The Compulsive Reader: November 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Discussion!

Last week I had the pleasure of re-reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, one of my favorite books of 2011! I'm a VIP member of the Sony Readers Book Club, and it November's Book of the Month, which means we'll be chatting with Laini live tomorrow at 3:30 PM Eastern!

I really hope that you'll join the discussion (just click here!), and if you can't make it, I at least urge you to pick up the book! It's an excellent read, and I just adore Laini's use of language. And the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, just came out this month, which means you won't have a long wait once you finish! Look for my review of that one soon!

Click here for my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone!

I hope to see you at the chat tomorrow!

Monday, November 26, 2012

HarperTeen Impulse

Yesterday there was an announcement in the New York Times about HarperCollins new e-book imprint, HarperTeen Impulse. The imprint will aim at producing short stories and novellas that are available in digital format. Click here to read the article.

You can also go to the HarperTeen Impulse website to see a list of upcoming short stories. Most of them seem to be stories that accompany already established series and novels published by HarperTeen--Courtney Allison Moulton and Sophie Jordan are among the names listed with short stories coming out to compliment their series.

Scott Westerfeld's short story "Stupid Perfect World" is also going to be released, which I am really excited about. The story first appeared in one of the Hell anthologies (I think it was Love is Hell), and I loved it. It was by far one of the best YA short stories I've read in a while, and I'm excited to see it get a little more attention with a re-release as its own entity with a cool cover. (Although, the cover says it's a novella and from what I remember it seemed to be more short story length--I wonder if it's been expanded?)

I am happy to see this imprint emerge, and I'm interested to see where it will go. I am a big fan of short stories, and for so long they were incredibly hard to find in YA because anthologies are such a hard sell for many teen readers. I love that technology has allowed for them to become more prominent, and I hope that this new imprint will mean that they'll be published on a larger platform, rather than just exclusively with one e-book retailer.

HarperTeen Impulse launched December 4th! What do you all think of the line-up?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Non-YA Books I've Read Lately

I've been reading a lot of non-YA books for school and fun lately, and I thought I'd share some one paragraph reactions! Most of these would be considered "adult" books, but every time I apply that label to a book, I think of very inappropriate books and I start laughing.

Here we go...

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

This is a very fascinating non-fiction story about a Hmong family that comes to the US and the problems that they encounter with the health care system. I found this book so fascinating because it not only explains the traditions and history of a displaced culture, but it explores our health care system in the conflicts between superstition, holistic medicine, and Western science. It was sad, enlightening, and fascinating.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed is the author of a novel and a memoir, and she was the anonymous advice columnist Dear Sugar on The Rumpus. This book is a collection of some of her most insightful, humorous, and heartbreaking columns. Strayed is an amazing writer, and her column is not like Dear Abby's. She tackles some big issues, and she talks a lot about her own life a lot in her responses. The stories she tells are oftentimes heartbreaking, but always fascinating and entertaining. Strayed is an amazing writer and she has some incredible advice.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson

I was initially drawn to this book because it has a young teenage protagonist and because it reminded me of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It. However...this book definitely fell flat for me. The only thing that seems to happen is the Earth's rotation slows. Days get longer, and so do nights, and life is thrown into chaos. Thompson's book looks at the effects this has on society and the protagonist's family, and throughout the entire book tension builds and builds and builds and then...nothing. The book just ends. I had a really hard time understanding the trajectory of the book, but the writing is really beautiful and the book is quite imaginative.

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

This is a British book, though it has submissions from bookstores all over the world, and it is absolutely hilarious. As a bookseller, I have no problem envisioning some of these encounters. This is a really great, humorous read that would make a great gift or pick-me-up!

Broken Harbor by Tana French

I've been intrigued by Tana French's mysteries, especially considering the hype that Broken Harbor was released with, so I picked it up while at work. Told from the point of view of a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad, this is the story of a murder that should have been simple to solve, but wasn't. The book starts out with a lot of very creepy and strange events and evidence, and as the detectives get further into the mystery, it's quite frightening to see how a family can go from normal to victims so quickly. I will definitely be checking out a few more of French's books!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book is huge right now--we can't keep it on the shelves at the bookstore. I've been itching to read it, but finally picked it up when I saw it on a reading list for a class next semester. The novel alternates back and forth between Nick and Amy, a husband and wife celebrating their fifth anniversary when Amy disappears, leaving the police to suspect Nick. The novel is broken into three parts, and in each section the voice and the story changes, forcing the reader to piece together the truth. I'm not sure what I expected when I started the book, but Flynn definitely surprised me and kept me on my toes. I loved how all of the details were connected, and no one is as they first appear. This is an excellent novel, and I am excited to check out Flynn's other books!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Slated by Teri Terry

Kyla knows nothing about who she is, where she's from, and what she cares about. She's been Slated, her memory and personality wiped, for a crime she doesn't remember committing. She's being given one more chance with a new family, and she cannot mess it up. Her new sister is nice, but her new parents are harder to read. Everyone keeps reminding Kyla not to mess up her last chance, but she has too many questions—about how the government operates, why teenagers she knows are disappearing, and her errant thoughts and feelings. Kyla is not supposed to remember anything from her past, but can you ever truly forget who you are?

Teri Terry will draw readers into her dark and dangerous world in just a few pages. Kyla is experiencing everything for the first time again, and she's discovering everything about her world along with readers, which makes for an intense and suspenseful reading experience. Her new family presents some interesting mysteries; her father and sister seem welcoming and happy from the start, but her mother is short-tempered and she holds many interesting political and personal secrets. Kyla's new schoolmates don't always react well to her Slater status, and Kyla soon discovers that no one in her new life is as they first appear. As she forges new relationships and begins asking questions, she is drawn into dangerous world...one that she seems to be oddly prepared for. Terry intersperses random fragments of memory into the narrative to racket up the tension, and the book takes some frightening and unexpected twists. However, the story seems to fall apart toward the very end, and the ending is anticlimactic and without many answers. If readers can look beyond this and wait for the sequel that is most definitely in order, then Slated is an excellent and mysterious read.

Cover Comments: I like the darkness of the cover and the city skyline. It fits will within the context of the story, and it looks enough like our world to be creepy and familiar.

Slated will be released on January 24th, 2013.

ARC provided by publisher.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath is the sequel to The Name of the Star.

Rory Devereaux received a lot of attention when she was pulled into the investigation of the copycat Ripper murders in London, but she can't tell anyone the truth about what really happened; the murderer was a ghost that very few people, including herself, could see. This information makes dealing with her parents' concern and her therapist's push for answers a little complicated. When she's given the chance to go back to London and Wexford, she takes it. But things are different; Rory is too far behind in her classes to catch up, and some strange murders are occurring once more. When the Shades are reluctant to pay attention to the inconsistencies of the investigations, Rory does her own research...with shocking and fatal consequences.

Rory returns with whole lot of sass and sarcasm, and Johnson's writing is as imaginative, endearing, and entertaining as ever. The circumstances that readers will find Rory in are a bit sobering—she's struggling to deal with the violence she experienced and the need to confide in someone that will take her seriously, and she makes a few errors in judgment as a result of her vulnerability. However, Rory has not become weak. She trusts her instincts, takes action, and does her best to use her abilities to help people, even as she is still struggling to figure out her place in the rag-tag group of people she's come to care for quite a bit. There are some really surprising twists throughout the book that open up the world of the Shades and pose many questions, but Johnson once again leaves readers with a cliffhanger that will generate many questions and theories. Johnson really turns up the tension and suspense as the ghosts appear to be more frightening and the villains don't always vanish with a terminus. The Madness Underneath is a definite must-read, and demands a third book in this mysterious and highly entertaining series.

Cover Comments: I like this cover a lot, and the facelift that the first book in the series got as well. The images are ghostly and a little creepy, and I like the vibrant colors being used.

ARC provided by publisher.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

No one really sees or understands what Astrid is dealing with. She’s so busy keeping others’ secrets that no one suspects her of having one big secret of her own. Astrid’s best friend is busy living a double life, her mother doesn't really care about what she wants, her sister just wants to keep the peace, and her father is oblivious to everything but his own escape. And so Astrid spends her time sending all of her love and emotion to the passengers of the airplanes that fly far above her back yard. It's easier than dealing with the fact that she is in love with a girl and not ready to face what that means for her while she lives in such a small town…but it’s nearly impossible to keep secrets when it comes to love.

A.S. King has written yet another absolutely brilliant book. Ask the Passengers is emotional and true and it imaginatively addresses all of the angst, heartache, and wonder of discovering yourself and learning how to deal with the pressures of family and society without giving into them. Astrid is a conflicted yet strong character; she's a bit sarcastic and very smart, and she is slowly figuring out what she wants and what she’s willing to open up to people. Astrid knows that being gay doesn't completely define her, and she must figure out a way to come out on her own terms, without anyone else telling her how to think or feel. Throughout this process, she must learn how to stand up for herself, deal with her parents' disinterest, her best friend's lies, and even her girlfriend's pushiness. The characterization is excellent, and King drops little gems of surprising wisdom throughout the book that will make you ponder love, acceptance, and tolerance. Ask the Passengers is inventive, important, a little weird, and beautifully written; it is King's best book yet.

Cover Comments: I love this cover--the use of light, the colors, the perspective. Everything it pretty but not conventionally so.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey is on a graduation trip throughout Europe when she happens to meet Wilhelm, a Dutch actor performing in Twelfth Night at a park in Stratford. The connection between the two is intense, unusual, and undeniable, and before Allyson can think about what's she doing, she's calling herself Lulu and on a train to France to spend just one day with Wilhelm. The trip is surreal...until Wilhelm disappears without ever saying goodbye. Allyson is devastated and confused, but the experience causes her to take a close look at how she's living her life, and forces her to ask some hard questions: What do I want? How do I find the courage to achieve it? Is it too late to take control of my own life?

Like she did with If I Stay, Forman fearlessly tackles the big questions of life with a deft hand. There is magic and serendipity in Just One Day, but it's not overdone or unrealistic, and the charm is found in the clever balance of nerve and chance. The character growth in the novel is beautiful, most prominently for Allyson, but also for her best friend Melanie, and even for Wilhelm in the one day that the readers have to get to know him. Allyson really struggles with letting people tell her what to do and what to think, and her experience with Wilhelm opens up a new world for her. However, it isn't until she is faced with the reality that her life at home isn't what she wants and is able to let go of her parents' expectations and her past that she is able to figure out what she wants. Her motivation and drive are admirable, and her adventures facing her fears and her emotions are ultimately triumphant. Every little detail adds up to something important in Just One Day as Forman demonstrates how experiences shape our lives and the magic that words and places hold.

Cover Comments: I love this cover. I like the use of light and reflection and the slight blurriness, and the model on the cover matches Allyson quite well, from the hair to the watch. It's pretty, but not too generic.

Also, keep an eye out for the sequel, Just One Year, which will tell Wilhelm's story! It'll be out sometime in the Fall of 2013.

ARC provided by publisher.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cover Talk: Cover Reveal for Sarah Dessen's New Book, The Moon and More!

Sarah Dessen's next new book will be The Moon and More, and it's set to come out in June of 2013. Today on USA Today, the cover was revealed!

Isn't it pretty? I love the boardwalk and the vibrant colors in the cover--it's so fun and eye-catching. This one sort of reminds me of the last book in Jenny Han's Summer trilogy, We'll Always Have Summer. I like the new design scheme of Sarah Dessen's covers a lot. What do you all think?

And if you click over to the USA Today reveal, you can also read the first chapter of the book!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Guest Blog: Beck McDowell's Writing Process

Beck McDowell is the author of the recently released novel This Is Not a Drill. It's about what happens when two high school seniors who recently broke up find themselves the only adults in a classroom of first graders with a gunman who takes them all hostage.

Beck was kind enough to stop by and share some information and advice about her writing process!

The Writing Life of Beck McDowell 

Place: Inside – desk, bed, couch, cushy chair in home office, all over the place

Outside – porch swing, coffee shops, at the beach, at the lake

(Can you tell I hate routine? Probably from being tied to a classroom and bell schedule all those years – can you relate?)

Computer: MacBook Pro – no special program, just Word

Attire: often pj’s or sweats but if I come in from a wedding or social event and the mood strikes, I might write in a skirt and pearls.

Schedule: anywhere from 2 – 15 hours in a day, depending on how it’s rolling; I do take a month or so off between books

Time Frame: usually finish first draft in 8-10 months with 2-3 months to self-edit before submission (then months of edits with editor, of course)

Publisher: Penguin. My editor, Nancy Paulsen, is a.maz.ing to work with. It’s intimidating to join ranks of her authors - like Jacqueline Woodson and Tommy DePaola – and in the past Roald Dahl and Mildred Taylor. That bar is set really high so I work hard to try to measure up.

Beta Readers: I’m lucky to have a great group of “first readers” comprised of family, close friends, and writer buddies. They are essential to the process!

Writing quirks: I don’t always write chronologically. I think in scenes and they don’t always come to me sequentially.

Job Perks: Being my own boss (sorta) and choosing when and how I work. Also meeting lovely people and learning cool stuff while researching,

Job Hazards: Anxiety over whether the words will come. Every day’s a new day, worrying I’ve forgotten how to ride the bike.

Distractions: That siren we call the internet. SO, SO hard not to look at FB, Twitter, Pinterest, e-mail, etc., especially when the words aren’t flowing.

Motto: Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keys

Breaks: ten minutes every hour or two to clear my head

Thanks for sharing, Beck!

Be sure to check out This Is Not a Drill, out now!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

I am so excited to review Level 2, the debut novel of YA blogger extraordinaire Lenore Appelhans at Presenting Lenore!

When Felicia dies in a car accident, she moves on to Level 2, an afterlife world where she spends her time in white pods, reliving memories from her short life. In Level 2, Felicia and her companions are nothing more than drones…until one day Julian, a mysterious boy Felicia knew in real life, rescues her. Once freed, Felicia is able to see that the balance of power in Level 2 has been thrown off. Julian wants to recruit Felicia into the resistance, but she’s reluctant…until he offers her something she can’t resist: knowledge about what happened to her boyfriend Neil when she died.

Lenore Appelhans’ first novel is breathtaking, perfectly paced, and brilliantly written. Everything about her writing helps establish the unique and fascinating setting; the beginning is hazy, but comes sharply into focus as the tension mounts and action begins. The novel moves quickly, but Appelhans is careful not to lose her readers; there is a great balance between Felicia’s memories of her tumultuous past life and present action. One element that ties her past and present together nicely is her connection with Neil, and the drama that Julian’s presence causes. Appelhans is careful to avoid writing in a trite love triangle, but there is definitely tension between Felicia and those two characters. The writing is so expressive and engaging, and Appelhans makes getting to the heart of the emotions in her story look effortless. There are some excellent twists toward the end of the novel that keep readers guessing, and Level 2 is a detailed and fully-imagined setting about an afterlife process gone awry. Though the ending of the novel is satisfying in itself, luckily for readers Appelhans leaves her story open to a sequel.

Cover Comments: I love this white and pink color scheme. The shade of pink isn't too girly or off-putting, and it makes this cover look modern and edgy. The font is fantastic, and the perspective just adds to that edgy feel. I feel like this cover fits the story really, really well!

Level 2 will be on sale January 15th, 2013.

ARC provided by publisher.