Slide: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Slide by Jill HathawaySylvia “Vee” Bell has passed out often enough in class for everyone to know she’s narcoleptic. What no one would believe is that Vee doesn’t just pass out during her episodes.

When Vee loses consciousness she can slide into someone else’s mind. Most of the time when Vee slides she discovers secrets she’d rather not know like seeing her sister, Mattie, cheating on a math test or watching a teacher sneak a drink before class.

When Vee slides late one night she sees something much worse: the murder of her sister’s best friend, Sophie. While everyone else believes that Sophie killed herself, Vee knows the truth. Even if she has no way to prove it.

As Vee learns more about her sliding and unearths secrets about her friends and family, she’ll have to try to stop the killer herself before they strike again in Slide (2012) by Jill Hathaway.

 Slide is Hathaway’s first novel.

In this sharp mystery with a sly supernatural twist, Hathaway introduces a heroine with equal parts candor and spunk. Vee’s narration is frank and unapologetic making her easy to identify with and even easier to love.

At a slim 256 pages, Slide is a finely tuned page-turner filled with unexpected surprises for Vee and readers alike. Vee’s father and sister are well-developed characters with their own flaws and, more troubling for Vee, their own secrets. Similarly Vee’s best friend Rollins is an admirable foil to Vee and adds another dimension to the story as he and Vee try to untangle their newly-complicated friendship.

While Vee works to use her sliding to uncover the killer, Vee also comes into her own as she learns more about how she slides as well as how to simply be herself. Slide finishes with an ending that is as shocking as it is satisfying. Hathaway skillfully completes most story threads while leaving room for future installments in what will hopefully be a long running series.

Possible Pairings: The Infinity of You & Me by J. Q. Coyle, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Clarity by Kim Harrington, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten

Check back June 1, 2012 to see my exclusive interview with the author!

Perception: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Perception by Kim HarringtonClarity “Clare” Fern thought things would go back to normal for her once summer ended. Except it’s not so easy for people to forget the psychic girl who helped solve a murder and clear her brother’s name during the tourist season in their Cape Cod town.

Back at school Clare is getting a lot of unwelcome attention from the student body. Not to mention more attention than she can handle from ex-boyfriend Justin and new guy Gabriel Toscano. Both want to be more than friends. Too bad Clare isn’t as certain of her own feelings yet.

As Clare tries to navigate her new-found celebrity, she also starts getting unexpected notes from an unidentified sender. Could it be someone Clare knows? A shy secret admirer? Or is it something much more sinister in Perception (2012) by Kim Harrington?

Perception is Harrington’s sequel to her debut novel Clarity.

Set during Cape Cod’s off season, Perception  lacks some of the excitement found in Clarity even as Harrington shines a light on Clare’s more typical day-to-day life. Though the narrative often refers back to the first book, Perception explains enough to be able to stand on its own without much difficulty.

All of the characters readers loved from the first book are back. Unfortunately so is Clare’s unfortunate love triangle. While Justin and Gabriel both remain likable, Clare’s vacillation throughout the novel grew tiresome–particularly when to some readers her choice will be obvious from early chapters.*

Much like the love triangle, the mystery aspect of Perception felt a bit obvious as well. While some parts of the story will keep readers on their toes other twists will be guessed early on.

Clare and her family develop a lot over the course of Perception leading to a novel whose strength lies in its characterizations. That said, Perception continues the story of a spunky, clever heroine in a fun mystery sure to leave readers smiling.

*Happily, the love triangle is resolved to some extent at the end of the story so hopefully Clare, Justin and Gabriel can all move on to other things when Harrington writes another Clarity novel.

Possible Pairings: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom: A Review

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher HealyEveryone has heard of Prince Charming. But did you know that Prince Charming isn’t just one guy. True story: There are four Princes Charming. And those dumb bards never even bothered to get their names right in their songs.

Sure, Frederic didn’t do much beyond dancing quite well with a girl named Ella at a ball. And maybe Gustav didn’t come off all that well after his attempted rescue of Rapunzel since she actually had to save him. But Liam is a hero through and through; he had to fight to overcome a lot of obstacles to rescue Briar Rose. Even if his kingdom might not appreciate it. Then there’s Duncan. Maybe he was really just in the right place at the right time with seven dwarves to tell him what to do, but sometimes that is all it takes to save the day and get the girl.

