The Compulsive Reader: November 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Leila keeps a low profile at school, where her Iranian heritage makes her stand out and her attraction to girls would make her even more an outcast. But when new girl Saskia arrives on the scene, Leila finds herself drawn to her, taking risks that could out her to her parents and force her to finally confront a myriad of issues she’s been carefully avoiding.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is not just a coming out story, but a coming of age story. It’s about identity and honesty, and it’s about being true to yourself in every aspect, not just as far as sexuality is concerned. Farizan’s upbeat tone and sense of humor balance out Leila’s angst and help poke fun at the many double standard’s Leila’s parents impose on Leila and her sister. Some of the drama is over the top, but the story always stays true to Leila’s character as her eyes are open to tensions between her social groups and she re-evaluates her own assumptions about other people. The outcome is optimistic, but not unjustly so—characters develop, mistakes are made, and self-awareness is achieved. Farizan’s second novel is an emotionally resonant, funny, and nuanced story, and Leila is a memorable character.

Cover Comments: Hello, awkward horizontal girls looking at each other. If lesbian hands are a thing, so are compare/contrast the lesbian covers!

Book purchased at my indie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

When Isabel Culpeper leaves Mercy Falls after the conclusion of Forever, Cole St. Clair, a werewolf, heads to Los Angeles to win her back under the guise of reviving his music career. Cole knows that neither of them is perfect, but he’s determined to find a way to be with Isabel, even if it means confronting his past mistakes head-on.

Sinner focuses completely on the weird, complicated relationship between Cole and Isabel, who were secondary characters in Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy. As a standalone, this novel is hard to follow—Cole’s crazy antics, Isabel’s dramatics, and their messy history color the plot points, and the stakes are not as clear or as pressing as in the Shiver books. At a glance, the book is a jumble of high-maintenance characters making impulsive decisions, but the elegant descriptions of Cole and Isabel’s emotions are stirring, and their emotional arc is ultimately very satisfying. Stiefvater is clearly a gifted writer, and although the plot takes more room to unfold and the werewolf elements are faint, Sinner is definitely a must-read for fans of the Shiver trilogy.

Cover Comments: I cannot speak about this cover without remembering that the Shiver trilogy got a cover facelift as well, and then crying because they took something so beautiful and made it ugly.

Book borrowed from my library.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Support #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The comments made during the National Book Award ceremony this week just go to show how very important campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks are. The good news: The funding goal of $100,000 has been reached! But we can keep donating and raising money to allow this organization to do even more to promote diversity in publishing.

Today, Daniel Handler donated $10,000 to the campaign as part of his apology to Jacqueline Woodson. He'll also match all donations TODAY ONLY, up to $100,000.

Donating the first time felt awesome. Donating a second time, knowing that my money is being matched by Handler, felt even better. I encourage you to see what you can spare to donate today as well. We could easily reach $200,000!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson!

Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson, the winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature! 

Pick up a copy of Brown Girl Dreaming as soon as humanly possible!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

I've been a pretty loyal follower of the Vampire Academy series almost since the very beginning, and I was happy enough when the Bloodlines series came out--I liked Sydney in the VA series, I was grateful Adrian finally got over Rose (let's be honest, his puppy dog act over her was pathetic), yay witchcraft, etc., etc. But Silver Shadows... Silver Shadows takes my love for the characters and the world and stretches it. So far. So thin. Silver Shadows doesn't just ask you to suspend your disbelief a while--it required you to kick your disbelief right over the edge of a cliff...or a Las Vegas tower (we'll get to that).

So let's get started. This will be spoiler-y.

We start out with Sydney locked away by the Alchemists because she dared to see the humanity (ha) in vampires and because she likes the sexy times with Adrian. NEVER MIND the fact that the Alchemists have been using vampire magic and powers and literally tattoo vampire blood into their skin. Being friends with a vampire? Not cool.

There was a lot of talk about how The Fiery Heart was going to be like, The Shadow Kiss of the Bloodlines trilogy. I would't quite go THAT far, because, 1) We all knew that Sydney was going to go to re-education the minute Mead told us such a program existed (that's called creating reader expectations and making good on your promises) and 2) Nothing was as heartbreaking as Dimitri turning Strigoi right after he and Rose finally had the sexy times. Even still, yikes. Sydney in re-education. It can't be good, right? I mean, they like, lobotomize people and make rapists these really wimpy, weak human beings. (For the record, I don't feel sorry for that rapist, not a bit.)

But I was willing to go with it because I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity for Adrian to finally get off his ass, put away the vices, and do something after being a terrible noodle of a character for ten books.







