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The Compulsive Reader: May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Becca can't wait to escape her small town and really start her life, even if it means leaving her boyfriend James behind. But when the body of an unknown girl is discovered, Becca is derailed. She can't get the dead girl out of her mind, and she can't stop puzzling over where she came from, how she ended up in her town, and who killed her. Suddenly everyone and everything is suspect and Becca finds herself re-evaluating her life—and everyone around her.

Kat Rosenfield's Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a weird and beautifully written novel. It consists of many short chapters, mainly from Becca's point of view, though there are a few from Amela Anne's perspective and an omniscient narrator. At times, Rosenfield's prose is achingly beautiful and emotional. She has a talent for stringing words together, building suspense, and evoking powerful imagery. However, the flow of the book is choppy and half-formed. Becca is a very interesting character; her desires and inner conflicts are relatable, and the small town claustrophobia she experiences is palpable. But Amelia Anne never really emerges as a character, and her chapters seem to be present solely to connect the dots for the readers. There are other characters that could have been more fully developed as well—Becca's parents, James, and many other characters that pepper this story. Unfortunately, sometimes the story seems to fall victim to Rosenfield's language—events and characters blur together in between the adjectives and complex sentences until you are thoroughly confused and nothing surprises you at the end. Overall, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a unique and interesting book; the darker premise and the issues it raises are important, but the execution was a little shaky. Nonetheless, Rosenfield obviously has talent and is an author to watch.

Cover Comments: This cover is a little unsettling. I'm not crazy about the angle of the knees, but the dirt and flower get the message across that she's dead...if the title didn't already give you an indication. I like it, but I'm not crazy about it.


ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Classics Corner: Moby-Dick: The First 25 Chapters

When I sat down to try and figure out what to say about the first 25 chapters of Moby-Dick, I was a little flummoxed. I have a few pages of notes in a notebook, some miscellaneous scraps of paper on which I’d written page numbers and various bits of punctuation, and lot of conversations with HB to go off of.

It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to read Moby-Dick,” or “Moby-Dick is really, really dense.” It’s kind of another to actually sit down and plod through Melville’s prose (and that’s what you do, you plod) and try to comprehend it. If you’re not paying attention, trying to understand it is probably how I’d imagine watching TV on drugs would be like (and just to be clear, I’ve never taken drugs). Melville has this tendency to write paragraph-long sentences or focus on one little thing for so long that you lose track of what was even going on in the first place, and then he veers right back into the action and you’re just like, “Wait…what?” It gets marginally better if you read it aloud, which is what HB and I did with Chapter 16. But all that really accomplished was making me slightly hoarse and painfully aware of certain words I do not precisely know how to pronounce. (Apoplexy?)

But here is an English major secret: When it comes to tough reading, sometimes it’s easier to know what is going on and what will happen so you can follow along and absorb the prose rather than just sit there going, “What the hell?” With that in mind, I asked HB to summarize Moby-Dick for us.

Her response?

“Whale. (Blubber.) Revenge. The End.”

I admire her concision.

So, maybe a comprehensive summary is a little too ambitious at this point. Instead, I decided to focus on four things:


1.


The important characters thus far:

Caption me! See below.
Ishmael: The rather wordy narrator of our story. Ishmael is bored with life, so what does he do? He decides to sign three years of his life away to a whaling ship because he wants to see how it’s done and see the world while he’s at it. Despite the fact that we really don’t learn a whole lot about him in 25 chapters, he seems pretty intelligent and observant, and we know he is a smooth talker.

Queequeg (Nicknames : Quohog and Hedgehog):  Unexpected companion to Ishmael and rumored cannibal. The two meet at a boarding house while waiting to sign on to a ship. Despite Ishmael’s reluctance to share a room with a “cannibal,” the two strangely become rather good friends. Queequeg carries around his harpoon and is generally an intimidating guy. He is from an island in the South Seas and is the son of a king, but left to find adventure on a whaling ship.

Peleg: Captain and co-owner of the Pequod, the ship that Ishmael and Queequeg sign on to. He is an old Quaker and quite a character. He interrogates Ishmael before he lets him sign on, and though he appears to be a nicer guy than his companion Bildad, he is also a bit livelier than what you’d probably expect a Quaker to be.

Bildad: Captain and co-owner of the Pequod. He is kind of a stick in the mud and generally seems to disapprove of everyone. He also comes off as a bit tight-fisted when haggling with Peleg and Ishmael over Ishmael’s wages. Melville practically devotes an entire two pages to describing him, but what mostly stuck out to me was the line in chapter 16, “For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness.” (HB and I had an “aha!” moment here. This could be her motto.)

Elijah: The creeper lurking around the Pequod when Queequeg and Ishmael sign on. He goes on about Captain Ahab (whom we’ve yet to see) and basically tells the guys they’ve signed their souls away. He says, “A soul’s a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon,” which kind of made me laugh. He’s got a real way with words, doesn’t he? It’d be so easy to just write him off as a loony, except that Melville named him Elijah, which is just a Biblical allusion slapping you in the face (Elijah was a great Old Testament prophet).

(Aside: So, I guess that’s what aggravates me about this book. Moby-Dick is long and tedious and I’ll read pages and pages of boring stuff that makes me grit my teeth and want to skim over entire chapters and generally hate Melville, but then he’ll come along with some brilliant lines or observations. And it just makes me hate him.)

2.


What’s eating Ishmael? He claims that he’s bored and wants adventure, but I suspect that there is more to him than that. Whether he exists as an intellectual sailor to witness whatever the heck Ahab will do later or what, I don’t know yet. But honestly, I can think of better things to do than join a whaling ship for three years just because you’re feeling a little restless.

3.


Religion seems to play a big role in the story and how Ishmael reacts to it is interesting. First, there is the sermon on Jonah that Ishmael grapples with. Then, he remarks that what one believes doesn’t really matter to him, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. He even joins Queequeg in the rituals for his little god, Yoko. Yet, when Queequeg has his Ramadan and pretty much checks out for a day, freaking Ishmael out, Ishmael berates Queequeg for his practices. This is interesting to me because it doesn’t look like Ishmael is totally open to religious freedom in this case. Perhaps our narrator is going through his own personal crisis?

4.


Have I mentioned lately how awesome HB is? I didn't even know things like this existed!


Phew. All that and the ship’s only just sailed. I’m flying out on Sunday for BEA, but I have the best of intentions to read this on the plane, and HB and I will be Skyping. There’s no slacking in the Classics Corner. (So if you’re reading this in the vain hope that I’ll answer all of your questions about this book so you can write a paper without having read it, HA. Good luck with that. I wouldn't trust me.)

Questions? Confused? (Me too.) Comment below!

Did you like the cartoon of Ishmael and Queequeg? I find it hysterically funny and Ishmael's grin a little too creepy. Let's play Caption That! The most clever caption will win some swag (and maybe an ARC...I am going to BEA next week after all)! Leave it in the comments!

Click here to read the first Moby-Dick post.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cover Talk: New Sarah Dessen Covers!

I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan (who is counting down to her newest book yet?) and so I was excited to hear that all of her books are getting a cover facelift. I think that the previous covers are all very pretty and nice, but I have to admit...these new covers are hot and eye-catching!

Check it out:


Okay, so how much do you love that fun design and the bright colors? So pretty, so fun!

The covers are currently being revealed throughout the blogosphere, but you can check out Sarah-land to see where the various covers are!

What do you think?

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, and as such she is supposed to despise spending time with vampires. But after all that she went through the past couple of months protecting Jill Dragomir, sister of the queen, she can't help but feel close to the Moroi and dhampir. Luckily she has plenty to distract her from her questions about loyalty—Dimitri Belikov and Sonya Karp are in town and they've been trying to figure out how they were turned back from being Strigoi and what it means for them now. But there is another group that is making trouble for them—they're not human, nor are they Strigoi. In fact, they just might be related to the Alchemists. As Sydney tries to figure out what they want, she'll be forced to choose between what she's always known and the people who have proven to be her friends.

The Golden Lily, sequel to Bloodlines, may take a few chapters to get past the recaps and introductions, but it won't be long before it will suck readers in. Sydney makes a great narrator—she's detail-oriented and concerned about those she believes are her responsibility, and she is very loyal to her friends. Her questions about loyalty—what it means, who deserves it, and just how far it extends—are big issues for her in this installment as she decides who she wants to stand with—the Alchemists and her training, or on her own with her kind, equally loyal, and inhuman new friends. But even as the action is compounded and her "friendship" with Adrian heats up, Sydney is cautious with her relationships and how she behaves in respect to defending herself. The mystery of the story helps expand Mead's world even more, and it is interesting to gain some perspective on the history of the Alchemists, their missions, and how they operate. A few interesting discoveries involving the spirit users and magic pepper the plot but are left open to be picked up in later volumes. In addition to action and danger Mead also fills this book with lots of relationship drama—characters get together, break up, and confess long-suppressed feelings. Action and drama notwithstanding, it's this human element that makes Mead's books so engaging and hard to put down. And the ending of The Golden Lily has one heartrending relationship cliffhanger that will leave readers desperate for more of Sydney's story. It looks like the Bloodlines series is shaping up to be another winner.

Cover Comments: I'm not a huge fan of the images of the models they're using for these covers--a little too, hm...cheesy? Obvious? I don't know how to articulate it. I much prefer the Vampire Academy covers. But it's what's inside that counts, and the story is kick ass!


ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alyson Noel Short Story!

Are you excited for Alyson Noel's latest novel, Fated? If you haven't picked up your copy yet, check out this short story to keep you entertained in the meantime!
____________

"Daire Meets Ever" by Alyson Noel

When she’s not crossing and uncrossing her legs, fussing with her cuticles, and/or riffling through her bag, Jennika tries to engage me in a conversation I’d rather not have. A wad of gum smacking between her back teeth when she says, “Reminds me of Vegas.”

I survey the place. Taking in walls glossed with pale green paint—the color of cucumber meat—the color of calm—along with worn linoleum grey tiled floors left to bubble in the places where they’re not already torn. Her assessment so far off the mark, so opposite the seedy glitz and glam of Vegas, I don’t even respond.

I just close my eyes and slide toward the edge of the curved plastic seat that’s attached to both the floor and the wall. Everything in this place is bolted to something. It’s an attempt to keep the crazies from hurling the furniture at the white-coated doctors prowling the halls.

This is the house of crazy.

A place to contain the insane.

“Doesn’t it remind you of Vegas?” Jennika’s tone grows louder, more insistent. More than anything, my mom hates to be ignored, especially by me. So I throw her a bone, decide to play along.

“You mean because of all the slot machines? Or is it the ridiculously long line for the all-you-can-eat prime rib buffet?” I prop an eye open, watching as her eyes roll in their sockets, her brow shooting well past her platinum blond bangs with the chunky pink stripe. Then I close my eyes again, try to focus on something more pleasant, try to conjure the beautiful boy from my dreams. But the drugs they’ve been feeding me, only serve to keep him at bay.

“I meant the absence of windows. And, if you’ll notice, there’s not one single clock—not anywhere!” She shakes her head and scowls, annoyed with the decor as much as the predicament I’ve sunk us both into.

“What’d you expect? Ocean views and whirlpools? It’s a mental ward, Jennika.” My voice sounds listless and bored—as though I can barely drum up the energy to participate. “Best not to keep track of how many days they lock you away.”

Jennika sighs, and leans toward me. Her fingers fussing at my long dark hair, arranging it around my shoulders as though it’ll make some kind of difference to anyone other than her. “It’s not a mental ward, Daire—it’s . . .”

I slant my gaze toward hers, waiting to see where her hunt for the perfect euphemism will end.

“It’s a hospital.” She huffs. “A renowned research center. Nothing more, nothing less. Besides, it’s not like you haven’t been here before.”

When she starts to dig through the contents of her purse, searching for some blush to brighten my cheeks, I know it’s time to flee.

In “The World According to Jennika” there’s nothing a good make-over can’t cure. As one of Hollywood’s most sought-after make-up artists, she’s seen first hand the kind of magick a little spackle and glitter can work. But no amount of fluffing and shading is going to change the fact that this place is, indeed, a mental ward—and that we’re here because of my recent diagnosis as crazy.

I push off, eager to leave Jennika in her happy place of denial. Eager to get as far from her and these “mental health experts” as I possibly can.

“Where you going?” she asks, her voice rising and anxious. Calling after my retreating back when she adds, “Don’t go to far—the doctor will call for you soon . . .”

I flee down the hall in search of an exit. Needing to fill my lungs with fresh air.

Needing to remember a time when my life consisted of something more than a never-ending series of mind-altering drugs and mental evaluations.

Needing to get far away from here.

I pick up the pace. Following the lighted signs with green arrows, I round the next corner, and plow smack into a girl so beautiful, so radiant and luminous, I can’t help but wonder if she’s one of the glowing people who stalk me.

If so, it’s just a matter of time before the place floods with crows. And once that happens, they’ll be shoving me into a straight jacket and a padded white room where I’ll live out my life.

“You okay?” The girl places a hand on each of my shoulders in an attempt to steady me. “I’m so sorry—I wasn’t even looking, and . . .”

She tilts her head in a way that allows a stream of golden blond hair to spill down her side as her bright blue eyes narrow on mine. And though I try to pull away, try to tell her I’m perfectly fine, I’m far too startled by the jolt of her touch to do either one of those things.

It’s like her fingers are streaming with electricity that wraps all around me.

She grips my shoulders tighter and lowers her voice to a whisper. “Don’t let them tell you you’re crazy,” she says, glancing all around, as though afraid of being overheard. “Don’t let them tell you the glowing people don’t exist, because they do. The crows too. It’s all real, you’re not imagining any of it.”

I jerk back as though I’ve been shocked. Yanking free of her grip as my mind reels with questions.

Who the heck is she? And how could she possibly know about the visions? Has she read my case file? Is she some crazy escapee impersonating a staff member?

She smiles, standing steadily before me as she says, “I’m none of those things. My name’s Ever. Ever Bloom. I’m psychic, telepathic, but as far as I know I’m not crazy. Nor am I a patient impersonating a staff member. And though I’m probably the only person willing to believe you—trust me when I say, you won’t always feel so alone. There are plenty of us who realize the world isn’t anything like we’ve been trained to believe.”

“What are you doing here?” I ask, well aware how I just skipped over her more outrageous claims, only to focus on the benign.

“I’m taking part in a study on NDEs.” Fielding my blank look when she adds, “People who have had a near death experience.”

“You died?” My gaze flies down the length of her, thinking she is surely the strangest girl I’ve ever met, and yet there’s something about her that’s so calming, I have no desire to flee.

“More than once.” She lifts her shoulders, her eyes glinting with mischief when she says, “As will you.”

I shift from foot to foot, not really knowing how to respond.

“Listen,” she says, checking her watch and glancing toward the door just behind her. “All you need to know is that you’re not crazy. Not by a long shot. So please don’t believe them. Listen to your heart, it’ll never steer you wrong.”

I nod, sensing the truth behind her words.

“I wish we had more time to talk but—” She turns, smiling as the absolute personification of Tall, Dark, and Handsome pushes through the door and stands right beside her. “We’re late,” she says.

“That’s what happens when you won’t let me manifest a parking space.” He hands her an unopened bottle of water, grinning in a way so heart-melting, I have to force myself to look away.

Remembering too late how she claims to read minds, and the knowing smile she gives me, pretty much proves she just caught me mentally ogling her boyfriend.

“This is Damen. Damen Auguste,” she says, leaning against him and fitting into his side so easily, they’re like puzzle pieces—book ends—made to be together.

“I’m Daire,” I say, realizing I hadn’t gotten around to introducing myself earlier.

“Looks like your mom’s looking for you.” Damen gestures at a point just beyond my shoulder, where, sure enough, Jennika waits with a scowl on her face and a hand on each hip.

“Here.” Ever places her bottle of water into my hand. “Tell her you went to get something to drink. Don’t let her know you were about to run away. It’ll only make her mad, and that’s the last thing you need. Besides, you’re ready to face them now, right?”

I start to return the water, but it’s only a second later when a new one just appears in her hand. And I’m so busy blinking and gaping, I almost miss it when she says, “Remember what I told you: Believe what you see—what you know in your heart to be true—and discard everything else they try to tell you.”

I nod, taking one last look at Ever and Damen, hoping I can carry some of their optimism and magick with me wherever I go. About to make for Jennika now calling to me from her end of the hall, when Ever says, “You’re headed for great things, Daire Santos. You just have to believe in yourself.”

I stop, shoot her a quizzical look. About to tell her that my last name is Lyons, not Santos, when she smiles and nods and urges me on.

I hurry toward Jennika, allowing her to wrap an arm around me and lead me away as I cling to Ever’s assurance that the glowing people are real. The crows too. And the fact that I’m the only one who can see them doesn’t mean I’m insane, but rather that I’m headed for something extraordinary.

I can only hope that it’s true.

The End.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

(Fun) Summer Reading Deals!

One of my favorite summer past times is lounging in the sun with a good book... Even if you have some required reading that isn't always so much fun, you should definitely take some time to unwind and read fun stuff. Check out these awesome deals on fun books!

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini for only $0.99!

Hereafter by Tara Hudson for only $0.99!

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan for only $2.99!

Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley for only $2.99!

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik for only $2.99!

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick for only $4.99!

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson for only $2.99! (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)

School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer for only $0.63!

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink for only $1.99!

The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted for only $1.99!

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers for only $1.99!

Need by Carrie Jones for only $2.99!

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison for only $0.99!

Ship Breaker by Paola Bacipulago for only $2.99!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Purity by Jackson Pearce

For Shelby, the most important thing in her life is keeping the promises she made her mother before she died: listen to her father, live without restraint, and love as much as possible. The loving is something she's working on, and she's got the living without restraint part covered. But the most important one, listening to her father, is tough. And it only gets harder when her dad volunteers to organize the church's Princess Ball. At the ball, daughters attend with their fathers and pledge to stay pure in all aspects of their lives...and Shelby isn't sure if she can make that pledge. So instead she plans to nullify it by formulating a plan to lose her virginity before the ball—which is just about a month away.

Jackson Pearce's Purity will hook many readers with its straightforward, entertaining, and slightly sarcastic voice. Shelby is an engaging and likable narrator. She's had a hard time dealing with her mother's death, and she doesn't know how to interact with her father beyond keeping her promise to listen to him. But she's never had to confront these issues until her father's involvement with the Princess Ball force her to really think about her values and what she wants out of life. Shelby's questions with religion are brought up, but her search for answers doesn't have much depth and brings about only a few small steps. Instead she focuses her attention on her plan to lose her virginity with the support of her eccentric friend Ruby and the reluctant help of her long-time friend Jonas. She doesn't really make any major breakthroughs until she finally confronts her father and is able to be truthful with him. Their relationship is far from ideal by the time the book ends, but there is hope that they can build a better relationship. However, this connection is only made after Shelby's awkward and emotionless sexual encounter with someone she hardly knows, despite the fact that there are people in her life trying to tell her she doesn't need to have sex in order to keep her promise to her mother. Pearce's writing is solid and her characterization is, for the most part, enjoyable. She deals with a lot of pertinent issues and topics that concern many teens, but the execution of this story and its questionable conclusions will probably make it hard for readers to connect with Shelby or her struggles.

Cover Comments: I am loving the blue of the cover. The lock is nice, symbolic, but nothing too exciting. It's a nice cover, but I think it'll be more memorable for its color. At least the lock isn't a cherry...

Review copy provided by publisher.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Looking Ahead: Something Strange and Deadly and Susan Dennard

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!

Susan Dennard is the author of Something Strange and Deadly

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

SD: Something Strange and Deadly is about zombies and necromancy in 1876 Philadelphia! (Okay, it's 12 words--sorry!)

TCR: What's the best thing about being a published author so far?

SD: Honestly, the best thing so far has been receiving fan mail and my very first fan art! Not everyone will love your book, but knowing that at least a few people do is the most amazing feeling ever!

TCR: What do you think makes a good YA cover?

SD: Personally, I'm attracted to iconic covers--like the HUNGER GAMES. Simple, clean symbols catch my every time! Right now, I'm totally lusting after Marie Lu's PRODIGY cover (http://books.usatoday.com/bookbuzz/post/2012-05-03/exclusive-cover-reveal-and-excerpt-prodigy-by-marie-lu/686517/1)

TCR: Where can we stay up to date on your and your book?

SD: Well, right now, the best place is my personal website (http://susandennard.com), but the official book website will be releasing very soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that announcement! ;)

Thanks so much, Susan! Something Strange and Deadly will be out on July 24th, 2012!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Read Moby Dick? Who Knows...

So there is this little book at the bookstore I work it (it's called Great Lakes Book and Supply, but I'm calling it GLB from now on for brevity's sake) called Why Read Moby-Dick? It is a very pretty little book, the type of hardcover that makes you want to buy it because it has all of the pretty things that books should have and digital files don't, but that is beside the point. It's relevant because it asks a pertinent question: Why should we read Moby-Dick?

I'm an English major, so basically when I'm not reading or blogging about YA or staring at Twitter or watching Youtube videos of miniature animals, I pay to go to classes where we sit in circles and Discuss Literature. It is very fun. (You ought to understand this because I complain and make fun of English majors, but I don't mean it. Usually.) The downfall of being an English major is that your professors are forever inundating you with titles and authors that YOU SIMPLY MUST READ RIGHT NOW. Or you fail at being an English major. And college. And life. And the list keeps growing and growing and growing and unless you accept that you will never have time to read everything in the entire world, you will become depressed. But...one book that is consistently brought up by my professors is  Moby-Dick. Every. Time. I. Turn. Around.

It's like, "Oh yeah,  Moby-Dick? Worst book of my undergrad experience. You should totally read it!"

Or, "I read that in grad school. It's really quite interesting because of it's importance to the context of blah blah blah blah."

Or, "You're not going to like it. No one likes  Moby-Dick. But I read it, so you have to read it."

Basically, it is a Rite of Passage.

This puzzled me. I mean, besides the question of why  Moby-Dick in general, out of all the books ever written, why  Moby-Dick out of all of the books Herman Melville wrote? So I asked my friend and fellow English major (whose code name for this blog will be Honeybadger, or HB) this very question. HB, in addition to being very smart and well-read, also frequently feeds me gummy bears, so I tend to hang out with her quite a bit.

"HB," I began one day while she forced me to watch Swamp People with her. "Why do we have to read  Moby-Dick?"

"I don't know," was the unsatisfactory reply.

"I mean, no one liked it when Melville wrote it."

HB ate a gummy bear.

"Like, all anyone ever wanted to read of his stuff was the true adventure stories and then he wrote  Moby-Dick and it was this huge flop."

"I don't have any answers for you."

"So then, what? Some dude just rediscovers it and then D.H. Lawrence and like, Ezra Pound, were all over it. I am not a fan of Pound."

"You've thought about this way too much. Have another gummy bear."

My copy looks like this. It has 589 pages.
So, naturally my next move was to convince her to read it with me this summer. HB has already read it, so I'm not really sure why she's doing this with me, but I'm not going to question it. So I went to GLB and bought my copy for $3.42 (and earned a sympathetic look from my co-worker), and HB and I pondered it one afternoon.

"It has short chapters," I offered.

HB flipped to the table of contents. "But there are 135 of them. And most of them are really boring." She pointed at several. "Those will all be about whale fat. And nothing else."

I tried not to be disgusted. "Maybe it won't be so bad."

"There are 135 chapters," she reminded me.

"We're going to need more gummy bears."

So, that is a very roundabout way of telling you that I am reading  Moby-Dick this summer with HB. I'm not sure how seriously I can take a book called Moby-Dick (I snicker like a thirteen-year-old boy when I think about the title) about whale fat, but HB and I are going to read it for the sake of literature and our education and I don't know what else. And you, dear blog readers, are going to hear about it. Every Wednesday from now until we finish the damn thing you will get a super special Classics Corner  Moby-Dick update!

Maybe along the way HB and I can figure out why everyone should read  Moby-Dick. Or at least have fun trying.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coincidence

So after Friday's Great Big Post of Great Gatsby, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see this YouTube video show up on my Facebook newsfeed:


So, I had NO IDEA that this was happening! And even though the music seemed a bit anachronistic and this is a super flashy trailer, I am sort of excited. I haven't disliked anything that Leonardo DiCaprio has starred in, though he does seem a but old for Gatsby.

Nonetheless, I have a feeling that this will be one I will have to watch when it comes out! What do you all think? I was surprised and pleased to see the outpouring of Gatsby love!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Cameron Post lives in the tiny town of Miles City, Montana--not the most understanding place to grow up if you're secretly gay. Cameron's family certainly have no idea about her sexuality--her parents died not long after her first kiss, and she's been keeping that part of her life a secret from her grandmother and aunt. But liking girls is something that Cameron struggles to hide, especially when she befriends Coley Taylor. And when her aunt Ruth finds out, it's not something that she can accept, so she tries to fix Cameron by sending her to a special school in an attempt to "de-gay" her. But even if she doesn’t really know who she is yet, Cameron knows that liking girls isn’t something that she can be schooled out of, no matter how much her family or anyone else tries to convince her otherwise.

Emily M. Danforth's debut novel is a weighty, extensive look at Cameron's journey from a scared girl who is trying to deal with her feelings for girls to a young woman who is forced to make decisions about how she wants to live her life. The story starts when Cameron is just twelve years old and covers all of her relationships—her first kiss with her best friend Irene and the ensuing fallout between them, her summer friendship with benefits with her Lindsey, her friendship and attempt at a romance with her best guy friend Jamie, and finally her brief romance with Coley before her aunt sends her away. Because the book covers so much ground, it focuses more on Cameron dealing with her sexuality than with her relationship with Coley, and all of the mistakes she makes along the way. She's not always very mature about her relationship decisions—there is a lot of physical action, but rarely does she pause to talk and figure out how to make a relationship work, which is all part of the learning experience. Her attempts at dealing with her homosexuality also are closely tied with how she reconciles her feelings about her parents' sudden deaths. It's not really until she hits her low and is forced to attend God's Promise Academy that she realizes that sometimes the people in charge don't really have a clue about what they're doing either, and that she didn't really get the chance to know her parents as people, and maybe they would have reacted differently than her aunt Ruth.

Throughout her journey, Danforth doesn't force any labels on Cameron, and despite the 1990's setting and her issues with her sexuality, Cameron’s struggles and feelings of isolation are very relatable for any reader. Danforth's writing is both gritty and beautiful, and there are some very beautiful metaphors throughout the novel. While it does seem like the book ends a little abruptly, readers will be happy about where Danforth leaves Cameron, and the conclusion is very appropriate. Though lengthy, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a thought-provoking and important novel that readers will fly through.

Cover Comments: I really love this cover. The hay field is very appropriate, I love the pop of color in the title, and the boots the girl is wearing. It's just so quirky and cool.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Epic Awesome-ness of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries!

Okay, so you all know how awesome John and Hank Green are. Not only is John an AMAZING writer, but he and his brother Hank have created the coolest Youtube vlogs, and they are the ones behind Crash Course, an awesome channel that is funny and educational. But mostly funny.

Well, Hank Green had this idea to create a vlog series to tell a story. And what story did he choose to tell? Just, you know, one of the best classic love stories ever, Pride and Prejudice. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a series of videos in which a modern Lizzie Bennet tells us all about her life, with quite a bit of hilarity. I'm a big fan of the whole modern take on classic novels (as long as they're done creatively), and this is probably the best I've ever seen, mainly because the medium is just so different and awesome!

So, please check out this first video! You won't regret it!


And because I know you want more...click here to go to Lizzie Bennet's channel!

Now tell your friends! And watch for new episodes every Monday and Thursday! I am smitten!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bookmarks!

I've been wanting to have blog bookmarks to pass out to readers for a long time now--just something fun and memorable for the blog that I can hand out to interested YA readers that aren't my business cards. Luckily for me, I know Katie D. at kdcreates.com and she designs AWESOME things. She did my blog header, and some awesome bookmarks and business cards!

I finally found a local printer who did bookmarks to print them for me, and I LOVE them! Check it out:


They're double-sided and the perfect bookmark size (in my humble opinion) and even have a QR code so you can get to the blog quickly and easily on your mobile device! And I have like, a thousand of them. So, I totally need to share them with YOU, fabulous blog readers!

So, if you want to fill out the form below, I'll send you a few of my bookmarks (plus a couple of other YA ones from my swag box)! This offer is good as long as my supplies last!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Classics Corner: Ten Things I Like About The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is one of those books that seems to be inflicted upon everyone at some point in high school English classes, and despite its brevity and being relatively modern and accessible compared to say, oh, Dickens or Melville, it is also one that people either love or hate...no in between.

That's just my perspective, anyway.

I'm not sure how this happened, but I somehow escaped having to read it during my high school years, and have since gone through my undergrad classes not exactly pretending to have read it, but not saying anything to the contrary either. It's not that I wasn't ever going to read it. I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. But I totally had a copy of it on my shelf of Serious Books. And then my American Lit survey assigned it, and it was just convenient.

I think I devoured it more than actually reading it over Spring Break, and I came to class all bright-eyed and eager to talk about how cool it is and how much I liked it and then...the class discussion killed my excitement. Popped it like a balloon. Just, gone.

So, since this is my happy corner of the internet where I can talk about pretty much whatever I want, here's what I was going to say about The Great Gatsby, before that class period:

Ten Things I Like About The Great Gatsby

1. Nick Carraway. He's a narrator I can relate to and I like the way he strings together his thoughts and sentences. He comes to New York to figure out his life because he can't find what he's looking for in the Midwest. He may be confused about his life, but he's also way more grounded and realistic than Gatsby or Daisy.

2. "I'm the most honest man I know." Nick Carraway says this early on in the book, and he also talks a lot about how he values honesty--he can't stand it when Jordan lies. But the context of the statement and the meaning makes you also wonder at Nick's character and why he stated that. I love that there is that added depth to his character.

3. The most awesome metaphor of the Valley of Ashes and the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. Enough said.

4. Jay Gatsby. Despite how conflicted and misled he may be, there's just something about the guy. I mean, I could do without him calling Nick "old sport" all the time (really? "Old sport?" It's SUPER ANNOYING), but I just feel bad for him. He's so quiet and all he does is in the hope that he can meet Daisy, the woman that he thinks is the love of his life. I mean, it may be a little naive of him, but there's an almost innocent quality about him that makes you want things to work out for him. Too bad he's so far gone and Daisy isn't good enough for him.

5. Tom and Daisy Buchanan's stupidity. Okay, I know that this is probably not something you're supposed to like about a novel, but their marriage is like a train wreck. I can't look away. Tom cheats, Daisy is reckless, and even though they seem wildly unhappy, they deserve each other. They are careless with others and they represent the worst of the filthy rich. They're good characters to hate.

6. The way that Fitzgerald portrays women. This may sound odd, because there aren't exactly many "good" female characters in The Great Gatsby, but Fitzgerald was probably the first American male writer to not make females fade into the background. He portrayed them as human beings who have affairs, make mistakes, and actually play roles in how the novel unfolds. They have power. Even if they all make bad decisions and I'd like to slap them all.

7. The pacing. It's less than two hundred pages, and I flew through it. The way that Fitzgerald sets it up to take place over the course of a summer is very symbolic, and the action unfolds nicely.

8. The issues of entitlement and wealth. I like how Fitzgerald emphasized that wealth can make anyone feel entitled and above morals and laws. It's not just Tom who cheats or breaks laws. Even Gatsby--mild mannered, naive, likable Gatsby--bootlegs so he can be rich enough to get Daisy's attention, and then he takes the fall for Daisy when she kills Myrtle. And they all think that they can just get away with it. There is this lawlessness that stalks these rich characters, and Nick doesn't like it.

9. The reason why this story is so relevant--it's all about finding purpose. Nick comes to New York to get a job and be useful, to find his purpose. But, he doesn't find it. He thinks that befriending Gatsby and helping him get to Daisy will help him achieve this, or at least help Gatsby achieve his purpose. He has nothing to do but watch as the train wreck of events unfolds and try to pick up the pieces. Maybe his role in it isn't to try and save everyone--which he completely fails at--but to observe it, learn from it. At the end, he decides to go back West. And who would blame him?

10. This book is so quotable!
"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. 
'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'"
And...
"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther..."
And...
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

And there are a TON more. What about you guys--any favorite Gatsby quotes? If you've read it, what did you think? If you haven't read it, I recommend it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Looking Ahead: Marta Acosta and Dark Companion

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 Marta Acosta, author of Dark Companion, on the blog!

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

MA: A young adult modern gothic and homage to Jane Eyre.

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

MA: I can't remember! I think I was hesitant. I am cover obsessed and always trying to imagine how readers will perceive the cover. I asked that the font be changed and Tor Teen was kind enough to do that. The image online is lovely, but the actual book cover has more depth and detail. I love it.

TCR: What has surprised you about the publishing process thus far?

MA: Publishing sits very painfully atop a concertina wire fence between commerce and art. The people at the parent corporations who control the business are not a good mesh with those at the editorial level who love literature more than profits.

TCR: Where can we stay up to date on you and your book?

MA: If I was organized, you could go to my website, www.martaacosta.com, but I'm more frequently found at my daily blog, www.vampirewire.blogspot.com, and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/#!/MartaAcosta.

Tirzah, thanks so much for having me here at TCR!

TCR: Thank you, Marta!

Read on to see what Dark Companion is about!
"Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true. 
They are. 
The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much? 
As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove—and what she would risk to stay there…."
This one will be on sale July 3rd, 2012! Stay tuned for my review!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

For Nora, being a research assistant to an elderly professor at a local university isn't the most exciting work study experience in the world. Her skills with Latin are good for lots of boring translations, but at least she gets to work with her best friend Chris and boyfriend Max. But her work gets interesting when she begins translating a series of letters written by a woman named Elizabeth Weston, revealing the mystery of a device, the Lumen dei, which supposedly enables mankind to communicate directly with God. Nora doesn't believe in the device, but she empathizes with Elizabeth despite the centuries that separate them. Then one violent night changes everything—Chris is dead, his girlfriend Adrianne is practically catatonic, and Max is missing. Nora must put together the clues Elizabeth left behind to find Max, evade the men who have proven they will kill for her information, and finally figure out what happened the night her best friend died.

Rob Wasserman's latest novel is an engaging mix of history, romance, and mystery. Dark secrets, crumbling documents and relics, and shady secret societies abound in this meticulously written story. Nora's search for answers to her friend's death and the mystery brought up by Elizabeth's letters go almost hand in hand with her own issues questions regarding faith and religion in the aftermath of her brother's tragic death. These personal issues are what make her connect with Elizabeth and her experiences and help emotionally invest herself into the mystery of the Lumen Dei. The mystery is very complicated and convoluted—the chronology of Elizabeth's letters and clues can be a little hard to follow, especially when Nora travels to Prague to find answers. There is plenty of action and many plot twists that play out through the streets of the old city as Nora gets closer and closer to the truth, which will test her beliefs and values and make her re-evaluate her relationships. The conclusion is surprising and maybe a little abrupt; there doesn't seem to be a lot of falling action, and there are a few loose ends to puzzle through still. However, the way that Wasserman sets up The Book of Blood and Shadow is clever, and despite any lingering questions this extremely well-written and unique story will keep readers thinking long after the final page.

Cover Comments: I adore this cover! I love the shadows of the title font and the way the building is reflected in the girl's eyes, the angle of her face. It's just so cool! And I definitely recommend getting this one in print--the book is beautiful. I love the deckle edges and the end papers on this one.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wentworth Hall Giveaway

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and Wentworth Hall looks like it'll be a good one. Written by Abby Grahame and just released earlier this month, Wentworth Hall is set in 1912 England (and being pitched as a good read for fans of Downton Abbey). Here is the summary:
"The prettiest people often have the ugliest secrets… 
Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for. 
It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been…even as their carefully constructed faƇade rapidly comes undone. 
Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one…the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever. 
When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long."
 Sound good? You can read an excerpt here.

I have two copies available for a giveaway on the blog thanks to the generosity of Simon and Schuster! All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Adult Books I've Enjoyed Recently, or The Most Eclectic Selection of Books Ever

I know this feels like a cop-out post, but I feel like I need to prove to you all that I have been reading, even if it isn't the fun YA stuff. So, here we go:

 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Yeah, I jumped on that bandwagon. I couldn't help it. I actually read it over Christmas break (um...yeah...five months ago) and it took me only a few days. I had avoided reading any information or criticism on it since I planned on reading it since it became popular, so I have to admit I was a little surprised at how violent it could be at times. But, I really, really enjoyed the characterization of Mikael and Lisabeth--definitely my favorite part. Also, do all Swedish people really drink that much coffee, or did Larsson not know what to do with his characters in the downtime?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Disclaimer: This book was read for my nonfiction class! I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise because I can't say as I've been interested in True Crime (though that has changed after reading this book). But oh my word, Truman Capote can write. The way he could put a sentence together is absolutely amazing. I liked this one so well I wrote my midterm paper on it, and then my final paper as well.

Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson

This was another book read for class, and yet again one that I probably wouldn't have picked up unless I had been forced to. All in all, it was a pretty good first experience with Thompson's writing, and I especially liked it because it helped me understand a slice of American culture I hadn't been exposed to. While I don't think Thompson has the same literary flare that Capote does, I really liked how he brings up a lot of interesting ideas about society and the media.

The Cater Street Hangman and Callander Square by Anne Perry

I picked up the first two books in the Thomas Pitt series out of curiosity because Anne Perry is popular with customers at the bookstore and I enjoyed Victoria Thompson's Gaslight mysteries. If it's period mysteries about (sometimes brutal) crimes you're looking for, these are great. However, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of page time the main characters get in these novels and their abrupt endings--the book concludes a mere two or three pages after the perpetrator is quickly revealed. I think I'll stick with Thompson.

Delicacy by David Foenkinos

This French novel is about a young woman, Natalie, who finds herself a widow after seven near perfect years with her husband. She's beautiful and smart, but she's never moved past her husband's death...until she suddenly finds herself attracted to Markus, her awkward co-worker. I loved Foenkinos' style, his way with words, and the quirky plot. Delicacy is a real quick read, and I'm eager for a chance to see the (French) movie starring Audrey Tatou!

Timeless by Gail Carriger

I've been eagerly awaiting the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series and dreading it at the same time. I just love the characters so much, it's hard to let go. But this one definitely doesn't disappoint--there's so much packed into it, it'll be impossible to put it down. I loved the way Carriger concluded the series, and I'm so eager for her next two series!

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I am going to confess right now that Sophie Kinsella books are a guilty pleasure of mine. I was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and I picked this one up and it made me feel a lot lighter and happier. I liked the relationship drama and the dynamics between the lead characters in this one a lot--it's a very fun and fluffy read!

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

I read this for a class, and it was very enlightening. It's about the founding of Facebook (the book that the movie "The Social Network" is based off it). I don't think you can take every word Mezrich writes as the truth, but the dynamics are interesting. This book actually turned me off of Facebook (though I'm still using it, which is why Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire) due to the motivations of its founders--basically, they did it to impress girls and get laid. So. Annoying. But, I'm glad I read it so I'm at least a little bit familiar with the background of the one site I'm on probably more than my own. Also, I NOW UNDERSTAND THAT PISTACHIO COMMERCIAL. This one.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Yet another one for class, and I am so, so glad it was assigned. Sarah Vowell, besides being the voice of Violet in the movie "The Incredibles" (I had to throw that in there, sorry), is a very funny and incisive writer. In this book she explores the idea of patriotism through many essays on history, politics (they are way more interesting that you'd expect, this coming from the girl who follows political news with a sense of bewilderment and naivete), and pop culture. It's funny, it's super smart, and it's such a fast read. I went out and bought two of her other books immediately. Also, look for YouTube clips of her on The Tonight Show. Hilarious.

Okay, I think that's it for my super-sized, end of the semester list. What have you been reading and enjoying lately?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Apologies

Hey everyone,

I am sorry for this huge blogging lapse--I'm blaming it on the end of the semester craziness and then my current internet outage. Though classes are done, the internet is still elusive at best. But, that's good because it means I've had little to distract me from catching up on all sorts of YA reading that has fallen to the wayside. So, from here on out I promise to be better, and you can look forward to reviews of The Book of Blood and Shadow, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, The Golden Lily, and Purity soon, plus some Classics Corner fun and a few other miscellaneous posts!

Thanks for your patience!

TCR

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Underworld by Meg Cabot

The beginning of Underworld finds Pierce Oliviera back in the place she thought she'd left for good two years ago. John Hayden keeps telling her that the Underworld is the only safe place for her, away from the reach of the Furies. But Pierce isn't in the Underworld for very long before she discovers that she's not the only one in danger from the Furies--there are those that would put her family in danger, specifically her cousin Alex. But there are also secrets that John is keeping that threaten Pierce's safety and happiness unless she and John learn to trust each other...before there's no going back.

The second installment in Meg Cabot's Abandon trilogy is a whirlwind of an adventure. The whole book takes place in the space of a little more than a day, so it is a fast-paced read, and Cabot does a good job at keeping the action evenly spaced out. The best part about this book is the developing relationship between Pierce and John. Now that Pierce has admitted her feelings, she and John need to find even ground and they need to learn how to communicate with each other. There are many secrets, half-revealed truths, and misunderstandings between them at the start, but they learn how to trust each other and tell the truth in the face of the weird rules governing their relationship and their many differences. In between all of the action and relationship issues, there are some new characters, many humorous moments, and nicely placed revelations that will be a surprise to both Pierce and the reader. Underworld is just as exciting as Abandon, with its lush setting, tumultuous history, and darker island traditions. The ending will leave readers hanging and guessing as to where Pierce's story will go next.

Cover Comments: I like how this cover is much darker than the prequels, and the hand seems to be pulling the model down--very appropriate!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Monthly Commenter Contest: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

One of my favorite books of this year is Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore! You can read my review here, but in short: Kristin Cashore is one of the best fantasy writers I've ever read, and I would read her grocery lists. I just love her. Her first book was Graceling and the second one Fire. Each are amazing, and I recommend that you find copies NOW if you haven't already read them. So, even though there are a TON of excellent books coming out this month, I just had to choose Bitterblue as the May Monthly Commenter Contest pick!

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

Happy reading!