The Compulsive Reader: July 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

Happy birthday to one of our favorite fictional characters ever--Harry Potter!

What's your favorite Harry Potter birthday moment?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cover Talk: What I Love About the Covers of 37 Things I Love (in no particular order)

I had the chance to read 37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon, and I loved loved loved this quick, smart, little read. I particularly loved the cover of the hardcover edition after reading the novel because it does a great job at depicting an important scene in the book. Check it out:

I love that this isn't the stereotypical contemporary YA cover without any substance or relevance. At the same time, I love the bright colors, how the girls are almost holding hands, and how they are facing opposite directions. It creates an interesting dynamic, and makes you wonder about the story inside.

37 Things is coming out in paperback in October, and I caught a glimpse of the new cover just the other day. And...I love it.

I am definitely not usually a fan of hearts, but on this cover--fantastic. I love the purple, the stars, the hearts, and the girl on the swing. And, as a bonus, another significant scene takes place on a swing set at night. Perfect!

I'm resisting the temptation to buy a paperback copy when it comes out so I can have bother covers...which one do you like better?

Stay tuned for my review!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fire with Fire by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

After the consequences of the homecoming dance, Kat, Lillia, and Mary decide that perhaps they've had enough of their plots to exact revenge on their peers. But once the girls have had a taste for balancing the scales (according to their own perspectives), it gets harder for them to stop meddling. As Kat, Lillia, and Mary discover surprising secrets about the people in their community, they come closer to discovering the truth about their own friendship and each other.

Fire with Fire is a tense sequel to Burn for Burn, full of surprising developments and shocking revelations. Kat, Lillia, and Mary each have their own story lines and struggles that are woven together to create a high-stakes and unexpected story. The character development is excellent, and so is the development of the distinctive setting of Jar Island. Han and Vivian explore the duality of class and wealth, and the unique social dynamics that occur in a tourist destination during the off season, populated with the extremely wealthy and lower middle class in a way that will appeal to fans of Veronica Mars. Although the mystery of this trilogy may not be immediately obvious, the tension in this story is thick as Kat struggles with deciding what she wants, Lillia grapples with an unexpected romance, and Mary faces the demons from her past, building to an explosive ending that will make readers rethink everything they thought they knew about the characters.

Cover Comments: I love these covers. The colors and the cover models are gorgeous and so perfect for the story. I love Kat's direct stare in this one--so fitting knowing her character.

Fire with Fire will be available on August 13th, 2013.

Digital galley provided by publisher.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

Faith and has had the sort of childhood that she would never wish on anyone. Her mother is a druggie, her father a mystery, and Faith has no one, and no hope of escaping anytime soon. When Faith’s mother gives birth to her half-sister, Faith knows she has to act. She takes the baby, names her Addy, and runs away, passing Addy off as her own daughter. Faith is used to hard living, but she never imagined just how difficult it would be to care for an infant on her own...nor did she imagine the generosity, kindness, and love of Chris, who takes them in. But even though she has found the sort of family she has always longed for, Faith isn't sure if she can continue to live a lie.

Jamie Blair's novel is a quick, emotionally intense read. Faith's home life is horrifying, and Blair's depiction of her mother quickly creates sympathy for Faith and her plan to save her little sister from the sort of life Faith has had to endure. Blair doesn't sugarcoat the difficulties and challenges of caring for an infant, especially alone, on the run, and without a lot of money. Faith's determination to save her sister and her stoic acknowledgment of the difficulties ahead of her will endear her to the reader, but despite her strength she's grateful when she stumbles upon Chris and his family, who take her in, give her a job, and love her and Addy. Of course, the situation is not simple at all, and Chris's family is still trying to heal after their own tragedy. As the tension between the characters escalates and Faith gets more and more anxious about being charged with kidnapping, Faith realizes that no matter how hard she worked to provide for Addy and find the sort of family she always wished she had, she must be honest about who she is. The ending is rather abrupt, but it leaves the reader with many questions about love, family, and morality to ponder. Leap of Faith is an quick, powerful book about the strength of love, healing, and forgiveness.

Cover Comments: I like the colors of the cover, and the images of the girl(s), however the way they are arranged remind me of that rather unfortunate trend on '80's school pictures where the school photographer would take all of these mug shots of you and your mullet and then superimpose them over each other. You know what I'm talking about, right? Bad memories.

Leap of Faith will be available on September 3rd, 2013.

Digital galley provided by publisher.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Zoe Letting Go Sweepstakes

Zoe Letting Go is a complicated story about friendship, lies, and the truth and it is out in paperback today! To celebrate, I'm giving away three copies of Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price to three lucky readers, and sharing some recipes from the book!

First, more about Zoe Letting Go:
"A girl's letters to her best friend reveal two lives derailed by anorexia in this haunting debut that's Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls meets The Sixth Sense
Zoe knows she doesn’t belong in a hospital—so why is she in one? 
Twin Birch isn’t just any hospital. It’s a strange mansion populated by unnerving staff and glassy-eyed patients. It’s a place for girls with serious problems; skinny, spindly girls with eating disorders who have a penchant for harming themselves. 
Zoe isn’t like them. And she can’t figure out why she was sent here. Writing letters to her best friend Elise keep her sane, grounded in the memories of her past—but mired in them, too. Elise never writes back. 
Zoe is lost without her, unsure of how to navigate tenuous new friendships and bizarre rules without Elise by her side. But as her letters intertwine with journal entries chronicling her mysterious life at Twin Birch, another narrative unfolds. The hidden story of a complicated friendship; of the choices we make, the truths we tell others, and the lies we tell ourselves. The story of a friendship that has the potential to both save—and damage beyond repair. And Zoe finds she must confront the truth about her past once and for all, before she can finally let go.
Nora Price’s debut young adult book is a heart-wrenching meditation on the bonds of friendship with a gripping psychological twist."
These emotional recipes are a big part of the book, and will help you enter to win a copy of the book!

To enter to win: Tweet one of the recipe titles to describe how you're feeling, and include the hashtag #ZoeLettingGo! Bonus entries if you include a link back to this blog! Then, fill out the form below so I can keep track of your entries!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sylo Blog Tour with D.J. MacHale!

Welcome to the Sylo blog tour! There’s no better person to explain some of the crazy, creepy things happening on Pemberwick Island than D.J. MacHale, so we asked him to spill all his secrets to all of you!* Follow along on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to enter to win a SYLO prize pack at every tour stop and get the inside scoop on Sylo!

*Disclaimer: D.J. didn’t tell us all his secrets (though we tried!), but he did give us some pretty cool insight into his books.

Here's D.J.!
"When writing, I tend to plan out what’s going to happen and make it up as I go along. SYLO (the book and the trilogy) is an intricately plotted story. When writing that kind of tale, I want to know where the story is going before I start writing words that people will read. The last thing I want to happen is to write and write and write, only to find that I’ve hit a brick wall and can go no further because I’ve found a fatal flaw in the premise. Worse, I’d hate to find that fatal flaw in books #2 or #3, after book #1 has already been published! 
What I do when starting a new story is to imagine how the entire tale will unfold, and take notes. At this point I’ll not only find the shape of the first book, but of the books to come. That’s when I’ll decide how many books the story will require. The ideas I come up with at this point are very broad-stroke. There isn’t a whole lot of detail. Once the overall arc of the story, and of the characters is roughed out, I’ll then go back and do a more detailed thinking-through of the first book. Often times I’ll come up with an idea, and decide it belongs more in future books. Once that first book is roughed out, that’s when I’ll go back and start writing: “Once upon a time-“ 
This is the point where I let the story take me wherever it wants to go. More often than not at this point I’ll travel far away from my original notes, but that’s okay. It means I’ve thought of something better. But I always know where I will eventually be headed, so I never get that far afield. So far this has worked pretty well. I haven’t hit any of those deadly brick walls."

Find out more from D.J. about SYLO by watching his author video!

