The Glass Sentence: A Review

The Glass Sentence by S. E. GroveBoston, 1891: Nearly a century has passed since the Great Disruption remade the world and threw all of the continents into different Ages. While Boston and the rest of New Occident moves forward in the 1890s, other parts of the world reside in drastically different Ages including some from the near past, prehistory and others that are entirely unknown.

Thirteen-year-old Sophia Tims knows all about maps thanks to her uncle Shadrack Elli, one of the most renowned carologers in New Occident. With the borders closing any day and Sophia’s parents still missing after ten long years with no word, Shadrack and Sophia prepare to leave New Occident and mount a proper search expedition.

Unfortunately in midst of their preparations, Shadrack is kidnapped. With no idea how to find him beyond one small clue and a basic knowledge of what to expect in the Baldlands, Sophia sets off with an unlikely traveling companion and little else. As Sophia and Theo journey toward the Baldlands’ capital of Nochtland they will uncover shocking truths about the Great Disruption and find themselves at the center of a vast conspiracy that could change the entire world in The Glass Sentence (2014) by S. E. Grove.

The Glass Sentence is Grove’s first novel. It is also the start of the Mapmakers Trilogy.

Groves presents a rich fantasy with gorgeous world-building. Maps at the beginning of the novel introduce readers to Sophia’s world as well as the outlying regions. The story opens right in the middle of the action as New Occident’s borders are closed and never lets up.

The story expertly plays with readers’ ideas of history and causality imagining, among other paradoxes, a world where John Donne is known through his works before the Great Disruption as England has not yet reached (and may never reach) the time of his birth. These details lend a haunting quality to The Glass Sentence allowing readers with knowledge of the related world history to imagine what might have been.

However readers who lack the historical background (due to youth or lack of interest) will still find an engrossing fantasy here. Sophia and Theo travel across New Occident and into the wilds of the Baldlands where they encounter outlandish travel companions and chilling villains.

Chapter epigraphs from Shadrack’s published works as well as other sources further the world-building and explain key details of this alternate history to readers while a narrative structure reliant on clocks and time-keeping help keep readers grounded in the story.

With so many vivid and evocative details in the world-building and backstory, The Glass Sentence is decidedly lengthy at 493 pages. Although the arc of this novel is resolved in this story, the over-arching story of Sophia’s missing parents will likely span the rest of the trilogy. Readers who enjoy thick, intricate fantasies will undoubtedly find a new favorite in this promising start to a series with both middle grade and young adult appeal.

Possible Pairings: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Ticket to Ride: A Book List

Do you dream of travel? Do you just want to go on a crazy trip now and then? These books will take you around town, cross country, and maybe even around the world without ever leaving your chair.

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Clay Jensen always pined for Hannah Baker, but it’s only after it’s too late that he really understands her as he listens to thirteen tapes she left him mapping out their town as she experienced it and all of the events that led to her suicide.
  • What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell: The year is 1947 and everyone is eager to put the hardships of the War to End All Wars behind them. When Evie takes a trip with her mother and stepfather to Florida, she finds first love, secrets, and lies in this noirish read.
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter: Katarina Bishop knows all the angles and more than her fair share of cons. She even knows how to steal a legitimate education. But when her father is blamed for high profile theft, Kat will have to travel across Europe and put together her own heist society to clear his name and right some wrongs.
  • Bloomability by Sharon Creech: In her first life Dinnie lived with her family first in Kentucky, then Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana,Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, California and New Mexico. In her second life, Dinnie is whisked away to an eccentric international boarding school in Switzerland by her Aunt and Uncle.
  • A Room With a View by E. M. Forster: Lucy Honeychurch comes to Italy to see the art, broaden her cultural background, and admire the views. Instead what starts as a fight for a room with a view leads Lucy to witness a murder in the street and find an unexpected, and completely improper, romance.
  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (see also: Paper Towns): Colin Singleton is a former childhood prodigy and the former boyfriend of 18 girls. All named Katherine. Colin and his best friend Hassan set off on a road trip to help Colin forget his problems. Along the way he might even forget he only dates girls named Katherine.
  • North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley: From behind, Terra looks perfect. But looks can be deceiving. A chance encounter takes Terra and her mother out of their restrictive lives and on a once-in-a-lifetime journey through China where Terra might find real love and, even more importantly, herself.
  • Kitty Kitty by Michele Jaffe (see also: Bad Kitty): Jasmine is in Venice, the most romantic city in the world, and in a beautiful hotel to be home-schooled (not from her actual home) while she takes intensive Italian lessons and her father writes his definitive book on the history of . . . soap. Oh and there’s also the matter of a murder that needs to be solved.
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (see also: Girl at Sea): Ginny is good at following rules–even really weird ones delivered in 13 little blue envelopes by her infinitely more interesting Aunt Peg directing her to travel to London and across Europe.
  • Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough: The night Savannah brains her stepfather Jack with the frying pan is the night she decides to leave home for good. She takes her little brother and they begin a road trip that will change their lives almost as much as when their mother, Alice, made the same trip in reverse eighteen years ago. (
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: Taylor Markham is prepared for war with the Townies and the Cadets. What she isn’t prepared for is finding out her greatest enemies could be her greatest friends and that her past isn’t the closed book she expected.
  • The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson: Thanks to the sudden appearance of a car, Destiny and three of her classmates start a road trip searching for one fair day–a day where the good guy wins and everything adds up to something just right.
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: As if finding out he was the son of a god wasn’t weird enough, Percy also has to travel across the country to complete a quest and prevent the next world war.
  • A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell: Cora’s life fell apart abruptly. Now all she can think about are the maps she draws constantly and escaping her suffocating life. But the freedom Cora yearns for is closer than she thinks.
  • Jungle Crossing by Sydney Salter: Kat has dozens of reasons to skip her family’s vacation to Mexico from dangerous bandits to heatstroke. Could it be that, instead of being the worst vacation ever, going to Mexico will turn into one of Kat’s greatest adventures?
  • Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: The year is 1817. Kate is in London enjoying a proper Season while Cecelia, much to her consternation, is left to languish in the country with her brother Oliver for company (at least until he’s turned into a tree). Will the girls be able to unravel a mystery (and fix Oliver) while they’re miles apart?
  • Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee: Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chestnut (“Maybe” for short) is sick of living above her mother’s charm school. And of her mother. So Maybe recruits her best friends Ted and Hollywood to go with her to Los Angeles to find Maybe’s father.

North of Beautiful: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you’d probably think I was perfect.

North of Beautiful by Justina ChenAfter sixteen years, Terra Rose Cooper has mastered the fine art of hiding the cracks in the facade of her perfect life. Concealer and foundation quickly camouflage the port-wine stain on Terra’s cheek. A rigorous exercise regimen gives Terra control over her body that she never had over her face. It also makes sure her body is one that her boyfriend, a beautiful and popular jock himself, will definitely appreciate.

It’s harder to hide her family’s flaws; her father’s denigrating comments, her mother’s compulsive baking (and eating), the flight of her older brothers’ away from the family–and from their little sister. Terra is so focused on her plan to finish high school early and flee to an East Coast college that, sometimes, it’s easy to forget that she bears marks from the household as clear as any birthmark.

Terra’s dream of a fresh start as far away from her small town Washington life as possible is dashed when her father vetoes her escape plan. Terra’s one true refuge is in her art. While working on her collages, Terra doesn’t have to think about her father or worry about protecting her mother, she has the freedom not yet afforded by her real life.

Things begin to change when Terra and her mother (almost literally) run into Jacob and his family. At first it seems like Terra wouldn’t have anything in common with this sophisticated Goth boy who has found his way into her small town. Yet, he understands Terra in a way that no one ever has. Their chance meeting sets Terra on an unexpected path and helps her understand that you need to open your eyes before you can really see true beauty, in the eyes of the beholder or otherwise in North of Beautiful (2009) by Justina Chen.

Find it on Bookshop.

Not to be redundant, but North of Beautiful is a beautiful book. The cover design by Saho Fujii is perfect and truly encompasses the story and Terra’s character. The book design itself capitalized on the compass rose of the cover and works well with the story (broken into three parts each with cartographic terminology for a name–chapters also have similar names). Justina Chen Headley artfully blends Terra’s artistic personality with her background knowledge of cartography and maps, gained from her father and central to the plot, to create a uniquely informative and engaging narrative.

This book is a love story on many levels. First, in the conventional boy-meets-girl sense of the term. This novel is also Terra’s love story with herself as she learns to love herself and come to terms with her birthmark. But, for me, the big event in North of Beautiful was the fact that this was a love story about a mother and daughter.

