The Compulsive Reader: August 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Most Romantic Places in NYC

Isabel Gillies is the author of Starry Night, which is out next week! To celebrate the release of Starry Night, a romantic novel set in New York City, Isabel is here on the blog with some of the most swoon-worthy places in NYC!
"New York just by itself is romantic -- It has a heart beat. I’m not kidding. All you have to do (and I urge you to do it one day, if not today) is walk by yourself for three blocks and pay attention. It doesn’t matter where you are in the city. Midtown, The East Village, Chelsea, Harlem, SOHO – doesn’t matter, you just need to be able to absorb it. Take a deep breath, open your eyes and ears and start walking. At first it may be overwhelming (kind of like love), you may feel too much. So many people, so many noises, smells, voices, it can take your breath away, but stay with it. In about a block, you get your pace. You begin to be in step with the people around you, you start to grove a little. And very soon after, you can feel the heart beat. It definitely comes from below and I’m pretty sure the subways racing below you add to it. It’s extremely cool and pretty sexy. Anyway, I fell in love with my first boyfriend in NYC and my last, that last one is now my husband. It’s an awesome place to fall in love.
 Here are some places:
 Central Park is an obvious place to start. Actually, lets bust it open to all parks in NYC. There are quite a few romantic movies that have Central Park in them. Enchanted, When Harry Met Sally, Hair, to name a few. But the reason I think it’s romantic is because you can walk there. Walk and walk and walk. People fall in love when they walk and talk. Maybe it has something to do with the blood flow? You can hold hands, you can comment on all the great things happening around you, like a beautiful tree or bridge. Or you might walk next to kids playing and that might trigger some kind of maybe-we-will-be-married-one-day feeling? There are ice cream carts here and there, so there might be an opportunity to share an ice cream sandwich? And you can feel far away from life in Central Park – it’s an escape. I have DEFINITELY been in love in that park. That park pulses with romance.
 Okay, I think that Washington Square Park is exceedingly romantic. And I mean right under the Arch. I was given a pretty great kiss under that Arch when I was at New York University, so maybe that is why I think it’s romantic, but it is in general. There are all these fantastic NYU students swarming around, and I find learning and college life a turn on. There is also almost always someone playing music, or drums, and that is exhilarating. You are in the heart of Greenwich Village, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that is really fun. All of those elements make that spot extremely romantic.

Coffee Shops. Yup. Just you plain old coffee shop. I think it’s because of the French fries. Any opportunity to share creates romance, and French Fries are a great way to start. Two milk shakes and a plate of fries in a booth = romance.
 MOVIE THEATERS! Okay, I know there are movie theaters everywhere, and I one hundred percent believe that going to the movies ANYWERE is romantic, but I will go out on a limb and say that going to the movies in NYC is one of the greatest romantic things to do on this earth. Better than a sunset. Here’s why: It’s a mini adventure. There is the arrangement to meet in front of the theater, and that is so fun and lovely. Maybe it’s the most romantic part? How I am picturing it is, one person is walking towards the theater having just come from the subway (another romantic spot believe it or not), and the other person is waiting – maybe reading a magazine or a book, and then there is the moment when you both look up and see each other. It’s SUCH A GREAT MOMENT! Big smiles, big expectations for the adventure. Romance.
 The Met! Of course a lot of Starry Night takes place in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and that is because it is (in my opinion) one of the romantic bulls’ eyes in all of the world. I think it’s those steps that do it. Even when the museum is closed those steps are magical. I think millions of people have fallen in love on those steps -- and that is part of the magic. Not only do you feel the weight and power of centuries of art, but you feel love. I know someone once fell in love with me just BECAUSE I took him to sit on the steps.
 If you can get on a rooftop, that is always good for romance. I think the Staten Island Ferry is extremely romantic. Looking at the Hudson River is romantic. The seedy bars of East Village are romantic. The cherry blossoms in the West Village are wonderfully romantic, if you can be in NYC in April…
 Let’s face it, almost anywhere in NYC is down right romantic."
About Starry Night:

Sometimes one night can change everything. On this particular night, Wren and her three best friends are attending a black-tie party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to celebrate the opening of a major exhibit curated by her father. An enormous wind blasts through the city, making everyone feel that something unexpected and perhaps wonderful will happen. And for Wren, that something wonderful is Nolan. With his root-beer-brown Michelangelo eyes, Nolan changes the way Wren’s heart beats. In Isabel Gillies’s Starry Night, suddenly everything is different. Nothing makes sense except for this boy. What happens to your life when everything changes, even your heart? How much do you give up? How much do you keep?

For a chance to win a lovely, lovely copy of Starry Night, fill out the form below!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Amity Blog Tour + Giveaway

I'll admit that when it comes to horror movies, I'm a total wimp. I get so stressed out by what's happening on the screen, I find it hard to follow the story--everything happens way too quickly. Horror novels on the other hand...those are much more fun. I can take everything at my own pace. I can actually enjoy the story alongside the creepy, gory, scary parts. A good horror novel will haunt me much longer than a horror movie. Perhaps that's why YA horror is so, so suddenly popular with the teen and adult readers who come into my store?

Micol Ostow has a new YA horror novel out next week called Amity, and I'm excited to add it to the shelves at work and share it with readers. To celebrate the release, Micol is going on a blog tour and today's stop is all about her favorite horror tropes!
My favorite horror tropes? That’s easy! 
1) Obviously number one would have to be the haunted house trope. The Haunting of Hill House, The House on Haunted Hill, The Amityville Horror... a haunted house is a classic for a reason. Residual psychic energy? Unexplained phenomena? It just works.
2) Second runner up for me would be the asylum trope. An abandoned mental hospital with crazy residual psychic energy? Or better yet, an unreliable narrator? Shutter Island, anyone?  
3) Ooh, ooh, ooh: creepy circus/carnival! Cirque du Freak, Freaks, The Lost Boys. What is it about carnivals that’s inherently disturbing? There’s that sense that at any given time something innocent and childlike will devolve into something broken-down and vaguely sinister. A carousel with a few paint chips and a squeaky gear... pure terror.  
4) Possessed dolls! I’m sure I’m not the only one who was convinced that my dolls came alive every time I turned my back. Add in a dash of evil and you’ve got Chucky. 
5) Zombies, zombies, zombies. They’ve never hit the critical mass of, say, vampires or even werewolves (decaying flesh is not exactly sexy), but there’s a reason they’re perennial. From Night of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later to World War Z, the idea of coming back... not quite ... right? Eek!
More about Amity:

For fans of Stephen King and American Horror Story, a gruesome thriller suggested by the events of the Amityville Horror.

Connor's family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen's family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she's recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor's nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren't there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn't just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she's done before. As she'll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.

About Micol:

Micol Ostow has written dozens of books for children, tweens, and teens, but Amity is her first foray into horror. I turns out, writing a ghost story is almost more terrifying than reading one. (In a good way.) Her novel family was called a “Favorite Book of 2011” by Liz Burns at School Library Journal, and her illustrated novel, So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), was a

Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens. In her spare time, Ostow blogs with the National Book Award-winning literacy initiative readergirlz.com. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, her (utterly fearless) daughter, and a finicky French bulldog named Bridget Jones. Visit her online at www.micolostow.com or follow her on Twitter @micolz.

If Amity sounds like something you'd like to read, enter the giveaway below for more chances to win! And follow the blog tour by clicking here or checking out tomorrow's post at Curling Up With a Good Book.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Buy From Indies, Win at Life

Tensions between Amazon and Hachette have continued to escalate, and I know some of you are thinking, Why should I care? I buy online, and Amazon is convenient. While this situation is nuanced and complicated, what it comes down to is this: Amazon is working to become not just the largest retailer of books, but the only retailer of books. Their demands make it so that no one else can compete, and unfortunately authors are losing sales (and money) in the meantime.

Indie bookstores, and even brick and mortar stores like Barnes and Noble, are an important part of our book culture. We need them. The thought of world without physical locations to buy and browse through books, staffed by knowledgable human people, is just too sad to bear.

