November 18, 2015

Review | A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

I discovered Susanna Kearsley's books a few years ago through the utterly wonderful The Winter Sea. It was love from start to finish with that book, and I eagerly checked out a few more of her backlist. I never fell quite as hard with the others as I did with The Winter Sea though, and so when I heard about A Desperate Fortune it didn't automatically zip to the top of my TBR. But then my friend Beth read and loved it and did that thing where she smiles enigmatically and says, "You'll have to tell me when you've read it." Implying that I will. And that it will likely go well. I trust her implicitly. But I am a bit of an uncooperative reading soul these days, and so I knew I would come to it when I came to it. Attempting to force things lately tends to backfire spectacularly. Then the other night I crawled into bed and cast about. As one does. I figured I'd give it a shot. Just the first few pages. Just to see . . .

Sara Thomas has learned how to manage her life. She prefers to work alone when at all possible. She plays Sudoku when she gets anxious. She occasionally meets someone she's interested in seeing more. It lasts a few weeks, and then she ends it before she has to explain why it won't work long-term. She has her beloved cousin Jacqui to point her in the right direction in social situations, or provide her with the necessary reprieve as needed. So when Jacqui comes to her with an intriguing proposition related to one of her famous historians, Sara is interested. Having always loved code-breaking, she takes on the challenge of deciphering the fragment, only to find out the next step is a trip to France and the overwhelming task of deciphering the entirety of a young woman's journal. A young woman from the 18th century. Mary Dundas was born a Scot but raised in France. Her unusual tale takes her from the French countryside to the heart of Paris to the shadow Jacobite court in Rome. And Sara is along for the ride as she moves temporarily into the home of the woman who currently owns the journal and learns to navigate life in a small French village and the kind advances of an unusual family that lives there.

I'm such a sucker for a Jacobite Rebellion tale. This likely dates all the way back to Patricia Calvert's wonderful Hadder MacColl, which I read and loved as a kid. It was encouraged on by Jennifer Roberson's Lady of the Glen, which I read and loved as a teen. Ms. Kearsley excels at the time period as well, and her books have been such a delight to discover and love as an adult. As is often the case with a Kearsley book, I fell in love with the characters in the contemporary storyline first. I was fond of Sara instantly, as she matter-of-factly outlined her life with Asperger's, her reliance on her cousin Jacqui's social cues and advice, and her foray into amateur code-breaking as a form of independence in France. It took me a bit longer to warm up to Mary Dundas and her perilous journey. I am known to struggle with a road trip, but as soon as Mary made her way to Paris and took up the reins of her ruse, I fell into her story as well. The introduction of one mysterious Highlander by the name of MacPherson did not hurt in the slightest. As lasting imagery from this novel goes, it is those atmospheric scenes from Mary's life that linger in my mind. The unsettling glow of MacPherson's pipe lighting in a dark room. The tucking of a small dog into a rough cloak as tired feet press on. Two figures standing quietly just inches apart near the bridges of Rome.

But my favorite scene of all (which I can't resist quoting a bit of for you here) comes from Sara's story. Sara's and Luc's.
"Luc." I felt a sudden weight within my chest, a pressing sadness as I realized he was wanting something more than I could give him; something more than just a simple holiday romance. "I don't . . . I can't . . ." He mattered more than any of the others had, and so it hurt me more to disappoint him, but that only made it more important he should hear the truth. "I can't sustain a real relationship. I always mess things up." I'd meant to state that calmly as a fact, but my voice wobbled on the final words and Luc's own voice grew gentle in response.

"How do you mess things up?"

In every way conceivable, I could have told him. "I just do."

"It might not happen this time."

"Yes, it will. It always does. I'm just not capable—"

"Who told you that?" His words, still quiet, cut across my own with an insistence that I simply couldn't bring myself to answer, so I briefly closed my eyes and closed my mind against the memories.

Luc fell silent too, and when my eyes came open he was watching me. Not crowding me, but standing close enough that I was very much aware of him.

He asked me, "If you could . . . if you were capable of having a relationship, would you want one with me?"


"You like me."


"Good. So your plan was that we should spend time with each other, and then you would leave me?"


Luc gave a nod, and remarkably I saw the curve of his smile. "What?" I asked.

"It's a terrible plan." He came closer. "No, really, you need to revise it. I'll help you."
Two lovely, very subtle romances thread their way through the dual timelines. I found myself immeasurably charmed by both of them. The pacing on the whole is quite slow, languorously so. But my interest and attention never flagged. It merely meant my consumption of the novel was a more leisurely and relaxed affair—an experience I thoroughly treasure. Susanna Kearsley's books always feel like the warmth of a fire on a winter night to me. If you find yourself with a few hours to spend on a cozy evening in the near future, I can't think of a more enjoyable read to tuck in with than A Desperate Fortune. I'll be gifting it this holiday season for sure.


The Bookpushers - "Most romantic ending I’ve had the pleasure of reading."
Dear Author - "It is a book which invites one to slow down and wallow.  To roll the language around on your tongue as if tasting a fine wine and to savour the experience along the way."
Harlequin Junkie - "This story goes well beyond just your average, every day women’s fiction."
Rhapsody in Books - "Both romances are quite moving."

November 17, 2015

Taking the High Road—The Rogue Not Taken Blog Blitz + Giveaway!

News Flash:  Announcing a sublime – and scandalously wonderful – new series from New York Times, USA Today and Washington Post bestselling author Sarah MacLean!

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean is my favorite book of hers to date. If you’ve read her, or know me, then you know that I just said a thing.” —Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Lady Sophie’s Society Splash
When Sophie, the least interesting of the Talbot sisters, lands her philandering brother-in-law backside-first in a goldfish pond in front of all society, she becomes the target of very public aristocratic scorn. Her only choice is to flee London, vowing to start a new life far from the aristocracy. Unfortunately, the carriage in which she stows away isn’t saving her from ruin . . . it’s filled with it.

Rogue’s Reign of Ravishment!
Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, resulting in a reputation far worse than the truth, a general sense that he’s more pretty face than proper gentleman, and an irate summons home to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the journey becomes anything but boring.

War? Or More?
He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, making opposites altogether too attractive . . .
 Anyone who orders a signed, print copy of the book from WORD Bookstores will get a gorgeous printed copy of this map designed by Amy Solomon!

Great Road North Map Reveal
Stop #7: “Lyne Castle”

Author Commentary:

The Country seat of the Dukes of Lyne, Lyne Castle is the childhood home of Kingscote, Marquess of Eversley, who left home at eighteen after a terrible tragedy and never returned. Summoned home by his ailing father, King finally returns--with the unexpected addition of Lady Sophie Talbot, irritating and somehow irresistible. The estate boasts one of the most complicated labyrinths in Britain...where King and Sophie find solace, and heartbreak, and each other.
Sophie would want love. She’d want it pure and unfettered, given freely, along with all its trappings. She’d want the marriage and children and happiness and promise that came with it.

King could see it, the life she wanted. The line of little girls, blue-eyed and brown-haired, in love with books and strawberry tarts. For a moment, he imagined them smiling at him the way their mother did, filled with happiness and hope.

For a moment, he let himself believe he might be able to give it to her.

But she would want love, and he would never be able to give it.

He didn’t have it to give anymore. And those children, they would never be his.

He set her down on the edge of the fountain, coming to his knees, as though she was Ariadne and he the Minotaur, worshipping at her feet, adoring her even as he knew she could not survive in the labyrinth, and he could not survive beyond it.

“Tell me about last night,” he said softly, looking up at her, his hands at the hem of her skirts.
To celebrate the upcoming release of Sarah MacLean's The Rogue Not Taken, one winner will receive a very exclusive early bound manuscript of the book plus a gift set of artisan honey! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form and you'll be entered into the contest.

Every Word Blog Tour + Giveaway!

Today, I'm extra chuffed to be taking part in Tundra Books' Every Word Blog Tour! There are five stops each day, so be sure to check out all the fun. As you know, I've been quite taken with this contemporary teen Sherlock Holmes bit of bibliocrack for some time now. You can read my reviews of the first book here and my review of Every Word here. And, as this brilliant second volume has just recently come out here in the states, what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway? 
James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents seven years ago...without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his 'partner in crime'.

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behaviour - not that Mycroft's ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him...and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator, and the deaths of Mycroft's parents...Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events - or will she lose him forever?

Sparks fly when Watts and Mycroft reunite in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen sleuthing duo.

Ellie Marney was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about kid’s literature at libraries and schools, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll (actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens) near Castlemaine, in north-central Victoria. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go.

Ellie’s short stories for adults have won awards and been published in various anthologies. Every Breath was her first novel for young adults.

Blog / Website / Twitter / Instagram 

This giveaway is open to those with U.S. mailing addresses. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway will be open through Tuesday, November 24th.

November 11, 2015

Bibliocrack Review | Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

So, cards on the table? This is my favorite cover of the year. Actually, my favorite book design of the year full stop. The pages are all edged black, which is just exquisitely pleasing on a level I would never have expected, particularly set as they are against the blood red endpapers. I cannot stop touching them, even now that I'm done. The feathers and towers motif repeats itself throughout on each of the chapter title pages, and it is just a visceral pleasure every time. If you haven't picked up a copy in person, do yourself a favor and drop in at your favorite bookstore whether you plan on buying a copy or not, just for the treat of paging through this gorgeous book. That said, I feel it's important to point out that I was not a fan of Ms. Bardugo's Grisha trilogy. I crapped out partway through the first book, as the characters were just persistently doing nothing for me. But when I heard Leigh Bardugo would be appearing at my local indie bookstore as part of the Six of Crows tour, something in me just clicked and I knew this book would be the one for me.

A thread of evil is wending its way through the admittedly quite evil already streets of Ketterdam. Someone is forcibly administering a deadly drug to Grisha and using the wildly enhanced powers it induces until they're nothing but dried up husks. When the thread finds its way to criminal mastermind Kaz Brekker's shady door, he decides it's time for a little fun/profit. Kaz rounds up the six choicest of his ragtag thieves and thugs from the Dregs in order to pull off the heist of the century. Accompanied by Inej the Wraith, Nina the Heartrender, Jesper the sharpshooter, Matthias the convict, and Wylan the demolition man/flautist, Kaz plans to break into the fabled Ice Court and steal a very wanted man in exchange for rather a hefty sum. To be split six ways. Most of the gang have a reason or six to need their cut of the take; all of them have a reason trust Kaz. And so they agree (or have their arms sufficiently twisted) to take part in the insane scheme, despite (or perhaps because of) the swirling dynamics of resentment, hope, and hatred that pervade every aspect the group. Whether they make it out alive almost seems beside the point.
Kaz Brekker didn't need a reason.
Ever since that introductory line, I have had a bit of a Kaz problem. It's like Leigh Bardugo was aware I'd been pining for a really good thief for awhile now and decided to take pity on me and deliver, oh, just one of the best to ever crawl out of a city slum and become de facto leader of an underworld empire. And make no mistake—Kaz is utterly ruthless. There is no soft underbelly to this close-lipped, leather-gloved, cane-wielding dark genius. The thing about Kaz, though, is that he is all in. And what he lacks in softness he more than makes up for in absolute magnetism and an ever-so-slowly unfolding history that I had no interest in looking away from. And that history only begins to unfold once the reader, too, has become a part of the inner circle. The other thing about Kaz is that he had the clever sense to find and retain Inej. And Inej is awesome. She works as the top spy for the Dregs and answers only (if and when she chooses to) to Kaz. Only she sees him without his gloves on. Only she is able to disappear into a thread of smoke, out of the clutches of the rival gangs who scrabble for power in the Barrel. An early encounter:
"Were you trained as a dancer?"

"An acrobat." She paused. "My family . . . we're all acrobats."

"High wire?"

"And swings. Juggling. Tumbling."

"Did you work with a net?"

"Only when I was very little."

"Good. There aren't any nets in Ketterdam. Have you ever been in a fight?"

She shook her head.

"Killed someone?"

Her eyes widened. "No."

"Ever think about it?"

She paused and then crossed her arms. "Every night."
I love them. And if I fell in love with these two the fastest, it was only because they clawed their way in first. But I found myself enamored of all six of these hoodlums in very little time at all. So much so that it's difficult to talk about them, where they are now, and what might become of them, particularly Nina and Matthias. It's worth mentioning that the overarching issues remain unresolved at the wild and breathtaking conclusion of this volume. The sequel (it is to be a duet, a duology, a lovely two-book entity, what have you) is due out next fall, so getting yourself into it will ensure a fair bit of agony. But what are we bibliophiles if not up for a little drawn-out angst? I cannot imagine my reading year without this gem. It was the absolute highlight—young adult fantasy at its most entertaining, full of killer charm and a killer instinct. Like Kaz, I'm afraid I am all in. Come what may (and no doubt will), this ride is worth its weight in cold, hard kruge. No mourners. No funerals.


Christina Reads YA - "If you were unsure or not much a fan of the Grisha books, giving Six of Crows a chance is a wise decision." 
Dark Faerie Tales - "Six of Crows is easily one of my favorite reads for 2015, and all-time. "
Ivy Book Bindings - "I am so in love with all six of them, it's desperate."
Love is Not a Triangle - "This book starts slowly, but speeds up as the heist gets going and the characters reveal more about themselves."

November 3, 2015

Tower of Thorns Giveaway!

Don't you love release day Tuesdays? Today is the release of the second book in Juliet Marillier's Blackthorn & Grim series—Tower of Thorns.
"Kudos to Marillier for improving on the first book of an already quality series…realistic psychology, matched with a twisty, often dark story, makes for a superb strong continuation.”
RT Book Review, Top Pick (For Tower of Thorns)

In the acclaimed Dreamer’s Pool (Roc Hardcover; 2014), award-winning author, Juliet Marillier, introduced readers to Blackthorn, an embittered healer escaped from prison, and her former cell-mate, the hulking and silent Grim. Fleeing to a derelict cottage on the fringe of the mysterious Dreamer’s Wood, Blackthorn and Grim must live duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Now, in TOWER OF THORNS (Roc Hardcover; $26.95; November 3, 2015), a noblewoman from the northern border has asked the Prince for help in expelling a howling creature from an oldtower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and sanity of all who live nearby.

With no ready solutions on hand, the Prince must consult Blackthorn and Grim, who put the pieces of the puzzle together, discovering that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes.

Now their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.
In honor of release day, Penguin Random House was so kind as to offer up a brand new hardcover to one reader! This giveaway is open to those with U.S. mailing addresses. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway will be open through Tuesday, November 10th.

November 2, 2015

The Raven King Cover

This cover of The Raven King is presented almost entirely without comment because the anticipation is that high. 
Blue. Adam. Ronan. Gansey. Noah.
Save them all.

October 31, 2015

A Decade of Angieville

I woke up this morning a bit flummoxed to realize that today marks my blog's ten year anniversary. How . . . how did that happen? The lovely thing is that the bemusement was almost immediately followed by a palpable thrill of wonder at the fact that I've been doing this thing—this thing that I have come to love, that has become an integral, limb-like part of me—for a decade. There are only a few other things I've been doing that long. I've been married to my husband for just a few years longer than that. I've been a mother for almost exactly two years more. In fact, ten years ago on this night I put my little boy (only had one then) down to bed after a satisfactory night of trick-or-treating, climbed into bed with my notebook, and Aaron sat down and started telling me about how he thought I should start a blog, how it would be a good place to . . . oh, you guys. Talking about this brings the emotions precariously close to the surface.

He told me he thought it would be a good place to talk about books. 

Is it odd that I'm crying as I'm typing this right now? It doesn't feel odd. It feels like these tears are because it turned out to be exactly that. And more. That what started out as simply listing the books I'd read and reread that month became an extension of home, when I needed that so much as I was adapting to being a mother and trying to balance so many new and old aspects of my life. It became a forum and an outlet and a marvelous stepping off point into the virtual world of . . . you. All of you. You magnificent community of people who are so varied and so colorful and so vital to me now. You read and you write and you think so much, and you laugh and cry and rage about what you read and write and think about. And you share it with me. And you tell me what books you couldn't imagine living without, and I read them and they become mine, too.

It was a revelation when it all began, and it continues to be one of the brightest elements of my life. To know that when I, as Yeats wrote, "bring you with reverent hands the books of my numberless dreams," that they will be safe. With you.