The Compulsive Reader: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Dark Unwinding Blog Tour: Character Interview with Mary!

If you've read The Dark Unwinding, you'll know that Mary is a plucky and eccentric young woman who resides at Stranwyne and appoints herself Katharine's lady's maid upon her arrival. She's got a lot of entertaining ideas about what her position entails. Click here to read my review of The Dark Unwinding, and read on to learn more about Mary!

TCR: What do you believe is the most important quality a ladies’ maid must possess?

Mary: Why, anybody knows that, Miss! The best thing a maid can be doing for her lady is to hold her tongue. ‘Silence is golden,’ that’s what my mum used to say, though how something you can’t hear can be having a color is a mystery to me, Miss. But when your lady is having one of her little moods, when she’s wanting her tea and a bit of peace and a think, that’s when a maid shows what she’s made of, so to speak. That’s the time I’m standing right by my lady’s side, Miss, making certain that all is calm and quiet-like with the fire poked up hot, asking if she’s needing some sugar, or a biscuit, or a lemon, or a chicken, or a comb, or a bath, a blanket and a pillow for her feet. Things like that, Miss. And if a lady starts to get a mite cranky then a good maid is knowing how to say just the right soothing things, Miss, and keep on saying them ‘til her lady stops arguing and gets good and quiet again. That’s what I do, Miss, and it works like a charm. A maid that knows how to be letting a lady have her tea in peace is worth every bit of her wages, that’s certain.

TCR: What advice would you give to other ladies’ maids?

Mary: I’m glad you asked that, Miss, as most girls these days don’t seem to be taking the job too serious, and it ain’t like they’re teaching it in the schoolhouse, Miss. Take teatime, Miss, like what we talked of before. When your lady is in her chair having her bit of quiet and already said she don’t want all them things, well some of these girls would be thinking to just put up their feet, but would a good ladies’ maid be caught sitting idle? Of course she wouldn’t, Miss! She’d be finding ways to make herself useful, like cleaning the back of her lady’s chair, or banging that sticky drawer in the dressing table back and forth and back and forth ‘til it shuts just so, or dusting off all them little clacky bits what hang down from the chandelier. Just ‘cause a lady’s sitting still don’t mean her maid has to, that’s what my mum says. Taking care of a lady ain’t a simple business and no mistake!

TCR: What's your favorite room at Stranwyne Keep?

Mary: Why, mine own, of course. It ain’t pink, for one thing, like the whole blame rest of the house, and I ain’t likely to be strangled in the night by one of them cobwebs hanging down from the ceiling. And that’s saying a good deal for Stranwyne Keep, Miss. It is a bit lacking, of course, not having the ghostly footsteps what come in the night or the clinking of chains or them whispering voices out of nowheres, but my lady well makes up for it by seeing all them things that ain’t there for me, don’t you know. She’s quite a one for that, poor thing, though I swore I wouldn’t be saying a word about it, Miss, and so I shan’t, not for a sixpence. I can hold my tongue when asked or my name ain’t Mary Brown.

Was there anything else you was wanting to know?

Have a question or comment for Mary? Leave it in the comment for a chance to win some Dark Unwinding bookmarks!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Katharine Tulman is an orphan at the total mercy of her cruel aunt Alice. Katharine's only hope for any sort of future is to stay in the good graces of her aunt and continue to do the accounts for the household. She thought this would be easy enough...until Alice sends her to the family's estate to commit her Uncle Tulman to an insane asylum for squandering the family's fortune. Katharine finds the task unpleasant, and hopes to just get it over with quickly...but she is shocked at what she finds at Stranwyne. Her uncle is peculiar and childish, but a brilliant inventor. Furthermore, the estate is populated with people he has rescued from the workhouses on London. Katharine must decide between keeping in her aunt's good graces and ruining countless lives, or discovering a way to conceal what's going on at Stranwyne without raising suspicion...and risk her own future.

Sharon Cameron's The Dark Unwinding is an engaging, dark, and thoughtful steampunk tale. Katharine Tulman is a superb protagonist. She is well aware of the restrictions placed upon her by her aunt and society, but she doesn't let them define her. She is a clever girl and she has a plan for ensuring her survival, and her major struggle is deciding what to do when that plan is threatened by her conscience as she falls in love with Stranwyne Keep and the people there. The estate is a magnificent setting, full of hidden rooms, underground tunnels, and impossible inventions. The characters are equally mysterious and vivid; Uncle Tully's highly eccentric personality is what makes him such a genius, and the protective Lane Moreau and Mrs. Jeffries are fiercely loyal and will do anything to protect him. Aunt Alice is the perfect character to hate, and even the minor characters are intriguing. There are a lot of twists and darkness throughout the book to keep you guessing—is anyone truly mad at Stranwyne, and if so, is it Uncle Tully or someone less obvious? The last quarter of the book is full of action and secrets and suspense, building up to a good, if unexpected, ending that leaves room for more books about Katharine and all of the fascinating residents of Stranwyne.

Cover Comments: I love the gears behind the title--very cool and very appropriate. I also love how the model is in a blue dress, which has some significance in the book. This is a beautiful and atmospheric cover!

ARC provided by publisher.

This book will be available September 1st, 2012!

Check back tomorrow for an exclusive character interview from The Dark Unwinding!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Looking Ahead: Bethany Frenette and Dark Star

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 I have Bethany Frenette, author of Dark Star, on the blog to talk writing and covers!

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

BF: Superhero’s daughter discovers that demons are real.

TCR: What was your reaction when you first saw your cover?
BF: I was thrilled! I thought it was very pretty, and I absolutely love the coloring. Plus, the vain part of me was really excited to see my name on it.

TCR: What has surprised you the most about the writing and publication process for Dark Star?

BF: Probably that it’s happened at all. Becoming a published author was my childhood dream – and what I’ve worked for most of my life – so having it actually become a reality was a bit of a shock. A wonderful shock, but still a shock! But in terms of process … I think learning just how much goes into the becoming of a book. I had some idea of the editorial process before selling DARK STAR (we discussed it a bit in my MFA program, and I’d done research on the subject while querying my agent), but I was still rather ignorant of the effort that goes into turning a manuscript into a printed book. So all of that was also very exciting.

TCR: What's the best place for readers to stay up to date on you and your books?
BF: My website is a good place for it! I’ll be posting all book updates there. And I use Twitter frequently, so that's also an option.

Thanks so much, Bethany! Read more about Dark Star, which comes out on October 23rd, below!
"Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. Her mother is the superhero Morning Star, the most deadly crime-fighter in the Twin Cities, so it’s hard for Audrey not to feel safe. That is, until she’s lured into the sweet night air by something human and not human—something with talons and teeth, and a wide, scarlet smile.

Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn’t fight crime at night. She fights Harrowers—livid, merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Yet some have managed to escape. And they want Audrey dead, just because of who she is: one of the Kin.
To survive, Audrey will need to sharpen the powers she has always had. When she gets close to someone, dark corners of the person’s memories become her own, and she sometimes even glimpses the future. If Audrey could only get close to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to discover the Harrowers’ next move. But Leon, her mother’s bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick, has other ideas. Lately, he won’t let Audrey out of his sight.

When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving her herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything—and everyone—she loves."
I think it sounds awesome, I am itching to read it, especially after watching The Dark Knight Rises! What do you all think?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Kat, Lillia, and Mary are three very different girls with one thing in common—someone has wronged them in serious way. Kat can't get over the fact that mean girl and ex-friend has been spreading rumors about her for years, and she wants to do something about it. Lillia thought Alex was her friend, but when she finds out that he's taken advantage of her little sister, she's furious. And Mary has wanted to confront the boy who bullied her for years...but why not get revenge instead? Simple pranks and humiliation aren't enough for these girls—they're going to make those who did them wrong pay.

Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian are an excellent writing team, and together they've created a very engaging story with a great island setting in Burn for Burn, the first in a new trilogy. While the retribution that the girls exact on the three people who have done them wrong is intense and smart, what's so compelling about this book is not the revenge angle or the details of the pranks, but the characterization. Despite the fact that the book is broken up into the three perspectives, Kat emerges as the protagonist and instigator. She's very independent and bad-ass, but she has her vulnerabilities and she learns a lot through this experience. Lillia is very loyal and protective of her sister, and though she has a lot of money, she tries to be generous and is kind. Mary is quite sensitive and delicate, but she's not powerless. She's a bit of an enigma, and the mystery surrounding her only builds as the book progresses. The plot unfolds quite nicely, and just as the girls don't hold back when it comes to revenge, the consequences aren't minor either. Han and Vivian wrap up the book with a lot on the line, and it will be very interesting to see what happens to the girls and their victims in book two.

Cover Comments: I love, love, love this cover. The girls on the cover look so much like the characters, and the coloring is so soft and pretty, which is an interesting juxtaposition to the intensity and seriousness of the story. It's beautiful! (And as a bonus--when I was at the Simon & Schuster cocktail party, Jenny and Siobhan said that this is the product of a photo shoot and the other cover photos were shot as well, so they'll all match! Yay!)

ARC picked up at Simon & Schuster party.

Burn for Burn will be out on September 18th, 2012.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Giveaway: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits is a new book by Katie McGarry, and it seems like every time I get on Twitter I hear about this book. Lucky for you, I am giving away one copy here on the blog!

Here's what it's about:
"No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. 
But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. 
Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again."
And here is a Q&A with Katie!

Q: What was your inspiration for writing Pushing the Limits?

A: I had two main inspirations: One, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write a story in which my characters felt strong enough to leave their pasts behind and create new futures for themselves. The first scene I ever saw in my mind was Echo and Noah leaving town after graduation. Two, I wanted to write two characters who were facing overwhelming issues and who, through battling these issues, found hope at the end of their journey.

Q: How did you come up with Echo’s name?

A: Echo went through several name changes as I wrote the manuscript. For a while, she had a very normal name, but it always felt off. It wasn’t until I looked at Echo from her mother’s point of view that I found her name. Echo’s mother loved Greek mythology so it made perfect sense that she would name her children after the myths. I read several Greek myths and the moment I found Echo’s, I fell in love. Echo, to me, was the girl who lost her voice. Thankfully, she finds it by the end.

Q: Which character is the most “like” you?

A: All of them. I gave each character a piece of me (though some have larger slices of me than others). Overall, I’d say I’m a strange combination of Echo, Lila and Beth. Echo has my need to please, Lila has my unfailing loyalty to my friends and Beth encompasses my insecurities.

Q: Did you experience friendships with Grace types when you were in high school?

A: Yes. And the more people have read this story, the more this question comes up. Grace has struck a stronger nerve in people than I ever would have imagined. It seems most of us have un- fortunately experienced a relationship where a person wants to “like” you and wants “be your friend,” but only if it serves their needs. In case anyone is wondering, that isn’t friendship.

Q: Are there any parts of the story you feel particularly close to?

A: Yes. The relationship between Noah, Isaiah and Beth. Beyond my parents and sister, my nearest family members were over fourteen hours away. My friends became my family. The people I grew up with were more than people I watched movies with or talked to occasionally on the phone. These were people with whom I shared life’s most devastating moments, but also my hardest laughs. These were people who I would have willingly died for and I know they would have done the same for me. They shared my triumphs with smiles on their faces and congratulatory hugs. They held me when I cried and offered to beat up whoever hurt my feelings. These were also the same people who were more than happy to get in my face if they thought I was making a wrong decision.

Q: Did anything that happens to Echo happen to you?

A: Sort of. I was bitten by a dog when I was in second grade and repressed the memory. It felt very strange to have no memory of an incident that other people knew about. It was even stranger to have injuries and not have an inkling where they came from. In college, I finally remembered the incident when a dog lunged at me. I relived the horrible event and sort of “woke up” a few minutes later to find myself surrounded by people I loved. Even though I “remember” the incident, I still don’t remember the whole thing. I only see still frames in my mind and there is no blood in any of the memories.

Check out the trailer!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

When Eleanor Fitt's brother goes missing, she suspects the worst. The dead have been rising in Philadelphia and a necromancer is on the loose. Eleanor is certain that her brother is danger, so she approaches the Spirit Hunters, hoping to enlist their help in finding her brother. Unfortunately, they've got their hands full in attempting to keep the dead from attacking the city, and their help isn't entirely welcome by the city. But Eleanor isn't giving up easily, and soon she finds herself going against her society mother to help her new friends keep the evil at bay and uncover a plot that might have killed her father.

Something Strange and Deadly is a great start to an inventive, compelling, and dark trilogy. Susan Dennard makes historic Philadelphia tangible and real, even with her imagined zombies invading; everything from the physical settings, mannerisms, and dress is so vivid. Eleanor is not exceptionally beautiful, nor the most slender nor richest girl in Philadelphia, but she has a lot of courage and love for her brother and that makes her quite likable. While she may believe that she is trapped by conventions and her mother's expectations at first, in working with the Spirit Hunters she realistically learns to face her fears and embrace her own strength and individuality. The supporting characters of the Spirit Hunters Joseph, Daniel, and Jie are also very engaging and the chemistry between them and Eleanor is excellent. Dennard writes action scenes with a lot of verve and suspense, and the consequences of the conflict between the Spirit Hunters and the mysterious necromancer match the intensity of the entire novel. Dennard's excellent debut concludes with a satisfying mixture of hope and regret, but you won't want to wait too long to read the sequel, A Darkness Strange and Lovely.

Cover Comments: I think this is a beautiful cover, but I don't like it for this book. The gears in the dark background are neat, and I think that this model's dress is lovely and dark, but the girl on the cover is NOT Eleanor, and her dress seems to be far too revealing for the time period. I do, however, like the font the title is in a lot. So, lovely cover, but not for this book. Oh well.

Review copy purchased.

Friday, August 24, 2012

25 Things You Don't Know About Alyssa Sheinmel

Today I have Alyssa Sheinmel, author of the soon-to-be-released The Stone Girl, on the blog to tell us 25 things you don't know about her! Click here to learn more about The Stone Girl!

I read Us Weekly almost every week. It’s a total guilty pleasure, I know, but I just can’t help myself. One of my favorite features is called “Twenty-Five Things You Don’t Know About Me”; every week, they choose a different celebrity to tell us twenty-five things about him or herself. I am definitely not a celebrity, and Us Weekly will certainly never want to interview me, but why should that stop me from making a list of twenty-five things about myself to share? Here are my Twenty-Five Things:
  1. Everyone thinks I’m a born and bred New Yorker, but I’m originally from California’s Bay Area. 
  2. I stopped writing The Stone Girl when I was about halfway through because I thought no one would want to read it. 
  3. I loved writing The Lucky Kind and I hope to write another book from a boy’s point-of-view someday. 
  4. My favorite TV shows of all time are “The West Wing,” “Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip,” and “Sports Night,” and I think Aaron Sorkin has taught me everything I know about how to write dialogue. 
  5. My favorite TV show right now is “The Vampire Diaries.” 
  6. I’ve never read The Catcher in the Rye. 
  7. I think that reading Alice Hoffman, Mary Gordon, or Joan Didion can fix writers’ block. 
  8. I came up with the name of the protagonist of The Stone Girl, Sarah Beth – Sethie – Weiss when I was in Napa, California, planning my wedding. 
  9. I often prefer writing in the third person to writing in the first-person. 
  10. I reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy every few years, always in winter. 
  11. The first chapter book I ever read by myself was Judy Blume’s The One in the Middle in the Green Kangaroo. 
  12. I love all animals, especially dogs and horses, and those ASPCA commercials make my cry and cringe and occasionally flee the room if I can’t find the remote to change the channel. (But I have to admit, they’re effective – More often than not, I do end up making a donation later.) 
  13. The last book I read was A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin. 
  14. I mostly write in my pajamas. 
  15. I ask members of my family not to read my books (though only about half have agreed to it!). 
  16. I hate getting my hair cut. 
  17. The Stone Girl is definitely not a memoir, but it was inspired by my own struggles with body-obsession when I was a teen and in my early twenties. 
  18. I don’t like to read anything I’ve written once it’s been published. 
  19. Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. 
  20. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember. 
  21. I love the Q&A part of book events. Please ask questions! 
  22. I wear sweaters, scarves, and boots even in the middle of the summer. 
  23. I read something by Ernest Hemingway almost every day. 
  24. I worked in the marketing department at Random House Children’s Books for nearly seven years. (Sometimes I use my old business cards as bookmarks.) 
  25. I only just joined Twitter in March, but I’m totally hooked. (Follow me @AlyssaSheinmel!) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Soho Teen is Coming!

Soho Teen is a new YA imprint that will be launching in 2013 with some awesome-looking books! I'm excited not just because their books are on my radar though, but because they seem so enthusiastic and excited about the YA community! Check out this trailer for the launch of their imprint!

Want to stay updated? Check out the Twitter feed and Facebook page!

And to count down the days...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

Ellie has always been a bit wild, but no one ever expected for her life to end so abruptly when she and her best friend overdose one night. Her older brother Jake struggles with massive amounts of guilt—he knew Ellie was struggling, but distanced himself from his rocky family life when he went off to college. Sarah, the one who survived that night, is lost. She goes through the motions of therapy and sobriety, but all she really wants to do is follow Ellie. And her sister Jessie is guarding secrets about herself and Ellie that she isn't ready to deal with. But when she finds thirty-four pieces of paper under Ellie's bed, all three will have to face the truth.

34 Pieces of You is a complicated, emotional, and mesmerizing account of four intertwined lives and the consequences of a dark childhood and many bad decisions. The book rotates between the perspectives of Jake, Sarah, and Jessie both before and after Ellie's death. Rodrigues carefully pulls back the layers of the characters' lives to get to the heart of so many dizzying emotions, and she makes it look effortless. Jake provides many interesting insights into Ellie's past as her brother, and his own struggles with their fractured family are arresting. Sarah's character and her friendship with Ellie reveals a lot about how Ellie presented herself to the world, kept people from getting too close to her, and how her actions affected her best friends. Jessie was perhaps the only person who caught a glimpse of the real Ellie, but she is so often overlooked. Her secrets are surprising at first, but when she finally confronts all of the difficult emotions she experiences, she is able to start to heal and understand. This story unfolds beautifully and the short, affecting chapters make it an engrossing and unforgettable. Rodrigues is an expressive writer; her ability to convey so much feeling without overwhelming readers with a surplus of words is effective and impressive. 34 Pieces of You is unforgettable and Carmen Rodrigues is incredibly talented.

Cover Comments: I like how dark this cover is, and how the girl is looking up. I think everything about it represents the story quite well.

This one will be available September 4th, 2012.

ARC picked up at Simon & Schuster party.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Envy Winner!

The winner of the copy of Envy is Valia L.! Thanks so much for your participation, everyone! Keep an eye out for more contests heading your way soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Girls Nightmare Out Chat and Tour!

In celebration of that last gasp of summer freedom, Tor has invited three of their teen authors to participate in a special chat on Twitter, immediately followed by the Girls’ Nightmare Out book tour!

Join Marta Acosta (Dark Companion), Kendare Blake (Girl of Nightmares), and Lisa Desrochers (Last Rite) as they chat with YA blogger and moderator Katie Bartow, of Mundie Moms.

THE CHAT: Join the Twitter chat on TODAY at 4 PM Eastern. Just search for the hashtag phrase #TorChat on Twitter, and include the hashtag in your own tweets to participate in the chat. Don’t forget to stick around at five o’clock to find out about winning copies of each authors’ latest book, plus a little something extra!

And then if you can, meet the authors while they tour the country! To see if they're coming to a bookstore or library near you, click here.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Calder White is the reluctant member of a family of vengeful mermaids living in the cold, deep waters of Lake Superior. For years his sisters have been trying to track down and kill Jason Hancock, whom they blame for the death of their mother years earlier. When the Hancock family moves back to the lakeshore, Calder's sisters see their chance. His part in their plan for revenge is simple: get close to Jason's daughter Lily and earn the Hancocks' trust. If Calder does this, he can earn his freedom from his sisters...but how can he follow through with the plan when Lily is getting increasingly curious about the stories of lake monsters?

Lies Beneath is full of equal parts gut wrenching emotion and dangerous action. Calder is a great narrator, with chilling honesty and a constant, earnest struggle to do what's right and fight against his nature to live on his own terms. The settings—both underwater and on land—are great in this novel. Lake Superior is the perfect chilly and mysterious lake setting, and Brown does a wonderful job at building the mermaid world and legends without weighing down the narrative with lengthy explanations. In Calder's clear and straightforward voice, the story flows nicely. Lily is an interesting counterpart to Calder—she's tough and acts like she doesn't care, but she has her soft spots and vulnerabilities. The growing romance between her and Calder is sweet, and the threats they face in Calder's sisters, especially from dangerous Maris, are very real. There is a simple yet unexpected twist at the very end of the book that changes how readers will view the characters and leave them wondering what will happen next for Calder and Lily. Luckily an answer will come in Deep Betrayal, where the story continues in Lily's point of view.

Cover Comments: Interesting that there is a female on the cover--perhaps one of Calder's sisters? It's pretty but perhaps not precisely fitting. Nonetheless, I love the blues of the cover with the bit of red and the font that the title is in. Very nice.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Reading Rants: Jane Eyre is Not Submissive

Occasionally when I have a quiet moment in which I am all caught up in blog posts and writing, I head over to the Time Entertainment page because I really enjoy their coverage of books (okay, I really just enjoy Lev Grossman's writing). Friday was one of those moments, and so there I am, sitting in a coffeeshop with my drink, enjoying the rainy weather and listening to The Lumineers, when this article slaps me in the face.

My reaction at first was to roll my eyes. It seems like these days, EVERYTHING is getting the "50 Shades treatment." The whole 50 Shades phenomenon is something I've not really wrapped my head around, and I know I am not alone in this. It's not that I am so much opposed to the content (though I am), but the fact that it's SO POORLY WRITTEN. I've been put into the unenviable  position of disliking it intensely, but caught between not wanting to say anything (because talking about it will just give it more power) about those books publicly and then being forced to discuss the books congenially with patrons of the bookstore.

Working at a small independent bookstore is nice because we have freedom to stock what WE want, but we're also small and we're also retail, so, you know, there are like 50 copies of all three books on the shelves and a few boxed sets and goddamn it, but they...all....will...sell. And when people come in and want to talk about "those 50 Shades books," I'll talk. I'll even say nice-ish things about the books, like "I've heard they're really engrossing" and "They're super popular" and "Everyone always comes in demanding the next book!" I want to make a sale, and I don't believe that it's right for me to force my opinion about these books on any customer, unless of course they ask for it (and even when they do, they don't want my HONEST opinion). Customers can spend their money how they like, and I have a job at the end of the day, though by that point I am also pulling my hair out and complaining loudly to anyone who will listen (mostly poor HB) about how terribly written and unrealistic and demeaning it all is.

But you know, c'est la vie.

Until that article, with the catchy and cringe-worthy title of "Bronte Bondage," popped up. It's almost a month old, so if you've seen it and are incensed, then YEAH. I'm with you! If you read it and are like, "So what?" then let's talk.

My love of Jane Eyre is no secret. And I don't like when anyone messes with Jane. But it happens. The copyright has expired, which means people can write things like this. And while I probably won't read it, other people may find the idea of Jane being a vampire hunter humorous and want to read an entire book on it (and considering the supernatural elements of Bronte's original, it is kind of amusing).

The problem I have with the super sexy Jane Eyre is the fact that, as I stated in my previous post, she holds to her convictions. She stands by her values and living with Rochester, having a relationship (sexual or romantic) with him is wrong because he already has a wife. Sure, we all are screaming at her to just FORGET THE CRAZY WIFE AND KISS HIM ALREADY but she doesn't, and that makes the ending so much sweeter. If Jane HAD given in to Rochester (and we wouldn't have blamed her, really), she wouldn't have been the Jane we all fell in love with and rooted for and cried for. And without Jane and her amazing character, Jane Eyre wouldn't work as a novel.

Furthermore, take a look at the language used in these two excerpts:

Original Version: 
“‘Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be still too.’ Mr. Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time passed before he spoke; he at last said — ‘Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one another.’” 
New Sexy-fied Version: 
“‘Jane, be still a few moments, you are over-excited. I will be still too.’ My master captured my wrists and secured them behind my back, imprisoning me and preventing my movements… He exerted the force of his will as effortlessly as he schooled my person, relentlessly and with an inexorable force, he commanded me against his body… No matter how I controlled my mind, my very flesh was weak.”
I don't even know how to respond to these changes like a sensible person, but instead I am reminded of Jane's impassioned speech to Mr. Rochester--"Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! --I have as much soul as you--and full as much heart!"

That's Jane, everyone. Jane demands equality. Jane wasn't weak.

I think this is especially important to remember because in a time when it seems like everything must be sexy and modern and the world is buzzing over 50 Shades of Grey, we need to remember what true love and healthy relationships are like, and consider how they aren't portrayed in popular literature. Relationships are not total dependency on someone else. They're not all about sex. They're about equality and respect and love, and individuals having the strength to turn away from a relationship when it's no longer healthy. They're about forgiveness, too, because sometimes we make mistakes but just because that happens doesn't mean the happily ever after is gone.

If you want a true love story, don't look to Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. Read and learn from Jane Eyre. And don't mess with something perfect, dammit!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dark Places

Looking for something good or something new to read before heading back to school? Check out this e-book sampler (it's free!) with excerpts and short stories from four Bloomsbury authors!

MEGAN MIRANDA—What happens when you survive the unsurvivable? Will you still be the same when you open your eyes? And what happens when you believe that you are to blame? Find out in this excerpt from FRACTURE and the accompanying story, DECKER’S TALE.

JEANNINE GARSEE—What if the voices that you believe are only in your head are something much, much worse? What if they are real and they need something from you? Find out in this excerpt from THE UNQUIET and the alternate first chapter, TASHA.

SUSAN VAUGHT—What if your only friend in the world is gone and you are the only one who can find her? What if it is the voices in your mind preventing you from trying? Find out in this excerpt from FREAKS LIKE US. And find out what it is really like to find yourself in a place where the Dark Places are all around in the short story, ASYLUM.

CJ OMOLOLU—What happens when the parent falls away and memories of your past lives and loves return? What if those past lives are threatening your present? Find out in this excerpt from TRANSCENDENCE and the alternate first ETERNAL REDEMPTION.

The free e-book sampler is available wherever e-books are sold!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

When Alice, Summer, and Tiernan were in middle school, they were best friends. They'd spend hours in the Peapod, the old VW van in Alice's backyard, listening to Level3, their favorite band. But when Level3 broke up as they entered high school, so did their friendship. Now it's graduation and Level3 is getting together for a reunion concert 2000 miles away. Alice impulsively buys three tickets, and against all odds the three girls find themselves on a cross-country road trip in the Peapod. Can they repair their fractured friendship and make it to the concert in time?

Reunited is the perfect combination of fun, friendship, drama, and love. Hilary Weisman Graham's voice is fresh, funny, and very engaging. The story is told from each girl's perspective, and though each are unique and different, they flow together very well and their characterization is well-done. The secondary characters also are very vivid, from boyfriends to crushes to creepy encounters along the road. Though the girls are constantly moving across the country, the Peapod is a great setting for their travels--quirky and fun with a lot of great history and the cause of a few bumps along the road. While there is some romance, this book focuses mainly on the friendship between the three girls. There is a plenty of drama and a lot of issues to work through, but it doesn't feel trite. From flashbacks to their middle school years, their present-day awkwardness, and painful memories from when they fell apart, their relationship is explored inside-out. Their adventures on the road are hilarious and their antics a little crazy, but always entertaining and the ending is a little unexpected but perfect in every way. Reunited is full of great characters, great writing, great song lyrics—you will love this book.

Cover Comments: What's not to love about this cover? I love how it stands out with the bright yellow, and I think that the map is so clever. It embodies the book well--I only wish that the Peapod had made it on the cover somehow!

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, August 10, 2012


So, I got a tweet from a reader the other day asking is HB and I ever finished Moby-Dick. The answer is yes, we did! It felt kind of like this:

The reason I haven't posted about...I'm just so sick of the stupid thing, and after slogging through nearly 600 pages, having multiple conversations with HB and various others about this, I still don't believe in its value as a Great American Novel.

I know, that sounds harsh. I can see why people consider it as such--it offers a potentially interesting insight into the business of whaling, which was essential in the 19th century. It covers many interesting religious and social issues of the time. Even the whole revenge thing is sort of exciting, though only for like, the last 5 chapters.

But in between all of that is a whole lot of blubber and ocean and whale taxonomy and self-righteous religious exclamations. And sexual innuendos. Those are funny, but the rest of it is not. So, if you pretty much cut out a third of the book, then it'd be good. But that still doesn't change the fact that Melville has a serious problem with consistency and flow and books like that, though they can be considered classic literature, are not the Great American Novel.

Remember the pie chart?

I'm maybe a little willing to let my opinion be changed...I've been reading this book at work, and we'll still be covering the book in class this fall, which hopefully will give more insight to the stupid thing. Here's HB's take (with spoilers, but eh, it's Moby-Dick so it's not that big of a deal):

HB: Is Moby-Dick an epic American novel? I can't really say, but after reading the entire thing I can say that the novel's ending is an EPIC undramatic failure. Everyone dies except Ishmael. What the heck is that about? I spent hours and hours reading the dang thing, and I know that Melville spent hours upon hours writing it, so what is with the anticlimactic ending? It's like Melville ran out of steam and just said, "well I've had enough. The End." 
The actual story of MD is actually quite compelling. One man is searching for something, anything. He really doesn't know what but he decided to take a step forward and just experience life. Another man is bound and determined to accomplish his final goal of revenge. Amidst Ishmael’s adventures, readers are exposed to beautiful literary phrases and deep thought-provoking remarks that challenge humanity’s relationship to nature and the greater world. Melville’s words reflect his genius, the kind of genius that I think has gone unrecognized by the modern reader. His writing may have been long-winded and dry at times but those passages gave way to what I consider real literature.

All in all I have to give Moby-Dick a B+.
Thanks for following us along this long and tedious journey!

I think she's being too generous, but I may be a bit jaded.

I wish I could wrap up with something witty and insightful and brilliant to make reading all of our Moby-Dick posts worthwhile, but...I can't think of anything except THANK GOD THAT IS OVER. Literature like this is always hit and miss, but if you want to read about something I've loved, check out the Jane Eyre post here

And in response to comments/tweets/emails--yes, HB and I would be willing to do this again. Since we have classes and other commitments, our selections may be limited, but leave your suggestions in the comments. And if your suggestion is War and Peace or Fifty Shades, the answer is no.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Diviners by Libba Bray

At a party in 1920's Manhattan, a group of bored bright young things inadvertently releases a very dark and evil spirit on the city that will wreak havoc on many lives. Evie O'Neill has just arrived from small town Ohio to live with her Uncle Will, the curator of the Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and she's got more on her mind than just having a great time in the Big Apple. She's running away from a secret ability that got her in trouble back home, and she's not the only one in the city haunted by the strange and mysterious. When people start dying at the hand of a shadowy killer bent on completing an ancient and evil ritual, Evie and her uncle get drawn into the investigation. What they don't realize is that something greater than just this one killer has been turned loose, connecting all of the characters in surprising ways.

The Diviners is simultaneously creepy and glamorous, a strange combination that wouldn't work for any other writer except for Libba Bray. The jazz and excitement and fun of the Roaring Twenties shine through radiantly and Bray really brings New York City to life, but there is an ominous undertone of evil and darkness throughout the entire novel. Bray's narrative, though focused on Evie and her uncle, is constantly rotating from character to character. Evie is a smart and fun-loving protagonist with guts, and her interactions with stoic and mysterious Jericho and shadowy and sly Sam are a lot of fun. Similarly, her friends Theta and Henry all have some interesting secrets that eventually come to light, and Memphis, who is protective of his family, finds himself in over his head when it comes to the supernatural forces at work around him. There are a handful of many smaller characters who all play into the unfolding drama in surprising ways, and Bray does a very good job at keeping track of the many characters and subplots, The book is busy enough that the six hundred pages fly by, but at times it doesn't seem like the multiple perspectives come together as fluidly as they could. However, The Diviners is completely absorbing and an impressive and spine-tingling read. The ending is also very good—mostly neat and tidy, with a few loose ends that will nag at readers' minds and leave them wondering where Bray will take Evie and the cast of characters in book two.

Cover Comments: I like the simplicity of the cover, with the dark city skyline in the background, and the keyhole shape with the eye in the center. It speaks to the ritualistic undertones of the book and is eye-catching without resorting to a bunch of pretty dresses or party scenes, which I think would potentially turn readers off of the book.

ARC picked up at the Little, Brown speakeasy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reading Rants: Series or Standalone

I noticed on Facebook a couple of days ago that the HarperTeen page was asking readers which they preferred: series or standalone novels. I don't necessarily like how this question is broken down into an either/or statement because it's a lot more complicated than picking one or the other.

I think that the first thing to be considered is the story. Some stories need to be told in multiple books. It allows you to get into the details and really go in-depth into the story, the characters, the conflict. Some conflicts are so huge and the solutions so extensive, they can't be contained in one book. And when you have a story, or characters, or a setting that readers love and just can't get enough of, then having a series is so awesome and fun. I love the excitement and the community that reading a long series builds.

But if anything, the excess of trilogies and new series in the past few years has taught me a great appreciation for the standalone novel. I love a thick standalone novel, where everything is contained in one book with a satisfying ending that doesn't make me want to cry because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, DAMMIT. Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races is one of the best standalone novels I've read in ages, and even though it isn't the longest book on my shelves, I absolutely love the progression of the story and the ending. Stiefvater creates a world that you don't want to leave, but at the same time, by the time you get to the final page, the story is done and you just can't drag it out any longer.

I wish that there were more books like The Scorpio Races, and I'll admit that part of this isn't because of the masterful storytelling, but because my attention span is short and my time limited. Most books in a series have a year between them (though I have noticed that some publishers, like Random House, have started spacing series out in nine-month spans, which I really like). Unfortunately because of school, work, life I can't re-read every book I loved before the sequel comes out, and if I feel like I don't remember a book well enough, I'll put off the sequel.

Another interesting fact to note: Why is it that a paranormal/fantasy/dystopia story tends to be told in multiple books, but you have to look harder to find a YA contemporary series?

What are your reading habits? Do you follow a lot of series, start and not finish them, or tend to read more standalone books? Or do you avoid series until all of the books are out and you can read them all at once?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe

When runaway Eve is approached wealthy siblings Bain and Bridgette, she is wary. They tell her she looks exactly like their missing cousin Aurora, and they present her with a tantalizing offer: impersonate Aurora until her eighteenth birthday a few weeks away, and when the three cousins are granted their trust fund, disappear with $100,000. Eve knows that being an impostor is a dangerous game to play, but she's desperate for the money and to see what it'd like to be in a family. She plays her role almost too well, and everything is going as planned...until the ghost of Aurora's dead best friend begins haunting Eve. Eve tries to find out what Liza wants, and along the way uncovers secrets about the night Liza died and Aurora disappeared.

Michele Jaffe's Ghost Flower is a very suspenseful and mysterious novel that will ultimately leave you with more questions than answers. It's evident early on that Eve-turned-Aurora is an unreliable narrator, but the way she presents herself and the tiny snapshots of her troubled past make her more sympathetic than suspicious. The finer details of Bain and Bridgette's plan, their secret motives and relationships, and how Aurora is set up to pull of the impersonation is fascinating and very entertaining, even if the games she plays with all of the family members seem dangerous. The haunting and Liza's ghost is another very creepy aspect, but what makes this story so compelling are the peculiar family dynamics that control the main characters. As readers get closer to the end, lines become blurred and identities are questioned, but there is a bit of closure for Aurora and the readers. Nonetheless, this is a mind-bending thriller that will keep readers wondering after the final page.

Cover Comments: I love the ghost flower motif on the cover and on the pages inside--it's pretty and mysterious and very fitting for this book!

Review copy purchased.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book Signing with Anne Greenwood Brown and Susan Dennard!

This past Tuesday Anne Greenwood Brown, author of Lies Beneath, and Susan Dennard, author of Something Strange and Deadly, visited Schuler Books in Grand Rapids, MI! I was quite excited because these two ladies were debut authors with great books, and the event was being held at one of the best indie bookstores in the country.

I met up with Erika of Moonlight Book Reviews and DJ DeSmyter, author of Hunted, and we had fun live tweeting the event (you can scroll down through my tweets if you missed it, I'm @compelledtoread). Anne and Susan gave a great talk about the start of their books, the writing process, the publishing process, and then did excellent readings.

Anne and Susan talking about their books.

The neat t-shirts for both books!
Nice picture with Anne, taken with DJ's camera!
I also picked up two extra copies of Lies Beneath and Something Strange and Deadly for a giveaway! They are signed hardcovers, and they'll be up for grabs for one lucky winner, along with a TON of fun swag! All you need to do to enter is fill out this form!

Friday, August 3, 2012

August Monthly Commenter Contest: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

About  nine or ten years ago, right about around the time I exhausted the kids' section of my community library and was beginning to discover YA, I used to read a lot of stuff on FictionPress.com. That's where I discovered a story called Queen of Glass--it was fantasy, totally epic, and so well-written compared to most of what was usually posted on that website. I read it as the author posted it, and was so sad when she took it down after it was finished. However...I was beyond excited when I found out that the author, Sarah Maas, had sold it to Bloomsbury! And I am so pumped for it, now entitled Throne of Glass, to come out this month! This is such a good book, and very near to my heart, and I can't wait for you to all read it. I enjoyed reading the final version (it's so hard not to blurt spoilers, let me tell you...) and I am excited to see how it will progress! So naturally it had to be this month's choice for the 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 August 2012 are eligible, so keep coming back for more posts and more chances to comment. For all of the details, click here.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Honor was all set to head off to her dream school in Austin when she received the devastating news that her older brother Finn died in action in Iraq. When a letter from Finn with tickets to a Kyra Kelley concert arrives after his death, Honor takes it as a sign and jumps into Finn's old Impala and heads for the concert in California. But before she can even leave, Finn's (estranged) best friend Rusty insists on joining her. Honor isn't sure why Finn and Rusty stopped being friends and she definitely doesn't want his company, but she doesn't have a choice. As the landscape flies by, Honor and Rusty share memories of Finn and slowly start to recover from the shock of losing him...until Rusty uncovers secrets that Finn kept from Honor.

Jessi Kirby's second book is an absorbing and emotional road trip read. It opens up with some incredibly sad scenes as Honor processes and deals with the death and funeral of her brother, his last wishes, and the letter that arrived too late. She and Rusty clash instantly, but their shared history with Finn and the pain of his loss forces them to find a way to get along. Rusty is charming in an unconventional way, and he'll definitely appeal to readers who like male leads who wear boots and listen to country. There are also a lot of secrets to be uncovered throughout the book, and even they were told in order to protect Honor, who is sometimes a little naive, Honor comes off as a strong character who must learn how to be an adult a little too quickly. Though the book is thoroughly contemporary, there is a light element of serendipity that gives In Honor a sort of magical quality without being completely unbelievable, and readers will love the magical settings and perfect final scene. Kirby is a fantastic writer, and In Honor is a memorable book.

Cover Comments: I love absolutely everything about this cover--the classic car, the dress and boots, and the font...except when you look closely at the model's neck and chin, it looks like a guy's neck and chin. And it didn't bother me until I noticed it. However, it's not very noticeable, so no big deal!

Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Giveaway: Envy by Elizabeth Miles

Last summer I read a book called Fury that I loved. The theme was revenge, which was very interesting to explore, but what I really loved about the book was the setting and the major twist at the end. So, I'm excited that the sequel, Envy, is out soon, and I'm happy to announce that thanks to Paper Lantern Lit, I am offering a signed copy as a giveaway!

If you don't know what Fury is about, click here to read my review. And read on to learn more about Envy!
"The Furies are back in the second book of a chilling paranormal trilogy where revenge rules the day—and “sorry” isn’t going to cut it. 
Spring is coming, and the ice is slowly melting in Ascension…revealing the secrets buried beneath. 
Emily Winters knows the Furies have roots in Ascension, Maine—but she’s about to discover that they’re deeper than she ever imagined. With the help of her new friend Drea, she vows to dig them out. But it’s hard to focus when she’s desperate to make up with JD, and to figure out why Crow, a mysterious Ascension High dropout, seems to be shadowing her. 
Meanwhile, new girl Skylar McVoy is determined to leave her own dark past behind. So she’s thrilled when popular Gabby takes her under her wing, and the stunning and sophisticated Meg offers to give her a major makeover. But everyone knows what happens to the vainest girl of all… 
It’s tempting to be naughty. But beware: the Furies are always watching, and their power grows stronger by the day."
Sounds awesome, right? Well, all you have to do to enter is comment below and tell me...if you had the opportunity to exact revenge against someone who did you wrong, and you knew you'd never get caught, would you do it?

The contest ends August 15th! U.S. residents only, please! If you tweet/Facebook, let me know in your comments for extra entries!