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The Compulsive Reader: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview with Laini Taylor!

One of my favorite books this fall just came out this past week! To celebrate the release of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor is doing a real-life book tour and a blog tour! You can click here to read my review of the book, go to lainitaylor.com to find her tour schedule, and read below to learn more about the making of this spectacular book!

TCR: What was your reaction to the cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone?

LT: Covers are so interesting. Authors generally have nothing to do with them, and only hope to like them, and in this case I lucked out! I think it’s really strong, and I’m so glad that Little, Brown decided in the end against showing Karou’s face, as is such a major trend in YA. I love the mystery of the masked character. It is a scene from the book, and a really major one, but it doesn’t come until fairly deep in the story so I can’t really talk about it with spoilers. 

Little, Brown is using the marketing tagline “Who is the Daughter of Smoke and Bone?” which I think is great since it is the major question of the book. Who is Karou? And the cover illustrates that perfectly. Who is wearing this mask? In fact, once you’ve read the book you see that the question and answer are more significant than you can have predicted. Very cool.

TCR: I love the multiple settings in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but Prague was my favorite. Did you travel to Prague for your research? If so, what was your favorite place in Prague?

LT: I’ve been to Prague twice, neither time specifically to research this book. The most recent trip was in 2005, when my husband Jim and I went there to research a different book, a graphic novel which we didn’t end up pursuing. It was to be a vampire story (I think we were there the actual month that Twilight debuted, little imagining how the vampire landscape was about to alter!) and we spent a fabulous nine days wandering the city and figuring out just where the vampires would live and hunt and where the humans would fortify against them. I think all trips can be made more interesting by imagining the unseen vampire “layer”, ha ha.
Well, all of that information—including ghost tours and marionette theaters and performers on the Charles Bridge—was just lying in my brain waiting to be used, and it struck me as the perfect setting for Daughter.
Favorite place in Prague? I wish that Poison Kitchen were real, but since it is not, alas, I would have to say Prague Castle. It’s so gorgeous and full of weird little alleys and dungeons, a toy museum, a sort of summer pavilion, and there’s even a castle falconer with birds of prey perched on his arm. I don’t know, though. The Charles Bridge and the Old Jewish Cemetery are both fantastic sites, and there was a teahouse on Nerudova that was delightful—that site in the book was based on a real place.

TCR: Do you see a lot of yourself in Karou (besides the shared preference for fun hair color)?

LT: Well, if I could rewrite my real seventeen-year-old self, I’d want her to be like Karou. I mean, she really is a wish-fulfillment character with so many cool attributes and resources. Talented artist, kick-ass fighter, multi-lingual, beautiful. You know, one could dream. But then I really worked to give her a true emotional core. She has the same longing to be loved that many girls have, and a loneliness that goes with it that makes her vulnerable.

She wishes she were strong enough to not care about boys—she has the presence of mind to see it, to want not to need validation—but she still craves love and recognition and belonging so powerfully.
I wouldn’t say that I see a lot of myself in Karou, but little things, and certainly my own fantasy projections for the kind of character I wanted to live with while writing the book, and in an ongoing way. My hope is to write a character that readers will want to be, so she has to be on the larger-than-life side.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Daughter of Smoke and Bone? The easiest?

LT: Let’s see. Well, the book began as a freewrite on a day I let myself write anything just for fun. I was struggling with a different book (that will never see the light of day), and had gotten so mired I need to remember that writing could be fun! And Karou and Brimstone just burst out of nowhere, so vital and so real, and that was the best writing day ever. 

It was nowhere near a “book” yet, there was no premise even, only two characters in an interesting situation, with fun dialogue and some intriguing questions.

I would say the easiest part, then, was coming up with the characters, because this was such a rare case (for me), of characters emerging fully alive and multi-dimensional, and in a situation the demanded exploration.
Turning them into a book was fun too! But the hardest part would have to be relatively early on, when I had so many possible ideas and hadn’t begun to whittle them down yet. Making that first set of choices can be really really hard, because inevitably I’ll have ideas that I love but that can’t coexist in the same book, that would sort of cancel each other. But I get attached to them all and try to see if I can work them all into one plot, and then I’m pulling out my hair.

Much sacrificing of ideas must be done. In Daughter, Karou tells Brimstone this grim factoid: that mako shark fetuses cannibalize each other in utero, and it struck me later that this is a great (and gross) metaphor for writing: ideas also must do this. They have to eat each other. Only the strongest can survive to be born!

TCR: Thank you. Laini!

LT: Thank you for the great questions!

I have also been collecting entries all month long for a lucky commenter to win a copy of Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Today is the last day to enter, but it's  easy--all you have to do is leave a significant comment on any post from September 2011 that adds to the conversation! I'm picking a winner tomorrow!

But seriously...pick up this book. It'll blow you away.

Banned Books Week

As many of you are probably aware, this week is Banned Books Week. It seems like hardly a month goes by without hearing of some case where a library or school district is contemplating banning a book because some parents find it objectionable. And you know what? The fact they find a certain book objectionable is okay--it really is. We might not agree with them, but everyone has a right to read a book, think critically, and judge it for themselves.

What is NOT okay is that those people cannot simply stop at disliking a book--they have to make it so that NO ONE can read that book, just because they don't agree with what goes on in the book. As Ellen Hopkins says in her powerful poem "Manifesto," "you don't speak for me or my children." Well, I don't have kids, but the sentiment is still the same. The only incident in which it is all right to forbid someone from reading something is if that person is your own child, in my opinion.

So, I sincerely hope that you all have at least taken a moment to think about some of the most amazing, important books that we have to offer that have been banned this week. I know a lot of people have said a lot about this topic this week, so I think I'll settle for just sharing with you some pictures from the bookstore I work at to celebrate Banned Books Week.


This is the front table display, which is visible when you first walk in! There are so many books that have been banned in our store, but we tried to put out some of the most recent ones--we've been selling a lot of them, so yay!


Simon and Schuster sent me this poster of the amazing Ellen Hopkins poem, "Manifesto," last year for Banned Books Week 2010. Ellen wrote this poem two years ago after she went through some tough times after she was un-invited to a school visit in Oklahoma. It's a really powerful poem, and definitely worth reading. You can probably find it on her website, and I recommend reading it! I knew it was too important to not bring it in for the week, and I am glad a bunch of our customers can read it!

I've also have been wearing my "I Read Banned Books" bracelet all this week! It's one of my favorite pieces of jewelry year round, ever since my mother got it for me for my 18th birthday, and you can totally get one too at the designer's website, carolynforsman.com! Here's a picture...the top two shots are of the bracelet I have, and the bottom two are of the kidss/YA version!


What did you do to celebrate Banned Books Week? What are some of your favorite banned books?


