Author Interview: Melissa Walker on Unbreak My Heart

Melissa C. Walker author photoMelissa Walker‘s Unbreak My Heart is a fizzy, dock-side delight filled with summer optimism and a lot of very fine thoughts about friendship. I also love, love, love her blog because she features “cover stories” with different authors discussion their book covers (seriously, it’s cool). Melissa took some time today to answer a few 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?

Melissa C. Walker (MCW): I worked on my high school yearbook and my college newspaper–I always wanted to be a journalist. After school, I worked in magazines for years and got to peek behind the scenes of the fashion world. That gave me inspiration for my first novel, VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY, and I started writing it after work and on weekends. Once I wrote it, I knew YA was my first love.

MP: I really loved all of the difference facets of Unbreak My Heart (friendships, crushes, sailing—especially the friendship emphasis). What was the inspiration for this story? Did you always plan to include the friendship angle and Clementine’s letters to Amanda?

MCW: Honestly, this story was inspired in part by a friendship breakup I experienced. Romantic breakups are always in the spotlight–and they’re horribly painful. But friendship breakups are too, and they’re more sidelined in popular culture, so I wanted that experience to be a focus in this book.

MP: Unbreak My Heart includes a lot of picturesque sailing moments. What’s your background with sailing? Were any moments inspired directly by your own experiences?

MCW: My parents always owned a small sailboat and I have lots of hours logged on board as a kid and a teenager. I used my dad’s captain’s log from a sailing trip to map Clem’s family’s route, in fact! One scene in particular that was very true to life was when Clem and her dad look up at the stars and talk. My dad and I did that regularly, once upon a time.

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

MCW: This year, both Small Town Sinners and Unbreak My Heart come out in paperback! Next winter, I’ll have a new book out, and it’s a real departure for me. The title is still slightly TBD so I can’t say much, but I will open up as soon as I can!

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

MCW: Read as much as you can, and finish your stories. I think one of the hardest things about a book is getting through and finishing the full arc of the story (the beginning is always exciting). So push through, get a whole draft done and don’t worry if it’s messy! Just write.

Thanks again to Ms. Walker for taking the time to answer my questions (especially with a deadline in her near future!). Remember if you want to know more about Unbreak My Heart you can check out my review.

Unbreak My Heart: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. WalkerClementine made a big mistake her sophomore year. It started with a series of little mistakes and foolish decisions but by the end Clemetine had broken one of the most important rules of friendship.

That was two weeks ago.

Now, heartbroken and friendless, Clementine is about to embark on a three month sailing trip with her parents and her little sister, Olive, on The Possibility. Last year the trip sounded like a horrible, faraway idea. Now that it’s here, Clem is surprised to realize it might be exactly what she needs.

Three months is a long time to be on a boat with nowhere to go and nothing to do. It’s a long time to have no one around except your family and the other boaters on your route. It’s an even longer time to be miserable. Not that Clem deserves to be anything else after what she did.

But as The Possibility sails farther from home and Clem really thinks about what happened, she begins to realize that being miserable won’t actually fix anything–if she wants to move forward, Clem has to do that herself in Unbreak My Heart (2012) by Melissa Walker.

Find it on Bookshop.

Unbreak My Heart is a fizzy, adorable story about a girl who made a really bad choice and what she is doing to move beyond it. Alternating between scenes of Clem’s summer trip and memories of what happened during the school year, Walker tempers Clem’s past with a strong dose of retrospection so that she is always a sympathetic and approachable protagonist.

The reveal of what ultimately went wrong is also well-handled providing a good balance between teasing asides and actual facts. The pacing is excellent and Walker does an excellent job of unfolding Clem’s complicated motivations and choices throughout the story.

Although the core of the story comes from a complicated issue, the plot is charmingly simple as Clem comes back to herself on the sailing trip and meets other boaters (including a cute boy) who help her put her own mistake in perspective as she starts to heal.

I also loved that Clem’s family played such a huge role in the story with a sister that I would definitely hang out with and parents who are refreshingly present and helpful and supportive throughout the story. I know it’s hard sometimes to have excitement and growth in the same story as parents but I wish more books could find that balance as easily as Unbreak My Heart.

Another dimension is added to the story by Clem’s repeated attempts to write a letter to her best friend as she tries to explain herself. (Not to mention a totally realistic, unobtrusive integration of social networks.) I tend to be extremely skeptical of reconciliation plots because they seem simplified and idealistic but it works in this one. Unbreak My Heart features one of the only reconciliation plots that felt not only legitimate but necessary. I’m absolutely rooting for Clem and her best friend.

As the title might suggest, there is some romance and a whole lot of flirting but what I most enjoyed about this story is the romantic parts are very secondary to Clem’s own understanding of what she has done and what she wants to happen next. Filled with idyllic sailing scenes, lots of humor, and some very wise ruminations on what friendship really means, Unbreak My Heart is a surprising, enchanting story about fresh starts and healing.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu,  The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt, Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, Sunkissed by Kasie West

Exclusive Bonus Content: It just occurred to me you never see books like this where two guy friends get into similar problems over one girl. Like “Jessee’s Girl” but a YA book. A nice, simple, relationship dilemma from a guy’s point of view. I want to see that book.

Also be sure to check back tomorrow for my interview with Melissa C. Walker!

Perry’s Killer Playlist: A Review

Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe SchreiberPerry survived his disastrous prom night with crazy-exchange-student-assassin Gobi. And he has to admit things are looking up.

His college essay about said disastrous prom night earned him a spot at Columbia. His band Inchworm is on a European tour and on the verge of an actual record deal. He has a majorly hot (older) girlfriend. And, best of all, with Gobi out of the picture no one has tried to shoot him for months.

Too bad it was all too good to last.

Gobi, the Lithuanian exchange student from hell, is back and this time she isn’t making any bones about the people that need to die; the people she needs to kill.

Once again sucked into Gobi’s whirlwind of death and destruction Perry will have a lot of tough decisions to make before his European trip is over–assuming he lives that long in Perry’s Killer Playlist (2012) by Joe Schreiber.

Perry’s Killer Playlist is the high-octane sequel to Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick. This one stands alone pretty well given the emphasis on murder and mayhem but the story will make more sense with the context of book one.

This novel is another improbable but entertaining rampage as Perry unwillingly accompanies Gobi on her deadly business. Perry is still a great narrator with just the right blend of terror and pluck. While a lot of the story will feel very familiar (arguing about murder doesn’t change much no matter what the book) Schreiber delves into some new territory addressing Perry’s unresolved feelings for Gobi and featuring his family in a larger part of the story.

With lots of excitement, a breakneck pace, and lots of short chapters this is a great pick for anyone looking for a fast but satisfying read.

If you want to recreate Perry’s killer playlist, the short chapters are labeled with different song lyrics.

Just One Day: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Just One Day by Gayle FormanAfter a whirlwind tour through Europe, Allyson is looking forward to returning home and starting college in the fall. Even if it means missing Paris and even if the tour wasn’t everything Allyson thought it would be.

Two days before she is set to return home, Allyson sees an underground production of Twelfth Night that unexpectedly changes everything.

Accompanied by a laid-back Dutch actor named Willem as her guide, Allyson spends a whirlwind day in Paris where, finally, Allyson understands what her European tour was meant to feel like. As she and Willem grow closer, Allyson starts to understand what a lot of things are supposed to feel like.

At least, she thought she did.

When Allyson wakes up the next day to find Willem already gone, Allyson’s previous certainty shatters.

Starting college in the wake of Willem’s abrupt departure, Allyson starts to fall apart. She knows what is expected of her. She even knows most of what’s wrong. But she has no idea what she wants. No idea how to fix anything.

One day gave Allyson the chance to change everything even if it meant losing Willem. With one year, Allyson might be able to finally find herself in Just One Day (2013) by Gayle Forman.

Just One Day is the first novel in a duet. Willem’s story, Just One Year is set to publish in fall 2013.

Forman expertly chronicles Allyson’s self-destruction during her first semester of college as well as her efforts to start fresh (with a tabula rasa, if you will) in the following term. Allyson’s changing relationships with her family and friends are also handled well in the story.

Filled with travel and a variety of settings, Just One Day is a vivid trip through Europe filled with descriptions of all of the sights Allyson takes in over the course of her story. I also loved the inclusion of so many Shakespeare references as counterpoints to Allyson’s experiences. The underlying buoyancy and serendipity of the story is refreshing as (after the obligatory wallowing) Allyson works on moving forward.

Told over the course of one whirlwind day and the subsequently turbulent year, Just One Day is ostensibly a love story–or at least a story of lost love. Except it’s also a more than that. Knowing that the book is part of a duet, there will of course be answers about Willem’s disappearance and his own feelings about Allyson. However, by the end of the story, that’s very secondary to the story of Allyson finding herself and figuring out what she wants.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, City Love by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, In a Perfect World by Trish Doller, Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, Stranger in the Forest by Eric Hansen, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, As You Like It by William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, The Statistical Probability of True Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Linktastic!: Booklists and other fun things edition

Linktastic! posts happen when I finally remember to go through my unsorted bookmarks in Firefox and (more often) Tweets I have favorited for future reference on Twitter.

This edition features some thematic booklists and other articles that I’ve found interesting or useful. Lots of fun stuff.

Drama: A (graphic!) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Drama by Raina TelgemeierCallie loves everything about theater productions even if a certain lack of skills will keep her backstage. That’s okay because Callie is a great set designer and she is totally pumped about her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi.

But creating a Broadway-worthy set with a middle school’s budget (and rules) isn’t easy.

Turns out staging a production brings a lot of drama both onstage and offstage for Callie and her friends. Will the play survive cranky actors, prop malfunctions, and a whole production’s worth of romantic mishaps? Will Callie get to make the cannon that is crucial to her vision? Will Callie’s best friend Liz survive all of her trips to the spooky basement costume storage?

It might get messy but no one can say this year’s production will be anything less than exciting in Drama (2013) by Raina Telgemeier.

Drama is a totally endearing, full color graphic novel full of effervescent fun. The story itself is almost as exuberant as our intrepid heroine, Callie. Plucky, fun, refreshingly confident and outspoken Callie is a girl readers will love as someone to cheer for (and maybe someone they recognize from their own experiences).

Telgemeier offers up another delightfully cheerful story with substance and fantastic artwork. No detail is forgotten in the illustrations–even body language and whispers are perfectly clear. Drama completely immerses readers into Callie’s life and the intricacies of being part of the stage crew. A great read for anyone with a love of musicals and the theater.

Possible Pairings: Will by Maria Boyd, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

Exclusive Bonus Content: I’m seeing some reviews talking about the content in this book being too “mature” for the intended audience (or maybe younger as some mentioned fourth and fifth graders). I completely disagree BUT if you are wondering SPOILERS can explain: Several characters come out during the course of the story which contributes to the overall drama. One kiss is shown and nothing else. I don’t have experience with such topics but the number of kids (because, really, I do think seventh and eighth graders are still kids not teens) who were comfortable and aware enough of their sexuality to identify as gay felt . . . surprisingly high. THAT SAID I think Telgemeier handled everything she presented perfectly given the intended audience and I’m sure a lot of middle school kids are going to eat this up. As with most content-related issues it absolutely depends on the reader. At the end of the day, it’s totally fine to walk away from a book because it’s not what you wanted it to be–no matter what the reason.

What to read after of instead of: The Hunger Games

You read and loved The Hunger Games. You already finished both sequels. You need something else to read. Whatever your reasons for liking the series, this list should have you covered:

If you want another book about the little people sticking it to “the man”:

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson: Caught up in the intricacies of noble life, secretly married to a man she barely knows, Elisa soon finds herself at the center of a revolution that will change her world forever.
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Set in post-9/11 San Francisco, Marcus is on a quest to hack his city from the sinister clutches of Homeland Security.
  • The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley: The origins of Robin Hood explained with a girl-in-disguise among the Merry Men, longbows, and an insane fight to the death with Guy of Gisbourne.
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: Eugenides who, at the beginning of the novel, finds himself locked in the king’s prison of a foreign land. Quietly biding his time, Gen occupies himself by marking days and practicing cat-like movements around his cell. The achingly monotonous routine is broken when the king’s scholar, the magus, recruits Gen for a hunt of sorts.
  • The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff: Strong-willed and more knowledgeable than most everyone when it comes to horses, Pell Ridley cannot reconcile herself to the stifling life of a married woman–not after seeing the endless monotony of poverty, child birth, and death played out in her own parents’ household. Desperate for something more, Pell does the only thing she can. She leaves.

If you could care less about Peeta/Gale (but, seriously, Team Peeta!) and want more heroines as awesomely tough as Katniss:

  • Plain Kate by Erin Bow: Kate’s shadow is long and her talents with a knife are great. Taught by her father, Plain Kate can draw the truth out of any piece of wood with skill and her knife, not with magic. But in a town looking for someone to blame for the bad times, a little skill can start to look a lot like magic. And in a town where witches are feared and burned, working magic with a knife–even if that magic isn’t really magic–can be a very dangerous thing.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore: Katsa lives her life apart from the rest of the court in her uncle’s castle, avoided both because of her fearsome Grace and her startling eyes–one blue and one green–that mark her as a Graceling. Skilled in the art of combat, Po is the first worthy opponent Katsa has encountered. Together, the two embark on an adventure the likes of which neither can imagine in search of a truth almost too diabolical to believe.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Seraphina Dombegh has been surrounded by lies for most of her life. Everything from her patron saint to her own parentage has been altered and hidden beneath layers of half-truths and deceptions. With a new position at court and her musical gifts gaining more notice than is strictly wise, Seraphina’s time for hiding may well be over.
  • The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: Darcy always wanted to be part of something, to belong somewhere. But she may have more than she bargained for with a mysterious boy named Conn who might be an enemy and her efforts to infiltrate a strange organization called the Shades.
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: In a world where everyone is movie-star-gorgeous, normal people are so not pretty. In short, they’re ugly.

If you like action, action, and action with more action thrown in:

  • Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: When Brynn was four-years-old her life changed forever when a rogue werewolf killed her parents. Rescued by the Stone River Pack and Marked by the pack’s alpha, Callum, Brynn’s safety is a matter of pack law.The only problem is Brynn is human.
  • The Culling by Steven dos Santos: In a futuristic world ruled by a totalitarian government called the Establishment, Lucian “Lucky” Spark and four other teenagers are recruited for the Trials. They must compete not only for survival but to save the lives of their Incentives, family members whose lives depend on how well they play the game.
  • False Memory by Dan Krokos: Miranda wakes up in a mall with no memory and the uncanny ability to scare people out of their minds. Does the boy who claims to know her really want to help? Can she trust anything when her own memories are gone?
  • Legend by Marie Lu: From different worlds, pitted against each other, June and Day are obvious enemies. When sinister secrets about the Republic come to light, Day and June are also their own best allies in their search for the truth.
  • Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber: Perry knows taking his family’s dowdy exchange student, Gobi, to her first dance is going to be a drag. He doesn’t realize that will largely be due to all of the people Gobi plans to assassinate before the night is over.

If you like stories about ruthless characters learning how to be “real” humans and engage with the world:

  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi: Nailer ekes out a living tearing down ships for scavenge. When he finds a clipper ship–and its owner–Nailer has to decide if he wants to claim the scavenge of a lifetime. Or do the right thing.
  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: Ruby has been a prisoner for most of her life–one of the dangerous ones. After a daring escape, she falls in with a group of similar misfits who might be able to help her. If she doesn’t end up hurting all of them first.
  • Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst: Pearl is quite happy as a vampire. Until a unicorn stabs her through the heart and gives her a pesky conscience.
  • Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: Ismae could have died when her mother tried to abort her pregnancy. Instead she was marked by Mortmain and now she serves him as an assassin nun in 1485 Brittany.
  • The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan: Nick and Alan have always been on the run from magicians. Nick has never liked anyone. A final confrontation with one of the fiercest magicians in England might explain why both of those things are true.

If you want more crazy competitions:

  • The Selection by Kiera Cass: Sixteen-year-old America Singer is living in the caste-divided nation of Illea, which formed after the war that destroyed the United States. America is chosen to compete in the Selection–a contest to see which girl can win the heart of Illea’s prince.
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: After a year of hard labor, assassin Celaena Sardothien has a chance to reclaim her freedom. All she has to do is win a competition against other cutthroats and killers to become the champion of the king who first arrested her.
  • A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix: Khemri is a Prince–faster, stronger, smarter. But is he fast, strong and smart enough to survive against the thousands of other Princes all intent on becoming Emperor of the galaxy?
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth: Being marked as divergent means Tris can choose to join any faction. Choosing Dauntless means embarking on a grueling, harrowing initiation process that she might not survive.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: Sean is a boy with everything to lose in this year’s Scorpio Race while Puck is a girl with everything to gain. But in a deadly race with lethal water horses there can only be one winner.

If you’re in it for the dystopian or post-apocalyptic vibe:

  • The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch: Two-thirds of the population are dead from a vicious influenza strain. People called it the eleventh plague.
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry:  In a post-apocalyptic world where fences and border patrols guard the few people left from the zombies that have overtaken civilization, fifteen-year-old Benny Imura is finally convinced that he must follow in his older brother’s footsteps and become a bounty hunter.
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: She has been locked up for 264 days with nothing but a small notebook, a broken pen and the numbers in her head to keep her company. It has been 6,336 hours since she touched another human being. The last time she did, it was an accident murder.
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: Zombies are here and, frankly, Sloane is ready to let them eat her. Unfortunately the students trapped with her in the local high school want to live.
  • The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey: What if every alien invasion scenario in every movie and book was wrong? What if there is no rallying point? What if the People in Charge never figure it out?What if you’re left alone with no one to trust?

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara AltebrandoHigh school is ending. After an entire life spent in second place, Mary Gilhooley hopes the Oyster Point High Official Unofficial Senior Week Scavenger Hunt will be her chance to finally come out on top. Jake Barbone may be going to Georgetown instead of her, cute Carson might be dating someone else, but this scavenger hunt is Mary’s.

Even if her misfit friends decide to prepare by wearing the least practical scavenger hunt outfits ever. Sure, changing Dez’s mind about anything fashion related was hopeless. But did Patrick really need knee socks with his shorts? Or suspenders? And why would Winter wear a dress and platform flip-flops? Doesn’t the rest of her team know that Mary came to Win with a capital W?

One all-day scavenger hunt, two lawn ornaments, three meltdowns, four relationship fails, nostalgia, and one incredibly daring stunt stand between Mary’s team and victory. Or utter failure in The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life (2012) by Tara Altebrando.

Find it on Bookshop.

At 239 pages (hardcover) The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life is the short, fast-paced read you would expect from a scavenger hunt odyssey. Filled with hijinks and tricky clues, Altebrando draws readers into the Official Unofficial hunt right along with Mary and her misfit friends that you can’t help but love.

Between brainstorming sessions and high-action competition, Altebrando includes thoughtful musings on what the end of high school really means for old friends and new beginnings. Truly, this book is the quintessential end-of-high-school read as Mary and her friends all wonder what the future holds. The blend of excitement, adventure, and sometimes dread only adds to the delightful ride that is The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life.

Possible Pairings: Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, Love and Other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen, In Real Life by Jessica Love, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, The Night of Your Life by Lydia Sharp, Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Blasphemy: A Rapid Fire Review

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie (2012) Find it on Bookshop

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman AlexieI’ve read several of Alexie’s earlier story collections as well as his novels Flight, Reservation Blues and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alexie is an incredibly talented writer shining a light onto a part of America’s culture that is very rarely seen in modern literature.

That said, his work is never easy to take filled with wasted potential, sadness and a pervasive sense of everything that an entire culture has lost thanks to Western expansion and modernization. It is a bleak, cold world. It is bleaker and colder if you are an Indian in an Alexie story.

While Alexie provides some moments of whimsy and wonder, his stories are generally heavy. Clocking in at 480 pages Blasphemy is even heavier than earlier collection or novels. It is also not at all indicative of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian so if you’re expecting that kind of story here just walk away now.

The collection is comprised of new and older stories so it’s a nice introduction to Alexie except that most of my favorite stories (“Somebody Kept Saying Powwow”, “Distances”, “Saint Junior”, “A Good Story”) are not found in this collection though other familiar ones including “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and “The Toughest Indian in the World” do appear.

My favorite of Alexie’s collections is either The Business of Fancydancing or The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. They were shorter, more balanced collections that tempered the inherent sadness of many stories with lighter stories of hope and sometimes even redemption. Even the characters who didn’t get that happy ending had a certain dignity–something the felt lacking to me in this collection.

Throne of Glass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasAfter a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier, assassin Celaena Sardothien knows better than to expect glad tidings when she is summoned at sword-point.

Much to her surprise, the Crown Prince Dorian has come to offer a deal: her freedom in exchange for acting as Dorian’s champion in a competition to find a new assassin for his father, the king.

Celaena has no love for the king and no desire to work for him. But freedom is a tantalizing thing after a year in Endovier and one competition is a small thing to come between Celaena and her freedom.

While her rivals in the competition are as unimpressive as she expected, court life is duller than she could have imagined. The boring castle particularly chafes when she is kept under lock and key by the Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, who acts as her trainer when he is not watching her like a hawk. (As if he could stop her escape if she really set her mind to it!)

Then again, Celaena could still be working in the salt mines.

Just as the assassin is beginning to appreciate how easy her new life can become, one of the other contestants turns up dead. And then another. Are the murders to do with the competition? Or is something darker at work somehow tied to the disappearance of magic from the kingdom? If Celaena wants to make it to the end of the competition with her freedom and her life she’ll have to do more than win–she’ll have to find a murderer in Throne of Glass (2012) by Sarah J. Maas.

Throne of Glass is Maas’ first book. It is accompanied by a slew of e-book prequel/companions and was work-shopped years before publication online at the FictionPress community.

I came to Throne of Glass after a few disappointing reads that had left me wondering if I’d ever see a believable strong heroine again. While this book has other flaws, lack of a strong female character is definitely not one of them. Even when she is being obnoxious and brash Celaena is a capable, entertaining heroine (albeit one with a somewhat unlikely skill set at the tender age of eighteen).

Overall Throne of Glass is a decent if unexceptional read. Maas creates an interesting world that mostly makes sense. Time will tell if holes in the landscape come from lack of world building or lack of proper explanation in favor of plot suspense.

The story is on similarly uneasy footing: the story begins presenting Celaena, the competition, and her training with some back story mysteries from Celaena’s past thrown in to taste. About a third of the way in, we get the strange addition of a murder mystery, a magical secret, and an unsatisfying love triangle.

I am never partial to books that change the story direction midway through, but it was a minor point since Celaena was so very likable. I could even overlook the painfully forced romantic scenes with Dorian and Celaena because it was so very obvious that Chaol was the superior male lead.

Then the mystery got thrown in.

Aside from being heavy handed right from the beginning, the mystery angle of the story was poorly handled. Celaena missed obvious clues. She jumped to conclusions. Worse, Celaena doubted not only the only character who had ever been unconditionally kind to her but also the singular minority* character in the story. Thus, in order to move the plot forward readers were presented with this clumsy change in Celaena’s personality.

Throne of Glass sits somewhere between high fantasy and more action driven stories. The premise is clever and Maas’ writing is lively. Readers who can look past everything to do with the sloppy mystery sub-plot will be rewarded with an enjoyable heroine in a somewhat disjointed but generally exciting narrative.

*Minority is a funny thing in a fantasy. Here what I mean is that Celaena and the kingdom where the story is set are predominantly white from what readers see. The “minority” character I mention is from a foreign kingdom and is described as having brown skin.

Possible Pairings: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Roar by Cora Carmack, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*