Lotus and Thorn: A Review

Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson EtienneLeica and her sisters, Lotus and Tashcen, are descendants of colonists who settled on the planet Gabriel five hundred years ago. Now, in 2590, Leica and the other Citizens of Pleiades scavenge the ruins of their original colony for technology to trade to the Curadores in exchange for supplies and god’s eventual forgiveness.

Leica knows what it is to live in Gabriel’s barren deserts fearing the next occurrence of the Red Death and knowing the other Citizens revile her six-fingered hands as a Corruption–a sign that their god has still not forgiven the Citizens enough to return them to Earth. After being exiled nearly two years for possessing contraband technology, she also knows the fear and privation of being alone in the desert surrounding Pleiades.

When Leica finds a shuttle out in the Tierra Muerta it provides a link to Earth. It also leads Leica back to her sister, Lotus, and a fledgling settlement trying to separate itself from both Pleiades and the Curadores who reside in a secure dome habitat.

With the dome malfunctioning and food in Pleiades becoming scarce, Leica will have to work quickly to find the truth about increasing Red Death outbreaks and uncover the long buried secrets behind why Earth abandoned Gabriel so many years ago in Lotus and Thorn (2016) by Sara Wilson Etienne.

This convoluted science fiction novel is a loose retelling of the Grimm fairy tale “Fitcher’s Bird”–a story that also shares some common tropes with the tale of Bluebeard. Lotus and Thorn is broken into three parts, each of which is preceded by an excerpt from a version of Fitcher’s Bird that the author wrote to accompany the novel.

Elements from Korean and Mexican culture are fused into this futuristic story to create a diverse world, albeit one that often lacks strong internal logic.While these choices make for a diverse setting the method behind these cultures, of any, being the two to have lasting influence centuries in the future is decidedly unclear.

A meandering plot filled with too many twists and not enough character development make for a slow read. Lotus and Thorn will have the most appeal for committed science fiction fans and readers looking for a new fairy tale retelling in the style of Cinder or Stitching Snow.

Possible Pairings: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay, Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various places online*

This Month at YALSA’s The Hub: Booklist: Steampunk Reads for Teens

Booklist: Steampunk Reads for Teens

This month for my blogging at the Hub, I made a comprehensive booklist for readers looking for some fun steampunk reads. The booklist is broken down by books with adventure, romance, books that are scary, mysteries, books with magic and mayhem, and retellings.

If you can’t get enough steampunk books I would suggest heading over to the Hub to read my full booklist and see if there’s anything new to add to your “to read” list!

Breaker: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Breaker by Kat EllisNaomi doesn’t want to board at Killdeer Academy but she can’t stay with her grandparents now that her grandmother has so much to do taking care of Naomi’s grandfather as his Alzheimer’s progresses.

Kyle hopes to be able to remake himself at Killdeer Academy with a new last name and a determination to forget all about his serial killer father. His mother’s decision that Kyle should board is a surprise. But he’s dealt with worse.

Kyle expects to have a completely blank slate at the Academy. The only problem is that he recognizes Naomi immediately. She was the daughter of his father’s last victim. Kyle wants to stay away from Naomi but he isn’t sure how to ignore when she seems to actually want to be his friend–and maybe even more. When people start dying on campus both Naomi and Kyle will have to confront their pasts to stop the murders in Breaker (2016) by Kat Ellis.

The book alternates first person narration between Kyle and Naomi which makes both protagonists well-rounded. While other characters factor into the story in crucial ways, they remain decidedly secondary to Kyle and Naomi and are consequently somewhat less developed. Excerpts from ephemera related to Kyle’s father further complicate the story.

In a departure from her debut mystery fantasy, Blackfin Sky, Ellis delivers a much darker story here. Kyle is haunted by his father’s legacy as a serial killer, terrified that the stigma will cling to him forever and the thought that he could have turned out like his father. Naomi saw her mother’s murder and has spent the intervening years doing her best to not think about her mother at all to avoid the pain of that traumatic loss.

