Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com.

Backlist Briefs: Mini Reviews for THE CHEERLEADERS & MY PLAIN JANE

Backlist Briefs: Mini Reviews for THE CHEERLEADERS & MY PLAIN JANEThe Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
four-stars
Published by Delacorte Press on July 31, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

Review:

Kara Thomas’ The Cheerleaders is a gripping mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  The story focuses on Monica Rayburn, who attends Sunnybrook High, where five members of the school’s cheerleading squad died five years ago.  Two of the girls were killed in a tragic car accident, and very soon after that, two more were murdered by a neighbor for reasons no one has ever determined.  The final tragedy was when Monica’s own sister died in an apparent suicide.  The school decided to disband the cheerleading squad because no one wanted to be reminded of the losses they had suffered.  When the administration decides five years later that they want to do a memorial service to remember the girls, it opens up old wounds for Monica, who has never come to grips with the idea that her sister could have possibly killed herself.

Monica’s step father was one of the police officers who worked the murder case, and Monica decides to sneak into his office and see if there’s still anything there that has to do with the Cheerleaders’ case.  What she finds makes her realize that things may not be as they seem when it comes to this case and she becomes determined to find out the truth of what happened to those murdered girls. Her sleuthing takes her on a wild and potentially dangerous ride and the author builds so much suspense into the narrative that I was literally on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next!  I thought her use of flashbacks was especially effective.  She shows us scenes from five years ago from the perspective of Monica’s sister.  Those scenes really fleshed out the story and added a lot of depth that we couldn’t have possibly gotten from Monica.  I was thoroughly engaged not just because like Monica, I wanted to know what really happened to these girls, but also because I was terrified that Monica was going to open up a can of worms that was going to put a target on her own back if the murderer really is still out there somewhere.

What really made The Cheerleaders an even more engaging story, however, was that it was so much more than just an entertaining mystery/thriller.  It also packs a raw and emotional punch as we watch Monica try to work through the loss of her sister.  There’s a part of her that really wants to find evidence that proves her sister did not take her own life because it kills Monica to think that she did.  If you’re looking for a riveting thriller that also packs an emotional wallop, I’d highly recommend The Cheerleaders. You won’t be disappointed! 4 STARS

 

Backlist Briefs: Mini Reviews for THE CHEERLEADERS & MY PLAIN JANEMy Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
three-half-stars
Series: The Lady Janies #2
Published by HarperTeen on June 26, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 464
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Review:

After the success of their Monty Python-esque My Lady Jane, the Lady Janies are back at it again, this time bringing their readers a highly entertaining retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre.  For those familiar with the classic tale, Jane is still an orphan who is preparing to secure a job as a governess. The primary difference is that in the Lady Janies’ version of the tale, Jane also has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.  Her talents are recognized by famed supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood who becomes determined to recruit her to join his ghost hunting society.  I don’t want to give anything else away, but as the book’s synopsis states, “prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportion!”

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, so I of course adored Jane in this book too.  She’s smart and feisty, and every bit as likable as her classic counterpart.  I also loved that the Lady Janies managed to effectively incorporate Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, into their story as well. In many ways, young Charlotte was actually my favorite character.  I thought it was brilliant how they wrote her in as an aspiring young author who is struggling to get people to take her seriously.  Ah, the life of a woman in Victorian society.  Those who follow my blog know I’m always a big fan of the underdogs, and orphan, penniless Jane and unappreciated author Charlotte were the underdogs I was cheering on in My Plain Jane.

While I really enjoyed My Plain Jane overall, especially its Gothic atmosphere with a Ghostbusters twist, my one complaint is that it didn’t quite have that same feeling of whimsy that My Lady Jane had.  I laughed out loud so many times when I read that book, but with this one, while I did find myself laughing a few times, there were several other times where the humor felt a little forced and fell flat for me.  I definitely still plan to continue the series, especially since the next book focuses on Calamity Jane, but I’ll probably lower my expectations a bit based on my experience with this book. 3.5 STARS

four-stars

About Brodi Ashton

From Brodi Ashton Writer (In Ms. Ashton’s own words):

Because of two parents who were Greek myth geeks, I grew up thinking the latest fashion trends were inspired by Aphrodite, and a good conversational opener was, “So, which mythological character do you most resemble?” Despite these social shortcomings, I found a great husband who’s always my first reader. We live in Utah with our two young boys, who still have no idea why I’m at the computer all the time.

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

 

About Cynthia Hand

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of the Unearthly series with HarperTeen: UNEARTHLY, HALLOWED, RADIANT (an enovella) and BOUNDLESS, and the NYT bestselling contemporary, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. She lives with her family in Idaho, where she teaches courses in creative writing at Boise State University. Her latest book, MY LADY JANE, (cowritten with Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows) was released on June 7, 2016.

About Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com.

About Kara Thomas

Kara Thomas is a true crime addict and the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, LITTLE MONSTERS, and THE CHEERLEADERS, all published by Delacorte Press. You can find her on Twitter (@karatwrites), Instagram (@kara__thomas), or at http://www.kara-thomas.com.

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Also by this author: My Plain Jane
four-half-stars
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 494
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne.  But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about.  Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

* * * * *

My Review:

What an entertaining read this was! If you like humor and storytelling in the vein of The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then My Lady Jane is a must-read for you! I was thoroughly amused by this refreshingly hilarious and perhaps slightly irreverent re-inventing of the drama surrounding Henry VIII’s offspring.

And if you’re thinking “Wait, wasn’t Lady Jane Grey only Queen of England for nine days? And wait, wasn’t she then convicted of treason and subsequently beheaded? What could possibly be funny about that?”, let me assure you that you’re not alone.  I had the exact same reaction when I initially heard about this novel. Needless to say, the fact that I was already laughing before I even finished the prologue: “Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent, or simply because we thought a name was terrible and we liked another name better)”, I was sold. That’s my kind of humor right there and couldn’t wait to read this tale of how Lady Jane Grey’s life should have gone.

 

What I Loved:

 

  • A Fantastic Main Cast of Characters:

Jane.  I loved so many things about My Lady Jane that it’s hard to decide where to start, so I’m going to start with Jane herself.  These authors have re-imagined young Jane as my ideal protagonist – she’s smart, sassy, and a total book fiend, which endeared her to me right away.  Jane is Books-Over-People all the way, and so the marriage-to-a-complete-stranger situation that she finds herself in at the beginning of the story is all kinds of awkward for her.  And so when she and her new husband prepare to depart on their honeymoon, Jane packs so many books that she runs out of space and so decides, being the practical young lady that she is, that the ideal traveling solution is to build a book wall between herself and her new husband in the carriage. Brilliant!

Gifford.  Now even though I’m laughing at Jane’s treatment of her new husband, Gifford (or ‘G’ as he prefers to be called), let me just say that My Lady Jane is filled with loveable characters and G is most definitely one of them. As you will quickly learn once you begin reading, this retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s history really isn’t history at all – it’s pure fantasy and thus has a fabulous magical thread running through it.  The magic? Some of the characters have the ability to transform into animals at will.  I mention this here because G is one of those characters.  The catch, however, is that G apparently has no control over this gift (or curse as he calls it) and for most of his life, he has transformed into a stallion with the sunrise and only returns to human form once the sun goes down.

Needless to say, Jane was not made aware of this prior to their marriage, thus making for some awkward (and oh yes, truly hilarious!) moments in their first few days together.  There are several battles of wits early on where Jane and G reminded me of Benedict and Beatrice from William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  As funny as their initial encounters are, I really loved watching Jane and G’s relationship blossom as they get to know each other better and realize how much they have in common.  Even though G is actually related to some who are conspiring to steal the throne, his heart and his loyalty clearly lie with Jane.

Edward.  Edward is the King of England at the beginning of the book. He is such a  likeable character, especially when it comes to his relationship with his cousin Lady Jane Grey, that when we learn there is a conspiracy to remove him from the throne, we can’t help but cheer for him as the underdog because nice guys should always finish first!

  • Supporting Characters

The supporting players in My Lady Jane are just as awesome as the main characters.  Some of my favorites were Gracie and Pet, who play a large part in helping Edward in the battle for England’s throne.  Gracie is a young Scottish thief who becomes a potential love interest for King Edward. She’s smart, feisty, incredibly resourceful, and she’s always up for a good adventure.

Then there’s Pet, short for Petunia.  Pet is a loyal friend to Edward, fiercely protective, and at the same time, a bit of a free spirit. In that way, she reminds me a lot of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series.

  • The Humor!  

I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book.  It’s equal parts silly, witty, and just downright absurd at times, and I loved every minute of it!  As I mentioned earlier, if you like humorous stories like Monty Python and The Princess Bride, you can’t go wrong with this book.

One of the scenes that amused me the most (and made me fall in love with both Jane and G) was when Jane and G were laying out the ground rules for their marriage. Because a girl must keep her priorities straight, Jane’s rules are of course all about protecting her books:  ” Number one:  no touching my books…Number two:  no chewing on my books…Number three:  I will never find hay in my books.”  G counters with his own set of rules for a happy marriage:  “There will be no riding of the horse…There will be no bridling the horse…Number three: there will be no saddling of the horse” and there are to be “No horse jokes.”

These “ground rules” immediately lead to this hilarious bit:

“No horse jokes,” he said.

“My lord, I apologize for the horse joke.  If you put down the book — unharmed! — I will give you a carrot.”

He brandished the book at her. “Was that a horse joke?”

“Neigh.”

Seriously, tell me you aren’t giggling right now…

* * * * *

Anything I didn’t care for?

 

My only quibble with My Lady Jane was that I thought there were too many narrator interruptions in the closing chapters.  At first the interruptions were very amusing because, again, they reminded me so much of The Princess Bride, but the closer I got to the resolution of the story, the more frequently the narrators butted in and stopped the action. I REALLY wanted to find out how the story was going to end, so having the ending prolonged by so many narrator interruptions was a bit torturous for me.  That said, I still loved the overall story though. It was just so much fun!!!

* * * * *

Who would I recommend My Lady Jane to?

 

Well, again, I think this book’s appeal lies squarely in its humor. That humor is the key to making this such a refreshing and unique read.  I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who can appreciate that humor.

If you’re a history buff and would consider a fantasy retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s life in poor taste, then I’d probably tell you to steer clear.

* * * * *

Rating:  4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

About Brodi Ashton

From Brodi Ashton Writer (In Ms. Ashton’s own words):

Because of two parents who were Greek myth geeks, I grew up thinking the latest fashion trends were inspired by Aphrodite, and a good conversational opener was, “So, which mythological character do you most resemble?” Despite these social shortcomings, I found a great husband who’s always my first reader. We live in Utah with our two young boys, who still have no idea why I’m at the computer all the time.

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Utah and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

 

About Cynthia Hand

Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of the Unearthly series with HarperTeen: UNEARTHLY, HALLOWED, RADIANT (an enovella) and BOUNDLESS, and the NYT bestselling contemporary, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. She lives with her family in Idaho, where she teaches courses in creative writing at Boise State University. Her latest book, MY LADY JANE, (cowritten with Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows) was released on June 7, 2016.

About Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen). Visit her at www.jodimeadows.com.