The Compulsive Reader: May 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy + Giveaway!

Did you miss the giveaway for Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy earlier this month? No worries, Terra is on blog tour, and here's another opportunity to win a copy--an not just any copy, but a signed and personalized copy!

But first, here's my review of Criminal:

Nikki is sure she's found her soul mate when she meets Dee. So what if they have a few rough patches in their relationship? They love each other, and they would do anything for each other, and that's all that matters. But then one day Nikki goes too far for Dee, and covering up for his crimes costs Nikki her best friend. Coming clean means that Nikki could lose Dee forever...but was he ever really hers to begin with?

Terra Elan McVoy's latest book is quite a departure from her previous novels, but just as well-written and emotionally charged. Criminal is dark and edgy, but it doesn't shy away from the tumultuous experiences of Nikki's journey from a dependent, trod-upon girl who has struggled to find people in her life to depend on, to self-aware girl who takes responsibility for her actions. The novel follows Nikki closely, focusing more on her character development than the actual crime committed. Nikki struggles with the meaning of the word "criminal" and how it is applied to her, especially after she is taken into custody and lives in jail before her trial can begin. All of Nikki's experiences don't necessarily harden her, but they force her to open herself up to the reality of what happened with Dee, take responsibility, and find a strength she didn't know she had in her. Criminal is a tough novel to read, but an important story about friendship, broken trust, repentance, and finding responsibility and strength.

Cover Comments: I love the black and pink, and the bullet. So striking, and so sharp!

You can "like" Terra on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and of course visit her website at terraelan.com!

To enter to win, just fill out this form!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Giveaway: Impostor by Suzanne Winnacker

Tuesday was the release day for Suzanne Winnacker's Impostor! It's a mystery with some sci-fi elements (girl who can change her DNA, anyone?) and it looks excellent! It's currently on my Sony Reader and I am excited to get to it. And, I have a hardcover copy to giveaway to one of my wonderful readers!

About Impostor:
Tessa is a Variant, able to absorb the DNA of anyone she touches and mimic their appearance. Shunned by her family, she’s spent the last two years training with the Forces with Extraordinary Abilities, a secret branch of the FBI. 
When a serial killer rocks a small town in Oregon, Tessa is given a mission: she must impersonate Madison, a local teen, to find the killer before he strikes again. 
Tessa hates everything about being an impostor—the stress, the danger, the deceit—but loves playing the role of a normal girl. As Madison, she finds friends, romance, and the kind of loving family she’d do anything to keep. 
Amid action, suspense, and a ticking clock, this super-human comes to a very human conclusion: even a girl who can look like anyone struggles the most with being herself."

You can follow Suzanne on Twitter (@SusanneWrites), or 'like" her on Facebook. And follow Razorbill on Twitter (@RazorbillBooks) and "like" them on Facebook for more great books!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

Comfort Snowberger has grown up in a funeral home and considers herself pretty used to death. So when her great-uncle, and then her great-great-aunt pass away, she acts like it’s business as usual. But her little cousin Peach won’t stop sobbing and wailing all the time, and Comfort does not have time for him. When a different sort of tragedy strikes, Comfort will learn the depth of her own strength, and the strength of her family around her.

Each Little Bird That Sings is a beautiful story about a girl caught between childhood and becoming a teenager, and all of pain and little triumphs that exist in that in-between state. The storytelling is quirky, full of spunk, and a lot of fun as Wiles introduces the eccentric members of the Snowberger family and reveals their history through newspaper announcements written by Comfort. As Comfort and Peach struggle to get along, Comfort also deals with the feeling of being left behind by her best friend and how to deal with the grief and love she thought she had under control. Wiles concludes the books with a heartbreaker of an ending, but it is ultimately satisfying as Comfort comes out a stronger character, full of grace and love.

Cover Comments: I love the image on this cover--it looks exactly like how Comfort is described, and the scene depicted is pretty significant to the book. I also love the clouds in the background, and how the sunbeams are shining out behind them. Beautiful!

Book borrowed from a friend.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

BEA Bound!

Tomorrow morning I'm flying to New York City to attend the BEA Bloggers Conference. I'll be speaking on a panel called "How to Take Your Online Presence Offline" and I'm very excited (and a little nervous) about it. Writing The Compulsive Reader has opened up so many opportunities in my life, and I'm really looking forward to talking a little bit more about my experiences and offer some advice to other conference attendees.

I'm also really looking forward to seeing old friends and newer friend, some I've never met face to face. If you plan on being at BEA the rest of the week, say hi if you happen to see me! I'd love to meet any of my readers face to face!

I'm also very excited about certain signings and books--I've read The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy, Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta, and This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, and I really enjoyed those books! So definitely jump into the signing lines this week to pick up your own copies. (You can click here to see my Riffle list of BEA Books on My Radar!)

Safe travels to those heading to New York! I hope to see you there!

Blog Tour: The Camp by Karice Bolton

Karice Bolton is the author of The Camp (YA), the Witch Avenue series (NA), and The Watcher's trilogy. The Camp just came out last month, and to celebrate, Karice is on a blog tour and giving away either a Kindle Fire, Nook HD, or a $100 gift certificate!

But first, here's a bit more about The Camp:
"Emma has always tried to be perfect in her almost eighteen years of existence, but it has never been good enough. As she finds herself counting the days until she’s officially free from her parents’ reins, her stepfather hands her a plane ticket explaining that she must attend the Re-Boot Camp in the wilds of Alaska. 
Once she lands in the middle of nowhere, she realizes the camp is nothing like she imagined, and she wants out immediately. That is until she meets Liam. 
The camp is full of teens with dark pasts, but she finds herself drawn to Liam’s ability to see who she really is and who she wants to become. While Emma and Liam begin adjusting to a place neither wants to be, frightening events begin to unfold. When people begin disappearing, it becomes apparent they can only trust one another as they fight for survival."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I know I'm a little late to the conversation when it comes to this book, but I am so glad I finally read it! It was amazing! I highly recommend it, and I am excited for the sequel, Siege and Storm! Many thanks to Amy Rose Capetta for telling me that this is a must-read!

Alina and Mal have been best friends since they arrived at the orphanage they grew up at, alone and both ignored by their new caretakers. Years later, they belong to the same regiment ordered to pass through the Shadow Fold that splits their country of Revka. The journey proves to be dark and treacherous when Mal is attacked by the flesh-eating monsters that reside there. When Alina saves him by awakening a power she didn't know she had, she is swept away from Mal and her regiment to the glittering world of court and political intrigue. She's told that she will be Revka's savior, but she's only just beginning to understand the dark forces at work in the kingdom.

Leigh Bardugo's fantasy debut is dark and mysterious, full of manipulations, dark secrets, and unexpected romance. Bardugo begins the book with an enchanting prologue that will hook readers within the first page. The fantasy world is richly-drawn and vivid, full of cultural elements inspired by the Imperial Russian era. The relationships between the various characters are well-depicted; the friendship between Mal and Alina is strong and solid in the face of Alina’s newly discovered power, the chemistry between Alina and the mysterious Darkling is beguiling, and the various allies that Alina makes throughout the book each have their own complications and hidden pasts. The action in this book is well-paced and tense, but not without the occasional moment of levity, making Shadow and Bone an easily likable and readable book that races to a dramatic conclusion, and demands that the sequel, Siege and Storm, be on hand upon completion. Bardugo’s unique world and brand of magic should not be missed.

Cover Comments: I like this cover a lot! The colors are wonderful, and I like how the swirl designs suggest antlers--a very important plot element! Beautiful.

Siege and Storm will be out June 4th, 2013!

ARC provided by publisher.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Giveaway: Born Wicked and Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

The release day for Star Cursed, the second book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, is fast approaching! If you haven't already read the first book, Born Wicked, here is your chance! Thanks to the generosity of Penguin Group, I have a copy of Born Wicked to give away to a lucky reader, PLUS an ARC of Star Cursed!

More about the books:

Born Wicked:
"Blessed with a gift...cursed with a secret. 
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship - or an early grave. 
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. 
If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood - not even from each other."
Star Cursed:
"With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves. 
Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England."
All you have to do to enter to win is fill out the form below!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

45 Pounds (More Or Less) by K.A. Barson

Ann knows that she's overweight, and that she should probably work harder to lose weight. Maybe if she finally shed those pounds, she could stop cutting off all of her clothing tags and finally wear a cute swimsuit. Maybe her thin mother would finally get off her back. Maybe clothes shopping could actually be enjoyable. When Ann's aunt Jackie gets engaged and wants Ann to be a bridesmaid, Ann thinks she finally has found the impetus to lose the weight once and for all—forty-five pounds, more or less, in two months.

