November 21, 2014

Review | The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

I picked this book up for one reason and one reason only—because Sarah MacLean recommended it as one of her top historicals ever, like ever. Apparently, that's all it takes for me when it comes from the lady who gave us Callie and Ralston. And I have my suspicions that might be all it took for a few of you, too. We are in good company together then, yes? This was my first of Lisa Kleypas' historicals. Having read and been mildly okay with one of her contemporaries and read and absolutely loved one of her others, I figured the wind could reasonably be expected to blow any number of ways with The Devil in Winter. Some authors transition beautifully from one genre/time period to another. Others, I feel, face more of an uphill battle. Spoiler alert: Ms. Kleypas appears to know her way around whichever she feels like tackling at the time. I will say that I initially read a library copy and held off on purchasing my own because I was not fond of the U.S. cover. So much lavender. I can't . . . with just so much lavender. But then. The UK cover waltzed onto the scene. With Evie standing in the snow. Just . . . looking. It is everything the book deserves and it, of course, had to be mine. 

Evangeline Jenner has summoned what remains of her flagging courage and made a command decision. Said decision involves sneaking into the home of vaunted rake Sebastian St. Vincent and demanding he run off to Gretna Green with her to be married before her hideous relatives can stash her in a closet and force her to marry her cousin, thereby gaining control of her dying father's gambling money. (Did that last sentence put a silly grin on anyone else's face? Just me?) Having been beaten down and pushed aside her entire life, Evie just wants to be free. If a loveless marriage to a known dissolute is what it takes, she will gladly pay the price. St. Vincent will get the money he so desperately needs to pay his father's debts and the two can happily live the rest of their lives separately. After his initial amusement and disbelief at the shy wallflower's proposal, the wayward viscount finds himself accepting and the two of them go haring off for parts north as fast as possible before anyone can say them nay. Before either of them know it, the marriage has been solemnized and it's back to London and the grim reality of bidding farewell to Evie's father along with the unexpectedly complicated feelings they experience in the face of the prospect of going their separate ways.

The Devil in Winter has one hell of a beginning and that's all there is to it. Talk about hook, line, and sinker. I fell in love with Evie almost with her first exhalation. What a sad and dim life she led leading up to the moment she felt forced to go to St. Vincent with an offer she wouldn't let him refuse. And how I liked her for the way she faced him down and stutteringly told him the way things were going down. As for Sebastian, I grew to like him quickly for how quickly he grew to like Evie. For his wicked wit and hilariously cavalier attitude toward life and the ton. And for the appalled look on his face when he realizes he might . . . he just might be falling in love with his wife. It was a pleasure watching Evie's shoulders slowly relax while in Sebastian's company, just as it was a treat watching that very attitude of his grow less and less cavalier when it came to his wife and the altered way he saw the world as a husband. So very much against his will. But there it is. The story did bobble just a bit for me back in London as the two take up residence in Jenner's gambling hell and I felt things veering a touch close to the shallow. But the ship rights itself soon enough as they stumble up against each other's expectations and the scars (in Evie's case) and indiscretions (in Sebastian's) of their respective pasts. This was helped along by Kleypas' uncanny knack for suddenly and unceremoniously shoving the two of them in a hallway or billiard hall or sick room at just the right moment so they could sort themselves out. I'm ever so fond of them, Evie and Sebastian. I will always be glad they came to stay.

Buy

Linkage
Alexa Loves Books - "It was brilliant."
Another Look Book Reviews - "Evie was the best thing to happen to Sebastian and visa-versa. They were perfect for each other's souls."
Dear Author - "This was the most fun I’ve had reading one of your books in years."
Gossamer Obsessions - "For the most part, the novel is wonderful."
Impressions of a Reader - "
In St. Vincent, Kleypas gives us a hero who in the end not only finds love and redemption, in the process he also finds who and what he was meant to be all along."

Read React Review - "Almost immediately, Sebastian and Evie establish a repartee that is a delight to read. 

November 20, 2014

Choose Your Own Edition: Landline

So I figure I'm not the only one who regularly occasionally finds herself mired in the dilemma of which edition of a book to buy. With a number of lovely sites like The Book Depository out there, we collectors have increasingly easier access (thank you free shipping worldwide) to the gorgeous editions available to our friends on the other side of the world. And covers are such personal things, aren't they? I love browsing different editions and experiencing that moment when I see the one. The one that will live on my shelves. Of course, then it's a matter of locating it and scraping together the funds . . . but never mind that bit.

All of this to say that I thought I'd start up an irregular and entirely at my personal whim feature entitled Choose Your Own Edition, in which I can secure your good opinion on which edition I should purchase of whichever book I'm romancing at the time. Up first: Rainbow Rowell's Landline


I loved this book (as I tend to do when she's the one with the words). I have a much-lent out ARC, but I'm itching to own my own finished copy. Above we have the US hardcover (left), US paperback (middle), and UK hardcover/paper (right). What's your pleasure? I'm partial to the phones on the US paper and UK covers. And I really love the title font for both US covers. But that tagline on the UK one is so very charming. I'm torn. Your input, if you please.

November 19, 2014

The DUFF Trailer


So I read (and loved) this book three years ago and I'm sort of giddy to see it's being adapted for the silver screen. Standard 90s teen flick appearance aside, I hope they retain her anger. Her glorious, nearly paralyzing anger. And that ending. 
Fingers crossed.

November 3, 2014

Ron + Hermione + Peter

Those of you who follow me on Instagram have likely seen some of these. But I always post a few Halloween pics of my kiddos, so here you go. Will was Ron Weasley. Piper was Hermione Granger. And Finny was Peter Pan.
All pics courtesy of my lovely husband.
 With their princess, pirate, and pumpkin cousins.
 Poor punkin . . .
 Mischief managed.
 My three.
My oldest two off to Defense Against the Dark Arts. 

Hope your Halloween was happy!

October 31, 2014

Halloween Review + Giveaway: Jackaby by William Ritter

First of all, that cover. I love everything about that cover. And, as such, deciding whether or not to read Jackaby involved me sitting on my hands, dithering about whether or not the insides would match the outsides. As I am wont to do. But the truth is the mash-up of historical fantasy and the Doctor Who-meets-Sherlock Holmes teaser made it no kind of question at all as to whether or not I'd be picking it up. This is William Ritter's debut novel and the first in a series (happy day) as the ending clearly indicates. I picked it up a few weeks back on vacation and read it through in one big swallow. And while my body may have been sitting on the beach, my mind was far away tramping down a cold, winter street in New Fiddleham. The whole experience was deliciously dark and dreary. Of course, it was also ineluctably charming and smart. Which is to say I didn't stand a chance and cannot wait for the next one to come out.

The year is 1892. The place: New England. Abigail Rook has fled her staid life. Leaving her disbelieving parents behind in England, she has sailed to the new world, specifically to the dockside town of New Fiddleham in search of . . . she knows not what. Gifted with the ability to parse the importance of ordinary details, she is sure that with a little fortitude (and a lot of luck), she will be able to make a place for herself in this unfamiliar clime. And it turns out, she's right. Her first night in town, she runs across an extraordinary personage who appears to carry an unholy amount of bits and bobs on his person and who goes by the unlikely moniker of R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby, it turns out, is a private investigator of the unusual variety. He takes cases that involve the inexplicable, the paranormal, the ones that regularly stymie the local constabulary. Stumbling into Jackaby's latest case, Abigail is intrigued and finds herself following the odd man home and inserting herself into his daily routine as an investigative assistant. She is, of course, not the first to fill that role (the fate of the last one remains a bit murky) and she fears she will not be the last. But for the present, she can think of nothing else she would rather be doing. And so the two are off as they trace the footsteps of an increasingly erratic serial killer.

Abigail and Jackaby are immediate magic. I say that acknowledging that there is not a romantic note between them, though there are a couple of jokes along that vein and their reactions are priceless. There is a lovely hint of romantic potential for Abigail and a certain young detective who is not as disbelieving in Jackaby's ability as his supervisors are. But the hint dances around, remaining in the realm of potential for this volume at least. And that is all to the good, because this entertaining and absorbing debut is a charming and twisty mystery at heart. Chock full of Celtic mythology and regularly terrifying glimpses of the macabre, Jackaby is a recipe for a ripping good romp. I loved how excellently Abigail and Jackaby complemented each other and how quietly but firmly they came to respect and care for one another as colleagues and as accomplices (only when the occasion required, of course). Every scene that features them rambling around Jackaby's home is a delight, as the house itself constitutes one of my favorite characters. The hysterical fate of Jackaby's former assistant, along with the mysterious and heretofore lonely fates of a few of his other lodgers captured my affections. I know why Jackaby chose Abigail, but I was so pleased Abigail chose him. They needed each other. Their enjoyable banter and madcap dashes through the seedy underbelly of New Fiddleham kept me on my toes all the way to the exciting conclusion. As I believe a good book never reveals all its secrets, I know there is much more just waiting to unfurl in the sequel. I am all anticipation.

***

And now for the special Halloween giveaway! Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers, we have 3 signed first editions up for grabs. This giveaway is open to those with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway will be open through Friday, November 7th.


Buy

Linkage
Books Take You Places - "Jackaby absolutely delivers."
Bookyurt - "Jackaby is without doubt a solid and entertaining debut."
Forever Young Adult - "If you like your consulting detectives with floppy hair and their partners with a sassy attitude, then William Ritter’s debut novel Jackaby is for you."
Good Books and Good Wine - "I think that if you’re jonesing for a historical mystery with a barely there hint of romance with a super high focus on the actual mystery and clues itself, you’ll really love Jackaby."
Nerdist - "It’s exactly the thing you want to curl up with a cup of tea and inhale in a window seat on a rainy autumn day."
That's What She Read - "Jackaby is a thoroughly enjoyable, rollicking adventure, with tongue firmly in cheek."

October 15, 2014

Cloaked Pretties

Next May is going to be a doozy! I am so looking forward to both of these novels by authors I've read and loved. Both retellings, they feature not only girls in red cloaks (FTW) but spirally, scrolly, medievally goodness. And, as such, I say next spring can't come fast enough (not really—I'm barely okay with it being fall now!) But book release schedule-wise, Yay for May!

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
This time Ms. Hodge turns her hand to retelling Little Red Riding Hood. Though it looks to be similar in tone, it is not set in the same world as Cruel Beauty. In an attempt to make up for the mistake she made as a girl, Rachelle fights evil on behalf of her realm, only to be ordered by the king to guard the man she hates. I really don't feel like anything else is required here, do you? Cannot. Wait.
Due out May 5th

Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
As if being imprisoned by the truly dastardly Prince John wasn't enough, Scarlet finds herself embroiled in a plot to save King Richard's life. But her heart is far away, at home in Nottinghamshire. I have loved both previous installments in this trilogy, and I have implicit faith in Gaughen's ability to bring it to a perfect close with this final volume.
Due out May 19th

October 14, 2014

Review: The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen

You all remember my love for Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl novels, yes? A certain patriarch of a certain . . . well. You remember. The thing is, those are my kind of New Adult novels. And I think I've been sort of quietly looking for more in that vein ever since. And then a couple of months ago I ran across Diana enthusiastically recommending a new series for fans of the SSG books. It's called the Ivy Years series and it is written by Sarina Bowen. Needless to say, I investigated further. When I found out the books were also sports-related, I said to the internet, Say no more, internet. You have my attention. And that night I jumped in and started the first bookThe Year We Fell Down (which, by the way, such a great title)—and I thoroughly enjoyed Bowen's easy style, down to Earth characters (well, most of time, I'm looking at you Hartley), and the fabulous college setting. So when the second book came out, I was all set to dive right back into life at Harkness, particularly when I heard it featured Bridger—a character from the first book who I really liked but who I had more than few concerns about.

Bridger McCaulley's life does not resemble what it used to be. Not that it's ever been easy, but there was a period there where he worried . . . less . . . and partied more. And he played hockey like nobody's business. Those days are gone now that he's wholly responsible for his little sister. And it doesn't help matters that it's all on the down low since child protective services would have a heyday if they knew a college hockey star was hiding a little girl away in his dorm room. Scarlet Crowley's life also altered suddenly and irrevocably and for the worse. She's come to Harkness to escape as many of her problems as possible, starting by enrolling under a different name in order to stave off as much of the media as possible. When the truth about her father's charity was made public, the life she led became impossible and she hopes distance from her parents and her father's crimes will allow her to build her own life. When the two meet, sparks fly, but they agree not to take things any further than study dates in the cafeteria. Bridger has no time to speak of and a pack of responsibilities weighing him down to the ground. Scarlet fears discovery and the look on Bridger's face were he ever to find out the kind of family she comes from. But it proves to be difficult for each of them to give up that regular human contact again. With someone who might just understand.

As I said, I enjoyed (my impatience with Hartley aside) most everything about the first book in the series. But I loved everything about The Year We Hid Away. How lovely a thing it is when you get to know a previously secondary character better only to find out they were exactly who you were hoping they would be all along. Getting to know Bridger was just such an experience. There was so much more to him than his escapades the year before led you to believe, and every one of those added layers made him an infinitely sympathetic character. He is crazy strong, is Bridger. And determined to go it alone, if just to adequately protect his little sister Lucy from additional disappointment and pain. He rightly judges she has suffered enough. But then so has he. And it takes Scarlet entering his tightly closed off life to see that and know how to help. It was so interesting watching these two hockey players interact while on enforced hiatuses from the sport they love. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of this story is the equal treatment the two protagonists get. Their stories, their histories, they are equally valued and play appropriately weighty roles in their present. They are not just back stories, but fleshed out narratives explaining the way they are, the challenges they live with. And they fold so seamlessly into the force bringing and holding them together. An early encounter snippet:
"You never say very much about Miami Beach," Bridger said as we lingered over our coffee. "Or your family."

I didn't bother to hide my flinch. "Miami Beach is the best. My family . . . not so much. I don't really talk about them. It isn't a nice story." The truth was, I didn't want to lie any more than necessary to those deep green eyes.

Bridger's face flashed with sympathy. "Okay. It's exactly the same for me, but I didn't expect that. Because you look like someone from a family with a nice story."

"And you don't?" I countered.

He put one hand on his own cheek and covered mine with his other. "You make a good point. Maybe there's no look. I should probably stop thinking that everyone else in this room has it easier than me."

I turned my head, and together we both scanned the laughing, eating, bustle that was the student center at noon. It sure looked happy out there. For just a moment, I was a goalie again, analyzing the play, scouting for trouble.

"Nah," I said finally, turning back to Bridger. "I still think most of them have it pretty good."

Bridger grinned. "This is the cynical table," he said, tapping his fingertip on the wood grain.

"Party of two," I agreed.
Their Tuesday and Thursday lunch/study dates never failed to bring a smile to my face. And the natural and seemingly inevitable way they grew into a relationship with a healthy amount of depth kept the smile upon my face. They are able to take a breather of sorts and step away from being self-conscious when they're together. It feels like a reprieve, doled out in careful doses. No wonder they look to increase those doses. I also appreciated the way Bowen handles the "finding out" of the respective pasts. It was a recipe for maturity while still paying tribute to their actual ages and the extent of their life experiences. As is the case with the best romances, I am so very glad they found each other. As for myself, I am so very happy to have found a fresh voice in the new adult genre. Recommended for fans of Down London Road and, of course, Secret Society Girl.


Buy

Linkage
Dear Author - "Definitely one of a few New Adult books that I’ve read recently that truly resonates."
Have Book Will Read - "I admire Sarina Bowen for once again not being scared to tackle difficult topics and for pushing her characters beyond the normal NA dramas."
Hopeless Book Lovers - "Their relationship sky-rocketed so high in my heart."
Into the Hall of Books - "I have clappy-hands about these books."
Kaetrin's Musings - "It felt grown up and smart."
Smexy Books - "The conflict kept me completely riveted."