Taylor Swift Book Tag

I was tagged for this post months and months ago by Gail from Ticket to Anywhere. (You can see Gail’s post on her blog.) Thank you for tagging me Gail! Sorry it took me so so long!

Some explanation (as provided by Gail): Created by The Book Life, the Taylor Swift Book Tag is a fun way to pair book titles to famous Taylor Swift songs through a handful of questions. Some of which are part of the original tag and some that were added by Danielle at Love at First Page and Nova from Out of Time.

And my answers:

  • We Are Never Ever, Ever Getting Back Together (a book/series you were pretty sure you loved but then wanted to break up with): This one is easy. Much as I loved Cassandra Clare’s books in the moment, I have since outgrown them. It wasn’t you TMI and TID, it was me!
    Clockwork Angel coverClockwork Prince coverCity of Bones coverCity of Ashes coverCity of Glass cover
  • Red (a book with a red cover): Completely red covers are harder to find than you would think! The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp
  • The Best Day (a book that makes you feel nostalgic): The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando
  • Love Story (a book with forbidden love): This one is more taboo than forbidden but I’m still so mixed up about what I want for these characters so whatever. Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
  • I Knew You Were Trouble (a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love): This is a tie between Vicious by V. E. Schwab and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
    Vicious by V. E. SchwabBlue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Innocent (a book that someone ruined the ending for): I ruin a lot of endings for myself because I skim ahead and I purposely looked to see how The Fault in Our Stars and Allegiant would end before I read them. That said, I can’t think of any where the ending was not ruined through my own conscious pursuit of spoilers.
  • Everything Has Changed (a book with a character who goes through extensive character development): Winterspell by Claire Legrand Winterspell by Claire Legrand
  • You Belong With Me (my most anticipated book release): The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Forever and Always (my favorite book couple): Any couple from the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers
    Grave Mercy coverDark Triumph by Robin LaFeversMortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
  • Begin Again (a series that deserves a second chance): I walked away from Holly Black’s Curse Worker series before I read the final one. I’m wondering if that was a mistake.
  • Wonderland (a book that features your favorite fictional world): Too many! But currently Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Last Kiss (a series that you’re not ready to let go, even though it ended): Pivot Point and Split Second by Kasie West. Loved them both and would love to see more although it was the just-right ending.
    Pivot Point by Kasie WestSplit Second by Kasie West
  • Clean (a series where you’re glad it’s over): The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. Loved the series right to the conclusion–it was the perfect ending to a great series.
    The Darkest MindsNever Fade by Alexandra BrackenIn the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
  • Wildest Dreams (your favorite fictional guy–it’s preferred but he doesn’t have to be a bad boy): Alan Ryves from The Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan. There is no other correct answer.
    The Demon's Lexicon coverThe Demon's Covenant coverThe Demon's Surrender cover
  • Enchanted (a book you found by chance that you ended up loving): I am Princess X by Cherie Priest. An arc fell into my lap when I had heard nothing about it and it wound up becoming a favorite. I am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  • All You Had to Do Was Stay (a book you didn’t finish that you wish you had given another chance): I walk away from books without remorse.
  • Come Back, Be Here (a book I would not want to lend out for fear of missing it too much): Definitely my set of the Birthright series by Gabrielle Zevin–those books are very special to me.
    All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle ZevinBecause It Is My Blood by Gabrielle ZevinIn the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin
  • Teardrops on My Guitar (a book that made me cry a lot): I still can’t believe how much I teared up while reading My True Love Gave to Me! My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • Shake it Off (a book I love so much that I just shake off the haters): Susan Juby’s Alice trilogy (the haters here being whoever let it go out of print)
    Alice, I Think coverMiss Smithers coverAlice MacLeod, Realist at Last cover
  • Blank Space (my favorite autographed book): I am very lucky in that I have a lot of wonderful signed books. But two of my most special ones are Seraphina and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. Partly because they are both arcs, partly because I loved them, but especially because I got them signed while having dinner with the author (and my mentor in librarianship) at the Plaza!
    Seraphina coverShadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  • Today was a Fairy Tale (my favorite retelling): There could be many answers but my immediate one will always be Wildwood Dancing by Juliet MarillierWildwood Dancing cover

I’m tagging:

  1. Nicole the Book Bandit
  2. Andi @ Just a Broke Bookworm
  3. Kayla @ The Thousand Lives
  4. Veronica the Talking (Blogging) Bookworm
  5. Nicole @ Nicole’s Novel Reads
  6. Kelly @ Live, Love, Read
  7. You!

Exquisite Corpse: A (Blog Tour) Review

ExquisiteCorpse BlogTourBanner
Exquisite Corpse by Penelope BagieuZoe isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life except that she doesn’t want it to involve her lousy boyfriend and her totally unsatisfying job as a merchandise exhibitor at trade shows.

Zoe is frustrated by everything and everyone. At least until she meets the eccentric Thomas Rocher. Zoe doesn’t recognize him as a literary genius and (supposedly) deceased author.

Turns out dead authors can still get pretty great book deals–especially Thomas since his ex-wife Agathe is also his agent.

Zoe has a lot to learn about publishing but she also might teach Thomas and Agathe a thing or two in Exquisite Corpse (2015) by Pénélope Bagieu.

Exquisite Corpse was originally published in Bagieu’s native France in 2010. Now it is happily available in English translation.

Bagieu combines humorous scenes and snappy dialog in this laugh-out-loud comic adventure. Although many of Zoe’s problems are decidedly adult (lousy job, a boyfriend who wants sex while Zoe is busy fuming), her lack of direction and uncertainty about her future will feel universal to many readers.

With detailed characters and a plot ripe for follow-up, readers will also wonder Exquisite Corpse might only be the first act for Zoe, Thomas and Agathe.

Exquisite Corpse is filled with brightly colored panels and Bagieu’s clean-lined, sleek artwork that perfectly highlights the interplay between what is written and drawn on each page. Laugh-out-loud twists and a surprise ending make this graphic novel an enjoyable quick read sure to brighten a dull lunch hour or commute.

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Hold Me Like a Breath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany SchmidtIn a world where organ donation is strictly regulated, Penelope Landlow’s Family helps those who can’t afford to wait for legal organ transplants . . . as long as they can afford to pay black market prices.

With rival families and upstarts jockeying for position, Penelope knows as well as anyone that the Family business is dangerous. With the Organ Act making its way through congress she also knows the Family business is on the verge of a major change.

Thanks to an autoimmune disorder called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) that causes excessive bruising and bleeding, Penelope also knows she’ll never really be a part of the Family business–changes or not.

With her entire family, and even her lifelong crush, convinced that she is far too fragile for the Family business or anything resembling a normal life, Penelope spends her days dreaming of NYC, shopping, watching C-Span, and wandering her family’s lavish estate.

It isn’t enough.

When disaster strikes, Penelope is thrust into a world of secrets and betrayals she is ill-equipped to understand. As she struggles to make sense of her shattered past and shape her own future she’ll also learn that life isn’t always a fairy tale. Sometimes you have to make your own happy ending in Hold Me Like a Breath (2015) by Tiffany Schmidt.

Hold Me Like a Breath is the first book in Schmidt’s Once Upon a Crime Family trilogy. It is loosely inspired by the story “The Princess and the Pea.”

Penelope is an interesting heroine in that she is spunky while also being painfully naive thanks to her sheltered upbringing. Although she is fragile because of her ITP, Penelope is not easily broken as she demonstrates repeatedly throughout the narrative.

With organized crime, black market organs and murder as part of the plot, Hold Me Like a Breath is not your typical fairy tale romance. Sweet moments of first love are tempered with suspense and action as Penelope tries to make sense of the catastrophe that leaves her alone for the first time.

Hold Me Like a Breath is an engaging mystery and coming-of-age story complete with twists that turn the narrative completely upside down not once but twice. A romantic lead who sees Penelope as a true equal helps move the romance here from saccharine and sweet to rock solid and empowering.

Schmidt blends elements of mystery and romance in this retelling that is as unique as it is exciting. In addition to nods to the source material, this book also builds a world that is developed down to the finest details and includes a diverse cast of characters who readers will look forward to seeing in book two. Hold Me Like a Breath is a clever page-turner with a heroine who learns what it takes to chase her own happily ever after in this sensational start to what is sure to be a marvelous series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Heist Society by Ally Carter, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

You can also check out my interview with Tiffany!

Author Interview: Tiffany Schmidt

tiffanyschmidtTiffany Schmidt’s novel Hold Me Like a Breath has been on my radar since I first heard about it. A fairy tale retelling with organized crime and blackmarket organs? Obviously I was completely on board. Happily, Hold Me Like a Breath did not disappoint. In fact, it only made me even more excited about Tiffany’s Once Upon a Crime Family series. Tiffany is here today to talk a little more about this latest novel.

MP: What was the inspiration for Hold Me Like a Breath? What drew you to The Princess and the Pea as source material?

TS: I was fascinated by The Princess and the Pea when I was a child. It was one of my favorite stories in my big book of fairy tales. BUT, I always felt like it inspired more questions than answers: why was the princess alone in the woods, what happened to her family, why is it important that she bruises, etc, etc. So many questions that my parents had to ban it as a bedtime story since it got me so riled up just when they wanted me to settle down and sleep.

All these years later, Hold Me Like a Breath is my attempt to answer those questions.

MP: Working off the last question, when did you know organized crime and organ trafficking were parts of this story?

TS: Right away I knew this would be a crime family novel. As soon as I decided I wanted to write a modernized version of The Princess and the Pea, I knew I wouldn’t be including royal families and that I wanted to situate the ‘princess’ in a crime family instead.

The idea of organ trafficking took a bit longer to settle on. I knew I wanted the morality of the crime families to be ambiguous – I want them to be criminal and dark, but also create some good in the world. There are many, many shades of gray in the Landlow Family’s morality—which made writing their story all the more fun.

MP: Penelope has an autoimmune disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura or ITP. What kind of research was involved in getting Penelope’s symptoms and treatments just right?

TS: ITP has such a range of manifestations and treatments, that there really isn’t any single way of getting it ‘just right’—because every patient’s experiences with the disorder and the way they manage treatment varied widely. I spent a lot of time researching, asking questions on patient forums and via email, and getting in touch with doctors who specialize in treating ITP and other platelet disorders.

And once I had a fix on the way the disorder is typically handled, I wrote Penny counter to this. Penny’s treatment of ITP is more conservative than the typical for an ITP patient. Since money and access to medical care aren’t an obstacle for her parents, they’ve gone with a very cautious treatment plan.

The Landlow’s choice of treatment methods is a testament to how fragile they see her. This, plus their rule that no one is allowed to touch her, say much more about their dangerous lifestyle and overprotective attitudes, than they do about Penny’s actual health.

MP: Penelope loves New York City even before she sees it. How did you decide what parts of the city to highlight in Hold Me Like a Breath? Which real locations were you excited to include?

TS: The energy of New York City and its unpredictable chaos are the perfect counterpoint to Penny’s tedious and controlled life on her family’s estate. I have maps and maps I made to keep locations straight when I was planning that aspect of Hold Me. I even walked some of the routes she takes when she and Char meander through the city.

But of all the New York locations I included in Hold Me, I had the most fun planning the scenes in the American Museum of Natural History. When I went to research this, I brought my family and we met up with my editor and the assistant at my literary agency. We made a day of it, had lunch (Shake Shack!), visited a few Central Park playgrounds, and then explored the museum—taking all sorts of pictures and chatting up potential settings for a few key scenes. I recently visited again and it was surreal to stand in parts of the museum and have lines from the book running through my head. I kept turning around and expecting to see Penny or Char behind me.

MP: In addition to a fairy tale retelling this story has a bit of romance and a lot of mystery. As a writer, how did you go about pacing this aspect of the story and deciding what to reveal when?

TS: Penny’s world is so small at the beginning of the book. She’s confined to her family’s estate and has no real friends or confidants outside of the Landlow crime family. She makes a joke early in the novel that if she was allowed to go to school she’d meet other people, and maybe then she’d have a crush on someone other than her brother’s best friend. Because like Penny’s only friend is her nurse, the only boy she could possibly swoon over is the only one she knows—Carter’s best friend.

Penny needs her world to grow. She needs to meet people, talk to them. She needs to find her own limits and define herself.

There’s that relationship advice that’s often quoted “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” I’d add that in Penny’s case, she can’t love someone else until she knows herself. The pacing of the book and the romances matches the speed of her self-discovery. Incremental and slow at places, but dramatic and all at once in others. Fearful and hesitant at times, and courageous and reckless at others.

It’s a fairy tale retelling, so of course I got to play with the idea of love at first sight—but I spin it on its head a little—just like Penny’s boy next store isn’t actually boy-next-door-ish, her love at first sight, isn’t actually first sight. I also loved toying with the idea of secret identities but true selves.

MP: The characters in this book, including Penelope, have some great names. How did you go about finding the perfect name for each character?

TS: Penelope à Penelo-pea > Princess and the Pea

Garrett sounds a lot like “garrote” > he’s been raised to be a weapon

Magnolia Grace > This name reflects her parents’ expectations for her to be beautiful and feminine. > Maggie revels in smashing out of the boxes people would like to put her in or the limits they’ve set for her.

Char > *shrug* He sizzles :)

MP: Did you have a favorite character to write in Hold Me Like a Breath? Is there any character you are particularly excited for readers to meet?

TS: Oh, geez. This is a hard question. Hmm. I’m going to say Penny’s brother, Carter, is my favorite character.

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

TS: I’m about to start copyedits on book two of the Once Upon a Crime Family series, Break Me Like a Promise. This book picks up a couple months after Hold Me Like a Breath ends and is told from the point of view of the daughter of a different crime family: Magnolia Vickers.

It’s about Maggie dealing with the fallout of [redacted] and trying to [redacted]. Realizing she’s 100% wrong about [redacted] and maybe, just maybe [redacted, redacted, redacted].

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

TS: Find a community. Writing is such a solitary process—just you, your computer, and the voices in your head. It’s so important to have people to support you along the way. Join a critique group—doesn’t matter if it meets online or in person—but these people will cheer your successes, offer advice during your murky middles, and pep talks during the endless waiting that surrounds ALL parts of publishing. Critique partners or writing friends are like outsourcing your sanity. They’ll hold your hand and pick you back up—unsnarl messy plots and find ways to build bridges over pot holes. I don’t know what I’d do without mine. I hope I never have to find out! <3

Thanks again to Tiffany for a great interview.

You can see more about Tiffany and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Hold Me Like a Breath here on the blog.

The Secrets We Keep: A Review

“But no matter what I did or how far I went for her, she’d keep me on the outside, five safe steps away from her and her inner circle.”

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha LeaverIdentical twins Ella and Maddy used to be inseparable until Maddy started to care more about field hockey and the popular crowd than she did about her quiet, artsy sister.

Ella still always come when Maddy calls. Even if it means sneaking out of her room and away from her art school portfolio in the middle of the night to pick Maddy up.

Instead of a quick drive and a painless trip with both of them home in half an hour, Ella’s car goes off the road in the midst of a bitter argument.

After, Ella is in the hospital, battered and with little memory of the accident. Maddy is dead.

Surrounded by friends and family who believe she is Maddy–convinced Maddy will be missed more than she ever will and filled with guilt over the accident–Ella makes a choice. She will become Maddy. She’ll live the life Maddy deserved. She’ll make things right.

Ella soon realizes that her sister’s  life is filled with secrets which Ella will have to understand while she tries to keep them. As Ella tries to make sense of the sister she barely knew she will also have to decide if she can continue living a lie or finally step out of her sister’s shadow in The Secrets We Keep (2015) by Trisha Leaver.

The Secrets We Keep is a story about family and grieving but also a mystery as Ella tries to understand what Maddy had done that left her crying and desperate for Ella to pick her up on the night of the accident.

Leaver begins the story with a prologue telling readers exactly what Ella has done and why she feels so strongly that she has to pretend to be Maddy (along with numerous circumstances stacking up to lead to Ella’s initial mis-identification as Maddy). The book then backs up to the night of the accident as readers learn more about the sisters’ estrangement and currently strained relationship.

There is no way to get around the fact that Maddy is a stereotypically mean popular girl before her death. An identifier which she never gets to transcend because she dies and instead it is Ella left picking up the pieces.

Unfortunately shifting the start of the novel to before the accident (and before Ella truly makes her choice as she is swept up in the post-accident confusion at the hospital) neutralizes a lot of the initial urgency. For the first seventy-five pages of the novel, readers know know exactly what happens after the accident which means that readers also know more than Ella herself.

Within The Secrets We Keep, Ella’s decision to become her sister makes perfect sense as the motivations stem from a deep sense of guilt combined with grief. But the premise begins to wear thin as the plot progresses and Ella’s secret begins to unravel.

Elements of romance and mystery move the story forward but never integrate perfectly with the main plot of Ella making peace with her sister’s death. The addition of an awkward love triangle between Ella, her best friend Josh and Josh’s two-years-younger girlfriend (who Ella strongly dislikes–and maybe feels threatened by–while refusing to acknowledge possibly having romantic feelings for Josh herself) further dilutes the core elements of the story which had so much promise.

Despite having all of the right pieces, including a great heroine and strong premise, The Secrets We Keep fails to meet its potential and instead becomes very familiar as the plot moves in directions previously handled more notably by Zevin and Oliver among others.

The Secrets We Keep blends several genres to deliver elements of romance and suspense within a story about loss and grieving that will appeal to readers looking for more of the same.

Possible Pairings: I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

*An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Week in Review: May 10


This week on the blog you can check out:

This is the first Week in Review I haven’t had pre-scheduled for a while. It’s strange getting back to regular posting after Poetically Speaking BUT it was still a whole lot of fun and I’m so glad I had the opportunity.

This week was pretty good. I got to talk about some of my favorite NYC spots on Monday for Estelle’s BEA Part of It series.

On Tuesday I had a lot of interesting conversations about blog comments on twitter. That is a topic I find fascinating and always love to hear about. I am in the midst of re-evaluating what blogs I read and what twitter accounts to follow so that I can better engage and so it gave me a lot to think about.

Wednesday was my crazy day. I had a publisher preview with Algonquin, Bloomsbury and Chronicle in Times Square in the morning. That was a blast–I always love hearing about new books obviously and I saw lot of people I know as well which is always nice. The standout title from here was A History of Glitter and Blood which everyone in my place of employ now wants to read–so much so that I’m trying to hunt down an extra arc. I’m excited for that one personally and also for Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George which sounds excellent. Aside from that I also got the new Jackaby Beastly Bones (which I might end up reading because THAT COVER), House Arrest (verse novel with a male MC, what?), Because You’ll Never Meet Me (I am still unsure about this one but the publicist loved it so maybe I’ll try it), If You’re Lucky (after PPYA last year, I find I need a steady diet of mystery novels SO this one might fit the bill) and A Curious Tale of the In-Between (I had issues with Wither for very personal reasons but I love DeStefano on Twitter and I’m kind of excited about this one!).

(Thanks to extremely dumb luck I also have an arc in my possession of Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales and I am super excited about it!)

After the preview I was able to go home for lunch with my mom (best) and then headed to work for a few hours. That night I got to meet up with two of my closest friends from college. I’m horrible at keeping in touch but they always put up with me when I get it together every 6-12 months to schedule a dinner with them–I’m grateful they put up with me.

That night on my way home I saw this

and I just really need everyone to know about it. I am assuming it’s Toothless. He was also breathing fire which extended a good 8 feet or so but I couldn’t figure out how to photograph it compellingly.

On Friday I finally had an eye exam. After four years with the same pair I am so excited for new glasses that it’s not even funny.

This week I read Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot and Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. Both are excellent!

Obviously this weekend is Mother’s Day so I’ll be spending some quality time with my mom and hoping everyone is having a chill Sunday.

How was your week?

A Court of Thorns and Roses: A (Rapid Fire) Review

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (2015)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasI’m not going to bother with a summary here because Sarah J. Maas has already taken the world by storm with her bestselling Throne of Glass series. A Court of Thorns and Roses is the start to a new and highly anticipated series by Maas that blends elements of Tam Lin with Beauty and the Beast in this retelling.

There are two things you should know about me before I get into this review. The first is that I am not a fan of the Throne of Glass series. I read the first book and thought it was okay. Not great and not a series I needed to continue reading. I have much respect and love for Maas as I do for any other who gets people excited about reading but that series just isn’t my bag. When I heard Maas had a new series starting set in a different world, my interest was piqued and I decided I did want to check it out to see if it was more up my alley. (I have since concluded that Maas’ writing style just might not appeal to me personally which does happen.)

What I did not realize when I started reading A Court of Thorns and Roses is that it was also Maas’ new New Adult (NA) series. There are several definitions floating around for what NA means and what NA books look like. In my (limited) research, I’ve concluded that NA books are generally romance novels featuring twenty-something-ish characters. While that is a simplified explanation, it is one that I have found to be largely accurate. I don’t enjoy reading romance novels and as a result have tended to also avoid NA titles. Unfortunately I did not see the marketing keywords marking A Court of Thorns and Roses as NA until after I had read it.

Keeping in mind that A Court of Thorns and Roses is NA, it’s worth noting that some of my issues might stem from the genre rather than the book itself. Often, in my reading, romance novels have relationships predicated on unequal power dynamics. Often, in my reading, romance novels have uneven plots as the story is working harder to fit in romance elements over other aspects of story/plot.

Spoilers ahead.

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