May 6, 2016

Choose Your Own Edition: O Pioneers!

On the heels of my search for the perfect The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I bring you my longtime search for the perfect O Pioneers! This book. This book is my very favorite Willa Cather. And that is saying something, as I consider her to be the actual Great American Novelist. I am so very grateful we made our way around to her in my tenth grade American literature class. I was so, so ready for a woman author and stories that felt like they represented the land I knew and loved, even if they hailed from time periods and life experiences entirely separate from my own. To this day, I count the first time I read O Pioneers! as one of the highlights of my life.


I currently own a somewhat battered mass market copy (I believe it's a Signet Classic) with rows and rows of hay bales on it. Which is fine. But it doesn't sing the way the cover of this beautiful book should. And so I bring you the three editions I like best and ask your humble opinion. For a long time, I've leaned toward the one on the left, with the barn and the lovely simple lettering. Then I recently ran across the middle Oxford Classics edition with Alexandra herself on it, and I'm quite taken with it as well. Alexandra. How I love her. And lastly, the brighter Penguin Classics poppies. They are all lovely in their own way. Which way do you lean?

April 30, 2016

Review | The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

I thought I was done with the crying when I finished The Raven King last night at an only slightly ungodly hour. But then this morning I got up and I just didn't know what to do. And when I realized I had to sit down and write about how this book made me feel, the tears start welling up again. Honestly, Aaron will likely never let me read another series aloud to him again for all the tears he carefully wiped off my cheeks with this one. I am not a huge book crier as a rule, and I did not cry reading the other three. But it wasn't so much the sadness as it was the saying goodbye. I hate saying goodbye. Even though I am a serial rereader, there is no escaping that particular goodbye that comes at the end of a series that has meant . . . more than a lot. That contains characters I have loved the precise way I have loved these ones. These boys. That Blue. This incredible writing that makes me want to prowl the streets at night reciting passages aloud to the stars. I hated waking up this morning. Because it meant we all had to move on. And I really didn't know what to do.

I just can't see any way to avoid all the spoilers at this point, lovelies. But I do try. We have arrived at the final volume. Vos admonitos

Richard Gansey III knows. He knows this is the closest he's ever been, or may ever be, to finding Glendower. He knows if he doesn't take matters into his own hands, Ronan Lynch will most definitely not graduate Aglionby Academy. He knows the precise texture and feel of Blue Sargent's laughter on his skin. He knows Adam Parrish's bargain with the mystical forest Cabeswater could play out in even more heretofore unexpected ways than it already has. And he knows the odds are better than even he may not survive to see any of these things happen. But, being Gansey, he presses forward nonetheless, determined to find his sleeping king, extract his favor, and see the friends he loves so well possessed of the things they need to survive with or without him. And, to his continual if grateful bemusement, so do said friends. Even as a preponderance of ruthless personages come to roost in Henrietta. Even as Gansey and Blue continue to bash up against the wall that is telling their friends about their feelings for one another. Even as Ronan spends more and more time at the Barns, Adam spends more and more time with Ronan, and both of them spend more and more time within the darkening vines of Cabeswater. Even as an unusual and overeager classmate makes indefatigable advances on the tight-knit group as a whole, And so, reinforced as they are by each other, they draw inexorably closer to the uncertain fate that has always awaited them.

Depending on where you begin the story, it's about my undying love for Ronan Lynch. Ever since the very first pages of The Raven Boys, I have loved Ronan. In English. In Latin. In every single one of the languages on his crazy puzzle box. And I can't help but be utterly unsurprised (and proud, in an odd way) at how this final volume seemed to say so much of it was Ronan's story at heart.
Of all the options in the world, Ronan Lynch was the most difficult version of any of them.
Depending on where you begin the story, it's about my gut-wrenching love for Adam Parrish. Adam, too, I fell in love with on contact. While others have questioned his choices, his motivations, his endless stubborn drive and solitude, I have soaked up every one. If I had the most fears and questions when it came to Adam's fate, it was because I unquestionably identify with him the most.
Need was Adam's baseline, his resting pulse. Love was a privilege. Adam was privileged; he did not want to give it up. He wanted to remember again and again how it felt.
But no matter where you begin the story, it's about Maggie Stiefvater's astounding skill with words, her characters that live and breathe so loudly and fiercely that they feel inviolably real, and the marvelous story in which they are entwined. The Raven King clocks in at a perfectly healthy 438 pages, and it feels funny to say that the entirety of those unfold at a breakneck pace. There are, of course, those trademark moments of indolent splendor, of quiet breaths held and exhaled. But I maintain, the experience of reading the novel remains one of rushing toward a conclusion no one, the reader least of all, is prepared for. But it comes. It comes. It comes. In the sweetest and gentlest of exchanges between Gansey and Blue. In the terrifying and violent passes through Cabeswater. In the exquisite light of fireflies dotting the air around the Barns as words rise up and burst inside Ronan. If The Dream Thieves made it possible for me to love and follow Gansey by showing me why each of the boys and Blue loved and followed him, The Raven King shows Gansey why. And it was such a beautiful artistic choice—here at the end—to show the king just what he had wrought. To hold the mirror (in all its forms) up, so that he could see the beautiful and strange constellation he and his quest had made of their lives.

I wanted so much. I wanted, I wanted. And even though the previous books in the series taught me to be afraid on all possible fronts, there were moments in this one that gave me new reasons. There were also moments that surpassed my expectation with their perfect rightness. And there were new gifts, given at a point when I thought I had passed the time when I could ask for more. But I should have known better. When it comes to Stiefvater's writing and this series, there is always more. The point was the longing, the packing into a single book, into a single series, the feeling of knowing and of being known. The feeling of finding, of waking, of wanting, of home.

Buy
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Linkage
The Book Nut - "Maggie Stiefvater has come up with an ending that is so perfect for the series, that captures everything, that ends it so wonderfully, that I am genuinely sad that I will not get to visit this world again."
Gone with the Words - "When you can see little dots connecting all over the series like its own sort of ley line. It’s very rewarding."

April 19, 2016

The Ruby Prince Blog Tour—Interview with Beth Brower + Giveaway!

I'm so pleased to be welcoming Beth Brower to the blog as part of The Ruby Prince Blog Tour in honor of today's release of her second novelThe Ruby Princebook two in her fantasy trilogy the Books of Imirillia. We're also celebrating with a giveaway of a brand spanking new paperback copy The Ruby Prince. If you haven't had a chance to start the series yet, run don't walk to secure yourself a copy of the first book in the series The Queen's Gambit and then drop your name in the hat for the second book while you're here! I did highlight the cover of the first book awhile back, but I think we can all agree to take a moment and admire the beauty that is these gorgeous covers. I swoon.

So you've published your first book and your second just released today (Yay!). What was it like holding copies of your very first published books in your hands?

I remember standing in the grade school library and finding the place that my books would be someday. I did the same thing in junior high, and high school, and in all the bookstores I would enter. In equal measure, I would imagine the first day I would hold a galley of my own book. It was usually sunny, and green, and perfect. When the day finally came, I had been quite ill for several months and all my energy had gone toward getting Queen’s Gambit ready. I was so tired that I gripped my book between my hands, drove to my oldest sister’s house, walked through her front door and into her arms, and cried on her shoulder. The sweetest of memories.

I've always felt that names hold power. And I am always curious how an author goes about naming her characters, her place names, the bones of her world. Can you tell us a bit about how the names in the Books of Imirillia came to you?

Yes! Names! Oh, how I love names.
The actual name of the country of Aemogen is a tilted variation on Imogen, a name derived from the Gaelic Inghean. I wanted the feel and history of that name, painted with a different vowel sound to create the feeling of the country it represented. As for the characters, their names were already set. The names came with the characters. Eleanor was always Eleanor, an old name, a name of beauty and courage. I knew Crispin’s name as soon as he walked into the room. And so went the rest. The only exception, the one name I crafted, was for the silent Queen’s Own, Hastian. His name is a derivative of my younger brother’s name, and the affection I have for my brother was carried into the treasured companionship of the quiet soldier.
The names of Imirillia wrote themselves out in a different way. I spent time looking at words in Persian or Arabic while listening for the names of the characters and places. The sounds in the name of Zarbadast were drawn from two different words meaning power. Prince Basaal’s name came in a similar fashion. Others were just the names I heard as I spent time in the palaces of Zarbadast. For example, Ammar was Ammar, for no particular reason, and he wasn’t going to discuss it with me.
An interesting note is that the names in the Aemogen language often find their emphasis on the first syllable, as in Edythe. Whereas, in Imirillia, the emphasis falls most often on the second syllable, as in Basaal. If one is to take up a study of ancient Imirillian, that should be remembered.

I am in love with the map for The Ruby Prince. You created this yourself, yes? What was that process like?

I did draw the maps, both for The Queen’s Gambit and The Ruby Prince! One cold morning I grabbed some beautiful watercolor paper, a large artist’s clipboard, and curled up in my bed, drawing out the landscape of Aemogen and Imirillia. I drew the maps in detail, and then turned them over to my dear friend, the artist Phillip Jackson. He inked over my pencil lines with beautiful precision. There is something incomparably charming about watching someone dip their pen into a bottle of deep black ink and draw out the lines of your imagination.


What's one book and/or series you've been gushing about nonstop lately?

Oh dear. Those around me would say I never stop gushing about any book I love. Hmm. Narrowing it down? Eeee. I have been anxiously awaiting The Rose & the Dagger. I loved meeting those characters last year. Just. Loved.

And, just for fun, what's the first word that comes to mind when I say:

Eleanor: Bright
Books: Joy
Wil: Lines
Music: Enchant
Hastian: Heart
Sexy: Accent
Imirillia: Golden
Love: True
Aemogen: Hills
Home: Always

Beth, thank so much for stopping by and giving us a peek into your creative process. You are always welcome.

***

And now for the giveaway! Beth has kindly offered up a paperback copy of The Ruby Prince to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally and will run through Tuesday, April 26th. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. Good luck and happy reading!

April 9, 2016

Bibliocrack Review | Chase Me by Laura Florand

I love it when I find myself reviewing another Laura Florand winner. I can't believe it's been exactly three years since I initially fell in love with her Amour et Chocolat series, but I have no trouble at all recalling the pure pleasure I took in devouring each successive book about egomaniacal, yet devastatingly charming chocolatiers and patissiers and the strong-willed, wonderfully intelligent women whose misfortune/fortune it was to make and keep their acquaintance. Chase Me is the second book in Florand's Paris Nights series, though they don't necessarily have to be read in order. This series is set in Paris (my favorite of Florand's settings). And while it contains all the wit and charm and emotion of her other works, it also incorporates just the perfect touch of classic Hollywood screwball romantic comedy. It turns out to be the perfect recipe.

Violette Lenoir is violently less than thrilled to find an after-hours intruder in the pristine kitchen of her top restaurant Au-dessus. With the American president rumored to be eating at her restaurant within the next few days, the press breathing down her neck, and a lifetime of battling against the rampant machismo of the Paris chef scene under her belt, she does not hesitate to throw a knife or three at Chase Smith's head first and ask questions second. The fact that the unwanted "private security" specialist promptly proposes does nothing to mitigate Violette's rage, no matter how thick he lays on the Texas charm. The problem is that after their battle of wits and weapons, he refuses to listen to Vi and go away. Worse, he appears to genuinely believe himself in love with her. But what truly enrages her, he refuses to tell her what in the world it is he does, why he was in her kitchen in the first place, and why the health inspectors inexplicably shut down her restaurant on a trumped up charge immediately after his unexpected arrival. But somewhere amid his intermittent disappearances and reappearances in her life, Vi is bound and determined to extract and answer to each and every question.

So it's basically every interaction between Chase and Vi, you know? Chase's incorrigible optimism, Vi's glorious anger, and their mutual ineffable charm just carry the day. Individually and collectively, they never let up and I would never want them to. For example:
Violette Lenoir sighed heavily. "Are you some kind of manifestation of my worst nightmare?"

"Hey." That hurt. "You're straight out of my dreams."

"You know I crush a hundred men just like you on a daily basis?"

Okay, not that he wanted to destroy her self-confidence or anything, but . . . seriously? "I'm pretty sure you don't, honey. Just because they pretend to be me in video games doesn't mean they're actually like me."

Just for a second, a flicker of genuine caution showed in her eyes, and her left hand scooped up another throwing knife. Aww, and they'd been getting along so well. He backpedaled. "But don't worry, sweetheart. I may not be crushable, but you're safe with me."

"You're not. Safe with me."

