Out of the Easy: A Review

“My mother’s a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.”

Out of the Easy by Ruta SepetysJosie Moraine’s mother has been working as a prostitute for the past ten years, since she and Josie moved to New Orleans in 1940.

It’s 1950 now. Josie is seventeen. And she wants nothing more than to get out of New Orleans once and for all. While her mother is content to tie herself to whichever man comes along, Josie works cleaning the brothel where her mother works and at a bookstore as she works to save enough money for college and her ticket out of the Big Easy.

Josie’s careful escape plan is put into jeopardy when she becomes tangled in the investigation of a mysterious death in the Quarter. Torn between her allegiance to Willie Woodley, the madame who has been more of a mother to Josie than her own, and her fierce desire to leave New Orleans behind, Josie will have to decide how much she is willing to sacrifice in her search for the truth in Out of the Easy (2013) by Ruta Sepetys.

Out of the Easy is Sepetys’ second novel and her follow-up to Between Shades of Gray.

Josie is a determined heroine but she also has a very reductive view of the world–particularly given her background. While Josie, her family, and many of her friends operate in what can only be called grey areas of the law–Josie’s views remain very black and white. She is friends with Willie and some of the girls who work at the brothel. But she also views them at a remove. As the opening of the novel (quoted above) might suggest, there is also always a slight hint of distaste.

While this story is an evocative historical novel, the lush setting often serves to emphasize a lackluster plot. A lot of things happen to Josie in the story but despite being self-sufficient in a financial sense, Josie is very short on actual agency. Throughout the novel Josie’s fate falls into the hands of others. Eventually she does break free and choose her own path, but it comes very late in the story only after her inaction has dramatic consequences. Yet everything still manages to resolve very neatly and decidedly in Josie’s favor.

Sepetys once again delivers a well-researched historical novel in Out of the Easy. This novel brings the world of 1950 New Orleans to vivid life with a setting that is as vibrant and evocative as any of the characters found within these pages. Out of the Easy is an engrossing historical novel ideal for readers who want to get lost in a book’s vividly described settings.

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman, Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross, Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Vampire Academy: A Review

Vampire Academy by Richelle MeadRose Hathaway and her best friend Lissa Dragomir have been on the run for two years. After so long away from St. Vladimir’s Academy, the girls thought they were finally free. They were wrong.

Dragged back the Academy, Lissa is once again drawn into plots and machinations as Moroi vampire princess. Rose’s return is less welcome and comes with several firm conditions including extra lessons from an equally attractive and infuriating instructor. Worse, no matter how much Rose uses her dhampir strength and her bond with Lissa, it might not be enough to keep the other girl safe.

With danger circling from every side, Rose and Lissa can only trust each other in Vampire Academy (2007) by Richelle Mead.

Vampire Academy is the first book in Mead’s Vampire Academy series.

Vampire Academy is a breath of fresh air in the world of paranormal (romance). Mead has created clever, capable heroines in both Rose and Lissa. The premise here is also interesting with different castes/types of vampires as well as loads of intrigue and action.

Although Mead throws lots of world-specific vocabulary at readers early on, the story moves as fast clip without falling into the usual paranormal fantasy tropes. The story here is interesting and will definitely have appeal for readers looking for a campy paranormal–romance or otherwise as this does include some romance elements in addition to other plots.

Possible Pairings: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carringer,  Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard, The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

17 and Gone: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The snow came down and the bristly trees shuddered in the wind, sharing secrets, and no one stopped to listen. Until I did.”

17 and Gone by Nova Ren SumaWhen seventeen-year-old Lauren first sees the Missing flyer for Abigail Sinclair, she knows it was left for her. Against all odds, Lauren is certain that she was meant to find this poster, to find out Abigail’s story, maybe even to find her.

As Lauren digs into Abigail’s disappearance she finds out that the missing girl preferred to be called Abby. She hated the summer camp where she was working. And she definitely didn’t just run away.

The problem is no one else seems to care. The more Lauren investigates, the more missing girls she finds. All of them seventeen. All of them gone without a trace. Abby went missing in the summer. But it’s winter now. Any girl could be next. Maybe even Lauren herself.

While trying to find Abby, Lauren will have to face secrets from her past and confront several uncomfortable truths in 17 & Gone (2014) by Nova Ren Suma.

17 & Gone is a chilling blend of suspense and what may or may not be ghosts. As Lauren grapples with the missing girls that are haunting her she also comes to realize that her mind may not be as reliable as she thought. Suma deftly unravels the stories of the missing girls and also examines Lauren’s mental state from a variety of angles.

Eloquent prose and a gripping story come together here in a story that is as literary as it is unexpected. Recommended for readers who like their mysteries to be open-ended and their heroines to be clever and determined.

Possible Pairings: Find Me by Romily Bernard, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, Damaged by Amy Reed, Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, Cathy’s Book: If Found Call 650-266-8233 by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart

Red Queen: A Review

Red Queen by Victoria AveyardLife as a Red in Norta is not easy. Reds are normal in every way–forced into poverty and manual labor while Silvers, the silver-blooded elite with nearly inconceivable abilities, rule the land. Mare Barrow doesn’t like anything about the Silvers but she understands that they are unstoppable; impossible to fight.

But Mare is also almost eighteen and with no job prospects beyond petty theft in her future, she knows that she will be drafted into the military soon to fight in the decades long war against the Lakelanders. The same thing happened to all of her brothers before her.

Mare is resigned to her fate until one false step reveals that Mare, like the Silvers, has a shocking ability never before seen in a Red. Suddenly Mare is drawn into the middle of Norta’s class warfare disguised as a long-lost Silver princess. While rebellion brews and the Silver king tries to keep the unhappy masses in check, Mare will have to balance the dazzling luxury of the Silver world with everything she holds dear and everything she is willing to sacrifice for freedom for herself and her people in Red Queen (2015) by Victoria Aveyard.

Red Queen is Aveyard’s debut novel. It is also the first book in her Red Queen trilogy.

Red Queen is being marketed as Graceling meets The Selection which in many ways is very true as this book includes special abilities and romance at court. It is, however, much darker in tone than The Selection with a much stronger focus on rebellion and revolution. For that reason The Hunger Games is a comparison that makes a bit more sense.

Obviously, Red Queen has quite a few similarities to other fantasy titles. It also, however, has a very unique world as conceived by Aveyard. The dichotomy between Reds and Silvers is explained well and takes the story in interesting directions as Mare walks the line between Red and Silver throughout the story. Unfortunately the division between Reds and Silvers remains very one dimensional for most of the novel as Silvers are generally seen as ruthless and calculating while Reds are oppressed and exploited. Both are true but it felt heavy-handed to say that every Silver would follow these same ideals and ways of thinking despite class divisions among the elite.

Mare is a frank narrator but she is also often reckless to the point of harming herself and those she cares about. Her motivations throughout the story–when she chooses to join the Red rebellion or during her rather fuzzy love triangle–are murky at best. Readers learn early on why Mare wants to fight the Silvers, why she is drawn to the person who holds her affections, but it never feels quite sincere enough or believable enough to justify the risks Mare takes.

The pacing in Red Queen is not perfect either. Scenes of lavish court balls and machinations alternate with high action fights or training sequences that make the middle part of the novel choppy. The narrative loses all sense of urgency as Mare moves between learning basics of Silver protocol and planning acts of rebellion in an often aimless manner.

Red Queen is a strong debut both for Aveyard and for this trilogy. While not ideal for readers who like their fantasies to have a lot of nuance, Red Queen is ideal for anyone seeking the next big action-packed series that is sure to have everyone talking.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Legend by Marie Lu, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Week in Review: February 15

missprintweekreview

This week on the blog you can check out:

Before we enter the pity party portion of this post, let me talk about a blog related thing: After sticking with them for a few months, I think I’m going to discontinue my Re-Prints feature. Initially I was really excited about it but the reality of executing the posts has become difficult and tedious. I’m also not noticing a particularly big return on views/comments to justify the time spent. SO if you are a lurker and love that feature, speak now because otherwise it’s gone.

This is my second week being sick with a killer cold that has involved chills, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, aches, clogged ears and a nasty looking . . . something in my throat not to mention irritated eyes. Almost all of that is passing and more would if I could get a full night of sleep without coughing.

I just completely crashed. I have done almost nothing for two weeks that did not involve dragging myself out of bed or, when I was a little better, dragging myself to work. I’ve barely read. I have been sleeping on my commute to try and get some energy. I lost all taste for food. It’s been awful.

I tend to be a caregiver by nature so I really hated being brought so low by a cold. It also really stressed me out as I wondered if I had meningitis or pneumonia or strep throat or pink eye or dozens of other things. I’m definitely on the mend now (without aid of antibiotics) which leads me to think it was just a cold from hell. But gosh it was awful.

The past couple of times I’ve been sick were definitely from my immune system adjusting to working with the public. This time I think it was me working too hard. The past two weeks have been a very painful lesson that I need to take better care of myself and treat myself better in general.

(As part of that I’ve been strategically buying new clothes as an embarrassing number of things I own were purchased by me or for me in college or before–we’re talking eleven-year-old shirts. It’s absurd how much more comfortable the new clothes are and shocking that I didn’t think to replace some of these things before. I appall myself.)

How was your week?

Miss Print’s Re-Prints: February 2008 Edition

missprintreprintMiss Print’s Re-Prints is a weekly feature that will post on Saturday. Each week I’ll highlight reviews I wrote during a previous month in this blog’s run.

Currently I am Re-Printing 2008 reviews.

February 2008: Volume 1

  • February 5, 2008: Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig–“Based on accounts of her own grandparents’ work in the Danish resistance, Toksvig tells a compelling story of the many Danes who helped smuggle Danish Jews out of the country to Sweden before they were taken to Hitler’s Concentration camps”
  • February 6, 2008: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones“Although this novel is largely timeless, the prose has a charmingly Victorian tone–taking its time to arrive at the action, the better to familiarize readers with the characters involved and show the readers just how fantastic they (and the story) really are.”
  • February 13, 2008: Cupidity by Caroline Good–“This comedy of errors is mildly amusing, but in the long run there are too many near-misses and mix ups to make the story anything but frustrating as Laura stumbles along trying to get things back to normal and find true love.”
  • February 20, 2008: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff–“And frankly, despite my criticisms here, Rosoff does have some really nice lines. She writes with a sincerity that makes you really want to believe Daisy knows what she’s doing.”
  • February 27, 2008: Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe–“It has some teen romance, some mystery/suspense, and a lot of comedy. A lot of times, that doesn’t all come together to make a decent novel–with “Bad Kitty” it does.”

 

Famous in Love: A Review

“I can’t touch him. The only thing I want to do is run to him and have him put his arms around me, to take me someplace that isn’t here. Someplace it’s just the two of us and none of this matters. But I can’t do that because no one knows. Not Wyatt and not Sandy, not even Cassandra. They think we’re just friends–that I belong to someone else. They don’t know that I’ve made a huge mistake. They don’t know that, like August, I chose wrong.”

Famous in Love by Rebecca SerleSeventeen-year-old Paige Townsen never expected her audition to for the coveted part of August to come to anything. She never thought she’d be the only unknown picked to star in the next big blockbuster when the bestselling book Locked was adapted for the big screen.

Except that’s exactly what happens and suddenly instead of starring in community theater productions and high school shorts, Paige is at the center of a major production. Her co-star, Rainer Devon, is right at Paige’s side helping her make sense of her sudden fame and the rigors that come from movie production.

When troubled actor Jordan Wilder is cast as the final piece in the love triangle at the center of the film, Paige’s life begins to uncomfortably imitate art as she is torn between these two very different young men. With everything changing, Paige will have to figure out who she is before she can begin to choose who she wants in Famous in Love (2014) by Rebecca Serle.

Famous in Love is the first book in a trilogy. The “book-within-the-book” Locked is also slated for a tie-in publication.

Serle draws inspiration from real life celebrity drama to create this story of fame and romance. Readers will be with Paige from the start when she first hears about the audition right through to the post-production of the first film. While Paige vacillates between Rainer and Jordan throughout the book, both relationships feel authentic and offer very different things for Paige.

Although Paige’s friends and family often feel like one-note characters, they are happily present showing that Paige had a life before getting famous and will have support for whatever pitfalls Hollywood may have in store. Being the first in a trilogy, readers can expect a lot more love-triangle based drama as Paige is forced to choose both on-screen and off.

Famous in Love is an all-access pass to what happens off camera and behind the curtains of a movie production. Sure to appeal to hopeless romantics, celebrity junkies and movie fans alike.

Possible Pairings: Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler, Now & Forever by Susane Colasanti, Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan, A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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