He broods attractively for weeks after she's kidnapped, whining and complaining and basically being the opposite of attractive until Marcus freaking Finch shows up and is all like, "We going to rescue Sydney or what?"

(Also, where the hell is Ms. Crazy Pants Witchcraft Instructor in all of this? Talk about lack of loyalty. She doesn't even poke her nose out in this book, much less offer her help. And after Sydney saved her life from that crazy-ass witch and house fire!)

So Sydney has to do what any strong, resourceful, intelligent woman her age would so--save her own goddamn self. And let me say, she works at it pretty well, using magic and making allies and slowly, subtly thwarting the uber Alchemists. Only...she's caught! Because the Alchemists are just that good. Good thing that Adrian is finally done feeling sorry for himself at this point, and he and a bunch of other people rescue not just Sydney, but EVERYONE stuck in re-education. That's how gallant Adrian is. And Sydney is eternally grateful.

Adrian and Sydney take off on their own because Sydney knows the Alchemists are going to be after them, and thus begins the truly spectacular part of the book. Go get a refill and a snack because you're going to need it.

I would like to nominate Richelle Mead for the "Longest Chase Scene" award. Because the chase that ensues covers not just blocks, but miles and days and I don't think they sleep at all, plus they're injured, and in between all that THEY GET MARRIED. Yes, you read that right. The chase takes them through Vegas, where OF COURSE they decide to get married. Because love. But also because the Moroi are all major dicks who won't stick their heads out to protect Sydney because she's an Alchemist. NEVER MIND that Sydney helped put Lissa on the throne. Nope, Lissa is all like, "Let the Alchemists do what they want, I don't care, I've got exams coming up." And Rose is like, "Meh, Sage was cool and all but I think I'll defer to Lissa on this one." So rather than appealing the Moroi conscience, Adrian is all like, "Hey, wanna get married?"

And Sydney goes, "Yeah, sure."

And Adrian is all, "That's cool, cause we love each other. But it'll also give you Moroi protection."

And Sydney is like, "Dude, I could so use that right now. Plus a bath."

So because this is Vegas, Adrian manages to get into a high-stakes poker game, win big, and use that money to bank roll not just a Vegas wedding, but the finest, classiest goddamn Vegas wedding that money can buy.

Which of course, the Alchemists crash.

Adrian and Sydney go running down the strip in their fancy pants clothes (just married!), lugging a tote bag of all of their possessions. They climb a freaking tower to a helicopter pad, have a major showdown with the Big Bad Alchemist, and then jet off to Moroi court.

The end?


At court, everyone is all WTF, Adrian? You can't just marry an Alchemist! She's like, human!

And Adrian is all, "You have to protect her! She's my wife! I love her!"

Then the Alchemists show up there, along with Sydney's father and sister, and are all, "SYDNEY SAGE, YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE."

And Sydney. Precious, charming, bad-ass, magic-wielding Sydney, who not just thirty pages earlier told Adrian that she wasn't changing her name because feminism, goes, "My name is Sydney Ivashkov."

And everyone freaks out, and is all like, Man this shit just got real, but first, they decide that maybe the newlyweds should get some sleep, because they haven't slept since chapter five.


*brain explosion*

#wtfRichelleMead #wherewasyoureditor

And there wasn't one single Strigoi in the entire novel!

The Ruby Circle comes out in February. It's the last one, and I think it's a good thing because I don't know if I could handle much more after this book. I just can't, guys.

Cover Comments: The covers continue to be awful.

Book purchased at an indie. I had a coupon. I am grateful to that coupon.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Tarot Tour: The Devil

Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle is one of the most enticing, magical, and artfully-written YA series that I follow. It's also one of the most complicated, twisty, and maddening (in a good, oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-that-just-happened way). To celebrate the release of the third book in the series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, bloggers from all around the YA lit worlds are doing a Tarot reading of the series so far.

Today's card is...

The Devil

(Maggie Stiefvater drew that. She's such a multi-faceted artist!)

The Devil card is a tricky card. It might not be as ominous as you think. Here's what it means according to this source:
"When the Devil card appears in a reading it usually shows that you are not in control of your life, sometimes as a result of your own actions, but more often as a byproduct of inaction. This loss of control often leads to loss of hope, and a lack of faith in your own abilities. Sometimes ignorance and materialism are the tools of the Devil, and those traits will be evident if you focus on worldly possessions and power while ignoring the spiritual power you have inside of you. As a result, your creativity and energy can be seriously impaired, and you may not wish to regain control of yourself."
Oh, Adam. I love Adam, even when his pride and hang-ups and insecurity and fierce determination to not accept any help, ever, even if it means getting beaten to death makes me want to punch him myself.

But then there's RONAN. Ronan who's messed up and is ruled by his secrets and demons and keeps stealing expensive cars out of his dreams and racing them and wrecking them, because CARS. He's got a lot to overcome, too.

Heck, they all do. What I love about Maggie's books is that each and every character is fully developed, complicated, and dealing with their own inner demons in really interesting ways. Things get REAL interesting in this series, and frankly, I'm terrified to see where these characters will end up. (Please don't kill Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan...oh wait, Noah is already dead...um...) But I am also crazy-excited! Bring on Blue Lily, Lily Blue and untitled book four!

About Blue Lily, Lily Blue:

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Follow the tour, and check out the Pinterest page to see all of the tarot cards! Learn more about the series on the official site.

Have some opinions about what the Devil card means for the Raven Cycle? Share in the comments, and don't forget to enter to win a set of all three books, plus a Maggie Tarot deck of your very own!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Josephine Alibrandi is both proud to be of Italian descent and frustrated that her heritage separates her from the rest of her “Australian” classmates. But she’s got a plan to become a lawyer and free herself from the expectations of her overbearing family. When the father she’s never met walks into her life during her final year of school, Josie is challenged to re-examine everything she knows about her family and her plans for the future.

Looking for Alibrandi “swept the pool of literary awards for young adult fiction” when it was first published twenty-two years ago in Australia, and I can certainly see why. It has a certain timeless quality that makes it instantly accessible and Josephine is the kind of brash, imperfect, engaging, and lovable character who doesn’t cease to exist after the final page. The scenes between Josephine and her father are perhaps the most entertaining, and his appearance in Josie’s life gives the novel a bit of cohesion to cling to, as Marchetta covers a lot of ground in Josephine’s life throughout the course of the book. A number of chapters end with Josphine’s opinions and questions about society, which are interesting and do a great job of giving her life and experiences a wider context. The tragedy, family secrets, intense emotion, lack of a traditional happy ending and Josie’s emotional growth make this book deeply satisfying and memorable.

Cover Comments: I am not a fan of this American cover. The colors are weird, the way they cut off the girl's face is weird, the font is okay...sigh. I hate when amazing books get less than stellar covers. It's almost as bad as the American Saving Francesca cover.

Book purchased from my indie.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Entangled Blog Tour: Amy Rose Capetta On Angry Girls (Plus a Giveaway!)

Amy Rose Capetta's novel Entangled is a high-stakes, science-y, adventurous sci-fi novel that I adored when it first came out last fall. It's out in paperback TODAY, just in time for you to add it to your Christmas wish list if you haven't already. Whether you've read Entangled or are eagerly awaiting the sequel, Unmade, check out what Amy Rose has to say about angry girl characters in YA fiction, and her inspiration for her protagonist, Cade! Plus, a fun video excerpt and a giveaway!

About the book:

Entangled is the story of seventeen-year-old Cade, a fierce survivor who lives solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar until she finds out she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

The rest of Cade’s story is coming in Unmade, which hits shelves January 13, 2015!

(For my review of Entangled, click here!)

Here's Amy Rose!

I love angry girls. 
Let me explain. 
The main character of my first two novels—Entangled, and its soon-to-come sequel Unmade—is an angry girl. Cade has plenty of reasons to be unhappy. She lives in a hostile universe where humans are treated like space trash. Her planet is a glorified sand trap. The bar where she has a standing gig is filled with less than savory types, run by an alien who would love to feel Cade up with one of his MANY hands. On top of that, there’s no refuge from this terrible world in some sort of inner life. Cade’s head is filled with The Noise—a glorified static that’s with her every minute. She can only chase it away by playing her guitar as loud as humanly possible. 
When I first started writing about Cade, the words raced each other to reach the page. The emotions felt true. The story formed as I went. The whole thing thrilled me.

The whole thing terrified me, too. 
I was so worried that Cade’s story wouldn’t do well if I sent it out into the world. 
Because we don’t love for girls to be angry, do we? It’s…well. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE. It means that girls aren’t always brave and pretty and perfect and giving and good. Our society doesn’t really want them to step outside of those boxes.

So we dismiss them. There are so many ways that girls are dismissed on a daily basis, so many words we have for how they act that we don’t apply with the same freedom to boys. We call girls emotional, hysterical, silly, bossy, crazy. We act like everything they think and feel is out of proportion. We call them hormonal and bitchy and whiny and… 
The list goes on. 
I’ve always wanted to write angry girl characters. I think some people look at me now, with my optimism and my enthusiasm and my knitted hats, and figure that I’ve always been this way. But when I went to a recent party with people from my high school, no one knew who I was. The kids on my bus? The ones I sat in homeroom and English with and ate glorious cafeteria fries with and endured terrible tests and pep rallies with? They literally did not recognize me. Because the girl I used to be was awkward and acerbic and, yes, angry. People at that party were confused that I was standing in a social group and speaking to them because teenage Amy would rather have stepped on a cactus. Intentionally. For fun.   
Cade is the closest character I’ve written to my own teenage experience.

My life at seventeen was infinitely better than Cade’s. I had a loving family, one amazing friend—she’s the one I dedicated Entangled to—and I lived in a relatively safe environment. (Although the school system that seemed so idyllic at the time was recently the site of the Newtown school shootings. Which, yes, made me angry. Angrier than anything has in years.) Despite my nice upbringing, in some ways, I still lived in a hostile universe. Everywhere I turned, I was hit with information about how terrible the world actually was—how many people were being hurt. All the time. How many of those people were girls and women. Sometimes it felt like there were less than savory types waiting for me everywhere—and it was my job to avoid them. On top of that, I had no refuge inside of my own head. It was filled with a kind of interference, too—the grey blanket of depression. I could only rip it away for a little while by writing as much as humanly possible. (And, yes, long drives with loudloud music helped.)
I was an angry girl. 
That girl is still with me. She’s not all of who I am anymore, but I still respect the hell out of the teenager I used to be. She was the first fully awake version of me. She wasn’t engaged with the world, not yet. Engagement looked too hard, too painful, and not really worth it. But that’s what Entangled is about, too—about giving Cade the choice that I had, the choice that we all have, to step outside of ourselves and risk too much to find other people who will understand.

So I had my manuscript and my truths clenched in my fist and I thought I would have an impossible time finding a home for them. I thought I would have to defend every word. I was ready for a fight.

But when I let Cade out into the world, she started to make friends right away. Agents were intrigued by her story. Editors didn’t seem scared away. And one amazing editor—Kate O’Sullivan at HMH—became Cade’s biggest champion. Maybe the universe was ready for this girl’s anger. Maybe it helped that I grounded it so much in my own teenage feelings. Maybe I just got monumentally lucky.

It was probably all of these things.

I’m glad that I didn’t keep myself away from this story. I’m a writer. I’m supposed to face the UNCOMFORTABLE. If this was about selling you something pretty and nicely packaged, I would be in another business. The world is always trying to sell girls something. Usually it’s the story of who we’re supposed to be. Happy and easy and pretty. Satisfied and strong and sexy and smart (but not too smart.) In a word: Perfect. 
And there’s no room for angry in perfect. 
But girls aren’t perfect. We have shitty days and sex drives and selfish moments. We swear and make enormous mistakes and then make them again. And we are brave and generous and funny and strange and completely amazing.

Denying someone’s full humanity because it makes you uncomfortable? 
That makes ME uncomfortable. 
(And, yes. Angry.)

For an exclusive excerpt of Cade and her angry girl ways, watch below!

Fill out the form below for a chance to win a signed, personalized paperback copy of Entangled!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want a signed copy right away? Order from Amy Rose's local indie bookstore and she'll sign and personalize the book for you! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Let me introduce you to my new favorite graphic novel...

“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.”

Three sisters are stranded in a house in the middle of winter. A bride hears the ghostly song of her new husband’s first wife. Two brothers find themselves irrevocably changed after one night in the woods. A girl thinks she knows everything about her best friend and her ability to talk to the dead. A sister discovers the terrifying truth about her brother’s fiancée.

What I love so much about this collection is how nicely, cleverly feminist these stories are. With the exception of one story, the protagonists are all female, and they’re not just naïve girls or witches. They’re heroes, anti-heroes, friends, and antagonists. Each of these original stories is very different in tone, voice, and time period, but Carroll’s darkly whimsical art and portrayal of the woods unifies them. She favors unexpected twists, usually delivered in the final frame in the form of one striking word or image. These twists and surprises encourage multiple re-readings and the violence and ambiguity of each store contribute to the sense that these stories are as old as anything the Grimm brothers ever recorded. Through the Woods is a book you most definitely want to own.

I love, love the art. I love how Carroll inserts herself into the collection with the chilling prologue and epilogue, and the image of the woman in the blue cloak. If I could, I would frame and hang the spreads of this book on my walls.

Purchased from indie Schuler Books & Music, whereupon finding it on the shelf I hugged it and did not let it go.