eyre!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Ari has spent her entire life being shuffled from foster home to foster home until she finally ends up with some pretty nice foster parents who care, teach her how to take care of herself, and let her look for her birth mother. Only, Ari is devastated to learn that that woman is dead, having spent the last months of her life tortured by insanity, most likely caused from the stress of catastrophic hurricane that left New Orleans a wasteland. And despite the mysterious letter Ari finds among her mother's belongings urging Ari to run, she can't help but venture to the city that the country abandoned, the (partially) rebuilt and privately owned New 2, for answers. There Ari will find the truth about her family, those who choose to keep living in New 2, and the evil of mythic proportions that lurks there, waiting for her.

Darkness Becomes Her is a unique and surprisingly addictive blend of paranormal, mythological, and dystopian worlds, presented in a distinctive way with a protagonist that is tough and smart. Most readers will connect with Ari instantly—she's hardcore and confident, but she's not without her vulnerabilities or a capacity for kindness and compassion. The friends that she makes in New 2 are all outcasts, but each of them is memorable and endearing in their resilience and attitudes. Most of the book is Ari's chase for information about her mother and her history, and she's joined by the mysterious Sebastian after a short while. The attraction between them is present from the beginning, and their romance moves quickly, but it takes a side seat to all of the action in the novel as Ari finally discovers and confronts her real enemy, who is intimidating, and deals with the nine ruling families of New 2, possible allies. The ending is tense, but Ari doesn't let readers down. Despite her initial uncertainty and hesitancy, she takes control of her life and finds focus, leaving the readers hanging in anticipation of all she has yet to accomplish. Darkness Becomes Her is a smart, engaging, and imaginative book, and hopefully its sequel will possess all of the same alluring characteristics.

Cover Comments: I like the cover well enough, but I have this feeling that it could just be better. I think something else could convey the feel of the book better and impress readers more. It's not bad, but not great.

ARC provided by publisher.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Steal Alert: Get The Goose Girl!

One of my favorite fairy tale retellings is Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl. It was her first book, and the first in the Books of Bayern series, which has plenty of lovely characters, magic, and romance.

From now until the end of the month, you can get The Goose Girl in e-book format for only $1.99! That's a great deal, and the book is so lovely, I promise you that you won't want it to end!

If you prefer print over e-reading, then you can also get the first three books in the series for under $18 here. The books are, in order, The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and the latest is Forest Born (with a special edition arriving in October!). I highly recommend them and Hale's other fantasy, Book of a Thousand Days!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti

Brooke has had a crush on Scott Abrams forever, but he barely knows she exists. When she finally gets up the courage to tell him how she feels, she's shocked to discover that his family is moving from their New Jersey suburb to New York City. Brooke is devastated--until she comes up with the perfect solution. She'll move in with her dad, who lives in the city, for senior year and track Scott down. And her plan works perfectly—she's practically Scott's neighbor in New York—until she discovers that Scott has wasted no time in getting himself a girlfriend in their new neighborhood. But luckily for Brooke, the city is packed with opportunities and she's not about to give up on having the year of her life.

So Much Closer is a fun, romantic, and endearing novel with a terrific setting. Colasanti describes New York vividly, with an eye for the unexpected details that really make the Brooke's neighborhood come to life with energy, and invites the reader right in. Brooke is a very dynamic narrator, and her narrative is very fun, relatable, and authentic. She's naturally smart and talented, but she's never been pushed to do well or pursue academic goals, which is frustrating to those around her. She's full of contempt for the school systems she has been through, but when she gets to the city, becomes friends with John (a cute guy who is driven but struggles academically), is pushed by good teachers, and inspired by her environment, she begins to grow and realize her foolishness in wasting her talents. This is a great coming-of-age story as Brooke not only finds Scott and figures out what it's like to get what you want and discover that maybe it’s not all that you has hoped, but as she also deals with her parents' divorce and her feelings about it and finds her passion in life. So Much Closer is an unexpected, funny, and real novel that is charged with energy and life. Once again, Colasanti doesn't disappoint.

Cover Comments: I like the continuation of the the "couples" theme in all of Colasanti's covers, and I love how this couple appears to be at the High Line, a significant place in the book. What I don't like are the postures of the girl and her very eighties-looking pink and purple shirt and cardigan. It just makes the cover look a little dated!

This one will be on on May 3rd, 2011!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice Prior lives in a city divided into factions, and which faction you belong to determines every aspect of your life. She's never felt at home in Abnegation, which values selflessness above all. At sixteen, she undergoes aptitude tests and is given the chance to remain in Abnegation, or move to either Erudite, Candor, Amity, or Dauntless. Then the tests come back inconclusive, labeling Beatrice as a Divergent--something she doesn't fully understand. Re-christening herself Tris, she boldly chooses Dauntless, where she is put through a battery of tests to determine her worth and where she meets her mysterious new instructor, Four. Together, they probe into the dangerous forces at play in their city that threaten to tear their world apart.

Veronica Roth has an incredible talent for creating a complex and impeccably described world that will completely suck readers in. This dystopian version of Chicago is unsettling and fascinating in all of its complexities and political disquiet between the factions. The characters and their problems are all very well portrayed, especially the tensions between those in the same faction, like Tris and her fellow Dauntless candidates, and in the case of Tris and family, those in separate factions. Tris is a bold and engaging narrator who tells a fast-paced story packed with plenty of action, but also struggled internally with a sense of betrayal and what it means to be brave. One of the most gratifying aspects of Divergent is her realization that who she is and where she comes from--Abnegation--makes her selfless, and as a result, a stronger Dauntless. The fact that she is also a Divergent gives the book another layer of mystery and danger as Roth never fully explains what being a Divergent means, but the lengths that others go to cover it up add suspense, and slowly provides a chance for Tris and Four to connect on a deeper level. Their romance isn't instantaneous, but it is realistic, something that many readers can appreciate. Things get complicated when the characters undergo the fear tests, and Roth plays with the readers'--and characters'--minds. Her world is imaginative to the extreme, and her style will captivate. This is one heart-pounding, exciting, and emotional book that lives up to the hype!

Cover Comments: I absolutely adore this cover! The dauntless symbol is awesome, and I like how it stands out against the blue/gray background with the stormy sky, blue water, and city skyline. The font is awesome--this is a cool package that girls and guys will pick up.

ARC provided by publisher,

Divergent will be available on May 1st, 2011!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cover Talk: Behold, Lola!

Okay, so for those of you who have been reading this blog in the past couple of months, you'll know that if you want a fabulous romance, I'll steer you directly to Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. It truly has everything you could ever want in a YA romance, and it's set in PARIS. J'adore ce livre!

So, naturally, we're all on pins and needles in anticipation of Stephanie's next book, which is called Lola and the Boy Next Door! And today when I got on Twitter, lo and behold, the cover was revealed!

What do you think?

Ah, I love it! I love the purple hair and the background (San Francisco? Oh my, who do we know that lives THERE?) and the font...it's just all so perfect!

Now, for the sad part: It's not coming out until September 29th! Sob! But happy news! The paperback edition of Anna and the French Kiss will be out on August 4th, and I hear that there's going to be an excerpt from Lola....

What do you think of the cover?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Win Numbers: Chaos by Rachel Ward

The Chaos is the sequel to Numbers, a thriller about a girl with the ability to see the date of a person's death. You can read my review here.

Here's a bit more about The Chaos:

"When he was a little boy, Adam learned about the numbers. The first ones he saw were Jem’s. That was how he knew she was going to die. Adam has more than inherited his mother's curse: When he looks in someone's eyes, he not only sees the date of their death...he feels the searing, shocking pain of it. Since Jem died, Adam has lived by the sea with his great-grandmother, Val. But when rising tides flood the coast, they return to London. The city is an alien, exciting, frightening place. Most disturbing of all, Adam can't help but clock how many people's numbers are in January 2027; how many are on New Year's Day. What chaos awaits the world? Can he and Sarah stop a catastrophe? Or are they, too, counted among the "twenty-sevens"?"

Sounds creepy! Check out the trailer:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Counting Down to the Jane Eyre Movie!

I'm super excited for the Jane Eyre movie, which comes out this Friday! To celebrate, check out these neat videos and widgets to get you in the mood!

Here's a special video message from the director, Cary Fukanaga, to fans:

Here's a video with interviews with the director and stars of the movie:

In case you haven't seen it, here's the trailer:

And finally, check out the TwitterLibs Widget:

Now, go watch the movie this weekend, and come back and tell me what you think!

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting

Violet has managed to keep the secret about her ability to sense the echoes of the murdered and their killers quiet. Only her parents, boyfriend, and her uncle, the police chief, know about it, even after Violet helped track down a serial killer. But when Violet hears the echo of a little boy outside of her uncle's jurisdiction and phones in an anonymous tip, the FBI finds her and begins to probe into her life. Violet clamps up, afraid of what their true motivations and desires are. She is reluctant to confide in Jay, whose preoccupation with his new friend Michael has made him slightly distant. But then Violet begins to receive threatening messages that are somehow tied to Michael’s family, and Violet doesn't know where to turn.

Like with her first book, The Body Finder, Derting hooks readers from the beginning with a combination of an engaging heroine with a strange ability and romantic tension between her and her best friend Jay. Though Violet and Jay's relationship occasionally borders on unrealistically fairy tale-like, even when they're arguing, it's easy to overlook when Derting's writing is so addicting and her mysteries so compelling. Michael and his family are intriguing characters, and Derting builds the mystery that surround them well. Sara Priest, her affiliations, and her investigation into Violet also add another serious edge to the story as Violet finally has to deal with the consequences of finding so many bodies and the curiosity of the outside world. Both elements are balanced well throughout the novel, and open up some interesting possibilities for Violet if the series continues. The mystery in Desires of the Dead isn't quite as intricate as its prequel's, but Derting does write an entertaining book with a few twists that does concentrate more on Violet, her emotional health, and how she is forced to handle life. Though the book wraps up nicely, fans will be hoping for another book in the series.

Cover Comments: This one is a lot like the cover of The Body Finder, which I loved. And I do like the vibrant pink of this cover. My only complaint is that it is so similar to its prequel's cover that they might get the two confused. Other than that, beautiful!

If you haven't read The Body Finder yet, it's available now in e-book format for only $1.99!