Despite their heroics–or at least their important roles–each prince is relegated to the anonymous title of “Prince Charming” when their deeds are immortalized in song. Worse, the princes might not be so charming as each and everyone of them loses their princess.

Jilted and disgraced, each prince sets off in search of redemption. Along the way they stumble upon each other and an evil plot that will need all four Princes Charming (and some help from some other familiar characters) to foil.

At the beginning of the story these four princes don’t have much in common. Before the story is over Frederic, Liam, Gustav and Duncan might finally become the heroes they were meant to be in The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (2012) by Christopher Healy (with illustrations by Todd Harris).

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is Healy’s first novel.

With a breezy, humorous narrative Healy creates a quirky take on a lot of traditional fairy tales. Healy recreates these heroes, heroines, and villains in a fresh style all his own. Readers familiar with the original texts will find a lot of funny new touches while others will be introduced to the fairy tales in a fun new tale.

While some of the changes to these stories have the potential to frustrate readers* most of them amp up the opportunities for hilarity and action–sometimes at the same time. Because of the silliness the characters sometimes read as younger than they actually are, but with so much humor that’s easily ignored. Filled with adventure, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is also a truly funny story sure to entertain readers from start to finish.

Although the ending is rushed in some aspects (perhaps to leave room for a sequel?), the overall journey of each prince is a sight to behold. As Frederic, Liam, Gustav and Duncan each conquers their own shortcomings these unlikely heroes also discover the importance of good friends and that it takes a lot more than fancy swordplay to really be a hero. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is an ideal choice for readers who like their fairy tales fractured, their stories amusing, and their adventures entertaining.

*By readers, I mean me. It took me most of the story to get over Healy’s reinvention of the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Before getting into slight SPOILERS explaining my frustration let me also point out that I literally watched the movieSleeping Beautyevery day for at least a year when I was little. My mother was terrified the tape would break. So, I am understandably very invested in these characters. That said, I was dismayed that Sleeping Beauty’s prince was named Liam instead of Philip. Worse, Briar Rose is a truly horrible person. While I greatly enjoyed Gustav and Rapunzel’s updated storyline it was very hard to let Sleeping Beauty go.

Possible Pairings: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley, Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, We Are Not Eaten by Yaks by C. Alexander London, Don’t Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough, The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Take a Bow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Take a Bow by Elizabeth EulbergEmme’s never been comfortable in the spotlight. Not that she has to be as a song writer. She’s fine writing songs and having her best friend Sophie sing them while Emme stays in the background. Except Sophie might not be the friend Emme thought she was. And being in the background might not be enough to get Emme what she wants anymore.

Sophie knows she is destined to be a star. Sure, her path to stardom hasn’t gone exactly to plan since she arrived at the New York City High School of the Creative and Performing Arts. But senior year is just starting and she still has time to make a statement. If that means exploiting her best friend Emme and riding on her trophy boyfriend Carter’s famous coattails, so be it.

Carter has been playing parts for his entire life. Next It actor. Former Child Star. Soap Opera Actor. Big Ticket Attraction at CPA school performances. Now that senior year is here Carter realizes it might be time to stop acting and start living. Even if he isn’t totally sure where that road will lead.

Ethan never worries about performances or auditions. Music is the one thing Ethan knows he is good at even when he manages to ruin everything else–especially relationships. Ethan knows having Emme as a friend makes him a better person. He knows he needs her in his life. What he doesn’t know is how to convince Emme that she needs him.

With their time at CPA coming to an end Emme, Sophie, Carter and Ethan are all looking to leave their mark–or at least find their way. At a school where everyone is talented and everyone wants to be famous, these four are going to find out exactly what it takes to shine in Take a Bow (2012) by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Take a Bow is Eulberg’s third novel and perhaps her most ambitious to date. It is also possibly my favorite so far.

This novel has four first person narrators. Chapters rotate between Emme, Sophie, Carter and Ethan throughout the novel with Emme and Ethan taking up the bulk of the chapters as the plot progresses. With a variety of voices and techniques (Carter’s chapters read like scenes written in a screenplay) Eulberg expertly juggles all four characters making sure they each stand out.

Set in a specialized New York City high school, Eulberg captures the unique stress and frenzy of both getting into and staying in a competitive high school. Being grounded in the school and New York City, Eulberg also writes a well-rounded look at the work and passion it takes to be a performer. Sophie’s desperation is especially palpable and sympathetic even when she is at her worst.

Really, though, the star of the book is Emme. Having her narration and also seeing how the other characters perceive her, Eulberg does a phenomenal job showing Emme’s transformation as she moves from the background to the spotlight.While all of the characters ring true, Emme will strike a chord with anyone who is waiting for (or has already found) the way to be the star of their own life. Her fears and hang ups are believable as is her shift as she realizes it’s time to make a change.

One of the best things about Take a Bow is how aptly Eulberg focuses on the changing friendships of the characters going through the full spectrum from toxic friendships that inevitably fall apart to relationships that can survive anything. While there is a romantic aspect to the story it’s really the friendships between all of the characters that make the story stand out.

Filled with its fair share of drama, romance, and of course music, Take a Bow is definitely a book that will have readers singing its praises.

Possible Pairings: When It Happens by Susane Colasanti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

You can also read my exclusive interview with Elizabeth Eulberg!

In which I celebrate the paperback release of The Near Witch

Today some cool book things are happening for one of my favorite 2011 releases. First, today is the release day for the paperback of The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. Second, to celebrate its release, “The Ash-Born Boy” is posted over at Disney*Hyperion’s website!

What, you might ask, is “The Ash-Born Boy”?

It’s a free story Victoria wrote as a thank-you to her fans to answer a simple question: “Who was Cole before he came to Near?”

Now, if you’ve already read The Near Witch, “The Ash-Born Boy” is guaranteed to change the way you see Cole.

And if you haven’t read The Near Witch yet, don’t worry, “The Ash-Born Boy” won’t spoil anything!

So basically, either way, you should go read Cole’s story ;)

And if you want to wait and read The Near Witch first, don’t worry! Cole’s story will stay up on Disney*Hyperion’s website, and if it ever comes down, Victoria will carve out a space for it on her own site. It will always be available somewhere, and it will always be free.

There’s more!

Cole’s story isn’t the only goodie to go along with the paperback release. In the back of the paperback you’ll find the first chapter of Victoria’s new book, The Archived, which doesn’t come out until January 2013.

So what are you waiting for?

Help Victoria celebrate today by taking a look at “The Ash-Born Boy,” and don’t forget to buy/order/pick up your own paperback copy of The Near Witch!

Want to know more?

Read my review of The Near Witch.

Check out my interview with Victoria Schwab.

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.

How to Save a Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How to Save a Life by Sara ZarrJill MacSweeney wants to go back to the life she had before. But that’s impossible because her father was alive before and now he isn’t. She had friends and a boyfriend before and now she can barely talk to anyone without biting their heads off. She and her mother had Jill’s dad to bridge the gap between them before. Now all Jill has is her mother making the insane decision to adopt a baby after exchanging a few emails with the mother. How can  anything be normal with that looming?

Mandy Kalinowski knows she might not be the best mother for her baby. That’s why she was so happy to find Robin–an older woman with a stable life who wants a baby to love. It should be the perfect arrangement. Except Robin’s daughter seems to hate Mandy on sight. And as her due date looms closer and closer, Mandy starts to wonder if making the right decision for her baby might not be as simple as she thought.

As Jill and Mandy get to know each other, everything starts to change. The question is will the changes make things worse or better in How to Save a Life (2011) by Sara Zarr.

Find it on Bookshop.

How to Save a Life was an interesting read. At the beginning of the novel Jill is so angry and Mandy is trying so hard to manipulate everything to go her way, that it was initially quite hard to connect with either character. I even skimmed to the ending because I  was uncertain of if I wanted to finish the book. Still, I persisted and even with that sneak peek at the outcome, this was an interesting read.

Zarr’s writing is eloquent and does a great job bringing Mandy and Jill’s landscapes to life. Unfortunately, Zarr packs so much into the story with Mandy’s complicated past and Jill’s grieving that ultimately both characters feel thinly drawn because so much is happening rather than well-developed because of it.

Watching Jill and Mandy’s transformations throughout the story was interesting if not earth shattering. It was also refreshing to see some present and engaged parents in a YA novel (along with the more expected horrible parents). How To Save a Life does manage to take a potentially predictable book in an unexpected direction with characters that always feel real.

Possible Pairings: Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

Author Interview: Jessica Spotswood on Born Wicked

Jessica Spotswood author photoJessica Spotswoods‘s debut novel Born Wicked came out earlier this year. This stunning alternate history is filled with witches and unexpected twists and feminist ideas to boot. The ending broke my heart a little bit and made me desperate for book two, but Born Wicked remains a favorite 2012 read and I can’t wait to see the rest of the trilogy. Ms. Spotswood is here today to talk about her debut novel and answer some of my questions.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Jessica Spotswood (JS): I loved writing in high school, but got absorbed in theatre in college. After grad school, in 2007, I realized that I didn’t love theatre enough to make a career out of it. It was a scary thing to admit, but I coped by rereading my favorite books from childhood like L.M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. That led me to reading some of the YA that was out at the time, like Vampire Academy, Wicked Lovely, and Twilight. I started writing my own YA fantasy, about a portrait-painting girl who discovers her family’s link to a world where artists are considered enemies of the state. I queried in 2009 with that manuscript, which earned me representation from my awesome agent, Jim McCarthy. While I was on submission, I wrote Born Wicked. That first manuscript never sold, but BW did, in a week!

MP: What was the inspiration for Born Wicked?

JS: I had a dream about three sisters who were fighting over a magical locket. There’s no magical locket in BW, but the idea stuck of writing about three sisters with a complicated magical inheritance.

MP: Born Wicked focuses on the three Cahill sisters, all witches and all extremely different. Did you identify with one sister more than the others? How did you go about giving each of the Cahill sisters their own unique personality?

JS: I identify with Cate the most; since the books are from her point of view, I spend the most time in her head. Like Cate, I’m the oldest of three sisters. Also like Cate, I’m a worrier and I’m super-stubborn (I think you have to be, in publishing)! As for how I gave them each their own personalities, I tend to think of each sister in terms of what she wants most and what she fears most, as well as her strengths and weaknesses. For instance: Cate’s best and worst qualities would be selflessness & overprotectiveness; Maura’s are ambition & jealousy; Tess’s are perceptiveness & impulsiveness.

MP: Although your book is set in an alternate history, Born Wicked is still grounded in pre-twentieth century clothing and social behaviors. Did research play into your writing process?

JS: Yes! One of my favorite notes from my editor was to “ruffle my corsets” more, so I read up on Victorian fashion and home décor and social customs. Since BW is an alternate history, I was able to take some liberties, but I hope all of those little details contribute to a rich portrait of the Cahills’ world.

MP: Before writing you studied and worked in the theater. Did your theater background affect how you set about writing each scene or setting up the plot Born Wicked?

JS: I’m not sure if it contributes to how I plot, but I do tend to write dialogue first and then add in description and Cate’s observations and thoughts. I read plays pretty exclusively for several years, so I think (hope?) I have a good ear for dialogue. I also tend to think in three-act structure, which may be why the Cahill Witch Chronicles is a trilogy!

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? Or when to start looking for the second book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles?

JS: Right now I’m working on revisions for Star Cursed, the second book. It will be out February 7, 2013! On the Breathless Reads tour, I liked to say that Star Cursed will be brutal & awesome, with kissing. A longer teaser: The Cahill sisters will get to learn more about their magical heritage and what’s expected of them in the coming war between the Brotherhood and the witches. As usual, they’ll be divided about how to handle the responsibilities they’re faced with. They’ll finally get to meet their godmother, Zara Roth. There will be scandalous romantic trysts, new friends, political uprisings, and heartbreaking betrayals!

[MP: OMG that sounds awesome!]

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

JS: Find people to read your work and give you honest feedback. Other writers are great, but so are friends who read a lot. It is incredibly helpful to have objective opinions on what works well, what they love, as well as what they have questions about or what might not quite make sense to them. My critique partners are invaluable!

Thanks again to Jessica Spotswood for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you want to read more about Born Wicked check out my review!

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.

Wherever Nina Lies: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn WeingartenEllie’s sister Nina disappeared two years ago.

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

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

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

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

Wherever Nina Lies is Weingarten’s first novel.

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

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

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

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr