The Compulsive Reader: August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst!

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of eight books for kids, teens, and adults, the latest of which is Conjured! Conjured will be out on September 3rd, and her first adult book, The Lost, will be out next June. I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview her here today!

TCR: What are some books that influenced or inspired you as a teenager and as a writer?


ALANNA by Tamora Pierce
DEEP WIZARDRY by Diane Duane
DREAMS UNDERFOOT by Chares de Lint
DRAGONSINGER by Anne McCaffrey
THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley
ARROWS OF THE QUEEN by Mercedes Lackey
THE BELGARIAD by David Eddings
HOMEWARD BOUNDERS by Diana Wynne Jones

I loved (and love) books about an ordinary character who does the impossible. I love books that take you on a journey and then bring you back again, slightly changed. I love books that make the world feel bigger, more magical, more wonderful, and more full of wonder than it felt before. These kinds of books-- the ones that make you feel stronger after you read them -- are the ones that inspired me then and continue to inspire me now.

TCR: In Conjured, main character Eve has special powers; if you could have any power, what would it be?

SBD: I want the power to make the people I love happy, healthy, and ludicrously long-lived. But if that's not on the table, then I want telekinesis. Just because it would be awesome.

TCR: One of my favorite books you've written is Ice. I loved how you blended the classic tale of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" with modern science. What are some of your favorite fairy tales?

SBD: I love "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" of course -- it's essentially Beauty and the Beast, where the Beauty goes on a quest to save the Beast. I'm a sucker for any girl-saves-the-guy story. I also love "Rose Red and Snow White," even though it doesn't make very much sense. There's something appealing about its randomness. Plus, two female leads. (I highly recommend Patricia C. Wrede's retelling. She fills in all the blanks and spins them into a lovely tale.) And I'm also fond of "Tatterhood," another tale with two sisters, one who kicks butt and one who accidentally swaps heads with a sheep.

TCR: In the same vein as the above question, I also really enjoy how you blend the real world with the fantastical, and not just with Ice, but with Enchanted Ivy and your other books. Are there any challenges to maintaining that balance that you struggle with?

SBD: It's my favorite balancing act: fantasy and reality. I think the more reality you have, the farther you can push with the fantasy. If you're asking people to leap with you into the impossible and pretend it's true, then it helps to give them solid ground to push off of.

From a sheer technical standpoint, I always dedicate at least one entire draft to ensuring that the seeds for the fantastical are planted early and clearly within the real, so that they bloom at the right time.

TCR: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming book The Lost?

THE LOST is my first book for adults and will be coming out from Harlequin/Mira in June 2014. It's the first in a trilogy about a woman who is trapped in a town full of only lost things and lost people. Here's a tease from the flap copy: Lost your way? Your dreams? Yourself? Welcome to Lost. It was supposed to be a small escape. A few hours driving before turning around and heading home. But once you arrive in Lost... well, it's a place you really can't leave.

But before that is CONJURED, which comes out September 3rd from Bloomsbury/Walker, and is about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program, who, haunted by visions of carnival tents and tarot cards, must remember her past and why she has strange abilities before a magic-wielding serial killer hunts her down.

I'm really excited about both!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thank YOU for taking the time!

Conjured is out soon--I hope you'll pick up a copy when it is available!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr

Ellen may not understand a lot of things, but she does know that she loves her older brother Link and his best friend James. They are her lifeline during Ellen’s freshman year of high school, the two people she looks up to most. When someone questions the nature of their relationship, Ellen becomes curious about the social and emotional implications of their friendship, and how it affects their family.

 My Heartbeat is a story about a girl trying to discover her own intellectual “heartbeat” and her place in the world. Ellen is a curious protagonist; she constantly looks to improve and educate herself through the study of classic fiction and current social issues, and the friendship between James and Link is major influence on her. As the characters in the novel confront (and avoid) the truth about their feelings for each other, Freymann-Weyr deftly explore the fluid nature of identity, sexuality, and purpose through Ellen’s limited but slowly expanding perspective. Beautifully written and deeply thoughtful, My Heartbeat is an unsentimental yet emotional story about the depth of love.

Cover Comments: I'm not crazy about this cover...it makes the book look like a cheesy romance novel, and the title has nothing to do with romance, but more with the lifeblood of someone's life, and intellect. However, it is way better than this cover.

Book purchased at VCFA bookstore!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

YA Movie Fun

This is going to be a cop-out, fangirl post in which I basically just squeal a lot about all of the amazing YA things happening in the world. Come fangirl with me...

So, who has seen the City of Bones movie yet? This week is the busiest week of the year at work for me, so I haven't had the chance to go (sob), but it is Officially on the Agenda. It might just be my reward for turning in my second packet of graduate work (Clary + Jace = good incentive, no?). I'm still thinking about the excellent clip I got to see at the City of Bones party at BEA earlier this summer. It gave me chills. I imagine the entire movie will blow me away.

 I'm also crazy excited about this teaser trailer from the Vampire Academy movie! I'm sort of hard to please when it comes to vampire books (my favorites are Sunshine by Robin McKinley and Richelle Mead's series), but I've always enjoyed Rose as a protagonist and I love the Bloodlines series. I was a little hesitant about the actress, but after seeing this trailer, I think she exudes Rose well. What do you think?

And of course, Divergent is definitely getting a lot of attention! That is 13 seconds of awesome right there!


I read How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff about five years ago, and it was so good. I think I remember hearing rumors about a movie being made, but then nothing until I saw this:

I think this trailer looks awesome, and I am very excited about the casting of Edmond. Sadly, I live in the middle of cornfields and lakes, where only movies like City of Bones or those raunchy R-rated comedies come to play in my theater, so I'll have to wait until this one is released on DVD. Or move. Whichever comes first.

And, my last bit of book-ish excitement--The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson comes out on Tuesday! It's the final book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, and Carson's writing just keeps getting better and better! If you haven't read the series yet (and YOU SHOULD), go buy it now. And if you have read it, but like me are worried about remembering all of the amazing things that went on in books one and two, then check out this lovely recap on the Epic Reads blog.

And of course, my reviews:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Crown of Embers

And finally, I leave you with an Anne of Green Gables stamp set. That's right. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES STAMP SET! You need this, you really do.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Guest Post from Uma Krishnaswami!

One of the first middle grade books I read this year was The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami, and I loved it. It was fun and energetic, and the characters were so vivid. I'm so happy that a sequel has been released--The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic--and I'm even more delighted to have Uma Krishnaswami on the blog today to talk about one of my favorite characters, Dini's father!

Welcome, Uma!
Dini’s Dad, or Humoring Adult Characters Without Letting Them Take Over 
When I was writing The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, Dini’s father formed quite naturally on the page. He was a little absent-minded. He was busy with his own work, yet happy to follow Mom when she moved the family to India to take on the job of her dreams. I think unconsciously I gathered traits for him from men in knew in my life—my father, my husband, my son. He’s got a few traits from all of them, and some of his own that evolved over time. He gained a penchant for puns and gadgets. He became a computer geek. At the same time, he grew sensitive to his daughter’s moods. But I couldn’t make him too competent, because that wouldn’t give Dini room to work through her own problems, so he grew a kind of well-meaning but sometimes bumbling air about him. In his own way he runs into as much trouble as she does. He doesn’t know the little town of Swapnagiri any better than Dini, so they end up being allies as they find their way around in their new home.

Art by Abigail Halpin.
Back in the U.S. for The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic, Dad is on more familiar ground, so we see him take charge a little bit more. He has to drive the girls around, and he’s reconnecting with people he knows in the area. This also, by the way, gets him out of the way when Dini needs space to hang out with Maddie and Brenna. He’s more parental, however, less of an ally. Maybe that’s because Dini’s pushing the limits a bit more. Maybe it’s also because Mom’s offstage. It was really fun for me to play with all these relationships in the second book. By the time I wrote it, I felt as if I knew these characters. I’d bonded with them while writing the first book and I could see them growing in small but unexpected ways. 
I’m quite fond of Dad, I realize. He’s a pretty grounded sort of person. In that sense he’s an anomaly, because really, most of the grownups in this story world are utterly bonkers. Not the girls’ mothers, but they play very small roles, so it’s up to Dad to represent adulthood in a sane manner. Even so, I found that while Dini was figuring out what it meant to be slightly heroic, it worked to keep Dad slightly clueless. As I wrote The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic, I learned to keep Dini’s attempts to save the day just that little bit off balance. I’d play them out in tandem with Dad’s efforts to manage his daughter and her friends. The tension between them worked to pull the story along, because of course I could rely on Dolly to spin things madly out of control. Writing Dad’s character taught me a lot about managing parents in fiction. It’s something you have to keep an eye out for when you write for young readers, because otherwise the adults just get meddlesome and want to take over.
Thanks so much, Uma!

More about Uma Krishnaswami:

Uma Krishnaswami is the author of several books for children, including the first story featuring Dini, Maddie, and Dolly, The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. She is also on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Ms. Krishnaswami was born in New Delhi, India, and now lives in Aztec, New Mexico. To learn more, visit her website:  http://www.umakrishnaswami.com/.

As an added bonus, I have one copy of The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic to give away! Just fill out the form to enter!

Follow all of the unforgettable characters from The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic on Uma Krishnaswami’s blog tour!

Mon, Aug 19

Tues, Aug 20
There's a Book

Wed, Aug 21
Once Upon a Story
Soli Dustup

Thurs, Aug 22
The Compulsive Reader
Dini's father

Fri, Aug 23
Chickoo Uncle

Sat, Aug 24
Booking Mama

Mon, Aug 26
Read Now, Sleep later

Tues, Aug 27
I Read Banned Books

Wed, Aug 28
Through the Wardrobe
Chef Armend Latifi

Thurs, Aug 29
The Book Monsters

Fri, Aug 30
The Brain Lair

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Serena dreamed of two things: leaving her small Florida town and becoming a travel writer. Her plans were derailed when Sawyer Legrande left her, sixteen years old and pregnant. Now eighteen and working at her family's restaurant, Serena's life is changed once more when Sawyer comes back to town and wants to be a part of their daughter's life, and Serena's--if she can let him in.

How to Love is a vivid and smart book full of love, heartache, hope, and regret. The novel is written in alternating chapters and tenses, dividing the narrative by “Before” Sawyer leaves town and “After” he returns. The two storylines are independently developed but complement each other nicely to show Serena’s growth and character development as a whole. Cotugno develops the tensions between Serena and her family very well, motivating change in everyone's actions by asking heavy questions about life, following your dreams, and second chances. The characterizations are precisely written, and the emotional journeys memorable in this stand-out first novel.

Cover Comments: I really like the simplicity of this novel. The blue is a great shade, and I like the texture of the font.

How to Love will be available October 1st, 2013.

Digital galley provided by publsisher.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Inheritance is the sequel to Adaptation. Don't read the following review unless you've read Adaptation first! Click here for my review of Adaptation.

Reese and David have finally uncovered the truth about what happened to them at the secret military base following their car accident, but the truth seems to only create more questions. Reese and David’s DNA has mutated into something that isn’t Imrian, and definitely is no longer human, causing dangerous people who wish to use Reese and David for more nefarious purposes pursue them. Amber Gray may have the answers Reese and David are looking for, but Reese is wary of trusting her ex-girlfriend again…until Reese is left with no choice but to rely on Amber.

The sequel to Adaptation, Inheritance follows protagonist Reese through the discovery that the alien race that has come to Earth had changed her DNA, and the implications for Earth and Reese’s life. Lo follows Reese’s personal dramas far more closely than the conflict between humanity and the aliens, particularly Reese’s romantic conflict of choosing between her romantic relationship with David and the persistent feelings she has for Amber. As the action increases and the stakes rise, Lo steers her characters towards an unconventional solution—a polyamorous relationship with both David and Amber. However, like the resolution to the political conflict between humanity and the Imrians, the details of such arrangements are murky, explained in a rush of an epilogue that leaves readers confused and dissatisfied. Lo sets up the ending so as to continue the story, and hopefully clear up any lingering confusion or questions.

Cover Comments: I love the use of reflection and the sharp lines and cool colors of this cover--beautiful.

Inheritance will be released on September 24th, 2013.

Adaptation is on sale for $2.99 for a limited time! Seriously, go get your copy!

Digital galley provided by publisher.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Interview with Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt is the author of The Underneath (a fantastic book) and the newly released The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to interview her for her blog tour. If you haven't picked up a copy of this book yet, definitely do so! It's a beautiful book, from the writing to the cover!

TCR: Who was your favorite character (or characters) to write in The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp?

KA: I loved writing the Scouts, particularly J’miah. I’m a worrier, and he is too. So he appealed to me at a personal level. Both of us also tend to squint.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing the book? The easiest?

KA: The hardest part was really figuring out who Chap was. I had all of the other characters in place, but Chap eluded me for quite a long time. The easiest was writing about the hogs. They were so rip-roaring that I found myself having a whole boatload of fun.

TCR: I recently spotted a finished copy of novel in a friend’s hands, and it is a beautiful book! What was your reaction when you saw the cover?

KA: I love that cover. My reaction was a grin from ear to ear.

Thanks so much, Kathi!

And be sure to watch the adorable book trailer!

About Kathi Appelt:

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honor-winning, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award-winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the highly acclaimed novel Keeper, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, and many picture books. She is a member of the faculty at Vermont College’s Master of Fine Arts program. She has two grown children and lives in Texas with her husband. For more information, visit her website at http://www.kathiappelt.com/.

Follow Kathi on her blog tour:

Mon, Aug 12

Tues, Aug 13
There's a Book

Wed, Aug 14
Bigfoot Reads

Thurs, Aug 15
Read Now, Sleep Later

Fri, Aug 16
I Read Banned Books

Sat, Aug 17
Booking Mama

Mon, Aug 19
The Compulsive Reader

Tues, Aug 20
Mother Daughter Book Club

Wed, Aug 21
The Book Monsters

Thurs, Aug 22

Fri, Aug 23
The Brain Lair

Thursday, August 15, 2013

(Re)Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron came out last summer, and it was a great steampunk read. It comes out in paperback next week and the sequel, A Spark Unseen, will be out September 24th! If you haven't already, check out these awesome books! (My review of A Spark Unseen to come soon!)

Katharine Tulman is an orphan at the total mercy of her cruel aunt Alice. Katharine's only hope for any sort of future is to stay in the good graces of her aunt and continue to do the accounts for the household. She thought this would be easy enough...until Alice sends her to the family's estate to commit her Uncle Tulman to an insane asylum for squandering the family's fortune. Katharine finds the task unpleasant, and hopes to just get it over with quickly...but she is shocked at what she finds at Stranwyne. Her uncle is peculiar and childish, but a brilliant inventor. Furthermore, the estate is populated with people he has rescued from the workhouses on London. Katharine must decide between keeping in her aunt's good graces and ruining countless lives, or discovering a way to conceal what's going on at Stranwyne without raising suspicion...and risk her own future.

Sharon Cameron's The Dark Unwinding is an engaging, dark, and thoughtful steampunk tale. Katharine Tulman is a superb protagonist. She is well aware of the restrictions placed upon her by her aunt and society, but she doesn't let them define her. She is a clever girl and she has a plan for ensuring her survival, and her major struggle is deciding what to do when that plan is threatened by her conscience as she falls in love with Stranwyne Keep and the people there. The estate is a magnificent setting, full of hidden rooms, underground tunnels, and impossible inventions. The characters are equally mysterious and vivid; Uncle Tully's highly eccentric personality is what makes him such a genius, and the protective Lane Moreau and Mrs. Jeffries are fiercely loyal and will do anything to protect him. Aunt Alice is the perfect character to hate, and even the minor characters are intriguing. There are a lot of twists and darkness throughout the book to keep you guessing—is anyone truly mad at Stranwyne, and if so, is it Uncle Tully or someone less obvious? The last quarter of the book is full of action and secrets and suspense, building up to a good, if unexpected, ending that leaves room for more books about Katharine and all of the fascinating residents of Stranwyne.

Cover Comments: I love the gears behind the title--very cool and very appropriate. I also love how the model is in a blue dress, which has some significance in the book. This is a beautiful and atmospheric cover!

ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cover Talk: The Ignite Me Cover

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi was one of those books that was awesome, but had the horrible misfortune of just having this really awkward, random shiny cover that didn't fit the book at all. Luckily that was all fixed with the paperback cover, and even though it took some warming up to, I dig the cover and the covers to Unravel Me and the newly released cover of Ignite Me!

Ignite Me will be out in February of 2014! What do you think of the cover?

Friday, August 9, 2013

37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon

The end of sophomore year isn't supposed to be so complicated for Ellis; her mother wants to take her comatose father off of life support, Ellis's supposed best friend is oblivious to anything but partying and guys, and Ellis can't see how she could feel more isolated. When she reconnects with an old friend, Cara, who shows her true friendship and the possibility of something more, Ellis is forced to acknowledge that sometimes the hardest changes are the ones you need the most.

37 Things I Love (in no particular order) is an emotional story, and Magoon digs deep into the difficulties of grief and hope. Ellis's character is explored through her fading friendship with her best friend, Abby, who has been treating Ellis poorly for months. When Abby pushes Ellis too much, Ellis is forced to take a hard look at her relationships and the sort of friends she wants in her life. The change in her relationships, especially when it comes to a new relationship with Cara, prepares Ellis for some major life changes and soul-searching. The ties between Ellis and the people in her life--her father, mother, and friends--are strong and nuanced, and help highlight a theme of saying goodbye and embracing new and scary change that is necessary for life to move forward. Magoon's book may be a quick read, but she writes a memorable and affecting story that will take up a lot of room in your head and heart.

Cover Comments: I love the purple of the background, and the stars on this cover are just brilliant. This is a very pretty, and very eye-catching cover!

Book purchased.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Faith in YA

Earlier this week a classmate from my VCFA class asked our class for recommendations for books that talk about faith and religion in an small or big way. This is a subject I've been interested in before, and I was really impressed with the wide range of books that we came up with that deal with religion, faith, and all of its manifestations.

Thanks to Courtney Stein for bringing up the topic, and to Valerie Hunter and Holly Huckabe for contributing to this list! I appreciate that our conversations can turn into such an interesting blog post and an excellent form of procrastination.

What We Lost, originally published as Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

The story of a pastor's daughter who has lost her faith after her mother is sent to rehab and a local girl goes missing.

Pure by Terra Elan McVoy

Five friends wear purity rings and promise to stay "pure" until marriage, until one breaks her promise. This book looks at how their friendship changes, and how the girls define purity.

Purity by Jackson Pearce

This book is about purity rings as well, but less about faith than Pure is. I still think that it is an interesting one to check out, though!

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

 Walker looks at Hell Houses in this book, and the struggle one girl feels about her faith and role in her church. It's an excellent book, and very well-researched.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

When Caro's sister Hannah returns home after spending ten years in a convent as a nun, Caro must reconcile with past secrets, current relationships, and her own faith.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (and sequels The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom)

In this fantasy trilogy, Princess Elisa is the carrier of the godstone and is destined for a great service to God. I love that Carson has created a psuedo-Christian religion in this trilogy to help explore Elisa's faith in a god, other people, and in herself.

Queen of Secrets by Jenny Meyerhoff

This is a modern day retelling of the Biblical story of Esther.

What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook

Emma grows up in an ultra-religious town and she can't wait to get out, but if she reveals what she knows about the hypocrites in her town, she may just be burning her one-way ticket out.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

This book is about Cameron, who figures out at an early age that she is gay and spends her teen years in a very religious household, until she is eventually sent to a Christian reform school when her sexuality is revealed. It's about Cameron finding her own way and her own faith, and learning to forgive herself.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (and sequels Because It Is My Blood and In the Age of Love and Chocolate)

This futuristic trilogy is about a self-professed good Catholic girl from a crime family who must walk a fine line between morality and legality to protect her family.

Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison (and sequels Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer)

This trilogy is about Leesie and how she balances her loyalty to her family and Mormon faith with the love she feels for Michael, a boy with his own scars and demons.

Keep Sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene and The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

These two books I grouped together because they are about girls who are trapped in religious cults and are forced into arranged marriages or witness abuse. They're fascinating and horrifying, but very different from each other.

Can you think of any other books that have to do with faith in YA? (Or even middle grade...Holly suggested The Higher Power of Lucky, which I totally second.)

ETA: Reader suggestions from the comments! (Unless I indicate otherwise, I have not read these.)

Grave Mercy & His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers
DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Under the Mermaid Angel by Martha Moore
Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Burned by Ellen Hopkins (I've read this one, I would put it sort of near examples of extreme religious behavior.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Gerald figures he has two options for his future: prison or death. He has so much anger building inside of him, and everyone seems oblivious to all of the injustice that has been making him angry since he was just five years old. His anger is always there, and he can't seem to control it until he meets a girl. She's not perfect, and she doesn't make the anger go away, but together they dare to demand something from the world in return, and Gerald sees a third option—a tentative future of possibilities.

Reality Boy is easily King's most heart-breaking and forceful book yet. From the gut-wrenching beginning to the heartbreaking flashbacks of a childhood invaded by TV cameras and millions of viewers, Gerald's story is an intense ride. King deftly demonstrates the reality TV is anything but real, and that it doesn't matter if your family and environment expects you to fail, because you are the only one who has control over your own life and choices, and you can demand better for yourself. The characters in Reality Boy are so tangible; Gerald's sister is truly terrifying, the ketchup lady shockingly sincere and tender, and the circus members profanely hilarious. This isn't a book about finding love and finding your life through a significant other, but rather experiencing romance and in that finding the courage to demand a life for yourself and stand up to others. King will punch you in the gut and demand a visceral reaction. You won't be able to look away. Reality Boy is worth every word.

Cover Comments: I really like this cover. The cover model looks a lot like how I imagined Gerald, and I really like the effect of the colors across the cover. 

ARC picked up at BEA.

Reality Boy will be available October 22nd, 2013.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Book Giveaway from Albert Whitman Books

Albert Whitman Books is giving away a ton of signed books throughout August to celebrate the end of summer! Today I'm giving away a copy of the picture book The Year Come Round signed by Sid Farrar!

"Brown bear politely 
offers to surrender his
den to nosy skunk
Twelve nature-themed haiku accompanied by lush illustrations take the reader from January to December. A great way to introduce children to the traditional Japanese poetry form."
To enter to win, simply fill out the form below!