I am Princess X: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

I am Princess X by Cherie PriestMay and Libby created Princess X on the day they met in fifth grade. Libby drew Princess X while May created the stories. Together they made sure that Princess X became an indelible part of their childhood.

That was before Libby and her mother died in a car crash.

Now May is sixteen and looking at another long, lonely summer in Seattle with only her dad for company. That changes when she spots a Princess X sticker on the corner of a store window. Suddenly she starts seeing Princess X everywhere.

When the stickers lead to IAmPrincessX.com, May finds a webcomic with a wholly new but not unfamiliar Princess X. In the comic, the princess’ story is eerily similar to Libby’s. And filled with clues only May recognizes.

Which means that the only person who could have created the comic is May’s best friend–Libby–who is still alive and needs May’s help in I am Princess X (2015) by Cherie Priest with illustrations by Kali Ciesemier.

I am Princess X is Priest’s first novel written for a young adult audience. Accompanying illustrations by Kali Ciesemier bring the story found in the Princess X webcomic to life and integrate beautifully with May’s search for Libby in this utterly satisfying read.

May is a spunky, capable heroine who finds help from likable and well-realized characters along the way including Patrick, a likable hacker with a possibly biased sense of his own computer skills.

Priest offers a tantalizing, page-turner of a mystery that seamlessly spans real locations in Seattle and dark pockets of the internet. Even when the action moves online, Priest keeps the story exciting and approachable without ever resorting to technical jargon. I am Princess X is filled with references to technology and pop culture but manages to still feel timeless in a way that guarantees this one will appeal to readers for years to come.

This book strikes the perfect balance between believable and sensational as May follows the comic’s clues to find out the truth about her best friend. It’s also worth noting that I am Princess X is a story firmly grounded in friendship as readers learn more about May and Libby. There is no extraneous romance subplot to be found here. Furthermore Priest’s characters are naturally (and realistically) diverse throughout the novel.

I am Princess X is an excellent book with loads of cross-genre and cross-format appeal. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the April 2015 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online as a Starred Review*

Jackaby: A Review

“One who can see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed, Abigail Rook.”

Jackaby by William RitterAbigail Rook has few prospects when she arrives in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892. After fleeing her boring and proper life (and parents) in England, she is keen to continue her adventures in this new country. Unfortunately having adventures require certain necessities, all of which require money.

After failing to get a series of menial jobs, Abigail finds herself in the unique position of serving as an investigative assistant to one R. F. Jackaby, investigator of the unexplained.

While Jackaby has a keen eye for the extraordinary–complete with the ability to see supernatural creatures and magic auras–Abigail is especially skilled at seeing the ordinary details that come together as the basis of any investigation.

Abigail and Jackaby, with the help of handsome police officer Charlie Cane, will have to work together to solve a series of grisly murders in New Fiddleham before they become the next victims–or the prime suspects in Jackaby (2014) by William Ritter.

Jackaby is Ritter’s first novel. A sequel, Beastly Bones, is slated for publication in September 2015.

Abigail is a fine addition to the recent crop of strong and self-sufficient heroines. In addition to being key to Jackaby’s investigation, Abigail is also a winsome narrator with quick thinking and a sharp tongue. It is wonderful to see a heroine who is able to acknowledge her strengths as easily as she does her weaknesses.

Jackaby is a character who will feel immediately to fans of Sherlock Holmes. Although he is not entirely original, Jackaby’s unfailingly belief in things unseen combined with his abrupt manner and deadpan humor make Jackaby a winning character in his own right.

Ritter is at pains throughout Jackaby to stress that Abigail has no romantic interest in Jackaby whatsoever. Although it is great to see a mystery and a fantasy sans romance, it was also disappointing because these two characters complement each other so perfectly. The lack of romance is complicated (much to the plot’s detriment) with secondary characters written in for both Abigail and Jackaby as quasi love interests. Abigails preoccupation with a certain police officer often feels particularly forced and unnecessary to the plot.

Despite its winning characters, Jackaby is somewhat weak as a mystery. Ritter includes several fairly obvious clues early on to leave attentive readers waiting to see big reveals for most of the novel. Uneven pacing also move the narrative along in often clumsy starts and stops until the denouement which seems to drag needlessly.

As a fantasy, Jackaby is an excellent novel with a fully realized world complete with a perfect blend of magic and historical details. A great choice for fans of historical fantasies or mysteries alike.

Possible Pairings: Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin, Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones, Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Week in Review: May 24

missprintweekreview

This week on the blog you can check out:

This week had some ups and downs but now that it’s over I have a nice chunk of time away from the library between the Memorial Day holiday and time off for BEA. Nicole and I are so ready for BEA. The only thing I have to do (besides clean for her arrival) is buy groceries and then we are ready! I’m looking forward to Jenny Han’s book launch. Hosting Nicole. Seeing Cecelia. BEA madness. And hopefully meeting lots of online blogger friends/twitter friends in real life.

Nicole and I have also been working on our short story project Little Women Stories so be sure to check that out if you want to see some of our newfangled “flash fiction”. Between us we have a new story up every week!

As I mentioned last week, I did get new glasses. It took a full week to adjust to the new prescription/new frames BUT I’m finally happy with them and not getting headaches or feeling like they’re sitting weirdly on my face.

Here they are (on my face):

I also got my giveaway prize from the (March?) 365 Days of YA which was a paperback copy of Insurgent. Epic Reads also sent along an ARC of Illusionarium by Heather Dixon which I am crazy excited to read.

This week I read I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson which was as excellent as I expected. I didn’t buy into every aspect but enough parts were done well to overall make it a winner. And it’s so well-plotted and crafted that it was worth it just to see how Nelson brought everything together.

I also read Straw Into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt which was interesting but not a favorite. I hadn’t realized it had a blind character though which is good to know when seeking diverse stories (something that is often extra challenging with fairy tale retellings).

Lastly I’m finishing up Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan. I’m not sure if it’s a favorite but it is a fast, enjoyable read and it’s keeping my attention. Contrary to what the cover might suggest, let me also tell you that it is a contemporary thriller NOT historical in any way. Speaking of thrillers, this is maybe the fourth one I have read this year (and my committee work doesn’t even involve mysteries this year!) and in general I am realizing I prefer traditional mysteries to thriller/suspense ones. Despite a clear propensity to pick them up based on enticing jacket copy.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my May Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Mr. Samuel’s Penny: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Mr. Samuel's Penny by Treva Hall MelvinWhen 14-year-old Elizabeth Landers arrives in the small town of Ahoskie, North Carolina, she fully expects to have a boring vacation. Things turn out very differently that summer in 1972 almost as soon as Elizabeth and her sister arrive.

A grisly car accident catches the town’s attention and Elizabeth is at the scene when the bodies of Mr. Samuel and his young daughter are recovered. Mr. Samuel is clutching an unusual 1909 wheat penny in his hand—a penny that is stolen from the sheriff’s office.

Already interested in pennies herself and haunted by the crime scene, the protagonist decides to use part of her summer trying to find the penny for Mr. Samuel’s widow.

Melvin walks the line between adult nostalgia and the authentic voice of a teen throughout this novel that is set to start a new series. Unfortunately, the narrative never seems entirely comfortable with either tone.

Numerous biblical analogies and references to Christianity lend a decidedly non-secular tone to the entire novel. Elizabeth is still an approachable narrator, who will find her fans in certain readers.

*A slightly different version of this review appeared in an issue issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*

The Wrath and the Dawn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city. And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold.”

***

“All our lives are forfeit. It it just a matter of when.”

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee AhdiehKhalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night. Every bride is executed with the dawn. The Caliph offers no explanations, making it easy for his people to believe he is a cold-hearted monster.

Shahrzad shocks everyone she cares about when she volunteers to marry the Caliph, rendering her life forfeit. But Shahrzad plans to survive the dawn. In fact she plans to live long enough to exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and so many other girls.

The longer she survives in the palace, the more Shahrzad realizes the boy-king is hiding something behind his cold exterior and his closely guarded secrets. Shahrzad volunteered to marry Khalid out of hatred but as she grows closer to to him, it is soon obvious that love is what keeps her in the palace.

Separately Shahrzad and Khalid are both formidable. United together, they may have the strength to save their country and each other in The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) by Renee Ahdieh.

The Wrath and the Dawn is Ahdieh’s first novel. It is also the first book in a series which will continue with The Rose and the Dagger (expected publication 2016).

In this loose retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, Ahdieh transcends her source material to create a story that is both original and captivating. Instead of focusing on the stories told each evening, The Wrath and the Dawn expertly expands the framing story found within A Thousand and One Nights to imagine a world where a king executes countless brides and one girl is bold enough to think she can stop him.

As much as The Wrath and the Dawn is a romance of the slow burn variety, it is also very much a story of equals. Shazi and Khalid are perfectly matched protagonists with obvious magnetism even as they warily question each other’s intentions. They are also both incredibly strong characters, often to the point of being arrogant or foolhardy.

The way Shazi and Khalid interact highlights how the best partnerships, the strongest relationships, stem from mutual respect as well as understanding. The push and pull between these two also serves to underscore how nothing is clear-cut in this story where often there are no “good” choices–only necessary ones.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a debut filled with writing that brings the world of Khorasan vividly to life. Elements of fantasy, romance and historical fiction all come together here to create a lush, expansive story with complex characters to match. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, Clariel by Garth Nix, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Wolfie the Bunny: A Picture Book Review

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHoraWhen a baby wolf is left on the doorstep of the Bunny family, Dot has some serious concerns. Much to Dot’s dismay she is alone in her fears as Mama and Papa soon adopt the abandoned wolf. Dot remains worried about Wolfie as he grows and becomes much more likely to eat them all up. Worse, Wolfie really loves Dot–so much so that he spends all of his time following Dot around and even drooling on her!

Dot is certain Wolfie could not be more annoying until she and Wolfie go to the local co-op The Carrot Patch to get more food for the family. Dot is sure this moment will be when Wolfie chooses to make his move and eat her. Instead, when a mean (big) bear shows up, it’s Wolfie who is in peril. And Dot who is left to do the rescuing in Wolfie the Bunny (2015) by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora.

Ame Dyckman returns with another delightful story in this picture book about a wolf in rabbit’s clothing. Wolfie the Bunny is a riotous story that leaves readers wondering if Dot’s fears really are warranted until the last moment when readers (and Dot) realize that being family means being there for each other no matter what.

OHora brings an extra dimension to the story as he moves Wolfie and company from what could have been a natural setting into the wilds of Brooklyn. His signature style and bold colors in each acrylic painting guarantee that these illustrations will stand up to close scrutiny as well as being viewed from a distance.

Bold text and a variety of font faces work to add further interest to each page as each page spread comes together seamlessly to create an engrossing read.

Wolfie the Bunny is a story about new babies, sibling rivalry and unconditional love (and maybe carrots) that is brimming over with humor and enthusiastic energy. Ideal for any story time scenario.

You can also read my interview with Ame and Zachariah!

Author and Illustrator Interview: Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora on Wolfie the Bunny

Ame DyckmanWolfie the Bunny is the delightful story of a baby wolf in bunny’s clothing and the way unconditional love for siblings can sometimes sneak up on a person (or a bunny in this case). Today write Ame Dyckman and illustrator Zachariah OHora are here to talk about the creative process behind this great picture book.

Scroll to the bottom for details about a very special Wolfie the Bunny giveaway too!

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for Wolfie the Bunny?

Ame Dyckman: WOLFIE was inspired by my daughter (“The Kid” of my Twitter stories), who was an ADORABLE toddler—EXCEPT when she was tired. Then she transformed into a tiny growling beast Husband Guy and I called The Wolf Baby. (We said it QUIETLY. So she wouldn’t hear and destroy us.) And that made me ask myself, “What if a REAL wolf baby went to live with a family of non-wolves? And what kind of non-wolves family would be funniest?” I’d always wanted to write a wolf-and-bunny story, and knew then this was the one.

Miss Print: The illustrations for Wolfie the Bunny could have gone in several directions. You chose to set Wolfie and his family in Brooklyn. What inspired that decision?

Zachariah OHora (ZO): At the same time I was sketching out Wolfie the Bunny, I was working on my next book “My Cousin Momo” (Dial, out June 2, 2015) that takes place in a very woodsy atmosphere. I wanted to do something that was the opposite of that. I also feel like far too many picture books have a suburban backdrop. When I realized that “The Carrot Patch” even sounds like a health food store, it all clicked when I thought about the Park Slope Co-op in my old neighborhood. And to be truthful, I like painting city scenes!

Miss Print: Ame, was there any part of Wolfie the Bunny that you were particularly excited to see once illustrated?

Ame: ALL OF IT! I was over-the-moon to see EVERYTHING–Zach’s first character sketches to the final endpapers and each bit in between! But my favorite spread is Wolfie’s first night with his new Bunny family, for the lines:

Wolfie slept through the night.
Dot did not.

Zach’s art for this spread is GENIUS! The humor, the sweet contented expression on Wolfie’s face, Dot’s oh-so-genuine kid perception of shadows being scarier than reality–this spread is SO much fun, SO well-done, and has sparked SO many great discussions from readers little to big!

WOLFIE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHTMiss Print: Zachariah, what was your favorite scene to illustrate in this book?

Zachariah: Ame’s text is so funny there are many parts of  the story I couldn’t wait to illustrate. One of the most fun was actually a last minute addition, and that was the spread where Dot and Wolfie are heading to the Carrot Patch and are greeted by the friendly but slow proprietor. And when I say slow, I mean, he’s a sloth. We’ve joked that if there was ever a sequel the sloth would still be sweeping and he would just be at the other end of the page.

MP: Can you both tell us what your creative process looked like for this book?

Ame: It was LONG-TERM percolation! I’d carried my wolf-adopted-by-bunnies idea around in my little pea brain for two whole years before I finally heard Dot Bunny say, “HE’S GOING TO EAT US ALL UP!” She piped up during a Mandatory Family Housecleaning Day when I was carrying a mountain of laundry upstairs. I told The Horde (Husband Guy, The Kid, and The Cat) I was folding towels. But really, I was typing. The first draft of what was then called WOLFIE AND DOT was finished an hour and a half later. The Horde was a bit grumpy I’d ditched on my part of our chores–until I read WOLFIE to them. They agreed they couldn’t have ignored Dot, either. She’s one PERSISTENT bunny!

Zachariah: First it was dialing in what Wolfie was going to look like. I draw lots of bunnies so I pretty much knew what Dot would look like. I put her in a red hoodie as a nod that this story was kind of an inverted/modern take on Little Red Riding Hood. Or at least it seemed that way to me. Initially I wanted to really exaggerate how toothy and wolf-like Wolfie was to further the joke that the parents were clueless. But he was a little too scary and maybe a little gangster. Bethany Strout (the editor) and Saho Fujii (the designer) were very good about reeling me in. Somewhere along the way I had the idea that if Wolfie was scary looking, he could be softened by the ridiculous act of putting him in bunny jammies. That helped but it was still overkill so I worked on a younger, cuter version of Wolfie which became the model for both the baby and toddler (but much bigger) version in the book. All the art is acrylic paint on paper.

Miss Print: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

Ame: I get to work with Zachariah OHora again! HORRIBLE BEAR!, our funny name-calling tale of accidents, tantrums, and apologies comes out next Spring from our fabulous WOLFIE THE BUNNY team at Little, Brown! I’m SO EXCITED for everybody to see Zach’s hysterical HORRIBLE BEAR! art! If you thought Dot Bunny’s scowl was a riot, you’ll adore his little redheaded girl shouting at poor befuddled Bear!

Zachariah: I’m finishing up a second book that Ame wrote called “Horrible Bear!” and it’s a fun and funny story too. I’m hoping that it’s one of many that we work on together! I’m also working on a book that takes place in my childhood library way up in Manchester, NH. It’s got monsters, waffles and a boy who has a brother that is also a bear.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors or illustrators?

Ame: Read as many books in your genre as you can, connect with your local SCBWI chapter (or come to Jersey! We adopt!) if you write kidlit, reward every little success with ice cream, get yourself a good Writing/Illustrating Buddy (quit grinnin’, Adam!) and DON’T EVER GIVE UP! (Or I’ll sic a persistent bunny on ya!) GOOD LUCK, EVERYBODY!

Zachariah: Do what you love. I’ve always loved kids books and drawing little cute animals, but it was years into my illustrating career before I let myself make that stuff for clients. But when I did, my career became a career. If you don’t love what you are doing, it’s not real and it’s not going to be good.

Get out in the world and research things. Experience things. The internet is great for reference but getting out in the world is far more inspiring and it’s there you will find your voice.

Thank you to Ame and Zach for this great interview!

You can also read my review of Wolfie the Bunny here on the blog.

You can find out more about Ame and her books here: http://amedyckman.com/home.html

You can find out more about Zachariah and his books here: http://zohora.com/

GIVEAWAY DETAILS!

Thanks to Ame I am giving away a signed copy of Wolfie the Bunny and a swag bag complete with bookmark, sticker, button, and squishy carrot.

Giveaway is open to any readers over the age of 13. US only.

Giveaway will run from midnight May 18, 2015 through May 22. Winner will be notified May 23. If I don’t hear back from the winner by May 24 I will pick a new winner from the entry pool.

ENTER HERE

I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above!