The Summer Prince: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn JohnsonPalmares Três is s shimmering city, a pyramid in the sea that is beautiful and brutal. June has never known a life outside Palmares Três and only know small details of places that came before her pyramid city with names like Brazil.

But even the lovely greenery of Palmares Três can’t hide the savagery behind the legacy of the Summer Kings. Summer Kings are elected by the people. At the end of their year they choose the next queen–the existing queen, but still it is a choice. Then the queen kills them. And it all starts again.

June is used to this ritual. Everyone is. But things change when Enki is becomes the new Summer King. The first changes are small ones–impulsively choosing June’s best friend Gil as a consort, a calculated act of rebellion during an election performance. Small things that hint at something far greater.

For reasons she can’t always grasp, June is drawn to Enki. Partly because every waka with a beating heart is drawn to Enki because he is just like them: another city-dweller marginalized because he is under thirty. But June also thinks she might be able to use Enki to take her art to a new level–to create on a bigger scale.

As this unlikely but ultimately right pair sets out on a campaign of confusion and protest in the name of art, June can hardly imagine that together they’ll change the course of Palmares Três forever in The Summer Prince (2013) by Alaya Dawn Johnson.

The Summer Prince is Johnson’s YA debut.

There is a lot going on in The Summer Prince. The text is dense and rich with detail as readers are thrown head first into the unfamiliar, futuristic city of Palmares Três. The world building here is, without question, top notch. Johnson does an excellent job with it. The story structure, while messy in some respects, works and tightens the plot in clever ways as both Enki’s and June’s paths unfold over the course of four seasons. June is a brisk narrator who explains very little but that often enhances the epic scope of the story.

That said this story felt very high concept and very distant. June is a motivated heroine with a singular focus until the very end of the story. Consequently her narrative is narrow at times forcing the story in strange directions.

Really, all of the characters were often one-dimensional in their motivations and despite the short page length, it felt like the story dragged and dragged with several plot reveals coming too late to hold any real significance. June is an artist first and foremost and her shift from art-for-exposure to art-as-protest and then back to a simpler art-as-beauty is one of the most interesting aspects of this novel. Johnson starts a great discussion about art here–high concept, performance and transgressive–but with the stopping point of the story she also leaves much of that discussion unfinished.

Unfortunately, all of this thoughtfulness in the plot and the setting made other aspects of the story glaringly incongruous. One of the biggest difficulties in the story is the age structure of Palmares Três.

June is a teenager but that doesn’t mean the same thing in her world as it does here and many of her choices are not the decisions of a teenager but a grown up. But that also doesn’t work given the constructs of the world of Palmares Três. The story posits that people can live for centuries and everyone under 30 (wakas) are seen as little more than children. Given the prolonged life span it’s fair to argue that they really are children (30 even seems a low cutoff to mark adulthood when talking about people who are 150 or older).

Why then are all of these children–young people even by modern standards–treated like adults?

June is diminished and dismissed for her youth throughout the story but is also doing everything adults do from a very young age (younger even than the 17ish years she is during the novel). This disconnect became distracting and brought into question every other societal choice in Palmares Três–why is June’s school structure largely the same as our own is just one big question that comes up and threatens to shatter the entire premise.

It is great seeing this post-heterosexual, pan-sexual society where love isn’t always a black-and-white binary structure. But again it creates problems in the book. The dynamic between Gil and Enki and June feels off somehow. June says throughout the story that Gil and Enki are deeply in love–something both characters affirm repeatedly–yet in the end, when a decision has to be made, it isn’t Gil who Enki tries to run away with. It’s June. Gil gives June a pass for that, saying she tries to save Enki at least, saying if Enki has to be with someone else at least it is June. But the decision still felt strange and ill-fitted with everything else that happened between these three characters.

The Summer Prince is technically fantastic and will demand consideration long after it’s finished. The skill of Johnson’s writing is obvious and so much of this story just begs to be discussed either in a book club or a classroom or just among a group of readers. However small choices in the plot with the social structure and the age of the characters kept detracting from the story. At first the problems are minor, but then they keep building up.

This book is marketed as YA and features teen characters however much of the story would have made so much more sense if it had been marketed to an adult audience as a story about twenty-somethings. Recommended for teen readers who enjoy books with a literary streak or twenty-somethings (or older) who want a book about sticking it to the Man (or Woman as the case may be in this matriarchal society).

Possible Pairings: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi, Proxy by Alex London, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Extras by Scott Westerfeld, A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

The Winner’s Curse: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiChoices for Valorian women are limited. Kestrel can join the military, as her father the general has planned for Kestrel since her childhood, or she can marry. No one would ever guess the path Kestrel truly wants to take. No one could imagine another choice in an empire that glorifies war and enslaves all it conquers.

Kestrel shouldn’t have been tempted at the slave auction. Certainly not by a defiant slave whose every move broadcast contempt and disdain for his surroundings. Even knowing she will pay too much–knowing it will set off a series of disasters even Kestrel can’t  fully predict–she buys the slave.

At first Kestrel is too busy hiding her own activities to think much of the new slave. But Arin has his secrets too. As Arin and Kestrel circle each other they will embark on a journey together that will change both them and their countries forever in The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

The Winner’s Curse is the first book in Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy.

Rutkoski has created a vibrant world with a heroine who is shrewd and pragmatic even as she makes terrible decisions. Kestrel is a brilliant strategist–a skill that shows throughout the novel as she negotiates various obstacles throughout the story.

Secrets and lies are key to both Kestrel and Arin’s characters, creating a story that is as much about what is said as it is about subtext. This novel is brimming with non-verbal communication and other subtle cues that Rutkoski expertly manipulates as a story of love and other–somewhat darker–matters slowly unfolds.

With a fully-realized world and vibrant, flawed characters there is a lot to absorb in The Winner’s Curse. Readers will be rewarded with several surprising revelations and a story that manages to succeed both as a standalone story and as the launching point for a stunning trilogy.

Grounded in the Ancient Roman Empire’s practice of enslaving conquered peoples and all of the ramifications therein, The Winner’s Curse is a rich, meditative story on what freedom truly means and the efforts some will take to procure it. Highly recommended for everyone but especially fans of historical fiction and/or Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.

Possible Pairings: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

You can also read my interview as part of the official blog tour with Marie Rutkoski about the book here: http://wp.me/p6kfM-3d8

There is also a related short story about Arin up at Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/01/bridge-of-snow-marie-rutkoski

(My schedule is weird this week because of my super awesome interview with Marie Rutkoski which is why this Chick Lit Wednesday review is posting on a Thursday!)

You can also enter my giveaway for the book. Details here: http://wp.me/p6kfM-3dU

Starry Nights: A Review

Starry Nights by Daisy WhitneyJulien Garnier is a skilled draftsman even if his own works always lack that creative spark found in great art. But that’s usually okay. Working as a tour guide in the museum his mother runs means that Julien is never far away from the inspiration and beauty found in the works of Van Gogh, Monet and other old talents–especially other Impressionists.

When a peach falls out of a painting and Olympia’s cat wanders the museum, Julien thinks he must be dreaming. Then Degas’ dancers jete across the museum floor and Julien realizes that, impossible as it seems, what he is seeing is very, very real.

When a lost Renoir arrives at the museum, Julien can’t help but fall in love with the girl it depicts. He falls even harder when she walks out of the painting and introduces herself.

But Clio isn’t like the other art. Instead of a mere depiction, Clio is a real girl trapped inside the painting by a strange and powerful curse.

As Julien learns more about Clio and how he might be able to free her, other strange things begin affecting are throughout the museum. As the paintings twist and change, Julien and Clio must race to find a way to break the curse–even if it might tear them apart in Starry Nights (2013) by Daisy Whitney.

With its beautiful cover and intriguing premise, who wouldn’t be excited about Starry Nights? The book itself is physically beautiful with full color endpapers featuring some of the paintings mentioned in the story. The initial summary is also extremely appealing to any art enthusiast.

Although this book is adorably romantic with a decidedly French feeling conveyed in the setting, it never quite realizes its potential. Instead of becoming a resonant or memorable story, Starry Nights falls short in key moments where the characters and the events themselves could have gone further. Part of the problem here is definitely too much happening in too short a book.

Starry Nights is only 288 pages (hardcover) and Whitney packs a lot into those pages. The realms of believability (even in a story where art comes to life) are tested and stretched repeatedly as new dimensions are added to the story and the premise reshapes itself around this new information.

While the settings and the initial premise were delightful the story became mired in less enjoyable details including, sadly, a romantic pairing that was never quite as convincing as it needed to be for such a patently romantic book. Starry Nights will be a joy for art fans and readers looking for a superficially satisfying romance with some offbeat twists. Readers looking for a richer story or characters with more depth may have to look elsewhere.

Possible Pairings: Heist Society by Ally Carter, Graffitti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, Temping Fate by Esther Friesner, Darker Still by Leanna Renne Hieber, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

The Glass Swallow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Glass Swallow by Julia GoldingRain’s father is one of the most sought-after glass makers in the kingdom of Tigral. Torrent’s mastery of stained glass is unrivaled with even the king and queen ordering windows from the Torrent forge for their palace.

The only problem is Torrent is not the visionary behind his stained glass designs. Rain, his daughter, is the designer–a secret that could get them both thrown out of the male-only glassmaker guild.

When an opportunity arises for Rain to visit a distant land and ply her wares, it seems like a fine opportunity. She will be able to promote her father’s forget and her craft all while keeping her secret and seeing the wonders of the kingdom of Magharna.

Unfortunately, within a day of her arrival everything goes very wrong.

Alone in a strange place, Rain must find her own way as she navigates the foreign language and strange customs of Magharna and tries to find her way home. As Rain learns more of her temporary home, she realizes something is very wrong in the state. With a flagging economy and a society on the brink of riot, Rain will have to get very creative to find her place and a way home in The Glass Swallow (2010) by Julia Golding.

The Glass Swallow is a companion Golding’s earlier novel Dragonfly. (The current king and queen of Tigral are the protagonists of Dragonfly while it’s fun to see the characters overlap you do not need to read one book to enjoy the other.)

The Glass Swallow is a cute if sometimes improbable story focused on Rain and a young Magharan falconer named Peri–a man deemed “untouchable” by the higher echelons of Magharan society. The story is written in third person with focus shifting between Rain and Peri (often highlighting deeply frustrating missed connections between the two characters).

Although Rain has a very rough start in Magharna things begin to go surprisingly well for her by the latter third of the novel as pieces of state politics and revolution fall into place as if part of Rain’s personal stained glass design. While groundwork is laid for the romantic aspect of the story, the romance too felt a bit contrived as it moved with surprising speed from flirtation to actual love.

The Glass Swallow is an entertaining fantasy. Given the characters’ ages I went into this book expecting something along the lines of YA fantasy. Instead the characters and plot read much younger marking this more as a middle grade level read. That said, The Glass Swallow is still very fun with the nice touches of both stained glass and bird handling as areas of interest in the story. While the story, particularly the latter half, felt cursory as if the characters were rushing to a resolution the story was often heartwarming. It’s very nice to read a well-thought-out fantasy with an unabashedly happy ending.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley*, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

*Strictly speaking this isn’t a real read-alike for this book. BUT it does have art and glass working and birds so why not?

Darker Still: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Darker Still by Leanna Renee HieberOddities have always clung to Natalie Stewart. Some are tame like the art objects her father collects for the new Metropolitan Museum. Some are stranger like the Whisper that sometimes tugs at the edge of her hearing.

Some are so terrifying that they took Natalie’s voice, leaving her Mute from a young age.

Then there are the things that defy all description like the portrait of Lord Denbury–a painting that seems to call to her, changing as if Lord Denbury himself were beckoning Natalie.

Stranger still, when Natalie answers the call of the portrait she finds much more than a painting. Soon she is drawn into the uneasy world of magic and possession where paintings can act as traps and a body can be stolen with the right words.

In this dangerous word Natalie may love and even her voice. But other, darker things, may find her as well in Darker Still (2011) by Leanna Renee Hieber.

Darker Still is the first in Hieber’s Darker Still trilogy, followed by The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and The Double Life of Incorporate Things which is currently being presented in serialized form on Hieber’s blog (and will culminate with the publication of the complete novel).

For obvious reasons, Darker Still is an epistolary novel–written as Natalie’s diary. The format makes sense and provides opportunities for interesting passages of time and an interplay between “present” moments and Natalie’s narrative asides. However during high action sequences the journal entry form does stretch the limits of believability as Natalie rushes to jot down key scenes.

Hieber’s writing is delightful with Natalie’s breezy, sometimes even impertinent, tone. Natalie is refreshingly brash and independent as she does a lot of the wrong things throughout the plot (for all of the right reasons). Being Mute, Natalie’s narration also offers a unique perspective on life in general and specifically 1880 New York.

While Natalie shines as a heroine, the format and pacing of Darker Still did not leave much room to build up the setting as a backdrop for the story. The journal also created limitations in pacing as Natalie “rushes” to write everything down.

While Denbury is an admirable male lead in terms of looks and personality, his immediate connection with Natalie felt almost too immediate. It works because the entire novel is a bit of a whirlwind but if you think too much about their connection it starts to fall apart.

Darker Still is a fun, generally satisfying, riff on themes found in many a gothic classic with obvious nods to The Picture of Dorian Gray. A great read for anyone eager to try reading historical fantasy, gothic tales of suspense and even steampunk.

Possible Pairings: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Unbreak My Heart: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Unbreak My HeartClementine made a big mistake her sophomore year. It started with a series of little mistakes and foolish decisions but by the end Clemetine had broken one of the most important rules of friendship.

That was two weeks ago.

Now, heartbroken and friendless, Clementine is about to embark on a three month sailing trip with her parents and her little sister, Olive, on The Possibility. Last year the trip sounded like a horrible, faraway idea. Now that it’s here, Clem is surprised to realize it might be exactly what she needs.

Three months is a long time to be on a boat with nowhere to go and nothing to do. It’s a long time to have no one around except your family and the other boaters on your route. It’s an even longer time to be miserable. Not that Clem deserves to be anything else after what she did.

But as The Possibility sails farther from home and Clem really thinks about what happened, she begins to realize that being miserable won’t actually fix anything–if she wants to move forward, Clem has to do that herself in Unbreak My Heart (2012) by Melissa C. Walker.

Unbreak My Heart is a fizzy, adorable story about a girl who made a really bad choice and what she is doing to move beyond it. Alternating between scenes of Clem’s summer trip and memories of what happened during the school year, Walker tempers Clem’s past with a strong dose of retrospection so that she is always a sympathetic and approachable protagonist.

The reveal of what ultimately went wrong is also well-handled providing a good balance between teasing asides and actual facts. The pacing is excellent and Walker does an excellent job of unfolding Clem’s complicated motivations and choices throughout the story.

Although the core of the story comes from a complicated issue, the plot is charmingly simple as Clem comes back to herself on the sailing trip and meets other boaters (including a cute boy) who help her put her own mistake in perspective as she starts to heal.

I also loved that Clem’s family played such a huge role in the story with a sister that I would definitely hang out with and parents who are refreshingly present and helpful and supportive throughout the story. I know it’s hard sometimes to have excitement and growth in the same story as parents but I wish more books could find that balance as easily as Unbreak My Heart.

Another dimension is added to the story by Clem’s repeated attempts to write a letter to her best friend as she tries to explain herself. (Not to mention a totally realistic, unobtrusive integration of social networks.) I tend to be extremely skeptical of reconciliation plots because they seem simplified and idealistic but it works in this one. Unbreak My Heart features one of the only reconciliation plots that felt not only legitimate but necessary. I’m absolutely rooting for Clem and her best friend.

As the title might suggest, there is some romance and a whole lot of flirting but what I most enjoyed about this story is the romantic parts are very secondary to Clem’s own understanding of what she has done and what she wants to happen next. Filled with idyllic sailing scenes, lots of humor, and some very wise ruminations on what friendship really means, Unbreak My Heart is a surprising, enchanting story about fresh starts and healing.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Just One Day by Gayle Forman,  The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Exclusive Bonus Content: It just occurred to me you never see books like this where two guy friends get into similar problems over one girl. Like “Jessee’s Girl” but a YA book. A nice, simple, relationship dilemma from a guy’s point of view. I want to see that book.

Also be sure to check back tomorrow for my interview with Melissa C. Walker!

Folded Book Sculpture – Pointed Cylinder (From Our Gift Cottage)

UPDATE: This item has sold! You can see all of the book sculptures currently for sale on eBay: http://stores.ebay.com/Diane-and-Emmas-Gift-Cottage/Folded-Book-Art-/_i.html?_fsub=4056268011&_sid=37272361&_trksid=p4634.c0.m322

This is a semi-regular feature here on the blog exhibiting different handmade items available for sale at the online shops my mom and I have: Diane and Emma’s Gift Cottage on Etsy and Diane and Emma’s Gift Cottage on eBay. (She’s Diane and I’m Emma. We make things–together!)

Recently I got into the making folded books–which are exactly what they sound like: books where the pages are individually folded to create a design. It started when my mom wanted one. Then I fell in love. And now we have a bunch for sale that we’d love to share with other book lovers out there.

Any book sculpture is a great gift for a bibliophile or anyone looking for some unique art for their wall or table top.

My book sculptures are an especially great gift idea right now because they are for sale at crazy discounts right now. The one below is up for auction on eBay starting at $9.99–that’s under ten dollars for an incredibly unique and (in my slightly biased opinion) lovely gift!

Folded Book Art Sculpture Pointed Cylinder Origami Column Straw into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt 13″ by 9″ by 5″ high

This beauty is an altered hard cover book that has been up cycled into a 3D sculptural art piece of a half cylinder with a pointed diamond detail.

The book is titled is Straw Into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt. It measures about 13″ across by 9″ inches by 5″ inches high.

This piece can be displayed flat (as shone) or on the wall using a plate hanger.

The bold gold endpapers and purple cloth binding add a pop of color (in Syltherin colors–just saying). The perfect gift for the book lover in your life.

Since Straw Into Gold is also a retelling of the story of Rumpelstiltskin it would also be a fun gift for anyone who is a fan of fairy tales!

Find this sculpture on ebay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140894683385&ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

Also on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/117274417/folded-book-art-sculpture-pointed

The Shadow Society: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned at a Chicago firehouse. She was five years old.

Since then, Darcy has been bounced from foster home to foster home–never quite fitting in, never quite putting down roots.

Things finally seem to be different on Darcy’s first day back at Lakebrook High. Her second year at the same school, Darcy finally has friends and even a foster mother who seems keen to keep Darcy around; all simple reasons for Darcy to be happy.

Then a new boy arrives at the school and eyes Darcy as if she were an enemy, maybe even a threat. Conn McCrea is both fascinating and frightening as he insinuates himself into Darcy’s life. As she gets to know Conn she also begins to discover strange truths about herself and a world that shouldn’t exist–a world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened and creatures called Shades have created an organization called the Shadow Society intent on eliminating humans.

Darcy always wanted to be part of something, to belong somewhere. But she may have more than she bargained for with Conn and infiltrating the Shades in The Shadow Society (2012) by Marie Rutkoski.

The Shadow Society is Rutkoski’s first young adult novel. She is also the author of the popular Kronos Chronicles series for younger readers.

Part fantasy, part alternate history The Shadow Society is an evocative novel that is as haunting as it is enchanting. Rutkoski masterfully brings not one but two versions of Chicago to life on the page with characters that are charmingly real and entertaining. While the story is grounded in Darcy’s journey to find the truth about herself, the novel also is refreshingly grounded with strong friendships. (Conn and Darcy’s complicated relationship doesn’t hurt either.)

A well-realized world and completely delightful characters come together with a gripping, surprising plot to create a winning combination in The Shadow Society.

Possible Pairings: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

You can also check out Marie Rutkoski’s Q & A with Andrea Cremer about The Shadow Society here: http://www.macteenbooks.com/ya/a-qa-with-marie-rutkoski-andrea-cremer/#.UKSGDIUZooh

 

The Popularity Papers: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang. Julie’s dads consider Lydia part of the family. Julie knows all about Lydia’s crazy goth sister Melody. Together the girls make a decision to venture into the unknown as they try to crack the mysterious code of popularity in fifth grade.

With Lydia acting as chief experimenter and Julie recording their (mixed) results, the girls are confident they will succeed where others have failed. The only problems: Lydia winds up with a bald spot early on, Julie unexpectedly becomes the object of Roland Asbjørnsen’s affections, all of their parents are mad (a lot). Worse, the more Julie and Lydia learn about the popular girls, the farther apart they seem to grow.

Lydia and Julie might be on the verge of being popular, but they’re both starting to wonder if their friendship will survive in The Popularity Papers (2010) by Amy Ignatow.

The Popularity Papers is Ignatow’s first novel as well as the first book about the ongoing adventures of Lydia and Julie.

Ignatow expertly combines drawings and handwritten notes and observations to create a book with a mixed-media feel as the girls pass letters, notes, and the book itself back and forth to tell their story. By combining the girls’ exchanges with first-person accounts from both Lydia and Julie, Ignatow makes sure the concept behind her fun plot never becomes overdone.

The Popularity Papers is also funny, plain and simple. Filled with clever jokes and entertaining illustrations, this is a smart book that will appeal to readers young and old (provided they can get past the youngish-looking cover). A great choice for anyone looking for a laugh The Popularity Papers also houses my favorite ever love poem, a funny re-writing of a popular movie song, and possibly the best illustration of Thor of all time.

Possible Pairings: Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, Alice, I Think by Susany Juby, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Wherever Nina Lies: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Ellie’s sister Nina disappeared two years ago.

Ellie isn’t sure who she is or what her life is supposed to be now that she doesn’t have her sister. Beautiful, artistic and a little wild, Nina is everything Ellie could want in an older sister. Ellie can only imagine what it must be like to be that kind of person.

Until Nina is gone. Then Ellie just wants her back. Even if two years later that is seeming less and less likely.

When Ellie finds a drawing that can only have been done by her sister, Ellie knows it’s a sign. Nina is out there somewhere and this is Ellie’s chance to make everything right. If she can follow the clues surely she can find Nina wherever she is and bring her home.

With the help of her mysterious crush, Ellie sets off on a road trip following Nina’s trail. Along the way she’ll meet some unlikely misfits and realize that she might be more like her sister than she thought in Wherever Nina Lies (2009) by Lynn Weingarten.

Wherever Nina Lies is Weingarten’s first novel. (She has since followed up with the off beat fantasy The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers.)

Wherever Nina Lies is a fast-paced mystery that takes readers across the country and on an emotional roller coaster as Ellie unravels the truth about Nina’s disappearance. Weingarten weaves a masterful mystery filled with so many twists and unexpected turns that even when I skimmed ahead I was completely floored by the shocking finish.

In addition to a thrilling, satisfying mystery Wherever Nina Lies is filled with clever characters and exotic locations that bring Ellie’s journey to life. Flashbacks interspersed throughout Ellie’s search add a second dimension to the story as readers get a glimpse of the relationship Ellie and Nina shared as well as Ellie’s regrets when it comes to her sister.

With a unique voice and a tight plot, Wherever Nina Lies is a must read for readers who like a bit of suspense with their road trip adventures.

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr