Today Tonight Tomorrow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn SolomonToday, the last day of school, Rowan Roth is eager to best Neil McNair once and for all. After four years of bitter rivalry in everything from student council to gym class, Rowan wants tangible proof that she is better than Neil by being named valedictorian.

Instead, Neil takes that honor leaving Rowan to wonder who she is without their constant one-upmanship and bickering. If she can’t beat Neil, is she ready to head to Boston for college? Is she ready to admit to her friends and family that she loves romance novels and wants to write them professionally?

Tonight Rowan has one last chance to beat Neil by winning Howl–the school’s annual scavenger hunt that lets seniors say goodbye to their school and their city by racing around Seattle to complete clues and win the grand prize. Beating Neil seems easy until Rowan learns other members of the senior class are plotting to take both of them down leaving Rowan with one option: reluctantly team up with Neil now so she can destroy him later.

As tonight becomes tomorrow, Rowan realizes she and Neil may have more in common than she ever let herself realize. Can four years worth of dislike turn into something very different overnight? Or has Rowan been ignoring something bigger for a lot longer than than that in Today Tonight Tomorrow (2020) by Rachel Lynn Solomon?

Find it on Bookshop.

Rowan is funny and confident with a breezy narration that moves through flirty banter with Neil as easily as it does frank conversations about antisemitism and micro-aggressions both characters experience as some of the only Jewish students in their school. The story also thoughtfully conveys all of the joy to be found in romance novels as well as the stigma the genre still faces as Rowan talks through her passion for the genre with Neil and other characters. As is fitting for any ode to romance novels, this book also includes honest conversations about sex and relationships.

For all of her self-awareness, Rowan is often frustratingly dense when it comes to her changing feelings for Neil (although I laughed–frequently–over her obsession with his freckles and upper arms) as well as her own self-sabotage when it comes to admitting what she loves to her friends and family. Rowan and Neil’s palpable chemistry goes a long way to make up for these shortcomings in an otherwise fast-paced novel.

Today Tonight Tomorrow is a love letter to Seattle and romance novels set over the course of one hectic day. Solidly fun.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr, Dramatically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett, I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, Save the Date by Morgan Matson, Recommended For You by Laura Silverman

Serious Moonlight: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You have the chance to make different choices.”

Serious Moonlight by Jenn BennettBirdie Lindberg’s previously small life is in flux after her strict grandmother’s death. In a bid to gain some independence after finishing homeschooling and earning her high school equivalency, not to mention getting some work experience before college, Birdie convinces her grandfather to let her job hunt on the mainland.

Working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel won’t be interesting, but it should be easy. Plus, there’s the added bonus of giving Birdie plenty of opportunities to hone her observation skills as an aspiring detective.

At least until Birdie realizes that she’ll be working with Daniel Aoki–amateur magician, graveyard shift van driver, and the other half of an awkward one-afternoon fling that Birdie thought she could safely pretend never happened.

Ignoring Daniel to preserve what’s left of her dignity proves impossible when he asks for her help investigating a reclusive writer holding secret meetings at the hotel. Faced with Daniel’s smoking hotness, his genuine need, and her own curiosity, Birdie knows she has to help.

As Birdie and Daniel work on this real-life mystery together, she soon realizes that the bigger mystery might be what to do about her own feelings for Daniel in Serious Moonlight (2019) by Jenn Bennett.

Find it on Bookshop.

Bennett’s latest standalone novel is filled with all of my favorite things including tons of references to classic detective stories. Birdie is a capable, smart heroine still learning how to come into her own with support from her grandfather and her nonconformist artist aunt, Mona. Daniel is charismatic, funny, and everything Birdie (and readers) could want in a male lead.

The hotel mystery and Birdie’s approach to life as she works to pursue her dream of becoming a private investigator add a lot of intrigue and fun to this contemporary romance.

On a personal level, it also felt like this book was written just for me. I identified so much with Birdie throughout the story as she struggles to come out of her shell and give herself the space and permission she needs to grow and thrive. This book is also the first time I have ever seen a story truly capture the weird blend of abject panic and genuine desire inherent to actually wanting to interact with someone.

Serious Moonlight is fantastic, filled with just enough tension to make the mystery aspect interesting while keeping the main focus on Birdie and her relationships. Birdie and Daniel are delightful lead characters complimented by an eccentric and entertaining cast of supporting characters. A new favorite for me, and maybe for you too. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore; Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert; The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo; Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson; Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus; Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke; The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee; The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe; Past Perfect by Leila Sales; Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith; This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura, The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg

Where Futures End: A Review

“All accidents are magic.”

One year from now in “When We Asked the Impossible” Dylan is desperate to believe that there is more out there and that he can be more himself if only he can get back to the tantalizing world that haunts his childhood memories.

Ten years from now in “When We Were TV” Brixney is positive she can get her brother, and by extension herself, out of a debtor’s colony. All she needs is more views on her social media feed. An unexpected visitor to Flavor Foam could be exactly what she needs.

Thirty years from now in “When We Went High-Concept” Epony is running out of ways to save her family when their town is flooded. Soon she’s forced into an impossible position, her entire online presence erased and her life inextricably altered in a bid to go high-concept.

Sixty years from now in “When We Could Hardly Contain Ourselves” Reef struggles to survive while finding distraction if not comfort in the virtual game playing out across the city’s streets. Until it all goes wrong.

One hundred years from now in “When We Ended it All” Quinn embarks on her coming-of-age quest to find a token to bring back for a husband she isn’t sure she wants. During her travels she meets a stranger. On the first day Quinn will tell her story. On the second day he will tell his story and things will begin to come together. On the third day, one of them will die. Quinn will choose who.

Five people. Five stories. Two worlds. One moment they have all been moving toward in Where Futures End (2016) by Parker Peevyhouse.

Where Futures End is Peevyhouse’s debut novel.

This ambitious novel is broken into five interconnected sections that work on their own as short stories and seamlessly come together to create a larger narrative of a world and its mutable future.

Where Futures End strikes a fine balance between science fiction and fantasy as readers and characters try to reconcile a changing world with basis in scientific fact with the wondrous consequences of those changes.

This eerily prescient book is filled with distinct and haunting characters as well as rich and intricate world building. Where Futures End is a smart and thoughtful book that is perfect for readers looking to completely immerse themselves in a story. Ideal for readers who enjoy tales of portal fantasies, parallel worlds or alternate universes, and short science fiction. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, The Magicians by Lev Grossman; All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis; The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Gratton; The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

The Game of Love and Death: A Review

“Everybody dies. Everybody. That is the only ending for every true story.”

The Game of Love and Death by Martha BrockenbroughOver lifetimes Love and Death have carefully chosen their players, rolled the dice, and waited for any opportunity that might present itself for them to influence the Game in their favor. You probably already know some of the players: Antony and Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Paris, even Romeo and Juliet.

Death has always won. Always.

But Love has a faith that Death can’t imagine–particularly when it comes to his latest player Henry Bishop.

A white boy adopted by a wealthy family, Henry’s life is easy even in the midst of the Depression that still grips the United States in 1937. His bright future is assured thanks to his adoptive family. All he has to do is claim it.

Even without the stakes of the Game and her role as Death’s player, Flora Saudade is an unlikely match for Henry. An African-American girl born just a few blocks from Henry, Flora supports herself as singer in Seattle’s nightclubs while she dreams of following in the footsteps of pilots like Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman.

With the players chosen and the dice rolled, Love and Death are prepared to watch this latest Game unfold. The odds, and the Game itself, are stacked against Henry and Flora. But with true love and free will at play maybe, just this once, anything is possible in The Game of Love and Death (2015) by Martha Brockenbrough.

The Game of Love and Death works on many levels, both as a work of fantasy and one of historical fiction, to create a story that is as nuanced and introspective as its vibrant cast of diverse characters.

While the main focus remains on Flora and Henry’s fledgling relationship, Brockenbrough sets this story against a backdrop peppered with real historical events and an evocative atmosphere. This novel touches upon the question of choice and taking risks as much as the matters of love and mortality readers might expect from the title.

The less likely aspect of this story is the compelling relationship between Love and Death. These two are, perhaps, the most unexpected characters in the novel. Love with his constant optimism and devil-may-care attitude is also surprisingly ruthless as his desperation to win the Game grows. Death, meanwhile, is much more than a villain as she struggles with the burden of her role in this story.

These very different stories–of Flora and Henry but also of Love and Death themselves–weave together in unexpected ways as The Game of Love and Death build to its remarkable conclusion.

The Game of Love and Death is a heady blend of fantasy and historical fiction that plays out on a grand scale. Sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Not to be missed.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, Irong Cast by Destiny Soria, Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood,  Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, American Street by Ibi Zoboi

*A copy of this book 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: Dial Em for Murder by Marni Bates, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, Shadowshaper by  Daniel José Older, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, 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*

Real Live Boyfriends: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Real Live Boyfriends by E. LockhartRuby Oliver has been in therapy. She has gone through Reginald several times. Her ex-boyfriend has cheated on her and turned into a pod-robot. Her best friends weren’t such good friends. She has conquered bake sales, November Week and befriended a pygmy goat named Robespierre.

Some of it was hard, some of it was fun. All of it led Ruby to a new group of strange but dependable friends and, maybe more surprisingly, to a new boyfriend.

Noel is the perfect boyfriend. He’s Ruby’s real, live boyfriend and everything is perfect. At least it is for a while.

But then everything gets complicated again. Noel shuts down and shuts Ruby out. Her parents are fighting. Hutch has gone to Paris to study and do whatever retro-metal fans do in France. Megan is busy with her real live boyfriend. Things with Nora are still kind of a mess. Then Gideon shows up. Shirtless.

It’s all a mess but with little patience and a lot of mishaps Ruby might be able to survive these recent debacles, her panic attacks, and even manage to make a few lists about the whole thing in Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, plural. If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be Ruby Oliver (2010) by E. Lockhart.

Real Live Boyfriends is the fourth book in the Ruby Oliver Quartet. Ruby’s earlier adventures are chronicled begining in The Boyfriend List and followed by The Boy Book and The Treasure Map of Boys.

I love reading about Ruby’s misadventures and all of her friends. Almost everything about this conclusion was spot on. My only real complaint: I wished Hutch was around more. Because he was my favorite character.

Real Live Boyfriends was the right conclusion to a really fun, sincere series. Reading through the books Ruby felt like a personal friend and it’s hard to believe her adventures are over so quickly (I only started reading the series a couple months ago). The book picks up during the summer before Ruby’s senior year and conclude during at the end of the first semester. Lockhart provides closure for Ruby’s panic attacks, her friends, her parents and even Robespierre the pygmy goat. Questions are answered about Kim, Nora, Cricket and Gideon.

It’s sad to see the end of the series but Roo fans will find a satisfying if bittersweet conclusion. Loose ends from the series are tied up while still leaving Ruby looking at a future that can be whatever she wants it to be. And knowing Ruby, you can bet it will be a bright, zany future.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Exclusive Bonus Content: I’ve already mentioned being dubious about the new covers that show Ruby but not Ruby wearing glasses. I still feel that way. But then I noticed the Ruby on this cover is wearing white fishnets. So almost all is forgiven.

The Boy Book: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Boy Book by E. LockhartSince the end of her disastrous sophomore year at Tate Prep Ruby Oliver has:

  • Continued going to therapy
  • Befriended fellow Tate Prep misfits Noel, Hutch and Meghan
  • Lost all of her other friends and her first ever boyfriend

Although the panic attacks are in check and the wounds sting a little less, Ruby’s reputation is still in tatters. Her former best friends all still hate her (except maybe Nora . . . or maybe not). She still has panic attacks.

It’s not the best situation but Ruby is prepared to do her best to deal with it all including: getting a job, scamming, deciphering the many secrets of boys (including Noel, Angelo, and her ex, Jackson), and even going on a school trip that might not be a total disaster (although from past experience Ruby isn’t getting her hopes up) in The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them (2006) by E. Lockhart.

The Boy Book is the second book in Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series (preceeded by The Boyfriend List). The book could stand alone but honestly since they’re so short it’s worth just reading them all in order.

The Boy Book is a slim, fun book. Ruby’s life is not glamorous, or perfect, but it is real. Lockhart blends humor, wit, and a bit of mayhem to deal with weighty matters and rescuing hooters in need alike. As  the title suggests there are boys in The Boy Book but what really sets this book apart (like The Boyfriend List) is Lockhart’s treatment of friendships. Friends aren’t forever, no matter what we might hope, and Ruby deals with that sadness and the process of moving on (but she calls it Reginald) throughout the story.

This series is fun because it’s hysterical but Lockhart stays true to her exemplary literary standards. Readers can observe the growth of Ruby’s character over the course of the books. Interestingly, having read both The Boy Book and Lockhart’s Printz honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. (Isn’t Ruby kind of like Frankie before Frankie turns criminal mastermind? Maybe after as well. The similarities between Jackson and Frankie’s boyfriend, or even maybe Alpha, are also striking.)

At the end of the day The Boy Book is a funny, light-hearted read. It is authentic and marvelous and, even when Ruby is at her lowest, The Boy Book is optimistic and hopeful.

Ruby’s (mis)adventures continue in The Treasure Map of Boys.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

The Boyfriend List: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Boyfriend List by E. LockhartThe whole mess started with Finn. But it started a while ago. Before Finn was all cute and tall and athletic. Well, technically it might have had more to do with Kim. But Finn is definitely involved. So is Jackson. And his four ceramic frogs. Tommy Hazard, as usual, is blameless. Angelo and Noel aren’t really involved. But they might have helped make everything worse. When it’s all said and done Nora, Cricket and Meghan are all not speaking to her. Kim isn’t either but that isn’t really a surprise.

And that’s almost all before fifteen-year-old Ruby Oliver starts having panic attacks that lead to her eleven shrink appointments.

The first step in stopping the panic attacks is probably understanding what happened. Which requires looking at how things started (with Finn, obviously) and where they wound up (losing her best friend Kim, again duh). And a good way to figure things out is by making lists, right?

It’s not like one list could make Ruby’s life even worse by ruining her reputation and making her a social outcast. Right?

Wrong. One list can actually make Ruby’s life even worse by ruining her reputation and making her a social outcast in The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (2005) by E. Lockhart.

The Boyfriend List is the first book in E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series.

Deceptively slim at 229 pages (paperback), The Boyfriend List is a complex story told out of chronological order. While Ruby’s life is essentially falling apart around her she also starts seeing Dr. Z and looking at her past interactions with boys to see what, exactly, happened. Lockhart moves seamlessly through distant and near past as she moves the story toward Ruby’s immediate present (the point from which she is narrating).

The resulting story is satisfyingly complex while still being straightforward. Despite what the title might suggest, this isn’t a book about boys. It’s about friendships and social interaction. And, okay, yes it’s also about boys. Lockhart brings humor and compassion to a book that is simultaneously zany and deeply authentic (I think, more on that in the Exclusive Bonus Content). Even more impressive: She does it all while creating a convincing cast of oddballs, smarties, and other likely suspects who are all fun to read about–even if some of them might be jerks (like Jackson). All in all a delightful book.

Ruby’s adventures continue in The Boy Book.

Possible Pairings: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Exclusive Bonus Content: The truth? I was nothing like Ruby and her friends in high school (except maybe Nora). I had no interest in boys and no time for them. Did any boys even like me in high school? Still not sure. (Probably not. But since I doubt any of my high school classmates read this blog I guess we’ll never really know.)

So is this book authentic? I don’t know really but other people say it is so I’ll go with that. It’s weird reading books about the quintessential high school experience only to know your high school experience wasn’t like that. I’m starting to think I had a really skewed view of my high school life but who knows? Maybe the next big thing will be a book about a girl who spent all her time reading, working in a library, and doing homework instead of having boyfriend troubles or partying or whatever those authentic teens are doing. It could happen, right?