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The Compulsive Reader: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel has been sick for three years, and she knows she's not going to get any better. When she meets Augustus Waters, everything in her life changes. Augustus is funny and vibrant and unexpected. The two bond over Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, and before they know it, they're falling in love. Suddenly Hazel's life is a whole lot more than the falling action of an unspectacular novel.

John Green's latest book is absolutely brilliant. His characters are so realistic and down to earth, but fantastically memorable at the same time. Hazel is sick, but she tries not to let her illness define her. She's very funny and her gallows humor makes her a very accessible character—she's a teenage girl who doesn't take herself too seriously, not a heroically strong, righteous sick girl. Augustus livens up the book much in the same way he livens up Hazel's life. His endless humor, just-go-with-it attitude, and his metaphorical take on life and death are all so appealing. There are many literary references that drive the character and plot development in The Fault in Our Stars, but they flow just as naturally as the pop culture references, making the book unassumingly intelligent. The twist to this story is tragic, yet the book isn't a "sad" one. Like Hazel, who makes the funny choice when telling a sad story, Green makes a potentially depressing topic overflow with humor and life. The result is something achingly realistic and human.

Cover Comments: I really like this cover! The bright blue is perfect, and I love the simplicity of the chalk. Very nice!

Review copy purchased!

If you haven't read this book yet, DO SO NOW! Click here to see the equally awesome book trailer.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Butterfly Clues Trailer!

The Butterfly Clues is the latest book from Paper Lantern Lit, and is Kate Ellison's debut novel. Check out this awesome trailer for it!




It'll be available on February 14th, 2012, but stay tuned for an cool new contest on Wednesday! More details then!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Q&A 5

Q: Why don't you do IMM? (In My Mailbox)

A: The short answer is that I am lazy and that it would take a lot of time and work.

The longer answer to that is a little more complicated. I'm certainly not against it, but it's not for me. If you're a frequent reader, you've noticed that I usually update daily, and that lately I've not been updating quite as frequently. That would be because I work and go to school full time. It's actually incredibly hard to blog daily--besides the time constraint of putting a blog post together (it takes me usually about a minimum of 30 minutes per post, but usually longer), there's also the pressure of constantly generating material. I won't lie--it sometimes gets stressful, and those are the times when I have to remind myself that blogging is fun, and not work.

So, you'd think that doing IMM would be something I could check off my list--once a week, do an IMM, done. But...IMM isn't mine. It's not my idea, it's not my feature. The two ladies who came up with it are generous enough to let lots of other bloggers use the name and the idea, and I know a lot of other people really enjoy it, so that's great.

Like there are lots of different books and readers, there are lots of different book bloggers. No two book blogs are alike. We all have our own voices, opinions, and ways of doing things. This is just mine.

Q: I saw on an earlier Q&A that you're taking a lot of literature classes. What are you reading? :)

A: So far, I've read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, re-read "King Lear" by the Bard, Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson, lots of Emily Dickinson, and too many Walt Whitman poems. I just started re-reading "Romeo and Juliet" and I'm going to being diving into some Kate Chopin later this afternoon.

Q: I just wanted to let you know that I really liked your blog, but ever since you started posting ads, I think that they just really have ruined it. I wish you'd stop.

A: Ouch. Let's take a moment and observe the ruination.




They look pretty harmless to me. I am sorry that they bother you.

When it comes to accepting ads on the site, I sell through Blogads, which does an awesome job at letting me approve the ads that get placed, and lets me reject ones I deem inappropriate or just obnoxious. I know that you guys aren't on the blog to see what I'm advertising in the sidebar, and I appreciate that. But, sometimes the ads I have are things that I also like, and I think you'll like too. So, if you click on them, it's a win-win situation!

The other thing to remember is that uh, running my blog isn't exactly free. I have to pay for domain space, and I pay for almost all of the contests here (prizes, shipping, etc.). Some months that kinda is beyond my college student/part time bookseller budget. Now I could choose to not do contests, but that's something I enjoy doing, so I don't. So, if you can endure a few ads in the sidebar, I can give you some opportunities to win cool books. Cool?

Q: What's your middle name?

A: Ruth.

Leave me questions in the comments, or email me at thecompulsivereader@gmail.com!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corralfe

Glory Fleming is a musical prodigy. Her talent on the piano has earned her recognition from all over the world, but her mother's death has left her home life cold and dead. Enter Francisco--he's new to the neighborhood and the two become friends when he moves in next door. He brings light to Glory's life away from the piano. But as she is stretched between two worlds, she starts to lose control. Soon all she is able to play is Chopsticks...and then she disappears.

Chopsticks is a very interesting project that is created to be an interactive book with print and online components. The premise of it pulls you in, and the romance is entrancing. However, it would be more accurately classified as a graphic novel as it is told almost exclusively through photographs with a few online chat transcripts and emails, a handful of letters, and snatches of Pablo Neruda's poetry to complement it. The story moves quickly yet demands to be re-read and lingered over again and again, especially once readers reach the ending. The images that tell the story are beautiful and creative, but they only provide half-glimpses into the lives of the characters, showing you only one viewpoint and then revealing another only at the end. The technique does force the reader to see only what Anthony and Corral want you to see, and leaves little room for making your own decision as to Glory's true fate. Chopsticks is a very beautiful book with an intriguing story, but the supplementary material online feels secondary and tends to only rehash what the book has already gone over. Still, the story is intriguing, and the design of the book quite lovely. This one might be worth exploring as an e-book if you own a tablet.

Cover Comments: I do love the cove--the photography in this book is breathtaking. I love the style.

This one will be available on February 2nd, 2012.

ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cover Talk: A(nother) New Look for the Curseworkers Trilogy

I am a huge fan of Holly Black's Curseworkers books. They're really innovative and different, and the world in which they are set is AWESOME. (Did I mention that I met Holly at a conference in November? It was awesome! She gave an awesome talk about creating worlds and writing. That's me with her afterwards!)

One thing I really like about the covers is that they are very noir and they take a tired red, black, and white color scheme and really make it dark and fun. I especially love the cover of White Cat because it's one I've witnessed both guys and girls pick up.

The fact that publishers often revamp covers of series is something that has always frustrated my complex about having matching covers, but it is something that I've almost come to expect. So I wasn't surprised to see that the Curseworkers books got a cover lift (it's already happened once), but I was surprised to see just how different these new covers are.




 Versus:



Note that the first version of Black Heart won't be printed. 

I like the use of color in the new covers--very nice. And they continued a theme with Cassel on one cover, Lila on another, and both on the final cover. And I do really like the design--it's very unique and very fun. It demands to be looked at.

My only issue with them is I'm unsure of how well they really fit the books and whether or not a guy will be as likely to pick up the first book. The first covers went along with the content a lot better. And...is it just me, or does the new White Cat cover seem too suggestive of the twist in the book?

What do you think of the cover change?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Ethan was kidnapped when he was seven years old. Now sixteen, he has finally found his way back to his family, but he doesn't remember them or his life before. This lapse in memory makes it hard for him to fit back in after a nine year absence--his parents are supportive but tend to smother him, his younger brother is angry all the time and isn't welcoming at all, and his six-year-old sister feels like his replacement. Everyone is trying to make things work, but there's a secret being kept--one that, if revealed, could wreak havoc on the family once more.

 Lisa McMann's latest book may not have the supernatural elements that fans have come to expect in her work, but it has all of the trademark suspense, mystery, and sharp, direct narrative that make her novels so readable. She hooks you in right away with this intriguing premise, and Ethan's voice. Ethan is a bit damaged--he's been through a lot, and not being able to remember his family is tough. What's even harder are his good memories of Ellen, the woman who took care of him for so many years, when everyone wants to make her out to be a hardened criminal. He desperately wants to fit into his new family life, but his temper and conflicting emotions make the adjustment hard. All the while there remains the mystery of what has really happened to Ethan throughout the last nine years beyond the basic story he tells everyone, and why he willingly went with his kidnapper that fateful day long ago. As you delve deeper into the story, you'll begin to slowly doubt Ethan and race to the end to find out the truth about what happened--with some shocking answers. McMann's abrupt ending adds to the surprise of the final revelation, and definitely makes it memorable--so much so that readers will forgive her for not revealing more details. Fans of McMann won't want to miss Dead to You, and reluctant readers will zip right through it.

Cover Comments: I like this perspective, and the close up of the snow on the face and lashes--it's cool and little bit eerie!

This one will be out on February 7th, 2012!

ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

People, Please


Some of you people confuse me, but thanks for reading the blog.

Shelf Discovery: Austentatious by Alyssa Goodnight

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


Okay, I admit that 95% of the reason why I gravitated toward this book in Ingram Advance (the bookstore monthly catalog) was because of its title. You've got to love a good play on words. I am a big Jane Austen fan (I'm bookish and female, so it's like a prerequisite) but I normally stay away from a lot of the unauthorized sequels and modern Jane Austen-inspired stuff because they aren't always good. But there are always exceptions. Like this. And this. This too. (I sense another blog post coming on...)

With a title like Austentatious, I'm willing to give this one a try! Here's what it's about:
"While browsing in an Austin shop, Nicola James finds a blank vintage journal hidden among a set of Jane Austen novels. Even though Nic is a straight-laced engineer, she's still a sucker for anything Austen-esque. But her enthusiasm turns to disbelief once she starts writing in the journal - because somehow, it's writing her back...Itching for a bit of excitement, Nic decides to follow her "Fairy Jane's" advice. The result: a red-hot romance with a sexy Scottish musician who charms his way into Nic's heart in about five seconds flat. But a guy like Sean doesn't exactly fit into her Life Plan. With no one but Fairy Jane to guide her, Nic must choose between the life she thought she wanted - and the kind of happy ending she never saw coming..."
What do you think? What are some of your favorite Jane Austen inspired reads?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

E-book Freebies

Free things are always cool, and free stories by our awesome authors are even cooler. Check out these free stories and samples available now--they can help you find your next work, or maybe just tantalize you until that sequel comes out. And, they're free.

Don't have an e-reader? No problem--you can download the free Kindle app to your computer, phone, iPod, whatever you use!



This sample contains excerpts from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Bewitching by Alex Flinn, Balthazar by Claudia Gray, Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton, Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, and Slide by Jill Hathaway.


This sampler has excerpts from Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand, Magic of the Moonlight by Ellen Schreiber, The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting, Everneath by Brodi Ashton, and Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.


This all dystopian sampler has excerpts from Divergent by Veronica Roth, Gone by Michael Grant, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Variant by Robison Wells, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Eve by Anna Carey, and Partials by Dan Wells.


This sampler is all about romantic stories with excerpts from Pretty Little Liars: Ruthless by Sara Shepard, The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith, The Secret Sisterhood Of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, and Slide by Jill Hathaway.


A sampler from Simon and Schuster with excerpts from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Witchlanders, Fury, Virtuosity, Dark Inside, and Still Waters!

"Tomorrow is Today" by Julie Cross 

This short story goes with Julie Cross' debut novel, Tempest! Tempest is an awesome, awesome book that you should definitely read. I'm excited to dive into this short story!

"Tortured" by Caragh M. O'Brien

This short story is being advertised as a bridge story between her debut, Birthmarked, and its sequel, Prized. I loved Birthmarked, but haven't read Prized yet, and I am looking forward to both the story and the novel!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Tempest Audio Book Excerpt and Giveaway!

One book that I really, really enjoyed over Christmas break was Tempest by Julie Cross! It's a great time travel romance, but with a lot of action and mystery--more like a Jason Bourne movie than The Time Traveler's Wife. You can read my review here and see the trailer here.

Lucky for us all it came out this week in print and as an audio book! Macmillan has a ton of great audio books that they publish, like Cinder. And thanks to Macmillan, I have an excerpt to share with you all, and a chance to win an audio book!

Also, did you know that there's a free bonus Tempest story available as an e-book?


video


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reading Rants: Spectacular Settings II

About six months ago, I talked about settings in books that I LOVED. I am big on setting--they can make or break a book, and I think a good setting goes a long way in making a story memorable. So, here's another group of books I love with awesome, memorable settings.

StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This one is set in a fantasy world where magic is forbidden, and the kingdom is ruled by religious oppression. But the majority of the action takes place in a tiny corner of this world, high up in the mountains. It's the middle of the winter at an old keep, and the characters are snowed in with each other in an ancient castle. The nooks and crannies of the place, and the sense of entrapment, heighten the tension of the plot wonderfully--this is such a good book!

The Leviathan books by Scott Westerfelt

This series is driven by its steampunk setting, and it rocks. The time is alternate 1910's, where war has broken out in Europe. The two forces are the Clankers and the Darwinists, and the two main characters lie of opposite sides, brought together by some unusual circumstance. One of the best parts about these books is the amazing world-building going on. We start out in Britain and western Europe, move East toward Constantinople, breeze through Siberia, and take a tour through North America. This is to say nothing of the ship Leviathan where much of the action takes place--Westerfeld does some amazing things with setting here!

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

The premise of this one is a bit chilling--a stalker kidnaps a teenager in a Bangkok airport and whisks her away to the Australian Outback to live. It's an amazing story, written in the form of a letter from the girl to her kidnapper. I don't know a ton about Australian geography, but the descriptions of the landscape and desert here are just amazing. This is a tremendous book.

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I love, love, love this book. The writers take a setting that is both chaotic and a bit magical--New York City at Christmastime--and turn it inside out. This book is a scavenger hunt throughout the city, and it is described so well with wit and heart. This is not only one of my favorite Christmas books, but one of my favorite New York books.

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

This retelling of Hansel and Gretal has the magic and intrigue of the original tale. The witch's cottage is a candy shop hidden in the woods of the South in this modern story, and the perfect refuge for homeless teens Gretchen and Ansel. The peacefulness and comfort of the candy shop is juxtaposed nicely with the danger of the witch preying on young girls in a local town. This was a great escape.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

One of the best parts of this book was the amazing Spanish-influenced setting. The arid landscape and the rough terrain that heroine Elisa is forced to travel across are described perfectly, and fit right into her coming-of-age story. I just loved how this setting was really unique to most fantasy books out there now.

What are some of your favorite settings?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reviews

I was going to write a post about the drama over reviews and the author-blogger relationship, but Maggie Stiefvater really said it all right here.

Harbinger Trailer!

A couple of months ago, I interviewed Sara Wilson Etienne, whose debut book Harbinger will be out February 2nd! I just saw the book trailer, and it is awesome! Check it out:


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Hadley Sullivan has been dreading the day of her father's marriage for months. She's been angry with him ever since he left her and her mom for a new life and new woman in London, so avoiding him has turned out to be pretty easy. Then she misses her flight to London by minutes—and ends up meeting Oliver, a British guy on his way home for an event of his own. He talks her through the flight and her claustrophobia, and they connect through shared personal stories and jokes. But will their new friendship last after the plane has landed and they've gone their separate ways?

Jennifer E. Smith's third book is her best yet. From the title to the final page, her words pull you in and make you laugh and cry in turn. Hadley is an excellent narrator—realistic, smart, and still smarting from her father's actions. But despite her pain, she also wants to make amends and doesn't want to lose her father's love—she's just unsure of how to make things right with him again. Oliver is funny and charming from the start, but it's not until a little further into the book that the depth of his character is revealed—he has his own problems and grief to deal with. The issues that both characters have concealed are what allow them to reach out to each other and become friends. There's isn't an instantaneous, unbelievable romance that requires a suspension of belief, but a chance connection with the potential for something more. Smith manages to throw in a few twists that will lead Oliver and Hadley away from each other and back again several times, and she keeps the story fresh with frequent flashback to Hadley's life in the past few years. The book concludes very nicely without a fairy tale ending, but one that is realistic and quite hopeful. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is an emotional, funny, thoughtful book about love, loss, and serendipity.

Cover Comments: I am in love with this cover. I like the illusion of motion around the couple, how they're kissing, and the font and design. It's just so neat, so eye-catching!

ARC picked up at BEA.

50th Anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle's classic, will be 50 years old this year! To celebrate, I'm a part of the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs tour!

You can stay up to date with everything A Wrinkle in Time here, on the Facebook page, and follow the tour here.

Another cool thing about the 50th Anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time is the cool new edition of the book that's being released! Check it out:

The 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition features:

• Frontispiece photo*†
• Photo scrapbook with approximately 10 photos*†
• Manuscript pages*†
• Letter from 1963 Caldecott winner, Ezra Jack Keats*†
• New introduction by Katherine Paterson, US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature †
• New afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Voiklis including six never-before-seen photos †
• Murry-O’Keefe family tree with new artwork †
• Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery acceptance speech

* Unique to this edition † never previously published

Do you remember the first time you picked up this book? I know I was about 11 years old, and my school library had a worn copy with the centaur and rainbow on the cover. I was intrigued (especially after discovering Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce) and I fell in love pretty quickly. A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books that I've thought about a lot over the years, but not one I've re-read enough.

How did you first discover A Wrinkle in Time? And if you haven't read it yet, definitely don't hesitate to pick up one of these beautiful new copies!



Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shelf Discovery: The Hunger Pains

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

Now, I might be one of the few that thinks this is funny, but I just had to share: The Hunger Pains by the Harvard Lampoon, a parody to The Hunger Games. Among the Harvard Lampoon's parodies are Nightlight (Twilight) and The Girl With the Sturgeon Tattoo (just guess). They're stuff is usually pretty good and not tacky, like some parodies I've seen.

So, here's what this one is about:
"WINNING MEANS WEALTH, FAME, AND A LIFE OF THERAPY, LOSING MEANS DEATH, BUT ALSO FAME!
THIS IS THE HUNGER PAINS 
When Kantkiss Neverclean replaces her sister as a contestant on the Hunger Games—the second-highest-rated reality TV show in Peaceland, behind Extreme Home Makeover—she has no idea what to expect. Having lived her entire life in the telemarketing district’s worst neighborhood, the Crack, Kantkiss feels unprepared to fight to the death while simultaneously winking and looking adorable for the cameras. But when her survival rests on choosing between the dreamy hunk from home, Carol Handsomestein, or the doughy klutz, Pita Malarkey, Kantkiss discovers that the toughest conflicts may not be found on the battlefield but in her own heart . . . which is unfortunately on a battlefield."
We stumbled upon this one at the bookstore while browsing through some catalogs and thought it was pretty funny. Not sure if we'll get it in when it comes out (on February 7th) but it's pretty funny nonetheless.

What have you discovered lately?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tempest Trailer!

Did you see the trailer for the awesome book Tempest? It's pretty cool! Check out my review here!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cinder Audio Book Giveaway!