Terra and her mother Lois are not close at the beginning of the novel. Terra can’t stand her mother’s quiet complacence to her father’s verbal abuse and criticisms. Worse, Terra feels sure that Lois has nothing useful to share with her. As the story progresses and Terra and Lois find themselves on a life-changing journey, Terra begins to see her mother in a new light and with a new respect.

North of Beautiful is, in fact, dedicated to the author’s own mother and with good reason. It is so easy to write books for teens that are depopulated of adults and feature parents in only brief appearances. Here, happily, that is not the case. Aside from Terra, Lois is arguably one of the most important characters in the entire story. Watching the healing process as Terra and Lois reconnect also made me feel incredibly grateful for and proud of my own mom.

Ultimately, aside from being one of my favorite books of 2009 (s0 far), North of Beautiful was incredibly uplifting. The beginning of the novel is not always easy to read. Terra’s home life is anything but happy, and Headley tackles the issue of verbal abuse (abuse without the telltale blows or shouts) head on. But that isn’t the main event here. Instead, the story is about how Terra and her mother move past that and build themselves back up. I’ll say it again, the story here was beautiful, and even I dare say life-affirming. Like Terra herself, readers will put down this book with a whole new outlook on . . . everything.

(Also, if you’ve read Headley’s other novels you might recognize some characters who make cameo appearances here!)

Possible Pairings: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, Miss Smithers by Susan Juby, Fix by Leslie Margolis, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

A Map of the Known World: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann SandellA Map of the Known World (April 2009) is Lisa Ann Sandell‘s third novel (it was also the first book I have discovered that was edited by Aimee Friedman a neat-o YA author in her own right whom I met very, very, very briefly at a reading). She has two other critically acclaimed novels under her belt. According to her website, those previous books were written in verse. I feel like saying that now because I want to address the tone of the book now, before saying anything else about it. At times the writing felt erratic–sometimes profoundly authentic, at other times very much like a writer writing as a teen. That might be due in part to Sandell’s experience with free verse. It might also be because I was reading and uncorrected advanced proof. I don’t know, but I wanted to point it out all the same. Now you know.

Cora’s life fell apart with a sudden crash. The Bradley family had been falling apart for some time, but when Cora’s older brother Nate dies in a car crash, everything is irreparably and irrevocably broken. In his wake Nate has left Cora with nothing. Her father has retreated into his private den and his daily gin and tonics. Her mother is a shadow of her former self, going through the motions of their normal life while issuing rules meant to protect Cora when, in reality, they only suffocate her.

Cora is left adrift unsure how to deal with the anger she has for her brother or anything else. Cora isn’t sure she can deal with starting high school as the girl with a dead brother. She can barely even deal with her small town and all of its constant reminders of the way things used to be:

“Somewhere, things must be beautiful and vivid. Somewhere else, life has to beautiful and vivid and rich. Not like this muted palette–a pale blue bedroom, washed out sunny sky, dull green yellow brown of the fields.  Here, I know every twist of every road, every blade of grass, every face in this town, and I am suffocating.”

Lacking any other support system, Cora finds a refuge in her art. Working from a salvaged map, Cora sketches exotic locations in far off lands–places that Cora is sure are the key to her salvation.

In addition to dealing with Nate’s death, Cora has to deal with the more mundane matter of starting high school. As her best friend throws herself into their new environment, Cora finds herself at the sidelines trying to figure out what it means to be growing up, especially when she knows her brother never can.

Cora never gets to the locations she draws in her maps, but her art does lead her to something equally important: An identity beyond Nate Bradley’s little sister. With the help of Damian Archer, the other boy in the car when Nate died, Cora also learns the truth about her brother and, perhaps, a way to fix the hole Nate left in her family after the accident.

Sandell expertly deals with Cora’s struggles to redefine herself in relation to this tragedy and her broken family. At times the writing veers toward the overwraught, but for the most part, the writing holds true. Cora is also shockingly authentic in both her grief and, I think, in her changing relationships with other characters. I often complain that teen characters are nothing like me or any of the teens I know, but Cora is. Thrown into high school without a map, Cora’s confusion over suddenly being a “real” teenager and having to find new friends will ring true with many readers.

On another note, I really liked the simplicity of the cover which evokes the art described within the novel while simultaneously alluding to the healing process after Nate’s death (the heart on the cover is made of scrap metal, I believe car parts but lacking a car cannot accurately gauge).

Possible Pairings: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb, Damaged by Amy Reed, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altedbrando, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Paper Towns: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review (kinda, sorta)

Paper Towns by John GreenI didn’t plan on starting my review of John Green’s newest book Paper Towns (2008) (find it on Bookshop) with a mention of Brotherhood 2.0, I really didn’t. But having finished the book I find that, really, it is the right place to start.

Back when I had a myspace page, a lot of my friends were authors, library types, and bands. One of those friends was John Green who posted a bulletin about a project he and his brother decided to start in January 2007. Having noticed that they communicated almost entirely through e-mails or instant messages, Hank Green decided that he and John should communicate for a year only through daily (except for weekends and holidays) video blogs. The rules are more elaborate, but that was the basic premise. Throughout the course of the year, John and Hank exchanged a lot of videos about two things: Being a Nerd Fighter, the true meaning of Awesome, and World Suck Levels. (Fans might also remember an entertaining Valentine’s Day post relating to pink wine.)

At some point during this crazy brilliant idea, John Green and Hank Green continued to work. For John Green that work was writing a book. And, maybe it’s because I now know more about Green, but reading Paper Towns kept bringing me back to those Vlogs whose themes seemed to have made their way into this novel to interesting (and entertaining) effect.

Now for some linkage: The original Brotherhood 2.0 videos can be found at Brotherhood2.com. (They also have their own channel on Youtube.) Since the vlog project’s end in December 2007, the Brotherhood 2.0 site has been reshaped into a  Nerd Fighter headquarters at Nerdfighters.ning.com. Last, but totally not least, you can find John Green’s site at Sparksflyup.com.

Now for some actual review:

Quentin Jacobsen has loved Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar for most of his life. It’s hard to not love someone who is equal parts phenomenon, mystery, and adventure. With end of high school mere weeks away, Q is prepared to accept that Margo will always be closer to fantasy than reality.

All of that changes when Margo, dressed like a ninja, opens Q’s window and asks for his help:

Tonight, darling, we are going to right a lot of wrongs. And we are going to wrong some rights. The first shall be last; the last shall be first; the meek shall do some earth-inheriting.

And so begins an eleven part, all-night odyssey that will change Q’s life, particularly–he hopes–how his life relates to the lovely Margo Roth Spiegelman.

Before Q can find out if everything will be different, Margo disappears–on its own, not an unusual occurrence. Part of being Margo Roth Spiegelman demands the occasional disappearance to plan and execute further adventures. The strange thing, the reason Q can’t pretend this disappearance is normal, is that Margo left clues. For him. As Q, with the help of his fantastically-written friends, tries to trace Margo’s path he finds more questions than answers, realizing that he might need more than clues to lead him to the girl he loves. He might need to revisit everything he thought he knew about Margo Roth Spiegelman, both the person and the phenomenon.

Paper Towns combines elements of a coming-of-age story and a mystery. Q’s search for Margo is, in many ways, just as important as working through the tedium and nostalgia of his last weeks in high school. The story is also very contemporary: the characters have (very clever) screen names that they use to instant message, a website not unlike Wikipedia (here called Omnictionary) finds its way into the storyline. Still, the timelessness of the story seems to ensure that this novel will not become dated as technologies change. Green’s inclusion of excerpts from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass also points to this book’s lasting power.

Like An Abundance of Katherines (2006), the writing here has a verve and wit that keeps readers’ attention and makes the book speed along. Although Green treads similar territory to his previous novels, Paper Towns remains unique and Q’s narrative voice is utterly his own. The tone here is also something new; a blend of a nostalgia and the jolt of the now as Green expertly moves between past tense and present tense narration to emphasize key parts of the plot.

Green won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2006 for his first novel Looking for Alaska. In 2007 An Abundance of Katherines (his second novel) was selected as a Printz Award Honor Book. I almost never make award predictions, but I think John Green might have a third Printz Award Winner (or at least Honor Book) in his future.

It took me longer to realize that there were two covers floating around for Paper Towns than it took me to actually read the novel. The first cover, yellow and bright, seems to be the primary marketing cover. But there is also a mystery second cover with a different photo and darker colors that was on my copy. Without revealing too much, I wanted to mention the Two Cover Strategy because it’s so apt. Margo is so iconic, so important, so multi-faceted, that it makes sense that she cannot be contained by one book cover.

*4/30/09 UPDATE: Paper Towns did not win the Printz Award I predicted for it, but it did win an Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

Possible Pairings: Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Wessex Papers by Daniel Parker, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider