The Compulsive Reader: May 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pressing Pause

Hey everyone,

This is just a quick note to say that I'm pressing pause on all blog-related activity for the rest of the month. I have a few scheduled posts that will be going up, but otherwise I'm going to be giving my final few weeks of my MFA program everything I've got. Everything will resume to normal operations (what is normal?) in early June. I've never gone on hiatus in the seven years I've been blogging, so this was a tough decision to make, but my brain is completely focused on the looming deadlines and that's just where I need to be at this point. Thanks for the patience and understanding. Please send coffee.

Love to you all,


Monday, May 18, 2015

Guest Post from Melissa Grey, Author of Girl at Midnight!

Girl at Midnight is a new fantasy novel by Melissa Grey, and it came out last month! Melissa is on the blog today to talk about her favorite fantasy tropes!
Tropes get a bad rap, but I don’t think they’re necessarily a bad thing. They’re not always clich├ęs – they can be conventions that make a genre go ‘round. I like to think of tropes as more of a storytelling language upon which a narrative can be built. Here are five of my favorite tropes in fantasy fiction, with a few examples of where to find them:

1. The Evil Queen - She's everywhere, from Grimm's Fairy Tales to Disney’s modern take. She is Maleficent. She is the White Witch. She is the Queen of Hearts. She is Snow White's nameless nemesis. She is the fierce, ferocious matriarchal figure that strikes fear into the hearts of men, who threatens the virtue of the fair maidens who cross her path. She is a misogynist’s worst nightmare. And for that, I love her. The most recent Evil Queen to find a place in my heart is Amarantha from Sarah J. Maas's recently released A Court of Thorns and Roses
2. Subterranean societies - Human life is busy and bustling and so full of noise and obligations and clutter that it's entirely possible for there to be an entire world beneath our feet without us even noticing. From mythological mole people to fairies hiding in mounds of earth, the idea of subterranean secret societies is an enduring one. The world can be a harsh and unforgiving place, so it can be comforting (and a little scary) to think there might be complex, fully developed magical realms, just waiting to be found if only we look hard enough or if we fall through the right crack, as Richard Mayhew does in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
3. The Loyal Friend - We've all been hurt by someone we trusted. Betrayal isn't something unique to fantasy literate, unfortunately, and neither is loyalty, but the world of fantasy has a way of testing the bonds of friendship that most quotidian scenarios can't even begin to approach. If we're ever tasked with bearing the burden of an evil, all-powerful ring that we must cast into the fires of Mordor, may we all be lucky enough to have a Samwise Gamgee by our side. His unwavering friendship is what inspired Ivy's loyalty to Echo in The Girl at Midnight
4. The Reluctant Hero - In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare wrote: "Some men are born great; some achieve greatness; some have greatness thrust upon them." It's the latter category that fascinates me the most. How well would I deal with the revelation that I was a wizard, as happens to Harry Potter on his eleventh birthday, or that I'm the only one who can battle a great and terrible darkness as Alina Starkov discovers in Shadow and Bone, or that I'm the only hope the Rebel Alliance has of bringing down the Death Star as Luke Skywalker does in Star Wars? Probably not as well as any of them, to be completely honest. 
5. Tall, Dark, and Handsome - Who doesn't love a bad boy? Especially a bad boy with magic powers? I feel like I just need to point at the Darkling from The Grisha trilogy to explain my fascination with this trope. I love me a good (or evil) dark lord. There's also Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hades from Greek mythology (who isn't always completely terrible, depending on the source material), and Dracula (though I'm partial to the Castlevania version rather than Bram Stoker's original).
Thanks so much, Melissa!

The Girl at Midnight is out now!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Three Day Summer Giveaway

I'm a big, big fan of historical fiction, and I've read hundreds of books set in the early twentieth century and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Lately I've been digging recent YA books that delve into historical settings that are a little closer to now. Like Eleanor & Park (1980's), for instance, or even The Miseducation of Cameron Post (early 1990's). Three Day Summer by Sarvnaz Tash goes to the 1960's and Woodstock, and it's out next Tuesday!

About Three Day Summer:
"Boy meets girl...at the most amazing concert the world has ever seen. 
Michael is unsure about most things. Go to college? Enlist in the military? Break up with his girlfriend? All big question marks. He is living for the moment and all he wants is a few days at the biggest concert of the summer. 
Cora lives in the town hosting the music festival. She's volunteering in the medical tent. She's like that, always the good girl. But there is something in the air at this concert and suddenly Cora finds herself wanting to push her own boundaries.
When Michael and Cora meet, sparks fly, hearts race, and all the things songs are written about come true. And all the while, three days of the most epic summer await them..."
Check out this awesome playlist that Sarvenaz put together!

About author Sarvenaz Tash:

Sarvenaz Tash was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up on Long Island, NY. She received her BFA in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She has dabbled in all sorts of writing including screenwriting, copywriting, and professional tweeting. Sarvenaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

For more information, visit: sarvenaztash.com.

Twitter: @SarvenazTash

Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, I'm giving away one copy of Three Day Summer! enter below to win!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Magical Mystery, Grounded in Reality: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

The Cost of All Things is not like anything I've read before. It's set in an alternate world that's so, so close to ours, with one important difference: the existence of hekamists. Hekamists are spell workers, and they work their hekame (spells) through food. You go to a hekamist, ask for a spell, the hekamist puts the spell in an edible item, you eat it--done. The book bounces back and forth between four different perspectives to tell a complicated, twisty story of spells, consequences, and friendship.

Ari is a talented dancer who has just lost her boyfriend Win to an unspecified accident. She approaches the local hekamist and asks for a permanent spell to erase Win's memory. Every spell comes at a cost, and Ari is convinced she can handle the consequences--but when she loses her ability to dance and can't even remember the reason why she gave it up in the first place, she becomes bitter and pulls away from her friends.

Kay is so hurt by her older sister's abandonment that she'll do anything she can to keep her friends Ari and Diana close to her--even cast a tethering spell on them so they can't travel more than fifty miles away from her. But her friends are pulling away from her, emotionally and physically, and Kay is getting more and more desperate that the consequences of her tether may be their undoing.

Markos is angry at the world after his best friend Win dies, and no one understands. Not Ari, not his brothers, not his mom. The only person who bothers to stick around is Diana, and Markos is afraid at how easy it would be for him to hurt her. As he questions the circumstances leading up to Win's death, Markos uncovers a trail of secrets about his own family that lead back to the hekamist.

Win speaks from beyond the grave in flashbacks that reveal what he didn't tell anyone else about his depression, his strange relationship with the hekamist's daughter, and the events that led up to his death. Perhaps it wasn't quite so accidental...

Lehrman entwines these four voices to create an unsettling novel about action, reaction, and responsibility. Her language is compelling and beautiful, the characters are flawed and fascinating, but perhaps what's most impressive about this story is the scope and subtle complexity of the plot. Everything is connected in small ways that gradually become evident, building to a tension-filled and dangerous climax you really won't see coming, but is also quite inevitable.

If you like character-driven mysteries with a side of the magical, all the while grounded in the real world, then I can't recommend The Cost of All Things enough. Reviewers have been comparing it to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart--that's a fair comparison and the books have similar settings, but I'd also add that it's similar in tone and feel to The Curseworkers trilogy by Holly Black and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. You really don't want to miss it--and THAT COVER! Beautiful.

The Cost of All Things is out today! I borrowed an ARC from a friend.