Clarity: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clarity by Kim HarringtonSixteen-year-old Clarity “Clare” Fern is used to getting weird looks from neighbors, being teased and even downright bullied by the other kids in town. It’s all part and parcel with being “gifted.”

Clare’s a psychic, her brother Periwinkle “Perry” Fern is a medium. Their mother is a telepath. In the small town Eastport on Cape Cod the Ferns ply their trade with readings to entertain visitors. Tourists love them. Townies, not so much.

Clare is expecting a typical summer in Eastport tied to the family house helping her mother with readings during the busy tourist season. Things get a bit more complicated when a girl is found murdered at the local motel.

Clare doesn’t want to get involved, especially not when her ex-boyfriend asks her to. Unfortunately when her brother becomes the prime suspect, saying no isn’t an option.

Working with Gabriel, the new detective’s hot son, Clare delves into the secrets and fears of the dead girl’s past. But the more Clare learns about the dead girl, the more evidence starts pointing to Perry in Clarity (2011) by Kim Harrington.

Clarity is Harrington’s first novel.

This book really does have it all including humor, suspense and a surprise ending (not to mention an opening for more books about Clare–yay!). Mysteries are not the hot thing in young adult literature right now so it was exciting to find this one. Yes, conclusions were drawn prematurely but the plot still finished with a shocking twist.

Harrington strikes a good balance here between mystery conventions and character development, not to mention her beautiful descriptions of Eastport that will make readers eager to plan their own Cape Cod vacation. Clarity truly is a delectable read combining a traditional mystery plot with just a pinch of romance and a strong dose of the supernatural to make a refreshing, totally unexpected story.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter by Jana Oliver, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Extraordinary: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Extraordinary by Nancy WerlinFour years ago Phoebe Rothschild knew she wanted Mallory Tolliver as a friend–as her best friend. She was not sure why but she knew that Mallory with her tawdry, unsuitable clothes and her strange behavior would be a good friend to have, much better certainly than the friends Phoebe had previously found.

And Phoebe was right. For those four years at least.

Mallory always knew she needed to befriend the Rothschild girl. She knew what was required and expected of her by the Faerie Queen and the rest of her people. But still, for just a little while, she wanted what Phoebe had; she wanted the chance to be a normal teenaged girl.

Which is exactly what Mallory got. For those four years at least.

But time is running out: A debt must be repaid by an ordinary girl, a dangerously magnetic man will draw Phoebe to a perilous choice, and a friendship will be tested in Extraordinary (2010) by Nancy Werlin.

Extraordinary is quite impressive. Well-written, clever, and compelling this story will leave readers enchanted. Werlin’s looping prose and melodic tone are masterful and work wonderfully with this fairy tale styled story. The book combines a delightful plot with very arresting characters and, as the title might suggest, also offers an interesting commentary on what it really means to be ordinary (or extraordinary).

Phoebe is a really unique narrator. She has asthma and comes from a prominent Jewish family–both of which are important elements of the story. But the great thing is neither of those things are the main event in the story, they are just facets of Phoebe’s complex character. Phoebe also spends a lot of the story being beguiled or out and out tricked by other characters. The interesting thing about Werlin’s writing is that she conveys that while simultaneously evoking Phoebe’s own (often confusing) emotions.

This story is also unique in that, at its center, readers will find two friends instead of the romantic threads that are becoming so prevalent in fantasy books (and of course also spawned their own genre called “paranormal romance”).

There is definitely nothing ordinary about this book. In short, Extraordinary is a remarkable story about the transformative power of friendship.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Beauty by Robin McKinley, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter by Jana Oliver, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Exclusive Bonus Content: I quite like the cover of this book and the jacket design by Natalie C. Sousa. While not exactly a scene from a book it picks up on a lot of details about Phoebe’s appearance and captures the essence of the book while being quite interesting. Well done!

Blog Book Giveaway: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making[CLOSED]

I have an exciting new giveaway for you, dear readers.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is Catherynne M. Valente’s first novel for young readers.

You can learn more about the book and the author here: http://us.macmillan.com/thegirlwhocircumnavigatedfairylandinashipofherownmaking

You can also view the book trailer for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWztk_QB5_U

**THIS GIVEAWAY IS OPEN TO THE US AND CANADA**

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below (with a valid email in the email form field) saying why you want the book.

This giveaway will run until June 27, 2011 when a winner will be selected via random number generator with the help of Maple the Palm Pre Plus.

IMPORTANT: I am hosting this giveaway but the book will not be mailed by me. I MUST send in the winner’s mailing address by July 1, 2011 so if I don’t hear from the winner by June 29th I will be forced to pick a different winner.

What Happened to Goodbye: A Review

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenMclean Sweet used to have the perfect life. But that was years ago and miles away. Before her parents’ bitter divorce. Before she and her father started moving from town to town like it was going out of style.

It was long before Mclean started reinventing herself in each new town. Eliza, Lizbet, Beth. All of her personas have a different story: cheerleader, drama nerd, student government junkie. It’s easy to live the part once you choose the role, once you let the moments choose you. Especially when none of them are the real Mclean. Especially when Mclean doesn’t even know who the real her is anymore.

Things are different in Lakeview. Instead of adopting a new persona for this newest town, Mclean starts being herself–or as close to it as she can be anymore. Seemingly random moments come together leading Mclean to friends and maybe even a home all while forcing her to do the unthinkable: just be real in What Happened to Goodbye (2011) by Sarah Dessen.

Find it on Bookshop.

What Happened to Goodbye is Dessen’s tenth novel and, as it turns out, this one proves that her writing really does live up to all of the hype.

Dessen’s writing is literary and immediately appealing as she evokes not only a town and a lifestyle but also Mclean’s emotions as she struggles with what it means to make a place for herself in yet another new community as Dessen brings up a lot of interesting threads about what family, and home, really mean.

The story here meanders towards the end in a way that makes perfect sense and ultimately fits perfectly for the story and the  characters. And happily so since What Happened to Goodbye is all about the characters–Mclean, of course, but also her friends and her family as well. Every bit of this story is character driven and all of it comes together to great effect in a book that is really quite lovely.

Possible Pairings: Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, Lucky Caller by Emma Mills, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

*This book was acquired at BEA 2011

Uncommon Criminals: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Uncommon Criminals by Ally CarterFifteen-year-old Katarina Bishop is a small girl with dark hair and bright blue eyes. She is also the girl that, mere months before, robbed the Henley–the greatest, and arguably most secure, museum in the world.

But Kat isn’t a thief. Not anymore. At least not exactly. Think of a her as more of a return artist, a righter of wrongs maybe.

When Kat is asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald she can’t say no. Not when the Cleopatra has been waiting years to be returned to its rightful owner. Yes, the Cleopatra hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Yes, it is essentially a concrete symbol of the doomed love between Cleopatra and Antony. Yes, there are rumors that the stone is cursed. And a history of jobs involving the Cleopatra Emerald going bad. Really bad.

But Kat is smarter than that. And curses aren’t real, not that the Cleopatra is cursed. There has to be some other, logical, reason for why the world’s most famous emerald is bringing Kat and her crew nothing but trouble, right?

Either way, before this job is over Kat is going to have take a long hard look at who she is and what she does because all of her old tricks–the tricks her family has been using for centuries–are useless this time. This job is going to require something different. Good thing Kat and her crew are anything but ordinary in Uncommon Criminals (2011) by Ally Carter.

Find it on Bookshop.

Uncommon Criminals is the sequel to Carter’s delightful Heist Society and the second in what she has stated on her site will be an ongoing series featuring Kat, her crew, and her inimitable family.

Heist Society was a smashing introduction to the world (and crew) of Katarina Bishop. The writing was sleek, smart and elegant. The  story was well-paced, original and exciting. It was the kind of book where a sequel could go horribly wrong. Or it could be just as amazing as the first.

Turns out Uncommon Criminals not only held up to the standards set Heisty Society, in a lot of ways it exceeded those standards.

Filled with several surprising twists, a cunning foe, and all of the characters readers loved in Heist Society (like Hale and Gabrielle), Uncommon Criminals is another great installment about Kat’s exploits. At the same time this book also deals with what it means to be a thief and, for Kat, what it means to be a part of her family. The con itself, and Carter’s beautiful writing, are deceptively simple here making Kat’s plans and the writing itself seem effortless.

Uncommon Criminals is a quirky, sophisticated page-turner that will leave readers guessing until its clever conclusion (and eager for another installment about Kat, Hale and the rest of the team).

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Danny Danziger, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau by E. Lockhart, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, In the Hall With the Knife by Diana Peterfreund, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series), The Italian Job (movie)

*This book was acquired at BEA 2011

A Tale of Two Castles: A Review

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson LevineElodie comes to the town of Two Castles with one goal: to become a mansioner. Her greatest hope, her only actual plan upon arriving in town, is to apprentice herself to a mansioner that she might become an accomplished performer in her own right.

When Elodie’s hope is dashed she is forced to look for another plan or starve in Two Castles with none of her family at home even knowing about her plight.

Help comes in the unusual form of a dragon named Meenore.

Mysteries (and cats) abound in Two Castles, which makes the town an ideal place for a dragon like Meenore to peddle ITs powers of deducing, inducing, finding missing things and missing people. Two Castles is also a fine town for a girl like Elodie to proclaim said dragon’s numerous talents and even to assist such a dragon in the solving of mysteries.

One of the castles in Two Castles belongs to the king, of course. But the other houses an ogre who might be in great danger. Or he might be preparing to devour townsfolk. One way or the other Elodie will have to help her Masteress Meenore make sense of the secrets in Two Castles. Together dragon and girl will have to induce, deduce and use common sense (and perhaps some mansioning) to separate the kind from the cruel and ultimately determine who can be trusted in A Tale of Two Castles (2011) by Gail Carson Levine.

Find it on Bookshop.

A Tale of Two Castles is Carson Levine’s first mystery–inspired partly by the story of “The Puss in Boots.”*

With our intrepid narrator Elodie being twelve years old, the story is essentially a children’s read but Elodie is strong enough as a character and the plot is exciting enough that it can easily appeal to older readers as well.

Carson Levine creates a well-realized world in Two Castles complete with its own customs and vocabulary. (Dragons always being called IT because only a dragon knows its own gender was a particularly nice touch.) In addition to creating an exciting whodunnit of sorts, A Tale of Two Castles is a simply a funny book. Elodie is completely out of her element and watching her make her way in the strange surroundings of Two Castles makes for several good laughs and a fair bit of drama besides.

As readers of her Newbery Honor title Ella Enchanted will expect, Carson Levine includes a lot of traditional fairy tale elements here and turns them completely upside down–mysteries are everywhere and nothing it as it seems. Elodie is a delightful narrator who, though she might stumble along the way, eventually finds the truth and a place for herself in this rollicking and winsome read.

*She explained this at her event last month at Books of Wonder. She is quite a funny and charming speaker so if you ever get a chance I STRONGLY recommend going to see her in person. You won’t regret it!

Possible Pairings: Murder at Midnight by Avi, Gideon the Cutpurse (AKA The Time Travelers) by Linda Buckley-Archer, Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley, The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Marvels by Brian Selznick, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Exclusive Bonus Content: How great is that cover? Illustrator Greg Call did a great job capturing the look of both Elodie and Meenore. Love it.

Author Interview: Myra McEntire on Hourglass

Myra McEntire author photoMyra McEntire‘s debut novel Hourglass comes out June fourteenth. Even since I heard about the book (and yes, saw the beautiful cover) I’ve been desperate to get my hands on it. So basically, Hourglass has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2011 and let me tell you, it does not disappoint! As excited as I am about this book I was delighted when Ms. McEntire agreed to take some time from her packed schedule to answer some questions for me.

Miss Print (MP): Before we start discussing Hourglass, which was such an exciting read, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?

Myra McEntire (MM): I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and it took me thirty mumble years to do it. If you want to write, start now!

MP: I have to say Hourglass has one of my favorite covers from 2011 and, for me, seems to really capture the spirit of the Story and of Emerson. What did you think when you first saw the cover?

MM: I screamed. And then the nanny had to explain it to me. We couldn’t get it to stay sideways on my iPhone and it took me a bit to realize she was walking down the wall.

MP: What was the inspiration for Hourglass?

MM: I don’t have a specific inspiration. I just followed the story.

MP: Hourglass is a lot of things including a “time slip” romance and a fantasy. What drew you to this genre?

MM: I love the fantasy genre, the romance genre, and I loved movies like Somewhere in Time and shows like Doctor Who!

MP: What kind of research went into writing and plotting this story? Did you have a favorite (or least favorite) part to write?

MM: I researched a ton. I probably have three years worth of articles, shows, movies, etc. I knew I’d nailed it when a reader who knows the ins and outs of quantum physics said I got it right.

MP: At the start of Hourglass, Emerson is returning home to Ivy Springs—a small Southern town. Is Ivy Springs based on a real place? How did you decide where to set this story?

MM: It is! Franklin, Tennessee. I grew up in Tennessee, and we’re more than Elvis, Dolly, and country music!

MP: Throughout the story Emerson sees a lot of figures from the past including Southern Belles and soldiers among others. What figures from the past would you want (or not want) to see?

MM: Relatives. I have a lot of questions.

MP: Given the choice would you want to see the world the way Emerson does?

MM: I think so. I think it was harder for her because of extenuating life circumstances. She didn’t need any more freaky.

MP: What can you tell us about your next book? Will we be seeing more of Emerson and her world?

MM: I can’t tell you much, but YES.

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

MM: DO IT. Don’t worry if you’re right or wrong, because the first time you’re always wrong. JUST WRITE.

Thanks again to Ms. McEntire for taking the time to answer my questions. Remember if you want to know more about Hourglass you can check out my review.

Hourglass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Hourglass by Myra McEntireFor the past four years Emerson Cole has seen strange things–things that shouldn’t be there–Southern Belles, Civil War soldiers, and other apparitions from the past. Without obvious cues from clothing, it’s hard for Emerson to tell if people are part of the here and now or a window from the past; it’s hard for Emerson to convince herself she isn’t losing her mind.

Pills helped. For a while. So did being away from her small Southern hometown at a boarding school where she didn’t need to think about the hallucinations or the loss of her parents. But with her scholarship gone Emerson finds herself back home facing the undesirable prospect of a senior year spent with the people who watched her lose her mind the first time.

Emerson knows she is beyond help, but agrees to one last consultation with a man from an organization called the Hourglass. Her brother, Thomas, assures her this one will be different.

Turns out Thomas was right about that.

Michael Weaver isn’t like the other people who tried to help Emerson. He is good looking and he isn’t much older than Em herself. He listens. He believes her. He doesn’t think she’s crazy at all.

Her past, her future–it all comes back to the Hourglass and her strange connection with Michael. If Emerson can make sense of the secrets and get at the truth about her visions it might change everything for both of them in Hourglass (2011) by Myra McEntire.

Hourglass is McEntire’s first novel.

Emerson’s narration is crisp and frank. McEntire has created a heroine here who is endearing, sharp, and quite entertaining. More importantly, Emerson is a survivor–even at her lowest and most damaged she remains strong. And Michael is a male lead who can match her par for par (sometimes literally).

Hourglass is sweeping, urgent and filled with extremely dramatic twists and turns. As much as this story is romantic and a fantasy it’s also a page-turner with a few surprises and a lot of suspense. Hourglass is an irresistible debut that resolves beautifully but also promises more stories about Emerson and her world.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Myra McEntire.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Malice by Pintip Dunn, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Clarity by Kim Harrington, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Out Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Pivot Point by Kasie West

Exclusive Bonus Content: How cool is that cover? I love it because it nods to a dress Emerson wears early on in the story while capturing the topsy turvy nature of her relationship with her visions. It’s one of the coolest covers I’ve seen on a 2011 debut. Props to cover designer Alison Klapthor and Lissy Laricchia who took the cover photo. Nicely done.

The Boneshaker: A Review

The Boneshaker by Kate MilfordStrange things can happen at a crossroads. If a town is near that crossroads, well, strange things can happen there too.

Arcane, Missouri is filled with odd stories about the town and the crossroads. Just ask Natalie Minks. She might only be thirteen, but she already knows all about the eerie goings on at the crossroads thanks to her excellent storyteller (and terrible cook) mother.

As much as Natalie loves a good story, she loves machines and gears more. Her father is an expert bicycle mechanic and Natalie is learning too–it’s 1913 after all and machines are popping up everywhere.

Even, it turns out, in traveling bands of snake oil salesmen.

Doctor Jake Limberleg’s Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show promises entertainment, information, and a cure for any and all ailments. Natalie is enchanted by all of the bicycles and automata the show brings along with its tents and patent medicines. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that something is wrong, horribly wrong, with the medicine show and its four Paragons of Science.

To figure out how wrong the medicine show is Natalie will have to get to the bottom of an age-old bargain, tame the fastest bicycle in the world, cash in a dangerous favor, and ask a lot of costly questions–all before the medicine show can take Arcane for everything it’s worth in The Boneshaker (2010) by Kate Milford with illustrations by Andrea Offermann.*

The Boneshaker is Milford’s first novel.

The Boneshaker tackles a lot of narrative ground with unexplained visions, mysterious automatons, strange bargains, and a whole town’s secrets. The ending of the story leaves a lot up in the air with Natalie’s future and even her place in the town. The narrative also takes a lot of time to tie things together and explain details of the lore surrounding Arcane as well as to explain certain things Natalie begins to learn in the story. The premise is interesting and Natalie is a great protagonist but the whole package was not quite as well-realized (or resolved) as it could have been.

That said, Milford writes like a natural storyteller. The opening pages of this story draw readers in with prose that sounds like a traditional folk tale and a setting that immediately evokes the era and feel of a midwestern town at the turn of the last century. Everything about The Boneshaker is charming from Natalie and her cantankerous bicycle to the vivid illustrations by Offermann that bring Natalie’s world to life.

This story is well-written and will find many fans in readers of fantasies and historical novels alike.

*The Boneshaker is not to be confused by a similarly titled but completely different book by Cherie Priest called Boneshaker.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Exclusive Bonus Content: This is probably just me, but The Boneshaker reminded me a lot of Plain Kate–the book that I had the most issues with from 2010. Like Plain Kate this book starts with the whimsical feel of a light(ish)-hearted middle grade novel. Then by the end it veers into dark (very dark in the case of Plain Kate) territory that grounds the story more firmly in the young adult audience area. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it felt like a big leap here that did not work effectively for me (though as I said, I might be particularly touchy about this since I’ve noticed it in several books already).

Blog Book Giveaway: Everlasting by Alyson Noel[CLOSED]

I have an exciting new giveaway for you, dear readers.

The final book in Alyson Noel’s Immortals series called  Everlasting comes out this month and I was contacted about hosting a giveaway for one copy of the book.

You can also view the book trailer for Everlasting here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzAYfC6euj8

**THIS GIVEAWAY IS OPEN TO THE US AND CANADA**

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below (with a valid email in the email form field) saying why you want the book.

This giveaway will run until June 10, 2011 when a winner will be selected via random number generator with the help of Maple the Palm Pre Plus.

IMPORTANT: I am hosting this giveaway but the book will not be mailed by me. I MUST send in the winner’s mailing address by June 13, 2011 so if I don’t hear from the winner by the next day (June 11) I will be forced to pick a different winner.