45 Pounds (More or Less) is the sort of novel that pulls you in with its humor and relatable voice, but Ann's character and how K.A. Barson handles the many complicated relationships—with food and image, with family and friends—will make readers fall in love with this novel. Ann is an excellent narrator; her witty voice and determined nature are so likable, and her courage to own up to her mistakes throughout the novel makes her an admirable heroine. Ann quickly learns that the problems she has aren’t necessarily connected to weight; she needs to learn how to talk with her mother, and be aware of the example both Ann and her mom are setting for her younger sister. In between all of this drama, Ann struggles with how to connect with her fractured family, the trials of a new summer job and new friends, and the cute boy who seems to show up at the most random and surprising moments. Barson's message that body image isn't always about weight, and that meals shouldn't feel like punishment is an excellent one, and Ann’s story is both heartbreaking and optimistic. 45 Pounds (More or Less) is funny, smart, with a memorable story that is sure to resonate with readers. K.A. Barson is an author to watch.

Cover Comments: I love this cover. The colors are great, and I just really like clothes piled up. Barson has some really funny (and really painful) shopping scenes in this book, and I really connected to Ann in those scenes. I like that the more tangible angst when it comes to weight--the difficulty in finding clothes that fit--is represented on the cover.

This book will be out July 11th, 2013!

ARC provided by publisher.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Hangover

This is how I feel after reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell over the past weekend. It's really hard, but I'm reading This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, and it's really good! It's doing a decent job of coaxing me out of my post-Eleanor & Park gloom.

Cover Talk: Just One Day Gets a New Look

If you "like" the Just One Day Facebook page, you might have seen the article posted a couple of days ago about the new cover for the paperback edition of Just One Day by Gayle Forman (read my review here). When I heard the news, I was a little hesitant...I really, really love the original cover of Just One Day, and the matching cover for the upcoming sequel Just One Year, which was released earlier this year. Here they are:

There is so much I like about these covers--the colors, the lighting, and reflections, and romantic quality that really make their seem so magnetic.

Here is the new cover for Just One Day:

What I like about this cover: the silhouettes, the setting sun, the clasped hands, and city street. I think that this cover does a great job at hinting at Paris without sticking in any obvious landmarks, and I love that. This cover is effortlessly romantic and it does a great job at drawing you in.

My only complaint is the same complaint I have whenever series undergo cover changes, and that is the question of whether or not my book covers will match. So far I haven't seen a new Just One Year cover that matches the new paperback, but we'll see.

The paperback edition of this book will be released August 20th, 2013, and Just One Year will be out on October 15th, 2013. I can hardly wait to read it!

What do you all think of the new cover?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Kiri's parents have taken off for an extended vacation, leaving her home alone for the summer. All Kiri wants to do is practice her music and finally kiss her best friend (and crush) Lukas. Then she receives a call requesting that someone come and claim her dead older sister's possessions from her last apartment. Kiri is the only one who can respond, and when she does, she discovers some shocking truths about her sister's last years that her parents kept hidden from her.

Wild Awake is indeed a wild book, filled with madness and joy and grief and crazy-good writing. The story starts out mildly enough, with Kiri intently focused on her music and practice schedule. Learning the truth about her sister's death and how she lived, and coming to grips with the lies her parents told her, jolts Kiri out of her complacency and her summer plans. She's aware of all of the lies and the careful way she lives her own life, and she begins throwing caution to the wind. Kiri takes huge risks, she falls passionately in love with a boy named Skunk who has a tumultuous past of his own, and her reactions to the things happening in her life are curiously strange and emotional. Smith walks a fine line between reality and imagination in Kiri's narrative, and her story is one that demands to be read without any expectations or preconceptions. Wild Awake is a book that readers will want to contemplate, thrumming with life, passion, and the excitement of wild and exhilarating love.

Cover Comments: I love the orange and purple of this cover, and how full of energy and joyous the figure of the girl is. This cover caught my eye right away, and is probably at least 75% of the reason that I read the book.

Wild Awake will be available May 28th, 2013!

E-galley provided by publisher.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guest Post: E.R. Arroyo

E.R. Arroyo is the author of Sovereign, which was just released as an e-book and paperback! Today I have E.R. Arroyo on the blog talking about character development and her new book!

To me, as a reader—and I am a reader first, an author second—character is king. It took me a while to discover this, but after many bouts with “I don’t care about this book and don’t know why,” I finally learned that I crave rich, likeable characters. If I don’t like the characters, I can’t connect with a book. Plain and simple.

So as a writer, it’s important to me to craft characters that feel authentic, natural, and likable to my readers. A lot of preparatory work goes into my outlining, but I spend more time crafting characters than I do developing plot. In a way, characters can drive the plot if I’ve done my due diligence with them. 

In my planning stages, I always start with a basic inspiration. Usually a scene that has played out in my head, or maybe a dream that included a few different scenes. From there I develop a basic premise. After that, I dive right into characters. I need to know who my key players are, what makes them unique from the other characters (mentally as well as physically), what their backgrounds are, and what their motivations, goals, weaknesses, and epiphanies (how the character changes by the end) are. That’s just a general idea, there’s a lot more to it. This approach is based largely on a plotting technique called “The Snowflake Method.” But I’ll admit, I spend a lot more time on character charts than writing out my plot. By the time I’ve created my character sketches, I can’t wait to start writing, so my notes are way heavier in the character section than the plot section of my outline. 

I find that a plot can change a lot once I’m full-swing into the writing. Sometimes I have a better idea after I’ve already started. As long as I have my characters well designed, these plot changes come to me naturally, and don’t often upset what I’ve already written. Sometimes, I have to change things later, but that’s just a part of the process, I think, for every writer.

One of my favorite experiences with writing a character was actually in my novel Sovereign. One guy in particular was originally written as a plot tool—I needed him to be present for a certain scene that needed to take place. I later found more and more places to use him, and I simply ended up developing quite an affection for him. In later drafts, I went back through and weaved him into the story even more, and many of my readers have fallen in love with him. To me, that is simply incredible, because I never even made a characterization on him. No mention of him, no chart, nothing at all in my outlining. He just showed up one day and turned into this beautiful character. So that’s a little about my approach to character, and I’m certain there is still so much I can learn and look forward to learning as I get more experience as an author.

I hope that readers enjoy my characters as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Thank you for hosting me on your blog! Have a great day!

Thanks, E.R. Arroyo! If you'd like to read a copy of Sovereign, fill out the entry form below to win one of three signed copies!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reading Rants: Overlooked Books I Love, Part II

Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog post about overlooked YA books that I love. One of the amazing things about YA is that we are surrounded by so many books that we can all get excited about, and that when fans really love books, great things happen. Massive hype is built up, the power of word of mouth is incredible. New books are exciting, I have a lot of older favorites that I want to continue to share with you all, and I hope you. You can click here to read my first list. Here are a few more books I love:

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

I love this book so much, and Natalie's other YA novel How to Say Goodbye in Robot. It tells the story of three sisters who each write a letter to their grandmother explaining their behavior over the course of a semester in an attempt to explain to her why they each might have displeased her. It's so well-written, intelligent, and emotional, and it's out in paperback!

And Then Everything Unraveled & And Then I Found Out the Truth by Jennifer Sturman

Not only are these covers gorgeous and colorful and fun, but the story is just so great. When Delia's no-nonsense mother disappears under mysterious circumstances and is presumed dead, Delia has to move to NYC to live with her two aunts. But she won't give up investigating her mother's disappearance... These two books were a lot of fun, equally humorous and serious!

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

While I was initially drawn to this book because it's set not too far from where I grew up, I think that this book is fantastic because of it's wonderful emotional arc and its examination of the idea of true love and identity.

Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

This was one of those books I didn't think I'd read, but I picked it up on a whim one day and found myself pleasantly surprised at how witty and fun it was! The humor is just fantastic, and the plot doesn't take itself too seriously in between the aliens, romantic drama, and space pirates.

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

I don't know what it was about this book that I found so compelling--perhaps the depiction of a modern world fascinated with gladiator sporting events, or the unexpected romantic interest, or the fine balance that protagonist Lyn has to maintain to keep her family together. Perhaps a combination of all three of those elements. Plus, it's an inexpensive buy!

What are some of your favorite books that tend to be overlooked?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Color of Rain is Out Today!

Cori McCarthy's debut novel The Color of Rain is finally out! It's been popping up in stores a little early, and shipping from online vendors, but now you can get it everywhere and as an e-book. I highly recommend this novel--it's wonderfully written and suspenseful, and it totally made me cry (which is a good thing when it comes to books)!

You can click here to read my review, and here to read an interview with Cori!

To celebrate the release, I am giving away a signed copy here on the blog! Just fill out the form below!

Want a signed copy for yourself? Click here to get one (and support local indies while you're at it!). Also, if you are going to be at BEA later this month, Cori will be signing copies of her book there as well!

Monday, May 13, 2013

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

As a part of my mission to read more middle grade fiction, I finally made time to pick up When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I've heard so many great things about this book, and it lived up to every one of my expectations!

Miranda and her best friend Sal live in the same apartment building and spend most of their time together, exploring their neighborhood and walking to and from school together. When an older boy punches Sal  for no discernible reason, Sal stops talking to Miranda and she feels lonelier than ever. As she slowly starts to make new friends, she begins receiving mysterious notes from a stranger that hint at tragedy awaiting Sal...and only Miranda has the power to prevent it.

Miranda's narration in When You Reach Me is magnetic and so engaging. Stead does a fantastic job at portraying New York City of 1979, populated with many colorful and diverse characters who all play their own part, big or small, in the mystery that unfolds. When Sal severs all contact with Miranda, Miranda is reluctant to reach out to new people, but as she slowly makes new friends and begins receiving her mysterious notes, she realizes the importance of contact and the effects of small acts of kindness. All of these lessons build up to a tense climax that gives Miranda a new perspective that allows her to see reality and piece together the clues to an impossible answer she has been pondering (and avoiding) for months. This fantastic book is indeed an homage to Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and sure to be equally popular among adults and younger readers.

Cover Comments: This cover is wonderful in its simplicity. I love how many of the objects are important clues in the novel, and the way that they are laid out on a city grid is awesome.

Book borrowed from the library.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cover Talk: Judging Covers and the Coverflip

"Don't judge a book by its cover."

We've all heard it said, and we even say it ourselves over and over again. But in this consumerist/capitalistic/whatever-you-want-to-call-it age where marketing is king, we all know that book covers actually matter a lot. It's why I blog about so many cover changes mid-series, and why we make a huge deal out of cover reveals (anyone watching Veronica Roth on TV tomorrow morning?).

I think at this point, it's almost a commonly-known fact that authors get pretty much no say in their covers. If they did, I think that the landscape of book covers would be vastly different (and probably a lot better). Sometimes, publishers put out covers that make everyone shake their heads. Sometimes they put out covers that are offensive (we all remember Liar by Justine Larbalestier, right?), and sometimes they do random things, like publish a bazillion headless covers, and then turn around and publish covers with body-less faces. (And to be completely fair, publishers can put out really awesome, gender-neutral covers. They just don't do it often enough in my opinion.)

But I think one of the most rampant issues in book covers and marketing is what Maureen Johnson pointed out yesterday--gendered book covers that don't take in account the story, but the author's gender. You can read this article to learn more about the issue, and check out a gallery of the coverflip challenge. Here's one example, with the true cover of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on the left, and the feminine version on the right.

Do you think that books covers need to factor in consideration of author's gender and intended audience? Or should book covers always align with the story being told? (In a perfect world, yes, but this isn't a perfect world...) Is there room for artistic expression and creativity? 

As someone who is always worried about whether or not a book is losing some of its teen male audience because of covers, I'm interested in hearing your opinions. There are a lot of YA covers out there that I think really discourage male readers. All I can say is...thank goodness for the privacy of e-reading?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

Nikki is sure she's found her soul mate when she meets Dee. So what if they have a few rough patches in their relationship? They love each other, and they would do anything for each other, and that's all that matters. But then one day Nikki goes too far for Dee, and covering up for his crimes costs Nikki her best friend. Coming clean means that Nikki could lose Dee forever...but was he ever really hers to begin with?

Terra Elan McVoy's latest book is quite a departure from her previous novels, but just as well-written and emotionally charged. Criminal is dark and edgy, but it doesn't shy away from the tumultuous experiences of Nikki's journey from a dependent, trod-upon girl who has struggled to find people in her life to depend on, to self-aware girl who takes responsibility for her actions. The novel follows Nikki closely, focusing more on her character development than the actual crime committed. Nikki struggles with the meaning of the word "criminal" and how it is applied to her, especially after she is taken into custody and lives in jail before her trial can begin. All of Nikki's experiences don't necessarily harden her, but they force her to open herself up to the reality of what happened with Dee, take responsibility, and find a strength she didn't know she had in her. Criminal is a tough novel to read, but an important story about friendship, broken trust, repentance, and finding responsibility and strength.

Cover Comments: I love the black and pink, and the bullet. So striking, and so sharp!

E-galley provided by publisher.

Thanks to the generosity of Simon & Schuster, I am giving away a hardcover copy of Criminal! Just fill out this form:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lucy Beck-Moreau seems to have a perfect life; she comes from an affluent family devoted to fostering her promising career as a pianist and she has experienced immense success at the young age of sixteen. But that was eight months ago, and now everything has changed. Lucy’s family can barely talk to her, she hasn't touched a piano in months, and she only hopes that her little brother, Gus, won't end up failing like she thinks she has. When Gus's new piano teacher asks Lucy is she ever thinks about playing again, even for herself, Lucy is forced to face all of the reasons why she quit playing, and decide on what she wants for the future.

The Lucy Variations is an intense and beautiful story about what it means to find your own way and reasons for living, in the midst of all of the noise and complications of everyday life. Lucy's family is formidable and influential, and their passion for fine music comes across strongly. It is easy to see how Lucy can feel cast adrift when surrounded by so much pressure to be excellent, but the heart of this novel is about how she finds her own way, and how she learns to play music and take control of her life by not reacting to her familial pressure or expectations. Her journey is full of highs and lows as she balances schoolwork, her two friends, and relationship with Gus's teacher, Will, with discovering how she wants to make music. Lucy is a strong and admirable character in a complicated situation, and her story is well-written, humorous, and very entertaining. The Lucy Variations is yet another excellent novel from Zarr about finding the joy and beauty in life in the unlikely places.

Cover Comments: I love this cover. It is pretty and so fitting, and it goes with the title perfectly.

The Lucy Variations will be released May 7th, 2013!

Digital galley provided by publisher.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cover Talk: Champion by Marie Lu

I read Legend by Marie Lu a couple of years ago and I really liked it. (You can read my review here.) Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to pick up Prodigy yet (although it is definitely on my list), but seeing the cover for the third book, Champion, makes me want to get caught up. I really like these covers! Here are the covers for the first two books:

I love the symbols, and the stencil/spray painted effect! And, here is the cover of Champion, just revealed yesterday!

Absolutely. Love it.

I like how this cover has all of the same effects/elements of the previous two, but it really seems to be upping the stakes with the impression of flames and the bullet hole. Awesome, awesome.

What do you think of the covers?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Novels Aren't Just Happy Escapes

I saw this on the Epic Reads Facebook page and I love it, love it, love it.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Delphine is used to taking care of her little sisters, Vonetta and Fern, since their mother left them when Fern was a baby. When the girls are sent from their home in New York to Oakland, CA to visit Cecile for a month, Delphine is both nervous and excited to see her mother, and unsure of what to expect. Cecile isn't at all what the girls imagined, and she doesn't seem very interested in getting to know them, either. As the girls spend their days at a summer camp sponsored by the Black Panther Party, they are exposed to new ideas that change their view of the world, and their view of their mother.

One Crazy Summer is a smart, sharp, and humorous story with three very lovable and realistic characters. The novel is narrated by Delphine, whose strong sense of responsibility and protectiveness sometimes annoys her little sisters. But there is no doubt that the girls all love each other and share a strong bond, and their optimism and determination is equally as strong. Even though the story is told from Delphine's perspective, the book is about each of the sisters and how they are changed by the month they spend with Cecile and other members of the Black Panther Party—and by how they eventually change Cecile. The dialogue is extremely realistic and well-written, and the pacing is perfect. One Crazy Summer is an excellent novel for both young and old(er) readers.

Cover Comments: I like how bright and colorful this paperback cover is (and all of the awards just make me grin--this book certainly does deserve them!). I think it is a little more inviting than the hardcover cover, although I really like them both and it's hard to choose my favorite.

Also, be sure to look for P.S. Be Eleven, the sequel to One Crazy Summer, coming May 21st, 2013!

Book borrowed from the library.