Kyle and Naomi are a completely unlikely pair but their chemistry in Breaker, not to mention their draw to each other is undeniable in this fast-paced thriller that is sure to appeal to fans of the genre. Breaker is a creepy and atmospheric story filled with choice details that bring Killdeer Academy to life in all of its eerie and dilapidated glory.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, With Malice by Eileen Cook, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

You can also read my interview with Kat about Breaker!

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Author Interview: Kat Ellis on Breaker

Kat Ellis author photoI discovered Kat Ellis’ debut novel a couple of years through a series of serendipitous events. Blackfin Sky quickly became a favorite of mine and since then I’ve been looking forward to reading Kat’s next book. Happily, Breaker is finally here and coincidentally Kat is also here on the blog to talk a bit more about it.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for Breaker?

KE: It started with a documentary I was watching about serial killers on death row. The interviewer talked with the inmates, but also with their friends and family — and the relatives of the victims as well. It got me thinking about those who get caught in the crossfire when someone commits a violent crime, and how it ripples outward to affect more people than you ever read about in news articles. I thought it would be interesting to write a story about two teens growing up in the aftermath of a brutal murder — one connected to the victim, and the other to the killer; Breaker spiralled outward from that.

MP: This book alternates first person point of view between Naomi and Kyle throughout. Did you always know that you wanted the book to follow both characters? How did having two narrators influence your writing process?

KE: I always knew it would have two narrators, but Kyle’s voice came to me first. I knew he would be southern, and that the move to a private school in Killdeer, Pennsylvania, would be jarring for him even though he’s aching for a fresh start. Naomi took a little longer to figure out, but when I did, I knew she’d be resilient and feisty and funny — exactly the kind of person who would reach out to someone who seemed overwhelmed in their new school, and the chemistry and the connection between her and Kyle just grew from there.

Writing dual narratives is actually my go-to writing structure, although my debut, Blackfin Sky, had only one. For Breaker, having two perspectives let me explore both sides of the story, and really get to know both main characters.

MP: You live in North Wales. Breaker is set in Pennsylvania. Did you always know that this book would be set there? What kind of research was involved in bringing Killdeer to life?

KE: As I’m not exactly local, I had to do some pretty intensive research before I found the right spot to locate Killdeer. I needed somewhere with a real historic vibe, somewhere I could create the creepy, gothic school building, the isolated setting, the woodland crowding in on all sides. I also had to check on things like native trees and wildlife, and how the weather would change over the course of the novel (I had a sense that it would get colder and colder as the story progressed). Much Googling later, Killdeer sprang to life at the edge of Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia.

MP: Working off the last question, did any real life locations inspire you while writing Breaker? Did any real locations inspire Killdeer Academy specifically?

KE: Well, since you ask…. There is actually a building near me that I used as a (very loose) basis for Killdeer Academy [see photo below]. It was a mental hospital until it closed in the 1980s, and the gothic architecture and fairly isolated setting was just perfect for Killdeer Academy. Getting to transplant bits of Wales into Pennsylvania is an author’s prerogative, right? ;-)

Picture - Q4MP: Killdeer Academy is an eerie and dilapidated boarding school filled with taxidermied animals that reside on shelves throughout the school. Animal you would least want around as a taxidermy statue?

KE: I’m actually really squeamish about real taxidermied animals! I’m a cat lover, so I’d have to say having a stuffed cat around the house would absolutely make my skin crawl.

MP: Breaker is a fast-paced thriller. There are murders, there’s suspense, there’s mystery. I was definitely reading as fast as I could to get to the finish. How did you lay out the pacing of this story? How did you decide when to reveal key details to the reader?

KE: Well, first of all, thank you! I am a linear writer, so I wrote a full dirty draft before paring it down to make the pacing as tight as possible. And my editor was amazing at pointing out where tension was lacking, or when what I thought was a subtle clue was actually just a glaringly obvious reveal. While I wanted readers to be able to figure out the who part of the mystery (I kind of think it’s cheating if an author makes it impossible to guess), I kept the why hidden until the climax so there is hopefully a ‘Whoa!’ moment, whether the reader guessed the Big Bad’s identity or not.

MP: A big part of this book is Naomi’s efforts to recreate photos from her grandfather’s damaged scrapbooks. And also walking on roofs. Can you talk about your own photography and your effort to recreate a scene from the book (seen here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEyOBPwN6i4/)?

KE: I’m a visual person (you should see my spectacular colour-coded revision notes from high school) so having images to sit alongside a story feels natural for me. Sometimes I’ll take a photo and get writing inspiration from it, or sometimes the writing comes first, and I’ll try to find or create an image to go with it — like the rooftop scene. That photo was one I took during the book trailer shoot for Breaker (https://youtu.be/76LHXOP4mec) which was filmed by my friend Dawn Kurtagich, author of The Dead House. It was also a great excuse to send my younger brother and sister up onto a slate roof.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

KE: I can! My next book is coming out this September. It’s a sci-fi thriller called PURGE, set on a flooded Earth where the last survivors live in sealed, floating communities. Mason is 17, and already has a rap sheet too long to remember. So he isn’t exactly high on the list to be allowed into any community — which is how he ends up at Alteria, living among a cult-like group who purge negative behaviour through a mind-altering virtual reality programme. Mason knows he has to stay out of trouble, but that’s not easy when he falls for a girl who has a few bad habits of her own. When she’s caught with drugs and thrown into the programme, Mason risks everything to go in after her, not knowing if either of them will ever be the same.

Thanks so much for the great questions!

Thanks again to Kat for another fun interview.

You can see more about Kat and her books on her website.

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

Top Fives from the Fall 2016 Simon & Schuster Preview

Another preview, another recap. On July 19, Simon & Schuster hosted their Fall 2016 Educator and Librarian preview. The preview was held at the Simon & Schuster previews near Rockefeller Center and covered Fall 2016 releases from Atheneum: Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Atheneum, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books, Paula Wiseman Books, Little Simon, Simon Spotlight, Aladdin, Simon Pulse, and Simon & Schuster Audio.

missprinttopfivesHere are my Top Fives for a few categories presented at the preview:

Picture Books:

  1. Click, Clack, Surprise! by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin: Doreen and Betsy were the special guests at this preview and talked about this latest installment on Farmer Brown’s farm. This one follows Little Duck on his birthday as he gets into a bit of trouble while mimicking other farm residents to prepare for his big party. I’m a fan of this series, so it’s no surprise that this book is another winner.
  2. The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell, illustrated by Charles Santoso: This picture book comes from the team behind I Don’t Like Koala which is a delightfully creepy picture book about a boy and his terrifying stuffed animal. In this book, Ruthie has a problem. It’s the Snurtch. The Snurtch is not nice or quiet or polite. And he is making Ruthie’s school day VERY difficult. In this book about dealing with behavioral issues and acting out (comped to Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse), Ruthie eventually learns how to negotiate life with the Snurtch. And that she may not be the only one who has a Snurtch.
  3. I Heart You by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: Really great actions. Sweet, sweet story. I think this would be a great story to use in a Babies and Books program. It’s saccharine but in a charming way.
  4. Octopuses One to Ten by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Robin Page: This is a counting concept book filled with fun facts about octopi (which I contend is the correct pluralization!).
  5. The Pros & Cons of Being a Frog by Sud deGennaro: After dressing as a cat becomes problematic for a little boy (after being chased by a dog for eleven days straight), his best friend Camille (who loves to talk in numbers) suggests he try a new animal. A frog perhaps? A beautifully illustrated story about celebrating differences.

Non-Fiction/Biography/Based on a True Story:

  1. Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan: While talking with his editor, Bryan revealed that he collects wills, sale receipts, and deeds from plantation and slave auctions. Bryan worries that these documents could end up in the wrong hands and fears that this point of history could be erased. After years of gathering and pondering, he began to write poetry about some of the people listed in one such contract. This book features portraits of what Bryan imagines these individuals would have looked like, poems about their lives as slaves, and poems of their dreams of the lives they could have had if they were free. This seems to be the book that Bryan was born to create as well as incredibly important and powerful.
  2. The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring by Gilbert Ford: This picture book explains the accidental invention of one of the popular Slinky toy. This book marks a completely new illustrative style for Ford. Each page spread includes a three-dimensional scene which Ford built and photographed to include in the book.
  3. Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins: This illustrated book includes stories of three noted women scientist when they were still young girls and looks at how their childhoods and upbringings shaped the scientists they would become. The book is broken into three stories: “Mud, Moths, and Mystery” about Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) who discovered the process of metamorphosis while studying the life cycle of insects; “Secrets in Stones” about Mary Annin (1799-1847) who studied fossils; and “Many Stars, One Comet” about Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) who discovered a comet while studying astronomy and observing the stars.
  4. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debby Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley: This illustrated biography doesn’t need much introduction. What it does need is to be read widely. I’m pretty excited to check out a finished copy once it’s published!
  5. Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Wendell Minor: The first book in a new biography series focused on American women writers.

Middle Grade:

  1. Ghost by Jason Reynolds: This book is the first in a four book series (each book will focus on a different character–three boys and one girl). Reynolds has seen in his own life that black boys are always running and looking over their shoulder. He wanted to change that and write about black kids who are running toward something. This middle grade series features four kids on an elite track team. It’s “gulpable yet penetrating” and was compared to Sharon Draper’s Tears of a Tiger (but aged down about four years).
  2. The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal: In a complete departure from his military thrillers for adults, Hannibal makes his MG debut with this novel being pitched as Harry Potter meets Dr. Who. This story blends history, science, and victorian style. It also has a stunning cover.
  3. The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere: Debut middle grade mystery comedy. This story is set in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and joins the very small “middle grade mafia” sub-genre with the likes of The Fourth Stall and Al Capone Does My Shirts.
  4. The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner: In her middle grade debut, Weiner explores a boarding school in upstate New York where a little girl is feeling very alone . . . until she rescues the smallest Bigfoot from the lake and makes a new friend. First in a trilogy.
  5. League of Archers by Eva Howard: Twelve-year-old Ellie love Robin Hood and all that he stands for. She and her friends try to emulate Robin’s band of Merry Men with their League of Archers. When Ellie is accused of killing Robin Hood she will have to work fast to clear her name (and save Maid Marian) if she hopes to keep her hero’s legacy alive.

Young Adult:

  1. Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl: This YA thriller is a new and unexpected direction for Kindl. The story starts with a girl who has no conscience (that’s right, we have a psychopath MC) and knows she isn’t quite like other people. She agrees to switch identities with a girl at the airport just to get her to stop being so annoying with all of her crying. Who does that? The main character here is being compared to Barbara Stanwyck’s character in Double Indemnity–something I never even realized I wanted in a YA protagonist until this very moment.
  2. The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely: The only stories that last are love stories, and this one is no exception. It’s a cool, sweet contemporary that takes road trip conventions and turns them upside down. Oh and it’s a little bit of The Odyssey too. Compared to Rainbow Rowell and Tim Tharp.
  3. The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid: This book is getting a BIG push from the publisher. It’s being called The Terminator meets House of Cards, Red Queen meets The Hunger Games. Nemesis is sent to serve as hostage in place of a politician’s beloved daughter. But then everything starts to go wrong. This is a standalone novel and has a killer twist on page 161.
  4. Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel: I could tell you more about this book but honestly, I was sold the moment I heard it described as Indiana Jones meets Romeo & Juliet.
  5. Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley: Four girls, known as effigies, control the elements to keep the world safe. The only problem is that when Maya become sthe new fire effigy she has no idea what she’s doing. Buffy meets Sailor Moon with a dash of The Avengers.

Week in Review: July 24

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week went by rather slowly. But, hey! We made it through!

Last Sunday I saw the Manus X Machina exhibit with Nicole and it was a lot of fun. I also shared all of my photos on Instagram and might compile them into a blog post here.

This is my favorite dress from the show:

And this is the dress from the show that I wish I had in my own closet:

Thanks to Estelle, I also got to take part in a really fun Instagram challenge for Who Wins? I am obsessed with this book and foist it onto kids/teens in my programs at work constantly.

Who do YOU think would win in this match up?

As soon as I started flipping through Who Wins by Clay Swartz and Tom Booth (thanks @workmanpub for the review copy!) I knew I wanted to stage a battle to see who would win the Hunger Games. Harry Houdini was my immediate choice for one contender. He's a performer, he's athletic, and he's daring. Basically, I'm pretty sure Houdini could have been a career tribute in another life. Picking his rival in this match was a little harder. At first I considered Eleanor of Aquitaine or Sacagawea or even Cleopatra, I realized these women would never go along with the Hunger Games and would just jump right to bringing down the Capitol. Then I found Allan Pinkerton and the match was set. Pinkerton was a tough guy with a strong moral code. He used his strength, toughness, and ingenuity to catch notorious train and bank robbers while also establishing a detective agency that still exists today. So who would win here? While Pinkterton would no doubt make an admirable showing with his bravery and start an early alliance with some of the other tributes, I have to give this match to Houdini. His work as a magician and escape artist, mean that Houdini would be able to work alone and endear himself to viewers to gain sponsors. All the while Houdini would bide his time until the moment came to strike and become the lone victor. #whowins #booknerdigans #bookstagram #bookishfeatures #goodreads #bookstagramfeatures #instabook #instareads #igreads #booknerd #bibliophile #books #reading #currentlyreading #amreading #bookworm #bookish #bookgram

A photo posted by Emma (@missprint_) on

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

How was your week?

Painting Pepette: A Picture Book Review

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding and Claire Fletcher Josette Bobette lives at #9 Rue Laffette, Paris with her family and her toy rabbit, Pepette. Josette loves Pepette dearly and takes her everywhere. One day when she and  are cuddling in the great room, she notices that every member of the Bobette family has a portrait hanging on the wall. Except that there is no portrait of Pepette!

Determined to fix this egregious omission, Josette and Pepette take to the streets of Paris to find an artist who can paint Pepette’s portrait and create a picture as special as she is in Painting Pepette (2016) by Linda Ravin Lodding, illustrated by Claire Fletcher.

Traveling through the busy streets of 1920s Paris, Josette and Pepette meet Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse. Each artist is eager to paint Pepette but Josette soon realizes that none of them quite capture everything that makes her rabbit so special (and Pepette has to agree). After a busy day and several portraits, Josette realizes that she is the best candidate to paint a portrait of Pepette and she finally finds a picture just as special as her special friend, Pepette.

Rhyming names and a repeated refrain (And Pepette had to agree) make this an excellent story time title with a lot of potential as a read-a-loud. Bold illustrations take advantage of the large page size alternating between detailed two-page spreads and closer shots of individual characters. Fletcher excellently conveys the individual styles and aesthetics of each artist that Josette encounters during her travels.

The famous artists are not mentioned by name in the story. Instead, each artists presents Josette with their portrait of Pepette which demonstrates their artistic style. An author’s note at the end of the book details exactly who Josette meets during her day too. The references to actual artists make Painting Pepette a versatile read sure to appeal to art enthusiasts both young and old.

Painting Pepette is a charming picture book filled with riotously colorful illustrations and naturally flowing text which easily moves readers through the story.

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*