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reading Rants: Adult Books I've Enjoyed Recently

You know I'm all about the YA, but expanding your TBR list to include a little diversity is good, too, and I've read a lot of very, very interesting non-YA books lately that I think you all will enjoy too!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

You've probably seen the movie trailers, or maybe even the movie itself. I think that the book is a lot more serious than the trailer, or the movie, portrays. To speak up about being a black maid in 1960's Jackson was a very, very dangerous and very, very brave thing to do, something that the book gets across well. It's set over the course of almost three years, and I learned a lot about what life was like, for both the maids and their rich bosses. This is a really important, well written, and smart book that's mostly serious, but with its funnier moments, and I suggest reading it before seeing the movie.

Room by Emma Donoghue

This book intrigued me from the moment it came out. I heard a piece on NPR with the author, and the bit I listened to didn't divulge the big "secret" of what's REALLY going on in the book, so I went into this one blind. It's told from the point of view of five year old Jack, who lives with his Ma in Room. It's all he has ever known, and the only glimpses he's ever had of the outside world he's seen on TV. But with his fifth birthday, all that is about to change. I figured out what was going on in the story pretty early on, and when I did, it was like a punch in the gut. I had to stop reading, but was compelled to pick the book up again moments later. I devoured this book--it will give you a lot to think about.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This one is a very, very popular book at the bookstore these days! Most Americans don't know the story of the Vel' d'Hiv roundup, and Sarah's Key will be a very enlightening book for them. It's the story of a young girl named Sarah, daughter of Jewish immigrants living in Paris at the start of World War II. Just before the Germans take control of the city, the Vel' d'Hiv round-up, organized by Paris officials, occurred, resulting in the deportation and death of almost all Jews captured that night. Sarah hides her little brother in the secret cupboard in their bedroom, thinking she'll be back in the morning. When Julia, an American journalist living in Paris in 2002, discovers Sarah's story, their lives become linked. This is a book that sells itself, and is impossible to put down. It will consume you, until you learn of Sarah's fate and how Julia deals with it. It's a remarkable story, but also a vital reminder to never forget about what happened in Paris in June of 1942. I can't recommend this book enough.

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

After I finished Sarah's Key, de Rosnay's style seemed to haunt me. I picked up A Secret Kept at work one day, and it immediately sucked me in. It's the story of Antoine, a disillusioned architect who has been miserable since his wife left him for a younger man and his children stopped communicating with him. He takes his younger sister on a trip to a childhood vacation site for her birthday. Neither have been back since their family stopped going there after the death of their mother. The weekend awakens many memories for both, and on the way home, Antoine's sister is on the verge of telling him something vital she has remembered about the last summer they spent with their mother when she drives the car off the cliff. If that doesn't hook you, I don't know what will. I love de Rosnay's writing, and her portrayal of all of these characters and their pasts and secrets. it's absolutely riveting.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsly

I bought this book on a whim when it was on sale, and I am so glad I did! It's the story of novelist Carrie McClelland, who is successful and famous for her historical fiction. She wants to write her next novel on the Jacobites, but can't seem to make the words flow. But one day, as she's driving up the coast, she sees the ruins of Slains castle, and is inspired. She settles in a cottage nearby and begins writing, playing with characters from her own ancestry, believing that she is taking liberties with history. But throughout the writing process, she begins to have strange memories, and when she writes down things she never read about, but later prove to have actually happened, Carrie is disturbed. Could such a thing as genetic memory exist, and what does that mean for her ancestors? I found this book to be very intriguing, entertaining, and so easy to become lost in. It's not quite as cheap as it was when I first bought it, but if it sounds interested, it is on sale still! Click here.

And...that's all I have for now, though there are hundreds more on my wish list! What books have you been reading and loving lately?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Looking Ahead: Jill Hathaway and Slide!

Looking Ahead is a feature in which new upcoming books and their authors are featured! Take a minute to read the interview, get to know them, read about their book(s), and find them on the internet!

Up today is Jill Hathaway with her debut, Slide!

TCR: Can you describe your book in ten words or less?

JH: She sees through the eyes of a killer.

TCR: What was the most surprising aspect about the publication process?

JH: The most surprising aspect of the pub process is the roller-coasteriness of it all.

TCR: What was your reaction when you first saw your cover?

JH: This is actually the second cover I saw for SLIDE. My reaction to it was kind of "WOAH." It's very different and eye-catching.

TCR: Where can we stay up to date on you and your book?

JH: The best place to visit me is http://jillscribbles.blogspot.com. Oh, and I'm @jillscribbles on Twitter.

Thanks, Jill! Slide will be out on March 27th, 2012!

Here's the official summary:
"Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.  
Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.  
Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again."
What do you all think? Sounds like a good one for fans of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trailer for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

I am not always a big fan of book trailers, but I have to say, this one for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is AWESOME. It's very true to the book. You can read my review here, or just click play...



The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer comes out today...I suspect that this will be happy news for some of you!

Dark Days With Anna Carey: Week Three


Welcome to week three of the Dark Days features with Anna Carey! We're counting down the weeks until the release of her book, Eve! If you don't know what Dark Days is, check out their site to see all of the books that are being featured this fall, and click here to see if the authors are coming to a bookstore near you! To learn more about Eve, read my thoughts.

Last week, Anna gave us character profiles of a supporting character and the male lead. Today, we have a character profile for our heroine and someone she tries to avoid...read on to learn more! (Click here to read last week's feature, and here to read the first feature, an exclusive interview with Anna!)

Leif

Leif has learned that intimidating the boys at camp is the best way to get them to do what he wants. He’s physically much bigger than everyone else and uses this to bully the younger boys. He’s easily set off by anyone or anything he perceives as a threat to his power. He’s never loved anyone other than his family—two parents who died in the plague and a twin brother who was murdered in the labor camps. Though he cares for the boys in a brotherly way, he keeps to himself and sometimes feels burdened by having to watch out for them. He is both threatened and intrigued by Eve and Arden, and secretly believes Eve is interested in him more than Caleb.

Eve

Ever since she’s left School Eve has been trying to figure out what the truth is—about the world outside the walls, about the “dangers of boys and men” and her place in the New America. Though not everything about the Teacher’s assertions felt entirely true, Eve believed, perhaps naively, in the curriculum at School, and thrived in the safe, sheltered environment. Now that she’s beyond the wall she’s questioning everything. Drawn to Caleb, but held back by what she’s learned, she’s struggling to break free of her past. 

Check back next week, on Eve's release date, for the final feature from Anna! You can be ready for the release by pre-ordering your copy here!

Also, check out this Dary Days fall teaser! Love it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

When her parents move to England her senior year, Rory Devereaux agrees to go with them, as long as she can attend boarding school in London. The school and the people in it are a far cry from her tiny southern hometown, not far from New Orleans, but Rory likes her new roommate and is enjoying her school (well, except for maybe the field hockey part). Then, a murder is committed near the school, an exact replica of the first of the Jack the Ripper murders. And none of the security cameras in the area ever caught a glimpse of the killer. It doesn't take long for everyone in London to realize that there is a Ripper copycat on the loose, throwing the entire city into mayhem. Rory thinks that she's safe from it all, despite her proximity to the murder scenes, but when she is questioned by a secret branch of the London police, Rory finds that she is a lot closer to the real killer than she thought.

Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star is a fascinating and unique book! It is a bit different from her earlier, humor-driven work, but the writing is just as good as ever, and while the book isn't necessary serious, the mystery of the brutal deaths and the threat to Rory does have a bit of a sobering effect. That being said, there is still a lot of great humor in The Name of the Star, and some fantastic, quirky characters that entertain to no end. Rory is an excellent narrator—she's hardworking, funny, loyal, and when the going gets tough, she's a pretty noble person, even if the circumstances terrify her. The boarding school setting is a great one, with lots of fun and drama, and it's the perfect location for the Rippermania to take place. You'll learn a lot about London and the history of the Jack the Ripper murders throughout this book, and the combination of real facts and places with the special, secret police force Rory becomes involved in (which is a bit reminiscent of the early episodes of the TV show Torchwood) makes this book hard to put down. The Name of the Star is an intriguing, creepy mystery with an awesome setting and a great cast of characters. If the only complaint about it is the cruel cliffhanger of an ending, then you definitely need to pick this one up!

Cover Comments: I like the gray of the cover, the girl's bright hair, and the shadow of the man in the background! Very mysterious! 

ARC picked up at BEA signing!

This one comes out tomorrow!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shelf Discovery: The Nobodies Album

Shelf Discovery is a feature in which I highlight one book that I have found while prowling the shelves of the independent bookstore I work at it. These books aren't necessarily YA books; they're books that  have discovered and find interesting or unique. I hope you do too.

Today's book, The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst, was first discovered while processing a new order from our distributor. This is one of those jobs that can be a little bit tedious because of the lengthy process of counting books, putting them into the system, and then tagging and shelving, but I really enjoy it because it's a great way to see what's new and keep up with what's in stock.

I liked the title and cover, and then I read the summary and was VERY intrigued. Here's what it says:
"Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book, a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books and removed clues about her personal life concealed within, especially the horrific tragedy that once befell her family. 
But on her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia learns that her estranged son, Milo, a famous musician, has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. Did she drive her son to violence? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning reveal, Octavia must consider how this story will come to a close."
I like the idea of a novelist removing bits and pieces of themselves from the books they write...it actually reminds me of one of my favorite books, The Shadow of the Wind. What do you think? Sound interesting to you? I will have to pick it up during some downtime one of these days.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel

Aimee has dreams of horrible things that later come true. It's a gift she'd inherited from her late mother, one that her family doesn't talk about. But, for once, there is a dangerous threat that Aimee can't foresee. Her best friend Courtney has become possessed by something, and it is Courtney's cousin, newcomer Alan, who recognizes this. Alan and Aimee are drawn together, and between his Navajo magic and his connection with his spirit guide and Aimee's premonitions, they just might be able to figure out how to save Courtney before the final stage of possession.

After Obsession is an entrancing little book, with a slightly dream-like quality in the midst of the danger and a lovely, atmospheric setting. The book moves rather quickly from the time that Courtney is possessed and Alan moves to town. The friendship between him and Aimee is instantaneous and their intense, knee-weakening romance almost as much so. It provides some good distraction from the fight against the unknown evil possessing Courtney, and heightens the drama. Wedel and Jones really do an excellent job at creeping out the reader as their main characters are plagued by strange scratching noises, terrible smells, weird shadows, friends' odd behavior, and even mysterious deaths in their pursuit of answers. The background stories behind the River Man, how Courtney got involved with him, and his role in Aimee's life were a little light on details, unfortunately. However, Aimee and Alan are both strong narrators and interesting characters, and Alan's Navajo heritage definitely makes this a supernatural thriller that stands out a bit. After Obsession is a nicely creepy read, and just like Courtney's obsession consumes her entire hometown, this novel will consume its readers.

Cover Comments: While the cover really has no bearing on anything that happens in the story, I like it! It's dark, mysterious, and a bit surprising with the way that the girl is positioned. I think it will entice many readers!

ARC picked up at BEA signing!

And be sure to check out this cool trailer! Be prepared to be a little creeped out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

There are two things that Lola wants at the beginning of the school year: to make the most spectacular Marie Antoinette costume ever, and to go to the winter formal in that costume with her boyfriend, Max. Unfortunately, things really aren't working out for her. It all starts when the Bell twins move back into their house next door to Lola. Lola, Calliope, and Cricket have a history, and Lola has gone to great lengths to avoid them, especially Cricket, after their last disastrous encounter. But despite that, Cricket seems to keep popping up in Lola's life, much to her boyfriend's annoyance. And Lola is discovering that it just might be possible that Cricket has changed. Maybe. But what does that mean for Lola and the life she's made for herself in his absence?

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss, has crafted another delightfully funny, quirky, and charming romantic comedy. Lola is a humorous, zany, and lovable heroine--her feelings where Cricket Bell is concerned are ones that all readers can probably relate to in some capacity, and the amazing costumes, social mishaps, and family drama just make her an achingly genuine character. There is no shortage of swoon-worthy guys in this book—there’s the re-appearance to Etienne St. Clair, Lola’s sexy (and older) boyfriend Max, and the introduction of sweet, brilliant Cricket Bell. All of the friendships and twisted relationships as Lola suddenly has to juggle Max and Cricket make for an engaging plot with a few unexpected twists. Though Lola and the Boy Next Door is not set in Paris like its companion novel, Perkins does an excellent job at bringing the rich San Francisco setting alive, from Lola's street full of row houses (guess whose bedroom windows are directly across from each other?) to the fun theater Lola works and the exotic tea gardens. The setting and the characters are what really stand out and make Perkins' second novel so much fun. This is romantic, hilarious, and smart chick lit that every girl who picks it up will be compelled to share.

Cover Comments: I think what sticks out to me is the way the couple are sitting on the window ledge, and the way the houses are portrayed in the background. I like it a lot, and I like how the light, pastel colors collide with the unconventional appearance of Lola and Cricket--it works so well, and is so awesome. LOVELY cover!

This one will be out on September 29th, 2011!

ARC provided by publisher.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cover Talk: New Cryer's Cross Cover

I think I have told the story of when I first saw the Cryer's Cross cover on this blog. I was at the GLIBA trade show, talking to a lovely lady who works at S&S, and she pulled out an ARC for me immediately after she told me the premise. I think I stared at it for five seconds before I comprehended what I was seeing...and it gave me chills. Here is the original cover:


Creepy, right? It really conveys the premise of the book (which, if you don't know, read my review here) in an efficient, effective fashion. I like the use of light and shadow a lot. It's a cover that both girls and guys will pick up, which is awesome because I think that it's one both sexes will enjoy. It is told from the point of view of a girl, and there is some romance, but it's mainly about the mystery.

The paperback cover (which will come out in December) is just...bleh.


Really the only thing that hints at the darker aspects of this book are the shadows and the foreboding trees in the background. I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad cover...but I like how the other one played up the creepiest aspect of the plot, while this one is all like, "Oooh, kissing! And mystery! But mostly kissing!"

I don't know, I just can't get over it. What do you all think? Good change, bad change, or are you indifferent?


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Looking Ahead: Brodi Ashton and Everneath!

Looking Ahead is a feature in which new upcoming books and their authors are featured! Take a minute to read the interview, get to know them, read about their book(s), and find them on the internet!

Today we have Brodi Ashton and her book, Everneath!

TCR: Can you describe your book in ten words or less?

BA: Girl meets boy. Boy takes her to Underworld. Shenanigans ensue.

TCR: How has the publication process most surprised you?

BA: For every high high, there are also some low lows. But it's been a wild ride so far. The most surprising part has been how fast the time is flying by! I sold the book last September, and at the time, I was all, "18 months? The book won't come out for 18 months??" But now it's been about a year, and all I can think is, "Only 5 months? I'm not ready!!"

TCR: What was your reaction when you first saw your cover?

BA: *Sigh* *drool* And then relief that I wouldn't have to be one of those authors who can only pretend to like her cover. And the cover is such a reflection of the story! It's almost a literal depiction of a scene in the book. I'm very lucky!!

TCR: Where can we stay up to date on you and your book? 

BA: I blog three times a week at www.brodiashton.com. There's also an EVERNEATH fan page at www.facebook.com/everneath.

Thanks so much, Brodi! And that is a very gorgeous cover! It's going to be hard to wait until January 3rd for this one!

Here's the official summary of Everneath:
"Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything.

But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's..."
What do you all think about this one?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Advertising

Some people have expressed an interest in advertising on The Compulsive Reader. I know that advertising on blogs has been a little bit of a controversial issue, but I am open to it. Bloggers put a lot of time, money, and effort into their blogs, whether it's in design, shipping of prizes (that's a big cost), and most important of all, organization and creation of content. I don't expect to make much on my blog (and that's okay, just enough for postage is fine with me). But, I am now doing my advertising through Blogads.com, which makes it easy! If you or someone you know wants to advertise...go ahead and click on the link in the top of the sidebar, or take a peek at the Advertise page. It's super simple, I promise.

And meantime, thanks to everyone for the support, whether it's monetary support of just plain old I'm-here-and-reading-what-you-have-to-say support!

Cool New Releases

Today is an awesome day for books! Check out these new releases:

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

After narrowly escaping the Tesla canon in Istanbul, the Leviathan heads east with Deryn and Alek in tow, where they are expected to pick up a mysterious new passenger. The newcomer is secretive and quirky to the extreme: his eccentricities put Deryn on edge, but his claims of having a device that will end the war intrigue Alek. As secrets are revealed and the Leviathan continues east to the United States, dodging enemies along the way, Deryn will make some important choices about her future and the decisions Alek must make will affect the entire world.

Goliath is an outstanding finale to this imaginative and vivid steampunk trilogy. Once again...click here to read more.

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...click here to read more.

Click here to read the interview with Rae Carson!

What new release are you looking forward to picking up?

Dark Days With Anna Carey: Week Two

Every Tuesday between now and October 4th, the release date of Anna Carey's debut novel Eve, I'm teaming up with HarperTeen's Dark Days and Anna Carey to bring you some fun Eve-themed features! If you aren't familiar with Dark Days, check out their site and the books that are being featured this fall, and click here to see if the authors are coming to a bookstore near you!

If you'd like to see my thoughts about this cool dystopian read, click here.

Today, Anna Carey has written up some character profiles for a supporting character and the male lead to give us a taste of what may go on in the book. Click here to read last week's feature, an exclusive interview with Anna about her writing process.

Arden

Because Arden came to School later than most of the girls in her class, she’s always been an outsider. Smart and naturally rebellious, she’s felt oppressed by the School, the Teachers, the curriculum, and all the rules, from day one. Her self imposed isolation and her belief that she is NOT like the rest of the girls in her class has, in some ways, kept her safe. She thinks for herself. She has less to lose by leaving. Used to being alone, Arden hates the thought of getting close to Eve, and is secretly terrified of depending on anyone. She’s determined to survive, to never become a sow, and her friendship with Eve opens her up in a new way.

Caleb

As one of the leader’s of the boy’s camp, Caleb has gotten used to pretending he isn’t scared when he is, pretending there’s enough food for the week when there isn’t, pretending he isn’t hungry so others will eat. As an older brother figure, he’s gotten used to sacrifice. Smart, resourceful, and self taught, Caleb has continued to grow and learn even though every day his main focus is survival. When he meets Eve he’s just as startled by her as she is by him, but he’d never show it. Throughout their relationship he takes a quiet stance, often studying her like he would one of his books, trying to look for meaning in what she says and does, every slight tilt of her head or the way her cheeks flush when she’s around him. 

Check back in next Tuesday for more special features! And don't forget to pre-order Eve!

And be sure to check out this neat teaser video for this fall's Dark Days books!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview with Marianna Baer!

Today, I have Marianna Baer, author of Frost, here to answer a few questions! I first met Marianna back in May at BEA when she was signing copies of Frost, and even though the encounter was brief, she was so nice! I started Frost on the subway that evening, and nearly missed my stop, I was so engrossed! It just came out last week, so check out my review and pick up a copy!

TCR: Your author bio says that you lived in a Frost House at boarding school. What was your Frost House like?

MB: Physically, the real Frost House was a lot like it's described in the book -- a small white clapboard with black shutters and a wide porch, on the edge of campus near some playing fields. My roommate and I lived on the first floor, in the back, just like Leena and Celeste. And our room did have windows on three sides, so it was incredibly sunny, and we did have our own bathroom with a claw-foot tub (which I accidentally turned a shade of green by dyeing clothes in it.) The house was pretty dilapidated, but I loved it. When my roommates and I went back years later and saw that it had been torn down, I was surprisingly sad. It was old and beautiful and quirky, and held over a century of stories in its walls. All gone now.

