The Compulsive Reader: October 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Halloween Week--What Are You Reading?

Hi everyone,

I apologize for being such an unreliable blogger lately. I made it past midterms of my first semester of grad school (yay!) but it's taken a lot of work (and consequently almost all of my free time). But, I love it. I've made amazing progress on my novel and I love every single aspect of the Writing for Children & Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It's been life changing.

This is totally a cop-out, but since it's the week of Halloween, I thought I'd repost this entry from earlier this year on six thrillers perfect for fall weather and the spookiest day of the year. And let me know what you're reading in the comments!

Thanks for reading and thanks for your patience!


Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am an absolute wimp when it comes to horror movies. I usually avoid them, but when I do watch them, I am an obnoxious mess; cowering under blankets, asking a million questions, and jumping and shrieking at the slightest thing. In short, I am rather pathetic.

But...there is something about a nice, creepy, chilling book that I can't get enough of. Maybe I secretly love these genres, but I can only handle them when I can take the story at my own pace and build the scene in my head. Either way, I like those sorts of books a LOT, and here are a few of my favorite YA thrillers (some super creepy, some subtly so) that will keep you up at night!

Frost by Marianna Baer

Click here to read my review. This is one of my absolute favorites on this list, and I think I like it so well because the fear and uncertainty of what's going on in Frost House really gets into both the characters' minds and the readers'. It's not your typical haunting/boarding school story, and that makes the book even more creepy. Plus, Marianna Baer is an excellent writer--you'll be hooked right away!

What We Saw at Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Click here to read my review. The teens of this novel are forced to live out their lives at night due to a deadly skin allergy, and what better setting for creepy, murderous activities? When the protagonist's love for extreme sports leads her to witness something so terrifying that she isn't quite sure what she saw, everyone she knows it thrown into danger. This book is intense from the beginning to the very end!

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Click here to read my review. This book begins with an epigraph from "Second Coming" by William Yeats--"And what rough beast, its hour come at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" Those two stanzas set the creepiest vibe for the entire book. The excitement, fun, and jazz of the Roaring Twenties is contrasted nicely against this darkness that is rising in the book, and it makes for an intense read!

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Click here to read my review. What's creepier than an old school desk talking to you while teenagers are going missing in your small town? The "evil force" at work here might not be the most innovative one you've ever heard of, but how the protagonist deals with it is fascinating, and the story is no less intense because of it.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Click here to read my review. Ten teens in one huge house on a secluded island, and no one knows that they're there. And when the power goes out and people start showing up dead, they realize that someone has a thirst for revenge. If you're a fan of the TV show Harper's Island, then pick up this book!

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Click here to read my review. Pfeffer is the author of Life As We Know It, and its sequels. In this book, the protagonist must deal with her family troubles and tensions when her estranged and abusive father kills his new wife and children and she finds out she and her mother are next on his list. This book is unsettling in how realistic it is, and it will keep you thinking long after you finish.

What are your favorite thrillers/horror novels?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont

When sixteen-year-old Sydney discovers she is pregnant, she tells only her best friend and hopes in vain that she’ll miscarry. Her divorced parents, unaware of her pregnancy and fed up with her reckless behavior, send Sydney on a wilderness canoeing tour in Canada in the hopes to straighten her out. As the days pass and Sydney’s pregnancy progresses, she thinks back on her choices and is forced to come to a decision about her future.

This introspective novel explores Sydney’s life and her relationships, with her parents, her best friend, her romantic encounters, and her own demons. Gramont focuses on Sydney’s slow personal growth, and the unexplainable yet magnetic dynamics between her protagonist and the supporting characters. It’s in Sydney’s interactions and unexpected strong connections to the most unlikely people in her group that force her to own up to her mistakes and take responsibility for her actions. Every Little Thing in the World is a novel about possibilities, connections, and the power of redemption.

Cover Comments: I like the bright colors of this cover, and the look on the girl's face--full of bliss. The water looks really cool, and makes this cover look really active.

Book purchased.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Road Less Traveled: YA Books that Break from the Mold

When I was in high school, there was a lot of talk about what students were expected to do after graduation. College and careers seemed to be the only clear, correct choice. For me, this was disheartening. I wanted to go to college, but I also liked the idea of freedom from high school and the possibilities that adulthood brought. Why do I have to go to college right away? I wondered. And what happens if I don't get to go to the college I want to go to? Should I settle and enroll in a college I don't want to go to? Should I go for that degree that everyone says isn't marketable?

Maybe my experiences and questions are why I gravitate towards YA books that ask these questions and choose to go down those roads less traveled. The protagonists in these books ask the hard questions about conventions and what's expected out of us in life, and then they go their own ways.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

This book is about a girl who longs to travel on her own terms, but finds herself on a structured tour of Central America--not what she was planning. When she meets a brother and sister who are backpackers that set their own itinerary, she ditches her tour group and heads out with them.

Just One Day Gayle Forman

Allyson's life has been planned for her from the moment of her birth. But after a day of rebellion and revelations in Paris with a stranger, she begins making her own decisions about her life during her first year of college.

Golden by Jessi Kirby

Parker is on the fast track for a full-ride scholarship to college when a writing assignment gets her asking questions about a girl who disappeared from her town years earlier. Parker is forced to question what matters in life, and what she wants to do with hers.

Return to Me by Justina Chen

Rebecca is set to head to college and go to architecture school when her father leaves her family. Rebecca feels a responsibility to stick with her mom and little brother, but doesn't know what to do about her future plans, or if they even matter to her anymore.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

Wren has always done what her parents have wanted her to do, but as graduation approaches, she has a plan to put off college for a year and do something she's passionate about. So when she meets Charlie and falls in love, she isn't sure of her future at all anymore.

Stay and The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

Both of these novels by Caletti have protagonists that are dealing with past events as they ponder their futures, and both have the same fantastic beach setting. I liked these books because they both take different directions in their conclusions, but are equally thoughtful and well-written.

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Lucy was once a famous pianist, but she quit performing after a family betrayal. Now her mother and grandfather seem to hold her refusal to perform against her. When Lucy meets her younger's brother's new teacher, she begins to wonder for the first time at the possibilities in her future, and being able to do what she wants to do.

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Bronwen has always imagined that she is someone else, until she starts dating Jared. With Jared, she doesn't want to be someone else. As graduation approaches, Bronwen is given an opportunity to finally make her daydreams come true and be someone other than the person she has always been, but is it the right choice for her?

Can you think of other books that might fit on this list? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cover Talk: What's Coming Out Spring 2014

Lots of buzz going on in the Twitter timelines about the cover reveals for the spring books. There are a lot of great-sounding titles, but some of the covers started to blur together after a while. Here are the standout ones (in my humble opinion):

The Eleanor & Park lookalikes:

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern has a lovely cover, and I can't decide if it's unfortunate that everyone will think it's a copycat, or if readers will pick it up anyway. I mean, YA readers aren't dumb, but we do have a startling capacity for melting when we see pretty, shiny covers. Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff is in the same vein, although honestly it also reminds me of Geektastic.

Don't You Forget About Me not only makes me nostalgic for The Breakfast Club, but it makes a great title that looks kind of cool and artsy as tree branches. This cover looks a little young to me (just me?) but I like it the green and black and the clouds in the background.

I didn't read Demetria Lunetta's first book, In the After, although I've been told many times how good it is. This cover of In the End is so gritty and awesome, and it reminds me (in a good way) of the covers of Tana French mysteries, which I love.

While this cover does remind me of The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, it has a depth and a certain attitude that the fore-mentioned cover lacks. I can't explain it, except to say that the cover of Prisoner of Night and Fog looks like a World War II book.

(On a side note, let's talk title trends! Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Prisoner of Night and Fog. The Book of Blood and Shadow. Shadow and Bone. Siege and Storm. Days of Blood and Starlight. DID I GET ALL OF THOSE RIGHT? I mean, seriously. My head hurts.)

I like the play on color and shadow in the cover of Dorothy Must Die a lot! I would pick it up if I saw it in a bookstore, definitely.

See all of the covers here. Which ones are your favorites?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blaze, Or Love in the Time of Supervillains by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Blaze, a Marvel comic-loving teen and aspiring artist, is determined to get Mark the Soccer God to finally notice her as girlfriend material, and not just the fill-in soccer mom to her younger brother and his rowdy friends. And when Mark finally takes notice, Blaze is thrilled…except Mark isn’t the guy she thought he was. In fact, he turns out to be quite the shark. And there is nothing quite as fearsome as the revenge of the Blazing Goddess.

Blaze, Or Love in the Time of Supervillains is full of snark, good humor, and plenty of painfully awkward moments as Blaze fumbles her way through her first relationship and learns a few things about herself along the way. Superhero metaphors and allusions abound in this quirky story, and Blaze’s voice is very strong and distinct. Her endless optimism balanced with a sarcastic tone make her a funny, likable narrator who learns to deal with disappointments in life with grace, flair, and plenty of nerdy humor. Crompton’s debut novel is intelligent, unexpectedly sweet, and full of attitude.

Cover Comments: If you don't pick up the novel for the synopsis or title, you'll definitely pick it up for the fantastic cover! Like the book, this cover has so much attitude. I absolutely love it.

Many thanks to Cori McCarthy who introduced me to this book and let me borrow her copy!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

I have a little announcement! As of last month, I became one of the web reviewers for RT Book Reviews. I'll be reviewing 1-3 YA books a month on their website instead of here on the blog. However, because I loved, loved, loved The Bitter Kingdom, I can't not talk about it here!

Click here to see my review of The Bitter Kingdom over on RT!

When I first heard about the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was so excited. It sounded exactly like the sort of fantasy I would love, and I adore the Spanish cultural influences in the book. I read the first two books a really loved them (click here for my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and click here for my review of The Crown of Embers), so I was very excited for the third book (and sadly, the conclusion).

A curious thing has happened to me since I started reading for school. I am now the proud owner of VCFA READING EYES. The VCFA Reading Eyes are both a blessing and a curse (a blurse, if you will). They enable me to read something and see all of the nuts and bolts of why I adore it and what makes it work and all of the THINGS that are happening in a book. They also make me read a book and see all of these things, sometimes when I don't want to. Sometimes, I just was to read a book and like it for stupid reasons, like because the protagonist has red hair or the love interest said something really funny on page seventeen, and I don't want to care about plot and desire lines.

The Bitter Kingdom is a book that stood up to a reading by the VCFA Reading Eyes, and not only that, EXCELLED. Because Rae Carson doesn't take her story too seriously. I mean, think about it. Chosen one. Magical belly jewel. Kingdoms. Swords. MAGICAL BELLY JEWEL.

I truly don't think you can pull that iff if you take yourself too seriously. But Rae Carson doesn't. She creates a kickass story by playing with fantasy tropes and turning them on their head. I loved The Bitter Kingdom because in it, Elisa must save the man she loves, and she has to find her own magic and destiny. She has to learn how to ask for help, negotiate peace, and compromise. Mostly, she is a kickass heroine the entire book. And there is kissing. It's really pretty much the perfect finale.

I'm very excited for Rae Carson's next books, which are a trilogy set in Gold Rush California, with MAGIC! And if I've learned anything about Rae Carson at this point, kissing will be involved. Yay.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition

Serendipity Literary Agency in conjunction with Sourcebooks Inc. is hosting their fifth annual Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition!

No query? No pitch? No problem!

Have a young adult novel—or a YA novel idea—tucked away for a rainy day? Are you putting off pitching your idea simply because you’re not sure how to pitch an agent? No problem! All you have to do is submit the first 250 words of your novel and you can win exposure to editors and a review of your manuscript from one of New York’s TOP young adult literary agents, Regina Brooks.

The Grand Prize Winner will have the opportunity to submit an entire manuscript to YA literary agent Regina Brooks AND receive a free, 10-week writing course, courtesy of Gotham Writers' Workshop, plus a collection of gourmet teas from Possibiliteas.co! 

The Top Five Entrants (including the Grand Prize winner) will receive a 15-minute, one-on-one pitch session with Regina Brooks, one of New York’s premier literary agents for young adult books. They will also receive commentary on their submissions with editors from Scholastic, Feiwel and Friends, Random House, Little Brown, Kensington, Candlewick, Bloomsbury, Simon and Schuster, Penguin, and Sourcebooks. In addition, they will receive a year’s subscription to The Writer magazine!

First 50 Entrants will receive a copy of Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. 

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: The rules of the contest are simple and entering is easy. Submit entries of ONLY the first 250 words of your manuscript and the title via the contest website at http://tinyurl.com/YAContest13

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Nerdbait Guide is Up!

Have you watched the Nerdbait Guide yet? I love this new vlog series that is the brainchild of Amy Rose Capetta (author of Entangled, out now!) and Cori McCarthy (author of The Color of Rain). Their second episode celebrates the release of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and in it Amy Rose and Cori speed date their fictional crushes. Yes. That happens. Watch it! And if you missed the first episode (Graceling, chicks with swords), check it out here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall Into Fantasy: Morgan Rhodes and Falling Kingdoms

Welcome to Penguin’s Fall Into Fantasy blog tour. Join Alison Goodman, Morgan Rhodes, Kristin Cashore, Melissa de la Cruz, and Michael Johnston as they share what fantasy means to them in a series of guest posts throughout the week of October 7th. And be sure to tune into to Penguin’s Fall Into Fantasy Twitter chat on October 9th at 7pm EDT to ask your burning questions with the hashtag #FallIntoFantasy!

Today’s stop is Morgan Rhodes, author of the New York Times bestselling Falling Kingdoms. The fates of three kingdoms are in the hands of four young people in this Game of Thrones for teens.
"I’ve always loved fantasy—high fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal…vampires, demons, elves, fairies, dragons, you name it!The Princess Bride, The Eyes of the Dragon, Lord of the Rings, and most recently, Game of Thrones (how long till the next season starts!?), each swept me away to a brand new world full of adventure and intrigue and helped to awaken my muse. (She tends to sleep in on the weekends.) 
While I adore the romance and whimsy of a good fairy tale, I equally love the grittiness shown in the fight for survival—which can help show the true essence of each character—and the vigorous battle between good and evil. High fantasy (or any fantasy) comes down to that eternal question, in my opinion – which will prevail when put to the ultimate test: Good or evil? And it’s especially intriguing when the “good guys” do bad things and the “bad guys” do good things on their quests. 
What I love about fantasy is that it’s a journey of the mind – who needs an expensive vacation, just open a book! And it’s also a chance to explore such subjects as war, death, oppression, betrayal, family, and romance from an entirely new viewpoint than the one presented in the Real World. 
Fantasy definitely isn’t a fad genre, it’s been around forever and it’s here to stay. On an ever-expanding publishing canvas, there’s room for a multitude of authors and storylines to explore to our heart’s content in a genre that never gets boring."
About Falling Kingdoms:

The gripping New York Times bestseller that is Game of Thrones for teens

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

See the trailer!

About Morgan Rhodes:

Morgan Rhodes lives in Ontario, Canada. As a child, she always wanted to be a princess -- the kind that knows how to wield a sharp sword to help save both kingdoms and princes from fire-breathing dragons and dark wizards. Instead, she became a writer, which is just as good and much less dangerous. Along with writing, Morgan enjoys photography, travel, reality TV, and is an extremely picky, yet voracious reader of all kinds of books. Under another pen name, she’s a national bestselling author of many paranormal novels. Falling Kingdoms is her first high fantasy.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Frozen Blog Tour: Love in an Instant

Welcome to the Frozen blog tour! We at Penguin are thrilled to introduce the first book in the Heart of Dread series by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston. Follow along on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next three weeks as Mel and Mike share their thoughts on everything from the end of the world to romantic partnerships they love (other than their own, of course!).

Love in an Instant
Melissa de la Cruz

A Drinking Song by WB Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

Everything we know about love is in this poem. "Love at first sight" is a scientific phenomenon. Studies have shown that people decide in less than three minutes if someone is a potential mate, that we are "programmed to spot 'the one'." In FROZEN, Nat and Wes are instantly attracted to each other, but each fights the compulsion, as love is an obstacle to what they think they truly desire. (Silly children!) J

I have written almost thirty books, most of them with a romantic edge, and in them, people fall head over heels in love in an instant. One moment, they were skeptical, or innocent, or guarded, or just not looking. Then everything changes. A spotlight descends. On one person. It's magnetic, electric, undeniable, insane. Take it from Night Ranger, The Search is Over.

As the sages say, when you know, you know. I'd dated beautiful male models, aggressive Wall Street bankers and charismatic writers. But I'd never fallen in love until it happened all of a sudden, all at once, in an instant. Mike and I met at a party on a Friday, and by Sunday we knew we would be together for the rest of our lives. Almost twenty years later, that spark, that zing, that electricity, those pheromones that drew us together in the first place haven't let us down yet.

He was everything I never knew I always wanted.

But that's another story. For now, please read FROZEN. =)

About Frozen:

From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

See the trailer:


About Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston:

Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including The Au Pairs series, the Blue Bloods series, the Ashleys series, and the Angels on Sunset Boulevard series. She has worked as a fashion and beauty editor and has written for many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire,Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney's, Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl! andSeventeen. She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends and fame for CNN, E! and FoxNews. Michael Johnston is Melissa de la Cruz's husband and co-creator of the Blue Bloods and Witches of East End series, and the co-author of the Wolf Pact series.

Melissa and Michael collaborate in every capacity in crafting their books, from plot outlines to character sketches and dialogue, from first draft to final polish. They have a daughter and live in Los Angeles and Palm Springs.

Follow along the Frozen blog tour to see all of Mel and Mike’s guest posts!

9/23 Lytherus

9/25 Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Reviews

9/27 Fiktshun

9/30 Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

10/2 Word Spelunking

10/4 Owl Always Be Reading

10/7 The Compulsive Reader

10/9 Poisoned Rationality

10/11 There’s a Book

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Fourteen-year-old Kiara is autistic and desperate to make friends, but her inability to understand how to connect with her peers leaves her lonely and isolated. She turns to her love of Rogue and X-Men to get through the lonely days, but when a new kid named Chad moves in down the street, Kiara see a second chance at making friends. Chad isn’t very nice to Kiara, yet he keeps asking her to help him out. It isn’t long before Kiara realizes that Chad is using her in a very dangerous way.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is a versatile and insightful writer; she smoothly transitions between Kiara’s humorous observations on life and family to her pain of being misunderstood, and from high stakes danger to bittersweet moments as Kiara learns to connect with others and make herself heard. This book balances family drama, peer pressure, and the pursuit of human connection well. With many dangerous and illegal activities happening throughout the story, Rogue is an intense read that pulls the reader in quickly.

Cover Comments: This cover fits the story so perfectly. I love it.

Book borrowed from the library!