The Wolf Princess: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn ConstableSophie Smith has never been special or interesting. She is the poor girl at her elite private school complete with her shabby clothes, unbrushed hair and callous guardian.

Sophie thinks things might have gone differently if she wasn’t an orphan. But she is. Trapped in her grey English boarding school. Trapped in her grey boring life even as dreams of winter in Russia, majestic wolves and a strange forest haunt her.

Nothing interesting ever happens to Sophie. She wouldn’t expect anything different.

Then a stranger comes to the school and invites Sophie and her roommates–glamorous Delphine and bookish Marianne–on a school trip to St. Petersburg.

The following adventure is even more than Sophie could hope for as they girls are abandoned in a blizzard and whisked away to a wintry palace to rival Sophie’s grandest dreams in The Wolf Princess (2012) by Cathryn Constable.

I went into this book with high expectations and only a vague sense of what to expect beyond a rags to riches fairy tale story.

In a way that is exactly what The Wolf Princess delivers. But in other ways it was a disappointment.

Sophie is fascinated with Russia in a way that should be endearing and draw readers in as well. Instead it comes off as vaguely condescending as she describes Russian words knocking into each other and, at one point, describes a Russian character’s handwriting as distinctly foreign.

All of the characters in the story feel like caricatures complete with an icy winter princess, a sturdy Russian officer and, of course, one friend who is defined solely as being glamorous and half-French (no, really) and another who is interesting only in that she is intelligent (I don’t even remember if we were ever told her hair color).

Beyond that Sophie is infuriating. She is a mousey heroine with absolutely know self-confidence. Instead of blossoming or coming into her own as the story progresses Sophie continues to doubt herself and remind readers and her friends that she is decidedly not special. Worse, her friends are quick to agree.

The book is also oddly out of time. Reference to cell phones suggest the book is set in the present although the atmosphere and attitudes of the characters seem to suggest an earlier time period. The characters are similarly ageless. The Wolf Princess is marketed for ages 10-14 meaning, because the ages are never implicitly stated, there is a huge spread for how old the characters can be. Taken as a middle grade novel Sophie’s behavior might make more sense but I doubt it would make her more tolerable.

This story is likely to appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha books or wants a riff on the tropes found in A Little Princess. However readers should be wary of the flaws in certain aspects of The Wolf Princess.

Possible Pairings: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

Mom update

Not up to a long post but I did want to thank everyone who kept me and my mom in their thoughts the past few days.

She was in surgery for a really long time but the neurosurgeon says it couldn’t have gone better and he thinks he got everything out (and definitely got the pressure she had on her optic nerves).

I saw her in ICU today which was a lot harder for me to handle than I expected. I can already tell recovery is going to be a bitch but I guess that’s to be expected with brain surgery.

I might post more later but for now I feel completely wrung out.

I have also been updating my twitter because it somehow helps me deal if for some reason you want more extensive updates.

But seriously thank you to everyone who has reached out to me or left a comment or sifted thought my late night texts when I desperately need someone to talk to. It all means more than I can eloquently say.

In Which I Receive Nail Polish From a Holiday Swap

Obviously things have been a bit crazy here but while I have a minute I wanted to write up a quick post about one of the fun swaps I joined this season. Especially since Ericka already wrote up such a nice post about the package I sent her.

The swap paired people up to mail nail polish and a card to each other.

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Ericka sent me a card with some of my favorite colors and my first ever Essie polish. I love the shimmery purple and that the color is called “It’s Genius” as well. Ericka also sent me a cute emery board in a handy case that has already been placed in my bag for handy access.

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I decided to repaint my nails for some normalcy and I’ve got to say that I really love the color.

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Things I haven’t been talking about

I wasn’t going to write this post. Partly because it seems like too much to share and partly because I spent the past two years actively not writing or talking about any of  this. I also didn’t want to look like I was throwing a pity party for myself.

The truth is, the last two years have been hard. A lot of the time they have been miserable. A lot of the time I wasn’t sure if there would be enough money to cover the rent–forget other bills. Then in September my aunt had a massive stroke. And she died. It’s funny because it never sounds like we were close–I don’t talk about her or my other aunt on here (although I know she reads my blog *waves*) but they exist; they are family. And it keeps amazing me, in the worst possible way, how much you can miss a person when you hadn’t even seen them in years. It feels like a gaping hole and it’s terrifying not just because she’s gone but because it’s a horrible reminder that it will hurt this much (maybe more) every single time.

Then I got my new job which I love and finally feels like a step in the right direction–a step like maybe things are changing. But there wasn’t any time to rest on my laurels.

I almost never talk about this–in real life or on here–because I hate the vocabulary available. But my mom is disabled. She was in a catastrophic accident before I was born that broke both legs and one arm and her jaw. When I was younger she walked with a cane but now a lot of the time she opts for a wheelchair because walking and standing is just so hard. I’m her caregiver though I would never choose that term because it sounds ridiculous and implies I might not want to take care of my mother–I know she hurts and she’s tired and it’s hard for both of us a lot but I should say now that I would never trade her.

So you would think all of that would be enough to deal with. Turns out, it’s not. My mom also has a non-cancerous tumor in her brain. (I could talk here about the atrocities she suffered during her big accident in the hospital for three months, or the fact that her tumor was discovered in February of one year and no doctor mentioned it until June of that year. I could mention the time my mom and I both were hit by a van in front of the hospital while we tried to hail a cab. But I’m not going to get into that because I always feel like it sounds like a lie when I tell all the truth because there is so much.)

Anyway, this tumor has been growing and, unfortunately, it’s placed so that it has to be removed because it is starting to impact other areas. My mom is having brain surgery on Friday. You never think brain surgery is a thing that will touch you but sometimes it does I guess. It’s complicated and involved but the doctor also says no one has ever died during the procedure–not that doctors don’t say a lot of things.

I went back and forth on sharing this, and I might delete it later when things normalize, but for now–if I disappear for a while–you know what’s going on. And maybe, if you have some time on Friday you can think good thoughts about my mom getting through the surgery okay. And maybe after that, if you have even more free time, maybe you can think good thoughts about her recovery and her getting back to normal soon.

Infinityglass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Infinityglass by Myra McEntireWith the timeline falling apart and ripples appearing everywhere, members of the Hourglass Institute, are desperate to pool their time-manipulating skills and find a way to fix the continuum before the damage becomes permanent.

A legendary item called the Infinityglass is key to fixing the timeline and getting rid of the rips. The only problem is that the Hourglass isn’t the only organization looking for the Infinityglass.

Luckily, the Hourglass has an advantage: They now know that the Infinityglass isn’t an object. It’s a person. And she is living in New Orleans.

Sent to New Orleans to find the Infinityglass and help her understand her abilities, Dune finds a lot more than he bargained for. Hallie might be the key to fixing the timeline but she is also unpredictable and, for Dune, completely overwhelming. Before Hallie can fix anything, Dune will have to convince her to trust him and, together, they’ll have to figure out exactly what being the Infinityglass really means before they run out of time in Infinityglass (2013) by Myra McEntire.

Infinityglass is the third book in McEntire’s Hourglass trilogy. It is preceded by Hourglass and Timepiece.

Infinityglass dives in almost exactly where Timepiece left off. I read the two books back to back but I imagine other readers might need a quick recap to make sense of this final installment.

McEntire once again changes narrators here with the story alternating between Dune and Hallie’s narrations. Although the change is initially surprising (Hallie is a new character and Dune was a secondary one in the previous books) the choice works here. Both characters are add new aspects to the series.

This story is very plot driven but it still leaves room for the characters–specifically Dune and Hallie–to grow and learn throughout the story.

Although the book’s resolution was rushed (and extremely convenient for the characters) it also makes sense for the story and the arc of the trilogy. McEntire also takes the time to give these characters a proper goodbye with an apt epilogue.

This is one of my favorite time travel series and one I highly recommend to anyone looking for an original, readable sci-fi adventure.

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, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Out Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West

Timepiece: A Review

Timepiece by Myra McEntireKaleb Ballard knows all about the ways time can be manipulated by people with the right abilities–time travel, speed, telekinesis, even the ability to control tides or read emotions. What Kaleb never expected was that he would start seeing the ripples created in time when things are disturbed.

When an old enemy to the Hourglass Institute resurfaces, Kaleb’s suspicions are confirmed. Worse, a new player is on the board with an ultimatum that can’t be ignored.

With the rips getting worse, Kaleb and his friends know something bad is coming. The only problem is none of them are sure how to stop an enemy they can’t even find in Timepiece (2012) by Myra McEntire.

Timepiece is the second book in McEntire’s Hourglass trilogy. It is preceded by Hourglass.

This story picks up soon after the events of book one with McEntire striking an ideal balance between summarizing past events and offering new information as readers re-immerse themselves in this series (which was probably helped along by the shift in viewpoint this time around).

Kaleb is often a mess in this story. He makes terrible decisions, he’s obnoxious, and he knows he’s attractive enough to get away with it most of the time. All of that left the potential for Kaleb to be a terribly unlikable narrator. Happily, he is instead a surprisingly honest and insightful one.

It’s unlikely that Timepiece will attract new readers to this series simply because there is so much information readers will need to retain from book one. However this is another great time-tripping read that fans of Hourglass are sure to enjoy. With twists and surprises galore, Timepiece is also guaranteed to leave readers eager for the next book.

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, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor, All Out Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Pivot Point by Kasie West

Tandem: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Tandem by Anna JarzabSasha is beyond thrilled when cute, popular Grant Davis asks her to prom. After years of pining for Grant, it seems like Sasha’s dreams are finally coming true.

Then prom is over and things start to go horribly wrong.

Grant isn’t Grant and, after receiving a strange gift, Sasha isn’t in her Chicago. Suddenly all of the theoretical things Sasha has learned from her grandfather about alternate universes are painfully real.

Thrust into a life that isn’t her own, Sasha has to play the part of a princess in a world that shouldn’t exist if she ever wants a chance to return home in Tandem (2013) by Anna Jarzab.

Tandem is the first book in Jarzab’s Many Worlds trilogy.

While the framework is original, the story is nothing so much as a riff on The Prisoner of Zenda–amovie that’s been made several times where a man is recruited (unwillingly) to pretend to be the king of Ruritania when the real king is kidnapped. Chaos ensues.

Although the premise is clever and appears in lots of other books and movies, I couldn’t shake the similarity between the two.

Alternate universe stories are always interesting in terms of setting and this one is no exception with an alternate Chicago that is markedly different even with eerie similarities. Jarzab does a great job supporting the science of her story and making the Tandem and analogs and other elements convincing and plausible.

The problem is that the book is too long. At 448 pages (hardcover) the book takes a good hundred pages to get to Aurora (the alternate world) and even then the actual story, the one described in the plot summary, still doesn’t start right away. Readers looking for an alternate universe/parallel universe story will likely find the initial groundwork fascinating, others may find it tedious.

Although Jarzab’s writing was enjoyable and Sasha was an appealing heroine, the story took too long to get off the ground with too much build up to ever truly be engaging.

Possible Pairings: The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine, Proxy by Alex London, Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, Planesrunner by Ian McDonald, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Fair Coin by E. C. Myers, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Pivot Point by Kasie West

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackWhen Tana wakes up after the Sundown Party it takes her a few moments to realize everything has gone horribly wrong.

Then she sees the blood.

Then she starts passing the dead bodies.

Then she hears the vampires waiting in the dark.

The only other survivors of the massacre are Tana’s ex-boyfriend–infected and on the verge of becoming a vampire himself–and a strange boy who seems to know much more than he says.

Possibly infected and with no other options, Tana starts heading to the Coldtown in Springfield. This walled city is supposed to keep the monsters from running loose in the rest of the world. It’s supposed to contain the vampires and leave them to rule a decadent city filled with fresh blood and ruin.

Entering Coldtown is a terrible risk. But it’s also the only option Tana can think of that might actually save all three of them. With time running out and no good choices, Tana will have to embrace the monsters in Coldtown if she wants to avoid becoming one in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (2013) by Holly Black.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is an unflinching story of vampires and a meditation of what it really means to fear the monsters in the shadows–especially when you might become one of those same monsters.

A slow beginning (in the first hundred pages) is easily forgiven as the story gains momentum within the walls of Coldtown. Flashbacks and vignettes from other characters help to evoke a well-realized world for both the human and vampire characters. Epigraphs at the start of each chapter from famous writers’ musings on death add a suitably eerie tone to the book.

Tana is a pragmatic, sympathetic heroine who tries to make the right choices even when she is forced to admit that sometimes there are no good choices. Her progression throughout the story is completely logical and marks her as an appealing and utterly real character complete with flaws and poorly made plans.

Black’s vampires are a terrifying blend of charm and sharp teeth in a story that understands the unique blend of terror and fascination commonly associated with vampires (or any monsters really). This story is gory, violent, and sometimes even disgusting. Yet, like the vampires themselves, it is still so delightfully compelling.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Never Never by Brianna Shrum, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*