Marissa Meyer's debut novel, Cinder, came out last week and it has already been pretty popular here on the blog. It's a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella with some interesting twists. You can click here to read my review, and here to read my interview with Marissa.

Did you know that you can also get it on audio book as well? Macmillan has tons of titles available both in print and as audio books, and they've offered a sample of the audio book here. You can listen to the excerpt by clicking play below!

video

Want to enter for a chance to win an audio book of Cinder? Simply fill out the form below!


Class of 2k12: Caroline Starr Rose

The Class of 2k12 is a group of YA and MG authors making their debuts in 2012! I was lucky enough to ask most of them two questions about their debut novels. Today I have Caorline Starr Rose, author of  May B. on the blog!

About May B.:
"I've known it since last night;
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.
May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love."
I think is sounds absolutely fabulous!

Here's Caroline!

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing your book?

CRS: First drafts are always hard for me. Because my story is in verse, the words often took a long time to form. A good writing day meant I’d added 250-350 words. I remember one of my critique partners looking at an early portion and saying, “How are you going to sustain this? Writing like this would drive me crazy!”

It was intense, but it was also the truest way for me to tell May’s story.

TCR: What was the easiest?

CRS: In a lot of ways May’s voice was very clear right from the start. I wanted a straightforward, somewhat bleak tone to permeate everything, a style I’d found throughout all the first-hand accounts of pioneer women I’d read. At the same time, I wanted to be able to convey her determination, courage, and hope as the story progressed. Verse let me get as close to the bone as I could with this character, to expose her deepest fears and longings in ways prose wouldn’t have allowed me to do.

Thank you, Caroline! May B. is out today, so be sure to pick up a copy! And check out carolinestarrrose.com for more info!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tempest by Julie Cross

Jackson Meyer has a rather unique ability—he can jump back in time. He can never go back very far, and nothing in the past ever changes as a result of his traveling. That all changes the day that his girlfriend Holly is shot and Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, only to find himself stuck in a time period in which Holly doesn't even know him. Desperate to get back to the future to save her, he delves into his past to figure out just what he's capable of and who is after him.

Julie Cross's debut novel will grab you from the very first page. Jackson's narration is quick and witty, and he's very engaging. His easy-going nature makes him likable and experiments in time travel are fascinating, but the story really gets going when Holly is shot in 2009 and Jackson finds himself stuck in 2007. He is forced to examine the consequences of his every jump in time and dig into his family's secrets. What he discovers—trained guards shadowing him throughout his childhood, genetic testing, and a struggle between two forces that spans an inestimable number of years—will shock him, and put him in danger. At the same time, Jackson strives to get close to 007 Holly in an attempt to prevent her death in 2009, and he struggles with the guilt he feels for being a part of her life and putting her in so much danger. Cross does an excellent job at building their relationship in both time periods and creating little differences between 007 Holly and 009 Holly. This thrilling book has lots of action, mind-bending plot twists, and high stakes. The ending may be hard to swallow for some readers, but thankfully we still have two more books to look forward to in what's sure to be an outstanding trilogy.

Cover Comments: I am love with this cover! It's done by the same person who did the Hush, Hush cover, and it's so striking. I like the way the two figure are falling and trying to reach out to each other. Love it!

This one will be out January 17th, 2012!

ARC provided by author's agent.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Q&A 4

Here are a few more questions from the inbox!

Q: (Referring to Best Books of 2011)


A: Yep! Here is the list for 2010, and here is the list for 2008. I don't know what I was doing in 2009--obviously I was slacking off.

 Q:

A: I spend way too much time looking at books on Amazon.com, that's how. 

Mostly I'll stumble upon a book that's priced way lower than it normally is, and then there will be links to other similarly prices items on that page. Or sometimes I'll get an email directly from amazon about special deals they're having. Then I just poke around until I've compiled a list and I then I share with you all on here and on Twitter!

 Q:

A: 120.

Q: What books did you read in 2011? Could you please list them?

A: Here you go, if you can read my handwriting:




Q: 

A: I actually didn't get any...I have too many to read already! But I did get the latest version of Jane Eyre on DVD, and a cool t-shirt that says Lowood Institue, which is pretty awesome!


Got a question? Shoot me an email or leave it in the comments!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cover Talk: Please Ignore Vera Dietz Cover Change

One of my favorite books of 2010 was Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (click here to read my review). Her books are all a little unusual and quirky, and I like how so far all of her covers have matched that. The cover for Please Ignore Vera Dietz was really surprising to me at first, and I wasn't sure how well I liked it. The color, the lighter, and the font have really grown on me, though. Check it out:


Cool, right? And I was even more excited when it became a Printz Award finalist, so that cover now has an awesome silver sticker on it as well! I've been eagerly waiting for it to come out in paperback, but I was a little bummed when I saw what it would like like.


I don't hate this cover--I actually think it's really cool. I like how the girl has her back to the audience and is walking down the middle of the trees, and I think the way that King's name is written is neat. It coveys the sense of solitude and lonliness that Vera feels quite well. It's just not as unique nor as eye-catching as the original cover.

Which one do you prefer?

And if you haven't read this one, go pick it up now, or when it comes out in paperback on April 10th, 2012!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars Trailer!


I'm very excited about the release of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which will come out next week, January 10th! I just pre-ordered it on Monday and I can't wait for it to come in--hopefully just on time and not any earlier so as to not tempt me. I just saw the trailer yesterday on Entertainment Weekly, and it was awesome, so I thought I'd repost!
Did you like the music? It's a song called Permafrost by Laurena Segura, and Penguin is offering a free download of the entire song on their Facebook page!

I also thought I'd share some other TFiOS-themed videos since John Green is a genius in front of the camera:

The vlogbrothers announcement in which he promises to sign all first print copies (which means you should pre-order before it goes into a second printing!):



John reading the first chapter:

Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shelf Discovery: Steampunk Poe

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

I was processing an order when I stumbled upon this little book. At first I had a little trouble deciding where to put it (Classics didn't seem right, so I ended up popping it in YA). Steampunk Poe is not a book of re-written Poe stories in steampunk settings. Rather, it is a collection of his original, untouched stories accompanied with steampunk illustrations. I've read so many of Poe's stories through the years, so while I didn't take the time to read the book cover to cover, I did flip through it and look at the pictures. They are really well done and fascinating. It's easy to unlock a whole other world when looking at these and reading the stories--Poe's words really to lend themselves to a steampunk setting.

This is an excellent book for fans of Poe or steampunk in general--very imaginative! It's a great idea.



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking Ahead: J. Anderson Coats and The Wicked and the Just

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 J. Anderson Coats to talk about her book, The Wicked and the Just!

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

JAC: Medieval teens behaving badly in north Wales.

TCR: What has been the most surprising part about your publication process?
JAC: Copyedits. I thought they’d be a breeze since I’m a big grammar nerd and took four years of Latin, but I ended up getting taken to school. At one point, it was pointed out to me that I used the word “gray” three times in two paragraphs. This is why I love my copyeditor.

TCR: What was your reaction when you saw your book cover?
JAC: I loved the contrast of the sun against the black sky and ground, and the purply tones of Caernarvon Castle made for a dramatic slash of color between them.

TCR: Where can we stay up to date on you and your book?
JAC: My website is http://www.jandersoncoats.com, and I spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter (@jandersoncoats).

Thanks so much! Read on to learn more about The Wicked and the Just!
"Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.
Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl. 
While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point."
The Wicked and the Just will be out April 17th, 2012!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is a cyborg—human with mechanical parts that were inserted after a near-fatal hovercraft accident when she was eleven years old. She doesn't remember anything about her life before the accident, and the only life she knows now is drudgery working for her cruel stepmother as a mechanic in New Beijing. But when the prince commissions her to repair his android and the plague strikes close to Cinder, she is suddenly exposed to a new world of secrets and politics that will help her unlock her past, and put her in danger.

Marissa Meyer's debut novel is a fun sci-fi take on the classic Cinderella fairy tale. Meyer's futuristic Beijing is imaginative and a fascinating setting for the story to unfold. There's a lot happening to Cinder in the very beginning of the book to suck the reader in, but the drama surrounding Cinder's past and the political struggles of Prince Kai aren't a huge mystery to the reader. Still, it's easy to just go with it considering that the growing relationship between the heroine and her prince is a lot of fun, and Cinder has a hard time fighting her attraction for him and at the same time hiding the fact that she's a cyborg. There are a couple of twists toward the end of the novel that help set up a few more fairy tale-esque mysteries to explore in future Lunar Chronicles installments, but Cinder winds down pretty quickly with a bit of a cliffhanger ending. This smart and unusual combination of fairy tales and interplanetary politics is engaging, and readers will look forward to future books in this fun new series.

Cover Comments: I like the bright red shoe, and the mechanical parts in the leg, but I admit that I am not a huge fan of the font that the title is in. Oh well, that's just a small thing!

ARC provided by publisher.

Check out the trailer, too!




Monday, January 2, 2012

Reading Rants: Balancing Amazon and the Local Indie

A couple of weeks ago I read an article that really, really upset me about the issue of buying books through Amazon versus a local independent bookstore. I didn't want to jump in with my opinion with the whole rush and cheer of the holidays, but I also really don't want this issue to fade away without offering my perspective--that is, one of an avid reader and book-buyer who works at an independent bookstore, and is also an Amazon customer.

You can read the article to which I am referring to here. The writer, Farhad Manjoo, doesn't seem to have actually spent a whole lot of time in a indie store, so I'd like to point out some points of his argument with which I take offense with.
  • Bookstores have a "paltry" selection
Implying that bookstores have insultingly small selections is actually pretty insulting. Not every store can stock everything in the entire world, and you can't get everything from Amazon. No matter which way you look at it, Amazon is always going to have a larger selection because they aren't limited by their customer base or real estate. Yeah, it's pretty nice, but...guess what? If a bookstore doesn't have something in stock, there's a very good chance that, unless you're looking for Obscurist Quarterly, they can get it in the store for you, and I've never been into a store that has charged extra for ordering something (unless it's out of print, self-published, not available in the US, etc.). In the case of my bookstore, we get books in within 2 days of placing the order, and we won't charge you shipping for it! Amazon won't do that for you unless you have Prime membership (which costs about $80 a year).
  • Bookstore clerks only recommend books they like
Ha and HA! And this is the moment when I knew that Manjoo has never worked in a bookstore.

What he's arguing here is that Amazon offers better recommendations than actual people with actual minds who work around actual books and actual readers for a significant portion of their days. This is where I have to disagree with him. Amazon's recommendations are computer-generated based on what you've purchased in the past, what you've rated, and your browsing history. I have such an eclectic browsing history and have purchased so many gifts through Amazon that my recommendations are utter crap and after tinkering around with the "fix this recommendation" feature, I haven't been able to fix a thing. The only thing that the Amazon feature is good for, in my opinion, is what I call book-hopping--quick clicking to browse through titles and covers and authors to see if there's anything intriguing or new coming up that will grab me. Which, you know, is a lot like window shopping or browsing bookstore displays. That is, they can both be very hit and miss.

When you go into a bookstore and you talk to booksellers, you have the benefit of talking to people who observe trends on a first-hand basis. As a bookseller, I listen to what people say about books, what they like, what they're excited about, what they hated, and I see what they buy. Oftentimes people will come back and tell me what they think about the books I've sold them. Based on that, I can say I'm fairly good at listening to what people have enjoyed lately and pointing them in the right direction of something that they would be interested in (and I have co-workers who are even better at it than I am). Am I sometimes wrong? Oh yeah. But the difference between me and Amazon's recommendations feature is that the customer can tell me WHY I am off, and I can re-evaluate. You just can't do that with a computer. You need an actual human brain for that.

And I don't just recommend books I like. If I did, I'd force everyone to leave with Rebecca or Please Ignore Vera Dietz or Daughter of Smoke and Bone. But I have a brain, I know that not everyone is into those sorts of books, and I know my stock and customers fairly well--I want people to leave with something they're excited about, not what I'm excited about (though sometimes we're both excited and those are awesome moments).
  • Bookstore prices are too high
Oh God, I don't think I can even touch this because this part of Manjoo's argument is so, so, so frustrating and so, so off-base. 

Bookstores don't price books. Publishers price books. We sell them at the list price because that's the only way we can make money. Amazon sells them at ridiculous discounts because they're so damn big that through some sort of financial/accounting system, they can do it and still make money. I don't know a lot about the economics of businesses, but my dad has managed and owned various retail stores for the past 30 years, and one thing that he's impressed on me is the importance of quantity. The quantity of sales is, in general, more important that the size of sales. Amazon can sell books at 45% off because they are selling thousands of copies of that book. Independent bookstores don't because our customer base isn't that huge and we can't afford to.

This is not to say that bookstores can't or don't discount items. But if Manjoo is going to make the argument that books cost too much, he shouldn't be unjustly shifting the blame on the retailers. To thoroughly discuss how books are priced, we need to start with the publishers. That is a way bigger issue than Manjoo understands, and I don't have the time to go into (my limited understanding of) that.
  • The bookstore is "inefficient" and doesn't benefit the community
Oh yeah, because supporting local authors, organizations, and other businesses is detrimental to a community. The sales, business, and payroll taxes paid to local, state, federal governments doesn't help a single bit. Better take your business to Amazon, where they can sell you a cheap book and where absolutely none of your money ever has a chance of making it back into your region or community to benefit schools, roads, law enforcement, parks, libraries, hospitals...do I really need to go on?

Now here's the thing...I can actually sort of almost go with what Manjoo is saying when he points out that by purchasing books at much lower prices, you can buy more books. And that's a good thing for you and authors and publishers. But Manjoo is seriously naive if he thinks that Amazon will keep their 45% discounts when all of the indies are closed and everyone in the country is forced to buy from them. It's just not realistic.
  • Bookstores don't have much to do with the community
Bookstores host authors events, sell a lot of books by local authors, host community events, have community boards, spread community news and opportunities. Oh yeah, and they pay taxes. WHICH BENEFITS THE COMMUNITY.
  • The bookstore is "cultish"
Damn, the secret's out. I belong to the cult of Great Lakes Book & Supply. Someone stage an intervention.

And finally...
  • We should thank Amazon for crushing that local indie
Oh yes. When I lose my job and am unable to buy books from Amazon (because that will be the only place left for me to buy books), then I will be sure to send them the loveliest of thank you notes written on the last sheet of stationary I own. It will be the last nice thank you letter I send because I won't be able to buy any more of that stationary, as the only store in town that sells it will have just gone out of business.  

Reading all that you have (because if you've made it this far, I really commend you), I can only imagine what you are thinking. You are squinting at the screen, confused. You think I hate Amazon.

I DO NOT hate Amazon. I actually really, really like Amazon, and if one day I woke up and they had vanished from the internet, I would be very sad.

It is true that I don't use Amazon for print book purchases very much anymore. The fact of the matter is, buying from my employer is not only job security for me, but it also tends to be cheaper because of my employee discount. But Amazon doesn't just sell books, and they are an extremely useful resource and very easy to use. (Want to know a secret? When a customer comes in and only has an author or partial title, Amazon's search box is the first place we go to. The page is always up on our computers. As a book search engine, it can't be beat.)

With Amazon, I buy a lot of TV shows, DVDs, music (easier to download to my Droid and they provide some really nice discounts and offers that iTunes doesn't), and Kindle e-books. 

My parents purchased a Kindle for me for Christmas last year, and I absolutely love it. The device is wonderful to use, I've run into very, very few problems with reading my galley and ARC content on it, it's easy to travel with, and who wouldn't love the great deals on e-books that Amazon offers? Because of my Kindle, I started branching out into other genres of literature. For a lot of books, I'd prefer to have a print copy, but there are many that I am glad to put on my Kindle.

I am also an Amazon affiliate. That means that with every link that takes you to Amazon from this website and results in you purchasing something, I get a teeny-tiny percentage of the sale. It's usually no more than a few cents. When I receive those payments at the end of every month, I put that money earned into a fund out of which I purchase the Monthly Commenter Contest books--new releases, usually hardcovers. Those books are purchased from the bookstore I work at, and are sent Media Mail to the winner. Whatever the difference is, I pay out of my own pocket.

I also have a Prime membership. Because I am a student, the cost to me was $40 for a year. Whatever I buy gets free two day shipping, which is nice because I loathe paying shipping and I hated always trying to reach a $25 minimum. But what really sold me on the Prime Membership was the free streaming of so many movies and TV shows. It's true that I could have probably found Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica free somewhere online, but this is legal and it's simple. I love that more and more videos are added monthly. 

So what does this all add up to? There's a place for Amazon, and there's a place for independent bookstores. I don't want to tell you where you should spend your money--that's not right, nor fair. But I don't want anyone to be swayed by Manjoo's faulty argument and circular logic.

The fact of the matter is, I know that 99.99% of my blog readers are probably not millionaires, and I know you all can't afford to spend money like water. You have to do what's right for your budget and your lifestyle. I totally and completely understand that. But just because you are on a tight budget DOESN'T mean that shopping indie isn't a possibility.

Here's what I recommend:
  • Buy paperbacks from your indie. Amazon hasn't applied their 45% discounts to mass market paperbacks or YA paperbacks.
  • Know your community deals and specials. My town has something called Band of Locals, and for a one-time $10 purchase of a blue rubber bracelet, I can get discounts at almost all locally-owned businesses. My bookstore gives a daily 20% off discount on books (which make those paperback purchases cheaper than Amazon prices).
  • Does your indie have customer loyalty programs? See if they do! Also, if you make friends with the clerk, they can oftentimes fill you in on special deals and coupons.
  • Browse often. The most wonderful thing about bookstores is there is always something unexpected to be found that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Plus, you might get an actual brain to help you pick out your next read.
  • Know what else your indie sells besides books. Shop there for cards, calendars, stationary, journals, bookplates, games, planners, gift wrap, and more!
There are always going to be readers and stories. How we get them may vary, especially with new technology. I will thank Amazon for the amazing and diverse services they offer, but they will NOT be shutting down my bookstore if I can help it.

Leave me a comment or shoot me an email if you have anything to add!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January Monthly Commenter Contest!

I fell in love with the title of Jennifer E. Smith's latest book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, back in May at BEA. Out of all of the titles I heard that crazy week, that one stood out the most. And I fell in love with the story when I started it yesterday and finished it within a matter of hours. This is a real, emotional, romantic book, and I am thrilled to be giving away a copy this month!

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 January 2012 are eligible, so keep coming back for more posts and more chances to comment. For all of the details, click here.

Read on to learn more about the book!
"Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it."
Happy reading in this New Year!