Release-Day Review: “Bai Tide” by Erika Mitchell

BAI CoverI couldn’t be more excited to finally be sharing my review of “Bai Tide,” by my good blog-friend and author extraordinaire Erika Mitchell. Erika and I have been in correspondence since she published her first book, PWNED, and I am always on tenterhooks waiting for her next release.

Erika writes thrillers for those of us that wouldn’t necessarily characterize ourselves as thriller-readers. If I was stranded at an airport and forced to choose between the latest sugary YA Vampwolf Saga or Steve Berry, you can guess which way I’d go.

All that was definitely turned on its ear when I started reading Erika’s work. She takes characters from unlikely circumstances (A professional StarCraft player and an accountant among them) and allows them to grow into the protagonists that she needs. Bai Hsu is her first “typical secret agent,” but even his assignment in the beginning of the novel is far from mundane.

We pick up shortly after “Blood Money,” with Bai on assignment at a private Girls’ School for the daughters of high profile political figures in California. Erika makes good use of the humor of the situation off the bat, with Bai making multiple remarks about his undercover work mixed with the more mundane aspects of his cover as a gym teacher.

As an undercover counterintelligence operative, however, it was a matter of no little concern that I hadn’t caught and questioned the man who’d blown up a car to get away clean. I’d need to phone in to headquarters about this one and do a little digging, to say nothing of the inevitably unpleasant conversation I was going to have to have with [the headmistress] about why I’d failed.

All that and a volleyball tournament next Friday. It was shaping up to be a busy week.” (pg 4)

The action in this book doesn’t take long to kick off- from the first page you’re thrown in and scrambling along with Bai as he attempts to find out who on Earth would break into the school’s Welcome Formal and what their motives are. The plot is far from crystalline, though. There are some clever side plots involving other teachers and students at the school thrown in for interest. There’s even a thorny bit of romance for those of us who tend to lean more toward books with more kissing than butt-kicking in them.

The story is populated with a number of convincing characters, with distinct mannerisms and backstories. A particular highlight to me was Agnes, the headmistress of the school, who I immediately pictured as an “M” from James Bond (Most recently played by Dame Judi Dench).

The similarities to Bond don’t just end there though- Erika creates a twisty villain on par with some of the Bond villains, were there are far more dangerous motives lying beneath a pleasant façade. I wanted to keep reading, but at the same time almost wanted to look away for fear of what would happen when the end fireworks began.

For fear of giving away too much of the plot, I won’t say more, but definitely need to give props to the writing itself. I’m always in awe of just how much research goes into books, and it makes it that much more impressive when you’re in contact with the author and can picture her poring over martial arts styles and international airport terminal layouts. The challenge of getting a character from plot point a to plot point b is confusing enough without having to know the architecture of Beijing international and the perks of particular firearms. I think it’s fabulous that she’s managed to avoid some TSA watchlists, to be honest. 😉

In all seriousness, the action sequences are impressive, with great descriptions of hand to hand combat. Erika clearly did her research to make the fight sequences exciting, and not a standard recitation of “kick kick kick punch punch ow blood.” She also writes very well from the point of view of a cocky CIA agent. It was fun to get to know Bai a little better, and to see some vulnerability from him as well. He’s an entertaining hero with a young voice who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Though he’s obviously an elite agent, he’s far from stuffy and his internal monologue is relatable for a younger generation of readers looking to venture into espionage thrillers for the first time.

Also, a certain blogger that you’re familiar with may or may not make a very well-dressed cameo appearance as a junior officer at the San Diego field office, and gets to flirt with Bai just a leeeeeeetle bit.

I was not blushing, I swear.

Ok, I was. Book crushes, for the win.

By the way, if you think I’m finished talking about “Bai Tide,” you’d be sadly mistaken. I have some more fun posts in store, including the first in a new series I’m hoping to start and an interview with Ms. Mitchell herself to coincide with the paperback release. I have all kinds of surprises up my sleeve!

As the weather is starting to FINALLY warm up, download your copy of “Bai Tide” and enjoy some early summer reading! You’ll be just as hooked as I was!

Bai Tide is available every downloadable books are sold- Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play. There’s even a giveaway right now over on GoodReads.

Also, pop over to Erika’s blog today for some more trivia about the hottest new superspy around. 😉

When Katniss Met Bella… Or Something?

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawaimmortal rules

Book Description: (from Amazon)

In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

It’s official, Interwebs… I have gone to “The Dark Side.” While my primary preferred method of reading is definitely real physical books, I have to admit to installing the Kindle and iBooks apps to our iPad, and making liberal use of both lately.

A great deal of my reading this winter has been of the smut variety… Two Nora Roberts Trilogies, in fact. While they may be wonderfully escapist and make great entertainment for the time I spend on the elliptical, I don’t find myself particularly inspired to write reviews about them. If you’re looking for a fun diversion during the rainy spring months, don’t hesitate to check out the Irish Born trilogy and The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. I particularly enjoyed my time spent with the feisty Concannon clan in County Clare.

The one perk of having an e-reader is that I can finally make use of the fantastic resources out there for book bloggers, and can finally make good use of having signed up for Netgalley. In preparation for the release of The Eternity Cure (on April 30!!), Netgalley had The Immortal Rules available for download this month. I’m really not sure how I let this one slip under my radar… Perhaps it was a bit of YA Fatigue, and seeing yet another angsty-face cover didn’t make me inclined to give it a second look during my book-buying jaunts?

In any event, I am SORRY Julie Kagawa. I will never stray again. Plus, great call on the new paperback cover. It is bitchin’.

For the first time in a few months, I’ve found myself talking about a book and its heroine. As I mentioned, I was starting to weary of the YA dystopian heroine, who all too frequently falls in and lets her story happen TO her. Allie Sekemoto is the exact opposite of this, and would belong more in the company of Katniss Everdeen than Bella Swan. In attempting to explain this book to Army Boy, I actually referenced both characters.

“It’s like… The Hunger Games meets Twilight… only Allie is Edward… and the world is more like The Passage, with crazy vampires running around killing indiscriminately instead of being veggie-vamps or whatever the Cullens were…”

Allie is an UnRegistered living in the vampire city of New Covington, where every day is a struggle to stay alive and to remain under the radar of the city’s vampire officials. After finding a cache of food one day, Allie brings her gang outside the city walls, with disastrous results for all involved.

Forced to leave her old life behind, the reader is caught up as Allie learns about her new life from her sire, and struggles to come to terms with being what she most despised. She’s got spunk, and is determined not to lose her humanity, no matter how difficult that may become. Her loyalty to the human race could be her undoing, and her affection for Zeke continually tests her. She’s a character that the reader both admires and empathizes with, because at heart she’s still a scrappy teenaged girl who allows herself to care too much about the “wrong” people.

Best of all, Julie Kagawa doesn’t write “down” to her audience. She doesn’t rely on some of the clichés that running rampant through the YA genre right now (Love Triangle, I’m looking at you!), and instead gives us a story that’s both epic in scale and personal for Allie. I’m thrilled that I was able to go right into The Eternity Cure.

Five out of Five Kitanas.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Bite-Sized” Edition

Well hello,  Interwebs!  Oh, I’ve missed all of your lovely faces! We’re finally back in working-computer business here at the Casa, so my brief hiatus is over. I’ve been reading like a fiend (thanks to some downtime in training classs… which is now over, le boo.), and not able to write nearly as many reviews as I’ve read, so I wanted to crank out a couple of mini-reviews to get myself caught up.

Hopefully I can get back on the ball and return to my regularly scheduled posting.

“Tigers in Red Weather” – Lisa Klaussmann

I admit to primarily choosing this book because of the setting- I have a soft spot for anything that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Having spent time there during the summers as a little Brooke, there are very few places that I love more. Just the name can evoke so many wonderful memories. Something about being able to picture the environment so clearly in my head makes the story come a live that much more vividly. There’s something about the New England Islands that gets into your blood and stays there, as one of the characters astutely remarks: “I think it’s in the genes, salt water. Whether you like it or not.” There’s a certain blue to the sky and bite to the air that you can’t find in any other places, and it’s the perfect setting for this fever dream of a novel.

The thing that’s so remarkable about this book is the plotting- Lisa Klaussmann nails it, introducing her characters and their motivations gradually, so the build to the climax is gradual and allows the feeling of dread to build up beautifully. Something  in the characters’ world is verrry wrong, and you will keep breathlessly turning pages to find out what it is.

Five out of five perfect martinis.

“Crossed”~ Ally Condie

It took me quite a while to be motivated to pick up the second book in this series, and now I remember why. It’s just mediocre. The writing wasn’t good enough to keep me caring about the characters, and the plot was far too commonplace- “two characters in love are on a journey to find each other, testing their limits and taking most of the book before they find each other only to immediately get in a fight and eff it up. And then they make up and unforeseen circumstances separate them again. Look out for the love triangle!” Yawn.

Two pages of poetry.

“Uglies/Pretties”~ Scott Westerfeld

I have no idea why I didn’t pick up this series until now. I honestly think that I was put off by the covers/titles enough to avoid them completely. “Uglies” was a pleasant surprise- Tally lives in a dystopian society in which you are “cured” of being ugly at age 16. She’s missing her best friend Peris, who was two months older than her, and is spending her days killing time until she can have her operation. She meets a new friend Shay, who opens Tally’s eyes to the possibility of remaining “ugly”, and questioning a society that places so much value on appearance. When Shay escapes to the wild, Tally is recruited to find her or risk being “ugly” forever.

Oh, and then “Pretties” happened… and the YA curse appeared and made me lose interest in reading the third book. Tally has finally become Pretty, and spends her nights partying with all of her new Pretty friends. She’s been reunited with Peris, is bff with Shay, and has caught the eye of the mysterious Zane. Everything seems pretty perfect until she meets a mysterious masked stranger at a costume ball, and she remembers her real reason for becoming “Pretty.” The rest of the book struck me as convoluted and a bit overdramatic.  See my issues with “Crossed” above. 😉 A potentially fascinating subplot is introduced, only to be interrupted by the ending. Which I  haaaaaaaaaaated.

Uglies: Four out of five hoverboards.

Pretties: Three out of five bungee jackets.

“Day After Night” ~ Anita Diamant

After “The Red Tent,” I’ll read anything written by Anita Diamant. While this book didn’t quite grab me the same way, her talent with historical fiction can’t be denied. Based on a true story, the book follows four women who have survived the Nazis only to be kept in a British detainment camp in Palestine. Each character reveals her experiences during the war slowly, gradually coming to terms with the reality of being one of the “lucky” people who survived when everyone they cared about was lost. Watching them gradually find joy again was both hopeful and bittersweet, and simple moments caught me completely off guard with their emotional depth.

Four out of five loaves of challah.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Here There Be Dragons” Edition

Seraphina~ Rachel Hartman

Book Description (From Amazon): Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Soundtrack: “Ave Maris Stella”~ Otto Olsson

So much of the book revolves around Seraphina’s relationship with music, and this gorgeous choral piece came to mind immediately.

After reading about this book in a recent issue of “Shelf Awareness,” I was beyond excited to snag a copy from the library.

In a country where there is an uneasy truce between humans and dragons, Seraphina has spent her entire life attempting to hide her true identity.  Turning her considerable musical talents to a position as the assistant to the court composer, she is unable to evade notice for long.

When a member of the royal family is killed, and the murder appears to have been commited by a dragon, Seraphina finds herself dragged into the investigation and forging unlikely relationships along the way.

It is not exaggeration to say that I LOVED this book. Seraphina’s character is so richly imagined that she practically leaps off the page. The reader sharply feels her turmoil at reconciling her public and private lives. She’s a very typical young woman, wanting to feel beautiful and valued but believing herself unworthy of those things. Seeing her explore her unique talents and realize that what makes her different also makes her remarkable is fantastic.

While Seraphina herself is reason enough to read this book, I can’t do it a disservice by neglecting to mention the supporting characters.  Each of them is challenged in some way by their role in society- Prince Lucian is contracted to marry his cousin regardless of his personal wishes, Orma finds himself fighting his very nature when it comes to loving his niece, and Seraphina’s father is an expert in the law despite having broken it himself long ago.  The mythology is developed to a wonderful degree.  Ms Hartman developed a unique class of dragons, with their own quirks, emotional characteristics and habits. She’s given the human residents of her world their own caste rules, prejudices and religious system.

In the case of this book I would even be tempted to break my own rule regarding YA series. Though the ending resolved the plot well, I wouldn’t have been opposed to spending a lot more time with Seraphina and following her as she and Kiggs move forward and prepare for a potential war between the humans and the dragons. I didn’t do a great deal of searching, but if I were to read that Rachel Hartman was planning a sequel, it wouldn’t cause any gnashing of teeth on my part.  There’s music, there’s romance, and plenty of intrigue to keep you turning pages until the end.

Five out of Five Ivory Flutes.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: Sentimental Edition

“Sisterhood Everlasting”~ Ann Brashares

Book Description (from Amazon):

“On the cusp of turning thirty, Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget are now living
separate lives, out on their own. Yet despite having jobs and men that they
love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained
them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but
misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but
still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her
longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to
settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness. Then Tibby
reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a
reunion that they all breathlessly await.

And indeed, it will change their lives  forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.”

Soundtrack: “Both Sides Now”~ Joni Mitchell

Love, in all of its many forms, has always been a key topic of the Sisterhood Books. This one is no exception, only it’s a bit more bittersweet this time around.

Best Enjoyed With: A cold beer and a brownie. Preferably to share.

I have to admit to some sentimentality when it came to choosing this book. I’d read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants when it came out, and loved the four Septembers in their first appearance. Likewise, I enjoyed both of the movie adaptations. I’ve kept up with the books over the years, even as I grew older and the characters became “too young” for me.

Ann Brashares returns to her girls ten years after the events in the last books. They’ve all pursued life paths true to character- Carmen is a successful actress, Lena teaches art, and Bee floats wherever the wind takes her. The only mystery to the girls is Tibby, who moved away to Australia with Brian when his software design took off. They’re overjoyed to receive letters from her with an invitation to a reunion in Santorini, and each girl knows that it’s been far too long since she’s spent time with her best friends.

**Spoiler Alert! If you intend to read this book, stop here. I tried to write this review multiple times, but found it impossible to discuss some of the themes without revealing this one important plot point**- One of the girls dies tragically early in the story, and a letter she leaves behind indicates that her death was not an accident.

I admit to getting pissed off at Ms Brashares at that point. How could she possibly continue the story after making a plot choice like that?! And why create such seemingly unnecessary drama in something that was supposed to be a “light” read full of friendship and love?

Trust me, she has her reasons.

The tragedy forces each of the characters to deal with grief in her own way. For one, it’s running off the rails and once again coming to terms with the sadness in her own past. For one, it’s throwing herself into planning a wedding she doesn’t necessarily want. For the last, it’s cocooning herself even further into the solitude she’s cloaked herself in, to the point of pushing away anyone who would try to help her.

Rather than pulling the girls closer together, their sadness drives them apart. Each feels that trying to cope in the presence of the others would magnify her own sadness, and each blames herself for the loss of one of them.

I know, I’m making this sound like a real downer, but trust me, it is a gorgeous book and a very fitting end to the story of the Septembers. It’s a lovely examination of the ruts that we can fall into in life, and that the people we allow ourselves to become are not necessarily who we truly are. There’s just enough magic to remind the reader of the Pants, without being corny, and returning to this group of characters (all of them. Even Effie.) was reminiscent of visiting with old friends.

If you’ve read any of the story to this point, you absolutely must read this book. I read most of it in one day, and was sad to turn the last page. Could it be called too sappy? Possibly. Consider it a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or raw cookie dough. Sometimes, you just need some sweetness.

Four and a half fireflies.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Stay Away From The Punch!” Edition

“Clockwork Prince”~ Cassandra Clare

Book Description (From Amazon): In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Soundtrack: “Be Here Now”~ Ray Lamontagne

 The shimmering strings in this one and the lovely message make me think of Tessa and Jem. (Those crazy kids!)

Best Enjoyed With: A cup of fizzy lemonade. Preferably not spiked with Warlock powders.

It was such a treat to return to Cassandra Clare’s version of Regency London, I have no idea why I didn’t do it sooner.  This book picks up immediately after the events of Clockwork Angel, and I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this book more than the first book in the series. (Considering my feelings about YA series in general, that’s high praise.)  The plot took off like a runaway carriage, keeping the reader breathlessly following the events after Mortmain’s attack on the London Institute at the end of book one.

It’s imperative that the Shadowhunters discover more about the infamous Magister in order to attempt to discover his motives and his eventual plan of attack.  Meanwhile, other Shadowhunters are questioning Charlotte’s competency of running the Institute.  The consul gives them two weeks to discover the Magister’s plans, or Charlotte will be removed as director of the Institute, and the unsavory Benedict Lightwood will take over.

Meanwhile, Tessa is caught in a whirl of uncertainty. Not only is she not entirely sure where her powers come from, she’s fallen in love with two young men who she just happens to live with. Cassandra Clare kicks the romantic tension up a notch in this installment, and does a fabulous job of it. While the love triangle could a bit overused in the young adult genre right now, Will and Jem (short for James, if you haven’t started this series yet) are both so totally dreamy that it’s understanding why Tessa is torn. Unlike Jace and Simon in the Mortal Instruments books, there really isn’t a “best choice” between the two of them, and I found myself just as confused as Tessa. With two equally vivid heroes to fall in love with, we’re reminded exactly why the love triangle is such an effective plot device.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a legitimate book boyfriend, and I might have to fight Angela for Jem.

Aside from gushing over the main characters, this book was a feast for the imagination. The characters leave London and travel by train to Yorkshire, where the stark beauty is described perfectly. There are plenty of grand manor houses and beautiful clothes, and what regency novel is complete without a masked ball? I think that writing within the Victorian conventions of propriety added some great dimension to the story. The love scenes were steamier because of it, and the exploration of character relationships on all levels were very authentic.

Another aspect of Cassandra Clare’s writing that I seemed to have forgotten was the humor she manages to sneak into various scenes. While her characters in the Infernal Devices series are bound by the constraints of society, there’s a degree of truth to the fact that they’re still teenagers, with all of the inherent snark that comes with that job description.  Revisiting some of the characters that cross between the two series is a delight as well.

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Clockwork Princess, and not just for the drop-dead gorgeous cover art.

Four and a half automatons.

TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Center Stage” Edition

Bunheads”~ Sophie Flack*

Book Description (From Amazon): On-stage beauty. Backstage drama.

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah’s universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other “bunheads” in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?

Soundtrack: “Soldier” ~ Ingrid Michaelson

The solitude and personal strength portrayed in this song really speak to me when I think about Hannah’s drive and sacrifice. She totally isolates herself because she feels that she has no other choice if she wants to totally commit to her dream.

Best Enjoyed With: Kale Chips. Seriously, reading about the ballerinas’ crazy diets left me starving.

This book is a sweet little read that I zipped through in about 24 hours. It’s as light as the tulle of a tutu, but contains some layers that give it a satisfying fullness in the end.

Hannah has dreamt of being a professional ballerina for as long as she can remember. It didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice to her to move to New York at age fourteen to purse her passion full time, but after years in the corps de ballet at the Manhattan Ballet she’s starting to notice all of the things that she’s missing out on. Like free time. And dating.

When she meets a cute college student named Jacob, the contrasts in their lives are thrown into sharp focus, and she’s forced to make a choice between continuing to give 100% to ballet or attempting to squeeze a “real life” into her insanely packed schedule.

I have to admit, what I found most interesting about this book is the fact that it’s apparently semi-autobiographical. Sophie Flack was a member of the New York City Ballet for nine years, and is currently attending Columbia University.

The characters and drama (or relative lack thereof) ring with a note of truth, but there’s none of the ridiculous melodrama that’s come to be associated with dance in popular media. There’s competition among the dancers, mention of crazy diets and loads of bitchiness, but nothing terribly over the top. The dance scenes are clearly written with an insider’s eye for detail, and the description of the dancers’ various physical ailments and fatigue is eye-opening.

My only gripe is that there should probably be a glossary of common dance terms in the back. Flack tosses them around as though she assumes we all know what they mean, but it made it difficult to picture the dance scenes in my head without understanding the nuances of the steps. Like some of the novel’s “pedestrians” (anyone outside the dance community) I can’t tell the difference between a piqué and a bourrée. On the other hand, I could totally see young girls who are in love with dancing adoring this book.

Hannah is a difficult heroine to like- she’s so incredibly driven that it can come off as being self-absorbed (a complaint of one of the main characters.) I could relate her, after majoring in music myself and spending years consumed with performances and practices. Similarly, her character development made her even more sympathetic to me. Being a performer takes a far thicker skin than I have naturally, and years of competition and critiques wore me down to the point where I needed to step away and assess whether I really had the drive to pursue singing as a career. Obviously, I didn’t.

The supporting characters are relatively one-dimensional, each given one defining characteristic with which to stand out. Daisy binge-eats when she gets upset, Leni is perpetually cheerful despite knowing that she’ll never get promoted, Zoe’s an upper-class snot and Bea is… from Nebraska. As a first novel, it’s a decent effort, but unfortunately I chose to read it after Shadow of Night.

Two and a half broken-in pairs of toe-shoes.

*Not related to or to be confused with the new show on ABC Family starring Sutton Foster