November 16, 2016

Shoot


This belongs here in the happy-making column this week because these women are killing it. 

November 15, 2016

Beauty and the Beast Trailer


I'm interested in things that make me happy just now. I believe I shall post a few of them here this week. The full Beauty and the Beast trailer is here, and while I wasn't a huge fan of the most recent Cinderella (with the exception of Helena Bonham Carter, who was perfection), I am very much looking forward to this one. You?

November 14, 2016

"I'm not giving up, and neither should you."


This will be my sole election-related post on the blog. I have very deep feelings on the matter, and it has been an emotionally cacophonous week year.

I love this performance for many reasons, not the least of which is because SNL chose not to be funny for once. Because it isn't funny at all. 

October 25, 2016

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway | A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Today, I'm excited to be participating in the blog tour for Sherry Thomas' brand new Victorian mystery A Study in Scarlet Women. As you can likely tell from the title, this is the first installment in Thomas' Lady Sherlock series—a gender-swapped retelling of Sherlock Holmes. So basically, my catnip. We are living in an excellent age when it comes to Holmes retellings. From Laurie King's Mary Russell books to Ellie Marney's Every series to the BBC's Sherlock, it's a feast of delights. And since I have been a Sherry Thomas fan for awhile now, I could hardly contain my excitement when I heard she was working on a female Holmes. The glowing cover blurb from Deanna Raybourn certainly didn't hurt. 

Charlotte Holmes has taken the mother of all calculated risks and successfully gotten herself thrown out. It all started . . . well, ages ago, really. The youngest of four daughters, with parents who seem to hold nothing but disdain for one another, Charlotte isn't precisely the oddest one in the family. But that's not saying much. She is, however, the most determined to leave her parents' (and society's) expectations behind and embark on the kind of life she has always wanted. The devil, of course, is in the details. And it isn't long before the grim reality of life as a woman alone on the streets of London and in search of respectable work begins to take its toll, particularly as Charlotte is determined to support not only herself but her two sisters as well. However, her sharp intellect and dispassionate approach to humans in general see her in good stead. And if an old friend (and longtime sparring partner) occasionally has her followed for his own reasons, Charlotte can handle it. But when a series of mysterious deaths begin to resemble a connection of sorts, and when her beloved sister Livia's name gets dragged into the mix, Charlotte immediately steps in to clear her sister's name and solve the mystery. Woven through the hunt for the killer are the enigmatic Mrs. Watson, the dogged Inspector Treadles, and the old friend who is never far from her thoughts. 

I'll just go ahead and start by saying A Study in Scarlet Women was not at all what I expected! And that is by no means a bad thing. I enjoyed every bit of this twisty, dense, and unconventional tale. I think I just happened to go in with certain assumed parameters, and Sherry Thomas happily conformed to none of them. The story's timeline is quite fluid, and the reader is definitely expected to keep up on several levels. The narrative hops around at will from one point of view to the next, and it is up to Charlotte (when we are with her) and the reader to tease apart and piece back together the many tangled threads. Charlotte herself was a revelation, if an incredibly self-contained one:
Charlotte left her seat and walked to a window. It gave onto the same street where Miss Hartford's carriage had been parked, waiting for her return. The carriage was gone, but in its place, a man stood underneath a streetlamp, reading a newspaper.

At first, she thought he was the man from the carriage. Instead, she recognized him as the one who had waited out the rain across the street from her earlier in the afternoon.

The one she'd suspected of following her.

She was not alarmed. Whoever had commissioned the man's service had not done so with the intention of harming her, but to keep an eye on her.

This did not make her happy—she did not care to be closely monitored. She wasn't angry at the person responsible for this surveillance—in his place she might have done the same. Nevertheless, she wished her secret guardian hadn't felt compelled to be so positioned as to be able to effect a rescue at any moment.

It implied that such a rescue was not only necessary, but imminent.

That she couldn't in good conscience—or cold logic—disagree with the assessment made it feel as if the air was slowly leaking from her lungs.
And that's it right there—perhaps the most affecting aspect of this winding novel—the honest way that it portrays the realities of the lives of the many different women that walk its pages. Like air slowly leaking from their lungs. I was fascinated by (and sympathetic to) each one. Charlotte herself is so quiet. Brisk and concise when she is rattling off a litany of her deductions, yes. But quiet. And quietly perplexed by the injustices and inanities perpetrated by and inherent in the people around her. I loved her for that perplexity, for her fierce loyalty to her sisters, for her continual expectations of fairness and opportunity, and for her adamant refusal to leave a certain distant someone well enough alone. We are treated to a few precious, and yes, quiet, exchanges between Charlotte and her old friend. They are enigmatic in the extreme and endlessly complicated, even if we only have the merest sliver of the whole picture at this point in time.
She had very much looked forward to a word in private with him. But she forgot, as she usually did, the silence that always came between them in these latter years, whenever they found themselves alone.

The queer sensation in her chest, however, was all too familiar, that mix of pleasure and pain, never one without the other.

She could have done without those feelings. She would have happily gone her entire life never experiencing the pangs of longing and the futility of regret. He made her human—or as human as she was capable of being. And being human was possibly her least favorite aspect of life.
These two. I have to hold myself back from despairing of them. For how little page time they're actually together, I love them rather a lot. And I don't even really know him. But I hold out hope for more ever-so-gradual unraveling in the coming tales. In the end, this is the most unusual of beginnings—an introduction that requires every ounce of focus its readers have to give, even as it grudgingly reveals a paltry few of its own secrets. My kind of mystery.

Buy
Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

Linkage
The Irregular Reader - "Thomas has made a story, and a character, completely separate from the original Holmes and his stories, yet bearing enough nods to the original to please a hardcore fan (like me)."
SBTB - "I haven’t shut up about this book since I finished it. My outbound text messages are mostly hollering, squeeing, and long strings of vowels about this book."
Smexy Books - "I find myself more than ever eager to see what manner of business Charlotte Holmes engages in the future."


***

And now for the giveaway! Berkley has kindly offered up a brand new copy to one lucky reader. The giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only and will run through Tuesday, November 1st. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. Good luck, and happy reading!

October 19, 2016

Review | The Q by Beth Brower

I'm feeling very possessive when it comes to this one, guys. I finished it a few days ago, and it has been a bit touch and go emotionally since then. You try to find other characters and other places to fill the void, but the truth is—it's not your first rodeo. And you know very well you're not going to simply be able to will the ability to move forward with your life. That you're just going to have to wait it out and mourn having been with Quincy and Arch, er, those characters, as steadily and for as long as you were and then learn to live on a day-to-day basis not being with them. And, yes, I do know they're sitting right there on the shelf whenever I need them. But you know what I mean. You have to somehow get past the end having happened to you, too. And not just to them. The Q is a lovely little (actually gratifyingly thick) standalone historical fiction (with a twist) novel and instant entry on my Best Books of 2016 list. Oh, and lest I forget, that cover. It is everything. With the newsprint? And the crease? And that very particular Q? Everything, I say.

It's worth mentioning that Beth Brower and I are friends. And that while I've talked about and spotlighted her work several times on the blog, I haven't reviewed her first three novels because of the close nature of our friendship. But this one, you guys. No power in the 'Verse could stop me from spreading the word. It's that good.

Quincy St. Claire makes time for nothing and no one not intimately involved in the day-to-day machinations of her beloved printing press—The Q. Since being taken in off the streets by her Great Uncle Ezekiel (along with her friend and fellow foundling Fisher), she has harnessed every ounce of her formidable energies and poured them into making Ezekiel's unusual press run like clockwork. And if it is true that Quincy's name is spoken far and wide throughout the lower streets and upper parlors of Rhysdon, it is also true that no one, with the possible exception of Fisher, truly knows the girl who sits on the high stool behind the counter. The girl who writes down the questions that pour in from the denizens of the city, each on an individual Q slip, and who then prints them to be sent out into the world to find their answers. Within the confines of The Q, it is Quincy's world. And it follows her rules. Until one night the heretofore laid back, if quite elderly, Ezekiel throws the hitch of all hitches into her plans. He is to die, he tells her. Imminently. And he has set her a task in the wake of his passing. Twelve of them, to be exact. Not only is she not to be informed what the tasks are, she is to be monitored in her efforts by none other than the bane of her existence—Mr. James Arch—The Q's solicitor and general disapproving stick-in-the-mud. If she fails, The Q will fall into other hands. Ezekiel proves immovable, as well as a man of his word, and so it is up to Quincy to go against every one of her grains and divert some of those well-harnessed energies to accomplishing the mysterious tasks. The alternative, after all, is unthinkable.
Quincy unwound her scarf and laid it over a matchstick chair. Removing her jacket, she opened her creaking armoire and hung it back in its place. Rolling up her shirt sleeves, Quincy walked to her window—a single window that looked down on Gainsford Street—and frowned at the snow.

The Q was to be given away.

If she could not fulfill her uncle's obscure requirements, The Q was to be given away.

On either side of Quincy's window stood two bureaus, tall, with five drawers each, large enough to fit clothing, papers, and what few possessions Quincy found worth keeping. She liked them not for the plebeian practicality they offered, but rather for the way that, when she pulled herself up on one and rested her feet on the edge of the other, Quincy found herself perched high in her window, watching whatever was passing on the street below. She did so now, feeling the gears of her mind catching, too disjointed by her uncle's words for their usually smooth, oiled rotation.
This early passage was the first moment I felt in perfect sympathy with our heroine. As she felt her mind strain to accommodate an unforeseen, wholly unwelcome shift in her well-ordered world. An old and solitary soul tucked economically inside the body of an eccentric young slip of a girl, Quincy is all that is analytical and stubborn, prone to excellence and disdain in equal quantities. In short, I loved her to pieces. From her dogged taunting of the self-righteous Mr. Arch to her single minded passion for the business that gave her life a reliable shape and purpose. To say nothing of her quiet, unwavering loyalty to her oldest (and only) friend Fisher and her uncharacteristic (some might say) fondness for a certain disreputable smuggler who drops into her domain from time to time. Oh, yes, I understood Quincy. And because I understood and loved her, I felt keenly her fierce determination and resolve to hold onto The Q at all costs. And so the pages flew by, full of eloquent and visceral descriptions of the workings of the press. I fell in love with not just Quincy, but with the intricate hierarchy of Rhysdon society, and especially with the people from all walks of life who found themselves drawn to this fanciful, yet precise location where they might quietly voice their questions, knowing that they will be heard, set in careful type, and perhaps someday answered. For a young woman with little use for demonstrative affections, she manages to provide rather a lot of hope for a city in need of just that.
Quincy and Fisher walked through all this in silence. Silence was the most common stock-in-trade between them, and the portfolio of their friendship was thick with it. So, without words, they stepped across the streets, their feet pressing the pavement with the same sounds, their toes turned just so; they knew what life was like at each other's side. Sometimes he would speak, or she would, small offerings on the altar of their joint survival.
This beautiful friendship was one of the most affecting aspects of the novel—for its solidity, its history, and its ardent portrayal. Bound together, are Quincy and Fisher, and we get to see them continue to chase survival on all its levels. And while we are speaking of ardency, I would be remiss if I didn't express my wholehearted devotion to the romantic vein that wends its way through the tale. I so appreciate that readers are given just as many pages as they might want to witness that particular relationship develop in the organic, stumbling, messy, and magnetic way that it does. Even more, I admire the way the two of them don't alter their essential chemistry to fit the other's expectations. They rage when they should rage, but they also see beyond the surface when the light glances off the other person in just the right way. Most importantly, they don't forget what they've seen and just how valuable it is. As I said, days later, I still can't get them out of my head. They're in there, striding down alleys and scarfing down buns, and generally making it impossible to get anything else done, so badly do I want to just sit back and watch them push and support each other and question wildly whether or not they will ever be able to make it come out right. I loved them so. The experience of reading The Q was an impossibly charming one. It repeatedly put me in mind of a few time-honored favorites, from a little Westmark here to a little Spindle's End there, to say nothing of a healthy dash of Dickens just for good measure. In the end, one thing is certain—The Q has room for you.

The Q is out today!

Buy
Amazon 

October 7, 2016

Thick as Thieves + New Queen's Thief Covers


I'm sure by now you've heard the amazing news that we have not only a release date, but a title and cover as well for the incomparable Megan Whalen Turner's fifth Queen's Thief book—Thick as Thieves. It's due out in hardcover May 16th of next year. So definitely what feels like a ways off yet, but it's been six years, people. This is huge progress from where we fans have been. And, if you trot on over to the description on Goodreads, you'll note that our new POV character is none other than Kamet (!), which thing filleth me with joy. I can say that having worked through my initial emotions at coming to The King of Attolia and finding out the narrator was some unknown by the name of Costis and, of course, subsequently recognizing the error of my ways. Costis, I love you! Kamet, I am  one hundred percent ready for your adventure!

So. As for my feelings. We're back to a version of the word thief in the title, and I really love that. And they've finally branded the series officially as the "Queen's Thief" series, which has always been the perfect title and is therefore very gratifying. There will also be, yes, a map! More than one, I believe. As well as extras, including short stories and cast lists. For more, check out the Publisher's Weekly interview with Ms. Turner about the new book here


As you can see, they've also given the entire series cover redesigns (in paperback, of course) to be released February 28th. And here's where my emotions get a bit sticky. And it's no fault of the publisher's. Longtime readers (and confirmed book collectors) will persist in getting attached to certain covers and cover artists, won't we? We will always want our sets to match. Or at least have matching be within the realm of possibility when our bank accounts allow such indulgences. To be fair, this move is standard operating procedure in publishing. There's been a gap of a number of years between books, enough that the old covers probably don't feel as fresh as they once did. Enough that it would be excellent to reach a wider, newer audience with updated, possibly more broadly appealing covers. And, hey, it would be superb to potentially reach a somewhat older young adult audience as well, particularly given the sophistication and beautiful complexity that characterizes this astounding series. 

I get it. I really do. It's just also true that my heart broke a little that we wouldn't be getting the final two books wrapped up in Vince Natale's perfect, perfect covers. And that this was such a radical shift from those. I'm still getting used to them, of course. So far, the cover for the new one is my favorite. But it's my misfortune to believe that the Vince Natale cover of The King of Attolia is quite possibly the best book cover to have ever graced a book in the history of books. I mean, the original covers of The Scorpio Races and Sunshine are right up there with it. Do not get me wrong. But that cover? With that Gen who is so precisely my Gen? With Attolia's hand? The rings, the sword, the cloak? Well, as I said. Too attached for my own good. For the record, Aaron took one look at the new covers and loved them. Our personal experiences with novels certainly inform our cover emotions/desires/hopes/fears. Ahem.

All of this said, I require your thoughts on the matter. Please share (and celebrate) with me. 

October 5, 2016

Foreign Edition Pretties


Today's pretties post comes to you courtesy of three foreign editions I've been lusting over. But seriously, why can these not be available in my country. Or, you know, my language? And, yes, I'm aware of what a first world problem I'm dealing with here. Not enough pretty editions at your beck and call, Ms. Thompson? I do know. But the book collector in me just started vibrating with longing when I ran across these lovely editions.

You've all seen my battered and beloved copy of Daughter of the Forest. I feel like you feel me when I see this completely different and beautiful monochromatic UK version and know that it has to be mine. I always need a lender copy! Particularly as my original hardback is no longer capable of limping out the door, what with the loose pages and the limp tape some obliging borrower stuck in for good measure.

As for the Italian edition of Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, all I can say is this is the cover I'd been waiting for. I never much fell in love with either the Australian or the U.S. editions. They were fine. Serviceable. But they didn't quite catch up to the loveliness that is that special novel. This cover on the other hand? This one does Shadow and Poet and Lucy and Ed and Leo the justice they deserve. Sigh.

When it comes to Six of Crows, I have no compunction whatsoever at buying a lender copy (at present, I only own one copy of the book—behold, the restraint). And this French edition is just it. Such great renderings of all six of them! I mean, Kaz looks a bit like an undead serial killer. But Nina? Jesper? Matthias' handcuffs? Wylan's rose? So, so good.