The Compulsive Reader: September 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

The 100 by Kass Morgan

I have some strong feelings about The 100 by Kass Morgan, which is why this post won't be like any of my normal reviews. Maybe it's because I so, so wanted to like this book, maybe it's because I am knee-deep in craft research for school, but...this book. I want to talk about this book.

First impressions: Why hello there, Star Trek-lookalike cover! You are pretty. And very Star Trek-like. Is that font trademarked? I mean, seriously? Okay, I actually really like the cover--it's sharp and edgy and it is full of promising sci-fi action! I like sci-fi action! Give me all of the sci-fi action! And the kissing!

Also, this premise. One hundred juvenile delinquents get sent to a nuclear-devastated Earth as punishment, and also to see if it's safe to return to Earth. But of course, there are secrets about Earth and about their space station and no one really knows what the hell is going on. Not an entirely unique premise, per se, but I like it. I want to go down this path. Also, re: prettiness of the Star Trek cover!

Characters: I love that Morgan tried to make this an ensemble story. It's like, Lost, if the island were Earth and the rest of the world were the Universe. You have a really varied group of characters who come from different social stratospheres and have committed a variety of different crimes (some aren't even crimes), and they're all thrown together and abandoned. Some people are dangerous. Some people just want to help. The problem? I never felt the connections between the characters. They all know each other fairly well, some are best friends up in space, but it's like the moment this book starts, they're complete strangers.

But! We have Lost characters!

The Doctor: Clarke is a medical apprentice until she's thrown into the slammer. She's an orphan, and she hates humanity's government. She can also sew people up, which is a useful skill when you get dumped on Earth without any supplies or food or anything.

The Golden Boy: Wells is the Chancellor's son and he always does what's right. And he is in love with Clarke, even though she hates his guts (there is history!). So he burns down one of the last trees on the space station (whatever, Earth has like a billion) so he can get to be with Clarke, even though she hates his guts. He is always trying to organize the 100, even though they all hate his guts because his father sent them to die on Earth. Poor Wells. Everyone hates him for things that aren't even his fault.

The Bad Boy: Because every ensemble YA piece needs one. Bellamy's desires are pure, though. He just wants to rescue his little sister Octavia! So what if he almost kills the Chancellor? The Chancellor is Wells' father, and as you may remember, no one likes Wells. Bellamy also was the only one who knew that everyone was being sent to Earth, so he had time to research survival skills. Even though he's kind of a bastard, he's also probably the best chance for the 100's survival.

The Troubled, Running Away From Her Past Girl: Glass is the wimp who panics over being sent to Earth, and so in a move that I still am trying to comprehend, she escapes? At the last minute? But no one else does? And hides out in the space station, pining over her ex and the being generally depressed over the fact that she was imprisoned in the first place and her ex has moved on. Really, Glass serves no purpose in this plot other than keeping the reader up to date on what's going on up in space.

So, our four protagonists struggle down their own separate paths. The funny thing about this book is that with so many protagonists and perspectives and the whole thing about them being plopped on Earth, the first humans that Earth has seen in centuries...nothing actually happens. I mean, seriously. They fight, and argue, they draw alliances, some people get sick, they need medical supplies and then BAM! Flashback to life on the space ship. Every. Damn. Time.

Now, I like a good flashback. A good flashback takes you to an essential scene or moment, builds an emotional connection with the reader, and reveals your world. There are maybe like three good flashbacks in this novel. This novel is also approximately 40% flashback. This. Is. A. Problem. It's clear to me that there is a story, a very rich, very important story, in life on the space station. That's where this series needed to start.

I suppose my most essential problem with The 100 is that it has all of the elements of a good story, but they are haphazardly thrown together without a thought to continuity, readability, and...well, common sense. I could easily peel apart the flashbacks and present action and build two books around each part. Two very good, interesting books that promise sci-fi action and kissing. Instead, they got all mashed together and sacrificed character development along the way. And that's sad.

Now, another interesting tidbit: I went into this book knowing that it was the product of Alloy, the book packaging company (which means that a bunch of people who work at Alloy came up with this idea they thought they could sell and then hired Kass Morgan to write the book). Sometimes I really like what book packaging companies come up with--there is a reason that they are in business, after all. So, I thought I'd give it a shot. And...it was a miss.

BUT. THE PLOT THICKENS! I was wasting time on BuzzFeed the other day and LOOK! The 100 is the CW's newest sci-fi show!

THAT...looks awesome. I want it.

FINAL VERDICT: Check The 100 out from your library if you really want to know how the plot flows and don't want to sit through an entire season of slowly revealed secrets. Just be prepared for the cliffhanger, TV-esque ending. And don't expect a lot from the character development. My suggestion? (I can't believe I'm saying this, but....) Skip the book, check out the TV show when it premiers midseason (exact date not certain, sometime late 2013).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Looking Ahead: Ann Stampler and Afterparty

I'm excited to welcome Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began, back on the blog! Ann is has a new book coming out in January called Afterparty, about dangerous friendships and an even more dangerous party, and she is here to answer a few questions about it.

 About Afterparty:
"Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother—whose name her dad won’t even say out loud. That’s why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her…and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she’s everything Emma isn’t. 
And it may be more than Emma can handle. 
Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It’s more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, a bash where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop..."
Here's Ann!

TCR: Who is your favorite character in Afterparty, and why?

AS: This would have to be Emma,a girl who has spent her life moving from city to city, her whole world shaped by a strict and controlling father. As Afterparty opens, Emma finds herself living in the Hollywood Hills with the possibility of spending the rest of high school in one place, attending one school, with new friends who have no memory of the geeky girl she thinks she used to be. Here she is, embracing the possibility of experiencing some (totally forbidden) freedom and having some (absolutely unacceptable) fun.

But facing life in her reinvented form has some challenges, and Emma finds herself sucked into the vortex of what start off as innocuous lies, dealing with her hot and completely imaginary French boyfriend, and pining for the very real boy her dad cannot find out about.

All this is facilitated by a new best friend who gets her completely, understands the painful secrets of her family’s past, and helps her stand up to her dad -- and would be kind of perfect if she weren’t going completely out of control and taking Emma with her on a wilder ride than Emma had in mind.

Every time I try to explain why all this adds up to a character I love, I end up with some major spoilers, but here are some tidbits: her humor, her struggle with moral dilemmas, her basic decency, her desire to break free from her ghosts (not actual ghosts; this is realistic contemp), and, most importantly, her heart.

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

AS: With Afterparty, I went in knowing Emma and Siobhan, the two girls at the center of the story, really well. So writing the first draft, just letting their relationship unfold with its highs and lows, flowed easily. Also, I loved some of the guys, especially Dylan and Arif -- after my last novel, it was such a pleasure writing boys who had little in common with the devil!

And again, I knew the geography. I live exactly as far above the Sunset Strip as Emma, just a little further West, and doing things like setting a first kiss at The Griddle over red velvet pancakes, or putting the characters on a picnic table by a hiking trail where I know the terrain helped make the first draft process a lot of fun.

In a way, the first draft unfolded too easily, because I ended up with a ton of back story and many, many superfluous scenes and chapters that, ultimately, had to be slashed. (Seriously, if you ever want to know what happened when Emma fell off a horse in Montreal when she was five years old, ask me for a truly lame
deleted chapter. Not kidding.)

So I guess the hardest part was paring the voluminous first draft down into a book!

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

AS: I was knocked out! First of all, it’s gorgeous. It feels perfectly like Los Angeles late at night, romantic and promising and a little bit dangerous. And those brightly colored lights reflected in the rain-drenched street, the lone girl, sandals in had, wearing that diaphanous skirt – so evocative and so perfect for the story.

Because this cover is an almost-literal depiction of a key scene in the story. You’ll see where immediately.
And here’s the wonderful thing my editor, Patrick Price, did to make the cover even more perfect. In the original photo, the girl had two champagne glasses in one hand. (You can still find this picture floating around the internet.) But in Afterparty, when Emma is walking toward Hollywood Boulevard, shoes in hand: no champagne glasses. Patrick had the art department remove those glasses. I was completely thrilled!

Thanks so much, Ann! We're excited for the release date! 

Afterparty will be out January 7th, 2014, so plan on using your Christmas giftcards to pick it up!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Aaron Hartzler grew up in a household that believed that Jesus would come back to Earth any day, where movies, rock music, and even afterschool jobs could be displeasing to the Lord. As Aaron enters high school, he begins questioning the life that his parents have built and, unlike them, simple answers like trusting in God aren’t enough to satisfy him. Through trial and error, Aaron has to figure out where he stands on the issue of his family’s religion, and how his actions affect his relationship with his parents.

Rapture Practice follows Hartzler’s life from the time he discovers his passion for acting at four years of age to his high school graduation. Hartzler writes candidly about his religious upbringing, including all of the wonderful parts about his family traditions, knowing God’s grace, and growing up in a loving family. But he doesn’t neglect the frustrating aspects: being banned from going to the movies, listening to unapproved music in secret, and being restricted from acting in plays that don’t “honor the Lord.” Hartzler’s good humor and blunt questions about religion, faith, and morality are engaging, and his refusal to reject his upbringing despite disagreeing with some of its morals is refreshing. Rapture Practice is a funny, smart, and probing memoir about faith and the love that connects us all.

Cover Comments: I love, love, love this cover. The colors, the ticket, the tear down the middle are all so perfect.

Book borrowed from the library.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Just One Year is the sequel to Just One Day. While I've tried to keep this review as non-spoilery as possible, you might want to be familiar with the premise of Just One Day before you read this review!

Forman’s sequel to Just One Day follows Willem de Ruiter as he travels across the world searching for the mysterious Lulu, with whom he spent one perfect day in Paris, and outrunning his past. The novel is full of missed connections and soul searching as Willem learns that in becoming totally lost, he will find his purpose.

Just One Year provides a lot of answers to the multitude of questions raised in Just One Day, and after reading a novel all about Allyson—or, “Lulu”—wondering who Willem really is, it’s exciting to delve into his character. Willem is wholly unlike most male protagonists in YA fiction; his world perspective is very unique, and his blend of confidence and vulnerability make him both a likable and a frustrating character as he fumbles through the year after Paris. Forman’s plot tends to be slightly too serendipitous to be realistic, her characterization of Willem and her portrayal of his relationships are probing and honest. The story might have been more affecting if it had been told in alternating chapters with the prequel, but Forman’s ability to plot out complicated storylines and emotional landscapes is impressive. Don’t skip this sequel.

Cover Comments: I'm really happy that this cover matched the cover of Just One Day! I love the reflection of the glass and the appearance of being in a city. And, who can NOT swoon at the sight Allyson and Willem finally reunited? Although, it does seem a little bit misleading...the timeline of Just One Year follows the timeline of the previous book pretty closely.

Just One Year will be out October 10th, 2013!

ARC provided by publisher.

Check out the Just One Year blog tour post with Gayle Forman, where Gayle talks about the time she met Jeremy Irons in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Giveaway of Confessions: The Private School Murders

Flaunt your confessions with this Confessions: The Private School Murders tee and a free copy of James Patterson's newest book for teens, out October 7th!

About the book:
Wealthy young women are being murdered, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. Her first case was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now she's working to exonerate her brother of his girlfriend's homicide. And danger just got closer. 
One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer... and Tandy perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim? 
James Patterson keeps the confessions coming as Tandy delves deeper into her own tumultuous history and the skeletons in the Angel family closet.

All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cover Talk: Dreams of Monsters and Gods by Laini Taylor

I really love the unique fantasy books Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. The voice is quirky and clever, and the world-building is breathtaking. The third book, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, comes out April 1st, 2014. The cover was revealed last week, and I'm feeling very mehhhhh about it. Here it is:

First of all, antlers. And not just one set (pair?) of antlers, but lots of antlers. Okay. And...is that color supposed to be green or yellow? Once again, I cannot tell. I just..no. This cover is not doing it for me. The only thing saving it is the fact that the title treatment is gorgeous. As always.

What do you think of the cover?

About Dreams of Gods and Monsters:

"In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she's ever known.

When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat--and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves--maybe even toward love.

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford

Laura is an American student studying in Leningrad for a semester. Being in the Soviet Union is nothing like Laura expected—everything is cold, dark, and bland. But then she meets Aloysha, who shows her a rich Russian history and culture she always read and dreamed about. Laura quickly falls in love, despite warnings about Soviet men who would marry her just to leave the country. Laura knows Aloysha isn’t using her, but she may not be prepared for the lengths she must go to preserve their new romance.

The Boy on the Bride is very different from Standiford’s earlier novels; the setting is grim and vaguely menacing, and Laura seems lost throughout most of the novel. Standiford includes plenty of slivers of dark and tantalizing history, but the majority of the story is focused on the romance between Laura and Aloysha, which never felt quite real. Aloysha never is a convincing suitor, and his overt fondness for Western culture causes warning bells to go off immediately in readers’ heads, even as Laura blindly falls in, love with him. The romance isn’t quite enough to keep readers entertained, but the details about the Soviet way of life, ranging from unusual to brutal, are a source of endless fascination.

Cover Comments: At a glance, I suppose this is a pretty cover, but I just have so many issues with it. First off, it's COLD in Russia. Very, very cold. And these characters would be wearing a LOT more clothing if it were snowing. Second, the novel takes place in Leningrad (St. Petersburg)...and it looks like the cover depicts a scene in Moscow (at first glace, it looks like St. Basil's Cathedral in the background but I could be wrong). These are picky things, but...hm. I don't think the cover matches the book at all, which is disappointing.

ARC picked up at BEA! Many thanks to the lovely Amy Rose Capetta for braving the crowds and snagging me a copy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

VCFA Voices: Erin Makela Recommends The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf

As a student in the Writing for Children & Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I am extremely lucky to be able to connect and befriend so many amazing writers. I'm excited to launch VCFA Voices, a somewhat regular feature on the blog with guest posts from current and past students about  books, writing, and other various topics in children's and YA lit. You may not have heard of some of these names before, but trust me when I say that you will want to remember them--truly great writers come out of VCFA!

Our brave first guest blog is from my classmate Erin Makela! We met for the first time in July at our very first residency!

Hi, my name is Erin Makela, and I live and teach 7th grade English in Worthington, MN.  I am in my first semester of VCFA’s Writing for Children and Young Adults program.  I particularly love reading fantasy/sci-fi and historical  fiction novels and talking about books with anyone that will listen.

Having taught a Titanic unit for three years, I know this is a subject that still intrigues students, and they are always looking for novels to read about the Titanic. Well, for all you teachers out there – or anyone who enjoys a good book about the Titanic – Allan Wolf’s verse novel The Watch that Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic is a must read.

You may be saying, “I have limited time; why should I read this novel?”  Great question.  The novel does look long (430 pages), but since it is in verse, it doesn’t take as long to read, and there are several things that Wolf does that make his book stand out.

First, he uses twenty-five narrators to tell the story – from the Iceberg and the Ship’s Rat to Captain Smith.  And almost all of the people who help to tell the story were actually aboard the Titanic.  If you are looking for examples of voice in writing – especially poetry – check out this book.

The second thing Wolf does, and the one I want to talk about is how he creates suspense.  Perhaps you are thinking, “But everyone knows the ship sinks. How can an author create suspense?”  My thoughts exactly.  I have read quite a few Titanic novels, and usually the most suspense I get is from wondering which of the characters, besides the narrator, will survive.  That is not the case in The Watch that Ends the Night.  The first thing I noticed that added to the suspense was that Wolf never calls Titanic unsinkable.  He calls her the “largest”, “great”, “grandest” ship, the “Queen of the Ocean”, but the closest Wolf comes to unsinkable is when Captain Smith says, “I am not so foolish as to call her unsinkable” (Wolf 16).  Instead, references are made to impending disaster and death, which I think is much more realistic.  Then, as now, long distance travel was a risky business.  Every time I board an airplane, I have that moment or two of doubt.  I wonder, what if we crash?  Would it be land or water that we crash into?  Who would tell my family?  The narrators in The Watch hint at these feelings and doubts.  Junior Officer Lowe worries that half the crew won’t know how to man a lifeboat if the boats are actually needed.  John Jacob Astor says, “Titanic awaited me like a tomb” (52).  The musicians have an entire conversation on Sunday, hours before the Titanic strikes the iceberg, on the question: “if you were on a sinking ship, what would be your final tune” (231)?  This conversation caught me because in less than 100 pages their conversation leaves the realm of theoretical and becomes and actual decision.

One character really brings out the suspense.  The Iceberg.  The Iceberg, driven by the need to claim human hearts, makes it trip across the ocean to specifically sink the Titanic.  At the end of its first poem, it says, “for now that my emergence is complete,/there is a certain ship I long to meet” (7).  The Iceberg’s words are sinister as it repeats its desire to sink the Titanic and claim the human hearts within – “The ice will have his pick of human hearts/as soon as fair Titanicplays her part” (87.  The iceberg’s poems are also the only ones that rhyme consistently.  This gives the poems a beat, which drive the story forward and builds the tension.

The final things that added to the suspense were the two songs that Wolf included.   On Sunday, the day that the Titanic will strike the Iceberg, Wolf includes two songs: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and “For Those in Peril on the Sea”, which the first- and third-class passengers sing respectively.  “O God, Our Help”
speaks of lives being carried away by the flood, of dreams dying at the break of day, and uses the line that gives the novel its title “short as the watch that ends the night” (222).  The second song repeats the line “Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,/For those in peril on the sea” (255)!  These little bits of foreshadowing – death at daybreak and crying out for help – put you on edge because you know that in a few short hours, many of those singing will be crying out to God from the freezing waters of the Atlantic.  And they are completely unaware of this fact.  The suspense that Wolf creates through the doubts of the passengers, the voice of the Iceberg, and by including the two songs, will keep you turning pages until long after you should have gone to bed.

So, whether you are a teacher, a Titanic buff, or just looking for a good verse novel, I hope you check out Allan Wolf’s The Watch that Ends the Night.  If you do, I would love to hear about your favorite poems from the book!

Thanks so much, Erin!

Has anyone read The Watch that Ends the Night? If not, is there a YA novel in verse that does a good job covering a historical event that you'd recommend?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Cullen lives in a dull small town in Arkansas, where nothing interesting ever happens. When a birdwatcher claims that he has spotted an extinct woodpecker, Cullen’s small town is thrown into a frenzy and they forget everything else—like the fact that Cullen’s little brother has disappeared without a trace. Even though Cullen can’t help but imagine the worse, he would never guess the extraordinary truth behind his brother’s disappearance.

Whaley’s debut novel is a fascinating blend of first person narrative, memories, and dreams, interspersed with separate chapters throughout the narrator’s story that tell a seemingly unconnected but vital part of the story. The novel is incredibly sharp, and Whaley writes stream of consciousness very well, but it is Cullen’s strong voice that really pulls the story together and keeps the tone consistent in this bizarre, thoughtful, and surprisingly humorous story. If John Green and A.S. King were to ever write a novel together, it might be something like Where Things Come Back.

Cover Comments: I love the blue background and how everything is written on the bird's silhouette. Beautiful.

Book purchased from indie bookstore!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kami Garcia's Top 5 Urban Legends

Kami Garcia is the co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series with Margaret Stohl, and the author of Unbreakable, which will be released on October 1st! To celebrate the upcoming release, Kami is sharing her Top 5 Urban Legends with us!

Kami Garcia’s Top 5 Urban Legends

1) The Clown Statue – A babysitter is freaked out by a family’s clown statue. When the parents call to check on the kids, she mentions it. They tell the babysitter that they don’t have a clown statue. In some versions, she leaves the house and learns that a midget has been killing people. In other versions, he kills her. * Another reason not to fill your house with creepy clown statues.

2) The Jersey Devil – Believed to be the abandoned child of a witch and the devil himself, the legendary creature is often described as having the head of a goat and batlike wings. In the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, people claim to hear his blood-curdling cries.

3) Bloody Mary – I love this one because I think every elementary school kid has been dared to do this at one time or another. According to the legend, if you turn off the lights, face a mirror, and say, “Bloody Mary” three times, you will call up the ghost of a woman persecuted for witchcraft. In some versions, Mary’s ghost will kill the offender.

4) Vanishing Hitchhiker -- A man picks up a woman hitchhiking on a deserted road. When they get to the address she gave him, he looks in the backseat and she’s gone.

5) Alligator in the Sewer – In one popular version of the story, a couple returns from Florida or Louisiana with baby alligators. Eventually, the gators get too big, and the couple flushes them down the toilet, Of course, the gators survive and thrive in the sewer, where they reproduce and eat sewer workers.

About Unbreakable:
I never believed in ghosts.
Until one tried to kill me. 
When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, she doesn't realize that paranormal forces are responsible--not until mysterious identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her room and destroy a deadly spirit sent to kill her. 
Kennedy learns that her mother's death was no accident, and now she has to take her place in the Legion of the Black Dove--a secret society whose five members were all murdered on the same night, leaving the Legion in the hands of the next generation: a misfit group with unique skills. 
As the new members race to find the only weapon capable of destroying the demon, they use their individual talents to battle paranormal entities and earn their rightful place in the Legion--except for Kennedy. 
If she is truly the missing piece of the puzzle, can she stay alive long enough to find out--without losing her heart in the process? 
Protect Yourself.
What you can't see CAN hurt you.

Unbreakable is the first solo novel from New York Times Bestselling author Kami Garcia. Unbreakable releases on October 1st but you can read the first 7 chapters for free on Amazon. You can also enter below to win Unbreakable swag including jewelry that has the symbols for the book on it.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pre-order links:
Book Depository
Indie Bound
Barnes & Noble

About Kami Garcia:

Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times & international bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures Series and the author of UNBREAKABLE, the first book in the Legion Series, releasing October 1, 2013.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES has been published in 50 countries and translated in 39 languages. The film adaptation of Beautiful Creatures released on February 14, 2013, from Warner Borthers, starring: Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Alice Englert, and Alden Ehrenreich.

Kami has always been fascinated by the paranormal and believes she's very superstitious. When she is not writing, Kami can usually be found watching disaster movies, listening to Soundgarden, or drinking Diet Coke. Kami lives in Maryland with her family, and their dogs Spike and OZ (named after characters from the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Find out more about Kami Garcia and the Legion Series at: www.kamigarcia.com &TheLegionSeries.com, or on Twitter @kamigarcia.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Giveaway: False Memory and False Sight by Dan Krokos

To celebrate the recent release of Dan Krokos' latest book, False Sight, I have a copy of False Memory and False Sight to give away!

About False Memory:

Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn’t at all surprised by Miranda’s shocking ability.

Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn’t easy—especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can’t remember loving.

Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn’t seem to matter... when there may not be a future.

Dan Krokos’ debut is a tour-de-force of non-stop action that will leave readers begging for the next book in this bold and powerful new series.
About False Sight:

All Miranda wants is a normal life. She's determined to move past the horrible truth of her origin as a clone so she can enjoy time with her boyfriend, Peter, and the rest of her friends at school. But Miranda quickly learns that there's no such thing as normal-not for a girl who was raised to be a weapon. When one of Miranda's teammates turns rogue, it begins a war that puts the world in jeopardy. Now, Miranda must follow her instincts-not her heart-in order to save everything she's fought so hard to keep. With the image of a terrible future seared in her mind, what will Miranda have to sacrifice to protect the people she loves?

Dan Krokos's sequel to the tour-de-force False Memory is a mind-blowing thriller with high-octane action that will leave readers begging for the final book in this bold and powerful trilogy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nerdbait Guide to Graceling: Episode 1: Chicks with Swords!

If you like all things nerdy, be it fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, Shakespeare, fanfiction, cute nerdy boys, kickass girls, etc., etc., then you really need to know about NERDBAIT. Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta are the masterminds behind the vlog series Nerdbait Guide, and their first video is about one of my favorite fantasy books, Graceling, and, more specifically, chicks with swords. There are many swords. And there is sparring. Watch it. Love it. Nerd out.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cover Talk: Chasing Before by Lenore Appelhans

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans was one of my favorite releases back in January. It's gotten a completely new look and a new title--The Memory of After. Check out the news here, and my review here.

The sequel, Chasing Before (previously known as Level 3), won't be out until next August, but the cover was recently revealed on USA Today. Check it out:

I really like the font used on these covers, and I'm a fan of the high-fashion look and feel of the cover image. I think it's a striking cover, and I can't wait to read the book!

More about Chasing Before:

"Felicia and Neil have left Level 2 behind, but another level stands between them and Heaven: Level 3. While the purpose of Level 2 is to relive your time on Earth and make peace with your memories, the objective of Level 3 is to completely detach from life and prepare for your divine vocation.

During Felicia and Neil's training period, a series of explosions destroy the portals out of Level 3. Tension is high, and casualties are mounting. Though Neil wants to become either a Muse or a Healer to help, Felicia is drawn to the Seraphim Guard. A rift forms between the pair, one that grows wider when Felicia receives memories of her life that occur after her supposed death. The memories cast doubt on the people she loves the most, but Felicia can't stop her curiosity. She has to know the truth about her life before she moves on--if she can manage to evade old enemies long enough to find a way out of Level 3."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Jenna and Cameron were best friends as kids, until Cameron disappeared suddenly when they were nine. In the years since Cameron’s disappearance, Jenna has done her best to transform herself into a social, happy person. When Cameron returns just as unexpectedly as he left eight years earlier, Jenna is forced to confront questions about her identity, her feelings for Cameron, and the terrifying event that occurred before he disappeared that bonded the two forever.

Zarr’s second novel examines the far-reaching effects of Jenna’s friendship with Cameron, and how one person and one experience can have such a formative effect on one’s life. With inner strength and the malleable nature of memory as major themes, Zarr weaves in tense, high-stakes flashbacks to a pivotal moment in Jenna and Cameron’s friendship alongside the present action of Jenna’s transformation to becoming more self-aware of her own strength. The journey is a bumpy one, and Zarr doesn’t give readers a completely clear and satisfactory ending. Sweethearts is a book that poses many questions about friendship, forgiveness, and memory, and leaves readers to wrestle with the answers.

Cover Comments: I like the concept of this cover, but I think the brightness of the background and the pink sugar cookie really belies the darkness in this book. I supposed I wouldn't say that this book is dark, but it doesn't warrant a sugar cookie cover either. Still, it is a great cover image.

Book purchased from my indie.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Year of Shadows Blog Tour: Interview with the Illustrator

The Year of Shadows is Claire Legrand's second novel for middle grade readers, and it came out just last week. Claire's writing vivid and imaginative, and The Year of Shadows is a gorgeous book--beautifully illustrated by artist Karl Kwasny. I am excited to share an interview between Claire and Karl!

Okay y’all, forgive me if I fangirl a bit as I introduce this post. See, Karl Kwasny (he pronounces it KWAHZ-nee), the illustrator of The Year of Shadows, is an amazing—A-MAZE-ING—artist. Exhibit A: His TumblrExhibit B: His websiteExhibit C: Uh, refer to exhibits A and B, and keep doing that, ad infinitum. When Simon & Schuster Art Director Lucy Ruth Cummins first showed me Karl’s portfolio, and I learned that he could be the illustrator for The Year of Shadows, I honest to God looked something like this:

I mean, look at this beauty:


Karl’s art is such a perfect combination of tenderness and darkness, of charm and strange, that I immediately knew he’d be the perfect illustrator to help bring Olivia, her ghosts, and the haunted Emerson Hall to life. I feel so grateful and excited that he was able to come on board and bring his exquisite aesthetic and jaw-dropping talents to the pages of my second book. Read on as I ask Karl a few questions about his life, his process, and his experience with The Year of Shadows:

1) Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? What made you decide to pursue art as a profession?

I think so. Well, I always wanted to do something creative, at least. When I was younger I loved drawing, but it didn’t seem realistic to pursue illustration as an actual career. I felt like I needed something a bit more reliable. So, I tried out a bunch of different subjects at university. I tried creative writing, journalism and film studies before settling on something.

I ended up studying graphic design. I’m glad I did, too, because I think it’s given me a solid foundation for doing this sort of work, but deep down it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I needed to give illustration a proper shot, otherwise I’d regret it. So, during my last year at uni, I started trying to get freelance illustration work. I sent out hundreds of emails to art directors at all sorts of companies. Most went unanswered, but some of them responded. And of the ones that responded, some resulted in work. Gradually momentum picked up, and my skills slowly started to improve.

It can be extremely discouraging when you’re starting out as a freelance illustrator – you just have to be persistent and never give up.

2) What's a typical day like for you? How many projects are you working on at any given time? Do you work on multiple projects a day?

That depends very much on the day. One of the trickiest things about freelancing is managing your workload. Early on, work was quite scarce and I needed money, so I had to accept pretty much every job that came my way. Sometimes I’d accidentally overload myself and have to work crazy hours to meet the deadlines. Other times, there would be no work at all.

Over the past year or two (since I moved to New York, basically), things have really started to pick up. Jobs have started coming in more consistently. But I still had my old “accept every job” mindset, and as a result for the first half of this year (when I was working on these illustrations,) I was extremely overwhelmed. I was working on 4 or 5 jobs at the same time, and it became a game of negotiating deadline extensions.

So, I guess I adapt my schedule to whatever I’m working on at that point. I usually prefer working late at night – for some reason it’s easier to get into a good creative mood then.
3) Where do you turn for inspiration? Music? Books? Movies? Other artists?

All sorts of things, really. When I was working on this project I listened to a lot of classical music, Shostakovich in particular. Some of his stuff sounds quite experimental, like something you might find in a horror movie. I even snuck a little portrait of him into one of the interiors.

I find New York architecture quite inspiring, particularly around Park Slope, which is where I live at the moment. There are lots of buildings from the late 1800s with lovely ornamental embellishments on them. One of the Year of Shadows interiors has Park Slope-style apartments in the background.

I also watched movies that were set in or featured a concert hall, so I could get a sense of what sort of layout the Emerson might have.

As far as other artists go, I have a lot of favourites. In terms of brushwork, I like Charles Burns, Craig Thompson and Daniel Clowes. I’m also a big fan of Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, Arthur Rackham, Aubrey Beardsley, Franz Von Bayros, Tony DiTerlizzi, Lane Smith, Peter Brown, Brett Helquist… I could go on.

4) The cover of THE YEAR OF SHADOWS is gorgeous. It perfectly captures the story's sense of mystery, wistfulness, beauty, and eerie adventure. How did you come up with that cover image? Did you go through several drafts involving different images and characters?

Thanks very much! I’m glad it turned out so well. The only requirements were for the title to be in a cursive/script style, and for Olivia, Igor and the ghosts to be featured. I came up with around six thumbnails of different options, and gradually we narrowed them down and decided on one. The publisher really liked the idea of having the dual staircases, and it works nicely because it creates a sort of a frame around the characters.

It was quite a collaborative process, actually. I worked on the background, the type and the characters as separate images and composited them together in Photoshop. Lucy Cummins (the art director) came up with the border design, and I illustrated those little corner flourishes. Lucy was great to work with, and she did a fantastic job of putting the whole thing together.

5) What was the most challenging aspect of working on THE YEAR OF SHADOWS?

Well, the main challenge at the time was that I had loads of other jobs to work on! I really wanted to do an amazing job on Year of Shadows because it had become quite dear to me, but doing it well involved spending 20+ hours on each of the interiors, and I didn’t really have that time available. So I kept missing the deadlines, and I felt bad that I wasn’t able to work faster!

6) Do you have a favorite character in The Year of Shadows? What about a favorite scene? Tell us a little about your choices and why they are your favorites.

I think the answer to that question has changed throughout the different versions of the manuscript. One of the best things about getting to work on a project like this is to see the process of a story being developed from start to finish. Earlier I quite liked Igor and I found Olivia to be a bit moody, but by the final version she had really developed into a three-dimensional character you can empathize with. So, I’d have to go with Olivia now.

As for favourite scenes, the first thing that comes to mind is the whole sequence in Limbo, or the scene when Olivia and Henry share with Tillie & Jax. (Limbo is one of my favorite scenes, too! Karl’s illustration of it is gorgeous, and probably my favorite—and that’s saying something, as they’re all stunning. I can’t share it with you here because I don’t want to spoil Limbo for you, but trust me—GORGEOUS.)

7) Out of the illustrations you created for The Year of Shadows is there one that was particularly challenging? What about one that was especially fun, or one that you're most proud of?

The one where Olivia and Henry are sitting on the catwalk was pretty difficult to get right. It looks simple, but the poses were frustrating.

I like how the Limbo illustrations turned out, particularly the one where Olivia is flying with the origami cranes. It was a last-minute decision to include that as an illustration, and I’m glad we did because it’s a meaningful part in the story.

8) What do you think readers will enjoy most in THE YEAR OF SHADOWS?

It’s a fun read! It’s got mystery, adventure, some spooky stuff, and it’s very heartfelt. You wrote a lovely story, and I feel incredibly honoured that I had the chance to bring it to life. [Thank you, Karl!]

9) I adore the lettering you created for The Year of Shadows title. How is your process for creating lettering different from illustrating? Do you prefer one over the other?

Designing typography is more of a relaxing process for me. I usually just loosely sketch the general letterforms and build them up, erasing what doesn’t work and keeping what does. Also, you don’t have to worry about poses, lighting, architecture etc.

10) You're a native Australian but you currently live in New York. What do you miss most about Australia? What do you like most about New York?

I used to live in Manhattan, but I live in Brooklyn now – in Park Slope, a few blocks from Prospect Park. The atmosphere is definitely a lot friendlier here. I don’t know if I could pick one favourite thing about New York. Maybe home delivery. Seamless blew my mind when I first found out about it.

I miss my friends and family, and just miss Australia in general. I think you need to travel in order to appreciate where you’re from. I know I certainly used to take it for granted.

11) And, on an at-first-glance-silly-but-not-really-silly-at-all note: Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

I’ll think I’ll side with Team Unicorn because I’m a bit sick of zombies at the moment.

Good choice, Karl. Excellent choice. (We might have had words had you picked the other side.)
Readers, I hope you enjoyed learning more about Karl, his artistic process, and the illustrations of The Year of Shadows! Don’t forget to fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn't stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, releases August 27, 2013, with her third novel, WINTERSPELL, to follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out in July 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her at claire-legrand.comand at enterthecabinet.com.

More about The Year of Shadows:

Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Just One Year Blog Tour with Gayle Forman!

Welcome to the Just One Year blog tour! After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Allyson’s journey in Just One Day ended. In honor of the world-spanning romance, we asked author Gayle Forman to share her memories for 12 different cities, each of which is featured in either Just One Day or Just One Year (or both!). Follow along on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays throughout September as Gayle tells her story in anticipation of the October release of Just One Year!
Here's Gayle!


I’ve been to Stratford-upon-Avon exactly once in my life. I was sixteen and at the start of my junior year abroad in England. The week before the entire class of exchange students were to settle in with our respective host families, we had a week of orientation, staying in Nottingham and taking daytrips to touristy places. (Sound a little familiar?)

In Stratford, we of course saw the Royal Shakespeare Company put on a play. Not Hamlet, though. We saw The Winter’s Tale, starring a young (and hot) Jeremy Irons as Leontes. After the play, there was a discussion with the actors and someone asked Jeremy whether he preferred acting in a large venue, or in a smaller, more intimate, theater in the round, which was where the Q&A was taking place. He gave an explanation about how each had its benefits, but then to point out the plusses of the smaller space, he right turned to me and looked me dead in the eye and in his sonorous voice declared: “You have brown eyes.” As I melted into a puddle, he explained: “That is what I like performing in this theater.”

It’s funny how small moments like this, they lodge in your brain, and when you’re a novelist, they emerge in the strangest of ways decades later. Me and Jer, we had a moment—okay, I had a moment. But I remembered it. And twenty-five years later, I gave Allyson a different kind of moment with a different actor in Stratford-upon-Avon. And that moment became a book, a book with quite a bit of Shakespeare in it. Willem would call that one of those accidents of life. I suspect Jeremy might, too.

More about Just One Day:

After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem's story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson's own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself.

Read my review here.
More about Gayle:

Gayle Forman (www.gayleforman.com) is an award-winning, international bestselling author and journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous publications. She is the author of the companion title Just One Day, as well as New York Times bestsellers If I Stay and Where She Went, and Sisters in Sanity (HarperTeen). Follow Gayle on Twitter @gayleforman.

Follow the Just One Year blog tour to see all of Gayle’s posts!

9/2: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
9/4: The Compulsive Reader
9/6: Alice Marvels
9/9: Yareads
9/11: The Flyleaf Review
9/13: The Young Folks
9/16: The Story Siren
9/18: Cuddlebuggery
9/20: Books With Bite
9/23: Forever Young Adult
9/25: Once Upon a Twilight
9/27: Me, My Shelf, and I

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The party was supposed to be harmless fun, but when Tana wakes up hungover the next morning, she is horrified to discover everyone has been a victim of a vampire attack and her ex-boyfriend Aiden is on the verge of transforming into a vampire. Unable to return home, Tana and Aiden head to only place they can now live—the nearest Coldtown. Their companion is the vampire Gavriel, who has his own agenda, but doesn’t seem interested in harming them…yet.

With expressive details and creative characterizations, Black builds a world in which vampirism is rampant, technology is essential to delivering all of the gory and glamorous details of Coldtown, and a teenage girl finds herself with an impossible choice. Black expertly moves back and forth between present action, past memories, and alternative points of view to portray a deadly, high-stakes world where choices can have fatal and eternal consequences. Tana is a strong protagonist, and her outlook on life with vampires is both honest and darkly humorous. She is unflinchingly strong and clever, but merciful—a characteristic that saves her life. Dark, twisting, and eerily realistic, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a vampire novel unlike any other on the YA market.

Cover Comments: I love the font the title is written in--absolutely excellent! And I do like the simplicity of this cover--the hand is eerie in a way, and I love the dark blue. Excellent.

Digital galley provided by publisher.