The Compulsive Reader: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

Trina is self-absorbed and excited about the unveiling of a mural she’s painted for an art project. Dominique is an unpredictable bundle of anger and energy, still seething from being benched from the basketball team. Leticia is always on the lookout for the latest gossip. And overhearing that Dominique wants to beat up Trina after school? That’s the best sort of dirt. Set over the course of one school day, Jumped follows three very different girls to an inevitable collision.

This tense, fast-paced novel bounces between the close narratives of each girl, effectively getting inside of their heads and painting the setting of a school where everyone is just trying to survive the best they can. Trina, Dominique, and Leticia each have very unique voices and Williams-Garcia deftly reveals each girl’s thoughts, motivations, and emotions in surprisingly few scenes. She lets their entwined stories unfold without passing judgment on the characters’ ethical dilemmas, decisions, actions (or, inactions), and the result is one shared story that is impossible to walk away from. Full of irony, tragedy, and truth in equal amounts, Jumped is a book that will provoke many thoughts and reactions without once manipulating the reader.

Cover Comments: I think what I like best about this cover is the empty hallway with the girl at the very end. It's very haunting, both before you read the book and even more so after the story has ended.

Book purchased at the VCFA bookstore.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Interview with Trent Reedy, Author of Divided We Fall

Trent Reedy's third book (and first YA novel), Divided We Fall, came out yesterday. It's a great novel about family, loyalty, friendship, and survival, plus it has a pretty kick-butt cover. You can read my review here. Trent is in the blog today to answer a few questions!

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Divided We Fall? The easiest?

Divided We Fall is completely unlike any other book I’ve ever written in that I had a firm grasp of the novel’s characters and events very early in the writing process. The protagonist, Danny Wright loves his country and his home town. He also loves his big truck, country music, rodeo, playing high school football, his family, his friends, and above all his girlfriend JoBell. Danny’s character was clear to me from the start, as was the situation he was forced into, that of being forced to decide if his loyalties as a soldier in the Idaho National Guard lie with his state or with the federal government, if he should honor his sworn duty to obey his governor or his president. I was blessed when this novel came to me very quickly.

The hardest thing about writing Divided We Fall came from current events in the news. First, I am eager to get this novel out into the world because social and political elements that I added to the novel as future speculation keep happening. For example, from the earliest draft of the manuscript, I had added political trouble resulting from a federal government shutdown over budget disputes. I worried at the time that readers might find such a thing too far fetched. Then a federal government shutdown happened. I wondered if readers would believe that a state in modern times would nullify a federal law, declaring said law to be illegal within that state. Then Missouri very nearly nullified federal gun control laws. Secondly, I kept having to revise to keep the near future setting of Divided We Fall ahead of current events. Sadly, this meant altering the way the media in the novel reports on events, as I saw a number of changes to traditional news coverage in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombing.

Writers and artists have long used their craft to make sense out of or bring beauty to the wake of horrific occurrences, and so I tailored Divided We Fall not just to offer a story about a possible dark future, but to reflect upon the present day.

TCR: You served in the National Guard like your protagonist Danny does, but was there any additional research that you had to do while writing this book to create Danny's world?

TR: Danny has taken advantage of the opportunity to enlist in the National Guard at age seventeen. With parental permission, a seventeen-year-old can enlist to attend basic training the summer after the junior year of high school. He will then return to his home to finish high school. At basic training, Danny is trained with a rifle, machine guns, grenades, and even the AT4 shoulder fired rocket launcher.

Danny is a combat engineer, just like I was. This means that he is scheduled to return to an Army base after he graduates high school to train for his job. After that he would serve one weekend a month and two weeks every summer, with the chance of being activated for war or for fighting floods, wildfires, or riots in his home state, should the need arise. Combat engineers are trained in wire obstacles, land mine warfare, TNT, and C4 plastic explosive systems.

All of my own Army knowledge came in very handy in Divided We Fall. I think I worked in just about everything but the land mines. I did have to do some research because the Army has changed a little since I’ve been out. The uniform has been changed many times with more changes likely in the future. I therefore made up a fictional future uniform for Divided We Fall. I also researched projected advancements to certain weapons systems. For example, the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher looks like it is about to be replaced by a superior system, and so I took that into account.

The other research was all fun stuff like exploring the beautiful state of Idaho and watching Idaho rodeos. I checked out several sections of the Idaho/Washington border because I wanted photographs and a clear mental picture of where Danny would eventually be pulling guard duty.

I have the greatest job in the world. I get to put twists on my own experiences to make them work in my stories, and so much of my research is completely fun.

TCR: Your two previous published novels are written for middle grade readers; did you encounter any challenges in writing for a slightly older audience? Or, do you tend to not have a specific audience in mind while writing?

TR: Like I said before, Divided We Fall came very quickly and clearly to me. So in regards to the audience I had in mind, I think I mostly had my characters in mind. I wrote the novel for Daniel Wright and for his friends, all of whom are caught in this terrible stand off between the state and the federal government.

That said, I was open to suggestions. My editor always offers great advice, but in the very early planning stages of Divided We Fall she casually dared me to put in a ramping vehicle. I enjoyed that challenge, and I think it worked out well. I’m certainly open to similar challenges from Divided We Fall readers as I work on books two and three.

TCR: What are some books that inspired or influenced you as a kid/teenager?

TR: I think sometimes young people face a lot of pressure to read the classic or “college-bound” books that adults think they are supposed to read. I’m glad I never faced that problem, because I feel like I was blessed to encounter just the right books at just the right time.

First, I discovered a short chapter book called Ghost Ship to Ganymede by Robert Swindells. This story of three kids who stow away on a ship bound for a moon of Jupiter compelled me to read it at least five times. The first novel I ever read was Tamora Pierce’s amazing Alanna: The First Adventure. This was another book I read many times, and I loved following Alanna through her four novels.

When I was about eleven years old I became a Doctor Who fan and so when I found the novelization of the classic Doctor Who story Day of the Daleks in the tiny paperback rack in my hometown grocery store, I was thrilled. I loved that book. Those were the early books that made a big difference in my life, of course like any writer, my life quickly became immersed in books and reading. The list of books that have been important to me in my lifetime would take far more time than any of your readers would care to invest.

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

TR: Divided We Fall is ready to rock, so I’m working on two other books right now. After Divided We Fall, I’m coming out with a book that is not a part of the trilogy, a novel called If You’re Reading This, a story of a sixteen-year-old boy from Iowa who begins getting letters in the mail from his father who died eight years earlier in the war in Afghanistan.

Of course I’m also working on the second book in the Divided We Fall trilogy. I’m still in the early phases of book two, so I can’t tell you too much about it yet. All I can say is that book two has even more action than book one. It’s intense.

Thanks so much, Trent! Be sure to pick up a copy of Divided We Fall either from your local bookstore or library!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When Audrey Met Alice Blog Tour

Rebecca Behren's new book, When Audrey Met Alice, is a fun story about what happens when a current first daughter discovers the diary of famous first daughter Alice Roosevelt. It will be out on February 4th, and to celebrate the release, Rebecca Behrens is on the blog today to tell us a little bit about the research she conducted for the novel!

Here's Rebecca!

Writing When Audrey Met Alice required a lot of research, both on Alice Roosevelt’s real life and on what it’s like for a teenage girl to live inside the White House today. In the process, I uncovered a ton of surprising stories and cool pieces of information. Here are some of the most interesting facts about First Daughters I discovered while doing research:
  • Alice Roosevelt was into yoga. She told an interviewer that as a young person she “could always do yoga and pop my leg behind my head and things like that,” but that she was jealous of her friend Nancy Astor, who could turn cartwheels.
  • In one scene in When Audrey Met Alice, Audrey makes an “unapproved” fashion choice for a State dinner. Chelsea Clinton pulled a similar move for President Bill Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997—she hid a too-short skirt under her coat, and First Lady Hillary Clinton didn’t figure it out until it was too late for Chelsea to change. Susan Ford once stirred up controversy by wearing jeans inside the White House (how times have changed!).
  • Alice Roosevelt’s infamous pet snake, Emily Spinach, died under mysterious circumstances. After rumors that exaggerated Emily’s size started circulating, Alice came home to find her snake dead in its box. She was convinced that it was not of natural causes.
  • The Roosevelt pets included not only Emily Spinach the snake and Eli Yale the macaw, but a badger (named Josiah), a pig (named Maude), and a bear (named Jonathan Edwards).
  • Speaking of pets, Caroline Kennedy liked to ride her pony, Macaroni, on the South Lawn.
  • By all accounts, Alice Roosevelt was an intelligent and attractive young woman, and she certainly came from a family of power and wealth. But surprisingly, Alice was still very insecure, particularly about her looks. She fretted about the size of her forehead and the fact that she had to re-wear dresses. She was also “petrified” of public speaking—surprising, considering how much she enjoyed the attention she received from the public. (Speaking of which, she packed six dozen photographs of herself to hand out in Cuba!)
  • When Alice was traveling on a diplomatic tour of Asia, she famously jumped into the ship’s swimming pool, fully clothed.Susan Ford and the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, all successfully managed to ditch their security details while living in the White House. Susan Ford accomplished this by jumping in a car and speeding out of the White House driveway when the gate was briefly open for her mother to drive in. She picked up a friend and drove around until they had to come home—because the Secret Service had her concert tickets for that night. 
  • Amy Carter had a tree house on the South Lawn; today there is an official White House Jungle Gym.
About Rebecca:

Rebecca Behrens grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives with her husband in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Rebecca loves writing and reading about girls full of moxie and places full of history. When she’s not writing, you can find her running in the park, reading on the beach, or eating a doughnut. Visit her online at www.rebeccabehrens.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Snakeroot Blog Tour

Welcome to the SNAKEROOT blog tour! Bosque Mar haunts the dreams of both Adne and Logan, trying to escape for the Nether, where Calla, Shay and the other Guardians trapped him in the final battle in the War of All Against All... Will he turn Adne to the dark side? Will Logan reclaim his birthright? And will darkness take over our world? Follow the SNAKEROOT blog tour, featuring nine posts from author Andrea Cremer, over the next three weeks to get the inside scoop!

Let’s Talk about Ren: SPOILERS

I know it’s already in the title, but I want to be absolutely certain that readers know this post is FULL OF SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the Nightshade series, I wouldn’t continue reading. However, you are each master of your own fate and if you don’t care knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time then have at it.

Many readers were shocked, upset, even furious at the end of Bloodrose. I expected such reactions and completely sympathized with my fans. I cried while writing most of Bloodrose, it was a brutal experience but I believe that the story takes precedence over my attachment to any particular character (I learned this from my hero: Joss Whedon). Ren’s story, along with Monroe’s and Adne’s, is a family tragedy. Adne is the only one to survive the trilogy and she bears horrible emotional scars that leave her open to dangerous temptations, as you’ll see in Snakeroot. Ren’s death wasn’t just about his life and choices, it was tied up in a long, violent history involving Emile, Stephen, Monroe, and Corrine. The last fight between Emile and Stephen, which immediately follows Ren’s death, was the culmination of that history.

That being said, my heart was in shreds while watching the scene play out. You might object, arguing: “What do you mean watching? You were writing it!” That’s true, but the way I experience writing is much more like watching scenes unfold before me than mapping out a plot. So, if you were devastated by the conclusion of Bloodrose, know that I was, too.

I’ve been talking about the past, now it’s time to look to the future. You may have heard rumors that Ren returns in Snakeroot. Those rumors are true. I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it to say that Ren’s story didn’t end with his death and his journey is far from over. If you swore you’d never forgive me for what happened in Bloodrose, I hope you’ll give the greater story – and Ren’s future – another chance. I think you’ll find the trip worthwhile.


Picking up right where BLOODROSE left off, SNAKEROOT follows two characters readers know well from the original Nightshade trilogy. Adne, one of the Searchers and Ren's half-sister, is plagued by nightmares featuring the evil Bosque Mar, now trapped in the Nether and looking for a way out. Adne's power draws him to her, and he wants, more than anything, for her to come to the side of dark magic and free him. Logan Bane, the Keeper who was once set to rule Calla and Ren's Haldis pack, is one of the few of his kind left, after he helped Shay close the rift between our world and the Nether. But he wants to re-open that rift so he can re-create Guardians and reclaim the Keepers' magic. He raids the Rowan Estate to find what he needs to perform dark, ancient rituals, but Bosque Mar has turned his back on Logan for his treachery, and without his help, Logan is lost. The two teens are both battling Bosque Mar--one who wants to be left alone, and the other who wants help.

About Andrea Cremer:

Andrea Cremer is the internationally bestselling author of the Nightshade series, which includes the critically acclaimed Nightshade, Wolfsbane, Bloodrose, Rift and Rise. She went to school until there wasn't any more school to go to, ending with a Ph.D. in early modern history--a reflection of her fascination with witchcraft and warfare--and taught for years at Macalester College. She grew up roaming the forests and lakeshores of northern Wisconsin, but now lives in New York City, where she roams the sidewalks and riverbanks of the concrete jungle she calls home. www.andreacremer.com @andreacremer

Friday, January 24, 2014

Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy

Seventeen-year-old Danny Wright joined the Idaho National Guard because he wanted to serve his nation and honor his father’s memory. When riots break out in Boise following a government shut-down due to controversy over a piece of federal legislature, Danny’s unit is called in to help control the crowds. One accidental shot—fired by Danny—changes Danny’s life, and the lives of everyone in the United States forever.

Divided We Fall is a tense, emotionally-charged book. Reedy creates an excellent balance between a peaceful, normal rural life and a turbulent political landscape that quickly escalates out of control as Danny struggles to face the consequences of his actions and must make impossible decisions regarding his loyalty. Reedy’s inventive use of social media updates, news headlines, blog discussions, and iPad-like technology throughout the story does a great job at grounding this near-future story in the present, making the events of the novel all the more plausible and all the more frightening. While Divided We Fall is not without humor or its moments of levity, the slow burn of an untenable political situation simmers under the surface until it can no longer be ignored, resulting in an explosive ending. This novel explores the values of democracy, freedom, and equality in a very real, and very frightening manner.

Cover Comments: This is a very eye-catching cover. Wow. I really like how active it is, and how the title is bold, but doesn't get in the way of the image. The grey sky is also very foreboding. I think that this is one book that a lot of people will pick up for the cover along.

ARC picked up at the Heartland Fall Forum.

Divided We Fall is out next Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Killing Woods Blog Tour

“A gripping, heartbreaking, emotionally substantial look at [the] allure of danger.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Fatal attraction, primal fear, survival in the forest: From the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, the highly anticipated thriller about deadly games played in the dark.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent -- isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her -- the kinds of games that can kill?

Who Killed Ashlee Parker? Read on to learn more about one of the suspects!


“‘Maybe she's a psycho like her dad is?’ I say. ‘Could happen.’I'd seen the anger in Emily Shepherd’s eyes as I pulled her off that girl today: She was a wildcat.”

Emily Shepherd loves her dad, Jon Shepherd. She will do almost anything to clear his name of the crime and resolutely believes that he is innocent of it. However, as the evidence starts to stack up against her father, she begins to wonder if killer’s blood is inside her too. Emily has also had a crush on Damon since he started at her school, and has always been a little jealous of Ashlee, the most beautiful girl in their class.

Check out the book trailer:

And here is Lucy reading the first chapter:

And to learn more about the book, visit the website! Follow Lucy on Twitter at @LucyCAuthor!

Read about the next suspect tomorrow at My Friend Amy.

And thanks to the generosity Scholastic, enter to win a copy of the book! Just fill out the form below!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Interview with Len Vlahos

Today on the blog I had Len Vlahos, author of The Scar Boys. Len has worked for the American Booksellers Association, and played in a punk pop band, which partly inspired his novel. Here's an interview, and a chance to win a copy of the book!

Here's Len!

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

LV: Great question and I have two answers, one general and one specific. The general difficulty in writing anything is pushing forward. It’s too easy, especially when composing an initial draft, to obsess about a particular section, particular paragraph, or even a particular sentence. But in writing as in life, the perfect is the enemy of the good. If I don’t keep the story moving I get trapped in an endless loop of self-editing. While I acknowledge (and firmly believe) that rewriting is the most crucial part of the process, the whole story needs to be down on paper first.

The specific issue with The Scar Boys had to do with how much of the backdrop of the book—the touring rock band of teenagers—was drawn from my own experience. In the eleventh grade, my friends and I started a punk pop band called Woofing Cookies. Like the fictional Scar Boys, we put out our own record and booked our own tour, only to see our van break down, stranding us in Georgia.

When I was writing TSB, I often came to parts of the story where the reality of what had happened to me didn’t really work for Harry and his friends, and I would have to remind myself that I wasn’t writing a memoir. I was writing a novel, and my responsibility was to my characters, not some misguided sense of personal history. 

Paradoxically, the easiest part of TSB was writing about the band. I had a lot of source material from which to draw inspiration. By the way, one of the fun parts this entire publishing experience has been scheduling a book tour; it’s harkened back to my days playing music. Though this time I do hope to sleep in motels and not the back of a van! http://www.lenvlahos.com/tour-dates/

TCR: What the best (or most memorable) piece of writing advice you've ever received?

LV: I have a friend in L.A. who’s a writer. She once told me about a writing exercise in which she had to write five hundred words in the first person and couldn’t use the words “I” or “me,” or maybe couldn’t use them more than once or twice. (My memory is hazy on the details, but the larger point is the same.) I loved the concept. Not because I don’t think you should use “I” and “me,” but because such an exercise makes you pay attention to the flow of your prose, to pay attention to the detail of your writing.

TCR: The often-dreaded college essay plays a large role in The Scar Boys; do you remember what you wrote your own college essay about? If you had to write one now, what would you write about?

LV: The honest answer is that I have no earthly idea what I put in my own college essay. (I wrote it when Ronald Reagan was president!) If I were to apply to college now, I would almost certainly want to do a video essay. A hobby of mine (when I have the time, i.e., never) is to create and edit videos. I have Final Cut Pro and love it. Here’s an example from my earlier in my professional career. It was a customer service training video that I directed and edited while working for the American Booksellers Association. (I was in it, too.)


What would I say in my video essay? I’d talk about my band, of course!

Heck, maybe I’d even just send this:

TCR: What YA books have you read recently that you'd recommend to readers?

LV: The best YA book I’ve read in a long time is Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan. Full disclosure, when Egmont USA (my publisher) was getting ready to finalize the cover of The Scar Boys, they solicited supporting blurbs from other authors. The only one they received was from Michael. (There’s a quote on the front cover from Peter Buck of R.E.M. (yay!), but that’s a story for another time.)

I had never heard of Michael or his book, and I kind of freaked out. I mean, what if I hated Crash and Burn? I rushed out, got a copy, and dove in. Deep in. It’s a 500+ page tome, but every word is delicious. It’s the story of how Stephen “Crash” Crashinky saves his high school from David “Burn” Burnett. Crash is telling the story after the fact, and his voice is incredible.  From the day Crash and Burn meet in grade school, right through the day Burn lays siege to the high school, it’s a realistic, gritty, and gripping tale. The cast of characters—Crash and Burn, Crash’s father and stepmother, Burns’ sister, Crash’s assorted friends—are pitch perfect. Be warned though, this is full of adult content and isn’t for younger teens or the faint of heart. That said, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Thanks so much, Len!

About The Scar Boys:
A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world...even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay--help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores--Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he's looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.
The Scar Boys is out tomorrow! Len will be touring, so check out his schedule in case you have a chance to meet him. Follow the blog tour my heading over to the Mother Daughter Book Club tomorrow.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Cover Talk: A.S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

It's always cause for lots of excitement when a new A.S. King book is announced, and I've been curious and excited about her 2014 release, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. And today she posted the cover in her blog! Check it out:

I really like the black and white with the colorful font--it reminds me a lot of the hardcover edition of Everybody Sees the Ants. And, as King points out on her blog, the model's hair is very cool.

About the book:
Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way...until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.
The book will be out in October! What do you think of the cover?

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Life has gotten much more complicated for Sydney Sage since her younger sister Zoe joined the cohort in Palm Springs. Sydney has to hide everything from Zoe--her magic, her investigation into the Alchemists, and her new romance with Adrian. Life has become a balancing act, and just when Sydney begins to make progress towards freedom, she starts to lose control and the consequences are devastating.

In The Fiery Heart, Mead deviates from her single first person narration for the first time in the Bloodlines series to include Adrian's first-person perspective. Sydney and Adrian's voices play off each other well to help keep the plot moving steadily forward, although Adrian's voice feels a little too forced and a little too introspective in a few of his chapters. However, Mead skillfully builds tension is all areas of Sydney's life, bringing all of her struggles together and forcing her to finally choose sides between the Alchemists and the vampire world. With a high-stakes uncertain ending, Mead will have readers waiting in anguish for the fifth book in the series, Silver Shadows.

Cover Comments: I am struggling to find something to say about this cover. I just really hate the covers of this series so much. The design seems to get lazier and lazier. The nicest thing I feel like I can say is that the orange is a really cool shade.

Book purchased from my indie.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Guest Post: Hannah Jayne, Author of See Jane Run

Hannah Jayne is the author of See Jane Run, which came out earlier this month. To celebrate her release, she's here today to talk about how some of her life experiences have shaped her as a writer!

Here's Hannah!
I'm pretty sure I was a born writer. I wrote my first novel in the second grade and a second in the fifth. Granted, they were awful books about penguins and beachcombers and then, in junior high, I wrote a blatant Christopher Pike ripoff book. Luckily, all of those stabs at literary brilliance are shoved up in my parents' attic somewhere, never to be read again by human eyes, but possibly one day to be sold on eBay. The books were awful for a lot of reasons--one being beachcombers, another being penguins--but I was finding my voice and practicing my art because then, I had to imagine all the experience one might have out in the great big world (...if one was a penguin, especially). After all, as a chubby, bookish second grader, my experiences went little past My Little Pony and peanut butter sandwiches. 
Then I started to get older and slightly wiser. I gained insight and inspiration through bad choices and wrong turns. I had a horrible, wonderful, manic first love that was as toxic as he was loving. Passion turned into abuse, abuse turned into depression, and suddenly I found myself alone in my college dorm room, broken. I couldn't function; I couldn't process the tsunami that had just hit: leaving home, freeing myself from that bad relationship, realizing that now I was supposed to do everything on my own. I was paralyzed, but I could write.

It was the only thing I could do. I'm not entirely sure if that situation--feeling like I was going down the rabbit hole--shaped my writing, or if my writing shaped that situation--making it into a thing of fiction that, as all fiction does, was assured an ending. That's how my whole life has been since then--life leading art, or art leading life. It sounds hoity toity and kind of cliche but it's true. Ever since I sat down and started writing, really writing my own stuff, my own words, my own thoughts and ideas, things seemed somehow easier. Situations smoothed out and yet, everything affects me. Years ago emotion, depression, bad boyfriends, penguins, a perm that made me look like a show poodle--all of that would have thrown me into a curly-fry eating tizzy. But somewhere along the way I started thinking like an author, started thinking of my life as a series of stories--good or bad, they all come to an end and something else starts. I don't think I'll ever know if my life experiences shaped my writing or the other way around, but as long as there's a good story in there somewhere, I'm okay with that.
Thanks so much, Hannah!

About See Jane Run:
"I know who you are. 
When Riley first gets the postcard tucked into her bag, she thinks it's a joke. Then she finds a birth certificate for a girl named Jane Elizabeth O'Leary hidden inside her baby book. 
Riley's parents have always been pretty overprotective. What if it wasn't for her safety...but fear of her finding out their secret? What have they been hiding? The more Riley digs for answers, the more questions she has. 
The only way to know the truth? Find out what happened to Jane O'Leary."
See Jane Run is available now as a paperback from Sourcebooks Fire!

Friday, January 10, 2014


One of my favorite books of December was Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr! It's a great, fun book about two girls from the opposite sides of the country who begin emailing each other the summer before they become roommates in college. You can read my review here!

I really, really enjoyed Roomies, and not just because the writing is sharp, witty, and really heartfelt. I never had the dorm experience that EB and Lauren are about to embark on, and reading their story was a way for me to live vicariously through them.

My roommate experience came after college, when I started graduate school. Most people are past living in dorms, communal showers, and randomly matched roommates by the time they are in graduate school, but my program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in unique. We come together twice a year for ten day residencies and while we are in Vermont, we stay in a dorm and we get a roommate!

When I went to my first residency, I was too nervous/excited about the whole experience to allow myself to worry about the fact that I was getting a roommate for the next almost-two weeks, and unlike EB and Lauren, I had NO IDEA who it was going to be. No name. No email address. No contact. I showed up to residency, lugged my suitcase up two flights of stairs, wandered the halls until I found room 208, and there was my name on the door next to the name Courtney Rogers. And then I started to worry. Would she like me? Were my habits annoying? Would I snore?

Luckily for me, Courtney is the most perfect roommate I could have wished for, and if I snore, she has not brought it up. Despite our nerves and the stress of orientations and the avalanche of information we had to process, we clicked and had a lot of fun. Our second night of residency we returned to our dorm room, shut the door behind us, and confessed our nerves and relief that had struck gold on this particular residency experience. Courtney is kind and sweet and deceptively, subtly hilarious. She also doesn't complain when I get up in the morning before her, or when my side of the room is an utter mess. She's pretty awesome.

It's quite fortuitous that today is Roomies day, because today is also the day that I jump on a plane headed back to snowy, cold Vermont for the January residency and I cannot wait to see my fantastic roommate again! See you soon, Courtney (and all of my fantastic VCFA friends)!

To celebrate Roomies (both the book and the people), I'm giving away one copy to a lucky winner thanks to the generosity of Little, Brown. Just fill out the form below!

And if you want to catch Tara and Sara while on tour, check out the tour schedule:

January 12, 2014 – New York, NY: McNally Jackson
January 15, 2014 – Salt Lake City, UT: The King's English
January 16, 2014 – Provo, UT: Provo Library
February 4, 2014 – San Francisco, CA: Books Inc, Opera Plaza
February 5, 2015 – Petaluma, CA: Copperfield's Books

Do you have a roommate experience to share? Tell me about it in the comments!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Laurie Halse Anderson Talks About The Impossible Knife of Memory

Yesterday was the release date for Laurie Halse Anderson's unforgettable new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory. In this exclusive video, Anderson talks about addiction and its role in the book.

Click here to read my review of The Impossible Knife of Memory!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Looking Ahead with Robin Herrera and Hope is a Ferris Wheel

Looking Ahead is a feature in which new upcoming books and their authors are spotlighted! Take a minute to read the interview, get to know the author, read about their book(s), and find them on the internet!

For the first Looking Ahead post of 2014, here is Robin Herrera, VCFA grad and author of Hope is a Ferris Wheel!

TCR: How would you describe your book in ten words or less?

RH: A trailer park soap opera about poetry and friendship.

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

RH: "WHOA!" It was something like that. I loved the way the colors popped! And the title text being lights was genius. I was also surprised that so much emphasis is placed on the Ferris wheel, both for the title and the cover, as it never played a big role in the book until maybe the last draft.

TCR: What's the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

RH: "Butt in chair." So many people have said it over the years I can't remember who to credit. But that is the most truthful and helpful piece of advice! (Next to "Use adverbs sparingly." I used to be a severe adverb abuser.)

TCR: Where is the best place for readers to stay up to date on you and your books?

RH: Either through Twitter (@herreracus) or on my website (www.robinherrera.com). I keep both active, but not (I hope) annoyingly active.

Thanks so much, Robin! Here's more about Hope is a Ferris Wheel, which will be out on March 11th, 2014!
"Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future. 
With an unforgettable voice with a lot of heart, Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is the story of a young girl who learns to accept her family and herself while trying to make sense of the world around her."
What books are you looking forward to this year?

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hayley and her father have lived on the run for the past six years to avoid dealing with her father’s PTSD. After an extremely bad incident, they return to their hometown so that Hayley can attend her senior year. Hayley is doing her best to keep her father’s unstable condition a secret, but as she gets closer to new guy Finn and her father sinks deeper into depression, memories of her childhood resurface and she starts to lose control of her life.

Hayley’s voice is strong, sarcastic, and leaves an impression on the reader on the first page. Her anger and fear are apparent through her disdain of her fellow classmates and her reluctance to be courted by new guy Finn, but as the story moves along, Anderson builds her character and reveals glimpses of a childhood full of disappointment and few happy moments with her father. Hayley remains closed off and distant to human connection throughout most of the novel, struggling to hold her life together and protect her father. It isn’t until she has the courage and the need to open up to those she loves—and resents—that she is able save her father, and create a future for herself. Anderson’s writing, as always, is precise and eloquent, unforgettable in its honesty and intense in its exploration of emotion and memory.

Cover Comments: I really like how striking this cover is and the shades of blue used. Although I do look at it and think--man, that girl's feet must be freezing! Nonetheless, and I like how she's standing on the fault line. Very cool.

This book will release next Tuesday, January 7th!

ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I got a little introspective this morning when I realized that I was heading into my seventh (seventh!) year of blogging. I’m not quite sure what I imagined seven years of blogging would look like back when I started, but I could not have imagined how awesome these past six years have been. I don’t usually take the time to write long, chatty posts about myself, but I’ve been thinking a lot about where this blog has been, where I’m going in life, and how my blog fits into the future.

I was paging through my notebook where I keep my list of every book read I’ve read since 2010, and looking over my year in reading. In a lot of ways, my year in reading reflects what was happening in my life, and the surprises that came my way. I read 111 books in 2013 (up two from 2012, hooray!), and that’s not counting all of the wonderful picture books I discovered the past year. Of those books, 24 were middle grade. Five were nonfiction (a small number, but impressive considering I read one nonfiction book in 2012). Six were classics, which I suppose reflected that I am no longer in college and I’m not reading as much canonical literature as I once did (although I do hope that I still can make time to do so in 2014). Eighteen books were adult novels, and I took time to re-read eight books that I’ve read and loved before, with a new perspective. Nineteen of my books read were e-books. (Despite the constant advances in technology, I don’t think more than 20% of my reading has been e-books since I got an e-reader three years ago.)

During my three years in college, I used to have to carve out time to read the YA books I love. When I was accepted to a grad school that required you to read 10-15 YA, middle grade, and picture books per month, I thought I was in heaven. PERFECT. No more setting aside time to read things I loved. It would actually be my homework. Truly a nerdvana.

What I have instead found is that by being in grad school, I read far more widely than I did before. Part of this is due to what I refer to as the curse/blessing of being in school: I read everything with a critical eye. That’s cool. Except for when it’s not. Not only have I become a more discerning reader as far as the quality of my reading, but I’ve also read different and new-to-me genres and authors. “Read widely to become a good writer” was the advice given to me as a first semester student at my first grad residency, and I think I’ve now, at the end of the semester, taken that to heart. I was slow to explore at first, but now I’ve read a lot of middle grade. I ventured into picture books. But now it’s more than that. I’m carving out time to read other, non-YA things. And I am really enjoying it.

Obviously, that means less time to read YA and that translates into less YA to review. And this became starkly obvious to me when I realized that although I read two more books in 2013 than in 2012, I also blogged much, much less in 2013 than any other year since I began blogging. Ouch. I had a really difficult time keeping up with the blog during the semester, for obvious busy reasons, but also because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my blog. For six years, this blog has been almost exclusively a YA book blog. I was almost exclusively a YA book reader. And now I’m not, and I’m wondering how my blog should reflect my changing tastes without losing, upsetting, or disappointing any readers.

I don’t want to let the blog go (and don’t worry, that’s not going to happen), but for about a year now I’ve been trying to keep the blog the same as it’s been for the past couple of years, and that’s just not working. As I become more serious about writing and my studies, I’m going to talk about a lot more than just YA releases. And unfortunately, posts may come a little more infrequently.

So, here is something that is as close to a New Year’s resolution that I will commit to: I want to try blogging four times a week. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and once on the weekend. We’ll see how it goes. I have a lot of exciting things coming up in 2014, including being a Cybils judge, two more semesters of school (including a thesis later this year!), more books to write, and more friends’ book releases to celebrate! It’ll be a great year, and I can’t wait to see what will happen!