Book Blurb Breakdown: The Reader by Traci Chee

book blurb breakdown

Book Blurb Breakdown is a Sarcasm & Lemons feature where your anal English degree-holding author (gently) rips apart jacket blurbs to pin down what makes her want to pick up the book instantly--and what makes her want to throw it at the wall.  See the original post for more detail.  

If you'd like to do a breakdown, here's a snazzy little button!  Post your link in the comments. 

today's blurb

Status:  Unread

the blurb: as is 

from Goodreads

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible. 

the blurb:  shredded 

Sefia knows what it means to survive. (Sort of generic first line. Meh.) After her father is brutally murdered, (Okay, brutally murdered. We like brutally murdered.) she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. (What was she before, that she didn't know these things? I kind of want a sense of how much she's lost.) But when Nin is kidnapped, (Damn, this girl has bad luck.) leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. (This sentence is just oddly worded.  Too long, maybe?  I'd also like to get a sense earlier that the murder and kidnapping are connected.) The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize (Comes to realize?  Does a dictionary hit her in the head?) is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise (You don't need otherwise.) illiterate society. (Despite the clumsy beginning, this part really grabs me.  A world without books! OMG THE HORROR. I can't wait to see what Chee does with it.) With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own (Where the hell did he come from? Also, obvious romance. Sigh.), Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.  (Okay, this last sentence is definitely too long.  And lacking oomph.  Rescue.  Find out.  What happened.  Punish.  It's just lackluster.)   

the verdict 

2/5 stars
would i read it?:  yes 

This is a case where the content sold me more than the blurb.  If there wasn't that one detail--a book being a mysterious object in an illiterate society--I'd have passed right away.  Without the book thing, it's just another story about a girl who ends up on her own, trying to find her family and obviously falling in love with a mysterious stranger.  The book element makes it fresh and intrigues me enough that I'll read.  But the blurb itself is vague and a little clumsy.  Some of the sentences are too long.  There isn't enough unique detail.  You could slap most of this blurb onto several dozen other books and still be accurate.  There's also no distinctive voice.  Plus, the last line is just a bit draggy, where it should be clinching the reader's interest.  I just hope that the pages inside are a lot prettier and more exciting than the copy.    

your thoughts

Does this blurb grab you?  
Do you agree with my thoughts?  If not, how so?  
Have you read it?  Does the blurb match the pages? 
Do you have any recommendations for blurbs I should shred?  



ARC Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Crown's Game
author: Evelyn Skye
pages: 399
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0062422583
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 7.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas, Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie, and The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.  
Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love... or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear... the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

in depth

  • If you've been anywhere near the internet, you know that The Crown's Game has exploded in the YA world.  In fact, it hit the NYT bestseller list at #3 today!  For good reason.  Skye's debut is a fast-paced battle royale with backstabbing, trickery, a touch of whimsy, and scads of magic.  

  • Vika and Nikolai are Enchanters, the only ones of their kind.  Every Enchanter must serve the Tsar--but the well of magic is limited and, in true Highlander fashion, there can only be one.  Hence, the game.  The victor pledges their powers to the glory of Russia.  The loser dies, surrendering their hold on magic.  

  • While I had a few issues with the premise at first--really, they can't just both be Enchanters?--I began to understand the fear of these people.  With magic being a limited resource, power would be split between two people who could do weaker spells than one person using all the magic at once.  Thin, maybe, but governments have devised crazier contests under more asinine assumptions.  It's the biggest flaw.  Accept it, and the adventure is well worth the effort.  

  • There is an immediate feeling of old world high magic and fairy stories, of Ella Enchanted and Diana Wynne Jones.  Vika races through the forest, freezing ponds and fending off felled trees with firebombs.  Nikolai scrapes at the feet of his oppressive benefactor.  Prince Pasha sneaks around the docks at night, pretending at the freedom of the commoners.  There's even a bakery shaped like a pumpkin.  Skye writes with a clear, graceful style that brings each scene to dreamlike life.  

  • If that's not enough, Skye's command of Russian history and culture is so exact that you feel transported.  

  • Against this enchanting backdrop is the deceptive prettiness of the game.  Vika and Nikolai paint the capitol in magical colors, create spectacular living puppet displays, change the very land, but death waits for them at the end--or the middle.  What I loved is that even though they don't want to hurt each other, they still want to save their own skin.  Between magical feats, they devise ever cleverer and deadlier schemes to murder each other, and they truly mean it.  It's no sportsmanlike romp.  

  • Their cutthroatedness makes them realistic, and their other qualities make them admirable.  Vika is as fiery as her hair, wild, full of energy and grand ideas and mischief.  Nikolai lives in his head, inventing and tinkering; he's soft spoken, genteel, and compassionate to a fault.  Between them is Pasha, dashing and charmingly childlike.  There is no clear winner.  No best outcome.  

  • Skye entrances you at first with the delight of the competition, with balls and flirtations, and then wrenches out the light piece by piece.  People die.  There are betrayals.  There are dangerous, otherwordly threats and enemies abroad that force Vika and Nikolai to think beyond the game, to the good of all Russia.  And there's a final showdown, an ending that will pierce you right through the heart and leave you weeping for the sequel.  

  • And for the record, I miss the little Vika from the cover.  What gives!? 

in a sentence

The Crown's Game blends folklore and ferocity into a fantastical game of cat and mouse that enchants and cuts deeply.  


will i read this author again?  Yes, I already own a couple of hers 
will i continue the series?  N/A 

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


ARC Review: Blog Tour: SST: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Outrun the Moon
author: Stacey Lee
pages: 400
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0399175411
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of everything Cat Winters (e.g. Steep and Thorny Way), Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and other intricate historical fiction with strong friendships.
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can't sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the 'bossy' cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

I'm so excited to be hosting today's Sunday Street Team stop for the fabulous Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee!  Don't forget to check out ReadWriteLove for information on the other stops, giveaways, and more SST fun!  

in depth

  • This is my first Stacey Lee book, and it won't be my last.  Outrun the Moon is a gorgeous, gritty tapestry of San Francisco in the early 1900s, checkerboarded with ethnic ghettoes and the upper class silo of Knob Hill.  It's the story of a bright, ambitious Chinese teenager, and it's the story of Chinatown, of the Chinese immigrants and their precarious balancing between their traditional culture and the pressure of American assimilation.  

  • Mercy is compelling from the start.  She's fiery and vibrant but not without deference to the parents who have given her so much.  Her voice is wistful, flighty, canny.  She recognizes the grimness of her culture's station in American society, but hopes and fights for more.  Her courage and persistence land her a spot in the prestigious whitebread St. Clare's boarding school for girls, where the fun begins.  

  • The first half of the book is very much a boarding school adventure.  Mercy is pretending to be a Chinese heiress--that means faking an accent, making up some traditional ceremonies, and laughing behind her eyes while the other girls soak up her stories.  It means biting her lip when the other girls sling racism at her and finding tricksy ways to get even.  

  • It also means friendship.  Lee's cast is multifaceted and rich, never stooping to white saviors or one-dimensional bigots.  The same girls who spew hatred at Mercy learn to respect her.  The girls who grow to care for her begin by keeping their distance.  Mistakes are made and some people harden their hearts; others learn.  Mercy builds a camaraderie with many of the girls that is not untouched by their differences in ethnicity and status, but which slowly grows into something deeper and more lasting.

  • It's also hysterical at times, especially Mercy's pranks and clever, subtle ways of rebellion.  

  • Then, there is act two.  The earthquake.  Lee vividly portrays the devastation until you can almost feel the dust and smoke in your throat.  The tone seamlessly transitions from schoolgirl daydreams into brutality, tragedy, and narrow survival.  Lee doesn't pull punches.  There were parts that broke my heart.  

  • In the midst of this, Mercy is the beacon of strength.  The same drive that got her a spot at St. Clare's keeps her on her feet when so many around her are foundering.  She organizes temporary shelter, protects the other girls from the post-disaster turmoil, and through her own terror and grief, manages to bring the broken survivors together, to bring them hope.  The friendships forged between Mercy and the St. Clare's girls, their intimacy and care for one another, is the best case I've seen for more focus on friendships in YA.  

  • All told, it's an uplifting and heart-wrenching book, beautifully and intricately written.  Lee's attention to detail opens up new worlds for the reader and makes the past seem as vivid as the present.  While historical San Francisco is fascinating, I loved the parts about Chinese culture the best.  Lee portrays the 1900s immigrant experience lovingly and unflinchingly, leaving out nothing:  the laundries, the fortune telling, the poverty, the seclusion, the community.  

  • Whether you're a historical fiction junkie or not, Lee's masterful story--and its striking protagonist--will trap you in its world.  

in a sentence

Outrun the Moon is a vivid tale of tragedy's ability to transcend petty divides, of friendship, and of one girl's remarkable spirit.    


will i read this author again?  Yes yes yes, already have Painted Sky! 
will i continue the series?  N/A 

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Who Wore It Better, Covers: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios vs Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

who wore it better             book covers

Books have so many options when they dress for their big debut, but sometimes, they end up wearing very similar styles.  In the vein of all my favorite trashy Hollywood magazines... 

who wore it better?  

i'll meet you there vs kissing in america  

c.j.'s vote 

Both books deal with tough stuff and kissing, and both decided to don a staple of Americana:  the old-school roadside Vegas-style light-up motel sign.  IMYT lays over a sunset/sunrise background that fades to blue; KIA takes a darker, faded out-West photo.  Both accessorized with arrows, but IMYT goes with a faded primary color scheme, while KIA jazzes it up with punchy pink and cyan.

It's a tough call, but I'm going with KIA on this one.  The sharp angles and huge presence of KIA's signage scream "Look at me!" and the blurb at the top is a cute touch.  It feels in-your-face.  There's movement.  IMYT is just a little too lackadaisical with all the signs on a horizontal plane, static, and leaving tons of sky-filled dead space.  If I were walking in a store, I'd pick up KIA first.  

the winner:  kissing in america

Which cover wins?  Are there similar covers you think did it better?  

Who wore it better?

I'll Meet You There
Kissing in America
Quiz Maker


Review: Ensnared by A.G. Howard

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Ensnared
author: A.G. Howard
pages: 420
format: Hardcover
isbn/asin: 978-1419712296
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Alice in Wonderland (duh), Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, and other lush, strange young adult fantasies.
After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world—-a parallel dimension filled with mutated and sadistic netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But even if everyone succeeds and comes out alive, can they all truly have their happily ever after?

in depth

  • I put this one off, because I wasn't ready to let my netherling darlings go, but at some point I just couldn't wait anymore.  It was a sad but satisfying goodbye.  At the end of Unhinged, we left Alyssa and her dual worlds in shambles.  Friends were missing.  Mothers were trapped.  The lines between Earth, Wonderland, and the mirror world were fracturing.  

  • Ensnared begins at that very moment of ending and races breakneck and frantic to a stunning conclusion.  I'm glad that I re-read Splintered and Unhinged beforehand, because I enjoyed the third installment that much more.  Not that Ensnared was complicated; it just brought together so many threads, alluded to so many teasing foreshadowings, that having those past events in mind made the twists and revelations just a little extra spectacular.  

  • Without giving too much away, I can tell you that Ensnared doubles down on the darkness and violent delights of the first two.  Wonderland is in shambles and Alyssa is plunged into the depravity, corruption, and lunacy that is the mirror world.  Howard leads her heroine through disturbed and vividly portrayed nightmarescapes that tantalize the imagination.  

  • There are betrayals, lost boys, battles against friends and self and one's most dangerous desires.  Paintings come to life and old fairytale friends are monstrously reborn.  For Alyssa, victory means choosing between the wildness of her netherling heart and the quiet strength of her aboveworld self.  Her family and her destiny.  

  •  The fantastical scenery, twisted logic, and harrowing plot would be enough, but the characters bring it to life.  Alyssa is the same spunky, reckless badass as before, but she's developed a mature sense of sacrifice, a thoughtfulness that comes with holding a world in your hands.  She is madness tempered by reason, impulsivity colored with compassion.  

  • And Jeb and Morpheus are the living forms of her extremes, but they're also their own people, entwined with Alyssa but not wholly beholden to her.  Jeb's softness has become hard, embittered by betrayal.  He must learn to accept and channel his darkness before it consumes them all.  Morpheus is sly and manipulative as ever, but his love for Alyssa and for Wonderland forces him into a nobler role than he'd care to admit.  We also fully meet Alyssa's parents and delve into the head of the Red Queen, whose evil hides a rich soul with shadowed corners.  

  • The romance?  I'll let you decide.  I normally hate love triangles, but the Alyssa-Morpheus-Jeb triangle actually works.  It's a concrete representation of Alyssa's twin souls, each wanting something different, both her but not quite integrated.  It makes sense.  (And Morpheus would be a walking red flag as an Earth boy, but different rules apply in the netherling world, and hopefully teens understand that.)  

  • All this magic and wonder is wrapped up in Howard's succinctly beautiful writing.  It's heavily teenage flavored, more authentic in that way than most of the contemporaries I've read.  Alyssa is 100% believable as a high schooler who skateboards and skips school.  But it's also gilded with a subtle, mad beauty, a fairy tale sheen that fills the reader with the bubbly hilarity of something other and wondrous.  

  • And the end.  A little abrupt, perhaps, but Howard managed to blow me away--straight into book hangover land.  Seriously.  Most underrated series of the last decade. 

  • It's a series I know I'll re-read...again.  Already my heart aches for Howard's nightmarish, Dali-esque Wonderland.  I don't know what I'll do after Untamed.  Probably make myself a set of corpse-blue wings and fly, fly away to wherever Morpheus is hiding.  Beyond the mirror.  

in a sentence

Ensnared is a thrilling, satisfying conclusion to one of the most viciously beautiful Wonderland reimaginings ever written, a true gem of young adult fantasy.  


will i read this author again?  Give me Untamed and RoseBlood! 
will i continue the series?  I'll read Untamed when I can't wait anymore. And then I'll be despondent again.  

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Start of Me and You
author: Emery Lord
pages: 384
format: Hardcover
isbn/asin: 978-1419718953
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 9/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios, You Were Here by Cori McCarthy, and other uplifting contemporaries with a bite.
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

in depth

  • This was my first Emery Lord read (although the second I reviewed), and it won me over in spades.  (Do people say that?)  If you've seen her tweets, bright and vibrant and black witted and mischievous, then you'll have a good idea what this book is like. 

  • If you're looking for a sweet contemporary with more edge than you'd expect, lots of geekery, nerdpower galore, and literary references (*cough*Jane Austen*cough*), you've found your soulmate.  I'd call it a romance because I suppose it is, but it's so much more.  It's a high school story, a mental health story, a girl trying to figure herself out story.  It's fun and frothy--but never sickly sweet--and laugh-out-loud and swoony and also dark and soul-crunching and sober.  Lord has a way of encapsulating a slice of time in all its facets, in a way that sparks the imagination and memory.   

  • This book has everything that so many other YA books miss out on.  There's a huge emphasis on family.  Paige has a close relationship with her grandma, who helps her find herself.  She confides in her mother, jokes around with her father--and has to deal with the fact that they're dating in secret, years after their divorce.  These pieces are big, important parts of the story, not just a few lines thrown in to remind you she's not an orphan.  

  • And friends!  Paige, Morgan, Kayleigh, and Tessa have such a strong bond.  It reminds me so much of my friends in high school or college.  Like us, they know each others pasts, flaws, favorite ice cream and least favorite nail polish.  They fight and get snippy, but it's never forever.  And when the boys enter the picture, Paige's friends are part of it, along for the ride, not shunted to the side.  

  • And yes, of course, there are boys.  I'm such a sucker for cute nerds, and even more of a sucker for high school romance where sex isn't in the picture yet.  Because I was a high schooler who, well, didn't date, but even if I had, I know I wouldn't have been ready for that.  So it's refreshing and vindicating to see girls in YA who were like me.  Because I know there are girls out there now who feel the same way, and want to see themselves represented too.  

  • Back to the boys.  Did I mention that Max instantly became one of my top 5 book boyfriends after an excerpt I read?  One about denial.  Swoon.  Cough.  Go read it.  You'll know what I mean.  He's tall and a little gawky and a total brainiac (like, Quiz Bowl brainiac) and he flirts with Jane Austen references and coffee and utterly disarming sarcasm.  Teenage-me would have been 99,000% percent in love. (Yeah, that's a thing.)  Oh, but Paige is focused on Ryan, because he was her crush, and now he's her chance to get back to normal.  As time goes on, she and Max and Ryan all become friends, plus her friends, and they get to know each other so much more deeply than just quick kisses and ceaseless crushing.  

  • With a dark undertone.  Paige needs to feel normal because over the summer, her boyfriend died.  Tragedy of the ages, right?  Yes, and no.  They'd been dating for two months.  Over the book, Paige struggles with her grief, but also her shame and uncertainty.  Is she allowed to feel sad?  Is she allowed to feel not totally destroyed?  Is she now just the girl-whose-boyfriend-died before she really even got to know him as a boyfriend?  Is she ever going to be able to go near water again without her heart wrenching itself out of her rib cage?  

  • This book is so much, so rich and layered in a short space.  It's Paige absolutely not, no freaking way falling for Max.  It's her learning to trust her friends, but also learning to be herself, whether that's Quiz Bowl or pastel nailpolish or late-night calls with grandma.  It's her reimagining her family, letting new people into her heart, letting go. 

  • And it's also a lot of crazy birthday parties, bookstore flirting, spin the bottle, almost-kisses, accidental betrayals, and reparations.  It's written in a lively, funny, snarky style that draws you firmly into Paige's head.  

  • And Max.  Where do I get one of those?  

in a sentence

The Start of Me and You is a story about first loves, first losses, unexpected loves, real friendships, and lovingly dysfunctional families.  It's Jane Austen nicknames and swimming in the deep end.  It's high school.  


will i read this author again?  Already have!  
will i continue the series?  As much as this book stand alone, I secretly wouldn't mind some more Paige and Max.  Maybe a novella. 

Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


ARC Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Lie Tree
author: Frances Hardinge
pages: 384
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-1419718953
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Shadows of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis, and other dark, atmospheric historical mystery.
To earn a secret so profound, I would need to tell momentous lies, and make as many people as possible believe them…

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered—a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing—like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies—like fires, wild and crackling—quickly take on a life of their own.

in depth

  • A mysterious island.  A scientist in disgrace.  A rebellious daughter.  A tree that trades truth for lies.  It's a setup for a supernatural historical mystery worthy of Cat Winters, but with Frances Hardinge's own flair.  

  • Even if you don't love historicals, this one will satisfy your craving for a good twisty mystery.  When Faith's father dies, she knows it's a murder but she can't prove it--certainly not without revealing her father's secret tree.  But everyone else is keeping secrets too, and Faith's journey to solve the crime is thrilling, full of twists and so many suspects that you'll be guessing until the end.  Unless you're cleverer than me, I guess, in which case good for you.  

  • If you do like historicals, you'll really appreciate the attention to detail.  Hardinge brings the 1800s to jarring life, and it's the little details that really smack of authenticity.  Training corsets.  Animal magnetism theory.  Church boxes and sinner's funerals.  Her command of 19th century culture and language would make Jane Austen proud, but it's still accessible enough for a modern reader.  

  • There's no "mysterious boy"!  Seriously, when was the last time you read a good exciting young adult novel where the focus wasn't on romance?  Faith doesn't have time for that crock.  She's too busy going around being a badass spy and using her womanly invisibility to trick the culprits into revealing themselves.  

  • Seriously, Faith is awesome.  At 14, she's younger than your average YA heroine but precocious, mature for her age.  She's clever and ambitious, and heartbreakingly desperate for her father's approval.  There's also a sinister side to her, a side that uses her cleverness to concoct lies that spiral and damage and ruin.  And she may feel sorry, but she won't stop until she gets the truth.  I really relished her hardheartedness.  Gotta love a good character flaw.   

  • And the other characters are fabulous, so multilayered and fantastically Regency.  There's Paul, the mischievous and malicious curate's son with a love of the macabre and a softer heart than he shows.  Faith's mother, vain and superior but cleverer than anyone credits her.  Faith's father, brilliant and cold behind the pastor's cloth.  the other naturalists, variously scheming and bumbling and abrasive.  


  • It's like a game of Clue!  Was it the conniving brother-in-law?  The bedraggled wife?  The jealous naturalists?  Or was it suicide caused by shame?  It'll haunt you in your dreams (literally, if you're me).  

  • Bad things happen to good people. 

  • Seriously, when was the last time you read a book about a tree that feeds on lies!?  If you're looking for something well-written, fast-paced, magnetically absorbing, and completely out of the ordinary, you've got to get your hands on it.  

in a sentence

This Lie Tree is a sparkling, sinister mystery that captures the imagination with a twisty mystery, macabre atmosphere, and surprising magic.  


will i read this author again?  Yes, I already own a couple of hers 
will i continue the series?  N/A 

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Top Ten Tuesday: Ten childhood characters I need to re-meet when they're all growed up

top ten tuesday                chars

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

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I'd dream of sequels, but they'd probably be awful. Except for Cursed Child which I'm super scared/excited for. And what's with all these new covers!? 

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis

In my version, she ends up going back to Narnia and everybody lives happily ever after.  So I do want to catch up with her and the Pevensies, but only if it goes the way I want because SERIOUSLY WHY. 

Cat Chant 
Chronicles of Chrestomanci - Diana Wynne Jones 

We get to see Christopher as both a kid and later as the Chrestomanci, but Cat is an eternal kid.  I'm dying to see how badass and adorably sheepish Cat is as Chrestomanci with all that power and fake-sister.  Romance?  Or is that creepy?  


Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 

Come on, wouldn't it be awesome to see what Alice is like in her 20s, kicking ass and taking names and ruling Wonderland as high queen or something?  ...Just gonna go write a book now.  Don't mind me.  


Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer 

I was in love with Artemis as a tween because I have a soft spot for brilliant, snarky anti-heroes.  Can you imagine him as an adult, going all sexy super villain but secretly hero business giant on the world!?  And come on, wasn't there a thing with Holly?  There were so many hints.  

Lyra and Will 
His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman 

After that ending, Pullman owes us some answers about the later lives of our heroes.  How did they rebuild their worlds?  Surely Lyra didn't just stop being a badass after the whole dust incident cleared.  And maybe there's a way between worlds after all?  

Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky 

I realize half the charm of this book is its wayward teenage-ness, but I would totally love to see college-age Charlie in a darker, Bret Easton Ellis sort of finding himself narrative.  Or, ya know, him just being happy.  

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick 

Speaking of wayward youth, I want an update on Leonard.  I bet there are dark times ahead for him, but the kind that he can overcome valiantly and a little clumsily in a darkly comedic sort of way.  (Okay, I cheated a little. I read this recently. I just didn't read stuff like Little House, okay!?) 

Will and the Drews 
The Dark is Rising Sequence - Susan Cooper 

This is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES and not enough people have experienced its brilliance!  It's Harry Potter and Narnia meets King Arthur.  And I ache to know what happened to my beloved children of the light after the prophecy came to be and the dark retreated.  They  haunt me.  

Pony Boy 
The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton 

Seriously, does this kid grow up okay?  Does he get over all the horror and the gang craziness?  DOES HE STAY GOLDEN!?  

The Baudelaires 
A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket 

I mean, seriously, did these kids get a break?  Did Violet marry Duncan?  Did Sunny become a master chef?  Did Klaus invent the world's next iPad and make genius babies with Isadora?  I MUST KNOW THESE THINGS.