More about Sylo:

The ultimate action-fueled end-of-the-world conspiracy trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author D.J. MacHale 
parachuting out of military helicopters to invade Tucker Pierce’s idyllic hometown on Pemberwick Island, Maine. 
They call themselves SYLO and they are a secret branch of the U.S. Navy. SYLO’s commander, Captain Granger, informs Pemberwick residents that the island has been hit by a lethal virus and must be quarantined. Now Pemberwick is cut off from the outside world.
Tucker believes there’s more to SYLO’s story. He was on the sidelines when the high school running back dropped dead with no warning. He saw the bizarre midnight explosion over the ocean, and the mysterious singing aircraft that travel like shadows through the night sky. He tasted the Ruby—and experienced the powers it gave him—for himself. 
What all this means, SYLO isn’t saying. Only Tucker holds the clues that can solve this deadly mystery. 
because Pemberwick is only the first stop."
For the next stop on the SYLO blog tour, visit Long and Short Reviews on Friday!

And to celebrate the release, I'll be giving away a copy of Sylo, a Sylo t-shirt, and a Sylo baseball cap! Just fill out the form below to enter!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Truth AND Dare Blog Tour

Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green has been out for a couple of months, but just a few weeks ago I began to receive mysterious anonymous truth or dares...and it's all somehow related to this book. I'm sharing my truth AND dare today. Watch out, though. You might be next.

Dare: I dare you to share your favorite (non-spoilery) lines from Truth or Dare.

My favorite non-spoilery line from Truth or Dare is from early on the book. I love this paragraph for the imagery. The way the narrator compares the two very different actions is fun, and the metaphor is great.
"Sydney knew she was one of the last people on the planet who still shot nondigital photos. But she loved the process of developing. When she first started, it had reminded her of chasing butterflies with her dad: how she'd swing her net down with all her might, then hold her breath in the darkroom, too, until--whoosh--the photos burst to life in front of her, a shower of light and shadow, black and white. No computer could match that."
Truth: Which YA character do you want to slap some sense into?

Tough one! I tend to empathize intensely with the characters I read about, to the point where I am cringing and not wanting to read through scenes in which a character I love is being humiliated or does something spectacularly stupid. I loved, loved, loved Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, but there were moments while reading when I wanted to reach into the book, put my hands on Eleanor's shoulders, and just shake her. I wanted to tell her, "Park is a good one! Trust him!" 

However, in real life, it's rarely that simple. And the reader definitely got to know about Park before Eleanor did. Luckily for the readers (and my nerves), Eleanore sloooooooowly comes around.

To read more about Truth or Dare, click here!

How about you guys? Do you dare take the plunge and answer my truth and dare questions?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cover Talk: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Hey all, I've been at residency for my master's program this past week and a half, so I apologize for the sporadic updates! But I just caught a glimpse of the cover for Panic by Lauren Oliver and thought I'd share!

So, this cover reminds me of a mash-up between Gone Girl and the Pandemonium cover. I'm sure the use of the same font and same sort of design scheme as Oliver's previous books is very intentional, but I wonder if the image is distinct enough to keep people from confusing this book with a Delirium book.

I do have to say that my favorite element is the light from the girl's face, and the pop of green in Lauren's name. What do you think of the cover?

Here is the official synopsis:
"Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do. 
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought. 
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for. 
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most."

Can I just say that I think this sounds an awful lot like The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, only without killer horses?

I am very, very curious to read this book, and I know that when it comes to Oliver, she always surprises me in great ways! Panic will be available March 4th, 2013.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bang by Lisa McMann

Jules DeMarco was relieved that her visions of looming tragedy disappeared when she was able to save the life of Sawyer Angotti. But her relief quickly turns to horror when she discovers that in saving her new boyfriend's life, she passed on the visions to him. Sawyer's visions are of a different tragedy--instead of a crash, he sees a shooting. Finding a shooter in all of Chicago seems impossible, but Jules know that she and Sawyer can't ignore these visions, even if it means putting themselves and the people they love in danger.

Bang is just as compelling, darkly witty, and intense of a book as Crash. Jules is extremely happy to have discovered that Sawyer is interested in her romantically, and a bit bewildered to find her feeling reciprocated. However, their relationship, while simultaneously hot and tender, is still under attack by both of their families, making it hard for the couple to even speak on the phone, much less figure out the essence of Sawyer's visions. The events of Crash have only solidified Jules's relationship with Sawyer, making her even more determined to assert her independence from her family by combating the ridiculous grudge they each hold. Jules also learns to lean on her own siblings even more, acknowledging that her little sister has her own life and responsibilities, and that her older brother Trey can be relied upon as she and Sawyer try to track down a shooter.

The climax of the book has much higher stakes than that of Crash, and will seem especially chilling in light of recent events and current social issues. McMann handles the shooting tactfully, with an emphasis on tolerance and without glorifying the actions of Jules, Sawyer, and Trey, as heroic as they may be. The novel concludes with a dark revelation as Jules realizes a pattern in the visions she and Sawyer have shared, and she becomes determined to understand the nature of this terrible "gift" and why she received it in the first place. Bang is a tightly-written novel with an unusual mystery, an unforgettable voice, compelling family drama, a heart-pounding romance.

Cover Comments: I like this cover a lot--it matches the cover of Crash, and it's not completely girl-ish that it would deter male readers from picking it up. The symbolism of the eye, and the shattered glass in the iris is excellent.

Bang will be released on October 8th, 2013!

ARC provided by publisher.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

45 Pounds (More or Less) is Out Today!

45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson is out today! This is one of my favorite books of 2013, and I am super excited for you all to read it! The quickest, most accurate way to describe it is funny/heartbreaking. Kelly has created a story that is just so true and painful (because we've all been in Ann's position), yet it is offset with a fantastic, unique brand of humor. I loved it.

Read my review by clicking here, and an interview with kelly at School Library Journal here. Then head to the website of Kelly's local indie bookstore to get a signed copy of the book! They ship, and you can even specify how you want it signed in the Order comments section!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reading Rants: La Belle France

Are you a Francophile? (No, I'm not talking about James Franco...) Plane tickets overseas are a bit pricey this summer, but books are cheap. Here are a few YA books that take place in France, with all of the charm, romance, good food, and fantastic history the country has to offer!

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

While this book spans continents over the course of the novel, the most important day in the book, and the most important setting, is in Paris. I love how Forman shows readers a glimpse of Paris that is a nice mix of landmarks and every-day city. Here's to hoping for more of Paris in the sequel, Just One Year, out October 15th, 2013!

Vidalia in Paris by Sasha Watson

If you've ever wondered what it's like to study abroad in France, this is the book for you! The story follows Vidalia, an art student on a scholarship to study abroad in Paris, and the mystery she falls into there involving priceless art, a mysterious dealer, and a cunning scheme.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution is one of my favorite historical fiction novels (and Donnelly one of my favorite writers of historical fiction). This book is a little different from her others as it follows the story of two girls, one living in the present, and one during the French Revolution. From the famous monuments and landscapes to the catacombs beneath the streets, this book is brimming with music, history, and life. I loved it.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

While this book is a little lighter than the rest, it's nonetheless a fun and entertaining story about studying abroad, learning a new language and culture, and finding the courage to move out of your comfort zone and try new things. Plus, there is kissing. 

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Paris is just a stop in this charming story about a girl named Ginny who is following the clues that her dead aunt left her in 13 little blue envelopes, leading her all across Europe. 

Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag

This is the story of four American teens--PJ, Olivia, Zack, and Alex--spending a school year in Paris, and the secrets and drama that unfold.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Another historical fiction novel set during the French Revolution, Gardner's book includes a cast of diverse characters and Parisian theater. It's on my to-be-read list!

What are your favorite books set in France? Am I missing any good ones?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Sunday Woodcutter knows that she needs to be careful with her stories, for her words have a troublesome habit of coming to life. So Sunday devotes herself to writing down her own family's history, the stories of her parents and older siblings. When Sunday's only friend, a frog who dwells at an abandoned well in the forest, disappears and the prince of the kingdom unexpectedly decides to hold three balls, Sunday will have the opportunity to make her own stories, and her worlds will collide in unexpected ways.

Enchanted is an aptly titled novel, as this entire story is so utterly enchanting and fun, full of magic and serendipity. Kontis creates a fun and engaging character in Sunday and her large family, and weaves in more fairy tale elements than you'd think could exist into a story without letting the threads get snarled. Sunday's world is enlarged when she loses her best friend, but her road to finding him again—in prince form, no less—is exciting as she discovers the true identity of her fairy godmother, the reasons behind her family members' special talents, and uncovers a terrible plot that could mean tragedy for the whole kingdom—and especially her own family. This is a delightfully charming book, with many little subplots and character sketches, and the start of what will hopefully be more books about the Woodcutters.

Cover Comments: I like how bright and colorful this cover is, and I think that the pretty dress on the front will appeal to a lot of characters. I can appreciate how this cover really says "YA!" which I think is interesting, because I was really surprised that this book wasn't MG. Either way, it's pretty and I think it's doing it's job in attracting readers!

Book borrowed from the library.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

To Read or Not to Read...

...that is a silly question, indeed.

What are you all reading right now?

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Ronan is perhaps the most mysterious of the Raven boys that Blue Sargent has befriended since St. Mark's Eve. He is plagued by memories of his family, now torn apart and unable to return to their childhood home, and of the strange and magical dreams he's been having all of his life. When a dangerous stranger comes to Henrietta, it becomes evident that Ronan's dreams are connected to the discovery of the ley line and the search for the Welsh king in shocking, life-altering ways.

Like with The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater begins The Dream Thieves with a prologue that will completely capture readers' attention and will ensure they are quickly invested in this peculiar, magical story. The plot is surprising and meandering, even in a setting where nearly anything is possible and characters and events are connected in mysterious ways. Stiefvater's language is arresting and enthralling, and will keeps readers engaged throughout the twisty plots and more puzzling mysteries. This second installment is very much Ronan's book as he figures out the mystery of his dreams and the implications they have for his friends, family, and the missing king, but Blue's family continues to steal the spotlight with their mysteries, talents, and humor. Stiefvater concludes The Dream Thieves with yet another mystery that will leave readers wondering and dreaming for hours, and desperate to know where Blue and the Raven boys will end up next.

Cover Comments: I really like the colors in this cover, and how it features Ronan, who looks like he has a lot going on inside of him--so symbolic to the story!

The Dream Thieves will be available September 17, 2013.

ARC picked up at BEA.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Favorite Books of 2013, So Far

It's July already, and we're a little more than halfway through 2013 already! I can hardly believe this year has flown by so quickly, and it's time for a Favorite Books of 2013, So Far list! All of these books have released in 2013, and some will be coming out a little later this year--put them on your wishlist!

Eleanor & Park and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I remember reading an article in BookPage about this one writer with a funky/cool name and a book set in the 1980's like back in February, and I thought, "Hey, that's really awesome! I'm going to add it to my list." And then all of the sudden Rainbow Rowell was EVERYWHERE. I was a little late to reading Eleanor & Park, but it did not disappoint my high expectations and the hype. And when I snagged a copy of Fangirl at BEA, I was ecstatic to find that I loved it as much as Eleanor & Park. This is a magical year in book releases.

The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy

Maybe I'm a little biased but this book is definitely a favorite. The story is edgy, the setting is a dark and dangerous side of outer space, and the journey is perilous, but ultimately triumphant and bittersweet. I love how McCarthy talks about really important relevant issues through this intriguing sci-fi story.

Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta

This is the year of science fiction favorites, apparently. Where Rain is dark and gritty and unflinching, Entangled is quirky, clever, and high-stakes. The characters are all so lovable and the search for true connection through music is a universal theme. Plus, this novel is just so much fun!

45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson

It's been a really long time since I've read a story with a protagonist that charmed me so much as Ann did. Her struggles with weight and image are certainly relatable, but what I love about this book is that Barson makes the story about so much more than just self-image, but how we see our friends, our parents, our siblings, and how those perspectives affect relationships. And...it's hysterically funny. Win-win.

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

I'm always up for a Sara Zarr book--her writing is so smart and incisive, and I love her plot lines. The Lucy Variations doesn't disappoint (and I love that title--so apt!). I so enjoyed the fact that this book was about going your own way, not bowing to pressure from family or society, and figuring out a future that's right for you, and not anyone else. It was everything you've come to expect from Zarr, and more!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Sepetys took my breath away and made me sick to my stomach (in a good way, I suppose) with Between Shades of Gray, and I was hesitantly excited for her newest release. While not as dark as her first book, Out of the Easy is a gritty look at 1950's New Orleans, and is about a girl doing everything she can to survive, pull herself out of a life embroiled in crime, and go to college. It may be one of the most absorbing historical fiction books I've read in a really long time.

Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

I picked this one up on a whim because I thought it sounded eccentric and interesting, and the voice completely mesmerized me by page two. I think I read it in one sitting. I might have re-read it. This story is powerful, painful, redemptive...I felt Angie's pain, was enchanted by her anti-romance romance, and wanted to hug her at the conclusion. Don't miss this book.

Reality Boy by A.S. King

I think by now I have properly expressed my love for all books by A.S. King on this blog, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise to you all that this book has made the list. I was thrilled to get an advanced copy at BEA, and my review will be coming soon. All I'll say for now is that this is possibly her most intense, most heartbreaking book yet, and I loved every single second I spent reading it. Put it on the pre-order list, people.

What are your favorite books so far this year?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami

Dini and Maddie are finally reunited when Dini heads back to Washington D.C. with famous movie star Dolly Singh in tow to help celebrate the release of her latest movie in the United States. Things start to go wrong almost immediately, though. Dolly's passport goes missing, the girls need to find someone to bake a cake for the event, a runaway elephant is on the loose...and there are no rose petal milkshakes to be found. Dini faces some of her biggest challenges in problem solving—can she still pull off the event?

Like The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic is charming and funny, with a fun cast of quirky and lovable characters. Dini and Maddie are excited to be reunited for such an exciting event, but they quickly discover that their relationship has changed slightly while Dini was in India, and Dini struggles with jealousy over Maddie's new friend and frustration with Maddie herself. The girls have to work together to solve a lot of Dolly's problems, especially as Dini learns that for being such a fabulous movie star, Dolly is not a very good problem-solver. Lucky for her, she has Dini, Maddie, and many new friends on her side, and with a lot of charm and luck, Dolly's movie release celebration comes together in unexpectedly perfect ways.

Cover Comments: I love how Dini is chasing after the elephant on this cover--so fun and cute! The design scheme for this book and the prequel fit the tone of the novels so well. I love it.

This book will be available on August 13th, 2013!

E-galley provided by publisher.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Take Your Online Presence Offline

I've had a few readers ask me about what I talked about during the panel I spoke on at BEA Bloggers Conference a few weeks. The topic was Taking Your Online Presence Offline, and we had a nice diversity of speakers. I won't go into what each of them spoke about, but here is what I led with, and a few points that I thought to add after the open Q&A session. You can read a recap of the entire panel here.

I started this blog in 2007 as a way to communicate and connect with other readers, but I was a pretty shy person. Not many people in my offline life knew about my blogging, and I felt uncomfortable talking about it because I didn't think anyone would find it all that interesting. It wasn't until I was in college and I was speaking with a professor and she said to me, "You know, this is pretty amazing. You write almost every day, you read a lot, and you communicate with professionals in the field you want to break into. That's huge!"

I realized then that perhaps the blog could be more than just a hobby I wrote for fun, and I began looking for ways to take my knowledge offline. I think that in order to do this, each blogger needs to ask three questions of themselves.

First, what is it that I can do?

One of my first book events!
I met fellow blogger Sara from
The Hiding Spot!
For many of us, this is an easy one to answer. Read. Write about books. Communicate with commenters, subscribers, and readers. Utilize social media. Keep in contact with publicists and authors. Create unique content. Contribute to the conversations about issues in YA. This is all what we do as bloggers, and most of it comes naturally to us because it is fun.

But let's think critically for a moment about what this really means. If you read more than the average person, it's likely that you are on your way to becoming somewhat of an expert in whatever you like to read about. If you are updating your blog on a daily (or even weekly) basis, you are probably already writing more than the average person, and writing skills are vitally important. Like most skills, the more you practice, the better you become. If you know how to use social media beyond updating your Facebook status, that could become an important skill as well. Networking can have unexpected benefits. All of the sudden, what is your hobby can actually help you be a better communicator and professional.

This is me with Suzanne Collins in 2009, two years after
I started blogging. I never would have met
her if not for the blog!
The second question you need to ask is, what is it that I especially like to do? Or, what are you especially good at?

This may be a bit harder to pin down, and may take some time to discover. For me, creative writing is a passion. I like to think that this passion shows in the types of interview questions I ask, my reviews, and my features. I like to know how other writers write, how they approach the process, and what they've learned throughout writing. I write my blog because it's a way for me to be involved in the YA community and publishing world that's fun and engaging, but also because I want to learn as much about writing as possible so one day I can publish novels of my own.

So, with this skill or passion or area of interest in mind, the third question that needs to be answered is: Where is there a need in my community that can be filled?

This is going to be harder for me to direct you because my skills are unique and my community it unique. But here is what I've done that has (hopefully) benefited my community:

I've been able to donate books to my local library and talk with librarians about books and authors in the YA category that they might consider including in their collection. (My community library is very small, and does not have a dedicated YA librarian.)

I've taught summer creative writing classes for elementary and middle school kids for three summers at my local arts center. I would not have gotten that job if not for the fact that the director knew I was interested in creative writing and that I wrote blog on YA lit. It was an excellent, enlightening experience (and one I got to put on my resume).

I've spoken at four elementary and middle schools about reading and writing. This sounds so general and broad, but talking with kids about books in a context that wasn't necessarily school-related (i.e. I was a person who wasn't their teacher, and I just wanted to talk with them about books they loved), was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I love the passion that kids (and teens) have for the books they love, and I believe that connecting with others through books is what builds a love of reading.

My wonderful bookstore family!
I got my job at my local indie in part because of my blog, and all that blogging has taught me regarding publishing, books, and the book world in general.

Writing my blog had provided me with the opportunities to attend various conferences and book events across the country and meet so many excellent, smart, and kind people. I likely would not have found my graduate school if not for blogging, and I believe that my experiences with my blog were a large part of why I was accepted.

Your experiences are all going to be different, but there are a few things I'd recommend doing if you want to take your online presence offline. Attend conferences (local, regional, national), frequent your local indie (if you have one) and your local library, and support authors and stores by attending author events--perhaps you'll meet fellow bloggers and book enthusiasts. One of the coolest things that bloggers have done in Michigan is create a Facebook group with YA lovers and authors all over the state (and some out of state) who want to attend YA books events. Because there are so many different stores and venues, this is a great way for us to let each other know about events and encourage attendance. I think I can speak for the group when I say that the connection online has boosted attendance at offline events.

I started blogging because I couldn't talk to people I knew in my offline life about YA books and writing, and now I can't wait to go to conferences and book events to meet up with all of the fantastic friends I've made. I've discovered a community of "real life" friends all over the country that don't just exist as thumbnail pictures on my Twitter feed. The people I've met have been wonderful--smart and funny and supportive and endlessly entertaining, and I am so thankful for them all. The YA community is always so kind and ready to include newcomers with enthusiasm and excitement, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Do you have any ideas for taking your online presence offline? I'd love to hear them! Let me know in the comments or email me at thecompulsivereader@gmail.com!