The Compulsive Reader: March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Sarah Dessen Book!

The bad news: It doesn't come out until next year. The good news: It's a new Sarah Dessen book set in Colby! Whoo!! Two titles circling are The Best After Ever and Someone Else's Summer...

Here's what the book is about according to the official announcement!
"Set in the fictional beach town of Colby, where several of Dessen’s novels take place, it features 18-year-old Emmeline, who is spending her last summer before college working for her family’s vacation rental business and enjoying a summer romance with a young aspiring filmmaker."
Sarah Dessen is one of those authors I trust completely, so I'm excited about this book!  What do you think?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Bria has spent senior year looking forward to traveling with her boyfriend before they head off to art school...until he breaks up with her. Bria is determined to travel, so she signs up for the Global Vagabond tour throughout Central America. But she is massively disappointed to find herself stuck in a touristy group that doesn't have any interest in experiencing real culture. Plan B? Taking a leap of faith by ditching the tour group, trading her suitcase for a backpack, and joining veteran backpackers Starling and Rowan for a trip that will change her life.

Kirsten Hubbard's second novel is a luminous story that will make you want to stuff the essentials in a bag and head out into the world. Bria is such an engaging and complex narrator. She doesn't have a lot of self confidence at the beginning of the novel, and she's deeply hurt by the abusive relationship with her ex. But she has more backbone than you'd expect—she stands up to Rowan when they first meet, and she takes back control of her life when she decides to take off with Rowan and Starling. But that doesn't mean she's over all of her problems. When Bria and Rowan are forced to travel alone, figuring out through trial and error how to get along, they slowly become friends and open up to each other. The chemistry between them is fantastic and believable, and the only things that top it are Hubbard's vivid descriptions of Central America's wildlife and culture. She captures the wonder, apprehension, and exhilaration of travel so well. The expected drama and impact of other secrets Bria and Rowan keep from each other have their negative and positive consequences, resulting in Bria reclaiming her confidence and independence and a lovely finishing scene. Wanderlove is the rare sort of book that will charm you completely—do not miss it.

Cover Comments: I love the design of this book. While the cover doesn't blow me away, I do like the composition and the purple. The best part is that there are pencil drawings done by Hubbard throughout the book--so cool!

Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting Through the Week With Othello

If you're a regular reader here, you might have noticed that I've not been posting as much lately, and I apologize. I can't promise that I'll get better about it for another month still, until classes finish up the first week of May.

But...as for what I'm reading now: Othello. And no, I'll not give you a review. Instead, something better: The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

You're welcome.

How's your week been so far?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Suzanne Collins Book Discussion

This is (relatively) old news, but I met Suzanne Collins about three years ago at the Borders Book Club Discussion filming. Since the movie is now out and everyone seems to have The Hunger Games on the mind, here is the link to that video again! Warning: we discuss Catching Fire, so there might spoilers!

Click here to view the video! I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cover Talk: Reached by Ally Condie

Let's see...

It's a little too similar to the cover for Crossed, no?

Okay, I really like the bubble thing, and I love that she's broken out of it and she's leaving it...but this cover just seems a little too staged for me. Matched had that feeling of entrapment, and Crossed had the action of breaking out going for it. The red dress and the perfect shiny hair bug me just a little. And maybe I'm a teensy bit tired of bubble. I feel like these covers could have stayed in the same design scheme without reusing the same symbol over and over.

Awesome concept, I'm excited to see a title and a release date, but I', not so crazy about this one... What do you think?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass

When America Singer is chosen from a lottery of all eligible females in Ilea to compete with thirty-four other young women for the hand of Prince Maxon, she's far from pleased. Most girls would kill for a chance to be the next queen of Ilea, but America would be perfectly happy marrying Aspen, the boy she’s been secretly seeing who is a caste below her. Even though she's in love with Aspen, competing means her cash-strapped family will be compensated, so she heads to the capitol with the hope of simply being sent home after a few weeks. What she doesn't account for forming an alliance with Maxon, discovering just how precarious the Royal Family's situation is, and finding that she may have a place at the palace after all.

The Selection is an intriguing book that combines a futuristic setting and the very real romantic and relationship drama. It's been described as a dystopian The Bachelor, which might not be a favorable comparison for some readers, but readers will be happy to find that The Selection doesn't focus on a lot of silly drama. There are makeovers and pretty dresses and the requisite mean girl, but Cass thankfully doesn't let the narrative get bogged down in cattiness. America is genuinely nice and her goal isn't to win, which leads to some interesting scenes with the other girls as her unusual relationship with Maxon causes some tension, but thankfully it isn't overwrought. Cass gradually builds the world of Ilea as America is exposed to life at the palace where knowledge of history, social issues, and politics are a requirement. The most exciting part of the novel isn't the romantic drama, but the attacks on the palace and the question of what it is that the rebels would risk lives in order to obtain. There are a lot of loose ends at the conclusion of The Selection—the motivations of certain characters are unclear, a princess still hasn't been chosen, and America finds herself conflicted over not just Aspen and Maxon, but in which direction her life should take. Cass has crafted an easy to read and engaging story that will find popular footing with female fans of dystopian reads.

Cover Comments: This cover is gorgeous! I love the icy blues and the depth of the cover, and how the model looks like America. Very cool!

This one will be out on April 24th, 2012!

Also, did you know that the CW (the network with The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle) are currently in the process of filming a pilot for The Selection? Check out kieracass.com for all the info!

Monday, March 19, 2012

5 Questions

A: Uh...like...too many? Honestly, I lost track about 3 years ago. But...probably 2,000-ish. I used to have a real problem with getting rid of books, but I'm working on it. A TON have gone to libraries in the past two years, which makes it easier to let go. The fact that I have a hard time accepting is that I will never have enough time read everything, but I like to keep deluding myself.

A: Never. Okay, not never. But only when I'm desperate.

A: No clue. No, I'm completely seriously. I have no idea how that works, and even if I did, I suspect the policies vary from publishing house to publishing house. No one has ever divulged to me why they send me books. They just kind of appear and I'm left scratching my head, wondering how on earth my address was even gotten.

So I guess the only way is to just blog and blog and read and blog some more. I truly believe that if you are passionate about the books, creative in your approach to blogging, and continually do all you can to support YA authors and their books, people will notice. But getting on mailing lists shouldn't be your goal. It doesn't really matter who reads what first. Eventually the book will come out and you can get it at the store/library.

A; I don't respond to such comments unless there has been some kind of misunderstanding to precipitate such a response, and then my reaction is limited to clarification. In an ideal world, everyone would be respectful and nice, even if they didn't like something, and everyone would respect each each other. I don't live in an ideal world, but this is my corner of the internet, so that's what I roll with.

A: No, I did not! I will look it up. Though I defy anyone to play Maxim as well as Laurence Olivier.

Questions? Leave them in the comments or email me at thecompulsivereader@gmail.com!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shelf Discovery: Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch

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 feel like I need to preface this week's pick a little bit because it is not something you'd expect to appear on this blog. Dust to Dust is written by the husband of one of my favorite professors ever, which is how I first heard about it. She'd tell us all about how he was editing or typing away in between teaching us cool things about Russia and the not-so-cool things about Stalin and such. Benjamin Busch also lives near my hometown and comes into the bookstore quite frequently. We're gearing up for a signing on Saturday to promote Dust to Dust, and it's something we're pretty excited about. I've not finished the book yet, but it is interesting and extremely well-written and of course I recommend it. Check it out:
"Dust to Dust is an extraordinary memoir about ordinary things: life and death, peace and war, the adventures of childhood and the revelations of adulthood. Benjamin Busch—a decorated U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer who served two combat tours in Iraq, an actor on The Wire, and the son of celebrated novelist Frederick Busch—has crafted a lasting book to stand with the finest work of Tim O'Brien or Annie Dillard. 
In elemental-themed chapters—water, metal, bone, blood—Busch weaves together a vivid record of a pastoral childhood in rural New York; Marine training in North Carolina, Ukraine, and California; and deployment during the worst of the war in Iraq, as seen firsthand. But this is much more than a war memoir. Busch writes with great poignancy about the resonance of a boyhood spent exploring rivers and woods, building forts, and testing the limits of safety. Most of all, he brings enormous emotional power to his reflections on mortality: in a helicopter going down; wounded by shrapnel in Ramadi; dealing with the sudden death of friends in combat and of parents back home. 
Dust to Dust is an unforgettable meditation on life and loss, and how the curious children we were remain alive in us all."
Obligatory plug: If you want a signed copy, Great Lakes Book and Supply (1-231-796-1112) can totally hook you up.