He sighed with delight. "I know."
Ugh, I love these two. It's embarrassing to admit, but I just wasn't quite expecting to love them as much as I did. I was stoked that the culinary whiz this time around was going to be a woman, and I was cautiously skeptical of a cocky American hero (I like my French heroes, so sue me). But they were both just note perfect. For every ounce of arrogant swagger, Chase made up for it with irresistible devotion, to his dangerous job and to Vi from day one. For her part, Vi has earned every ounce of her own pride and confidence. Her outrage (throughout the book) at Chase's intrusions and advances is essentially one hundred percent justified. I love that, and I love that Chase recognizes that and makes space for it. These two adults are fully independent, fully committed, and fully bowled over by the role the other is suddenly playing in their lives. And if Chase adapts a little lot more quickly than Vi is able to, it only makes their road that much more intriguingly bumpy and amusing. One more favorite (early) encounter:
"So this Quentin . . . what's his last name? Where does he live?"

"I took care of him," she said dryly. That was the point, right? She took care of all problems cocky males presented her with. That was how she could stay chef.

Yeah, it would be nice if it was all about the food, the way she'd imagined as a kid, but she'd learned long before she finished her first apprenticeship that it was mostly about surviving in a world of sexist assholes.

"Stabbed him?" her burglar asked hopefully.

"I brought one of the pallets of milk down on his head when he pushed me back against the shelves. Mild concussion."

He weighed that a moment. "Much of a struggle before you managed to bring the milk down on his head?"

Maybe. She lifted her chin at him and braced her feet. Even if there was a struggle, I still won.

"Yeah, you know what? I think I'll still pay him a little visit. Don't worry, I can find his address on my own."

"I don't need a hero," she said dryly.

He raised his eyebrows. "How do you know? It sounds like you've never had one."
These characters are epically magnetic.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on the key placement of this novel in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. It plays a visceral role in the lives of all of the characters, both inherently in Chase's career as a counterterrorist operative, and much more profoundly in the fierce spirit of Vi, her friends, her family, and the people of Paris. It was lovingly and thoughtfully written and added a beautiful element of gravitas to this fizzy, heartfelt novel. Chase Me earned an instant spot on my best of the year list, no question.

Buy
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

Linkage
Ivy Book Bindings - "Chase Me is hilarious, un-put-down-able and just so much fun! "
SBTB - "I think it’s one of her best books to date."
Smexy Books - "If you like great banter, this is a must read."
Straight Shootin' Book Reviews - "I love seeing a strong female heroine who can stand up for herself and Violette definitely fits that description."

April 6, 2016

The Wrath & the Dawn Giveaway!

The release of Renée Ahdieh's second novel—The Rose & the Dagger—is just around the corner now (praise be), and to celebrate its release I'm giving away one paperback copy of the first book in the duology—The Wrath & the Dawn. I loved this book so much, not the least because it has one of my favorite literary letters ever. Truly. I quote that last line of Khalid's to myself all the time. So. If you haven't had a chance to read this gem, now is happily the time. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open to those with U.S. or Canadian mailing addresses and will run through Wednesday, April 13th. Good luck!


April 5, 2016

I Will Follow, or Angie's Top Ten Nine Bookish Instagrams


Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme hosted @ The Broke and the Bookish

I couldn't resist this week's theme, as I am a confirmed Instagram addict. And aside from my family—love you, Dad!—accounts of the bookish variety are my clear favorites. So for your viewing (and hopefully following pleasure), here are nine of my favorites. These ladies never disappoint, always bringing me the prettiest pages, shelves, and love for books in all their wondrous variety.



March 30, 2016

Veronica Speedwell Pretties


I'm sorry, but these brand spanking new Veronica Speedwell covers are divine, and that's all there is to it. I mean, the hardback cover of A Curious Beginning wasn't too shabby at all (the dress . . . the fog . . . ), but these ones have my heart. The silhouettes. The butterflies. The font. The problem, of course, is an old one and one that has plagued dedicated book collectors like myself for what seems like time immemorial. This new A Curious Beginning cover belongs to the paperback edition (due out July 12), while the matching cover for A Perilous Undertaking (the second book in the series) will be hardcover (due out September or thereabouts). Naturally, I own the hardcover copy of the first book. Sigh.

Why? Why must my series be unmatched? All covers are not created equal, and I want these two gorgeous matched pretties on my shelf. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of lender copies, and my husband will assure you I have zero problem throwing down for a second copy of a book I love. It just makes me feel safe, you know? But that doesn't mean I don't reserve the right to grouse when a publisher changes the game on me mid-series. Even when it's in the most delightful of directions. Ah, well. Minor grouchiness aside, I simply cannot wait to get my hands on these beauties. Have you read the first book? I confess, I'm going to be rather excited to be reunited with Veronica and Stoker.