TCR: What inspired you to write a creepy novel centered around a different sort of Frost House?

MB: I've always loved ghost stories and stories set at boarding school, so combining the two was a very natural choice for me. As to why I wanted to write about girls living in such a small dorm, the experience of living with so few people was entirely different from living in a big dorm. It really was almost like living on my own with my close friends, an intense experience when you're 17. I thought the intensity of that social situation, combined with the creepy aspects, would provide great fodder for the drama. I kept the house physically the same as the real Frost House and gave it the real name because it lent itself so well to the story I wanted to write. I'd have been open to changing the name/architecture if my editor felt it didn't work; I didn't use it for sentimental reasons.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Frost? The easiest?

MB: Hmm... There were a couple of big challenges. The biggest one was that while I wanted the book to be creepy, the obviously scary stuff isn't actually happening to the narrator. She loves living in the house and feels safe there. So I needed to find a way to make Leena's feeling of safety become creepy in its own way. It would have been more conventional to have Celeste be the narrator, as she's the one who experiences the more obvious effects of the house. But I didn't want conventional or obvious. So the question was, how to make the book eerie, when the narrator isn't feeling that way about it?

The easiest part about the writing experience was probably working with my editor, Kristin Rens. She asked all the right questions and really helped me see that I hadn't yet gotten the story that was in my mind on the page.

TCR: Can we expect more books like Frost from you in the future?

MB: I'm working on a book called IMMACULATE, which will also be published by Balzer+Bray. It's the story of a 15-year-old girl in Brooklyn who finds herself pregnant, but insists that she's never even come close to having sex. It's quite different from FROST in the basic plot, but it shares with it an ambiguity about what's really going on, and characters confronting the possibility of a scientifically impossible happening.

TCR: What have you read and loved recently?

MB: Ooh, I love this question! I'm a huge reader (huge in quantity of books I read, that is. I'm actually quite small -- 5' 2" on a good day.) I recently read and loved MILES FROM ORDINARY by Carol Lynch Williams, and ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE, by Gabrielle Zevin. I also loved TIGHTER by Adele Griffin, and reread one of my favorites, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford.

Thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog, Tirzah!

TCR: Thank you, Marianna!

Read my review of Frost here! Or better yet, go get your own copy now!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shelf Discovery: How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew by Erin Bried

Shelf Discovery is a feature in which I highlight one book that I have found while prowling the shelves of the independent bookstore I work at it. These books aren't necessarily YA books; they're books that  have discovered and find interesting or unique. I hope you do too.

Every few weeks we do a front table display at the bookstore, and since it is September and we are a college town, our back-to-school display tends to have more copies of The Naked Roommate and East This, Not That than school bus board books. Nestled amidst the satires and how-to-live-on-your-own-for-the-first-time books was one that was a little different that caught my eye.

How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew is a cute little book--I love the cover. While this one isn't catered to college students specifically, it has a LOT of cool advice that I think is really relevant for people of my generation. Some of the advice and how-to's are things you probably would never do...like can your own vegetables. But some of the advice is sensible and practical and something you might find you are happy you learned (like how to fold a fitted sheet or bake a pie). There's also a lot of good stuff for those living on their own for the first time (how to clean without harsh chemicals, how to make a budget, how to hand wash delicates).

I consider myself a bit of a crafty person (I know how to sew, enjoy baking, and LOVE writing letters and thank-you notes), but this book is a pretty cool little package that has some advice written in a fun voice that I eagerly devoured at quiet intervals in the store. I can't wait to peruse it some more!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

This companion novel to Impulse tells the story of four teenagers and their unceasing efforts to be perfect. Connor's twin Cara begins the book with her perspective of the unhappy home she and her brother grew up in, but she deals with the pressure exerted by her parents differently than her brother. Connor's ex-girlfriend Kendra is still reeling from his sudden absence in her life, and clings to the idea that perfection is size 0, obtained by whatever means possible. Like his girlfriend Cara, Sean is driven to work for a perfect life, and that means being the best on the baseball team and getting into Stanford to be with Cara…even if that's not what Cara wants anymore. Andre thinks he's found all that he wants in dating Kendra's younger sister, but he has a secret talent that can’t be ignored so easily.

Set over the course of a few tumultuous months, Perfect is a powerful, realistic book about the complexities of growing up in a culture that demands more and more out of its teens. All of the characters are cleverly intertwined with each other and many of the events of Impulse. Cara is a sympathetic character—she really struggles with her identity and how to deal with the added issue of Connor's suicide attempt, which her parents insist must remain secret. Her boyfriend Sean is a very, very confused character, and his storyline is a testament to how your choices can greatly impact your life and send you into a downward spiral. Kendra and her sister are self-destructive, though in different ways, in reaction their parents' divorce and the secrets surrounding the event. Both girls think they are strong and on the right path, but the real tragedy is that neither has someone in their lives that can advocate for them and support them in healing...until it's too late. Andre was probably the most likable character. He's easygoing, smart, and talented, but he isn't at a good point in his life and makes some bad decisions while dating Kendra's sister. Hopkins has again pulled off an amazing, affecting book with some pretty attention-grabbing insight into the lives of a community of teens, rather than just a few random people from different backgrounds brought together by a common problem, like in Impulse or Tricks. All of the issues she brings up are extremely relevant to our culture now, yet Perfect doesn't come off as an "issue" book. It's a tough, heartbreaking, exhilarating look at characters that are real, with real consequences and real conclusions. The powerful ending isn't quite as unsettling as the conclusion of Impulse, but it is memorable and ties the two books together nicely.

Cover Comments: I love this cover! The colors and the font of the text are beautiful, but I love how the color is bleeding...not exactly perfect.

This book is out now!

ARC picked up at Simon and Schuster event.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cover Talk: The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

I am a huge Deb Caletti fan (which is very ironic seeing as I never could get into any of her books and avoided them until her editor convinced me otherwise), and I love how every Spring she rolls out a nice and shiny new book for us. And I love that her last two books have had bodies of water on the cover...and her next book, The Story of Us, is keeping with that trend! Check out that gorgeous cover!



The beach! Love it! The way you can see the waves coming in, the sun, and the sheerness of the girl's dress...I just think it's so pretty.

And I know you're dying to know what it's all about...
"Cricket's on a self-imposed break from her longtime boyfriend, trying to figure out whether she's in it for the right reasons. But this is a bad week to try to figure it all out. After ditching two previous husbands-to-be at the airport, Cricket's mother Daisy is finally getting married, to Dan Jax. Cricket loves Dan, but as the families and friends start to arrive for Wedding Week at the beautiful guest house on Bishop Rock, run by old hippies Ted and Rebecca Rose and their sweet, sexy son Ash, things start getting complicated.

There’s no airport on Bishop Rock, as far as anyone knows, but Cricket fears that Dan is in danger of becoming ditched husband-to-be number three, and Cricket’s own desires have chosen now to have a mind of their own. Because even though her boyfriend looms large in her mind, Ash is right in front of her..."
Ah, I don't think words can convey my excitement right now! I am so pumped for this one! What do you think of the cover? What's your favorite Deb Caletti book (cover)?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interview with Teri Hall!

Teri Hall is the author of The Line, and its sequel, Away, which comes out today! You can click here to read my review of Away, and scroll down to read the interview I did with Teri about writing this series!

TCR: Can you describe Away in ten words or less?

TH: Hmm. “Should there ever really be a them and an us?

TCR: How was writing Away different from writing The Line?

TH: Well, first, it was on a deadline. Second, while I was writing I was battling some serious health concerns, and that made it a bit tough. I had to ask my editor for an extension on my deadline, and she was very gracious about that. But once I got the book done, it turned out there were many parts of it I loved even more than The Line, even though The Line will always be my first book love.

TCR: What's the hardest part about writing this series? The easiest?

TH: The hardest part is staying on course. There is a bigger picture in the series, a deeper layer, and it’s important to me that I fulfill what I set out to do, which is write a trilogy that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. I think with The Line I succeeded, because many Middle School teachers are using it and the free curriculum guide (available on my web site) for their classes. They tell me the kids love the book, and that the book and curriculum guide follow learning standards they have to meet, while still provoking thoughtful discussion.

I have to say, in one of the most recent classroom visits I did, the person who set it up wrote to me afterward saying how the morning was “magical” and how she couldn’t remember “the last time it was that I had a conversation about moral courage--a good thing to talk about in a group.” Now, that may sound a bit stuffy, and frankly the word “moral” can give me pause, the way it’s being thrown around by some politicians today, but I know exactly what she meant.

The group of kids and us adults—teachers, a writer, a librarian—all sat around talking about how we come up with what we think is right, and how we could prepare ourselves to act in good ways when forced to make a choice. We talked about real-life examples of having to act if you want to do what’s right, like seeing someone hit their child in a parking lot (What would you do?). We also talked about how fear can make us all immoral, cowardly, useless. These are things I think matter, and without trying to decide for individuals what is right or wrong, I think it’s critical to have discussions about how we might arrive at our opinions, and what we would need to do to honor them with action, when we are called to do it.

TCR: What were your reactions when you first saw your book covers?

TH: The final covers have made me very happy. I think the design team at Dial does incredible work. They both invoke the atmosphere of the stories, and they jump off the shelf.

TCR: Can you tell us anything about book three?

TH: It’s set on an island. There may or may not be a sheep-cat. There is kissing. And death. And hope.

Thanks so much, Teri! You can now buy Away, which is a great sequel, and if you haven't already, check out The Line!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Looking Ahead: Jessica Spotswood and Born Wicked!

Looking Ahead is a feature in which new upcoming books and their authors are featured! Take a minute to read the interview, get to know them, read about their book(s), and find them on the internet!

Up today is Jessica Spotwood with Born Wicked, the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles!

TCR: Can you describe your book in ten words or less?
JS: Sisters. Witches. Kissing. Banned books. Tea parties. Secret trysts.

TCR: What was the most surprising aspect of the publication process?
JS: How quickly everything's happened with this book! My first ms didn't sell, so this has been a wonderful, crazy whirlwind. BW sold in a week. I got my editorial letter 3 weeks later, the same day I announced the deal, and my deadlines have been fast and furious ever since. I've also been pleasantly surprised by how available my editor is to answer questions and bounce ideas around. She's very generous.

TCR: What was your reaction when you first saw your cover?
JS: I was on the phone with Ari, my editor--she called me at my day job to tell me to check my email ASAP--and I shrieked about how much I loved it. I may have gotten a little teary. I think it's lush and gorgeous. And I love the intensity of the model's gaze. It's very appropriate for my book; none of my girls are shrinking violets.

TCR: Where can we stay up to date on you and your book?
JS: You can follow my blog at www.jessicaspotswood.com (and stay tuned for giveaways on the 7th of every month leading up to publication!). I'm also on twitter @jessica_shea.

Thanks so much, Jessica! Here's the official summary of Born Wicked!

"Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave. 
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other."
This one comes out in February 7th, 2012! What do you all think?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dark Days With Anna Carey: Week One

Hey everyone,

If you don't know about the awesome Dark Days events that HarperTeen puts on, you really ought to! Dark Days: Pitch Dark is a series of online and offline events celebrating some great supernatural and dystopia reads from HarperTeen, and I'm excited to be presenting some awesome features for the next month about Anna Carey's debut novel, Eve, which comes out October 4th! You can read my review of it here. You can visit the Facebook page to see what books are included this fall, and if the authors are coming to a bookstore near you!

Today, I have an interview with Anna Carey about her inspiration for the book, her writing process, and a glimpse at the next book in this riveting trilogy!

TCR: How did the idea for Eve evolve?

AC: When I started writing Eve it was in an attempt to answer certain questions. Specifically: What happens when your world as you know it, the world that you have been so certain of, is exposed as a lie? What if the world, as it actually was, was so much more beautiful and terrifying than you ever could’ve imagined? Would you have the courage to explore it?

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing the story? The easiest?

AC: I loved writing the chapters when Eve is out in the world for the first time. It came very naturally to me. I loved exploring how her expectations come up against reality, how she’s taking it all in and trying to reconcile what she’s learned with what she’s experiencing. The trickiest part were those chapters shortly after she reaches the dugout. She’s afraid, and still so uncertain about the rest of the boys, but she’s also beginning to trust Caleb. It was a hard dynamic to capture—her falling in love while still holding onto what she’s been taught.

TCR: What were some of your inspirations for Eve?

AC: There’s a lot of grey, bleak post apocalyptic worlds out there, and I knew I wanted Eve to be different. I wrote Eve in the wake of a major move, from New York to California, where I now live. The landscape is naturally gorgeous here and people, for the most part, are very environmentally conscious. At the time I was fixated on the idea that the world might thrive without us in it—that the sky might be bluer, the ocean clearer. Ugly strip malls would be covered over with ivy and roads would disappear under layers of moss. I wanted Eve’s world to look like California on steroids—a natural paradise.

Another big influence was my family. I visited New York three months after I had moved. I hadn’t known anyone those first weeks in California, and had grown used to everyone being a stranger. I got home at ten at night and my mother had a whole feast waiting for me. She sat down next to me with this smile on her face and watched me eat the homemade apple pie and macaroni and cheese she’d made (my favorite). It might seem silly, but I remember never being more grateful for anything in my life—for a meal that was made especially for me, for no reason at all. Just because. A lot of Eve’s understanding of love and sacrifice comes from her memories of her mother, who, for so many of us—is the person who loved us first and best.

TCR: How long did it take you to write the book?

AC: I thought about the book for a long time before I wrote anything. Eve was stuck in my head, this character who at eighteen is so certain of the world, who can’t know that the future she’s imagined is nothing like the one she’ll have. From the moment I actually started writing until it was finished was about nine months, though I was looking at final typeset pages and whatnot for long after that.

TCR: What’s the one thing you hope your readers will take away from Eve?

AC: I think most people who’ve been in the world have experienced some sort of heartbreak—an unrequited crush, someone rejecting them, infidelity, or perhaps (in the case of older readers) a divorce. Sometimes life teaches you to fear love—that making yourself vulnerable to someone else is dangerous and wrong, and others might wield that power against you. Though I didn’t initially write Eve as a metaphor, I quickly realized that her struggle is a universal one. She’s trying to love someone despite everything she’s been taught, despite the huge risk inherent in caring deeply for anyone else.

TCR: Can you tell us anything about the second book in the trilogy?

AC: It’s hard to say anything without revealing something, but the majority of the second book takes place in the City of Sand, the nickname used for a restored city in the New America. Eve learns of her role in the restoration and develops a very complicated relationship with the King. Better leave it at that—I’ve already said too much!

Awesome, thanks so much, Anna! I am so excited to read the sequel.

You can come back next Tuesday to learn a little more about the characters in this awesome book!

In the meantime though, check out this Dark Days trailer!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with Rae Carson!

One of my favorite fantasy reads of the year is The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It is magnificently written and so imaginative--it took my breath away. And, it comes out next weel! Yay! I highly recommend that you pick it up. You can read my review here, or just scroll down to read an interview with the author about her inspiration and writing!

TCR: What inspired your main character, Elisa?

RC: When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a princess. Preferably a princess with shiny hair buns and a laser pistol. But as I got older, the idea of royalty began to rankle. Why are royals considered special? Because they had the good luck to be born into a certain family? Unless you believe in the divine right of kings—and I do not—there is no good reason to laud royals as anything other than regular folks. So I got to thinking: What if a princess wasn’t all that special? What if she wasn’t beautiful or brave or accomplished and had to earn her specialness just like the rest of us? And the character of Elisa was born.

TCR: I love the Spanish influence on the setting of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. What led you to incorporating that in the book?

RC: Thanks! I was teaching myself Spanish when I started writing this book, so it was fresh in my mind. It’s such a beautiful language, and its speakers tend to be exuberant and warm—which makes it one of the easier languages to learn. For the book, I confess I took some liberties, adding French and Portuguese influences as needed to evoke a certain mood or image. So it’s not exactly Spanish. Just mostly. :)

TCR: One of my favorite elements of The Girl of Fire and Thorns was Elisa's struggle with accepting her fate and the Godstone she carries. Did you experience any challenges building the religion in the book and the struggle Elisa has with her place in it?

RC: Definitely. I worked very hard to get inside the head of a person of faith. Religion is a prime mover of history in our own world, so it seemed to me that a fantasy word—especially a pre-industrial one—should have a strong religious element. And just like in our world, some characters in The Girl of Fire and Thorns will do anything in the name of their god, while feeling assured that they are on the side of truth and rightness.

I live in a country where 83% of citizens claim affiliation with some religious denomination. Of those, the vast majority are monotheists. I think it’s safe to conclude that religion is an important part of the coming-of-age experience. How do teens decide what they believe about religion when they are surrounded by so many contradictory views and messages? I wanted to do justice to this struggle without condemning or condoning any particular faith. It was a difficult balance.

TCR: What are some of your favorite YA fantasy reads?

RC: I recently read Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock, which I loved. The worldbuilding is incredible. Tamora Pierce is a favorite, because her protagonists are never limited by their femaleness. When I was a teen, I loved David Eddings’ Belgariad series, which is ostensibly adult fiction, but I think is much more suited to a young adult audience. (If I were his publisher, I would repackage it and put it on YA shelves!)

TCR: Can you tell us anything about the next book(s)?

RC: Sure! In The Crown of Embers, Elisa is now queen of a country in post-war shambles. How can a 17-year-old foreigner navigate court politics, assassination attempts, and the threat of civil war to rule effectively? Naturally, the solution lies in epic adventuring. Also, kissing.

Thank you, Rae! If you want to know even more, here is a video of Rae talking about the book!


And if you live in the Columbus, OH area, you can see Rae at her launch party! Here are the details!

Tuesday, September 20th
6:30 PM
Cover to Cover Bookstore
3560 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43214

Keep following the blog tour by checking in at goodbooksandgoodwine.com!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shelf Discovery: The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

Shelf Discovery is a feature in which I highlight one book that I have found while prowling the shelves of the independent bookstore I work at it. These books aren't necessarily YA books; they're books that  have discovered and find interesting or unique. I hope you do too.

I found this one while perusing a catalog from our distributor one day. A co-worker had starred it and the one sentence blurb and the nostalgic cover intrigues me. I was excited to see us get it in stock, and I gave it some face time on one of our display shelves. It looks like a really sad, yet really good book! What do you think?
"In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there's an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory."
What do you think?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Interview with Jack Blaine

As a follow-up to yesterday's Reading Rants about self-published books and traditionally published authors who are now turning to e-publishing, here is an interview with Jack Blaine, author of Helper12, which is self-published, and other YA books that have been traditionally published.

TCR: What made you decide to self-publish Helper12 digitally after releasing other traditionally published novels?

JB: I wanted to explore the new technology available to authors. I think that given the way publishing is changing (less and less midlist authors surviving, more and more marketing emphasis only on tried and true, big name authors or high concept ideas), and some of the ways it’s NOT changing (ebook royalty rates that are fair to authors don’t seem to be happening, there is still a lot of throw it at the wall with little to no marketing support and see if it sticks mentality for midlist titles), it’s important to try to understand all the options.

TCR: In what formats and where on the web can Helper12 be found?

JB: Helper12 is available in Kindle format and in Nook format. It’s priced at $3.99 and is getting very positive reviews.

TCR: What did you hope to achieve with self-publishing Helper12?

JB: I wanted to see what the process was like—how difficult it might be, and how long it took. I also wanted to be able to have complete control of the entire publishing process, to see how that went.

TCR: Do you feel as if you have achieved those goals?

JB: Yes and yes. In addition, I’ve had a really fun time, and have enjoyed seeing Helper12 find enthusiastic readers. Jack Blaine is a very happy guy!

TCR: What was the hardest part about the publication process for Helper12?

JB: The hardest part for me was designing and creating the cover. I’m not a graphics program whiz, but I wanted to create a very specific tattoo (Helper12 has this tattoo, and her arm is on the cover). I love covers that realistically depict some element from a book that doesn’t actually exist in real world, so I was thrilled when I was able to do it! I’m so proud of the cover, which I think is also a great, simple design that lends itself to the thumbnail display ebooks have online.

TCR: How did it compare to publishing your other two novels?

JB: It was more fun, in some ways. It was faster. And it was freeing, in the sense that I didn’t have to bow to any sort of market-motivated pressure.

TCR: In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

JB: I think the pro is that the author has more control, and I think the con is that the author has more control. Control over editing, cover, and marketing.

Editing can be a very important, and wonderful, part of the traditional publishing process, if you are lucky enough to have an editor who cares about your book and who knows what s/he is doing. If you don’t get that, it can be a really bad, really disheartening part of the traditional publishing process. With self-publishing, the same holds true, whether that editor is you yourself, or someone you hire for a one-time fee to edit for you.

Your books’ covers can be a great thing or a terrible thing in terms of how they help sell your books. If you are traditionally published you have no control over it at all, and you have to just hope that the designers do your book a favor. I've been so happy (ecstatic, really) with my traditionally published books’ covers. The design department at my publishing house always does a fabulous job. But I have writer friends for whom this has not been so true, and there is nothing they can do about it at all—they have virtually no say in the matter. With self-publishing, you can control everything about your cover. If you have a good eye for design and what makes a cover jump out at people, that’s great. If you’re not technically skilled enough to envision one or create one, you can hire the process out for a one-time fee.

Marketing is crucial for books to succeed. It used to be thought that traditional publishing afforded writers great marketing and publicity, but I hear more and more stories from midlisters where the full extent of the marketing done for their books was to print ARCs, which were then sent to bloggers and set out at various conferences like ABA with no fanfare whatsoever. This is not great marketing. It’s the often used throw it at the wall sort of approach that can kill a book when with a little support, a little care, it could have been a contender. If that’s the sort of support one can expect from a publishing house (and again, from what I hear from many, many writers, it is) why not strike out on your own?

TCR: Was self-publishing Helper12 a greater or lesser time commitment than traditionally publishing your other books?

JB: I would say it was about the same time commitment on my part, but it took about 12 months less time overall to get the book to market. Most of my time in the traditional publishing process is spent waiting. Waiting for editorial notes, waiting for response to revisions, waiting for copyedits, waiting for final pass pages, waiting, waiting, waiting. With self-publishing, the only thing I’m waiting on is myself. I may have to wait some time if I choose an outside editor, or need an outside cover artist, but it’s minimal. And I don’t have to remain on a strict, one-book-a-year schedule, where with many publishing houses, I’m stuck with that. Also, with self-publishing, I get a fair royalty rate. That is a BIG deal.

TCR: Given the choice, would you rather self-publish your future books, or look for a traditional publisher?

JB: I think I want to continue doing both. They each have advantages and disadvantages.

TCR: Why did you choose to publish Helper12 under a pseudonym?

JB: I wanted the freedom that a pseudonym affords me. I don’t have to worry about whether my publishing house approves of what I write under a pseudonym—it doesn’t have to be the same genre I write in for them.

TCR: For a lot of readers, there is the mindset that inexpensive, self-published e-books means lesser quality stories. How would you respond to someone with that opinion, and what advice would give to someone looking to find high-quality, inexpensive, self-published e-books?

JB: You know, to be honest, I’ve seen plenty of really awful self-published books, ebook or not. And I’ve seen plenty of really awful traditionally published books. The idea that publishers, who are motivated by money (granted, they have to be), are somehow controlling the quality of what gets out there seems ludicrous to me. They put out great books, but they also put out crap that will turn a profit, and we all know it.

I think the best thing readers can do is sample, either electronically (the “look inside” feature is now available on Kindle self-published books on Amazon), or in the bookstore. See if what you read sounds promising to you. You are the best judge of whether a book is quality material or not.

TCR: Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to decide how to publish their novels?

JB: I think that is a highly personal decision. I’m glad I have been traditionally published and hope to continue to be, but self-publishing has been a great thing for me so far. I don’t think I would have ever considered self-publishing a year ago, but I’m not sorry to have done it at all, now.

Thanks so much to Jack for all the great food for thought. What do you think about the issue and the responses provided?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reading Rants: Self-Published Novels in the Digital Age

Normally, I don't read self-published novels. I have it in my review policy that I don't accept them, the reason being that for the most part, they just aren't as good as the books I see published by actual publishers. However, when a YA author whose work I respect asked me to review a novel self-published on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, I gave it a shot, and found that I actually really liked it. You can read my review of that book, Helper12 by Jack Blaine (pseudonym to protect author's identity), here.

Reading and enjoying Helper12 got me to thinking .about my philosophy regarding self-published work, and made me wonder if I need to revise my stance. In the digital age, it has become very, very easy for anyone to self-publish work, especially on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. And with the popularity of e-readers (and the ridiculously high cost of many published e-books), the potential audience for self-published e-books is wider than ever.

We can argue that self-published works are of lesser quality than other books--I've heard people say that "those sorts of books are self-published for a reason--because no one else will buy them." But you have to wonder if that is always the case. We've all heard stories of how hard it is to find agents, sometimes how poorly authors are treated by their publishers, and how some famous books (like Eragon by Christopher Paolini) were first self-published before going on to find a home and fame with a big publisher.

And with e-publishing looking more attractive financially (Amanda Hocking reportedly made millions on her self-published work before signing a deal with Macmillan) and more established, published authors (like Jack Blaine) turning to self-publishing, you have to wonder if everything you always thought about self-published books is changing.

Here's what I think it comes down to: we stick with books that are published by a traditional publisher because they have more of a presence when we look for books, and because we have this notion that traditionally published equals a standard of quality. We hardly ever pick up self-published books because we would have to go looking for them (and when there's so many published book vying for our attention, we hardly ever do), and there's this idea that they aren't going to be well-written.

Here's what I think we ought to do: remember that sometimes publishers will put out books that aren't very good. It's not exactly their fault...sometimes they sell really well, and publishers need money so they can continue to publish the awesome books we like too. And there are times (sometimes more often than you think) when you stumble across a great self-published novel that you really liked. (Helper12!)

So, maybe our perspective needs to change a little bit...what do you all think?

Check back tomorrow for an interview with Jack Blaine about self-publishing versus going with a traditional publisher!