So to that end...you all are smart, savvy readers who like to use the internet to get your books. I get it. Maybe you don't have a good bookstore near you, maybe you just like your books delivered right to your mailbox. So why not check out these indie bookstore websites offering fall releases from Hachette that you can't get on Amazon? As an added bonus, you are supporting local businesses that pay taxes, most of these books are signed (and personalized!) by the authors, and some even come with GIFTS!

A.S. King's Reality Boy is out in paperback this fall, along with a brand-new release, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. Get signed copies at Aaron's Books.

Malinda Lo's second science fiction book, Inheritance, is coming out in paperback, and you can buy signed copies of all her books at her indie, The Booksmith.

Buy signed copies of all of Holly Black's books at Odyssey Books, including recently released paperback copies of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and pre-order The Darkest Part of the Forest while you're at it.

Carrie Ryan's middle grade debut with her husband John Parke Davis, The Map to Everywhere, is available at indie Park Road Books! The authors are offering a free gift with every pre-order!

Barry Lyga offers links to a number of his favorite indie stores that you can purchase from. Check them out when looking to purchase Blood of My Blood, the third book in the I Hunt Killers trilogy!

Not all authors offer signed stock through a local indie--some may not live very close to an indie bookstore, and it does take some set-up. But that doesn't mean that you can't still support indies, even if they aren't geographically close to you. Pick an independent bookstore in your state, or order from some of the famous indies across the country. Order from my indie, Great Lakes Book & Supply! (Shameless plug, sorry! But we do have many signed, personalized YA books on offer!) The point is--you have options as a reader and customer!

Plus, I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of my favorite authors who offer their backlist titles, signed and personalized, through their indies. All it takes is a little Googling. Start with the author's website and their book pages--most have links to where you can purchase their books, and many include their local indies! It'll make the Christmas shopping season a lot easier!

Guest Blog: Mary G. Thompson, Author of Evil Fairies Love Hair

Mary G. Thompson is the author of Evil Fairies Love Hair, out earlier this month! To celebrate her release, she's here on the blog to talk about character!

Creating Characters 
There are two types of characters in Evil Fairies Love Hair—human and magical. The process for creating them was very different! For the humans, I wanted kids that people could relate to with problems we’ve probably all had. Ali wants her parents to appreciate her as much as her seemingly perfect older sister. Most of us have had the experience of being underappreciated! Ali is brave and ultimately does what’s right, but that doesn’t mean she’s perfect. She’s selfish enough to want her wish, and a lot of the complications come up as Ali tries to be selfish and selfless at the same time. Michael, the neighborhood troublemaker who ultimately helps Ali save the town, is kind of based on a kid who used to live in my neighborhood. In real life he was my older sister’s age, and he was a real jerk. He locked us in the shed we used as a playhouse and used to break blocks of ice over my sister’s head in the winter. My mom would always lament that despite being such a jerk, he had beautiful blue eyes. I thought it would be interesting if the seemingly bad kid really wasn’t all that bad but was just following his older brother’s lead. In fact, he’s helpful and just wants to be liked like everyone else. 
For the magical characters, a lot of it was thinking of silly names! The main fairy character is named Pilose, which means “covered with long soft hairs.” Her fellow flock-starter is Ringlet, and there is also a pair named Frizzcontrol and Thickener. The main fairy villain is Bunniumpton, or Bunny, which has nothing to do with hair, it’s just both pompous and silly. I didn’t want the fairies to just be caricatures with silly names though, so I gave them a little bit of conflict between themselves. Some of them are excited about Bunny’s evil plan to become big, but others just want to go back to their cozy homes. Even though the fairies admonish the kids not to be greedy, they themselves want everything that people have without dealing with any of the responsibilities. Obviously fairies can’t get away with being greedy either! I want people to ask, are they actually evil? Can we understand where they’re coming from? What would we do in their situation? In other words, I hope readers will see that fairies are people too! 
I’d love for kids to ask themselves some questions at the end of the book. Would you do everything you could to get a wish like some of the kids, or would you be able to turn down the fairies like Crista? Would you try to have it both ways like Ali? And if you were a fairy, would you follow Bunny or would you take a stand for what’s right? What can one individual fairy or kid do? I think the answer is, one person can do quite a lot! Sometimes one person can be a good influence on others. If I was faced with a fairy offering me a wish, I’m not sure what I’d do. I think everyone should have a slightly different answer! 
About Evil Fairies Love Hair:

Ali and her middle school classmates are raising flocks of fairies to make their wishes come true. But growing a flock is harder than it sounds: the fairies eat only human hair, and the rules for dealing with them are confusing, misleading, and subject to change. As Ali and her friends struggle to earn their wishes, mistakes are made, spells go awry, and soon Ali is up against hundreds of two-inch-tall imps who have very big plans—to replace all the parents in town!—and the power to carry them out. Comedy and fantasy intertwine in this lively tale of intrigue, magic, and the power of hair.

About Mary:

Mary G. Thompson was born and raised in Cottage Grove and Eugene, Oregon. She was a practicing attorney for more than seven years, including almost five years in the U.S. Navy, before she moved to New York City to write full time. This is her third novel. Visit her website at marygthompson.com.

To follow the blog tour, check out tomorrow's stop! And enter the form below for a chance to win a copy of the book!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gasp by Lisa McMann

This is the third book in the Visions series, sequel to Crash and Bang.

Jules and her boyfriend Sawyer successfully stopped the school shooting, but now they fear that they’ve passed on the visions to another saved victim. This time though, the victim is in denial about the visions, making their job increasingly difficult. With very little to go on and obstacles in every direction, Jules is no closer to preventing the next catastrophe—or discovering how she got these visions in the first place.

The third mystery in the Visions books is filled with even more complications and dead-ends than the first two, but Jules is persistent in the face of failure. McMann does a great job in grounding her characters’ lives in the mundane problems of real teenage life, and the obstacles of the novel arise in the logistics of how the teens can rescue a bunch of people without any resources or their parents catching on to what they are doing. Family life gets even more complicated for Jules and her siblings when their parents’ business and home is put in jeopardy, forcing them to finally confront their father’s mental illness. The romantic subplot between Jules and Sawyer is (as always) full of sexual tension and fraught with drama as the two face more than a few assaults on their happiness. The ending is hard-earned but McMann provides a more than satisfactory conclusion to the Visions trilogy in Gasp.

Book purchased from my indie!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vampire Academy: Frostbite Movie News

That hair.
 I'm somewhat of a fan of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy books (okay, and the spin-off series, Bloodlines), and I followed the making of the Vampire Academy movie with some interest. Despite my trepidation over the length of Danila Kozlovsky's hair (he plays Dimitri and is otherwise hot but THAT HAIR OMG), I wanted to see the movie. I didn't make it to theaters, but when it was released to DVD and iTunes, I downloaded it. Despite a rocky start in the story (easy on the exposition in dialogue, there) and the somewhat hilarious special effects in the Strigoi (it was somewhat better than the original Buffy movie), I enjoyed it. The accents and the set and the hilariously awkward (and awkwardly hilarious) lines kept me entertained, and I hate to admit, Zoey Deutch as Rose was much better than I was expecting.

The filmmakers left the ending wide open for the next installment in the series, Frostbite, aka the part of the saga where Adrian hits the scene. Adrian really doesn't get my pulse pounding, but fans everywhere have been having ovary explosions over him for forever, which is why I am not entirely surprised that an indiegogo campaign has been started to get the second movie into production.

What's cool about this crowd funding shindig is that the filmmakers have already secured financial backers for the vast majority of the project, as long as they can demonstrate that there is enough fan support. Apparently the monetary value of that fan support is a cool $1.5 million. The campaign has been running for a few days and they've managed to put together about $150,000 (Veronica Mars this is not), but they've got a ways to go. I gamely threw in $10 (because I am grad school, and therefore poor), but if you are a fan and want to see this movie made, now's your chance! It expires September 5th!

And hey, the perks aren't terrible either. Even if you're broke like me, $30 gets you access to exclusive updates and a digital download of the movie when it hits theaters. That's like, the cost of your movie ticket and the cost of the movie itself, presuming you were already going to buy it. Or, if you have buckets of money, you can pay for a trip to the set!

Check it all out here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Piddy doesn’t have very many things to be happy about: her best friend just moved away, and now Piddy and her mom are moving to a new apartment. It doesn’t matter much that the apartment is nicer—it’s in a new neighborhood, which means a different school. Piddy is friendless, and what’s even worse is that Yaqui Delagado—a girl Piddy has never even talked to—has decided she is going to kick Piddy’s ass. Piddy knows the adults can’t be trusted, so she decides to get tough and do anything it takes to avoid Yaqui—even if it means turning into someone she doesn’t recognize.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass is as hard-hitting and engaging as its title. Piddy is a fascinating character put in an impossible situation, and she’s smart and sympathetic, even when she’s backed into a corner. Medina aligns Piddy’s fear of Yaqui and her bullying with Piddy’s exploration of her parentage and her own sense of helplessness when it comes to knowing about her past. While both Yaqui and the truth about her father knock Piddy down, her relationships with a new girl at school, her mother’s best friend, and a childhood friend help teach her when to be tough, and when to have the strength to reach out for help. While Piddy’s resolution with her bullying problems might leave readers feeling dissatisfied, her emotional journey is well-rounded and the conclusion to this book is both realistic and hopeful.

Cover Comments: I love this cover--slightly gritty, yet shiny. I love the locker and how the title looks like graffiti. It does a great job at evoking an edgy, dangerous vibe without being too cool.

Book purchased from my indie.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Some Thoughts on John Green and Rainbow Rowell Mash-Up Marketing

Yesterday morning, I had a slight break down. It was one of those things that just happens when I am well caffeinated before 6 AM and I am fixating on something (ahem, thesis) for so long that I need a mental break and any distraction will do, and this distraction came in the form of yet ANOTHER book whose first line of description read "for fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park" and then this happened:

Because. People. Come on. Let's think about this for a moment, all right?

Besides the fact that we are all growing slightly weary of hearing everything ever compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, throwing those two titles together to describe a book doesn't really make a lot of sense.

My MFA training must be kicking in, because the first thing I wanted to do was yell, "PROVE IT!" And then the second thing I started to do was mentally outline an essay comparing those two books and a book that has been claimed to be a mash-up of the two. The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park are two very different books. Subject matter, style, point of view, characters, plot, time periods... they are so different. When I see "The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park," this conjures up confusing images of terminally ill teens in the 1980's, talking snappily back and forth while dealing with bullying, fear of death, and abusive parents. Oh, that's not the book you're trying to sell to us? Okay then.

I know what you're probably thinking: It's marketing, Tirzah. They are talking about the types of audiences that this book will appeal to.

Why? Both Green's and Rowell's books have teenagers? Feelings? Obstacles? Emotional resonance? Well, here's the thing--every single one of the YA books I read better have those things, too. But that doesn't mean I want to keep reading The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park over and over and over again. (This is not to say they aren't great books and I wouldn't enjoy re-reading either book, of course.)

When we talk about books and recommend them, we try to find common ground between different tastes and preferences, and this is where we get the "if you like x, then you will like y" method of thinking. The problem with that is that it's too much like a computer algorithm--complex, but ultimately devoid of human taste and emotion. Instead, let's look for the elements that make books stand out, that make them interesting, unique. Creativity is not some wild unicorn to be caught and replicated over and over and over again in different settings. It's unique interpretations of the world around us. I'd much rather hear about that than an itemized list of what parts of which popular books are like this one book that I might potentially like.

I can't really change who writes these crazy blurbs and flap copies, but I think we collectively as readers and writers can change the way that we talk about books and how we find connections between them. Let's be a little more creative and a lot more intelligent about how we communicate about and recommend books.