Princess of the Midnight Ball: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day GeorgeGalen is a soldier returning from war. At only nineteen he has been on the battleground most of his life. He is world-weary and eager to return to Westfalin and try his hand at civilian life now that the war is over.

Rose is one of the twelve princesses of Westfalin cursed to dance each night for the King Under Stone where they wear out their dancing slippers every evening. Unable to speak out about their nightly activities or defy the King Under Stone, Rose and her sisters suffer in silence.

Many princes try to discover where the princesses go each night. All of them fail.

As the stakes grow higher, Rose and Galen will have to work together to break the curse and save Westfalin from threats found both underground and above in Princess of the Midnight Ball (2009) by Jessica Day George.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is the first book in George’s trilogy of companion novels following the princesses of Westfalin. It is also a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairytale.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is written in the third person and alternates between Galen and Rose’s points of view to create two protagonists who are very authentic instead of relying on character archetypes. George also flips several standard fairytale tropes upside down with her refreshing and well-rounded characters. Galen is levelheaded and cautious while still having enough charm to rival any prince. He also knits his own socks. Rose is clever, sharp and decidedly proactive as she works independently of Galen to try and save her sisters.

Together Galen and Rose are unstoppable as they face faeries, curses and other ills besides in their efforts to break the curse and save Westfalin. Despite having numerous secondary characters–just with all of Rose’s sisters!–George manages to present concise snapshot descriptions for each character without bogging down the narrative. This story can also appeal to a broad age range as it’s thin on gore or violence with a lighter tone overall.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a delightful retelling that stays true to the source material while also adding original touches and memorable characters. A thrilling plot, sweet romance and genuinely scary villains make for a winning combination in this reinvented fairytale.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Toads & Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

Banned Books Week Blind Book Display (Library Life)

Banned Books Week is a week-long event to raise awareness about the dangers of banning or challenging books as well as to celebrate the intellectual freedom that people enjoy by reading books and having books available in their libraries or schools.

Banned Books Week runs from September 27 to October 3 this year.

If you want to know more you can visit BannedBooks.Org. The American Library Association also has a handy Banned Books Week landing page with a lot more information. School Library Journal also has compiled many useful resources.

This year for BBW I knew I wanted to do a blind display. I’ve seen other librarians make displays covering books with paper bags and listing the reasons they were banned or challenged. (The Lorax is always an interesting one for this since it is sighted as promoting eco-terrorism and being anti-industry sometimes.)

I wanted to streamline the process (because restocking my Blind Date with a Book display got to be a bit tedious last February) so I went a little simpler. I made a few graphics with a “banned” stamp and some of the top reasons books are banned or challenged in libraries.

Here’s what that looked like:


Like my Blind Date with a Book display, these books are all wrapped in such a way that they are still scannable at check out and easily unwrapped if someone needs the book.

I also have a poster board I use for displays so I made a sign with some text background and Banned Books Week information:

IMG_0294Part of the sign is a little hard to read because I didn’t make the background opaque enough when I made the sign in PicMonkey but I kind of like that because it seems fitting with what Banned Books Week is all about.

After that I put everything together and installed the display.

IMG_0329Reasons listed include: nudity, sexually explicit, anti-family, controversial, unsuited to age group, drugs/alcohol/smoking and offensive language.

Here’s a closer view of the display:

IMG_0330How are you exercising your right to read this Banned Books Week? Does your library have any cool displays for Banned Books Week this year? Are you featuring Banned Books Week content on your blog?

Let me know in the comments!

The Marvels: A Review

The Marvels by Brian SelznickThe story starts in 1776 with Billy Marvel, the only survivor of a shipwreck. Alone in the world and looking to start over Billy finds himself drawn to a London theater beginning a dynasty of actors and theater performers that will span five generations.

In 1990 Joseph Jervis runs away from his boarding school to the home of an estranged uncle he has never met. Uncle Albert’s house is like nothing Joseph has ever seen. As he struggles to find his place in the world, Joseph will also have to unravel the mystery of the strange Marvel family and how their story is intricately linked to Joseph’s family and his own future in The Marvels (2015) by Brian Selznick.

The Marvels is Selznick’s third novel in his innovative blend of traditional prose narrative and wordless illustrations. This time the illustrations and prose offer two distinct stories that blend together in surprising ways by the end of the novel.

The Marvels begins with wordless illustrations following the larger-than-life Marvel family and their exploits on the London stage from 1776 with Billy Marvel down to 1900 when young Leo Marvel wonders if it is time to choose another path.

The prose narrative picks up in 1990 as Joseph arrives in London desperate to find somewhere he can call home–even if it is with a prickly uncle he has never met in a strange house filled with artifacts whose important Joseph will come to understand over the course of the book.

The less you know about The Marvels before you read it, the better. This book is one that should be experienced cold as readers work with Joseph to make sense of Uncle Albert’s mysterious house and all of the secrets it holds.

The Marvels is an obvious progression of Selznick’s work as he masterfully brings together two seemingly unrelated narratives to create a cohesive story that is as complex as it is enthralling. Definitely a must-read of 2015.

If you want to know more about Selznick’s inspiration and process, check out this article:

You can also check out the trailer which Selznick created to get a sense of the sweeping beauty of this novel.

Possible Pairings: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Weedflower by Jacqueline Woodson

Week in Review: September 27

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week has been VERY busy at work. I am hoping for a much quieter October where I have a little more breathing room. That said, work was also pretty good this week so I can’t complain too much.

In my continued efforts to be brave (and maybe persistent?) I got a kind of exciting email this week. I can’t tell you how far a little closure is going to making me feel better about vague things I am going to remain vague about. I’m also continuing to try and get things organized in my life which might finally be working.

On Saturday I saw Nicole for the first time since July (a travesty, I know!). We walked quite a way following street fairs and it was a lot of fun with good street fair food (crepes! mozzarepas! deep fried oreos!) and only a few silly purchases.

I was so tired last week that I didn’t get in a lot of reading so I continue to chip away at Six of Crows.

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

How was your week?

Dreamstrider: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith (2015)

Dreamstrider by Lindsay SmithLivia is the only dreamstrider in the Barstadt Empire. Thanks to her special ability to travel into Oneiros, the dream world, Livia can inhabit the bodies of others and access their memories. Both of which make her uniquely suited to work as a spy for her country. Livia’s work also gives her the chance to earn her freedom and leave her past as a lower-class tunnel dweller behind. But trouble is lurking and with only her partner Brandt by her side, Livia is uncertain who she can trust as the stakes climb higher.

Dreamstrider is Smith’s third novel and a standalone fantasy adventure.

There is a lot to like in this novel. Smith delivers a high-octane novel filled with action, spies, intrigue, and more action. From the prologue on the story is fast-paced with a sense of urgency even before the main plot gets rolling. In terms of creating tension and urging the reader on, Dreamstrider is an absolute winner.

The premise here is also fascinating. Unfortunately, because of the action! and the urgency! throughout the story, many aspects of Livia’s world are never properly explained. Why is Livia the only dreamstrider in Barsadt? How can other people show her the world of Oneiros but not do what she does? What kind of world is it that readers are visiting in this novel? All of those questions are answered in only superficial ways throughout the narrative. While moments are evocative and strong, the world building never feels entirely cohesive or complete despite Smith’s obvious vision and utterly original fantasy elements.

Another downside of the story starting so fast and the action being so relentless is that it’s often hard to get to know Livia and the other characters in the novel or to understand their motivations.

Readers who are able to go along with the basic conceits of the novel without too many questions will be rewarded with a thrilling spy story unlike anything else.

Dreamstrider is a solid spy fantasy that has a lot of unique qualities. It is guaranteed to appeal to readers who like their stories more action-driven than character-driven as well as fans of supernatural espionage, fantasy with a faith-based element (as Barsadt holds dreams sacred), as well as readers who like stories about the dream world. Fans of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson or The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien should take special note and pick up this title.

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

Bone Gap: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bone Gap by Laura RubyNo one in Bone Gap is surprised when Roza disappears. People have been leaving the O’Sullivan brothers for years and it only makes sense that the girl who appeared out of nowhere should leave just as suddenly.

Finn O’Sullivan knows that Roza didn’t just leave. And he knows that he didn’t do anything to save her.

Months later most everyone in Bone Gap has given up pretending to believe Finn’s story about the man who took Roza. Even Finn’s brother, Sean, is tired of hearing about the man with the unique stillness and the face Finn can never quite describe.

Finn refuses to stop looking. His search will take him deep into the secrets of Bone Gap to places he couldn’t imagine. In trying to find Roza, Finn will learn that sometimes you have to stop looking before you can truly see in Bone Gap (2015) by Laura Ruby.

Bone Gap is a rich and atmospheric novel. The town of Bone Gap is a strange place filled with secrets and magic that most people have forgotten. In a town populated with strange and vivid characters even Bone Gap itself becomes an indelible part of this novel that is firmly grounded with a strong sense of place.

Some would call Bone Gap magic realism but references to fairy tales and magic bring a purer form of fantasy to mind in this story where beauty can be a curse and being blind is sometimes the best way to see.

Bone Gap masterfully blends myth and magic in a contemporary setting to create a thoughtful story filled with unlikely heroes, surprising twists and a plot that expertly subverts traditional fairytale tropes. Bone Gap is a lovely, unexpected novel that is incredibly smart. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby, The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between: A Review

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. SmithAfter two years together, Clare and Aidan only have one night left to figure out what comes next. With both of them leaving for college and heading to opposite coasts, Clare is certain that breaking up makes the most sense. Aidan isn’t so sure. They’ve already stayed together for two years–can a few extra miles really tear them apart?

As Clare and Aidan retrace the steps of their relationship across their small town they will revisit fond memories and reveal some closely guarded secrets. While saying goodbye to their homes, their friends and their families, Clare and Aidan will have to figure out if it’s time to say goodbye to each other as well in Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between (2015) by Jennifer E. Smith.

Jennifer E. Smith is a master when it comes to contemporary novels with a lot of heart and sweet romance. She is a phenomenal talent and I went into this book with high expectations after loving her recent novel The Geography of You and Me.

Which is why it’s so hard to say that this novel didn’t work for me. I think I’m atypical here and I think a lot of readers who dealt with (or will deal with) similar big changes to Aidan’s and Clare’s will totally identify with this novel.

I’m not one of those people. I put myself through college with scholarships, financial aid, and a part-time job. I commuted because my mom needed me at home, it was cheaper and because I didn’t want to go away. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I missed out on a fundamental college experience. And I don’t know, maybe that’s true. But it was my choice and even then I knew it was the right choice for me.

No one in this entire book makes a similar choice. I suppose it’s because Clare and Aidan are from an affluent community but even the students who are going to college nearby are planning on leaving and moving into dorms. The one character who is truly staying behind and living at home is going to community college. Because he didn’t get accepted anywhere else. It was a little strange (and maybe even off-putting) to see that aspect of the college experience completely erased from this community.

I think that’s a big part of my disconnect with Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. I never made the choices Clare and Aidan make and so for most of the book I had a really hard time understanding their choices. Although it made sense that the stakes are high for both characters, they never felt particularly pressing for me. Retracing the steps of a relationship that is now on the brink of collapse just felt depressing and often pointless.

The final decision for these characters seems obvious and inevitable from the beginning. Although Smith throws in a few twists and surprises, they come far too late in the story to make for any worthwhile changes.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between ends on an up note with a sweet note of optimism. Sadly, it also comes to late to make up for the rest of the novel. I’m not sure how it would have worked, but I wish the story readers got in this novel began where this book finished.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between is an unlikely romance about leaving everything you know behind and striking out for the unknown. Although the romance is ultimately quite cute, a lot of the novel does read more like the postmortem of a relationship than the start or continuation of one. Recommended for anyone who had to move away for college or anyone who will. Readers looking to try Jennifer E. Smith for the first time might be better served with an earlier novel like, perhaps, my personal favorite The Geography of You and Me!

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, Take Me There by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley,  Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher at BEA 2015 for review consideration*