Life by Committee: A Review

lifebycommitteeIt isn’t Tabitha’s fault that her breasts are bigger now. It isn’t her fault that she likes wearing makeup as much as she likes reading margin notes in used books. It isn’t her fault that Joe seems to like talking to her more than he likes talking to his crazy-eccentric-special-snowflake girlfriend Sasha Cotton.

But it might be Tabitha’s fault when she kisses Joe. And when she does it again.

Normally, Tabitha would so not be that girl. But with the help of a website called Life by Committee, Tabitha starts doing a lot of things she wouldn’t normally do in the spirit of being more. At first sharing secrets and completing assignments to keep those secrets safe is easy. The assignments are empowering and push her limits.

When Tabby becomes more involved in the site, and the stakes get much higher, she has to decide how far she is willing to go, and who she is willing to hurt, to be more in Life by Committee (2014) by Corey Ann Haydu.

Find it on Bookshop.

Life by Committee is Haydu’s sophomore novel.

Tabitha is a great heroine. She struggles with a lot of things throughout Life by Committee. Obviously, there is the morality issue with cheating. But Tabitha is also trying to understand her place in a world where the rules are constantly changing not because of anything she has done but simply because of how she looks. (And sometimes not even that in the case of her changing home life.) The way Tabby, through Haydu’s prose, grapples with feminism and slut shaming and loneliness–problems she can’t always articulate, or even give a proper name–is shattering.

Tabitha is incredibly lonely at the start of the novel. She tries to reshape her life without the friends she had assumed were a given but it’s hard. Then Tabitha stumbles upon Life by Committee. LBC is an anonymous online community where users share secrets and complete assignments (more like dares) in the name of being more and leading their best lives. The wisdom in joining such a site is, of course, debatable. But Haydu does such an excellent job of bringing Tabitha and her hurt to life that it makes sense. Readers begin to understand how Tabitha might become this person who is completely consumed by people she has never met.

The great thing about Tabitha is that she knows exactly who she is and who she would like to be. When Tabitha gets involved with LBC, she starts to question a lot of the ideas she has about herself. Sometimes that leads to empowering moments. Unfortunately it also leads to some heart wrenching decisions that are so obviously Bad Ideas they become painful to read.

Those choices, the power and allure of LBC, are hard to understand at times. Unless you remember being that lonely high school (or college) student trying to find your way. Unless you remember the thrill that can come with telling everything that matters to someone who will never meet you, never be able to really judge you. Life by Committee captures that heady mix of connection and anonymity found on the Internet so very well.

Life by Committee also subtly highlights the pitfalls that can come from such a scenario. It’s wonderful to have friends online saying “yes!” to every risk you want to take. But without the context that comes from knowing a person in real life, it’s also difficult to ever adequately understand the consequences and the aftermath of those risks.

At the end of Life by Committee it’s safe to say that Tabitha comes out a little wiser and a lot stronger. Because this book is on the short side (304 pages hardcover) readers don’t get to see all of the payoff after Tabitha realizes she can find her own way, all by herself, but the development is there. The growth and the hint at something more–LBC-inspired or not–is there in the final pages.

Although she has her stumbling blocks, Tabitha remains a smart and capable heroine throughout. While she doesn’t always make the best decisions, she always learns. And that, really, is all anyone can hope for. Life by Committee is a shrewd, clever read that raises all of the right questions for its characters and readers. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhatena, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, In Real Life by Jessica Love, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Kissing in America by Margo RabbThe Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

*A review copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2014*

Let’s Talk About: Reading Habits (Especially with Series!)

A few weeks ago two of my coworkers who I am going to call “Forrest” and “Thor” (because this is my blog and I do what I want) were talking about reading different science fiction series. Forrest was surprised that Thor hadn’t read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker books because they are totally his speed.

I joined the conversation late and seconded Forrest’s assessment. That’s when something interesting happened that got me thinking. Forrest asked if I had read the series. I said I had read the first one and never gotten invested enough to continue the series. Forrest expressed no surprise at that and said something along the lines of “You read everything.”

Anyway, that got me thinking more generally about reading habits.

I read widely. Not always in a variety of genres (I don’t enjoy thrillers and I don’t enjoy pure romances–such is life) but I do try to cover a variety of authors. If you check my review index by author you can see pretty quickly that a lot of the authors only have one or two book by their names.

What does that mean exactly?

Aside from reading widely, I tend to be pretty ruthless. I walk away from books I am not enjoying by the 50-100 page mark. I walk away from authors after three unsatisfying books by them. I cut books from my to read list constantly. I do not finish every series I start.

That last one and the thoughts from my coworker are what really got me thinking. I’ve seen a lot of people say that they are “bad” series readers. Many new years resolutions among bloggers have included plans to finish more series (serieses?).

I never feel remorse about leaving a series. Sometimes I will feel regret and wish that the series had continued to enthrall me, but most times I am okay considering the first book a standalone. In fact, if the first book does not function as a standalone that is an immediate strike against it because I do not like being manipulated or teased by my books.

So what is the difference that pushes a series into that “must finish” category? I’m much more likely to read a series I started from the beginning (ie a series I follow the pub schedule with). Loving the first book is also an obvious factor.

Beyond that I’m not sure what makes the difference. I know I am less likely to start a series if I know it’s going to be more than 4 books. There are exceptions but not often. I also generally read more fantasy series than I do contemporary.

(This also doesn’t address the marketing machine aspect of supporting books by buying a series of course but if you want to talk about that too, go for it.)

So let’s talk:

  • What kind of series reader are you?
  • What are some factors that guarantee you will finish a series?
  • What are some book series that you read and loved or are currently working on?

The Ghosts of Heaven: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“It was all the same thing; the same sign, and now she knew what it meant.”

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus SedgwickIn a time before modern history, a girl tries to use a charred stick and ochre to make magic with disastrous results. Staring at the spiral shapes found everywhere in nature, she begins to grasp the enormity–the power–that can be found in written marks.

Centuries later, Anna hopes to care for her brother after her mother’s death only to have the entire town turn against her. As she fights rumors and increasingly vocal accusations that she is a witch, Anna too begins to see hidden meaning in the spiral found in their traditional spiral dance that begins to appear everywhere.

In the twentieth century an American poet watches the ocean from within the walls of an inhospitable asylum. He can see the shapes there too. Spirals. Helixes. Shapes that have become emblematic of the horrors he can scarcely fathom.

Keir Bowman knows, in the distant future, that he will become an astronaut on a desperate mission to colonize a new planet. He knows he will keep looking forward. What Bowman can’t guess is that in hurtling himself through space, he will also move toward his destiny and an understanding of these spirals that march through history in The Ghosts of Heaven (2015) by Marcus Sedgwick.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Ghosts of Heaven is a standalone novel in the same style as Sedgwick’s Printz Award winner Midwinterblood.

After an introduction from the author, The Ghosts of Heaven includes four short stories titled “Whispers in the Dark,” “The Witch in the Water,” “The Easiest Room in Hell,” and “The Song of Destiny.” As the introduction explains, these stories can be read in any order. (I read them in the order given in the book which is also the order listed above.)

The Ghosts of Heaven is an incredibly smart and ambitious novel. The stories here span a variety of genres and forms as they work together to convey a larger meaning.

“Whispers in the Dark” is told in sparse verse as a girl begins to make sense of written words and forms.

“The Witch in the Water” returns to more traditional prose as the story watches the hysteria and fear that fed the fires of witch accusations and  trials in the seventeenth century. This segment also demonstrates how much of the novel deals with unequal power dynamics–in this case as Anna tries to work around much unwanted attention.

“The Easiest Room in Hell” brings readers to an asylum on Long Island where supposedly revolutionary treatments highlight the arcane and unfeeling nature of much mental health care in the early twentieth century. This story also underscores the fine line that can exist between creativity and madness.

Finally in “The Song of Destiny” Sedgwick brings the golden ratio (and the Fibonacci sequence) to the forefront in this solitary and meditative story as all of the vignettes come together in a conclusion with surprising revelations about the spirals and their ultimate meaning.

Sedgwick weaves subtle references between each quarter to make sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts as readers–along with the characters–move toward a larger understanding over the course of the entire novel.

The Ghosts of Heaven is a startling, clever and life-affirming novel that pushes the written word to its limit as Sedgwick expertly demonstrates the many ways in which a story can be told.

Possible Pairings: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Where Futures End by Parker Peeveyhouse, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, In the Shadow of Blackbirds of Cat Winters

You can also read my interview with Marcus Sedgwick about the book.

*A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*

Author Interview: Marcus Sedgwick on The Ghosts of Heaven

GhostsOfHeaven-BlogTour

Marcus Sedgwick (photo credit Kate Christer)Marcus Sedgwick is here today as part of the blog tour for his latest novel The Ghosts of Heaven. It’s early days but I’m confident enough to say that this is already one of my favorite (and most-anticipated) books from 2015. It should definitely be on your radar ASAP. Read on for my interview with Marcus and be sure to check out my giveaway (US/Canada only) for a hardcover copy to call your own!

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for The Ghosts of Heaven? Why spirals?

Marcus Sedgwick (MS): For years I’d had a growing fascination with the spiral form, and alongside that the desire to wrote a novel about them. But how can you write a novel about spirals? That’s clearly absurd, and so I had to wait a long time to work out what I was going to do – the result being the four quarters, four different stories that make up the book. Why do I like spirals? They are such a beautiful shape – most people seem to find them so, but they are also mysterious I think. They seem to often be used as a symbol for spiritual things and I think that’s because they imply infinity.

MP: The Ghosts of Heaven is broken into four stories, or quarters, that can be read in any order. When you started writing, did you know that the book would be organized in this way?

MS: I knew there were going to be four quarters for a long time, but I didn’t know the exact order for a long time. I didn’t want to specify the order in which they should be read but of course in a physical book you have to. Of the 24 possible ways of reading the sequence of four stories, there are two sequences that are significant for me; one is the order in the book, and the other is one that alters the overall meaning of the book. But I’m not saying what that order is :)

MP: What was your writing process like for The Ghosts of Heaven? Were there unique challenges given the structure? Where did you start?

MS: It was a wonderful book to write – I enjoyed the writing of each stage, how different each part is, and the way those different voices would play against each other was fascinating to consider. Having decided to have four stories, it became great fun to work out what would be in each part and how each part would work. When I actually came to start writing though, I wrote the stories in the order that they appear in the printed book.

MP: This book spans history with your stories set in four very specific time periods. How did you choose which points in time to use as settings for each quarter?

MS: I knew I wanted a story set in the far future and one in the distant past, because I wanted to see how the spiral has been with us always and will always be with us, and how it affected and will affect my characters’ thinking in different times. The spiral is always the same, of course, but what we think it means may well change over time. I chose a story in prehistoric times for the reason that I wanted to talk about the birth of writing, and I chose the far future because I wanted to talk about our future as a species. The stories in the 18th and 20th centuries are therefore much closer together, and they are closer to our own time. I chose those dates because in the 18th century story, we see a young woman accused of witchcraft, and her brother has ‘fits’ which are held to be magically induced. In the story set in the early 20th century, we see a patient in an insane asylum, in an era when we are trying to understand such matters through science. I wanted to show that only a couple of hundred years is enough to have altered entirely the way in which the things are viewed; firstly through the lens of magic, then through the lens of science. And I did that because I wanted to suggest that we can never know for sure whether we’re thinking the ‘right way’ about things; that truth is very hard to be sure of, and that our attitudes might change again as the years progress.

MP: In addition to spanning a variety of time periods, the stories within this book also cover a variety of genres (historical and science fiction for instance) and formats (with parts written in verse or in diary format to name two). How did you decide how to tell and write each quarter of the book?

MS: With four parts it seemed to make sense to write them in different ways, partly for the fun of it, partly for the challenge, and partly to help distinguish them from each other. The prehistoric part was the most important decision though; I knew that I did not want to write some horribly inauthentic dialogue for these Neolithic people. I really cringe when you see a film or read a book set in such times – they always seem so corny, usually the male characters all have names with at lest one K in them – it’s all hard and guttural. For all we know, early language was sibilant and lyrical. So I decided to tell this part in verse, to avoid dialogue for the most part and to give the whole sequence a slightly detached, mystical air, as if we are watching things that we cannot ever really understand entirely, since these people are quite different from us. Having made that choice, the other choices followed easily.

MP: Is there any character that you are particularly excited for readers to meet?

MS: Oh gosh, well, I guess all of them. I wouldn’t like to specify – there are a lot of characters in the book and I always find everyone has different taste, so I think it’s best to let people choose for themselves.

MP: Working off the last question, which scene are you most excited for readers to discover in The Ghosts of Heaven?

MS: Well, I think my answer would be the same, but that’s a boring thing to say – so, maybe the sequence when the spaceship The Song of Destiny breaks through the ‘ripped region of space’ and things get a wee bit weird…

MP: Can you tell us anything more about the numbers found on the last page of The Ghosts of Heaven?

MS: I can tell you that you are the first person to ask me about them. Maybe other people have seen them, and just thought they are a printing error or something! But no, they’re meant to be there – it’s a coded message with some more thoughts about, well, important and relevant things. I’ll leave it at that.

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

MS: You must connect. You must connect to what it is that is moving you to write, and bathe yourself in that thing, whatever it is. You must feel it inside and out and even if you don’t consciously understand all the whys and whats, you need to connect your mind to the thing that started you writing, so you say what you want to say with power and honesty.

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

MS: I’ve just started writing a new adult novel, so that’s going to be a while away yet… Before then I have a comic in the pipeline from First Second Books – it’s called Scarlett Hart and my great friend Thomas Taylor is working away on the illustrations right now.

Thank you to Marcus for taking the time to answer my questions and thank you for Ksenia Winnicki at Macmillan for organizing this tour and giving me the opportunity to take part.

For more information about Marcus and his books you can visit his website.

You can also read my review of The Ghosts of Heaven (starting tomorrow).

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a copy of The Ghosts of Heaven to call your own.

Here is the rest of the blog tour schedule:

Monday January 5: The Midnight Garden

Tuesday January 6: ExLibris

Wednesday January 7: Teen Lit Rocks

Thursday January 8: Fat Girl Reading

Friday January 9: Step Into Fiction

Monday January 12: The Book Wars

Tuesday January 13: Miss Print

Thursday January 15: Ticket to Anywhere

Friday January 16: Alice Marvels

Blog Book Giveaway: The Ghosts of Heaven [CLOSED]

GhostsOfHeaven-BlogTour

Thanks to Macmillan I have a giveaway this week as part of The Ghosts of Heaven blog tour for a hardcover copy of The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick.

This giveaway is open to the US AND CANADA.

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Giveaway is open to any readers over the age of 13. US/Canada only.

Giveaway will run from midnight January 12 through January 18. Winner will be notified January 19. If I don’t hear back from the winner by January 20 I will pick a new winner from the entry pool.

ENTER HERE

I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above or clicking the photo!

You can also check out my interview with Marcus on Tuesday and my review of the book on Wednesday.

Week in Review: January 11

missprintweekreview

This week on the blog you can check out:

I’ve been fighting off this cold for the entire week and it has sucked. But maybe it will go away soon. This week was crazy busy at work but that combined with being sick means that I wasn’t really as productive as I would have liked to be.

EXCEPT I totally dominated my work’s Mock Caldecott! Basically this my system’s version of the Caldecott award for distinguished picture books. The organizing committee picks 6 books, we all read them and some people present explaining why each book should win. This is my favorite event the library does every year so of course I signed up to present (also I am a YA librarian officially but I like to keep up with the picture books) and was given the book The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee. And my speech was really good! And my book won! (So my book was the winner by popular vote with honors going to Gravity by Jason Chin and Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales.) It’s super satisfying presenting a winning book particularly because several people said they enjoyed my presentation and it really got them thinking about the book in a new way. Which I love. It was a sweet, sweet moment and I have been telling everyone.

This was me after the presentation and for most of that day:

My desk is neater at work and I am feeling more organized. Also all of the Christmas decorations have been taken down which is a massive load off.

I joined two reading challenges for the year. Their icons can now be found in my right sidebar. I’m not stressing them at all and am just going to see how they jive with what I already plan to read. BUT if you want to get more info or play along you can click the images to link to my sign up posts (where I’ll be updating with books) which have links to the main challenge posts. Also I am taking part in Kayla and Veronica’s Contemporary Conversations which is also a reading challenge. What  did I get myself into?

Books acquired: I requested an arc of I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell this week from Amazon Vine. I also got a few books from the library for my “put up or shut up” challenge. I’ve got a couple of books I have to read for work but hoping to get through those pretty soon. (You can see my reading progress this month in my January Reading Tracker!)

Blog-wise I also was pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful comments I’ve been getting on posts this week. It was absolutely fantastic and I hope it continues. I’ve been trying to be more conscientious about commenting when I have something to say so maybe putting that energy out there is paying off. Either way, I love talking books (of course) so I’m happy to have the chance to join so many conversations.

I have also really started planning my April 2015 series, Poetically Speaking, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it.

How was your week?

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

sisterhoodblog

I was nominated by Jo from at Drifting Pages. (You can see Jo’s post about it on her blog as well.) Thank you, Jo!

The rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
  • Put the award logo on your blog
  • Answer the ten questions they’ve set you
  • Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
  • Nominate ten people

Jo’s Questions:

  1. If a book was written about your life, what would the title be? I think the title is yet to be determined.
  2. What was the first book you can remember reading (or being read to you)? I can’t find the first book I read myself much to my dismay but Chris Van Allsburg’s books and Young Guinevere by Robert D. San Souci hold special places in my heart (and on my shelves still).
  3. What’s your faourite genre of books? Fantasy. Always fantasy.
  4. If you could choose one book to be turned into a movie adaptation, what would it be?Hmmm. Assuming it would be done very, very well The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson.
  5. What’s your favorite reading format: Hardback, Paperback or E-book? A combination of hardcover and paperback. I read whatever format I get the book in. Hardcover is sturdier but paperback is a lot easier to carry on my commute.
  6. Do you come from a family of readers, or are you the only one? Yes! My mom has always been an avid reader and my aunt edited math textbooks for HMH when I was younger so I had tons of their books as a child.
  7. Have you asked for any books for Christmas? If so, which ones? I only request books for blogger swaps. Nicole and I always exchange books but she knows me well enough that I don’t have to make a wishlist!
  8. Have you ever been to a book festival or author event? Yes because I am spoiled rotten. I have been to BEA for the past few years and go to many author events at local bookstores.
  9. Do you have a favorite bookshop you visit often? Maybe an indie in your hometown/city? I don’t know if it’s a favorite (I have a weird relationship with it because I used to work there) but I spend a fair amount of time at Books of Wonder. I also love the Barnes and Noble at Union Square and The Strand (largely because they will buy books when I want to resell some).
  10. Do you own any signed copies of books? If so, which ones? Again, yes because I am spoiled rotten I have many signed books. Right now my most prized ones are: Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman as well as Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright trilogy.

Blogs I’m Nominating:

  1. Nicole @ The Book Bandit’s Blog
  2. Kayla @ The Thousand Lives
  3. Veronica @ The Talking (Blogging) Bookworm
  4. Eden @ Blogging Between the Lines
  5. Andi @ Just a Broke Bookworm
  6. Liz @ Consumed by Books
  7. The rest are open spots for anyone who wants to join.

My Questions:

  1. Favorite book of all time (top five if you can’t narrow it down)?
  2. Best thing about being a blogger?
  3. Worst thing about being a blogger?
  4. How many books do you reading a week (month if it’s easier to parse)?
  5. Where do you do most of your reading?
  6. How many books are on your to read list right now?
  7. What’s one goal for your blogging life in 2015?
  8. What 2015 release are you most excited to read?
  9. If you could change the ending of one book, which would it be and why?
  10. Open spot to share another bookish fact about yourself of your choice!

If you decide to participate I would love for you to post a link to your post in the comments so I can read it! :)

Grasshopper Jungle: A (Rapid Fire) Review

This is more a critical analysis than a review and is therefore littered with spoilers of varying degrees.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (2014).

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew SmithBy this point, Grasshopper Jungle needs no introduction having already swept up a variety of accolades including wide critical acclaim, starred reviews, a movie option as well as winning the Boston Globe-Horne Book Award and receiving a Printz honor in 2015.  It is the bright green book that could and has helped mark a well-deserved turning point in Smith’s literary career as he joins the ranks of current hot authors. It is a madcap, diverse, clever book that blends genres, time periods and story lines.

Grasshopper Jungle is also one of those books where I can see all of the things Smith is doing that are clever and smart but I don’t particularly care for or appreciate any of them on a personal level because I am too busy deeply not enjoying it.

The diversity here and Austin being refreshingly whoever the hell he wants to be is great and much needed. Continue reading Grasshopper Jungle: A (Rapid Fire) Review

The Darkest Part of the Forest: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“But in all the stories, you have a single chance; and if you miss it, then it’s gone. The door isn’t there when you go back to look. There is no second invitation to the ball”

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly BlackHazel has always known that life in Fairfold is different from the glass coffin that houses a sleeping prince to the strange things that are known to happen to tourists. She has always known that the fairies that live around Fairfold can be as lethal as they are charming; that they will just as soon kill a human as they will bargain with one.

Even then, knowing the dangers, Hazel finds herself drawn to the dark things that lurk outside of Fairfold. With a sword and her brother Ben by her side, Hazel hoped once to become a knight and hunt the monsters that lurked in the Fairfold woods. But Ben put a stop to that.

Seven years ago Hazel made a bargain to try and fix things. To get back the life she thought she wanted. But that fell apart as well.

Now Hazel kisses boys with wild abandon and has fun, hoping to shore up enough in reserve for the day it all might be lost to her. But the payment for Hazel’s bargain is coming due and time is running out for regrets or preparation.

That is until the coffin in the woods is broken and the prince, who has been there for as long as anyone can remember, disappears. Until Hazel wakes up in her bed surrounded by dirt and pieces of broken glass with no idea how to fix anything in The Darkest Part of the Forest (2015) by Holly Black.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fresh-faced fairy story where the fairies are as as entrancing as they are dangerous. Black once again delivers a thoughtful, intricate story of magic and identity in this smartly modern tale.

The Darkest Part of the Forest takes traditional fairy tale tropes (not to mention gender roles) and turns them on their heads as this story infuses familiar lore with new twists and turns. Hazel, in particular, is a stunningly authentic and multi-faceted heroine. She is flawed and impulsive. She is genuine and kind. This story expertly negotiates exactly what agency and identity really mean not just for a girl in a small town but also for a girl with a self-proclaimed charge of saving that town.

There are other relationships in this story that are equally well done. Hazel and Ben come to understand each other as equals and family for perhaps the first time while both also come to terms with a less-than-idyllic upbringing. There is romance for both Hazel and Ben in unlikely places.

This novel also wonderfully examines the nature of family and the ramifications that come when people decide to choose their own–even if it is just for a time. Throughout the quests, the adventures, and the reconciliations, Hazel remains firmly grounded at the center of this plot. Her growth, particularly in the second half of the novel, is phenomenal as the narrative explores what it means to truly know oneself and trust oneself after years of doubt.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a wonderful fantasy but where it really shines is as the sensational story of a girl who not only finds her place in the world but also finds herself when she chooses to face the darkness in herself as well as in the forest.

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2014*

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, Beauty by Robin McKinley, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

365 Days of YA Reading Challenge: In which I join another challenge

Sarah from What Sarah Read has convinced me to sign up for another challenge.

365_Banner

Right now I am committed to the seasonal part of the challenge (since I’m reading Red Queen soon anyway!) but we’ll see how this shapes up!

I’m also sort of but not really doing the book a day part. Except I can’t read a book a day so I’m really just listing them as they fit in. (Sadly I read a lot of these last year when the challenge was not happening.)

If, like me, you want a full list of books Epic Reads has you covered. View the list on their site.

I’ll update this post regularly to keep you posted!

January Books Read:

  1. Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
  2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  3. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

February Books Read:

  1. Winterspell by Claire Legrand
  2. I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell
  3. Compulsion by Martina Boone

March Books Read:

  1. The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver
  2. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
  3. Loop by Karen Akins

April Books Read:

  1. Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
  2. Dove Arising by Karen Bao
  3. Split Second by Kasie West
  4. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

May Books Read:

  1. Even in Paradise by Chelsea Philpot
  2. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  3. The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
  4. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  5. Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

June Books Read:

  1. Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

UPDATE:

I’ve been feeling really, really stressed by all of the reading challenges I signed up for on top of my Goodreads one. After much deliberation, I decided the stress isn’t worth it so I’m withdrawing from everything but my Goodreads challenge which I will meet regardless. I know I will read fantasy books anyway, I know I will read more the 365 days of YA anyway, and I hope I might finish some series but the actual tracking is just overwhelming right now.