The Compulsive Reader: April 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign

We need diverse books. For loads and loads of reasons, but most importantly because we live in a diverse world with diverse readers and diverse perspectives. This is my seventh year of blogging and while I'm pleased to see how the YA community and market has evolved to have better representation of diverse topics and characters, we still have a lot of work to do.

I'm incredibly proud and excited to see two awesome campaigns pop up in the past two days:

First is the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. You can read all about it on the official tumblr page. The plan? Make the internet explode with diverse book recommendations and reasons we need diversity this Thursday and Friday, and then on Saturday go out and buy diverse books. You don't need to spend a lot of money. Buy one paperback. But help support diversity of all types, help demand change. Use the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks!

My senior project in college was a study of the evolution of the lesbian protagonist in YA books. I blogged about it here. The list is in desperate need of updating, which is my mission this week with Amy Rose Capetta. Amy Rose, in addition to being my book recommendation soulmate, is the author of Entangled and Unmade, which features racially diverse characters and an LGBT couple! Hooray! We'll publish our massive list on Thursday or Friday!

The second campaign that I am super excited about is the Handsell Off campaign! Read about it on Shannon Hale's tumblr. The short version: booksellers are challenged to handsell Varian Johnson's new MG book, The Great Greene Heist! Varian is a VCFA grad (VCFA represent!) and his book is going to be so great. It features an African American boy, the protagonist, prominently on the cover. When I think about the white-washing that was happening with YA covers just five years ago, it makes me so incredibly happy to see this awesome cover and so many awesome people rallying behind it.

I've had multiple copies of this book on pre-order at my store for over a month, and I can't wait for it to come in. It's released May 27th, 2014, but go and pre-order it! Everyone can get involved--readers, booksellers, bloggers, authors. Check out Shannon's tumblr for all of the details!

#WeNeedDiverseBooks. We need your help, however you can get involved.

Go forth and hashtag it up! Comment here with your recommendations--I'd love to read them. And talk about diverse books--not just online, but in real life, too!

ETA: Here's a giveaway for teachers and school librarians, hosted by Beth at A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust! Win a copy of When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Sing da Navelli dreams of singing the lead role of her favorite opera, Angelique. When she enrolls at the prestigious Dunhammond Conservatory, Sing is immersed into the strange history of the school and the peculiar mythology surrounding Angelique’s origins. A strange magic lurks in the woods surrounding Dunhammond, permeating the school and the music that is created there, and Sing is about to discover the great lengths she will go to in order to create music.

Strange Sweet Song is a profoundly beautiful and magical debut. Rule artfully tells two stories in this novel: The first is Sing’s exploration of Dunhammond, her search for what is missing in her voice, and her resistance in becoming like her dead mother. The second story is wider in scope—it tells the mythic, centuries-old story of the beast in the woods surrounding Dunhammond, a tale imbued with strange magic and tragic consequences. The stakes are high in this novel, requiring deep despair for any magic to occur, and the emotions are just as intense as the music that moves the universe of Rule’s story. Rule’s writing is musical and emotionally engaging, and the story breathtaking. This is a standalone novel you do not want to miss.

Cover Comments: I love the deep green of the background and woods--perfect considering that the woods surrounding the conservatory are so mysterious and so important to the story. And I really like how the title is displayed--very ethereal.

Copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cover Talk: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Yesterday the cover and title of the third book in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater was revealed. It's called Blue Lily, Lily Blue and that cover is so gorgeous I can't even handle it.

The endings of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves have a habit of leaving me in a very anxious, angsty place and I cannot wait to see where Stiefvater goes in Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I adore the style of the covers and I am excited to see a new color scheme and a cover that is a little more lush, a little more magical.

What do you think?

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is out October 28th, 2014! But before that, we get Sinner, a companion novel to the Shiver trilogy, on July 1st!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

Today is William Shakespeare's 450th birthday! Have a slice of cake or raise a drink to the Bard, and if you haven't already, watch the Joss Whedon adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Nathan Fillion makes a most excellent Dogberry.


I sort of love him.

Happy Shakespeare day, readers!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera

I don't often post reviews of middle grade books, but this one was too fantastic not to review. Read on!

Ten-year-old Star Mackey is the only girl in her class that lives in a trailer park, and she’s sure if she can show her new classmates that living in a trailer park isn’t all that bad, she can make friends. But the kids who show up to her ill-fated Trailer Park Club aren’t exactly who Star was hoping to make friends with, until her club takes a different direction and Star is introduced to Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the meaning of friendship and hope.

Hope is a Ferris Wheel is charming and heartfelt, written in Star’s clever and humorous voice. Through weekly vocabulary lists, poetry, Star’s relationship with her teenage sister, and various attempts at launching clubs at school, Herrera explores Star’s life and her self-identity. Herrera handles the issue of poverty in Star’s story particularly well. It’s not a tragic element or a reason for Star to doubt herself, but a fact of life that illustrates how Star relates differently to her peers. Star is particularly resourceful and thoughtful as she discovers her creative voice, learns how hopes connect to dreams, and as she comes to terms with the complicated fabric of her family life. This is a fantastic middle grade debut, honest and entertaining.

Cover Comments: I love this cover--it's beautiful and bright and just has a lot of fun shapes and colors.

Book purchased from my local indie.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

When Josie’s older sister Kate brings home her fiancĂ© for the first time, Josie is horrified. Stephen Geoffrey Brill is not the person for Kate, and Josie is going to prove it to her. Josie isn’t very good at communicating with people who aren’t Kate or her best friend Stu, so her attempts at figuring out how to prove what love really looks like are continually thwarted, until Josie has to face that she might not be able to fully grasp the intricacies of love and relationships.

Love and Other Foreign Words is a genuinely funny and clever book about learning to relate and communicate in a very confusing world. Josie’s attempt to understand her world and her relationships through the unstable constructs of words and their many meanings is more complicated than she first expects, and McCahan creates some great tension through the bantering that Josie engages in with others who don’t speak her language. Through awkward dates, exhilarating crushes, bursts of sibling rivalry, and declarations of love, Josie is always a humorous, curious, and insightful character. Her offbeat and loving family round out Josie’s story nicely and help Josie understand the most important aspect of love: unconditional support and understanding. McCahan’s second book is the most excellent sort—Josie comes alive on these pages, and her story will make you laugh and cry and want to hug the pages to your chest, even after the final page.

Cover Comments: I like this cover a lot--the dark blue is pretty and I like the title font. It's cute and pretty, but not too cute.

This book will be out May 1st!

ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

VCFA Day in Ann Arbor 2014

This past weekend was momentous.

First, I had the weekend off for the first time in...many, many months. Actually, probably since I went to residency in January, which doesn't count because that's school (fun school, but still--I'm lucky if I get six hours of sleep while I'm in Vermont) and before Vermont I hadn't gotten a weekend off since before Christmas, so the point is, I HAD THE WEEKEND OFF. And it was glorious.

I also turned in my third packet of school work. Which was glorious, but also mildly terrifying.

But the best part about this weekend? I went to Ann Arbor for VCFA Day, orchestrated by the fantastic Debbie Gonzalez and sponsored by my beloved VCFA. I'm down for any sort of VCFA get-together, even if it is in a 7/11 in the middle of the desert, but Ann Arbor was truly a lovely place for this shindig. It is the land of indie bookstores, great food, and fantastic people (re: Debbie Gonzalez!).

The best part about VCFA Day is that it is for everyone! Truly. Alumni, current students (shout-out to LoriGoe Perez Nowack who was my fellow current student, soon-to-be-alumna there), prospective students, writers who just love kid lit and want to learn more about the craft. It was an event for all and I loved meeting everyone. We had about 25 people show up, and the majority of the people there weren't VCFA, so we had the great pleasure of witnessing to them the Gospel of Vermont. But we also just got to hang out and talk about writing and learn from Coe Booth and Marion Dane Bauer and wow, what an experience.

We started Friday night with a reception and then visited one of Ann Arbor's many indie bookstores, Nicola's Books, for a book event with Coe and Marion that was open to the public. The coolest part about that was that afterwards, we had an alumni/current student reading! And I had forgotten about it completely because I still had deadline brain! But I pulled something up on my phone and I didn't get booed off the microphone, so hooray. I love, love VCFA readings. Not only are they super supportive and fun, but I'm always surprised and thrilled by hearing my people stand up and read. The versatility and diversity of the readings are breathtaking and inspirational and so exciting. It's also completely awesome to know that in a few years I'll get to say stuck-up things like, "Oh, yes, I heard her read from that a few years when it was just a draft! Why yes, we are close friends." (But seriously. It takes a lot of courage to get up and read from a work in progress and my VCFA community is crazy courageous. I love it.)

The next day was an all-day writer's extravaganza. Coe's and Marion's lectures and workshops were fantastic, as expected. They picked great topics that really appealed to the wide range of writers in attendance--from picture books to YA--and were insanely useful and helpful. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all left energized and excited about getting back to work and with some new insights about how approach whatever we're writing. Me, I realized that I had to flesh out another character before I could write the scene I really, really, really want to write because I think it'll be fun and cool and smart. But. Not yet. And it's okay. This is writing.

And in true VCFA fashion, we finished the evening off with another get-together where we had our own cave in the basement of this cool restaurant, which sounds super shady, but it was actually quite awesome and there was a guy who kept bringing us platters of tacos and goat cheese, so basically it was a cave of food happiness. And bookish talk and fun. With some amazing writers.

Thanks so much to Debbie Gonzalez for organizing the event and for Vermont College of Fine Arts and Kelley Bordeleau-Lamb for bringing a bit of Vermont to Ann Arbor!

(And on a side note, I also visited Literati Books in downtown A2 and...beautiful. It's a lovely new indie, so if you're in Ann Arbor, make time to go there! The books are carefully selected and the service is excellent and they have typewriters!)

See you all next year? *wink wink nudge nudge*

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cover Talk: Ashes to Ashes

I've been following (and loving) Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian's Burn for Burn trilogy, and I'm excited for the conclusion headed our way this fall! It's also been a lot of fun anticipating the covers of these books, and the cover for Ashes to Ashes is finally here!

First, Burn for Burn and Fire with Fire:

Prepare yourself, Ashes to Ashes is slightly different...

When Burn for Burn first came out, I read an interview with Han and Vivian about the covers. They said that the publisher held a cover shoot for the cover art of all three books, with the idea that the design for the entire trilogy had been decided on. I remembered thinking, "Hallelujah, this is a trilogy where all of the books will match!" Well, not quite. I don't mind the chance in the fonts, and to be honest, I sort of like that we can see more of the girls. But I sort of miss the cool filters that the first two books had. It made them look really ethereal. This is slightly more mundane, but I do love that each girl is looking out in this cover.

Of course, the authors look so fabulous in this photo, they could probably go on a cover themselves:

What do you think?

Ashes to Ashes will be out on September 16th, 2014!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Ring and the Crown Giveaway!

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz is out now, and I'm giving away a copy here!

If you like Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, then you will like The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz!

Why: Royalty, political intrigue, and magic abound! Like Bitterblue, The Ring and the Crown is full of complicated plots twists and high stakes--not just for the characters, but for the entire kingdom. It has a large cast of characters and great world building.

About the book:
Magic is power, and power is magic… 
Once they were inseparable, just two little girls playing games in a mighty castle. Now Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the mightiest empire in the world, and Aelwyn Myrddyn, a bastard mage, face vastly different futures. 
Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second. With the help of her Merlin, Eleanor has maintained a stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. While the enchanters faithfully serve the crown, the sun will never set on the Franco-British Empire. 
As the annual London Season begins, the great and noble families across the globe flaunt their wealth and magic at parties, teas, and, of course, the lavish Bal du Drap d’Or, the Ball of the Gold Cloth. 
But the talk of the season is Ronan Astor, a social-climbing American with only her dazzling beauty to recommend her. Ronan is determined to make a good match to save her family’s position. But when she falls for a handsome rogue on the voyage over, her lofty plans are imperiled by her desires. 
Meanwhile, Isabelle of Orleans, daughter of the displaced French royal family, finds herself cast aside by Leopold, heir to the Prussian crown, in favor of a political marriage to Marie-Victoria. Isabelle arrives in the city bent on reclaiming what is hers. But Marie doesn’t even want Leopold-she has lost her heart to a boy the future queen would never be allowed to marry. 
When Marie comes to Aelwyn, desperate to escape a life without love, the girls form a perilous plan that endangers not only the entire kingdom but the fate of the monarchy.

About Melissa:

Melissa de la Cruz (www.melissa-delacruz.com) is the author of many best-selling novels, including all the books in the Blue Bloods series: Blue Bloods, Masquerade, Revelations, The Van Alen Legacy, Keys to the Repository, Misguided Angel, Bloody Valentine, Lost in Time, and Gates of Paradise. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and daughter.

Just fill out the form below to win a copy of the book and a ring!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Underdogs--Markus Zusak's First Book(s)

This past month has been a bit of a whirlwind--I'm not sure why March left in such a hurry, and I'm trying to figure out where the first week of April went. The lack of blogging has been due to the crazy, crazy, crazy busy workload I've taken on in the past month--a real tough month for school (but, midterms next week!) and an increased work schedule. I'm now almost full-time at the bookstore, which is fun and rewarding, but it also means that I've been struggling to fit in schoolwork, never mind blogging. Mix in the fact that I had to buy a new computer in the middle of all of this, and it's amazing that I even can navigate myself to this blog page.

But, one book I did pick up during the past month that I am dying to talk about is Underdogs by Markus Zusak. It's an omnibus edition of his Wolfe Brothers trilogy--The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl. I read the first two novels (I'm hoping to squeeze the third one in before it's due at the library!) and I really liked them.

The novels follow Cameron and Ruben Wolfe, the youngest Wolfe brothers. Their family isn't rich, just on the brink of being dead-broke, and the brothers don't have a sense of purpose like their older siblings do, but they're fiercely loyal to their family. From concocting schemes about holding up a dentist's office to joining an underground boxing ring, the brothers do everything together.

I really liked that the reader can trace the evolution of Zusak's writing style in these two books. The Underdog is his first novel and it's relatively short. Cameron narrates both books and he says at the beginning of The Underdog "it was a normal year." Yet Zusak goes on to write about what seems like a normal year to Cameron is actually the beginning of an awareness--of himself, his family, and the person he wants to be, a lot of which is exposed in his strange dreams. I suppose "quiet" would be the word that would be used to describe the first book, but "quiet" always seems like a euphemism for "dull" and Zusak's writing is anything but dull.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe is set a few months after the end of The Underdog, and it is a little more sophisticated, a bit more engaging as it follows the brothers to an underground boxing ring where Cameron is the underdog who rarely wins and Ruben is the star, undefeated. And yet, Ruben doesn't fight with heart--he's just a winner, nothing more. The emotional journey of the brothers as they learn what it means to win and what it means to fight is really quite brilliant. And at the heart of the story is Cameron and Ruben's relationship and all of the messy rivalries and loyalties that they share.

I highly recommend picking up Zusak's first books--they're quite different from The Book Thief, but still deeply engrossing and funny and just very probing novels that make you think.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Giveaway: Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu

To celebrate the paperback release of Prodigy, the second book in Marie Lu's Legend trilogy, Penguin Group is giving away paperback copies of Legend and Prodigy on the blog! Hooray and thank you!

You can check out my review of Legend here, and keep reading to learn more about the books and Marie!

About Legend:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

About Prodigy:

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

In this highly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Legend, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.

About Marie Lu:

New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu (www.marielu.org) graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry, working for Disney Interactive Studios as a Flash artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California (see above: traffic), with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Fill out the form to enter to win!