Never, Always, Sometimes: A Review

Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi AlsaidThe summer before freshman year, Dave and Julia made a promise: They would never fall into the trap of a cliche high school experience. No hair dyed a color found in the rainbow. No hooking up with a teacher. No crazy parties.

With senior year about to end, Dave realizes he’s broken rule eight: Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. Meanwhile rule number ten–never date your best friend–seems impossible to break.

Dave has loved Julia from afar for years. When she suggests they complete all of the items on the list of Nevers, Dave readily agrees. But as Dave and Julia work their way down the list, they realize they have been a lot by skipping the high school cliches even as they begin to understand that some rules shouldn’t be broken in Never, Always, Sometimes (2015) by Adi Alsaid.

Never, Always, Sometimes is Alsaid’s second novel.

Never, Always, Sometimes is a sweet blend of nostalgia for the quintessential high school experience (something Dave and Julia soon realize they have unfairly scorned for the past four years), fun hijinks and an unexpected romance.

While the premise is brimming with potential, the execution in Never, Always, Sometimes is often disappointing. Dave and Julia are, perhaps intentionally, unbearably pretentious at the start of the novel. While both protagonists do learn over the course of the story, it often comes too little to late in terms of making them sympathetic characters.

The novel is broken into three parts and alternates tight third-person focus between Dave and Julia. Some reviewers have mentioned having issues with Julia’s voice. I’d posit instead that the bigger issue is that Dave and Julia’s “voices” are often indistinguishable despite Alsaid often sharing the character’s inner thoughts throughout the narrative.

Alsaid does excel at creating a realistically diverse cast of characters while also letting them be characters (instead of talking points or part of a diverse checklist for the novel). Julia has two dads, Dave’s mother died when he was a child and his family is hispanic. Their high school class is as varied and diverse as readers would expect from a large California high school.

Never, Always, Sometimes is sure to appeal to readers looking for a new story about characters getting ready to start college. Readers looking for wacky hijinks and shenanigans will appreciate the list aspect of this story as Dave and Julia check items off their Never list with varying results.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

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

The Perilous Gard: A (classic) Review

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie PopeEngland, 1558. Kate Sutton is serving as lady-in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth when a disastrous letter from Kate’s sister changes everything. Exiled by Queen Mary Tudor, Kate is sent to a distant castle called the Perilous Gard.

The Perilous Gard and the surrounding Elvenwood are steeped in mystery. Villagers fear the inhabitants of the castle and the castle staff refuse to explain why to Kate. The master of the castle, Sir Geoffrey Heron, offers even less in the way of answers as he is keen to be as far from the Gard as often as possible.

Sir Geoffrey’s brooding brother, Christopher, soon becomes Kate’s unlikely source for information. As Kate learns more about the castle and surrounding grounds, she begins to realize the Perilous Gard is hiding a secret–one that could change Christopher’s life. But secrets are dangerous things and trying to get to the truth surrounding her new home could lead to things far worse for Kate than mere exile in The Perilous Gard (1974) by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

The Perilous Gard was a Newbery Honor title in 1975. It is a retelling of Tam Lin.

The Perilous Gard is a perfect blend of historical fiction and fantasy. Kate’s story is very grounded in the reality of life in 1558 England, a period that Pope brings to life with carefully detailed prose and obviously thorough research. The story of Tam Lin is turned on its head here as fairies and Druid customs converge in a story of secrets, peril and human sacrifice.

Kate is an excellent heroine. She is pragmatic, stubborn and loyal to a fault. She refuses to let circumstances (or even dangerous fairies) stop her from doing what is necessary. She is also one of the most level-headed characters you are likely to meet.

Tam Lin, of course, centers heavily on a love story as a maiden tries to save her lover from the fairies who have laid claim to him. While there is still romance here, it is refreshingly honest and realistic. Kate and Christopher are rash and often quite thoughtless. At first they do not understand let alone like each other. Yes during unexpected time together, it becomes obvious that there might be (maybe should be) more to their relationship as this unlikely pair becomes fast friends.

It’s easy to think that a book from 1974–an arguable classic–would feel stale or stilted. Instead The Perilous Gard writing draws readers in and creates an all-consuming story that is an absolute delight. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, fantasy and fairy tale retellings, this book also has strong crossover potential for readers of all ages.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Glass Casket by Templeman McCormick,The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Week in Review: August 16

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

I’m still hosting a big giveaway for my blog’s eight birthday too!

This week had 100% more air conditioning and 100% fewer weirdo pigeons so really anything else is just cake.

I think you probably had to be with me on Monday or receiving my life updates in text/DM for it to have felt as momentous as it did to me BUT basically I’m pretty comfortable saying my life is a sitcom after Monday. It set the bar pretty high for the rest of the week which was much less sitcom-like.

The big news here this week is that the blog turned eight and I’m really excited about it. It’s weird to think about where I was when I published my first post eight years ago compared to now and I feel pretty lucky to still be part of this crazy scene.

I’m reading Lair of Dreams this week which, of course, is fantastic. It’s also going much faster than I expected which is nice and means I might be able to fit in one more book in August. A lot of review request titles have been coming in so I’m feeling a little behind but will hopefully catch up soon. (Which totally seems possible after doing some major re-evalution with my current to read list.) Reading such a lengthy book is also giving me a chance to catch up on reviews I need to write without adding even more to my list which is good as well.

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

How was your week?

Even in Paradise Synchronized Reading Roundup

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature Nicole and I run together every few months.

This month Nicole and I read Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot.

Here’s a rundown of all the posts I wrote up for the Synchronized Reading:

You can also head over to Nicole’s blog to see her posts:

  • Nicole’s Intro
  • Author Interview with Sarah Beth Durst
  • Post #1: Mementos
  • Nicole’s Even in Paradise review

Even in Paradise Synchronized Reading Post #1: Mementos

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature Nicole and I run together every few months.

Our current Synchronized Reading is Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot.

Charlotte, the narrator of Even in Paradise, spend a lot of the novel collecting mementos to mark important moments and things she wants to remember. All of her items go into a big toolbox that she calls her memory box.

When Nicole and I started thinking about something to talk about for our Sync Read of the book, we decided that it only made sense to mention mementos of our own.

Although I’m trying to get better about it, I save a lot of things. Sometimes things that I shouldn’t and sometimes things that are personally significant. I have a booklet I made to store tickets to movies, shows and concerts. I collect postcards.

I have a large box filled with cards I received over the years from my mom and various family members including aunts and uncles who have since died. These in particular have become very special to me in recent years as they are one of the few tangible memories I have for relatives I’ll never see again.

When I was younger I acquired quite a few seashells and precious stone nuggets during trips to South Street Seaport as well as sea glass from a beach trip. One of my prized possessions remains an actual mother of pearl shell that I found myself at the beach.

I also collect keychains and decks of playing cards from places I have been (and from places friends have been too!). Nicole gave me an “I *heart* Darcy” keychain from her trip to London and I haven’t taken it off my keys since. Another special one is a wooden kokeshi style doll from my mom that I’ve kept on my keys at all times since 2009.

The last thing I really actively try to save from special places is pressed pennies. Places like Disney World have lots of machines with different designs you can press into a penny as it flattens. Sometimes you’ll also come across them at random places–a souvenir shop in Times Square, a Rainforest Cafe in New Jersey, the Sanrio Store. This is the hardest memento to get because it requires forward planning in the form of a penny and some quarters on your person (pressed pennies usually cost fifty cents) but it’s also something I really enjoy saving. I have pennies from Disney World, Los Angeles, and some New York specific ones among others.

No matter what the item, I’m able to look at these things fondly–with a little bit of joy even–as I remember when I acquired them and what they meant to me.

What are some special mementos that you have saved over the years?

Blog 8th Birthday!

Don’t forget to enter my celebratory giveaway while you’re here!

Eight years ago, I published my first blog post on Miss Print. I was 21 years old and it was the summer before my senior year in college. Although I didn’t know for sure then that I wanted to be a librarian (despite working in libraries since I was 16), I did suspect that graduate school would be in my future.

I had spent the months leading up to my blog launch posting reviews on MySpace before it occurred to me a blog might be a better forum for such things. My best friend in college is the one who suggested I used one of my MySpace display names (among Miss Direct and Miss Information) as the name of this blog. Two years later we would have a spectacular falling out and stop speaking. I still think about her sometimes but I also think we might be better people now that we aren’t friends and don’t speak or interact at all. I hope she’s well though and am incredibly grateful to her for helping me name this blog. Who would I be now if not Miss Print?

This year I was going to share eight things I’ve learned as a blogger but in trying to actually write the post, that seemed quite boring. So instead I’m sharing . . .

Eight Fun Things That Happened to Me Because of this Bog:

  1. A big part of my college life was writing for my university’s newspaper. (I had wanted to sign up for the literary magazine but that wound up not happening until my senior year.) After working my way up from a contributor to a Senior Staff Writer I found a niche for myself in Arts and Entertainment. After writing reviews regularly for a while (many of which are on this blog), I got the chance to do a bi-weekly review column. My first column was my review of The New Policeman with the headline “Miss Print Asks: Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” (Down the line this blog would also help get at least two jobs but Cecelia talks more eloquently about such things in this post on her blog.)
  2. I blurbed A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: I reviewed this book on my blog and cross-posted it back when I used to blog at NYPL. The editor of the book saw my review and really liked it and asked that an excerpt be included in the paperback edition’s “praise for” page. So if you have a paperback, my name might be in it.
  3. When I was a part-timer at NYPL the library where I worked was starting a little thing called Teen Author Reading Nights and I often got to attend them. These events introduced me to a lot of my favorite authors including, most notably Scott Westerfeld. At one reading in 2007 (that’s right, my first year as a blogger) I also heard Carolyn MacCullough read from her haunting novel Drawing the Ocean. A couple of years later, when I had a chance to read Once a Witch as an ARC thanks to Amazon Vine, I of course jumped at the chance. Which brings us to 2010 when Carolyn was doing a signing at Books of Wonder and, of all the crazy things in the world, she recognized me. Later still, I would find out that part of my review for Once a Witch was used as a cover blurb for galleys of Always a Witch. Carolyn’s books got me through some really rough times (including convalescing after getting hit by that van in 2010–did I even blog about that?) and hold a very special place in my heart. Sadly, she hasn’t written anything recently and her online presence is gone. But wherever she is, I hope she’s well.
  4. Blogging also introduced me to the world of book signings. I didn’t own a lot of books before I started blogging and working retail. I didn’t even know what was out there! In 2009 I went to my first big YA signing–alone because I had yet to meet the friends who would share my love of YA. It was the first Mega Teen Author signing at Books of Wonder. I saw a lot of great authors but the one that has really stood out to me was Lisa Ann Sandell–since then I have found myself returning to her books often and it’s nice, somehow, to know she was there at almost the beginning.
  5. Since then, the author signing has become a yearly event that I attend with BFF Nicole (except for the year I had to work the signing but that was part of the Dark Time and I don’t talk about it). In 2011 I brought my post-it filled copy of After the Kiss for Terra McVoy to sign. Which led a little later to my very first author interview on the blog.
  6. That same year (2011) I had a chance to read an advance copy of one of my most anticipated books: All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin which starts her Birthright trilogy. I didn’t know it at the time, but this series would become a formative part of my mid-to-late-twenties as I followed the series as they were published, getting Because It Is My Blood at one of my earliest BEA trips and reading In the Age of Love and Chocolate shortly after it published.. Like Carolyn MacCullough’s books, this series just spoke to me and it was there for me during some incredibly rough times. It sounds cliche even to me but the final book in this series helped get me through the end of 2013. I would never want to be on a deserted island but if I had to be, I’d want this trilogy with me. I also interviewed Gabrielle about ever book in the series–all of which remain some of my favorite interviews I have ever posted to this site. I also had the very unique and amazing privilege of having my interview featured as bonus material in a paperback edition of All These Things I’ve Done and Because It Is My Blood.
  7. I’ve said before that I think Twitter is kind of magic. Thanks to Twitter and blogging and the wonders of social media, I get to say I’m friendly with a lot of authors and librarians. This all came full circle in 2014 when I went to dinner at the Plaza with one of the first librarians who ever mentored me, Karyn Silverman of Someday My Printz Will Come fame, and Rachel Hartman author of Seraphina and Shadow Scale. This is still one of the craziest and most amazing things that has ever happened to me.
  8. In April of 2015 I hosted my first series on this blog–a month of guest posts about poetry called Poetically Speaking. The series featured posts from authors, librarians and other bloggers. It’s also a really great example of the final amazing thing that has happened to be thanks to this blog: I have met so many wonderful people. I won’t meet all of them in real life any time soon–maybe never–but I am so lucky to have the people in my life that I have met through being a blogger and a reader (and a tweeter). Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this weird blogging journey and thank you especially to everyone who has stuck around and become a friend. I am so incredibly grateful.

I’ll leave you with some end of year statistics:

Total Pages: 15

Total Posts: 1615 (+319)

Categories: 15

Total Comments: 2182 (+879)

Total views: 156,365 (roughly 26,071 views over the past year–a big jump from last year!)

Busiest day: 308 (June 2, 2010–still. This will never be topped. Seriously.)

Total Spam Comments: 54,798 (that’s 9,831 spam comments over the past year)

Don’t forget to enter my celebratory giveaway while you’re here!

Even in Paradise: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“They were all royalty. They were all gods. They were all broken.”

Even in Paradise by Chelsey PhilpotCharlotte Ryder is pretty certain about the course of her life. She has her group of friends at St. Anne’s. She has her roommate at the boarding school. Charlotte has her memory box, her studio time, and her plans to become an artist.

Charlotte never expects that she will meet the infamous Julia Buchanan when she abruptly transfers to the school at the start of their junior year. Charlotte never expects that she will become Julia’s friend.

It’s hard to ignore Julia Buchanan’s pull. Charlotte is easily absorbed into Julia’s magical world of luxury and decadence; she even finds herself drawn into the great Buchanan family with all of their spectacle and charisma.

As she becomes closer to Julia and the rest of the Buchanans, Charlotte realizes that Julia’s effervescent personality and easy smiles are part of a facade. Julia’s life–like those of her family–has been shaped by a tragedy that still haunts her. In trying to uncover Julia’s secrets, Charlotte hopes to help her friend. Instead, the truth might tear them apart in Even in Paradise (2014) by Chelsey Philpot.

Even in Paradise is Philpot’s first novel. It is a loose retelling of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh with strong undertones reminiscent of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald as well. Although Philpot credits both of these classics among her inspirations, Even in Paradise is also very much its own story.

Charlotte is a heroine who starts the novel on the periphery of her own life. So much of who Charlotte is, not to mention what she does, is defined by her friendship with Julia or who she is in Julia’s presence. It’s impossible to ignore the pull of Julia’s dizzying world. But it is only in gaining distance from that world that Charlotte really begins to come into her own with character development that is both fascinating and empowering.

Although this story has some adorably romantic moments (and even the hint at something more) Even in Paradise remains very firmly a story about friendship with a plot ranging from the initial moments that can tie people together right through to the moments with potential to tear them apart.

Despite any perceived pain or loss, Charlotte has no regrets when it comes to her friendship with Julia  and the other events during Even in Paradise. It’s refreshing, and even a bit shocking, to see that kind of conviction in a narrator. It is powerful to see Charlotte’s introspection and acknowledgement at the end of the novel of the many people and moments that have shaped her present self.

Even in Paradise is a subtle, contemplative novel about growing up and growing apart. A story about finding yourself in the midst of feeling lost. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Great by Sara Benincasa, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Jake, Reinvented by Gordon Korman, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Damaged by Amy Reed, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher at BEA 2014 for review consideration*

You can also check out my interview with Chelsey!