The Compulsive Reader: November 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

To my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you are working or have the day off, spending a quiet day alone or with lots of family, I hope you have a lovely day full of books, good food, and cheer. I am very thankful for all of you that read this blog and enjoy good conversation about books, writing, and stories. Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry

When eighteen-year-old Judith reappears after having gone missing two years earlier, her entire village is suspicious of her and her inability to speak. Judith does her best to remain inconspicuous, holding all of the explosive secrets she keeps deep inside of her and watching her childhood love, Lucas, from a distance. When enemies threaten the safety of her town and Lucas, Judith is forced to action, sending her on a path to reveal the truth she’s concealed for over two years.

All the Truth That’s In Me is a fascinating, riveting historical novel. The story is told in short, affecting chapters and beautifully written; the tension and suspense build quickly and elegantly, propelling readers through the novel at a breakneck pace. Judith’s narration is distinct and smart, and her struggle to learn to communicate once more with her family and the people in her town, despite physical and emotional barriers, is emotional and more dangerous than she can imagine. Patient, curious readers will be fascinated by this intense book as the plot—and Judith’s secrets—are slowly peeled back to reveal a terrible crime and one town’s fear and prejudice.

Cover Comments: I like the title treatment and how dramatic this book looks, but the girl on the cover has way too much makeup on to be a historical fiction character. In fact, it seems like the book's entire marketing plan revolves around making this novel NOT appear to be a historical fiction book. I find this weird, and slightly misleading, especially since I would have read this book much sooner if I had known it was historical fiction--but that's just me! What do you think of the cover?

ARC picked up at BEA '13.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Interview with Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of Rogue, a graduate of VCFA, Lego town architect, and all around cool person. Rogue came out earlier this year, and it's an excellent YA novel about struggling with loneliness, bullying, friendship, and fitting in. I'm very pleased to have Lyn on the blog today to answer a few questions about writing and inspiration!

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

LML: Emotionally, the hardest part of writing the novel was coming to terms with my own past – my difficulties fitting in, understanding and following rules, and making friends. So much of Rogue is autobiographical, and until this novel, I had never created a protagonist based on myself because I had internalized the dislike others had for me at that age. When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, as an adult, I wanted something good to come out of my struggles. However, I needed to be able to see my protagonist, Kiara, from the outside as well as from the inside, to give her a separate identity from mine, and to make her likable and sympathetic despite her social isolation and some of her actions.

At the same time, my own background and experiences made it easy for me to define Kiara’s central desire and core beliefs. I knew right away that she wanted more than anything else to have a friend because that’s what I wanted at her age. Kiara believes that, as a “mutant” like the X-Men, she has a special power that can make her a valued member of society, but she hasn’t found that special power yet. I felt that way as well, and that feeling of wanting to contribute and believing she has something to contribute adds depth and urgency to Kiara’s struggles.

TCR: Kiara oftentimes turns to her love of Rogue and the X-Men when she can’t make sense of her own world. In a sense, I think this is what we oftentimes do as writers. Do you have particular stories or objects that you turn to for inspiration while writing?

On a table in my office I have a Lego town, Little Brick Township, which I use as inspiration for my characters and stories. As a child, I was the last person to give up playing with dolls, and all the way through childhood I created elaborate worlds and stories through my dolls. It was my way of having control of my world and belonging to it, because everywhere else I felt confused and detached.

My Lego town became very useful when it was time for my launch of Rogue, because I don’t have the social network or organizational ability to put together a splashy launch party in real life. So I had my town’s residents – dozens of Lego minifigures -- put up a billboard for Rogue and take part in an all-day celebration complete with skateboarders, BMX bikers, and motocross riders. I took photos all day long and put them up on Facebook and Twitter, and at night, I set out a band and my minifigures had a big dance under the lights.

TCR: Do you have a favorite character or scene in Rogue?

LML: In addition to Brandon, the readers’ favorite, my favorite character is Antonio, the friend of Kiara’s older brother who keeps an eye on Kiara after he catches her with Chad and some dangerous chemicals she’d known nothing about. Antonio played a major role in my adult novel Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2006), where he experienced bullying (and cleverly fought back) and faced the illness and death of his father.

I love the scene in Rogue when Antonio shows Kiara the picture of his father. Her father is a cancer survivor – she believes she has Asperger’s because of the chemotherapy he received several years before she was born – and for the first time, she meets someone whose father did not survive. Awkwardly, Kiara reaches out to Antonio, and it’s the first moment in the book that she’s able to put aside her own worries and obsessions to show empathy for someone else. This is an important step in her process of learning that to have a friend, you have to be a friend.

TCR: Can you tell us anything about your next book?

LML: I’m working on several picture books – one of which also features a main character on the autism spectrum – and just finished a novel for older YA readers. It’s working title is ANTS GO MARCHING, and it’s about an academically gifted 15-year-old boy, the only person from his hardscrabble mobile home park in his suburban school’s elite honors program. After he suffers a severe concussion as the result of a beating by three classmates, he flunks out of the program and must reexamine his life, his dreams, and his values.

TCR: That sounds exciting, and I can't wait to hear more about ANts Go Marching and your picture books! Thanks so much for stopping by, Lyn!

You can purchase Rogue now, and check out my review of it here. Visit Lyn's website here, and definitely be sure to check out her Instagram page for more pictures of her awesome Lego creations and Little Brick Township.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Amelia is fifteen. She just got her braces off and she’s started her first job at a grocery store. She is in love with her co-worker Chris. Chris is smart, funny, confident…and twenty-one. He’s in his final year at university and there is no way, not a chance, that he’d be interested in Amelia. But Amelia can’t help but find herself drawn to him, and as their conversation get increasingly intense and personal, she can’t help but wonder if a relationship with him just might work…

Love and Other Perishable Items is a smart, painfully awkward, and realistic novel is told in both Amelia’s and Chris’s voices over the course of an emotionally tumultuous year. Buzo’s coming of age story takes most of its action from the grocery store setting in which both protagonists work, and the many zany and entertaining characters who work there. The plot isn’t particularly action-driven, but the characters’ thoughts and motivations are smart and insightful, and both Amelia and Chris ask the reader to ponder questions about love, modern family dynamics, education, and the consequences of feminist movements. With many quiet revelations and comically awkward scenes, Amelia and Chris learn to work through their personal issues, their feelings for each other, and how to embrace an uncertain future. Love and Other Perishable Items is an intelligent, satisfying book, and readers will be reluctant to leave Buzo’s carefully constructed world.

Cover Comments: I really appreciate the simplicity of this cover, and I think it fits well with the story. The interior design is also really nice. 

Review copy provided by publisher.

This one will be out in paperback on December 10th! I highly recommend adding it to your Christmas lists! Plus, it was a Morris Award finalist! That's a great award, and I've enjoyed every book I've read with that sticker.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Champion Chat with Marie Lu!

Got a Twitter account? Want to win a boxed set of the Legend books by Marie Lu? Here you go...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cover Talk: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray was one of the creepiest books I read in 2012. It's got glamour and flair, and the 1920's New York City setting is dazzling and fun, which is perhaps why the seediness of the crime and occult just seems so chilling. It's a big book, but it's fascinating and exciting.

In my 2012 review, I wrote this about the cover:
"I like the simplicity of the cover, with the dark city skyline in the background, and the keyhole shape with the eye in the center. It speaks to the ritualistic undertones of the book and is eye-catching without resorting to a bunch of pretty dresses or party scenes, which I think would potentially turn readers off of the book."
Well, the paperback is coming out next month, and the cover is getting a face lift. Here it is:

I love the font--it's a little different from the original cover, but still says 1920's to me. I am even okay with the various characters standing on the cover, and I like the bridge and car in the background. What I cannot get over is all the purple. It just makes the cover look cheesy instead of cool, in my opinion. It does convey a sense of darkness, but I just don't like it.

What do you all think?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Curtsies and Conspiracies: Finishing School Book the Second by Gail Carriger

Sophronia never thought she’d enjoy finishing school, but Mademoiselle Geraldine’s school is unlike any other. After a rather interesting start and making many allies (and a few enemies), Sophronia and the first form class prepare for their first examinations. When Sophronia is suddenly ostracized by her peers after receiving the best marks in her class, she suspects a conspiracy that may run deeper than schoolgirl whims.

Carriger’s use of humor, oftentimes constructed by the ridiculous nature of Victorian etiquette, is the main device by which she builds her steampunk world and fleshes it out so wonderfully. The book includes more inventions, new circles of society, and poses the question of who the girls are really working for. With Sophronia on the case, questions usually lead to more questions, but the journey is delightful and full of adventure and thrills. Carriger maintains a nice balance between the character relationships and the greater conflict of the story, making for a nicely complicated and emotionally satisfying book.

Cover Comments: I love the cover, even though the girl looks a lot older than Sophronia, who is supposed to be 14-15. Nonetheless, it captures the fantastic mesh of Victorian setting with danger and airships (look closely at the wallpaper!). Fantastic.

ARC picked up at the Heartland Fall Forum.

Read the first book, Etiquette and Espionage. Also, check out the first book in Gail's adult series, Soulless. It's an excellent crossover book for YA readers. The third Finishing School book is called Waistcoats and Weaponry, and although I don't see an exact release date for it yet, it looks like it'll be out this time next year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Troy Billings is over three hundred pounds and his weight dominates everything that he does and thinks about. When skinny Curt McCrae thwarts Troy’s suicide attempt, he enlists Troy to be a drummer in his band. Troy doesn’t know the first thing about the drums or music, but he lets Curt pull him along because he feels like someone cares about him for the first time in his life.

Fat Kid Rules the World is gritty and painfully candid. Going gets close to Troy’s insecurities as he struggles to keep up with Curt’s manic ideas, and she uses Curt’s struggles with prescription drug use to propel Troy to find his self-confidence and value for life. While the relationship between Troy and Curt is well-written, the secondary characters of this novel, particularly Troy’s father and brother, tend to come across as caricatures rather than characters. Nevertheless, the story is quick-witted, sometimes darkly humorous, sometimes uncomfortable, but ultimately triumphant.

Cover Comments: I'm not a huge fan of this cover, but I do like the colors and I think that the title is fantastic. 

Book borrowed from the library.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New NerdBait Guide!

The third episode in the stellar vlog series The Nerdbait Guide (brainchild of Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta) is here! And, I think it's the best one yet. Cori and Amy Rose talk science fiction, tropes, and The Breakfast Club, and there are special guests! (I might be one of them...) So watch it, because it's funny and smart and it will expand your repertoire of YA lit knowledge!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Blog Tour: Blythewood by Carol Goodman

Welcome to the BLYTHEWOOD blog tour! At seventeen, Ava Hall is already orphaned and working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory when her life is turned upside down by the horrific fire that kills her best friend and leaves her questioning her sanity. After a summer locked away in a mental institution, Ava is sent to Blythewood, the boarding school where Ava's mother spent the happiest years of her life. But Blythewood is no ordinary finishing school for young ladies: it's a training ground for magical warriors. For the next three weeks, follow along as author Carol Goodman shares everything from the inspiration for BLYTHEWOOD to her least favorite character to write.

Here's Carol!
When I started thinking about BLYTHEWOOD, before it was even called that, I knew I wanted to write a supernatural young adult set in the past and that was about it. I had written many books with historical parts to them and I enjoy the research and process that goes into transporting yourself into another time. I got the inspiration for just which time period I wanted to use from my daughter’s work. My daughter was (and still is) working on a long webcomic set in Edwardian England called Penny Dreadful. She had been working on it for quite some time before BLYTHEWOOD even entered my head, and had talked my ear off about the time period many times, especially about the art and fashion since she is an artist herself. Our house was already littered in reference books such as “Costume Reference No. 7: The Edwardians.”

My daughter’s fascination with the Edwardian period started mine. The turn of the 20th century is like any transitional time period, rich with the overturning of old customs and the infusion of new ideas. The 1910s specifically have the dread of WWI hanging over them like the sword of Damocles giving any story set there an added weight. My interest hopped the pond though, and found a rich vein to tap in the stirrings of labor movements and suffragettes. When researching 1911, the year my daughter’s story is set, I was drawn to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, a true tragedy in our country’s history, and suddenly found the beginning of my novel. My daughter’s comic and my own novel both find our heroines thrown without a parachute not only into a supernatural world once unbeknownst to them, but also thrown into a time long ago where everything was beginning to change.

At seventeen, Ava Hall is already orphaned and working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory when her life is turned upside down by the horrific fire that kills her best friend and leaves her questioning her sanity. After a summer locked away in a mental institution, Ava is sent to Blythewood, the boarding school where Ava's mother spent the happiest years of her life. But Blythewood is no ordinary finishing school for young ladies: it's a training ground for magical warriors who form the mortal world's only line of defense against the evil world of Faerie.

As Ava develops her own powers, she seeks to solve the many mysteries in her life: Who was the handsome young man who helped save her from the fire-- and why does she remember him having wings? Why did her mother commit suicide? Who is the sinister stranger who's been following her from the city, and what's his connection with the deaths and disappearences that are plaguing Blythewood? When evil broadens its scope beyond the Blythewood campus to impact world events, Ava must decide whom to align herself with, and figure out how to stop the dark forces, even if that means going against everything she’s been taught.

Set in New York's Hudson Valley in the early 1900s, the gothic Blythewood Trilogy vividly portrays a world-- both real and imagined--on the brink of change, and one girl's quest for the truth about her world, her school, and herself.

About Carol Goodman:

Bestselling author Carol Goodman’s books have been nominated for the IMPAC award twice, the Simon & Schuster/Mary Higgins Clark award, and the Nero Wolfe Award. Her second novel, The Seduction of Water, won the Hammett Prize in 2003. Visit her at carolgoodman.com.

Enter to win a copy of Blythewood! Just fill out this form!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Sutter isn’t interested in plans for the future; he lives for the constant pursuit of the spectacular now. He spends most of his last days of high school drunk and looking for a good time when he meets Aimee, a shy girl without much self-confidence, and decides to help her come out of her shell. He’s not looking for a girlfriend, but somehow that’s what he gets in Aimee. But as graduation draws closer, Sutter can’t help but wonder who is helping whom, and whether or not the spectacular now will be enough for their relationship.

The Spectacular Now is an interesting study of Sutter’s character and his inner thoughts, beliefs, and motivations. Tharp mostly explores Sutter’s character and what makes him act and react, but outside of Sutter, the book is light on plot. Aimee’s blindness and naiveté make her hard to like as a character independent of Sutter, and Sutter is even more unlikable when it becomes apparent that he is taking advantage of Aimee’s adoration. Tharp’s writing is honed, sardonic, and interesting, but the conclusion of the story leaves the reader wondering if Sutter ever experienced any character growth, if he even believes in all of the encouragement he offers Aimee, or if Sutter’s purpose is just in breaking Aimee’s heart.

Cover Comments: I hate the original cover, but I like the movie cover, hence this is the only time you will ever see me post that over the book cover. But, isn't it pretty? Isn't it promising?

I admit that I have not seen the movie yet, although I would like to after hearing so many good things about it. I hadn't even realized this was a book until Sara Zarr posted a Facebook status about the book, and about the tragedy of the story. This is a really depressing and frustrating book, extraordinarily well-written. I think the move looks like it promises something a bit happier. I'll be interested to compare them.

Book borrowed from the library.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Champion Giveaway!

The final book in Marie Lu's trilogy, Champion, comes out on Tuesday and to celebrate, I'm giving away an awesome Legend series poster and Legend series temporary tattoos! Aren't they awesome?

But first, check out this awesome book trailer!

About Champion:
The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT! 
He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.
 To win, fill out this form: