Monthly Archives: March 2016

Author Interview (#3): Susane Colasanti on City Love

Susane Colasanti author photoSusane Colasanti has been a favorite author of mine for a while now. Today, she’s back for interview number three! Today we’re talking about City Love, the first book in Susane’s new trilogy which came out in 2015. Be sure to watch for the second book Lost in Love which will be out May 3, 2016!

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for City Love?

Susane Colasanti (SC): When I was in high school, every summer break had the potential for magic. Not that anything ever happened in Middle of Nowhere, NJ. But being an eternal optimist (even in my teen years, the worst time of my life), every summer began with a sense of infinite possibility. The possibility that I would have a boy adventure. The possibility that I would figure out who I really was and stop caring about what other people think. And especially the possibility that I would reinvent myself.

I looked forward to every summer as the Summer of Reinvention, during which time I would completely transform myself into a girl kids would hardly recognize when school started. Of course that never happened. The important thing was that I believed it could. There was always the anticipation that tremendous things could happen over the summer, and that anticipation sparked my passion for the City Love series. Writing a series about summer love, self-discovery, and sisterhood has been an incredible experience.

MP: City Love alternates chapters between Sadie, Rosanna and Darcy. How did you go about plotting the story and breaking up the structure between three narrators?

SC: When I began my career as an author, my plan was actually to write every book from multiple perspectives. I love showing more than one side of the same story and filling in the blanks we otherwise would never know. My first two books, When It Happens and Take Me There, are written from alternating/multiple points-of-view. But when I began the first draft of Waiting for You, I realized that I could only show Marisa’s side of the story or else too much would be given away. I wasn’t able to return to alternating voice style until my seventh book, All I Need.So I was thrilled that I would have the opportunity to spend a series of three books exploring three different points of view.

The City Love trilogy takes place over a condensed timeline of one summer. The first book covers ten days in June, the second book, Lost in Love, is July, and book three is August. So I knew that a lot would have to happen each day in order to bring the levels of character growth, drama, and evolving friendship I wanted to incorporate. But the storyline and structure constructed organically as I worked on the outline for each book. My characters are always the ones in charge, and these girls showed me how their stories would unfold. Basically I just let them take over and they showed me the way.

MP: Readers of your earlier novels might recognize Sadie from her appearance in So Much Closer. What was it like taking a secondary character from one of your earlier novels and giving her a starring role in her own story?

SC: Bringing back characters from my previous books in my new ones is something I’ve been doing for a few books now…and I love it! For example, Sterling from Waiting for You is the main character in Now and Forever. There have also been cameos of characters from Take Me There and Something Like Fate in my recent novels. Sadie is so sweet with her random acts of kindness and warm fuzzies that I knew we would see her again. It was fascinating to explore Sadie in much more depth than what we knew of her from So Much Closer. Working with an already fully developed character to develop her even further was an interesting exploration, and revealed a lot more than I was anticipating. You will see more characters from my previous books in my future books. I am weaving their storylines together as a metaphor for how everything is connected. Ultimately, my goal is for all of my characters to be connected by one degree.

MP: Do you have a favorite character in City Love? Which character were you most like as a teen?

SC: Rosanna is a lot like my teen self. I’m not from Chicago and I don’t have a big family, but we both were abused and grew up in impoverished circumstances. There is a scene in City Love where Rosanna goes to the ATM and is horrified to discover that she only has 73 cents left. That totally happened to me in college! Like Rosanna, I paid for college entirely on my own. So realizing that I essentially had no money left at one point was terrifying. Rosanna is a survivor. She is stronger than she knows. The three City Love girls are my heart, but I have special affection for Sadie. Her caring nature and determination to become a true optimist make me happy.

MP: City Love is the first book in your first trilogy. Did knowing this story would be told over the course of a trilogy change your writing process? How much did you know about each character’s arc when you started writing this book? Has anything changed?

SC: My writing process was pretty much the same. I like to have a comprehensive outline before I start writing the first draft of a new book. Every outline changes as I write and the characters reveal more of themselves to me and, subsequently, more of the story that was not initially apparent. I had a general idea of what each girl’s arc would look like, but I was flexible as the writing progressed.

MP: It’s no secret that you love New York and City Love brings you and your readers back to NYC. How did you decide what locations to include this time around? Did you have to work to balance new locations with old favorites (like the High Line which also featured in So Much Closer)?

SC: Oh, the High Line had to return! There are a few places that have given me so much joy over the past 20 years I’ve lived in New York that I really had no choice but to include them. I didn’t read So Much Closer in detail before I began writing City Love, but I did revisit Sadie’s scenes since she is now with us again. I’m sure I mentioned places in City Love that were also featured in So Much Closer without realizing it! The books are four years apart, which allowed time to discover more cool places I didn’t know about before. The Free Public Baths building is just one example. My fiancé and I recently discovered that place when we were walking around one summer night. If I hadn’t looked up, I would have never noticed the signage. The building has such a fascinating history I felt compelled to include it in City Love.

MP: Lost in Love will be released on May 3. Can you tell us anything about what to expect in it?

SC: You can expect the unexpected! And more big cliffhangers at the end, of course :)

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Thanks again to Susane for this awesome interview.

You can see more about Susane and her books on:

You can also check out my review of City Love.

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City Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

City Love by Susane ColasantiSadie has lived in New York City her entire life but when she moves into summer housing before her first semester of college, it feels like she’s discovering a whole new city. She is so ready to meet her soulmate and fall in love. When she finally meets the perfect boy at her summer internship it’s almost too good to be true.

Darcy decides to use her move from California to New York to embrace Summer Fun Darcy while she gets a head start on her classes. With rich parents backing her adventures, Darcy is sure that her summer is going to be unforgettable. The only problem is Summer Fun Darcy might not be prepared when the chance for something real with a new boy comes her way.

Rosanna knows moving from Chicago to New York is going to be hard–especially since her family can’t give her any monetary support. But moving to New York has always been Rosanna’s dream so she is determined to make it work even if that means a less-than-glamorous summer job. No one is more surprised than Rosanna when a handsome, rich guy breezes into her life ready to sweep her off her feet.

Sadie, Darcy and Rosanna are unlikely roommates and friends. But one summer in the city they all love will bring these girls together right when everything starts to change in City Love (2015) by Susane Colasanti.

City Love is the start of Colasanti’s City Love trilogy. The story will continue in Lost in Love due out May 2016.

Colasanti delivers another fresh, fun romance in City Love. The novel alternates chapters with first person narrations from Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna. At the start of the novel all three girls are at a crossroad waiting for things to happen and their real college lives to begin.

Each girl also has a secret–something they are running away from, coming to terms with, or hiding from–that they withhold from each other and the reader. This trope, which sometimes can only lead to frustration, is handled well in City Love where readers are ultimately rewarded with answers by the end of the novel.

City Love presents a shiny, elegant version of New York filled with fancy restaurants and expensive stores that locals might not often seen. The novel itself is imbued with Colasanti’s abiding love for New York and evocative scenes of popular destinations like the High Line and Union Square.

Set during the course of one tumultuous week for the girls, City Love is an exciting story of romance, new beginnings, and taking chances. This book reads as a contained story with a satisfying conclusion for most plot threads although hints of what’s in store for Sadie, Rosanna and Darcy will leave fans eager for the next installment.

City Love is a great choice for readers looking for a stylized version of college life with all of the freedom finally being an adult affords. An ideal choice for contemporary romance fans as well. Recommended.

Possible Pairings:The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Don’t forget to check out my interview with Susane Colasanti!

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2015 for review consideration*

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall: A Review

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy SheehanSixteen-year-old New Yorker Sarah Evans is shocked when she wakes up dead. At the Mall of America. In Minnesota. Wearing the mango chiffon bridesmaid gown she had on when she died.

Along with fellow teen murder victims Harry (cancer, although that isn’t technically what killed him), Lacey (pushed off a roof), Alice (she doesn’t want to talk about it), and the oh-so-dreamy Nick (gunshot to the chest), Sarah is supposed to use her time at the mall to prepare to move on. The only problem is that Sarah can’t believe anyone would want to murder her when she spent her entire (short) life determined to be ordinary.

Interfering with the living is against the rules according to her annoyingly chipper “death coach,” Bertha, but Sarah knows her father is in danger and that she is the only one who can help in I Woke Up Dead at the Mall (2016) by Judy Sheehan.

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is Sheehan’s first novel.

Sarah’s snark-filled, first person narration meshes well with the madcap quality of this story. This novel sidesteps religion by presenting the Boy (AKA “Boss of You”) as the ultimate authority figure in the afterlife while also keeping things like angels separate from any faith-based interpretations.

Unfortunately these seemingly arbitrary alternatives also provide little in the way of world building for the fantasy elements of this story. Pop culture references, including a years-too-late cameo by Oprah, lend a dated and out-of-touch quality to this otherwise strong plot.

In this offbeat ghost story Sarah uses her uncanny haunting abilities, along with some help from her new friends, to make sense of her afterlife and save the day. I Woke Up Dead at the Mall is a fun read but it is also slight and shockingly lacking in diversity for a novel that draws its cast from New York City. One note characters with vague motivations further diminish the overall impact of this novel.

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall starts with an interesting premise that sadly never realizes its potential. Sheehan’s quirky vision of the afterlife ultimately leads to a meandering story with a mixed bag of plot points and an ending that ties things up with a too-neat bow.

Possible Pairings: Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin, Dreamology by Lucy Keating, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol and David Ostow, The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online*

Week in Review: March 27, 2016

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I had a three day weekend which I used to catch up on a lot of errands (read: all of the sewing and darning I’d been putting off for approximately 6 months).

I finished When We Collided which was . . . not what I wanted it to be although it was decent.

I’m also finally selling off the last remnants of my aunt’s Disney Pin collection. Which sounds super weird and easy but it was something I had not been able to even consider right after she died. But now that it’s been a couple of years, it feels like the right thing to do.

My mom and I celebrate Easter in a cultural way (not a religious one) and we had a really lovely Sunday hanging out and eating delicious foods. Which is why this post is publishing on Monday and being backdated to Sunday.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my March Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Into the Dim: A Review

Into the Dim by Janet B. TaylorHope Walton is certain that her mother isn’t really dead. But no one else saw the flash of news coverage and no one can find any evidence to corroborate what Hope knows to be true thanks to her eidetic memory.

Expectations for a summer visiting her aunt in Scotland are low (even without the smack of rejection knowing her father will be on a cruise with his new girlfriend). Between her crippling claustrophobia and headaches brought on when her photographic memory gets away from her, even time at home–alone–can be overwhelming.

Soon after arriving in Scotland, Hope learns that her aunt and mother belong to a secret society of time travelers dedicated to preserving the timeline–a mission that has left Hope’s mother trapped in twelfth-century England.

Hope might be the only one who can save her mother. But she’ll have to learn how to conquer her own fears first in Into the Dim (2016) by Janet B. Taylor.

Into the Dim is Taylor’s debut novel and the start of a new series.

Written in the first person, Into the Dim is narrated by sixteen-year-old Hope. Hope is incredibly book smart thanks to her memory but she is also naive and reads as much younger than her sixteen years would suggest. Taylor also chooses to write characters’ speech in dialect to convey accents which often feels stilted if not clumsy to follow.

The novel’s plot is based on some problematic elements. The role of her father is especially troubling. Readers learn early on that Hope was adopted by her mother who married when Hope was five. Her mother and father are the only parent’s Hope has ever known and she considers both her parents without qualification and, as far as the story suggests, Hope’s father feels the same way about her. Despite that Hope’s father allows his own mother to treat Hope as an outsider and inferior to the “real” members of the family. (This is behavior that leaves Hope’s mother seething but seems to get a pass from her father.) Aside from being a damaging trope to perpetuate it feels like a heavy-handed attempt to build in sympathy for Hope and better explain her decision to go along with a visit to Scotland at all.

Other problematic familial aspects of Into the Dim include the fact that Hope’s father has a new girlfriend a mere eight months after his wife’s sudden death and chooses to go on a cruise with her while leaving Hope to fend for herself with an aunt she has never met in a foreign country. Furthermore the idea that Hope’s aunt has never bothered to speak to her–ever–despite speaking to Hope’s mother weekly seems highly unlikely.

Hope’s photographic memory and phobias often feel contrived. That isn’t to say that her fears are invalid or badly portrayed. Rather they feel like elements added into the story solely to move the plot in a very specific direction. The addition of extreme headaches brought on by Hope’s eidetic memory seems superfluous and lacks any basis (as far as my research shows) in reality.

Into the Dim veers more to the light end of the speculative fiction spectrum. Explanations for the mechanics of time travel are thin when they are presented at all. The novel is also poorly paced with obvious twists (time travel!) that are hinted at in the plot summary not appearing until well into the story. For a novel that travels to a variety of locations and time periods, Into the Dim often lacks a strong sense of place feeling as it if could be set anywhere without much change to the action. The historical parts of the novel are well-researched but come too late to enhance the text.

Into the Dim begins with a promising premise that hints at action, time travel, and even some romance. Unfortunately in a year rich with titles that explore similar themes, this one often falls short by comparison.

Possible Pairings: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Winterspell by Claire LeGrand, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Beauty: A (Classic!) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Beauty by Robin McKinleyIt has been many years since Beauty liked her nickname. It is better than Honour, to be sure. And better, at this point, to keep it than to admit the folly of such a nickname. But she knows far too well that she is no beauty. Not really and certainly not compared to her sisters. She is thin and awkward and short.

No one quite believes it when their father returns home with tales or an enchanted house in the woods and a Beast who lives there. They don’t even want to consider the bargain their father was forced to strike.

She may not be pretty but Beauty is smart. She is kind, just like her sisters. And, when it comes time to make a dangerous choice, she is brave in Beauty (1978) by Robin McKinley.

Beauty is the first book in a trilogy of companion novels by McKinley that retell popular folktales. Beauty is a retelling of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” Originally published in 1978, this novel is also strikingly close to Disney’s classic animated version of the story.

Beauty is a pragmatic narrator who does not tolerate nonsense and values books and intelligence above almost everything else. Beauty’s narration is thoughtful and brisk as the story moves along. Beauty is appropriately introspective as Beauty makes sense of her new surroundings and begins to unravel some of the Beast’s secrets.

This novel is filled with a level of thought and detail typical to one of McKinley’s books. The settings are vibrant and evocative. The characters are vivid and authentic. Even with so much description and exposition, Beauty is an engrossing read.

Beauty is a must-read for fans of fairy tale retellings and fantasy readers alike. Also ideal for readers who prefer smart heroines and romances with a slow burn.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Froi of the Exiles: A Review

Froi of the Exiles by Melina MarchettaIt has been three years since the curse on Lumatere was lifted. Three years since the Lumaterans trapped inside the kingdom for ten long years and those exiled during the siege reclaimed their land and tried to make it whole. But memories are long and recovery is slow as the country come to terms with what was lost during the time of the unspeakable and what has changed forever.

During his years as an exile, Froi never imagined he would find a home in Lumatere much less a position in the Queen’s Guard. He could not have guessed that he would one day count Queen Isaboe and her consort, Finnikin among his dearest friends. Even with so much changed, Froi is haunted by who he was during the exile. He has sworn a bond to the queen, and to Lumatere, that he might make up for his past and never stray again.

That bond is sorely tested when Froi is sent to a neighboring kingdom on a secret mission. In Charyn’s royal court Froi finds a princess who may speak prophecy or madness and twins who can offer two halves of the story behind Charyn’s own curse–and secrets of Froi’s past–if only they can learn to speak to each other again. In a barren kingdom where brutality has become more valuable than compassion for most, Froi will have to decide if he can stay true to his bond to Lumatere while also doing what is right in Froi of the Exiles (2012) by Melina Marchetta.

Froi of the Exiles is the second book in Marchetta’s Chronicles of Lumatere which begins with Finnikin of the Rock.

Froi of the Exiles is a sweeping novel that blows the world of the Chronicles of Lumatere open as Froi and readers are introduced to new countries and cultures. This novel brings the strangely barren land of Charyn to life with stark, vivid descriptions. The dangers found in much of Charyn are expertly contrasted with moments of wondrous beauty and tempered by the sharp wit of these characters.

Marchetta offers a thoughtful meditation on forgiveness and recovery in Froi of the Exiles. Every character here has been broken in some way–sometimes by looming curses and other times by the casual cruelty of other people–that damage and those scars are givens. But it never defines them. Each character, but especially Froi, strives throughout the novel to move past that hurt and to take the damaged pieces and make himself into something stronger and better.

Froi of the Exiles is a masterful and well-executed novel where every word matters and the story will completely enthrall readers. Highly recommended. Part of a must-read series for fans of high fantasy.

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon, Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia A. McKillip, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson, Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner