Midnight at the Electric: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You become as strong as you have to be.”

cover art for Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn AndersonKansas, 2065: Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars as a Colonist. With just weeks before her launch date, Adri is sent to acquaint herself with the only family she has left–an aging cousin named Lily that she’s never met before. While Adri trains for life on Mars and prepares to leave Earth behind forever she finds an old notebook about a different girl who lived in the house more than a hundred years ago. As she says her goodbyes to everything she’s ever known, can Adri find answers about the girl in the notebook and what happened to her with what little time she has left?

Oklahoma, 1934: Catherine dreams of a life away from the danger and severity of the Dust Bowl. She pines for her family’s farmhand, James, even as she knows must have eyes for someone else. Most of all she yearns for a way to help her younger sister before the dust finally kills her. A midnight exhibition at a strange traveling show called the Electric promises hopes and maybe a cure. When everything goes wrong will Catherine have the courage to leave everything she knows behind to save the person she loves most?

England, 1919: The Great War is over and things should be going back to normal. But Lenore isn’t sure what normal means when her brother died in battle. Desperate for a chance to start again, Lenore plans to sail to America and her childhood friend. In the days leading up to her departure Lenore keeps writing. As more days pass without a reply, Lenore wonders will the friend she remembers be the same one she meets? Will their reunion will be enough to help Lenore remember herself?

Three young women separated by miles and generations, three stories, one shocking moment of connection in Midnight at the Electric (2017) by Jodi Lynn Anderson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Anderson’s latest standalone novel blends romance, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction in three interconnected stories. Adri, Catherine, and Lenore’s stories unfold in alternating parts as their separate paths begin to connect and even intersect.

Adri’s story unfolds in close third person while Catherine story is presented through her diary and Lenore’s through letters she writes to her friend in America. These changing formats offer windows into each girl’s personality. Adri is clinical and detached while she prepares to become a Colonist. Catherine is more conversational and clings to optimism to try and make sense of her bleak possibilities in the Dust Bowl. Lenore is all bravado as she tries to chase away the shadows and grief left in the wake of WWI.

At its core this is a story about leaving. All three heroines are hoping for something more–an adventure, salvation, change–if only they can reach that next destination. But before they can pursue what comes next each girl, in their own way, has to make peace with what came before and let it go.

Midnight at the Electric is a brief book that packs a punch. This character driven story offers poignant vignettes about human connection, loneliness, and perseverance. This book just about broke my heart in half while I was reading it. But then it mended it too. If I had to rank the stories I would say my favorite–and the one at the core of the novel’s overarching plot–is Catherine’s, followed closely by Adri’s, then Lenore’s. While Catherine’s story was the most buoyant and hopeful, Adri’s story and her relationship with Lily just about wrecked me. I cried for the entire final part of the book and I doubt I’m the only one.

Anderson has outdone herself in this beautifully written novel with a clever premise that is truly high concept. Midnight at the Electric is a book about leaving and endings but also about origins and coming home—even if home isn’t the same place as where you started. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Possible Pairings: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, Malice by Pintip Dunn, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, Eventide by Sarah Goodman, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry, Where Futures End by Parker Peeveyhouse, The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, Selling Hope by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Lucky Strikes: A Review

Lucky Strikes by Louis BayardFourteen-year-old Amelia has been taking care of things at home for a while by the time her mama passes. She knows all about running the family gas station and she’s fair to middling when it comes to taking care of her younger brother and sister, Earle and Lucey.

The only problem is, Melia isn’t sure that the state will see it that way if anyone finds out they don’t have an adult taking care of them. It’s bad enough that Melia is scraping the bottom of the barrel to keep the gas station afloat while Harley Blevins eyes them with a mind to buy–or run them out of business. Melia certainly has no intention of letting her and her siblings wind up in foster care and split up. No way.

All Melia has to do is keep her family together and keep the gas station running until she comes of age and can adopt Earle and Lucey. No easy feat with no adult in sight. When a hobo literally falls in her path, Melia thinks she might have found exactly what she needs to keep everyone fooled. She just needs everyone to play along for a little while in Lucky Strikes (2016) by Louis Bayard.

Lucky Strikes is Bayard’s first historical novel written for younger readers. This book is pretty solid middle grade fare although because Amelia is fourteen it technically falls under the umbrella of YA.

This book is narrated by Melia in a breezy and conversational style. Throughout the book she is talking to someone (addressed as “you”) although readers don’t learn who exactly that is until the final pages of the story.

Bayard uses his expertise as an author of historical fiction to bring 1934 Walnut Ridge, Virginia to life. Lucky Strikes is filled with vivid imagery and detailed descriptions that will immediately bring readers into the story as well as its unusual settings. This novel makes 1934 and the Great Depression immediately approachable to readers without bogging the story down in extraneous historical facts.

Amelia is a plucky, self-starter of a heroine who doesn’t waste time on sentimentality when there is work to be done. While she often feels a bit too old to be a fourteen-year-old–particularly because of her pragmatism–it is possibly a side-effect of her having sensibilities from a very different time. The story also largely works because Amelia is fourteen which lends urgency to her need to find an adult to act as a stand-in parent.

Lucky Strikes is a madcap story about perseverance, friendship, and how sometimes family can be found in the most unlikely places. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and fast-paced stories.

Possible Pairings: The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Signed, Skye Harper by Carol Lynch Williams

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

Bad Luck Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Callie LeRoux. She left her home in the Dust Bowl and traveled across three different worlds to free her parents from the evil king. Along the way she found her worst enemy, her best friend, and her own name.”

Bad Luck Girl by Sarah ZettelCallie has been through a lot since leaving behind the Dust Bowl in Slow Run, Kansas and traveling across the country to Los Angeles to rescue her parents from the Seelie King. Fast-talking and quick-thinking Jack Holland has been beside Callie since the beginning because that’s what best friends do.

Now that Callie’s parents are free, it feels like there should be some kind of happy ending. Or at least a rest. But the Seelie King is still spitting mad. Both the Seelie and the Unseelie courts want to find Callie. They hope to use her to manipulate the prophecy that Callie will close the gates between the worlds in their favor.

Callie wants nothing to do with any of the Seelies or her Unseelie relatives. After a whole lifetime not knowing him, Callie isn’t even sure she wants anything to do with her fairy Papa. She’s even less sure how to go back to being her Mama’s daughter when so much has happened since she left Kansas.

But none of them have time to think about that. Callie’s bad luck is already a known thing and it is none too helpful as Callie, Jack and her parents try to get away from the fairies chasing them.

As word of Callie’s bad luck and her connection to the prophecy spread, Callie realizes there is never going to be a happy ending or any kind of peace. Not if Callie doesn’t take a stand in Bad Luck Girl (2014) by Sarah Zettel.

Bad Luck Girl is the conclusion of Zettel’s American Fairy Trilogy which started with Dust Girl and Golden Girl.

Zettel once again delivers a perfect blend of fantasy and historical details in the conclusion to one of my favorite trilogies. Although Callie is sometimes rash and even reckless, the story still focuses on her resilience and her development as a character. Readers and characters alike will see Callie’s growth throughout this series as well as her inner strength. Callie also contends with changing feelings for her best friend Jack as well as figuring out what it means to have parents again after so long on her own.

1935 Chicago is brought to life with Zettel’s evocative descriptions which make the city just as vivid as the characters who populate it. The fairy lore and world-building builds here to several surprising twists and an ending that is as clever as it is unexpected.

Bad Luck Girl is the perfect conclusion to a nearly perfect trilogy about fairies, Depression Era America, and a girl trying to find her place in the world. I can’t recommend this book or this series highly enough.

Possible Pairings: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst,  A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Golden Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Once upon a time in Kansas, there was a normal girl called Callie. I thought she was me. I’d been told all my life she was me.

“Turns out, all my life I’d been lied to. Turns out, I was about as far from a normal girl as you could get.”

Golden Girl by Sarah ZettelAfter a hard-won victory, Callie LeRoux has finally made her way out of the Dust Bowl. Her small life in a small Kansas town is miles and miles away, along with any believe Callie had that her life would be normal. Now she is in the bright, sunny world of California with her friend Jack looking for her kidnapped mother and the father she never got the chance to meet.

Now that Callie knows the truth–that she is part Fairy complete with the magic that comes with it–she is running out of time. Enemies are closing in and Callie still has a lot to learn about her powers and the prophecy that predicts she will change the entire Fairy realm.

With missing parents to find, Fairy monsters to dodge and a very annoying child star to tend, Callie has her hands full. She will have to muster all of her strength (not to mention her magic) if she wants to save her parents and get free from the Fairies in Golden Girl (2013) by Sarah Zettel.

Golden Girl is the sequel to Dust Girl and the second book in Zettel’s American Fairy Trilogy.

Golden Girl picks up with Callie and Jack settled in California as they negotiate Hollywood’s studio system to try and find the Fairies holding Callie’s mother captive. Zettel once again brings a piece of 1935 to life–this time with vivid descriptions that are as bright as any technicolor films.

The story is also, once again, imbued with music throughout: chapter titles come from Gershwin hits and spirituals. A list of recommended listening (and watching) can be found at the back of the book along with an author’s note about some historical details.

Callie is one of my favorite narrators. Her voice is perfect for the time period and her story. Zettel’s writing seems effortless with crisp dialog and evocative scenes of both the human and fairy worlds.

Although Golden Girl refers to earlier events (and, of course, has some loose ends to deal with in the final book), this book is a largely complete story that works well on its own. While fantasy readers are the obvious audience for this book, Golden Girl is also a delightful choice for fans of old movies and music as well as anyone interested in the 1930s. Zettel once again demonstrates her abundant talent as an author in Golden Girl.

Possible Pairings: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst,  A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Dust Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Dust Girl by Sarah ZettelOnce upon a time Callie thought she was a normal girl.

Sure, she had dust in her lungs and lived with her mama in a rundown hotel in the rundown town of Slow Run, Kansas but that wasn’t as strange as you might think in the middle of America’s Dust Bowl. Certainly Callie had her secrets, same as her mama, but those were normal, human girl secrets. Because, once upon a time, Callie really thought she was a normal, human girl.

That ended on April 14, 1935 when her mama disappeared and Callie found out she wasn’t human at all.

Left alone for the first time in her life, with strange creatures tracking her, Callie will have to leave behind everything she knew to find the unbelievable truth of who she is in Dust Girl (2012) by Sarah Zettel.

Dust Girl is the first book in Zettel’s American Fairy trilogy. The second book, Golden Girl, is due out in summer 2013. This is Zettel’s first book for a young adult audience.

Zettel’s writing is filled with evocative descriptions of deadly dust storms and sprawling landscapes that bring 1935 Kansas to life. References to the music and nuances of the era create an atmospheric read. Written in the first person, Callie’s voice is reminiscent of tall tales and wide spaces. Dust Girl is brimming with magic and mystery but throughout the story it is the heroine, Callie, who really makes this novel stand out.

Dust Girl is a subtle, contemplative read where Callie’s journey throughout the novel is just as satisfying as the dramatic conclusion. While there is clearly more to Callie’s story, Dust Girl ends nicely with enough closure to make the wait for book two bearable.

Possible Pairings: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, The Diviners by Libba Bray, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst,  A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff