The Compulsive Reader: October 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Looking Ahead: Lenore Appelhans and Level 2!

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 author and blogger Lenore Appelhans on to talk about her debut novel, Level 2!

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

LA: Afterlife thriller where memories haunt and the Morati hunt.

TCR: What was your reaction when you first saw your cover?
LA: Very first was surprise because it was so different than the inspiration photos Lizzy (Bromley, the designer) shared with me. Then I kind of shrieked and called Daniel (my husband) over to take a look. We both said "she looks like a teen Bjork". But seriously, it's perfect for the novel. So happy with it! And the cover reveal video was equally as wow. S&S has given the book an incredible amount of support so far which is awesome and exciting.

TCR: What has surprised you the most about the journey from taking Level 2 from an idea to a published book?

LA: I think you can read a ton about other's experiences with publishing and yet this still doesn't prepare you for what your own process will be like. I'm so grateful for and humbled by all the support and encouragement I've gotten from my fellow book bloggers. You're really bringing the buzz for LEVEL 2 so THANK YOU so much.

TCR: Where's the best place to stay up to date about you and your novels? 

LA: Definitely my blog http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com and I'm in the process of building a website at www.lenoreappelhans.com. I'm also a huge twitter addict so tweet me at @lenoreva There's also a Facebook fan site in the works that'll have extras like a LEVEL 2 playlist, deleted scenes, etc. Hopefully it'll be up by #dystopianaugust on my blog.

Stay tuned for me review next week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sony Readers Book Club

Hey lovely readers,

I hope everyone on the east side of the country is staying safe from the storm! Even in west Michigan we can feel the effects of Sandy--the wind here is fierce and it's been sleeting all morning.

In happier news, if you are a fan of e-reading and love social media, then you should definitely check out this cool contest I just heard about. Sony is launching a Virtual Sony Readers Book Club, and they're looking for 25 VIP members to receive a free e-reader, the first four books that the book club will read, and a trip to LA to meet Michael Connelly! Even if you aren't chosen to be a VIP member, you can still access exclusive content and participate in all of the chats!

The deadline is Thursday, November 1st, but the application shouldn't take too long to fill out! Check out all of the details here!

Happy reading!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reach Out!

The Rising is coming! We have to get as many recruits as possible before Reached, the final book in the Matched trilogy, hits shelves in two weeks! Check out this awesome trailer and little excerpt from the new book, and then be sure to spread the work!

'Reached,' by Allie Condie -- EXCLUSIVE Excerpt

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Caroline B. Cooney's Janie Series Concludes With a Fifth Book

Before I started reading Young Adult fiction ten years ago, I went through a massive Caroline B. Cooney phase. It all started when I found a copy of Flight #116 is Down on my school's bookshelves, and then escalated when I discovered that Cooney occupied an entire shelf at my library. Her books kind of terrified me and I loved them--I tore through her extensive backlist. One of my favorites was her Janies series, which began with The Face on the Milk Carton, where teenager Janie Johnson sees a picture of herself as a toddler on the back of a milk carton and discovers that she is a missing child...but things are far more complicated than she can ever imagine.

Cooney wrote four books in the series, but they didn't really leave Janie in the place that readers had hoped, which is why I was so thrilled to see that the fourth and final book, Jane Face to Face, will be released to conclude the series!

If you've not read the books, or if you want to check them out, then click here to get an e-book sampler to get a feel for this series!

And for you Janie fans--the new book will be out in January! In the meantime, what do you think of the new covers for the books?

And check out this short story!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking Ahead: Shannon Messenger and Let the Sky Fall

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!

This Wednesday I have Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities and Let the Sky Fall, talking about her YA release in March!

TCR: Can you described Let the Sky Fall in ten words or less?

SM: Sylphs and romance and wind wars--oh my! (this... is probably why S&S wrote my tagline, not me)

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

SM: Pretty much: AHHHHHH--THAT IS THE PRETTIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT'S MY BOOK--IT'S PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plus some crying and jumping around and squealing. It's everything I could've wanted and SO MUCH MORE.

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

SM: How much work it is. Like, I knew it would be work. But there is so much more to it than writing and revising a book. There are copy edits, and first pass pages, and proofreader queries, and marketing phone calls, and publicity events. Good thing I love every minute of it. (Well... not copy edits. But we won't talk about those.)

TCR: What is the best place for readers to stay up to date on you and your books?

SM: Either my blog, or twitter. Especially twitter. I spend WAY too much time there some days.

Thanks so much, Shannon! Definitely keep an eye out for both of Shannon's books!

What are you looking forward to reading this week?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Caro has lived more than half her life as an only child, and that’s the way she likes it. So when her stranger of an older sister returns home unexpectedly, she’s not sure how to handle it. Hannah left eleven years ago to join a convent, something that Caro has a hard time comprehending, and she has an even harder time understanding how Hannah fits into their family. But even though Hannah is home and everyone is trying to be happy about that, it’s obvious to Caro that Hannah is hiding some pretty big secrets: about why she joined the convent, why she left, and an event that occurred years ago and is still haunting her.

The Opposite of Hallelujah is a little slow to start, but Caro’s frank voice will soon hook readers. Though she may seem a little immature at times, her blunt, honest nature and sometimes guarded desire to work things out with her family is her redemption. Caro is a pretty curious character—she’s constantly probing at the connection between her family, religion, and science, wondering how things work. Sometimes she makes errors of judgment, and they hurt the relationships she has with her parents, Hannah, and her sort-of boyfriend, Pawel. The most interesting part of the novel is definitely the complex family dynamics and how Hannah’s secret and their parents’ denial has complicated her own life and Caro’s. All in all, everything comes together in the end, but not too easily or too neatly to be considered unrealistic. Jarzab leaves her characters with lots of hope, stronger relationships, and Caro is much more mature. The Opposite of Hallelujah is a great coming-of-age novel that isn’t afraid to tackle heavier subjects of life, death, faith, guilt, and forgiveness.

Cover Comments: I really like the blue of this cover, and the close-up of the girl's face is an interesting and unique perspective.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Are you a true fan of the Matched trilogy? You can test your knowledge by checking out Matched Facts tumblr page and Crossed Facts, and then be sure to keep reading the first two books in preparation for the release of Reached!

Check out this excerpt of Crossed, and be sure to re-blog, re-post, tweet, and share to spread the movement!

CROSSED by Ally Condie (Chapters 1 & 2)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

I met Cori McCarthy at my local coffee shop this past July and it has been so much fun talking to her about YA and writing and her new book, The Color of Rain! The Color of Rain will be out next May and I am thrilled to be able to reveal the cover today!

Isn't is gorgeous? I love the view of space in the background, and the font is fantastic--a little edgy and very appropriate for the story! What do you think? Read on to learn more... 
"If there is one thing that seventeen-year-old Rain knows and knows well, it is survival. Caring for her little brother, Walker, who is "Touched," and losing the rest of her family to the same disease, Rain has long had to fend for herself on the bleak, dangerous streets of Earth City. When she looks to the stars, Rain sees escape and the only possible cure for Walker. And when a darkly handsome and mysterious captain named Johnny offers her passage to the Edge, Rain immediately boards his spaceship. Her only price: her "willingness." 
The Void cloaks many secrets, and Rain quickly discovers that Johnny's ship serves as host for an underground slave trade for the Touched . . . and a prostitution ring for Johnny's girls. With hair as red as the bracelet that indicates her status on the ship, the feeling of being a marked target is not helpful in Rain's quest to escape. Even worse, Rain is unsure if she will be able to pay the costs of love, family, hope, and self-preservation."
I am so excited for this book! If you're a fan of YA, science fiction, or the new "new adult" genre, this will be a book for you!

Check out Cori's website: http://www.corimccarthy.com/
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CoriMcCarthy
Like her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorcorimccarthy

And feel free to tweet, share, and re-blog! Spread the word about this awesome cover and book! If you do share, let me know in the comments (and include the link) and I'll send you an envelope of book swag!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dear Teen Me

How many times have you wished that you could tell your teen self something, even if it was "Don't wear that dress to that Homecoming dance"? And how many of you teen readers have wished you could see how the awesome and cool YA authors you love have morphed from their teen years into the cool people they are? What started out as a cool blog is now an even cooler book--Dear Teen Me. 

Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teens Selves is an awesome book that will be out on October 30th and features letters from YA authors such as Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, Elizabeth Miles, Carrie Jones, and Melissa Walker (just to name a star-studded few). To celebrate, I thought I'd share my own Dear Teen Me letter.

Dear Teen Me,

First off, stop thinking that you are fat. You are not fat. And the sooner that you accept that you are neither fat nor a size 4, you will be so much happier, trust me.

Second, you are obsessed with grades right now. That’s understandable and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having goals and wanting to do well, but you need to do us both a favor and take a step back and realize that you do not have an academic career, you have a life. The schools you are applying to are not going to determine what sort of person you become. This is important because (are you ready for this?)…you are not going to get into college right away.

It’s not for lack of trying, it’s not because you did anything wrong. You’ll just end up on every single damn waiting list there is, and you’ll wait and wait and wait until you enroll at the local university you made fun of your entire life a month before classes start. It’s going to be all right, because it turns out you couldn’t have afforded anything else anyway, and you’re going to have a whole bunch of amazing experiences and make awesome new friends who know you better than those high school ones who dumped you because you refused to drink at that party that first Thanksgiving break. It’s going to take you a long time to realize this, and a little bit longer to accept this, and the times in between will be filled with lots of questions and doubts and yes, a little bit of depression, but be patient. All of this is stuff you need to learn, and frankly, you know, even in your dark moments of stunned, depressed fear, that all things happen for a reason.

They do.

Third, the thing that you are most proud of is that fact that you have thing unwavering faith. Oh, honey. It is not unwavering. I wish with all my heart that I could tell you otherwise, you have no idea. But your world is going to be rocked in the best and worst of ways, and you won’t be able to talk about it. Not yet. You’re going to ask yourself if it’s worth it. You’re going to marvel at the outcome. You’re going to be shocked at the risks you take. It’s not going to be all good, but it’s certainly not going to be all bad. You’re going to worry that doing something because you might regret it in the future is not a good enough reason, but it is. It’s one of the most important reasons. It all comes down to one yes or no question. Take the plunge. I’m waiting for you on the other side.


What would you tell your teen self if you could?

Interview with Annabel Monaghan!

Annabel Monaghan is the author of A Girl Named Digit, and the co-author of Click! A Girl's Guide to Knowing What You Want and Making It Happen (one of the very first books featured on the blog!). You can click here to read my review of A Girl Named Digit (and I totally recommend it if you're a fan of Ally Carter's books), and keep reading for the interview with Annabel!

TCR: How did you come up with the idea of a terrorist organization using TV shows to communicate?

AM: I get really distracted by those little station identification logos and other advertisements in the corner of my TV. I’ve always thought it would be a great way for someone to give me a subliminal message while I’m minding my own business, trying to concentrate on The Bachelorette. People largely ignore them, so I thought it might be a good way to communicate a secret message, just to people who were looking for it.

TCR: What sort of research did you have to do to write A Girl Named Digit?

AM: Lots of math. And I mean lots. That was probably the most fun part of writing the book (besides secretly falling in love with John). It’s amazing how many math codes are out there - from wartime spy codes to the barcode on the back of a can of soup.

TCR: We know that you can write really well, but do you share your main character's love of math as well?

AM: I absolutely love math, but I’m not particularly gifted at it. I had to concentrate until smoke came out of my ears to come up with the codes in the book! And when it was all done, the copyeditor found that I’d made an arithmetic mistake. I wasn’t surprised at all.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing A Girl Named Digit? The easiest?

AM: The hardest part was keeping the whole story straight in my head. There’s a lot of stuff rolling around in there and, well, things can get messy. The easiest part was the budding romance between Digit and John. That seemed really natural to me and sort of took on a life of its own. Sometimes I was like, “Wait for me guys! I’m typing as fast as I can!”

TCR: Will we be seeing more of Digit in the future?

AM: YES! I am seconds away from finishing Double Digit, which comes out in fall 2013. Digit starts school at MIT and John goes to work in New York. She wrestles with the challenges of managing a long distance relationship, being kidnapped by Jonas Furnis and arrested for felony espionage by the CIA. Just regular college stuff. :)

TCR: What YA books have you read and loved recently?

AM: I just finished The Book Thief, which is the best book I’ve read since The Hunger Games. I also loved Wonder. And if Lois Lowry gave me her grocery list to read, I would read it and beg for more.

Thanks so much, Annabel!

If you're interested in reading A Girl Named Digit, definitely check it out (it's out now!) and enter to win a signed copy below, courtesy of Annabel!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rise Up!

Are you excited about Reached, the final book in the Matched trilogy? Well, the Resistance needs new recruits! Join the cause by heading over to the Facebook page and hitting "Like" to show your support! Click here to get there.

A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan

Farrah "Digit" Higgins is a math genius, but being so smart isn't exactly advantageous to a social life in high school, so she's gotten really good at hiding her abilities to better fit in with her friends. When she unwittingly cracks a terrorist cell code broadcasted during the latest episode of the TV show her friends love, Farrah is suddenly in a lot of danger. Forced into FBI protective custody and guarded by the very attractive and young agent John Bennett, Farrah isn't content to sit by idly. But she might have underestimated just how dangerous these terrorists are.

Annabel Monaghan's first young adult novel is fun and intelligent and will keep readers guessing. Her humor is quick and sarcastic, and the book is a lot of fun without being unbelievable. Farrah and John are an entertaining and dynamic duo. Farrah is not the conventional seventeen-almost-eighteen-year-old; her sense of humor is quirky and while intelligent, she is pretty down to earth and doesn't have an inflated sense of ego when it comes to her talents. John is just as intelligent, a little mysterious, and ambitious. His age and his abilities aren't completely unrealistic, and the romantic tension between the two amplify the suspense and steady stream of action. Their enemies are appropriately intimidating and powerful, and Monaghan has some interesting twists thrown in throughout the novel. A Girl Called Digit does resemble Ally Carter's books in its plot and romance, but Monaghan's clever use of language and humor makes this book stand out.

Cover Comments: I really like the bright blue of the background, but otherwise I am not too crazy about this cover. It's not very remarkable, and it gives the impression that it'll be about a character younger than seventeen.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with Annabel Monaghan!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Get Ready for Sirens by Janet Fox!

I was initially drawn to Janet Fox's first book, Faithful, because of the amazing cover (Old Faithful and a girl in a beautiful green dress blowing in the win), but I quickly fell in love with her rich historical settings and emotionally-charged writing. She wrote a companion novel to Faithful called Forgiven that was set in San Francisco and just as good. (Click here to read my review of Faithful, and here to read my review of Forgiven.) Her historical fiction is excellent, and I am so excited that she has a new book coming out next month called Sirens! Sirens is set in the Roaring Twenties, and to celebrate, we have some fun fun teaser trailers and a giveaway!

About Sirens:
"When Jo Winter’s parents send her off to live with her rich cousin on the glittering island of Manhattan, it’s to find a husband, and forget about her brother Teddy’s death. But all that glitters is not gold. Caught up in a swirl of her cousin’s bobbed-hair set—and the men that court them—Jo soon realizes the talk of marriage never stops, and behind the seemingly boundless gains are illicit business endeavors, gangsters and their molls. Jo would much rather spend time with the handsome, but quiet, Charles, a waiter at the Algonquin hotel, than drape herself over a bootlegger. But when she befriends a moll to one of the most powerful men in town, Jo begins to uncover secrets—secrets that threaten an empire and could secure Jo’s freedom from her family. But can her newfound power buy her Charles’s love? Or will it to ruin Jo, and everyone around her?"
To go with the Roaring Twenties setting for her book, Janet Fox is giving away some fun swag and an ARC of Sirens! Winners will receive one of the following accessories: a feather flapper-style headband, a feather hair clip, or a long string of faux pearls together with a bookmark, a postcard, and an ARC. Prizes will be picked at random.

 To enter, fill out this form:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post from Sarah Fine: Inspiration Plus Calculation Equals...

Today I have Sarah Fine, author of soon-to-be-released Sanctum, on the blog to talk about her writing process! Sanctum is the first in the Guards of the Shadowlands series. To learn more about it, click here.

Here's Sarah!

When I was asked to write this post, I had to think carefully about how I do things, how my habits have evolved and crystallized over time. At first, I thought: I don’t have a process! I just write stuff! But then I realized that’s not true. I most definitely DO have a process even though each book I write feels a little different. When you toss all my crazy ways in a pot and boil off the detail, there’s a pretty clear pattern.

When the passion is there, I write somewhere between 20-40 pages a day. (Note: I type really fast. It’s the only way I survived graduate school while being a hopeless procrastinator.) I’ve written some of my books in a matter of days. It’s the most ecstatic feeling ever. It’s addictive. I adore it. It’s like flying. Sanctum took about eight weeks to write, but the last third of it only took me two weekends, which shows what happens when I get excited about the events that I have the privilege of weaving together.

I’m not a strict outliner, but I always have some kind of synopsis (or several pages of chaotic notes and asides). However, I rarely refer back to it once it’s written, and the story often changes as I write it (but somehow, the ending never does). Whenever I sit down to write, I re-read several pages of what I’ve previously written. I tinker with it, editing as I go. Then I skip forward and map out what I’m going to get done. I’ll write a single sentence about what happens in the chapter, and then a phrase indicating how the chapter should end. (I started to do this after reading The Hunger Games, because Suzanne Collins’s chapter endings rocked my socks off.) Anyway, I usually do this about three chapters ahead. I estimate about ten pages per chapter. I decide what events will fit into that number of pages and where the scene breaks will be.

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty calculated about the whole thing.

So … for me, I guess Inspiration + Calculation = BOOK. There has to be a little of both: I need the wild, frenetic swoop of creativity in my gut as well as the rational, well-organized scaffolding provided by my prefrontal cortex. When I have adequate amounts of both, when those things are in balance, that’s the sweet spot, the place where I write my best stuff. It isn’t always like that, of course, but when it is … well. That’s why I write.

That's awesome, Sarah! Thanks so much for sharing! Sanctum will be out on Tuesday. For a chance to win a copy of the book, fill out this form!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Elisa might be considered a heroic queen by her new kingdom, but she's learning that holding on to her power and asserting her authority is going to be as hard as defeating the Inviernos. She can't figure out who is loyal to her and who might be behind the latest attempt on her life; all she knows is that she can trust Hector, and she must find a way to gain control of Joya D'Arena and help her country recover. When it seems like answers might be found across the sea to a site of ancient power, Elisa bravely makes the journey...but even she can't imagine the great rewards and great costs.

The Crown of Embers, the sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns, is just as as rich, lovely, and layered as the first book. Carson continues to skillfully build upon and expand Elisa's world, exploring the landscape of her world, delving deeper into the religion and magic, and introducing new tidbits of history about Elisa's people and the Inviernos. In between all of the political intrigue and danger is Elisa's struggle to define what sort of leader she is. She must learn who to trust among those around her, and how to trust in her own knowledge, faith, and intuition. This personal growth is beautiful to read about, and not without its hiccups and bumps in the road. But Elisa's friends and Hector are there to support her, and the  developing romance between the queen and her guard is smoldering. Carson deftly writes scenes that are tender and romantic, all the while conveying a sense of urgency that defines the tension of Elisa and Hector's relationship perfectly. She's an incredibly dynamic writer--sensual and intense, playful and intense, all of these scenes flow fluidly together to create a breathtaking sequel that will raise the stakes and have readers desperate for more.

Cover Comments: I love this pretty cover--the gem and the lightning are so powerful.

Review copy purchased.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Get Matched!

It's just five weeks until the release of Reached, the final book in the Matched trilogy! And if you haven't already read Matched...then what are you waiting for? Now is the time to Get Matched...

Click here to read my review. Tweet with #getmatched, and spread the word with this trailer and the excerpt!

Matched sampler

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cover Talk: The Elite

I really liked the cover of The Selection by Kiera Cass, mostly because the dress was pretty and the I liked the mirrored images. I liked the book--the writing is really engaging and upbeat, the plot had some good twists, and while it didn't have the emotional depth of The Hunger Games, it was a satisfying story that seemed simple at first but got more complex as you went along. I'll pick up the sequel if I have the time and it pulls me in as easily as The Selection did.

Yesterday, Kiera revealed the cover to The Elite on her blog:

It's pretty! I like how it matches the first book (it's a pet peeve of mine when cover designs change before all of the books of a series are published), but I think this one matches the first book a little too closely, sort of like the Matched trilogy.

What do you guys think? Are you getting a little tired of all the pretty dresses on YA covers?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Between You and Me by Marisa Calin

Phyre is shocked when she meets her student drama teacher Mia and experiences an attraction to the other woman that she can’t define. She’s never liked girls in a romantic wass before, but there is just something about Mia that Phyre finds irresistible. As Phyre gets more and more involved in drama, her best friend is with her at every step. Referred to only as “you,” it soon becomes apparent that “you” would also like to be more than just friends with Phyre. But who will Phyre choose, and is “you” a guy…or a girl?

Told in an unusual hybrid of prose and drama, Between You and Me is a unique and absorbing read. Calin really gets the reader inside of Phyre’s head throughout the story, but as a result, everything going on outside of Phyre’s mind is limited to her narrow perspective, which is an interesting contrast. Phyre is a complex character—a little self-involved, silly, and very dramatic, but she’s also very passionate and a bit confused about her own identity, which makes her sympathetic. Meeting Mia forces Phyre to work through her feelings, both about her own identity and for her best friend, “you.” She really comes out of her shell and learns a lot about relationships and herself, but the novel’s draw will be the heightened tension as readers wonder if she’ll ever act upon her feelings for Mia, and then the mystery behind the most basic facts about the identity of “you.” Between You and Me is an inventive, enthralling, and quick book.

Cover Comments: I like the red lips--they really stand out! And the sunglasses are significant in the book, so it's fun that they made their way to the cover! Very nice!

E-book purchased.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Venom Blog Tour!

I'm very excited to be a part of the Venom blog tour this month! As a part of this tour, I'm posting a part of an exclusive short story prequel to Venom. But first, here's more about Venom and Fiona Paul:
"Love, lust, murder, mayhem and high society converge in one thrilling debut

Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiancé—yet she longs for something more. Ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape. 
When Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman—with a bloody X carved across her heart—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin . . . and a habit of getting into trouble. Will Cassandra find the murderer before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco? 
Beauty, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that’s as seductive and stunning as the city of Venice itself."

Fiona Paul lives in the Midwest but travels a lot since she can’t breathe if she spends too much time away from the ocean. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in psychology and spent a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea while she was deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. Answer: everything. In addition to being a teacher and a writer, she’s also worked as a sauté cook, sporting goods manager, veterinary assistant, and registered nurse. When she’s not working, you can usually find her kayaking, reading, or helping turtles cross the road. Her future goals include diving with great white sharks and writing more books, not necessarily in that order. Venom is her first novel.

And now, here's the excerpt of the short story!

A Secrets of the Eternal Rose short story
By Fiona Paul

The year is 1600 and the streets of Venice, Italy are ripe with intrigue and danger. In this
introduction to the world of Venom, eighteen-year-old Mariabella has recently elevated
herself from the rank of common prostitute to the status of courtesan, a respected high-
class escort for those men in Venetian society who can afford them. Mariabella steps out
to attend a party on the arm of her powerful new patron, certain that the night will be
with glamour, secrets, and adventure.

If you missed the last part of the story, check it out on Fiction Freak.


“What a positively dreadful start to the evening,” a woman behind me says. I’m not sure
if she’s trying to comfort or insult me, so I pretend not to hear her. Instead, I lift my
chin as Joseph places a heavy hand on my lower back, and together we enter Palazzo
Domacetti, one of the largest palazzos on the Grand Canal and the home of an influential
don and donna.
“I am sorry about that,” he murmurs. “I should have stayed closer to you. Usually
we have no problems in this district.”
My own district is full of problems. There, we just refer to them as people. “It’s
all right,” I say. “Just a drunk old biddy who lost her way.” I try not to let the woman’s
words upset me. This is only my third evening on Joseph’s arm and I am determined to
show him a good time.
He watches as I hand my cloak to the butler and slip out of my chopines just
inside the front door. They’re not as fancy as the overshoes worn by some of the other
women in attendance, but soon that will change. Soon, I will have the means to buy new
chopines and fine dresses, to outfit myself in the manner befitting one of Venice’s top
The staircase spirals upward toward a room awash with candlelight and laughter.
Joseph takes my arm and we move as one toward the glowing light. My velvet shoes
whisper against the black marble. I reach out and run my fingers along the smooth
banister. There’s not a speck of dust anywhere.
I have only seen this beautiful home from a distance. Until recently, I would have
been turned away at the door, scorned, perhaps escorted forcibly from the premises like
the old woman was. A few weeks ago, I was still a common prostitute, living in a brothel,
trolling the tavernas for lonely sailors or soldiers. I learned this trade from my mother,
who learned it from her mother before her. She taught me how to read people, how to
figure out what it is a man wants to hear and then say it.
Ever since I began this way of life, I knew that if I was patient and clever I could
improve my lot. Instead of begging for men’s company, I would one day make them beg
for mine.

And now I had.
The stairs lead straight to the portego, the great room, which smells of jasmine
and rosewater. The walls are mahogany with swirling white molding. Red and yellow
painted angels and winged horses adorn the walls and ceiling. And the mirrors—they
hang on every wall, reflecting the bright décor and the even brighter gowns of the women
in attendance, a dizzying swirl of colors. It’s obvious that the Domacettis embrace the
idea of excess. More is better. More colors. More angels. More mirrors. I turn my eyes to
my own dark green skirts, momentarily overwhelmed.
Joseph looks down at me—curious, studying. “What do you think?” he asks.
I return his gaze, taking in his dark hair and the shadow of beard across his
jawline. “It’s exquisite,” I answer. “Thank you for bringing me here.”
Exactly what he wants to hear: just as my mother taught me.

“Come,” Joseph says. “I want you to meet some friends of mine.”
Dutifully, I let him lead me across the room. I cast my eyes downward, marveling
at the tiles beneath my feet, which are arranged as a replica of Bottacelli’s Birth of Venus.
Unlike the rest of the portego, the floor doesn’t make my head throb when I look at it.
Bottacelli’s color palette is muted—soft blues, corals and flesh tones. A servant offers us
wine. I allow Joseph to take the glass from the servant and pass it on to me, murmuring a
thank you.
We approach a cluster of finely-dressed Venetian nobles. I smile and curtsy,
catching a glimpse of my reflection in one of the portego’s many mirrors. For a second, I
see the old woman’s face in the place where mine should be. A tremor dances up my
spine. I blink hard and she vanishes, leaving behindI my own pale skin, high cheekbones,
and raven black hair.


For the next part of the story, visit The Book Goddess on Friday, 10/5.

Click here to read my interview with Fiona!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October Monthly Commenter Contest: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

When I first heard about author A.S. King, it was right before the release of her first book, The Dust of 100 Dogs. I thought it sounded pretty good, and I wasn't at all put off by reviews that claimed it was weird. Then I read it, and...it was really weird. Really, really, really weird. But it was weirdness I could dig. Fast forward a couple of years, and all of the sudden I'm hearing about Please Ignore Vera Dietz (my October Employee Pick of the Month!) the week before it came out. It took me a couple of weeks, but I finally got to it and it knocked my socks off. The writing, the subject, the relationships--it was absolutely brilliant. It's no wonder it was a Printz Award finalist. King's third book, Everybody Sees the Ants, was one that I wasn't crazy about at first. I didn't exactly get excited about the summary, or the male narrator. Weird is King's specialty, but this one seemed like it beyond any sort of weirdness I could handle. However, I had to give it a shot, I am immensely glad that I did. 

So now that the release of King's fourth book, Ask the Passengers, is so close upon us, I absolutely had to make it this month's prize for the Monthly Commenter Contest. I get happy/excited thoughts whenever I read the summary, though I've learned to just go with anything that King writes despite any initial hesitations. Click here to read all about it!

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 October 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 excited about reading this month?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Reached: Silk and Paper Campaign

I am so excited to be a part of the official Silk and Paper Reached Campaign! This week, we're counting down to Reached, the final book in the Matched Trilogy! Check out this awesome widget:

Be sure to grab the embed code and put it on your own blog or web page! And check out my reviews of Matched and Crossed for a refresher!