Compulsion: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Compulsion by Martina BooneBarrie Watson’s life in San Francisco was never normal. Not with her mother a shut-in after the fire that left her scarred and in constant pain. Not when so many people failed to appreciate her godfather Mark and his distinct drag style.

But now Barrie’s mother is dead and she has to leave Mark and San Francisco behind. Traveling to South Carolina to live with an aunt she’s never met is not Barrie’s idea of a good time. But maybe life on Watson Island can be different–a chance to be someone braver and stronger, a chance to really put her collection of glamorous shoes to good use.

Watson’s Landing is nothing like Barrie expected. The plantation is decrepit and filled with an overpowering sense of loss despite its neglected grandeur and the pedigree that comes with belonging to one of the island’s founding families. Everyone on the plantation and on the island beyond seems to know more about Barrie and her family than Barrie herself–especially Eight Beaufort, the gorgeous and infuriating neighbor who seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself.

With decades-old secrets and a generations-old family feud coloring everything she learns about her new surroundings, Barrie will have to unearth the truth about the island and its three founding families before she can ever call the plantation home in Compulsion (2014) by Martina Boone.

Compulsion is Boone’s first novel. It is also the first book in her trilogy The Heirs of Watson Island which will continue with Persuasion out in October 2015.

Barrie Watson is a sassy, astute heroine who is never afraid to speak her mind. With a gift for finding lost things and a pile of secrets about her past, Barrie’s exploration of her new home is immediately engrossing.

Eight Beaufort serves as an interesting counterpoint to Barrie throughout the story as he helps Barrie begin to separate her own wants and desires from that which she thinks she ought to want. The dynamic between these two vacillates a bit too abruptly from fighting to thoughts of kissing at points but it also highlights real caring and understanding as they work together to unearth some long-buried secrets about the island.

Boone delivers evocative settings and pitch perfect dialog in this Southern Gothic mystery with just a touch of paranormal romance.

In addition to page-turning action and lots of humor, Compulsion is filled with some genuinely scary moments as the story builds to its surprising conclusion. Compulsion is a strong debut on its own while also hinting at things to come later in The Heirs of Watson Island trilogy. Recommended for readers who like their romance a little spooky or paranormal as well as for Southern Gothic enthusiasts.

Possible Pairings: Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard, The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

You can also check out my interview with Martina!

The Devil You Know: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Devil You Know by Trish DollerArcadia “Cadie” Wells is sick to death of her life in her tiny Florida town with her broken-down father and her four-year-old brother. Cadie is tired of being the de facto caretaker for her family. She is tired of putting what she wants last. Now that high school is over, all she can see ahead of her is an endless stretch of stifling sameness with work and family obligations pulling her down.

Cadie wants something more.

She wants adventure.

She wants a little act of rebellion.

It starts with a campfire party and a cute dress. It turns into a sudden road trip with two unbearably attractive cousins and the exact kind of escape Cadie’s been yearning for. It will end with dangers Cadie never imagined and a dead body in The Devil You Know (2015) by Trish Doller.

The Devil You Know is a sexy and exciting thriller. Doller’s writing is taut with tension as Cadie tries to step outside of her everyday routine with risks that are sometimes shocking even to herself. While this story follows many familiar conventions as Cadie questions who she can trust and the wisdom in falling hard for a handsome stranger, The Devil You Know is not your average thriller.

In this slim novel (256 pages, hardcover), Cadie struggles to reconcile her own wanderlust with the obligations weighing her down. Coming from a small town and a family that is struggling to get by, Cadie is very aware of the limitations on her life. She is also confident in her own ability to achieve more than life in her small town has to offer and also in how much she deserves it.

Cadie is a strong heroine with absolutely the best feminist ideals that are presented as a seamless part of her character. Throughout The Devil You Know Cadie takes ownership of her life and her sexuality in moments that are refreshingly empowering. The chemistry between Cadie and her love interest is palpable with dialog and descriptions that absolutely sizzle.

Although parts of the story veer toward predictable or even contrived, this book is decidedly clever and often entertaining. The Devil You Know is a smart thriller that uses this familiar form to subvert as many conventions as it follows.

Possible Pairings: The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Damaged by Amy Reed,  Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

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

I Am Princess X: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

I am Princess X by Cherie PriestMay and Libby created Princess X on the day they met in fifth grade. Libby drew Princess X while May created the stories. Together they made sure that Princess X became an indelible part of their childhood.

That was before Libby and her mother died in a car crash.

Now May is sixteen and looking at another long, lonely summer in Seattle with only her dad for company. That changes when she spots a Princess X sticker on the corner of a store window. Suddenly she starts seeing Princess X everywhere.

When the stickers lead to IAmPrincessX.com, May finds a webcomic with a wholly new but not unfamiliar Princess X. In the comic, the princess’ story is eerily similar to Libby’s. And filled with clues only May recognizes.

Which means that the only person who could have created the comic is May’s best friend–Libby–who is still alive and needs May’s help in I Am Princess X (2015) by Cherie Priest with illustrations by Kali Ciesemier.

I Am Princess X is Priest’s first novel written for a young adult audience. Accompanying illustrations by Kali Ciesemier bring the story found in the Princess X webcomic to life and integrate beautifully with May’s search for Libby in this utterly satisfying read.

May is a spunky, capable heroine who finds help from likable and well-realized characters along the way including Patrick, a likable hacker with a possibly biased sense of his own computer skills.

Priest offers a tantalizing, page-turner of a mystery that seamlessly spans real locations in Seattle and dark pockets of the internet. Even when the action moves online, Priest keeps the story exciting and approachable without ever resorting to technical jargon. I Am Princess X is filled with references to technology and pop culture but manages to still feel timeless in a way that guarantees this one will appeal to readers for years to come.

This book strikes the perfect balance between believable and sensational as May follows the comic’s clues to find out the truth about her best friend. It’s also worth noting that I Am Princess X is a story firmly grounded in friendship as readers learn more about May and Libby. There is no extraneous romance subplot to be found here. Furthermore Priest’s characters are naturally (and realistically) diverse throughout the novel.

I Am Princess X is an excellent book with loads of cross-genre and cross-format appeal. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the April 2015 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online as a Starred Review*

Jackaby: A Review

“One who can see the ordinary is extraordinary indeed, Abigail Rook.”

Jackaby by William RitterAbigail Rook has few prospects when she arrives in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892. After fleeing her boring and proper life (and parents) in England, she is keen to continue her adventures in this new country. Unfortunately having adventures require certain necessities, all of which require money.

After failing to get a series of menial jobs, Abigail finds herself in the unique position of serving as an investigative assistant to one R. F. Jackaby, investigator of the unexplained.

While Jackaby has a keen eye for the extraordinary–complete with the ability to see supernatural creatures and magic auras–Abigail is especially skilled at seeing the ordinary details that come together as the basis of any investigation.

Abigail and Jackaby, with the help of handsome police officer Charlie Cane, will have to work together to solve a series of grisly murders in New Fiddleham before they become the next victims–or the prime suspects in Jackaby (2014) by William Ritter.

Jackaby is Ritter’s first novel. A sequel, Beastly Bones, is slated for publication in September 2015.

Abigail is a fine addition to the recent crop of strong and self-sufficient heroines. In addition to being key to Jackaby’s investigation, Abigail is also a winsome narrator with quick thinking and a sharp tongue. It is wonderful to see a heroine who is able to acknowledge her strengths as easily as she does her weaknesses.

Jackaby is a character who will feel immediately to fans of Sherlock Holmes. Although he is not entirely original, Jackaby’s unfailingly belief in things unseen combined with his abrupt manner and deadpan humor make Jackaby a winning character in his own right.

Ritter is at pains throughout Jackaby to stress that Abigail has no romantic interest in Jackaby whatsoever. Although it is great to see a mystery and a fantasy sans romance, it was also disappointing because these two characters complement each other so perfectly. The lack of romance is complicated (much to the plot’s detriment) with secondary characters written in for both Abigail and Jackaby as quasi love interests. Abigails preoccupation with a certain police officer often feels particularly forced and unnecessary to the plot.

Despite its winning characters, Jackaby is somewhat weak as a mystery. Ritter includes several fairly obvious clues early on to leave attentive readers waiting to see big reveals for most of the novel. Uneven pacing also move the narrative along in often clumsy starts and stops until the denouement which seems to drag needlessly.

As a fantasy, Jackaby is an excellent novel with a fully realized world complete with a perfect blend of magic and historical details. A great choice for fans of historical fantasies or mysteries alike.

Possible Pairings: Knightley and Son by Rohan Gavin, Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones, Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Mr. Samuel’s Penny: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Mr. Samuel's Penny by Treva Hall MelvinWhen 14-year-old Elizabeth Landers arrives in the small town of Ahoskie, North Carolina, she fully expects to have a boring vacation. Things turn out very differently that summer in 1972 almost as soon as Elizabeth and her sister arrive.

A grisly car accident catches the town’s attention and Elizabeth is at the scene when the bodies of Mr. Samuel and his young daughter are recovered. Mr. Samuel is clutching an unusual 1909 wheat penny in his hand—a penny that is stolen from the sheriff’s office.

Already interested in pennies herself and haunted by the crime scene, the protagonist decides to use part of her summer trying to find the penny for Mr. Samuel’s widow.

Melvin walks the line between adult nostalgia and the authentic voice of a teen throughout this novel that is set to start a new series. Unfortunately, the narrative never seems entirely comfortable with either tone.

Numerous biblical analogies and references to Christianity lend a decidedly non-secular tone to the entire novel. Elizabeth is still an approachable narrator, who will find her fans in certain readers.

*A slightly different version of this review appeared in an issue issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*

Exquisite Corpse: A (Blog Tour) Review

ExquisiteCorpse BlogTourBanner
Exquisite Corpse by Penelope BagieuZoe isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life except that she doesn’t want it to involve her lousy boyfriend and her totally unsatisfying job as a merchandise exhibitor at trade shows.

Zoe is frustrated by everything and everyone. At least until she meets the eccentric Thomas Rocher. Zoe doesn’t recognize him as a literary genius and (supposedly) deceased author.

Turns out dead authors can still get pretty great book deals–especially Thomas since his ex-wife Agathe is also his agent.

Zoe has a lot to learn about publishing but she also might teach Thomas and Agathe a thing or two in Exquisite Corpse (2015) by Pénélope Bagieu.

Exquisite Corpse was originally published in Bagieu’s native France in 2010. Now it is happily available in English translation.

Bagieu combines humorous scenes and snappy dialog in this laugh-out-loud comic adventure. Although many of Zoe’s problems are decidedly adult (lousy job, a boyfriend who wants sex while Zoe is busy fuming), her lack of direction and uncertainty about her future will feel universal to many readers.

With detailed characters and a plot ripe for follow-up, readers will also wonder Exquisite Corpse might only be the first act for Zoe, Thomas and Agathe.

Exquisite Corpse is filled with brightly colored panels and Bagieu’s clean-lined, sleek artwork that perfectly highlights the interplay between what is written and drawn on each page. Laugh-out-loud twists and a surprise ending make this graphic novel an enjoyable quick read sure to brighten a dull lunch hour or commute.

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

Hold Me Like a Breath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany SchmidtIn a world where organ donation is strictly regulated, Penelope Landlow’s Family helps those who can’t afford to wait for legal organ transplants . . . as long as they can afford to pay black market prices.

With rival families and upstarts jockeying for position, Penelope knows as well as anyone that the Family business is dangerous. With the Organ Act making its way through congress she also knows the Family business is on the verge of a major change.

Thanks to an autoimmune disorder called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) that causes excessive bruising and bleeding, Penelope also knows she’ll never really be a part of the Family business–changes or not.

With her entire family, and even her lifelong crush, convinced that she is far too fragile for the Family business or anything resembling a normal life, Penelope spends her days dreaming of NYC, shopping, watching C-Span, and wandering her family’s lavish estate.

It isn’t enough.

When disaster strikes, Penelope is thrust into a world of secrets and betrayals she is ill-equipped to understand. As she struggles to make sense of her shattered past and shape her own future she’ll also learn that life isn’t always a fairy tale. Sometimes you have to make your own happy ending in Hold Me Like a Breath (2015) by Tiffany Schmidt.

Hold Me Like a Breath is the first book in Schmidt’s Once Upon a Crime Family trilogy. It is loosely inspired by the story “The Princess and the Pea.”

Penelope is an interesting heroine in that she is spunky while also being painfully naive thanks to her sheltered upbringing. Although she is fragile because of her ITP, Penelope is not easily broken as she demonstrates repeatedly throughout the narrative.

With organized crime, black market organs and murder as part of the plot, Hold Me Like a Breath is not your typical fairy tale romance. Sweet moments of first love are tempered with suspense and action as Penelope tries to make sense of the catastrophe that leaves her alone for the first time.

Hold Me Like a Breath is an engaging mystery and coming-of-age story complete with twists that turn the narrative completely upside down not once but twice. A romantic lead who sees Penelope as a true equal helps move the romance here from saccharine and sweet to rock solid and empowering.

Schmidt blends elements of mystery and romance in this retelling that is as unique as it is exciting. In addition to nods to the source material, this book also builds a world that is developed down to the finest details and includes a diverse cast of characters who readers will look forward to seeing in book two. Hold Me Like a Breath is a clever page-turner with a heroine who learns what it takes to chase her own happily ever after in this sensational start to what is sure to be a marvelous series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Heist Society by Ally Carter, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

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

You can also check out my interview with Tiffany!