Wuthering Heights: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

When Mr. Earnshaw, a man of means, brings a dark, ill-mannered foundling into his home he has no idea that his one good deed will alter the course of his family forever.

Taken into the Earnshaw home only to be cast out abruptly, Heathcliff is intent to avenge himself on those who have done him wrong through any means possible. Even his oldest friend and companion Catherine is not beyond reproach.

Lockwood knows nothing of the scandal and unrest that surrounds Wuthering Heights when he leases Thrushcross Grange from Heathcliff for a season. Scandalized by the residents of Wuthering Heights and shocked by the blatant disregard for common courtesy and propriety, he soon endeavors to unearth the whole story from his housekeeper, Nelly Dean.

The story Nelly reveals is one of unresolved passion, haunting obsession, and a connection that even death cannot deny in Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë.

Wuthering Heights is Brontë’s only novel.

Groundbreaking for its time, Wuthering Heights is a divisive novel that is more often regarded with love or hate rather than indifference.

Some claim Brontë’s gothic novel is a sweeping romance that spans not just years but death itself. Written in the first person with a framing story around the main drama of Catherine and Heathcliff’s doomed relationship, Brontë creates an evocative story filled with Yorkshire dialect and harsh lanscapes.

At the same time, this book is a study in human cruelty. Catherine and Heathcliff are horrible people and, even while proving their love for one another, they do unspeakable things.

If you can get past the basic meanness of almost all of the characters, Wuthering Heights is an atmospheric story filled with chills and menace sure to linger after the last page is finished.

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle, Swoon by Nina Malkin, Fury by Elizabeth Miles, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Between by Jessica Warman, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Persuasion: A (Classic) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth once meant a great deal to each other. But that was years ago before Anne’s well-meaning friend and her less-than-good-intentioned family discouraged the acquaintance and Anne was convinced to give Frederick up.

With years to think of her decision and years to consider all that Wentworth has accomplished without her, Anne has little hope of seeing him again or changing things between them.

That is until a change in her father’s circumstance forces the family to rent their estate. Given the identity of the new tenants, it seems inevitable that Anne and Captain Wentworth will see each other. It even seems inevitable that Wentworth will be angry and Anne hurt. Only time will tell if they can once again be something more to each other in Persuasion (1818) by Jane Austen.

Persuasion is Austen’s last novel. It is also a favorite among several of my friends.*

With a book that is already such a large part of the public consciousness and the literary canon, there isn’t a lot to say in a review that hasn’t been said before.

Jane Austen is one of my favorite classic authors so it is not, perhaps, especially surprising that I enjoyed Persuasion. In addition to a story that kept me on my toes,** Persuasion features a lot of strong, or at least interesting, characters. Wentworth is appropriately dashing even at his worst. Then we have Anne who is a delightfully forward heroine for a novel from 1818. It was invigorating to watch Anne come into her own as the novel progressed and she developed her own agency and the wherewithal to pursue her own wants and needs.

Like many classics Persuasion is a book many people will read on the merits of its reputation (or for school) or it’s the kind of book they won’t touch. One review might not change whatever opinion you might have but Persuasion is an obvious must read for romantics and anyone who likes their heroines level-headed and ready to stand on their own two feet.

*Though one does add the caveat that Pride and Prejudice first has to be taken out of the equation as Pride and Prejudice is arguably everyone’s favorite Austen novel.

**My only experience with Persuasion before this reading was Diana Peterfreund’s post-apocalyptic retelling For Darkness Shows the Stars. I had never even seen a movie version so I really had no idea what to expect from the story. At. All. It made for a pleasant surprise while reading.

Possible Pairings: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banksby E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Enchanted Chocolate Pot Blog Fest: The Revised Letter (And It’s Reply!)

Last week I talked about my love for Sorcery and Cecelia and shared Patricia C. Wrede’s original version of Cecy’s first letter to Kate.

Today I have the revised version to share as well as Kate’s response (as written by Caroline Stevermer) to celebrate the release of ebook editions from the publisher

Here’s a snippet of Cecy’s revised letter:

You can also download this pdf of the full letter: Cecy’s Revised Letter

What I like is how the basic structure of the letter remains the same in both. It’s the subtle changes and additions that help flesh out Cecy and Kate’s unique version of England along with some subtle reordering. The two versions really show how far editing can take a piece of writing.

And, for further entertainment, here is a snippet of Kate’s reply:

As well as a downloadable pdf of the full letter: Kate’s First Reply

*Thanks to Sarah Murphy at Open Road Media for telling me about this.

Enchanted Chocolate Pot Blog Fest: The First Letter

When I was growing up I didn’t read a lot of YA. I focused on books found in the Children’s Room of my library and classics with the odd mystery from my mom’s reading pile thrown in to keep things interesting. That changed when I got my first library job and started shelving in the YA section. I discovered so many good books that had previously never crossed my path.

One such book was Sorcery and Cecelia. First published in 1988, I found this book upon one of its subsequent reprints. Cecy and Kate soon became two of my favorite characters. Happily, the entire series (Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour, and The Mislaid Magician) are all being re-released as ebooks soon which I hope will introduce even more readers to this amazing series.

The cool thing about this series is that Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer exchanged the letters in their free time. Patricia C. Wrede wrote as Cecelia while Caroline Stevermer responded with Kate’s letters. They did not plan the plot before they began writing. Eventually those letters turned into a book. And then that became a series.

To celebrate the release of ebook editions, the publisher distributed the original version of Cecy’s first letter (which begins Sorcery and Cecelia) to show the changes the letter underwent between its first writing and the book’s publication.

Here’s a snippet of the letter:

You can also download this pdf of the full letter: Cecy’s original letter

*Thanks to Sarah Murphy at Open Road Media for telling me about this.

The Wicked and the Just: A Review

Cecily’s father ruins her life abruptly and irrevocably when he announces his plan to move them to Caernarvon in occupied Wales. The King needs good Englishmen to manage the newly-acquired Welsh lands and teach the primitive Welshman how to behave. Cecily wants none of it but at least she will finally be the lady of the house. Even if it is a house among barbarians.

Unfortunately for Cecily her initial misgivings about Wales are confirmed when she discovers the native Welsh speak something that barely sounds like a language as well as being impudent and rude. Though they are at least Christians–supposedly. In addition to being saddled with a surly Welsh servant girl she cannot dismiss, Cecily is also looked down upon by the local honesti who consider her little better than the Welsh peasants.

Gwenhwyfar is equally unhappy as servant to the brat. While she scrambles to find enough food for herself and her family, Gwenhwyfar watches Cecily leading the life that rightfully belongs to Gwenhwyfar and the other displaced Welshmen. The English took everything from Gwenhwyfar and her people. Now all she can do is watch and try not to starve.

As the English take and take, frustration grows among the Welsh. As tensions rise both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar will be caught up in the disastrous moment when the tension finally has to break and there will be justice for those who deserve it in The Wicked and the Just (2012) by J. Anderson Coats.

The Wicked and the Just is Coats’ first novel.

Set in the years of 1293 and 1294 Coats expertly* captures a volatile period in history for Wales.

While I enjoy a great many historical novels, I usually do not gravitate toward medieval period books. In addition to being a period I know little about, it is also not always an area of high interest. That said, there was something about The Wicked and the Just that made me want to read it.

Perhaps you already know why 1293 marks an important time for Wales in history. I did not. I have to say going in knowing nothing save that Welsh is unpronounceable when I try to read it made for a dramatic finish to The Wicked and the Just. An ending, I might add, that completely took me by surprise.

With segments told from both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar’s points of view, the book is well-rounded and examines the tensions within the Welsh town of Caernarvon from every angle. While that makes The Wicked and the Just an excellent look at the period, it does not make for many likable characters. Every character has redeeming qualities, but each one is also very nasty. There is justice for those who deserve it, but there is also name-calling, pettiness, and plain old cruelty along the way making for a mid-point where almost no character warrants much admiration.

Coats ends the book with a historical note explaining the politics of the period that Cecily and Gwenhwyfar either ignored or only alluded to during the actual story. While historical events are explained and relatively resolved, much is left up in the air for the characters. While the lack of closure makes sense given the content of the story, I must admit it does leave quite a few questions about what happens to Cecily and Gwenhwyfar as well as some other secondary characters.

Coats’ writing is clear and hauntingly evocative of the period in this story of many, many displaced people. As much as any book can, The Wicked and the Just brings medieval Wales to life.

*I’m not kidding when I say expertly. In addition to being a fellow Master of Library Science, Coats has a master’s degree in history.

Possible Pairings: Black Potatoes by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Clockwork Prince: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Only in London a short time, Tessa Gray’s world has already been turned upside by her brother’s betrayal and the discovery of her own strange ability. With the help of her unlikely Shadowhunter friends, Tessa has managed to make some order from the chaos of lies and mystery that surrounds her.

That order proves tenuous when rival Shadowhunters seek to displace Charlotte and her husband as heads of the London Institute. With Charlotte’s position in doubt, so too is Tessa’s place in the only home she has known since leaving New York City. If Charlotte can find the Magister, the villain cloaked in secrecy who wants to use Tessa’s powers in his mission to destroy all Shadowhunters, her position will be secured. But what if she can’t?

As Tessa helps in the search for the Magister, her future place in London is not the only dilemma presented to her. Why is Jessamine sneaking off so often? What madness leads Will to move so violently between passion and cruelty? Why does her heart still ache so much just to see him? And what of Jem, Tessa’s quiet, steadfast companion in all of this chaos?

With so many secrets, it is unclear which truths should be told and which should remain hidden in Clockwork Prince (2011) by Cassandra Clare.

Clockwork Prince is the second book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, preceded by Clockwork Angel. This trilogy is a companion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series which begins with City of Bones.

It’s hard to review books that are part of a series because, particularly in the case of this book, you cannot read just one book. Things are even more complicated when the series ties back to a completely different, longer, series.

That said, if the idea of a quasi-steampunk Victorian London where the descendants of angels fight monsters (even while befriending one of those “monsters” who happens to be a warlock) this is the series for you. But don’t start here. Go read Clockwork Angel first then come back to read this review.

Clockwork Prince is simultaneously compelling and painfully frustrating. Many questions from the first book (particularly about Will’s . . . affliction) are answered. Some of the answers are satisfying and add to the story. Some of them add to the general annoyance I had while reading the book.

Neither being or knowing the author, I’m not really qualified to say what each character would or would not do. BUT, for this one reader, it felt a lot like every single character walked through the book doing the wrong things. Worse, they seemed to be doing them for all the wrong reasons. Will all be resolved to my satisfaction in book three? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Finding the answer to that question (aside from my genuine fondness for these characters and this series) is enough to guarantee I will eagerly await the release of Clockwork Princess in 2013.

Clare’s writing remains top-notch here. While the larger plot does take a back seat to character development, Clockwork Prince sets readers up for what is sure to be a stunning conclusion to a clever trilogy.

Possible Pairings: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Sabriel by Garth Nix,  Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“There are so many ways it could have all turned out different.”

If she hadn’t forgotten the book, if she had tried on the dress sooner. If she hadn’t given herself a paper cut while printing her ticket, or lost her cell phone charger, if there hadn’t been traffic on the way to the airport. If she hadn’t missed the exit, or had run a bit faster to the gate.

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Who ever heard of a plan leaving on time? Who would have thought that four minutes could change everything?

Instead of being on her plane, Hadley is trapped in the crowded airport watching it leave for England–without her–as she contemplates whether it will be worse to be late for her father’s second wedding or to miss it altogether. It should be one of the worst days of her life.

But, somehow, it isn’t. Instead Hadley meets the perfect boy in the airport waiting area. His name is Oliver. He is 18C. Hadley is 18A. And, somehow, through twists of fate and strange coincidences Hadley’s worst day might turn into something better in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (2012) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Set over the course of twenty-four hours (with chapter headings that include the time in both Eastern Standard and Greenwich Mean Time), The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a fast, funny  read.

Smith perfectly captures the dizzying feelings of serendipity and chance in her writing. Hadley and Oliver are both realistic, witty characters that readers will root for throughout the story. Strangely for a novel set largely in an airport waiting terminal and on an airplane itself, Smith’s settings are strongly evocative bringing Hadley’s fear of small spaces and the daunting foreign landscape of London to life.

What makes The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight especially appealing is that it packs so much into such a small book (256 pages, hardcover). As the title suggests there is, of course, a love story but Smith also expertly captures the essences of both Hadley and Oliver’s characters while also writing a refreshingly honest story about family and dealing with the consequences of divorce.

Possible Pairings: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altedbrando

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2011

Dark Souls: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

After the accident last summer, nothing has been the same for sixteen-year-old Miranda. Her best friend, really her only friend, is gone. Her brother can’t stand small spaces or driving anymore. And Miranda, well, she can see ghosts.

When the chance to take a family vacation in York, England arrives, Miranda’s parents jump at the chance. A little family time can only help everyone. Almost everyone.

York is one of the most haunted cities in the world. How can Miranda deal with seeing ghosts when she is surrounded by them, her family doesn’t know about it, and she barely understands this new ability herself?

Then Miranda meets Nick, an intense Goth boy who might be able to answer all of her ghost-related questions. With Nick to show her the ropes and the painfully beautiful ghost in the attic across the way, maybe seeing ghosts won’t be so bad after all.

Or maybe things are as bad as Miranda thought. If no one intervenes, something bad is going to happen and Miranda seems to the only one who can stop it–no matter how much she wishes she wasn’t in Dark Souls (2011) by Paula Morris.

I was of two minds about this book.

On the one hand, Dark Souls read more like a middle grade novel than a young adult title. Without age cues written into the story I would have pegged Miranda at fourteen and her brother at sixteen (rather than their stated ages of sixteen and eighteen, respectively). Some aspects of the story also felt predictable or obvious–I realized details before Miranda did even though she really should have been on board and know what was going on herself. Again, this would have been easier to let slide in a middle grade novel where the readers/characters are significantly younger than me rather than just a bit younger.

On the other hand, Dark Souls is a nice traditional ghost story. No all-consuming romance, almost no love interest at all. It’s refreshing when so many paranormal books have romance tagged onto the end of that descriptor nowadays. Morris gets back to basics with some dubious ghosts, a mysterious friend, and a plot that needs to be unraveled. And it is those basics that make Dark Souls work as much as it does. This book is a good one for readers who want to be left spooked rather than swooning.

Possible Pairings: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, Bliss by Lauren Myracle, Clockwork by Philip Pullman, Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby

The Name of the Star: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Rory Deveaux’s parents decided a long time ago that it would be good for all of them to spend some time living outside of Louisiana which is how Rory finds herself arriving at a London boarding school the September of her senior year while her parents begin a teaching sabbatical in Bristol.

Rory isn’t sure what to expect of England much less her English school–especially when she finds out she will be playing hockey every single day as part of her curriculum. Rory’s expectations become unimportant soon enough when something strange happens.

Someone is killing London women and mimicking the gruesome crimes of Jack the Ripper–the notorious killer who terrorized London in the autumn of 1888 without ever being captured or even identified. The modern-day murders leave few leads. Nothing shows up on camera. No one sees anything. Still the murders continue as “Rippermania” grips the city.

In the midst of the murders something even stranger happens to Rory. She sees a man the night before a body is found on school grounds. Rory knows what she saw. But her roommate was with her and saw nothing. It can’t be coincidence. But can it really be the New Ripper?

An outsider in every way, Rory soon finds herself at center of the investigation of the Ripper murders. As she learns more about the crimes and the suspect, Rory learns she is also at the center of something else–something stranger and possibly much more dangerous in The Name of the Star (2011) by Maureen Johnson.

The Name of the Star is the first book in Johnson’s Shades of London series.

Starting with details from the original Ripper murders, Johnson creates a tense mystery all her own in The Name of the Star.  Suspense blends with the supernatural as Rory learns more about the Ripper (new and old) and also about her own strange connection to the investigation.

Rory is a completely likable, authentic heroine. Her take on London and English boarding school, colored by her Southern sensibilities, adds much needed wit and humor to what could have been an otherwise horribly grim story.By the middle of the novel Johnson turns everything upside down taking the story in a surprising direction and introducing many of my favorite characters.*

In addition to her usual humor, Johnson keeps the writing her tense building suspense to nearly unbearable levels by the last quarter of the novel.

In addition to being a mystery with a unique setting, The Name of the Star is filled with twists and not a few surprises that will keep readers guessing well past the last page–not to mention leaving readers extremely eager for the next Shades of London book.

The Name of the Star is an exceptional start to what I fully expect to be a brilliant series.

*Team Stephen forever! In all seriousness though, I think the latter half of the novel is more indicative of the direction the series will take in the next book and I’m really excited to see if I’m right. Reading more about Stephen is just an added bonus.

Possible Pairings: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

The Demon’s Surrender: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Just one year ago Cynthia Davies thought her place at the Goblin Market was assured. The darling of Market’s leader, a talented dancer, Sin Davies is Market royalty in every possible way. Sin had thought that made her the obvious choice as the heir to the Goblin Market. Sin actually thought it made her the only choice.

Then Mae Crawford showed up and usurped Sin’s rightful place, forcing Sin to fight desperately for her place as the Market’s heir.

Good thing Sin is used to fighting for what she wants. Every day she struggles to keep her younger siblings Lydie and Toby safe. Lately she has also had to wrangle her feelings for the infuriating Alan Ryves. Once little more than a tall, irritatingly smart, thorn in her side Sin now owes Alan a debt that can never be repaid. And Sin doesn’t like owing anything to anyone.

As time runs out for Sin to stake her claim to the Market, outside threats are also closing in. Mae’s own brother has joined the magician’s that want to kill them all and destroy the market. While the loyalties of Alan’s brother remain perilously uncertain. Nick, Sin’s favorite dance partner and a dangerous demon, might still have an allegiance to his brother Alan. Or he might destroy them all.

Victory will come at a cost for all of them. Will the price be more than Sin can pay in The Demon’s Surrender (2011) by Sarah Rees Brennan.

The Demon’s Surrender is the conclusion of Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon Trilogy. It is preceeded by The Demon’s Lexicon and The Demon’s Covenant–the first and second books respectively.

In the first book readers met Nick Ryves and learned the startling truth of his past. In book two readers learned more about Mae, her brother Jamie, and the dangers of dealing with magicians. Throughout both books Sin appeared as an attractive, athletic and integral part of the Goblin Market.

Readers did not learn much more about this often aloof heroine until this final book which is told from Sin’s point of view. Lacking a frame of reference for Sin’s personality–it was a little worrisome to know an entire book, not to mention the conclusion of the trilogy, would be told from her point of view.

Turns out there was absolutely nothing to worry about.

Reading about Sin in The Demon’s Surrender was a revelation as Rees Brennan reveals more and more facets of Sin’s personality. An athletic dancer, Sin plays many roles. Some things don’t come easily to her and often she struggles with her responsibilities. She is multi-layered, tough and so much fun to follow throughout the story. As events unfold it is soon obvious that Sin really is the perfect character to wrap up this stunning trilogy.

While Mae and Jamie take a back seat in this installment (after featuring heavily in books one and two), Nick and Alan remain major characters. In fact, having a Sin book turned out to be the next best thing to an actual Alan book.

It’s hard to review the conclusion of a trilogy without revealing too much or explaining too much of the first books. All you really need to know is Rees Brennan’s writing remains taut and seamless as she works out twists, turns and lots of action.

The Demon’s Surrender is a perfect conclusion to a beloved trilogy wrapping up events appropriately and giving the characters some kind of closure while showing that Rees Brennan still has a lot of tricks up her sleeve. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for readers in her next series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga,, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman