Friday, August 30, 2013

FINAL FRIDAY: Summer Series Challenge Recap

The Summer Series Challenge ends tomorrow! 
Hosted by Lauren @ Love is not a triangle
Follow #serieschallenge

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the 2013 Summer Series Challenge!

A very special THANKS to our guest posters!
Don't miss any of these insightful discussions:


We'd love to hear from you! 

1) Create your own closing post for the Summer Series Challenge. 

Did you meet your goals? Tell us what books you read!

My Challenge Recap: Books I read this summer (this is embarrassingly low!)

Series I finished
Awaken by Meg Cabot (Abandon series)
The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Assassin's Curse series)
Losing Hope by Colleen Hoover (Hopeless series)
Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier (Ruby Red series)

Series I read back-to-back
The Immortal Beloved Series by Cate Tiernan 
(Immortal Beloved, Darkness Falls, Eternally Yours)

I'm pretty sure that none of these was on my original goals list. But I do have a few of those staring at me that I'd like to read soon. This is no excuse, but I had no idea how BEA would affect my reading this summer! I ended up focusing a lot more on new books than I intended. 

2) Send us feedback.
How was your experience with the challenge? What worked? What didn't? Was three months too long? Please be honest, though if you'd rather not comment below, feel free to email Heather or me. 


Link up your August reviews and enter the final Giveaway. This one's the biggest! 

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer

Nowhere But Home
by Liza Palmer
Read: July 31 - August 1, 2013
Published: April 2, 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Library
Category: Adult, Women's fiction. But great crossover! 

Summary: A brilliant, hilarious, and touching story with a Texas twist from Liza Palmer, author of Conversations With The Fat Girl (optioned for HBO)

Queenie Wake, a country girl from North Star, Texas, has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup. Again. Now the only place she has to go is home to North Star. She can hope, maybe things will be different. Maybe her family's reputation as those Wake women will have been forgotten. It's been years since her mother-notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money-was killed. And her sister, who as a teenager was branded as a gold-digging harlot after having a baby with local golden boy Wes McKay, is now the mother of the captain of the high school football team. It can't be that bad…

Who knew that people in small town Texas had such long memories? And of course Queenie wishes that her memory were a little spottier when feelings for her high school love, Everett Coburn, resurface. He broke her heart and made her leave town-can she risk her heart again?

At least she has a new job-sure it's cooking last meals for death row inmates but at least they don't complain!

But when secrets from the past emerge, will Queenie be able to stick by her family or will she leave home again? A fun-filled, touching story of food, football, and fooling around. (From Goodreads)

Reading on the beach
I've talked about this before, but every summer my entire family goes on vacation, and the object is to relax on the beach for an entire week. For us, that inevitably means reading*, and we usually take stacks of books in which to indulge. Because we're all together, we often end up passing favorites around, and I have fond memories of many years of shared reads. This year, I made the executive decision that my mom and sisters, Allison and Christine, and I were all going to read Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer. Thankfully, everyone liked the idea. I was told by several reliable reader friends that it was excellent. Then when I discovered it features food, family, football and forbidden romance, I knew it had to be a recipe for FUN. (Hint: I was right!)

My summary: In Nowhere But home, Queenie Wake (that's Queen Elizabeth Wake) is forced to move back to her hometown in Texas, after refusing to let a patron put ketchup on his eggs, and spectacularly losing her job as a chef in New York City. Going home is not an easy decision for Queenie. She's spent the past 10 years trying to run away from her town. Including her broken heart over her first and only love, Everett Coburn, and all the gossips that made her life there miserable. You see, Queenie's notorious mother ensured that her family's reputation was forever tarnished. Back in North Star, Queenie slowly reconnects with her family, takes an unconventional job at a prison, and begins to realizes there really is Nowhere But Home (sorry, I couldn't resist). 

Because Queenie is a chef and loves to cook for others, the story includes several shared meals with family and friends. Once my mom, sisters and I all finished Nowhere But Home, we too had an excuse to enjoy a lovely dinner out to discuss the book. By eating together and chatting about this story, I'm pretty sure we experienced the book to the fullest possible measure. Except that our dinner didn't include Texas BBQ, which is sadly lacking in the North East. None of us were going to stay up all night cooking it either. Although Nowhere But Home was a delightful experience from cover to cover, it also brought us together, which is even better. 

My plan was to write out our comunal review, though I'm not very good at writing down conversation, and ours was pretty much exclusively made up of spoilers anyway. But I did manage to capture a few highlights. 

Some unspoilery highlights from our discussion:
  1. We all thought the ending of Nowhere But Home was neat and tidy, not that we're complaining. According to mom, "I mean, look at that title. Of course it's going to be happy."
  2. We all thought Everett was a little weak and maybe should have been slapped around a bit more. "He should have known better." We did think he redeemed himself, though.
  3. Allison felt bad for Laurel "She was as much of a pawn as Queenie."
  4. Christine couldn't believe how ridiculously mean some of the town girls were. They just couldn't break out of their past. That prompted a discussion about people who live in small towns all their lives and how sometimes they forget how much bigger the world is, and how small their place is in it. 
  5. The prison plot line made us all uncomfortable. But we also thought it was a brilliant addition to the book. Christine said, "I wanted her to get the meals right, and then I'd remember, but wait! She's cooking for a murder."
  6. Mom thought the women in the book were much better developed than the men. I wanted to add an amendment for Cal to this statement. LOVED him. And West. Oh I also liked Shawn and Jace. This led us to the realization that what my mom really meant is that, she didn't like Everett or Hudson.
  7. None of us could believe how long Queenie spent cooking every meal! I've never stayed up all night making anything. But, yum!
  8. We talked about how Cal and West turned out so well, despite everything stacked against them. Allison (who teaches high school) said she's met some boys like that in teaching, who are just good kids all around, despite their circumstances. 
  9. The prison Warden weirded us out. But I thought he'd have to be strange to embrace his job the way he has. 
  10. We all liked the Dent boys. Despite former poor choices, they've turned out okay, and we felt happy and a little weepy for them at the end when [spoilers removed].

Our most memorable scenes: 
  • Lauren's took place in a church and involved Cal and West.
  • Allison's occurred when Queenie went running with Cal, and began to see Everett in a different light. 
  • Christine's happened when Queenie follows her nemesis to the bathroom and is hit with a pretty strong revelation about both of them. 
  • Mom's was the moment Queenie realizes that Hudson isn't who she thought he was. 

Then for our own amusement, we made a list of the movies of which we decided Nowhere But Home is a conglomeration:

  1. Sweet Home Alabama - Because sometimes you have to go back home to find yourself. 
  2. Mean Girls - Those high school meanies never grow up. 
  3. Shawshank Redemption - Some people find themselves in the most unlikely places (literally and figuratively). 
  4. Never Been Kissed - If you've seen this movie, you will know. 
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark - For those times than an interview calls for Bourbon. 
  6. Friday Night Lights - TEXAS FOOTBALL
Bottom line: Reading is fun, but having someone to share it with is even better. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

*Confession: now that children are involved in our vacations, we get much less reading done than before. I actually didn't do a whole lot of reading on the beach this year. But we still had lots of fun together. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine 
that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to read.

This week I can't wait for: 

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
(Imprint of MacMillan)

 I'm still trying to learn all the publisher and their imprints, something I was completely oblivious to before I was a blogger. To help me out with this process (and you too, if you're anything like me), I wanted to start using my WoW posts to highlight upcoming books from specific publishers that I'm excited about reading.


I know you can't wait for this one either, or you've already read it and you're raving. I actually have a copy, I just need to start it!

by Leila Sales
Published September 17, 2013 

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.


Sometimes, I'm sadly out of the loop. I just found out about this one and now I'm salivating. She buys him? Can't wait:

by Marie Rutkoski
Published March 4, 2014

In the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Cassandra Clare comes this brilliant, unputdownable, star-crossed romance about the curse of winning.

Seventeen-year-old Kestrel is an aristocratic citizen of Valoria, a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers. Here, a girl like Kestrel has two choices: join the military or get married. Despite her skills in military strategy, Kestrel’s real passion is music.Which is why she feels compelled to buy Arin, a slave with a talent for singing, at auction. It’s not long before she finds herself falling in love with Arin, and he seems to feel the same for her. But Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for Arin is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart


This one is so far cover-less. Don't be fooled by this image. Also, I know I talked about this book the other day, but I'm still excited!

by Elizabeth Fama
Published April 8, 2014
Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller.

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story.

What books are you waiting on this week? 

Are you waiting on anything specific from this publisher?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Brokenhearted by Ameila Kahaney

The Brokenhearted
by Amelia Kahaney
Read: August 21 - 22, 2013
Published: October 8, 2013 by HarperTeen
Source: Around the World Arc Tours
Category: Superheroes, Sci-fi, YA

A teenage girl is transformed into a reluctant superhero and must balance her old life with the dark secret of who she has become.

Prima ballerina Anthem Fleet is closely guarded by her parents in their penthouse apartment. But when she meets the handsome Gavin at a party on the wrong side of town, she is immediately drawn into his dangerous world. Then, in a tragic accident, Anthem falls to her death. She awakes in an underground lab, with a bionic heart ticking in her chest. As she navigates her new life, she uncovers the sinister truth behind those she trusted the most, and the chilling secret of her family lineage…and her duty to uphold it.

The Dark Knight meets Cinder in this gripping and cinematic story of heartbreak and revenge. From Alloy Entertainment, this inventive new superhero story is sure to captivate any reader. (From Goodreads)


I tried very hard to like The Brokenhearted more than I did. While it has some really fantastic moments, and a few characters I loved, they weren't enough to save the story for me as a whole. The beginning of the book was especially rough. In fact I barely made it past the first 75 pages. But I was told by a friend that it would get better, and I was determined to see that happen. While the second half was an improvement over the first, the story didn't get better enough for me to give it a stronger review. This makes me sad, because I think Amelia Kahaney has some really great ideas and several beautifully written scenes. I also love that she's exploring superheroes in the sci-fi, Batman way than straight fantasy. Unfortunately, the good parts got over cluttered by a crucial relationship that I never believed, too many plot directions and a vague setting. 

I never really connected to the main character Anthem. That is mostly because Anthem's relationship with one of the characters in the beginning of this story colors a lot of what happens throughout the entire book. I had several problems with the buildup of that relationship, especially on Anthem's part, causing me to have a lot of trouble connecting to her emotionally or sympathizing with her choices in the rest of the story. Anthem's relationship with Gavin moved too swiftly for one, causing it to read more like a cringeworthy insta-love than an intensely consuming and swoony romance. Guys, I'm actually not opposed to instant attraction, but this took it over the top in an uncomfortable way. Anthem's swift devotion to Gavin also felt a bit out of character from what she tells us of herself before that. Although I give the author props for what she attempted with the relationship, unfortunately, the risk made it hard for me to make it past the beginning of this book. That said, I did like how the love story progressed the second half of the novel. The romantic storyline develops differently from normal, and by the end of the book I was really digging it. 

There is a certain place in The Brokenhearted where something big happens to Anthem, and it causes her to makes a pretty dramatic change of life direction. Although I appreciate that the author didn't rush Anthem's transformation and her struggle to come to terms with herself, the way it was handled felt awkward and focused on too many unnecessary side plots. The worst of these side plots involved Anthem's former boyfriend Will. I actually think that I could have really liked the second half of the book, if he hadn't been so much a part of it. I can see what the author was truing to do with him, but I felt like his role was unnecessary and redundant. I also think that Anthem's struggle to reconcile her Before and After lives, could have been explored solely through her relationship with her friend Zahra. 

Anthem lives in the city of Bedlam, but we don't have any context around this one city. No info about where in the United States it is (if it's even in the US), except that it has kudzu and also frozen lake near it - two things which don't usually go together (kudzu in the south east, frozen lakes in the north). However, Bedlam appears to be in an alternate or future US. I could sort of forgive the lack of world building, because it read very much like a vague comic book setting (Bedlam seems a lot like Gotham). But though that type of vagueness doesn't bother me in superhero movies (I'm not a comic book reader so not sure how its handled there), it was hard for me to forgive in book form. The alternate names for cars and drugs were all little bit silly and made the story seem even more fantasy like. But if I had been sold on the rest of the book, I would not have minded the setting as much. 

As I said, The Brokenhearted does have some really great moments throughout (see below for my list of loves), and I especially liked the direction that the book takes in its final chapters. This book got better as soon as Ford and Jax were introduced, and scenes of Anthem awakening and using her powers were well written. I also enjoyed when the story focused on Anthem's new understanding of the politics and criminal activity of Bedlam. I only wish we gotten more of those ideas sooner. There's a really interesting revelation at the very end of the story that I thought was a great set up for the next book, if there is one. Actually, if the storyline continues in that direction, I would definitely consider picking it up, despite my disappointed reaction to this book. 

I loved: 
1) Every interaction between Anthem and Ford, Rufus or Serge. I also liked Anthem's friendship with Zahra. 

2) Visiting Hades, a really cool place that fascinated me and gave me the creeps.

3) The fact that Anthem is a ballerina. I loved the scenes where she dances and tests her limits. Those were beautiful and extremely well written, and a fantastic way to show the contrast between before and after. 

4) When Anthem starts getting angry and takes out the bad guys, vigilante style. I wish we'd gotten more of that plot direction. But it took a long time to get there.

5) I also really liked the general idea of this book. I thought some of the plot was great conceptually, and I like where anthem's journey brought her. The very end/set up for book two (if there is one) was fantastic - and one of the few elements that surprised me.

I wish: 
1) The buildup of Anthem's relationship with Gavin had been believable. That relationship sets the mood for the entire book, and because I never connected with it, I had a hard time emotionally connecting to Anthem. 

2) Will had been expunged from this book. He was a distracting presence/storyline. 

3) The world building had been stronger. I wish the setting had either been in a real US city, or the author had gone farther with this one, and created a larger world around Bedlam. 

4) We'd learned more about The Hope and what happened to him. That felt like a dropped storyline. If there is another book, I hope there's more about who/what he was. And the people who surrounded him. 

5) I wish I had enjoyed The Brokenhearted more. This is one of those books that has potential leaking off the page, and it could have been great with some subtractions and a few changes in focus. But, I'm afraid many people won't even make it past the first 75 pages. 

Love Triangle Factor: unconventional but Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Low. But end is a definite set up for another book. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How To Love
by Katie Cotugno
Read: June 11 - 12, 2o13
Published: October 1, 2013 by Balzer + Bray
Source: BEA - Thank You Harper Collins
Category: Contemporary YA

Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice. (From Goodreads)

I had this great plan when I got back from BEA* to chronologically work my way through the books I picked up. Then I was looking through them one day and picked up How to Love, thinking, "I'll just read the first chapter and see what this is all about." I couldn't put it down. The story of these two people and their messy, complicated relationship, climbed right inside of me, and I couldn't move from this book on until I lived inside of them and experienced their story for myself. 

How to Love is told in alternating chapters of Before and After, chronicling Reena and Sawyer’s chaotic love story in high school, and then after, when Sawyer returns from an unexplained 2-year absence. The two time periods are woven together seamlessly in a way that increases both the intensity of the heartbreak and the rush of falling in love. I hated both Reena and Sawyer at times, and I was incredibly proud of them in others. But I was completely immersed in their world the entire time I read, and I never stopped FEELING. 

Before: Reena's been in love with Sawyer since she was a child. She has two dreams in life, dating him and traveling the world. One of those two goals seems much more attainable than the other, and it isn't a relationship with Sawyer. And yet, after years of feeling invisible to him, all of a sudden Sawyer notices her, and they form an immediate and explosive connection. But how long do they have until it all blows up, and what will the damage look like? 

After: Reena is raising her daughter Hannah. She still dreams of getting away from her small town, but is learning to accept the life she's been given. Of course being head over heals in love with her daughter helps. What doesn't, is the judgement she still feels from her family for getting pregnant in the first place. But all of the settling she's worked so hard to achieve, disappears when Sawyer shows up back in town. 

Before: Reena and Sawyer's relationship is a mess. They make terrible decisions, and I could see it all slowly unraveling around them. I wanted to tell Reena to stay away from  Sawyer. That the boy she's loved all her life is't worth it. But I remember being there as a teen, and I was rooting for them despite the dread I felt watching them. These two have a lot of very big issues that they need to work through, although they ignore them. But I could still sympathize with both of them. Though I constantly wanted to yell at Reena "DON'T DO THAT!!!" I still liked her, and I could definitely relate to her. And despite everything, I was desperate for them to figure it out. 

After: What is great about this story is that while we are watching Reena and Sawyer fall in love for the first time, we simultaneously watch them reconnect again 3 years later. We see how they've changed and matured (and how they haven't). The contrast between the Before and After is incredible at times. It is breathtaking to see their transformation, and how well they fit the second time around. But healing takes time. These two have a lot of hurt between them, and some things can't be fixed. There were many times when I wondered if they'd ever be okay. 

I've read a lot of stories like How to Love, but I've never read one quite like this. What I mean is that the guy leaving his high school girlfriend unexplainably and then showing up unannounced years later is a popular theme. For some reason I'm drawn to stories of first loves finding each other again, but I've always found something about them lacking. Perhaps I'm just pettier than most, but usually, it's that I'm still angry at him when the girl is ready to forgive. How to Love hits all the emotional points that I needed to read. 

How to Love is an ode to first love. To being young and in love and making mistakes, but also what it means to grow up. This story is not about a girl saving a broken boy or vice versa. But it is about finding your own path, and how it changes both because of the choices you’ve made, and because of things out of your control. It is about holding on and letting go, and what it means to love and to forgive. And despite all the hurt and pain these characters cause themselves and each other, this story is about happiness and hope. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

*I know I sound like a broken record, highlighting BEA over and over again. I apologize for this. It really was one of the biggest events of my year. It's also where I received most of the books I've been reading this summer, and I just find myself wanting to talk about my experience getting them, as much as the books themselves. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Author Elizabeth Fama on why The Queen's Thief is her favorite + GIVEAWAY

The Summer Series Challenge is happening now! 
Hosted by Heather @ The Flyleaf Review
Lauren @ Love is not a triangle
Follow #serieschallenge

If you are already a fan of Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, I have a huge treat for you. Prepare yourself to fall in love with Gen and his world again.

If you haven't read these books yet, or *gasp* have never heard of them, it's time to jump on the train. 

Even more enticing, this is a guest post, written by Monstrous Beauty author Elizabeth Fama. Her insight and critical mind wows me every time, and her love for The Queen's Thief series is truly unique and inspiring. Plus, she's the nicest, most welcoming person ever.

Beth's enthusiasm for Gen and his story helped encourage me to read these books last December. They are now on the list of my forever favorites.

I'm thrilled to present Elizabeth Fama: 

NOTE: This post does contain some mild spoilers for the series, but none of the BIG ones are present. 

When Lauren invited me to write a post about any of the series I've loved--cheerfully assuming that I must have more than one--I felt a twinge of embarrassment. The truth is that I almost never read series in their entirety. I haven't even finished the Harry Potter series, which might actually be against the law for a young-adult writer.

My reading time has to serve double duty: I don't just read for pleasure, I also read for work. That means I read a lot of non-fiction for research, and I always read fiction with a critical eye: I'm studying the author's voice, characterization, setting, and plot, and asking, "What can I learn from this?" Most often I read the first book or two in a series and feel I've gleaned what I need. Even if I'd enjoy the subsequent books on a recreational basis, it's time to move on. So why is it that I've read all four books in Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series (some more than once)? It's because, quite simply, I continued to learn as I was reading. In fact, you can see Turner herself growing as she writes.

The Thief is a spare piece at around 68,500 words. That's the first thing you learn about Turner's style: every word counts. There's no fluff, and you need to concentrate in order to capture the nuance. The second thing you'll want to study is the opening--because this is how you get someone hooked in only a few pages. It's a deceptively quiet first chapter, but we immediately wonder: Why is the thief so mistrusted by the king that he's the only prisoner chained in his cell? Why is this royal adviser, the magus, interested in him? What treasure is so important that the king is conscripting the thief to steal it? Why did the thief brag with such assurance that he could escape from prison and then not do it? At the same time we see intriguing features of his character: he leaves the manacles on his hands even though he can slip out of them; before his arrest he apparently crawled at will, unnoticed, through the king's megaron without being detected; even when filthy and dominated, he sits in the finest, most comfortable chair in the magus's study; he notices everything, like feet standing behind a curtain, and the character of his interrogator, but seemingly doesn't act on it; he allows the magus to think he's dumb. Then there is the finesse of Turner's prose: how does a character, in first person, manage to keep so much of himself in reserve from readers, as if we can't be trusted yet? And the characterization: each player is fully fleshed out and beautifully flawed, like a real person. Eugenides (Gen) in particular is overly sensitive, passionately loyal, secretly insecure, full of bravado, with outsized skills that he uses with assuredness while still feeling unworthy. And finally, there's the subtlety of the relationships and Turner's unsurpassed ability to show emerging respect between people who are at odds with each other.

Pretty great, huh? But wait, now here's Book Two, The Queen of Attolia, and Turner tests herself--and us--by writing in third person. Oh, no! We're out of our beloved Gen's head! But now we're able to see multiple points of view--which we start to realize is essential to understanding the complex geo-political world Turner is developing. Irene, the queen of Attolia, is a real person, struggling with internal backstabbing, national interests, and personal emotions. We had already grown to love the queen of Eddis, but something becomes compelling about the wounded, guarded Attolia. And Turner does this by daring to slide gently into the POV of multiple characters in the same chapter--a technique that in other hands has the potential to remove us from the story. Here it's done so deftly that we instead see a counterpoint being established. In a kind of alternating dance, Gen is brooding about his wound and its deep implications, while Attolia is sleeping poorly and asking her ambassador for information from Eddis's court. "We begin to see," my friend Mark Flowers pointed out to me, "that Attolia is as obsessed with Gen as vice versa." And yet nothing is as simple as it seems, because only pages later we read:

[Nahuseresh:] "You could have killed this thief."
"I could have," Attolia agreed. "This has been as effective and more...satisfying." She was lying. She already wished that she'd killed Eugenides and been done with him.

Attolia apparently hates Gen, or more likely hates the very obsession we're witnessing bloom in her. These are complicated relationships evolving in front of us, and subtlety of emotion through economy of words is Turner's genius. Take for instance Gen's self-pity that he can no longer be a thief, and Eddis's awareness of it (and peculiar mix of empathy and intolerance), conveyed in five brief lines:

[Eddis] held out a hand, and he stepped down the stairs and across the throne room to take it and bow over it.
"My Queen," he said.
"My Thief," she answered.
He lifted his head. She squeezed his hand, and he forbore to argue with her.
"Dinner, I think," said the queen....

In Book Three, The King of Attolia, the narration switches again to be primarily from the point of view of--huh?--an unknown palace guard? Who the heck is Costis? But soon we see how clever this is: Costis doesn't trust Eugenides or like him; Gen has been forced on him, which we grow to realize is the metaphor for an entire country. Brilliant.

Finally, Book Four, A Conspiracy of Kings, is Sophos's story, the heir to Sounis, told mostly in first-person. The other characters are important players--and there’s a charming love story with obstacles--but we're squarely following Sophos's personal and political growth and the continuing overarching game of thrones (yes, I said it). My favorite part is, as usual, the masterful use of "more is less" in Turner's language; specifically, the way we see that Sophos is growing into a force to be reckoned with, even though he envisions himself as the boy who cried when his tutor smacked his fingers with a switch. Sophos says self-deprecating things like, "I screamed at them every curse I'd ever practiced when I was alone, trying to imitate the Thief of Eddis, but I doubt I sounded anything but hysterical." Meanwhile, he fails to internalize the fact that the slaver hired to kidnap him persists in calling him "lionhearted" and "lion," and street-tough men give him a wide berth. Sophos describes, but doesn't see, that he has to look down on almost everyone because of his new adult height. It's not until well into his own story that he realizes the "man-killer" moniker is not a misguided description of him; that he has in fact killed two men.

While writing this post I found myself re-reading portions of the series, surfacing a day later before I knew what had happened. Turner's work has that effect. As an author she seems to feed her own creative energy by experimenting with points-of-view, and by unfolding emotions and relationships sparely and subtly. The effect for readers is a journey that holds your attention, that challenges you to read carefully, that encourages repeated visits.

THANK YOU, Beth for that inspiring post! 
Now I want to go back and reread the series. 

*Keep scrolling for info on Beth's upcoming book and an awesome GIVEAWAY*

Elizabeth Fama is the author of 3 books. OVERBOARD (Cricket Books, 2002) was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, MONSTROUS BEAUTY was an Odyssey honor winner and on YALSA's 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Her upcoming novel, PLUS ONE will be published next spring by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).

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Elizabeth Fama's upcoming novel Plus One releases next spring! Although there's no cover yet, here's the Edelweiss description. I'm salivating already!

"Divided by day and night and on the run from authorities, star-crossed young lovers unearth a sinister conspiracy in this compelling romantic thriller. 

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.

Set in a vivid alternate reality and peopled with complex, deeply human characters on both sides of the day-night divide, Plus One is a brilliantly imagined drama of individual liberty and civil rights, and a fast-paced romantic adventure story."

Add Plus One to your Goodreads


One signed paperback copy of Monstrous Beauty

Just look at that beautiful new cover. 
The paperback edition of Monstrous Beauty releases October 1, 2013. 
If you win, your book will be mailed at that time. 

Don't forget to link up your August reviews! The month is quickly coming to a close. 

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