What have you discovered this week?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel

When Abby wakes after being pulled from a burning building, she discovers that she doesn't remember anything about herself. It's Sam who saves he, who helps remind her who she is. They live in a cozy little cave away from the world and all they need is each other. But when Sam's secrets threaten Abby's happiness, she begins to ask questions. The more curious she gets, the more she slowly begins to remember details about her life before the fire. Reality and fantasy have blended together in Abby's mind, and she is forced to decide what in her life is real.

Circle Nine is a dark tale that will capture your attention from the very beginning. Abby's life is a mystery, and she clings to the things Sam tells her. Her journey is both mental and emotional as she struggles to unbury the truth in her memories and disassociate her feelings for Sam with those of safety and comfort. Sam isn't ever a character that readers can trust, but he does have his moments where he is almost likable. Abby's feelings for him also complicate his role in the story, making for some dramatic scenes. Abby's search for answers is gradual and interspersed with memories of her family, which make her eventual discovery of the truth of what happened the night of the fire tragic and emotional. Though the reader will be able to deduce what Abby struggles to learn a bit quicker than the protagonist, Heltzel's writing is measured and intense, and she has a few little twists at the very end that will keep readers hooked. Circle Nine is a heart-rending and perfectly paced novel with darker tones that provides an interesting view on some very important social issues. While the ending isn't neat and perfect, it feels right and the conclusion will haunt you.

Cover Comments: I just love this cover so much! The way the brightness of the forest stands out against the black background is very striking, and it makes you want to lean in for a closer look.

Review copy provided by author.

This one is now available! The e-book is on sale for $2.99!

Friday, March 16, 2012

On Death

Today I have a guest post by Jackie Morse Kessler, author of Hunger, Rage, and soon-to-be-released Loss!

On Death
By Jackie Morse Kessler

Ever since he first appeared in Hunger, I’ve hugely enjoyed writing Death. (Not to be confused with writing about little-d death, which, granted, can also be enjoyable to write about. Let me know if this bothers you.) He’s always been a fascinating character—timeless, ageless, a bit of a slacker. Then again, when everyone comes to you at one point or another, what’s the rush?

Unlike other characters of mine, I knew what he looked like from the start: exactly like Kurt Cobain. He even sang and played the guitar. Why? I still don’t know how this happened. I wasn’t even a Nirvana fan until I started working on Hunger. (Now? I’m convinced that the Unplugged: New York concert was one of the most powerful musical experiences ever.) Since his appearance in Hunger, I’ve figured out exactly what Death is all about—which is a good thing, since I’m writing his book right now. :)

Readers will get to see a lot more of Death in my new book, LOSS—including another side of him which may, or may not, explain a lot more about him. There are bits of foreshadowing sprinkled in LOSS for what’s to come in Breath.

Many authors have tackled Death as an anthropomorphic personification—my personal favorites are by Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Piers Anthony. Who are some of your favorites? Please comment below. And if you do…you’re entered in the giveaway!


LOSS by Jackie Morse Kessler comes out March 20, 2012!

GIVEAWAY: One lucky commenter below will win a small cover poster of LOSS—and will be entered in the grand prize drawing! The grand prize winner will receive signed copies of HUNGER, RAGE and LOSS—and will get to name a character in BREATH, the fourth book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series. The grand prize winner will be picked on Sunday, April 1, 2012. No foolin’.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Star

This might not be of interest to a lot of you, but I know I have some Spanish-speaking readers out there who will appreciate this! The Star is a Spanish novel by Javi Araguz and Isabel Hierro. Currently, it's only available in Spanish and in Portuguese, but hopefully it will be translated into English! You can visit bookthestar.com to read about it and read the first chapter (in English).

What really attracted me to The Star was the awesome cover and this cool trailer (this is the English version). Check it out! If you don't speak Spanish but think this sound good, spread the word! If you do speak Spanish, check out the website to see how you can get a copy. It won some prestigious awards in Spain, and it's been pretty popular!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

It's been nearly nine years since Bitterblue became queen after her tyrannical father's rule, and the kingdom of Monsea is still struggling. Monsea has undergone tremendous change, but the young queen finds herself buried under paperwork, unaware of what truly happens outside of her tower. So she sneaks out one night and goes into the city, pretending to be peasant in various taverns. It's not long before she meets Saf and Teddy, two young thieves who steal to right the wrongs of King Leck. Bitterblue befriends them and, not realizing she is their queen, the two young men open her eyes to the true state of her kingdom, and the cause for it—betrayal and deception among those Bitterblue trusts the most.

Kristin Cashore has written another magnificent novel, just as riveting and emotional as Graceling and Fire. Bitterblue is such a wonderful main character—she's inquisitive and brave, and even though she struggles with the day to day business of being queen and managing her advisers, her passion for her country and the people is genuine. Her decision to go into the city is as much of an attempt to learn more about her kingdom as it is a step of freedom made for her own sake. Throughout the novel she must deal with all sorts of inner pain and doubt when it comes to the memories of her parents, the confusing time spent with Leck, and trying to learn the truth about all of the things she doesn't understand. Saf and Teddy aren't able to help her directly with these problems, but put her on the right path towards figuring them out. With the help of trusted friends and family members, she slowly begins to uncover a conspiracy to hide what Leck did and deciphers the secrets both parents kept encrypted.

There are many twists and turns throughout the plot, plenty of skillful and (sometimes) surprising character development, and a good deal of heartbreak as Bitterblue delves into the darkest memories of Monsea in order to better understand how to help her country heal. This theme of uncovering the truth and moving beyond a legacy of pain and suffering is strong and wrought with pain, but it's executed perfectly in Cashore's skilled hand. Her writing is expressive, complex, and full of feeling. She's spectacularly talented, and the way she weaves Bitterblue's story together with the prequels Graceling and Fire is both impressive and delightful. Bitterblue is full of perfect amounts of drama, pain, emotion, humor, and romance with a stunning ending that will leave readers wondering where Cashore will take them next.

Cover Comments: I love the cover. The blue and purple are pretty, and the keys are so significant to the book. Not only does Bitterblue have to unlock secrets of her past, but she also does some literal unlocking as well. The cover is gorgeous!

ARC provided by publisher.

Note: It doesn't matter which order you read Graceling and Fire in (though I say start with Graceling), but note that Bitterblue is a direct sequel to Graceling, and a companion to Fire. However, as there are a couple of major Fire spoilers in Bitterblue, I recommend reading both before Bitterblue! You can read my reviews by clicking on the links above.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good News for Alexandra Monir Fans!

A little over a year ago I reviewed Timeless by Alexandra Monir. You can read my review here, but suffice to say that it was a wonderful book I enjoyed immensely, and I am eager for the sequel, Timekeeper, to arrive sometime this fall!

I received some really good news yesterday: Alexandra has written a short "bridge" story between Timeless and Timekeeper called "Secrets of the Time Society" and it's released today! Hooray!

You can download it for only $1.99, and hopefully it'll keep you satisfied until Timekeeper's release!

P.S. One really awesome thing is that Alexandra, who is also a singer and a songwriter, produced the two songs that her main character "writes" in the book, "Bring the Color Back" and "Chasing Time"! You can find them in iTunes, and I definitely recommend looking them up and downloading them! They're gorgeous!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Hidden Gallery: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

This is the second book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. To read my review of book one, The Mysterious Howling, click here.

Penelope Lumley and the three Incorrigibles, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia, are just recovering from a rather disastrous holiday ball when Miss Lumley is invited to London to visit with her old headmistress. When Penelope suggests the trip to her employer, Lady Ashton decides that the entire household must settle in London. Penelope is excited for all of the learning opportunities, and guided by a rather peculiar and oftentimes misleading guide book, she and the children embark on a journey to London. But there are dangerous people in the big city to avoid, and new friends to be made. As Penelope keeps an eye on her wayward charges, she discovers that her unique guidebook may be another clue to uncovering the secret of her past.

As charming and as riotously funny as its prequel, The Hidden Gallery delves deeper into the greater mysteries surrounding the lives of one plucky governess and her (somewhat) reformed charges. Part of what makes this series of books so enjoyable is Wood's unique voice. She tells a wonderful story while imparting her modern sensibilities and perspectives within the historical setting. It not only is engaging, but makes the books accessible for kids who might find historical fiction a struggle. Charming Penelope is equally as winning—her passion for teaching and for bringing up the Incorrigibles is wonderful, and her sensible outlook on matters concerning the mystery of the hidden gallery and the children's origins just rackets up the suspense. Though answers are scarce and revelations are slow, the action in this installment is more than enough to keep readers entertained. Theatrical in its drama and thrilling in its escapades, the plot of The Hidden Gallery will be hard to tear away from—though who would want to? The book wraps up nicely with the promise of a sequel, new friends, and even a hint at the supernatural. Make sure you have book three, The Unseen Guest, on hand.

Cover Comments: I love the cute illustrations for these covers--classic and fun!

Review copy purchased.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shelf Discovery: Steampunk!

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've been kind of on a steampunk kick lately. I just (sadly) finished the last book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, and I also got my co-worker hooked on the books. While going through some research papers I wrote a year ago on Imperial Russia I got it in my head that a steampunk novel set in that time would be quite interesting--the geographical setting, the clothes, and the culture would all be really awesome for a steampunk novel. Then we got a few cool steampunk anthologies in at the bookstore that have been vying for my attention...it's just been on my mind!

So, this week's Shelf Discovery has to be Steampunk!, an anthology edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant! It has more YA authors in in than the other two we got in, and I am so excited to pick it up soon!
"Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre’s established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it."
What do you think? Sounds excellent, no?

If you're into steampunk, check out an earlier post about Steampunk Poe.

What have you discovered lately?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Meant to Be Cover Reveal!

I just found out about this book, Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, and I have to share it with you all! The cover has just been released, and it's almost as fabulous at the book sounds! Check it out:
"Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be"). 
But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love. 
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be."
I love, love this cover--the colors, the London skyline, the couple's stance! It's just all so fabulous! I cannot wait to read this book!

Meant to Be will be released on November 13th, 2012!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cover Talk: The Many Faces of Rosebush

You might remember that I did a Cover Talk post with Rosebush a couple of months ago. I talked about how I preferred the hardcover cover over the new paperback one, which had just come out.

Well, I was wandering through Walmart the other day and I had to check out the book competition. I was very surprised to see a paperback copy of Rosebush by Michele Jaffe with this cover:

Uh, so not what I expected! 

I read the book over a year ago, but I don't recall it even being super romantic (or many instances requiring one to shed one's shirt), but I guess it's all about creating a statement that gets people to buy books. I just prefer the original cover--it's got the shock factor without a half-naked guy on the cover, and it has COLOR.

But the odd thing about this cover issue is that while I've seen the black and white one in person (so it DOES exist, contradictory person on Twitter), when I look on Amazon, the first paperback cover is what's displayed. And trying to find a picture of this cover was SUPER hard (which is why it's a little blurry). I was about this close to going back to Walmart and snapping a picture with my phone. Weird?

Also--coincidence?--there seen to be a lot of Penguin paperback sporting black and white covers different from their originals. Are these different editions/a new trend that I just happened to totally miss?

Anyway, here are the hardcover and original paperback covers again. Of all three, which do you prefer?

P.S. The hardcover edition (with the best cover!) is on sale! Only $6!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Nightworld by Jack Blaine

Nick is used to taking care of himself; his mother has been dead for years, and his father is a scientist who is constantly absorbed in his work. Now it's the beginning of summer vacation, and Nick just wants to hang with his friends and try to get a date with his crush, Lara...but his dad is suddenly acting weird and over-protective. Then a dense, dark cloud appears in the horizon one night. It rapidly covers the sky, blocking out the sun, and it doesn’t go away. It's completely gloomy 24/7, and Nick finds himself suddenly alone in this dark new world. Piecing together clues left by his father, Nick struggles to make sense of what's going and survive the best he can with his friends.

Jack Blaine's latest book is a riveting and thrilling read. Nick is a great believable narrator—he's smart, witty, and he thinks on his feet. He has to undergo a lot of change and a lot of heartbreak in a short amount of time, but he never gives up. Through unexplained violence, theft, and the revelation of shocking secrets about his father, Nick keeps moving forward, trying to figure out what his next move should be when no one has any answers. He eventually finds his way to Lara, and the two of them team up to try to figure out how to get to safety and determine what the objects left behind by Nick's father mean. If there is even a way to ever reverse the darkness, they’ve got the best chance to figure it out. The tension and sharp action will keep even the most reluctant reader hooked as Nick finds that when faced with death, people can be cruel and calculating. With themes of fear, humanity, compassion, and courage, The Nightworld is a quick, edge-of-your-seat read that is reminiscent of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and an open ending that leaves room for more.

Cover Comments: I like the darkness of the cover, and the slanting perspective on the figure walking away. It's a neat cover, very simplistic and affecting.

This one is available as a $3.99 e-book now, and will be out in paperback from HarperTeen on April 24th, 2012

Digital copy purchased.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


It seems like super enhanced e-books are becoming something that are popping up a bit more lately. While I wasn't totally enamored with Chopsticks, Gift by Andrea J. Buchanan is a new one that is coming out soon and it seems interesting. Here's a Youtube video showcasing its features:

 Seems kinda neat...but it also seems like something you'd need an iPad, Kindle Fire, or Nook tablet in order to fully enjoy on the go (i.e. without a computer). How many of you guys own a tablet device?

I don't mean to knock anything or sound like I'm stuck in my ways, but I just love books because they're books. These enhanced e-books are fun as far as Cathy's Book was fun (I really enjoyed it, it was like a great big puzzle), but ultimately, it made me a little weary of keeping track of everything going on. I think nothing beats a good book.

Anyway, we shall see what this one looks like! I am eager to see how it'll pan out despite my reservations!

What do you think?

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Writing Well

I am sharing my favorite writing tips in partnership with Grammarly grammar checker. Grammarly believes in the power of the written word and that everyone has the potential to be a superb writer. 

One question I receive a lot is "How do you write so many reviews?"

Answer: lots of practice. I've written over 600 reviews in the past 5 years ( in addition to discussion posts, Cover Talk, interviews, Shelf Discovery, etc), and while writing a review isn't always easy, it's a great way to build writing skills. No matter what sort of writing you're interested in--creative, academic, or writing for a blog--practice is key. The more you write, the more you'll improve.

Sometimes the hardest part about writing is getting started. Here are a few tips to get you going:

Write every day! This is probably the hardest thing to tackle, but it’s important. You have to be consistent with your practice. Every day I write either a blog post, a paper, a review, or work on my creative writing projects.

Take notes! Always having a piece of paper and a pen to write down thoughts is essential. I keep blank 3x5 notecards as bookmarks in every book I read so I can write down thoughts for reviews or papers. They're also helpful for little ideas or inspired lines you may have for your creative writing.

Outline! Even if it's just the vaguest idea of where you want to go, it's important to write it down so you know where you're going. Then keep it fluid so you can always change it as you go!

Give yourself a break! It's always good to take some time in between first drafts and revisions. I try to let at least a day go by between finishing a draft of a paper or review before I jump in on revisions. It allows me to have a fresh perspective on what I've written.

Read aloud! This sounds hokey, but nothing helps you catch little grammar mistakes and awkward-sounding sentences like taking the time to read it out loud. But you should probably avoid doing this in public...

Check the books! I'll admit it, I have trouble remembering the difference between "lay" and "lie." When you're not sure about your grammar, having a good writing reference book can really help out. I have the Hacker book--it's great for writing academic papers, it's well-organized, and it has a lot of practical writing advice that will solve all of your little grammar questions.

Have some fun! I love reading various writing blogs, like Reasoning With Vampires. It goes through the Twilight series page by page to point out faults in writing and plotting--it's actually all quite interesting and educational. It reinforces all of the grammar and punctuation concepts that you were taught in elementary school, but probably didn't pay attention to. And, if you’re interested in creative writing, it points out some plot pitfalls (like cheating at narration) that you probably weren’t aware even existed.

I know that these days our education system doesn’t put enough emphasis on the art of writing. It doesn’t matter what field you’re interested in going into or what you want to do with your life—writing is important on all levels. It’s never too late to work on improving your skills.

Do you have any writing advice? Share it in the comments!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shelf Discovery: The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

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.

The Winter Ghosts is a relatively new paperback that came through our door a couple of weeks ago. I loved the title, and when I read what this one is about, I was very intrigued! Check it out: 
"World War I robbed England and France of an entire generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson's case, the battlefields took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution, Freddie is travelling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Freezing and dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. 
By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries, and discovered his own role in the life of this old remote town. 
By turns thrilling, poignant, and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage."
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and this one sounds very interesting...what do you think?

What have you discovered lately?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

Cricket's life is changing rapidly, and there's nothing she can do to stop it. She's just graduated from high school and moved out of her childhood home, and now her mother is getting remarried. Cricket's mother has been close to marriage a few times before, only to back out at the last minute. Cricket doesn't want her mom to get cold feet this time—Dan Jax is perfect, even if his own kids aren't so enthusiastic about the relationship. As Cricket handles these major life changes, all occurring within a week of each other, she is also dealing with her own recent, not-quite-complete break-up and the trying to prepare herself for the prospect of life never being the same again.

Deb Caletti’s latest book is everything readers have come to expect from her. She takes readers back to Bishop Rock, the setting of Stay, for The Story of Us. The charming and idyllic seaside setting is lovely, and it is an interesting parallel to the tension and turmoil that the characters experience in the week leading up to Cricket's mom's wedding. Caletti's talent for creating interesting, complex characters and relationships that remind readers of their own families shines through in this novel. Cricket has relied on her mom and her older brother (and beloved dog Jupiter) a lot over the years, and they've been through a lot of hard times together, so it's natural for her to just want them all to be happy. However, lots of internal confusion arises with the issue of the wedding and discussions of the future. Cricket is not so sure that she wants to move away from home yet, and while she knows that Dan is good for her mom, but she isn't sure if she believes that relationships, even with the perfect partner, can work. Her evidence is in her relationship complications and subsequent break-up with Jannsen, her long-time boyfriend and the only person outside of her mom and brother that she considers family. These muddled emotions and disappointments mesh with the sometimes tragic and often comical family relationships and antics to create a beautiful, emotion-driven story. This is yet another excellent, family-oriented novel that will remind readers that while life is always changing, there are some things that will always stay the same, no matter what.

Cover Comments: I love this pretty cover! The waves and the gauzy fabric just look so cool together, and the lighting is beautiful! 

This one will be available April 24th, 2012!

Digital galley provided by publisher.

Friday, March 2, 2012

March Monthly Commenter Contest: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

I love, love, love Rachel Hawkins' funny and suspenseful Hex Hall series. I honestly didn't know what I'd think when I started reading it, but I fell head over heels for all of the books, and I am eager for the release of book three, Spell Bound, this month! And, I know all of you are equally excited (if search terms are any idication, that is), which is why I am offering a brand new hardcover copy as the prize for this month's Monthly Commenter Contest!

How to win: Every time you post a significant comment that contributes to the conversation, I give you an entry into the contest! The more you comment, the more you entries you get! Only comments on posts from March 2012 are eligible, so keep coming back for more posts and more chances to comment. For all of the details, click here.

Haven't read Hex Hall or Demonglass yet? Click on the links to read my reviews, then go grab yourself copies! They're out in paperback, so they won't break the bank!

Who's your favorite character in the series?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

Sadie has known that she and her best friend Garrett are meant to be together for two years now—she's just waiting for Garrett to realize it. But when he gets into a prestigious writing summer camp and all she has to look forward to is a job at a local coffee shop, Sadie decides that enough is enough. She is going to get over Garrett once and for all. With some help from friends new and old, Sadie puts herself through a twelve-step recovery process. But can you fall out of love with someone and still remain friends with him?

Getting Over Garrett Delaney is a delightfully funny read, and Sadie is a charming, plucky narrator. The heart of the story takes place in the coffee shop, Totally Wired, that many characters work and meet at, which is a fun and energetic setting with lots of eccentric characters. It's the stage for a lot of drama, the beginning and end of many relationships, and the site of a support group that Sadie leans on. Her twelve-step program is witty and simple, but it is pretty solid advice on McDonald's part. Sadie's personal growth is really the best part of this book—she slowly begins to embrace her own identity by shedding her carefully Garrett-tailored image, and deciding that it's okay to like popular books and movies because she likes them, not because they're things she feels she ought to like for their literary or culture value. She discovers that while it's important to be open-minded and try new things, you shouldn't change your tastes and preferences for the sake of a boy, a good lesson that bears repeating. There's just enough romance in this one to satisfy readers, but the dominant themes of friendship and independence prevail. McDonald has written a fun and humorous book that will be well-received by YA readers.

Cover Comments: The cover is what first attracted me to this book--I love the bright colors and the model's position on the cover--so cute!

Review copy purchased on Kindle.