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The Compulsive Reader: May 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

Just One Night Exclusive Video + Giveaway

I don't know about you guys, but when I finished reading Just One Day and Just One Year by Gayle Forman, I was a bundle of happy and sad feelings. On one hand, hooray! A book from each character's perspective and they each had personally fulfilling journeys that eventually brought them back to each other in healthy, happy ways! On the other hand...I wanted more of Allyson and Willem!

Lucky, lucky for us, Gayle Forman has given us double happiness in the form of two awesome books and Just One Night, an e-book about Willem and Allyson, reunited at last! The e-book will be released next week, May 29th, but to celebrate (and tease), here is an exclusive video of Gayle Forman reading from Just One Night!




About Just One Night:

After spending one life-changing day in Paris with laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter, sheltered American good girl Allyson “Lulu” Healey discovered her new lover had disappeared without a trace. Just One Day followed Allyson’s quest to reunite with Willem; Just One Year chronicled the pair’s year apart from Willem’s perspective. Now, back together at last, this delectable e-novella reveals the couple’s final chapter.

About Gayle Forman:

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, The Nation, and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Lovely, right? How about triple happiness in the form of a GIVEAWAY?

One winner wins copies of Just One Day and Just One Year, plus a Double Happiness tote bag!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi

There are some books that I read and I can't just review them. I need to talk about them at length, and The Summer I Wasn't Me is one of those books. Especially in the wake of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that started a few weeks ago, I really want to continue to keep having conversations about books beyond what a simple two-paragraph review can say.

Just a warning...this is going to get spoilery.

The Summer I Wasn't Me is the story of Lexi, a closeted lesbian who has kept her sexuality a secret from her religious parents. She lives in a small community where there are no gay people and the idea of two girls kissing is a diversion at parties, something that all of the guys would laugh at. When Lexi's father dies, she goes even deeper into the closet, convinced that her sexuality would further alienate her grieving mother, who isn't coping very well.

Well, then the inevitable happens. Lexi's crush on her friend and classmate Zoe is revealed to her mom (although no one else knows, except Zoe, who has already rejected Lexi). Mom consults her pastor and suggests New Horizons, an summer anti-gay camp. Lexi goes along with it, wanting to preserve her family.

This is where I first started questioning Lexi's motivations. She seems pretty gay to me, and she seems pretty certain of her gay-ness. No lingering doubts about liking the ladies, and no desperate boy crushes. Her mom, who has been emotionally distant and, let's be honest, a bit of a bitch to her daughter, wants her to go and so she does it "for family?" I'm calling it, guys. Nope. That's not the real reason.

Now, my writer brain (and the part of my brain that is motivated by the ANGST of crushes and unrequited love) immediately went to other reasons. I suspected Zoe, who crushed Lexi's heart and told her she was gross for being gay. If I were rejected and grieving for my dad and hiding from my mom and then on top of that, I had to see the person who broke my heart and told me I was gross every day for the rest of summer, I would be taking the nearest exit out of my life, too.

But this is sort of glossed over. Okay. That's fine. I can go with this--let's get Lexi to the camp. She goes, without ever attempting to explain to her mom her feelings. I chalked this up to her confusion and lack of real-life examples of healthy, open, out gay people in her life. It sucks and it's tragic, but that's realistic. I just wish her motivations had been better depicted and more believable.

Now, the camp is as sickening as you might imagine it to be. No touching, strict rules and curfews, awful counselors. The worst is the forced "therapy" sessions in which the director, a supposed pastor, forces the teens to act out painful moments in their childhoods--supposedly the root of same-sex attractions (SSA). The teens are forced into strict gender roles, wearing pink and blue. The girls are taught to put on make-up and bake while the boys are taught baseball and how to fix things. Because one day they are going to grow up into one half of a 1950's couple. It was enough to make me want to chuck the book across the room.

Verdi did a decent job of depicting different teens with different motivations for being at New Horizons. Matthew, the out and proud guy whose parents are forcing him to be there, and Daniel, the confused and timid boy who is desperate to bury his feelings. And of course Carolyn, who is hot and interested in Lexi, but unfortunately wants to leave her SSA and heartbreak over her ex behind.

These three characters and Lexi become close. Their dynamics and somewhat rocky friendship, forced by their circumstances, was very convincing to me. They try to understand each other and they try to support each other throughout the summer because no matter where they're coming from, it is not easy being at this camp. But their frictions--and Matthew's unwillingness to let any of them deny a significant part of their identities--bring about some serious tensions that Lexi has to confront.

What bothers me the most about this book is how religion is treated as the enemy. Lexi proclaims to be a Christian, but she is really wishy washy about it. She doesn't pray, doesn't really consider her religion too seriously. It's background noise to her larger identity, but not integral--saying she believes in God is like saying she once had a pet hamster as a kid. Instead, religion in this novel becomes this cement wall that is bearing down on all of the characters. They undergo abuse and manipulation in the name of God's love. I know that's the point of this camp, but Verdi takes it even further when it is revealed that the director and pastor is sexually abusing boys. Not only does religious belief seem suddenly not-right, but it's downright, definitely, emphatically wrong. And the other adults of the camp try to make excuses for their director, compounding this message. I'm not debating the believability of this scenario--it's tragic and horrifying and sickening, but I sadly have no trouble believing that it's possible, that somewhere in the world this happens. The problem is, I don't think this is the norm. And in writing this "twist," Verdi leaves no room for religion to be an element that is nothing but wrong, wrong, wrong. Even Lexi's mom denies her religion to accept her daughter, but it comes off as something she must cast off in order to do so, not an important part of her identity that she is attempting to reconcile with her feelings for her daughter.

The rest of the book sadly spirals into an even bigger mess. Lexi's discovery of the director's abuse and attempted sexual attack on Matthew leads to the teens keeping quiet, which leads to a horrendous scene in which a questionable religious leader attempts to exorcise the homosexual devil out of Matthew by beating him in front of the entire camp (to their credit, the teens are horrified by this, and they protest, only to be restrained by other counselors). Yet the teens don't report it. Lexi acknowledges that Matthew needs medical attention, but knows that he will not be taken to a hospital because of the questions that would be raised. And when she is kicked out the next week, she is more worried about leaving her contact information for her new girl Carolyn than GETTING MATTHEW THE FUCK OUT.

She and her mom drive home, and Mom tells Lexi she will always love her, even if she's not okay with the gay thing. Then. Then...Lexi literally phones in the crime. She phones it in and Verdi sums it up with, "It's a long, difficult conversation." Then the scene ends with Lexi calling her girl. The End.

I want books that are going to challenge me. I want books that are going to challenge the status quo. I want books with full, realistic characters whose lives are disrupted, who are forced to question, and who take action. I want books that are nuanced, that explore the complexities of human experience. In The Summer I Wasn't Me, religion isn't nuanced. The camp experience is horrible. Yes, it solidifies Lexi's belief in her own sexuality and helps her see how she doesn't want to live, but this only comes about in the worst possible way. I want to read about these experiences, I think these sorts of stories are important, but not when they take the easy way out. This story takes the easy way out when it makes religion all bad. The issues are simply black and white when most teenagers questioning sexuality and identity exist in the gray space in between the two extremes.

I might not be as harsh on this book if I hadn't already read The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily danforth. It's an excellent novel and it takes Cameron to an antigay boarding school where she meets a much more varied group of queer teens who all have their own hang-ups. When tragedy strikes, it's not because of a sexual predator on staff, and one of the hardest, most important, and emotionally wrought scenes in the entire book occurs in the wake of this event. I won't ruin for you all who might want to read this excellent book, but it's the sort of nuanced discussion that I had hoped for in The Summer I Wasn't Me. Even just a smidge of that sort of thoughtfulness would have been nice.

We do need diverse books in children's and YA literature, and it's exciting to me to see so many books that are willing to tackle these tough subjects. I think though, now more than ever, we need to be aware of what these books are saying and hold them to high standards. We need books that are going to delve right into the gray area, not just simply play it safe or go for the opposite end of the spectrum.

Has anyone read The Summer I Wasn't Me? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Paradox of Vertical Flight Blog Tour + Excerpt


THE PARADOX OF VERTICAL FLIGHT by Emil Ostrovski
  
Release Date: September 24, 2013 Hardcover, 260 pages Publisher: Greenwillow Books Genre: Contemporary / Realistic Fiction / Tough Issues / Suicide
What happens when you put a suicidal eighteen-year-old philosophy student, his ex-girlfriend, his best friend, and his newborn baby in a truck and send them to Grandma's house?  This debut novel by Emil Ostrovski will appeal to fans of John Green, Chris Crutcher, and Jay Asher. On the morning of his eighteenth birthday, philosophy student and high school senior Jack Polovsky is somewhat seriously thinking of suicide when his cell phone rings. Jack's ex-girlfriend, Jess, has given birth, and Jack is the father. Jack hasn't spoken with Jess in about nine months—and she wants him to see the baby before he is adopted. The new teenage father kidnaps the baby, names him Socrates, stocks up on baby supplies at Wal-Mart, and hits the road with his best friend, Tommy, and the ex-girlfriend. As they head to Grandma's house (eluding the police at every turn), Jack tells baby Socrates about Homer, Troy, Aristotle, the real Socrates, and the Greek myths—because all stories spring from those stories, really.  Even this one.  Funny, heart-wrenching, and wholly original, this debut novel by Emil Ostrovski explores the nature of family, love, friendship, fate, fatherhood, and myth.
Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Goodreads
My phone rings, but I don't get up.
    In my dream, the teacher hands out frogs, living frogs, and lectures: “Frogs produce smaller air bubbles than humans, who in turn produce smaller air bubbles than llamas. We find this out by drowning the species in question, of course.  Please drown your frog and make sure to measure the diameter of its air bubbles, rounding to the nearest significant digit.  Tomorrow we’ll measure the bubbles produced by our lab partners, and the day after that, the students that are left will move on to the llamas.”  It makes no sense at all, but so it goes with my dreams.  Some people dream of epic heroes’ quests, of saving the universe from a great evil, and I get dreams about the differentiation of air bubbles across species.
Around nine I roll myself into a sitting position, finger the gunk out of my eyes, examine it for a moment, and then launch it across the room to where I don’t have to immediately deal with it.  My roommate’s snores filter down from the top bunk.
My cell is on my desk. The blinking red light of a missed call flashes across the room. Damn. I missed Bob. I try calling her back, but she doesn’t answer. She’s always losing her phone, misplacing it; broke it a few times from chucking it, because she couldn’t get the idiotskaya electronica to work.
I call my grandma “Bob” because I’m too lazy to bother with the alternatives; namely, “Babushka,”“Baba,” and “starypur,” the Russian version of old fart. Bob has Alzheimer’s, and it’s my birthday, so her call means today’s one of those days, or maybe just one of those moments, a flash, when she remembers me.
Partly to distract myself from the guilt, but mostly out of habit, I turn on my computer and wait for Windows to load.  I don’t capitalize “god” but I always capitalize “Windows.”  I spend much of my life in front of a screen, plugged into the matrix, looking through a Window into my virtual life.  Still waiting on a black dude with a name that sounds like a drug to show up and teach me kung fu, though.
I log in to Facebook and I’m so depressed I want to laugh. Fifteen Facebook friends have wished me a happy birthday so far. I’ve never really cared about birthdays, honestly—I mean, it’s just another day—but to see all these people, most of whom I don’t know or in a few years won’t remember, wishing me a happy birthday makes me feel like I should care. Like it should be a special day, like it should mean something.
I think I hate Facebook.
I lean back in my chair and stare out the window. When I’m thirty years old, will I still get a bunch of people I don’t know wishing me a happy birthday? Will that number dwindle over the years? Will, year by year, some people who’ve forgotten me remember and some people who’ve remembered me forget? What’s the point of it all, for any of us, if that’s the way it goes—if the way it ends is with me logging into Facebook at ninety years old, bald and fat and wearing a diaper and not remembering how to get to the toilet, which is why I’m wearing a diaper in the first place, and seeing, what? Fifteen people I don’t know wishing me a happy birthday? And each of my fifteen with fifteen of their own, on and on, a miserable network of Happy Birthday Facebook wishes connecting the entire world, the entire human race, until one day we nuke ourselves and it all goes black and there are no more happy birthdays for anyone.
Sometimes I get like this, depressed I mean, but I’m not one of those crazies, you know, a danger to themselves and others, nothing like that. Never even contemplated suicide, though in a few seconds I will be contemplating jumping out a window. It’s hot—eighty, maybe more; my T-shirt’s wet on my body, and it feels more miserable than it has any right to for a May morning in our great moose- infested state of Maine. I wheel over to open the window, slide it all the way up. I have to stand so I can reach the screen, to slide it down into place. Instead I stick my hand out.
What if I jump? What if I jump, now? I don’t want to die, but getting hurt would be kind of nice, you know? Like two years ago, when I got my appendix out. Everyone from class sent Get Well cards and Tommy skipped school to spend a day with me playing video games in the hospital. Yeah, that’s selfish, but remembering your friend because he almost kicked it is just as selfish.
I turn away from the window. The attention would last a couple weeks, max. Then everyone would go back to their own lives and everything would be the same.  But unlike when I got my appendix out, I might be crippled for life.
I walk on over to my desk, pull open a drawer, shuffle through video game boxes and CDs and pencils and pens and a worn pink eraser I never use but bring to school every quarter anyway.   I grab the bottle of pills, sit back down on my chair, and stare at the bottle.  Painkillers.  From a few months back, when I got into a fight with a fence over the arbitrary authority by which it goes about the supremely arrogant task of delineating space.  The fence won the tiff, but, fractured ankle aside, I like to think I’ll win the war.  I set the painkillers on the desk, and check under my bed. That’s where I keep my water, but there isn’t any left, so I stuff the pills in my pocket.
“Hey,” comes my roommate Alan’s I’m-still-three-quarters-sleeping voice.
I spin round.  “Hey,” I say, too loud.
He frowns at me, head about three inches off the pillow, and says, “Feel like I wanted to say something to you.  But I forget. I’ll remember.”
“That’s all right.”
“Jack,” he says, suddenly concerned.  “It is a Saturday, right?”
“Yeah,” I say. “No worries.”
“Phew,” he says.  His head drops back down. Almost every Saturday Alan groggily asks me if it’s really the weekend—like he can’t quite believe it himself.  He’s a nice guy, Alan, as nice a roommate as you could hope for, but we don’t really do anything together aside from, well, sleeping together. .It’s just that kind of a relationship.
I have my hand on our doorknob when--voices in the hall.  When they’re gone I nudge the door open and head for the bathroom. A guy’s in the shower, singing something about how we’re meant to be together in a voice that he really should keep a firm leash and a choke collar on if he insists on taking it out in public.
I set the bottle of pills on the shelf below the mirror. My reflection has a zit coming up on his forehead. It hurts to touch. He squeezes anyway, and bites at the inside of his lip. It explodes; a bit of yellow-white pus hits him in the eye and slides down, down, like a tear.
How many pills will kill me and how many will almost kill me? That is the question. It’s a fine line, probably. I open the bottle, look inside, and frown. Pull the cotton ball out.
I turn on the faucet. And hold my hands under the warm water.  Close my eyes.  Breathe.  Breathe.  I’m about to down my first pill when my cell rings. Once, twice, three times. The guy in the shower stops singing.

My breath catches when I see the number.
May 12th Unconventional Librarian – Guest Post
May 12th Buried In Books – Review
May 12th The Compulsive Reader – Review
May 13th The Bookish Confections – Review/Excerpt
May 13th Books With Bite – Review
May 13th Bibliophilia, Please – Interview/Guest Post
May 14th What A Nerd Girl Says  – Review/Interview
May 14th Live To Read - Krystal – Review
May 14th The Happy Booker – Review/GP
May 14th Kaidans Seduction – Review
May 14th LRB Guest Post – Review
May 15th Escaping One Book At A Time – Review
May 15th Alice Marvels – Review
May 15th Scott Reads It! – Review
May 16th DanaSquare – Review
May 16th Paranormal Book Club – Guest Post
May 16th Books Complete Me – Review
May 16th The-Society.Net – Review/Playlist
May 16th Book Loving Mom – Review
“I'm twenty-three. Rather than give you a witty, self-deprecating account of the trials and tribulations of my twenty-three year old, suburban, upper-middle class, went-to-a-girl's-liberal-arts-college life, I'll admit that I haven't really done anything much worth reading about. So in lieu of providing you with my biography, I will recommend that you read Desmond Tutu's.  Here.   Why Desmond Tutu? Well, I've always liked his name.”
 Blog

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cover Talk: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

One of the more memorable memoirs I've read in the past year was Aaron Hartzler's brilliant Rapture Practice. You can click over to my review here. In a nutshell: I love Hartzler's voice, his humor, and his curiosity, and his love for his family. I'm very excited that this wonderful memoir is out in paperback this month, and look! Cover update!

The hardcover version, which I think is brilliant:


I really like when covers are bright and have distinct graphic images, and this ticket is perfect. I love how it's torn in half and how the title is arranged. This is quite possibly one of my favorite covers, and I think that as an added bonus, it has some cross-over adult book appeal.

And the new paperback cover:


I like this, but in different ways. It's definitely more cheeky than the hardcover edition, but it stands out and proclaims a message much louder than the original. This memoir is about rebellion, but it's not about rejection, which I think is an important distinction to make. (Also interesting to note is the brand-new subtitle--A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family.) The new cover seems to want to catch more attention, which I sincerely hope it does--this is such an important book.

So, if you haven't read it, mark May 27th on the calendar! Get it in paperback. Or, if you can't wait (or prefer the ticket cover), just go get it now. It's that good, I promise.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

This book is one that I have had on my bookshelf since I was 15. I don't exactly remember how it entered my life, but I do know that various people have told me repeatedly over the years to read it. I'm almost ashamed that it took me so long because now that I've finished, I can't believe I waited so long. My twenty-something self loved this book so much, and I know that my 15-year-old self would have been utterly devoted to this book. Just...read it.

Cassandra Mortmain and her family live in poverty the ruins of a castle on the English countryside. Cassandra’s father, a brilliant writer who has never been able to replicate the success of his first book, spends his days reading crime novels while the family struggles to make a living without many marketable skills or resources, but with plenty of pluck and optimism. When the Cotton family—American, wealthy, fascinating—arrive in their lives, the Mortmain family is forever changed.

Told in Cassandra’s journal entries, I Capture the Castle is as much a family story as it is a record of Cassandra’s coming-of-age. Cassandra carefully depicts her romantic older sister, her quirky stepmother Topaz, and her brilliant, withdrawn father with brutal honesty, and their actions, particularly her sister’s, are what propel the novel. The plot is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s satirical marriage-driven stories, but the perspective that Cassandra lends to the story is refreshingly offbeat. Smith’s whimsical settings and Cassandra’s charming narration belie the darker aspects of the story—unrequited love, poverty, broken hearts, and the stark realization that true love is complicated and not a magic fix. I Capture the Castle is wonderfully witty, completely memorable, emotionally charged, and so realistic that you will forget that it’s a novel.

Cover Comments: I feel silly remarking on this cover. It's a reprint--this book was published in 1948 and brought back into print about fifteen years ago. I actually really like the cover pictured--it's very charming, very early 20th century. It fits. But the cover doesn't matter. This book is magical enough that it doesn't need a cover.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

After the Book Deal: Guest Post from Jonathan Auxier

The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!



Back to the Grindstone – How and When to Start Your Next Novel

Yesterday we talked about how reviews (good and bad) can sometimes hurt the creative process, today we’ll look at how and when to start your second book.

Second books are notoriously tricky. A quick Google search of “second novel syndrome” yields thousands of discouraging results. In the spirit of this blog series, I’ll use my own experience to frame the advice I have about sophomore slumps.

So When Should You Start Your Next Book?

My knee-jerk reaction is to say AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! After publishing Peter Nimble, I spent nine months on the road visiting schools and festivals all over the country. There is no question that those events made a difference in the success of the book (15 months after pub, we were still selling strong hardcover numbers!), but that effort came at a price. At the end of my debut year, I found myself staring at a literal blank page for my next book.

Not only was the page blank, but I was creatively paralyzed. I had so many voices from reviewers/readers/editors/friends in my head that I could hardly think. Even though I had an idea of what I wanted to write, every word I put down felt somehow compromised—like I was writing for someone else’s approval rather than some internal need. For me, at least, this was a recipe for disaster: after months of daily writing, I had only four good pages.

During this same period, I made a point of talking to veteran authors about their second books. That’s when I realized my first big mistake: Almost every other author had written a draft of their second book before their debut came out. Even if that first draft was ugly, it meant that when they resumed writing, they weren’t working from a blank page. It also meant that when interviewers asked “what’s next?” they actually had an exciting answer!

So how did I beat the slump? Well, I did a few different things that ended up working ...

Skip the Line

Eventually I concluded that my work-in-progress was never going to be written. After painful months of struggle, I put the manuscript aside and moved on to something completely new: The Night Gardener. My new-second book wasn’t instantly magical, nor was it easy—but at least I was free from all the voices and baggage associated with earlier failure. Slowly, as the months went by, I started writing pages that I actually wanted to keep. And after about 18 months, I had an entire manuscript.

Change Gears

One reason I think that the new-second book was easier to write was that it was very different from my debut. The Night Gardener is a spooky story about two children trapped in a cursed house ... very different from the silly, fantastical high-seas adventure of Peter Nimble. The books are almost impossible to compare to one another, which, as it turned out, is hugely liberating. (Bounus: people who were only so-so on my first book, have LOVED this new one ... so maybe changing up my game was a good thing!)

Fast Then Slow

The biggest benefit of getting out of my head was that it finally let me sit down and just write the dang thing. Instead of painstakingly crafting sentences, I just made quick notes (using: option + command + A) in the margins to fix later and KEPT ON WRITING.

Please note that I am not suggesting you should rush to publish your second—only that you should get a draft down early. After that, I think it’s permissible (and maybe even preferable) to slow down and take your time in revision. We’ve all read those tragic novels that could have been great ... had they not been so obviously rushed.

For me and the way my brain works, careful revision is essential. (Case in point: I actually ended up cutting over 16 pages from the arc of The Night Gardener.) Of course, if you’re one of those authors who can write quickly, go for it! But never let the pressures of publication force you to release a book into the world before it’s ready.

That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Tomorrow we’ll be talking about the tricky world of money management for authors. You can catch up on previous posts (listed below), and please-oh-please spread the word!

AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Stops So Far

WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
4/21 – Finding Your Tribe: entering the publishing community
4/22 – Do I Really Need a Headshot?: crafting your public persona
4/23 – I Hate Networking: surviving social media
4/24 – A Night at the Movies: the ins and outs of book trailers
4/25 – Giveaways! … are they worth it?

WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
4/28 - Can I have Your Autograph?: 5 things to do before your first signing
4/29 – Cinderella at the Ball: planning a successful book launch
5/1 – Being Heard in the Crowd: conferences and festivals
5/2 - The Loneliest Writer in the World: surviving no-show events

WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
5/5 – Handling Reviews … the Good and the Bad!

***

JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores onMay 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new.

The Forbidden Library Blog Tour with Django Wexler and Seth Fishman!

Welcome to THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY blog tour! In honor of Django Wexler’s new series, perfect for fans of Coraline, Inkheart, and The Books of Elsewhere, we’ve paired Django and fellow Penguin author Seth Fishman (The Well’s End) in a battle of wits! Each day for the next two weeks, Seth and Django will challenge each other to escape from popular story scenes in the most creative way. Follow along as the two try to outmatch each other and check out some cool interior art from THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY along the way!

Django to Seth: In Ender’s Game would Mia wipe out the Buggers, in the final battle? What about Brayden?

This is a bit of a spoiler no? Ender’s Game is one of my favorite, and I think Ender Wiggin and his family are amazing characters in that they are what we can never be. While I think that Mia Kish, the main character in The Well’s End, has a remarkable amount of empathy for a young woman, I also think with her fears of the dark she'd never be recruited for battle school, sadly. Mia might be too normal to take over command of the human forces. She makes too many mistakes based on human error, like any teenager and Ender is literally designed to thrive in the situations any normal teen might fail. That said, if she did get in, I think she'd do great physically, and probably end up like Petra - not the leader of the troops. And I don’t just say that because Petra is basically the only woman in the school. Mia would be a great sub lieutenant but wouldn’t have it in her to do what Ender did.

Brayden, though... I always like to think that he adapts to all circumstances very well. He'd wipe out the Buggers and no one would trust him ever again.

About The Forbidden Library:
"Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That--along with everything else--changed the day she met her first fairy. 
When Alice's father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon--an uncle she's never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it's hard to resist. 
Especially if you're a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within. 
It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice."
About Django Wexler: Django Wexler is the author of The Thousand Names. He lives near Seattle, Washington.

About The Well’s End:
Sixteen-year-old Mia Kish's small town of Fenton, Colorado is known for three things: being home to the world's tallest sycamore tree, the national chicken-thigh-eating contest and one of the ritziest boarding schools in the country, Westbrook Academy. But when emergency sirens start blaring and Westbrook is put on lockdown, quarantined and surrounded by soldiers who shoot first and ask questions later, Mia realizes she's only just beginning to discover what makes Fenton special.

And the answer is behind the wall of the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics, of which her father is the Director. Mia's dad has always been secretive about his work, allowing only that he's working for the government. But unless Mia's willing to let the whole town succumb to a strange illness that ages people years in a matter of hours, the end result death, she's got to break quarantine, escape the school grounds and outsmart armed soldiers to uncover the truth.
About Seth Fishman: Seth Fishman is a native of Midland, Texas (think Friday Night Lights), and a graduate of Princeton University and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. He spends his days as a literary agent at The Gernert Company and his nights (and mornings) writing. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. This is his first novel (that's not in a drawer).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Emi is a set designer who enjoys being behind the scenes but can’t seem to find the movie magic she craves in her own life. When she stumbles upon a famous movie star’s letter to his estranged daughter, Emi and her best friend Charlotte follow the mystery to Ava, a troubled and talented actress on the cusp of her own career. Emi is drawn to Ava, and as their mutual attraction heightens, Emi discovers the true magic of romance.

Everything Leads to You is a beautiful, romantic, and emotionally compelling story with a wide cast of vivid characters. LaCour’s strong imagery helps anchor emotion to particular settings in this novel; the lush safety of Emi’s apartment, the loneliness of the desert that Ava ran away from, and the empty opulence of Ava’s new apartment have strong emotional ties to each character’s story arc. All these settings are particularly meaningful as the set designer in Emi is especially attuned with places and how they reveal character. The emotions of this story are written perfectly, and the romance between Emi and Ava builds beautifully as the plot unfolds, bringing them closer together against believable odds that thankfully have nothing to do with their sexuality. Everything Leads to You realistically captures the disappointments of growing up, the exhilaration of first love, and the magic of true connection through an unconventional lens.

Cover Comments: I love this cover so much--it's so gorgeous and soft and light. The city skyline along the ending is also perfect.

ARC provided by publisher.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A List of LGBT YA Books, A #WeNeedDiverseBooks Discussion

As a part of our many, many ongoing conversations about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, Amy Rose Capetta and I put our heads together and came up with this list of YA books with LGBT protagonists. This campaign is meant for diverse books of all types, but we are especially attuned to LGBT books--particularly the ones with lesbian and bi characters. If we've missed any, let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the list!

Starred are the books we've read and can recommend!

*34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues
*37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon
*A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
*Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
*Am I Blue? Ed. Marion Dane Bauer
*Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alearz Saenz
*Ash by Malinda Lo
*Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills
*Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
*Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson (On the Count of Three)
Coda by Emma Trevayne
Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock
*The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
*Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
*Far From You by Tess Sharpe
*Fat Angie by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo
Freak Boy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
The Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
Gone, Gone, Gone Hannah Moscovitz
*Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Hero by Perry Moore
How Beautiful the Ordinary Ed. Michael Cart
*Huntress by Malinda Lo
I Am J by Cris Beam
*If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
*Inheritance by Malinda Lo
Keeping You a Secret by Julie Ann Peters
*Killing Miss Kitty and Other Sins by Marion Dane Bauer
Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters
*Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
*Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Pretend You Love Me by Julie Anne Peters
Proxy by Alex London
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
*Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler
Rage by Julie Anne Peters
Rules for Hearts by Sara Ryan
She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters
*Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
*The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi
Teeth by Hannah Mosckowitz
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
*Everything by David Levithan

Some observations:

Books about bi girls are almost non-existent. The only one on the list was Far From You and Malinda Lo's Adaptation and Inheritance.

The only speculative fiction with lesbian protagonists are the books by Malinda Lo. What's up with that??

Seriously, though.

I also posted this picture of a display I made at work the other day:


The display includes:

And Tango Makes Three
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
The Colored Car by Jean Alicia Elster
Old Mikamba Had a Farm

And finally, one last picture...


The view outside of the bookstore today included a lovely rainbow. I'm taking it as a sign.

Continue using the hashtag, recommending books, and if you can, buying them!