August 24, 2015

Review | The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I think I've been quietly missing the Garretts for the last three years. I remember picking up My Life Next Door based on its comparisons to Anna and the French Kiss and being pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful an exploration it was of families and first loves. And while I swooned over Jase and Sam right along with every other reader with a pulse, it was those forbidden Garrets that kept me thoroughly enthralled. Which is why my anticipation grew daily from the moment I heard about The Boy Most Likely To right up until release day. And then, perversely, when it finally came I worried. What if the balance is off? What if Tim isn't redeemable? What if (as was a touch true in the first book) Alice-and-Tim weren't the equals I wanted them to be? The thousand niggling questions of an anxious, but resolute reader such as myself . . . But, happily, the pull of returning to the cozy kitchen of the Garretts didn't allow me to hold out for long. And it was a warm welcome back indeed.

Tim Mason doesn't expect anyone to believe him. He knows that ship sailed years ago when he started drinking, got his very own dealer, and required oblivion in order to get by. Now he's clean, sober, and being kicked out of his father's house at last. Already kicked out of high school, he takes his best friend Jase up on his offer of a place to stay, packs a single box, and moves into the dilapidated apartment over the Garrett's garage. But when Jase's older sister Alice discovers her little brother has up and allowed his deadbeat friend to move into the apartment she wanted, that trouble Tim can never seem to escape begins brewing once more. It doesn't help that he's had a crush on Alice forever and that her dolt of a jock boyfriend keeps giving him the evil eye anytime he comes within a five mile radius of Alice. Of course, Alice can take care of herself. She's been keeping herself as well as her entire motley family afloat since the car accident that put her dad in the hospital, thank you very much. And she has no time for a boy who's proven time and again that he wants nothing more from life than a good time.

I love Alice, and you know why? Because she gives approximately zero damns about Tim from the word go. She has her priorities set, she knows what she wants, and she works so freaking hard to take care of the people in her care. Never mind that she never asked for seven siblings with another on the way and that she may have to defer nursing school again if those hospital bills keep coming. I love Tim, too, and you know why? Because he's serious about changing his life in his way. He may have no earthly idea how, but his eyes are clear despite being clouded for years. He sees Alice, recognizes what she is, and he never messes around with her. Despite their tacitly acknowledged attraction. Living in such close proximity to one another does lead to something of a softening of enemy lines, especially as Tim is incapable of turning the flirting off when it comes to Alice, even as he knows she's too good for him on pretty much every level. But just when things are maybe sort of starting to look up, his past comes back to haunt him in the most serious of ways.

What I love is that the whole debacle never grows too overwrought, that Alice accepts the latest of Tim's mess-ups just like she does every other blow she's taken standing up in her life. Which is not to say that she doesn't give him the grief he deserves over it. Which is also not to say that Tim doesn't accept said grief as his due. She just doesn't let it derail her, which is one of the best of many things about Alice. And he doesn't let it destroy him. Which is, yeah, one of a host of things I just really loved about Tim. The pain is there, and it is real. Along with the daily, crushing uncertainty of youth. The creeping sense that you may not be able to escape your past (in Tim's case) or your present bonds (in Alice's). The lovely bit is the way Huntley Fitzpatrick works it all out, the way Tim and Alice's story unfolds against the backdrop of all of the messy, wonderful Garretts, Tim's twin sister Nan's struggles, as well as the quietly supportive and aching additions of his fellow AA members. The way that with increased clarity comes the realization that escape doesn't necessarily have to be the goal. A pivotal scene told from Alice's point of view when she comes to understand Tim's situation a little more clearly:
I carry both mugs from the kitchen, set his down in front of him.

“Look. Stay. I mean . . . I can wait. It’s only fair. Jase didn’t know I wanted it anyway. Four months is nothing. You can be here for four months and then . . . “ I trail off.

Then what?

Troubled gray eyes search my face for a long time. Finally, he sighs, shakes his head. “Nah. I’ll find somewhere else. You deserve it. You’ve earned it.”

Like a home’s something you have to earn when you’re seventeen.

He’s a kid. Not a man, not on some deadline. But with his jaw set and raised—I know that face. The I’m going to push on through, no problem, I’ll deal. Moving right along. Nothing to see here face. Know it as well as my own. It is my own. And I picture the rest of the lines on that paper.

Tim Mason: The Boy Most Likely To . . .
Forget his own name even before we do
Turn down the hottest girl in the world for the coldest beer
Be six feet under by our fifth reunion

Don’t go that way, Tim. Such a stupid, stupid waste. “I mean it,” I say aloud. “Stay.”

Pause.

“I want you here,” I add, my cheeks flaring. He shifts on the couch and I’m hyper-aware of him next to me, the smell of soap and shampoo, the heat of him, the alive of him.

“Please, stay.”

My words fall into the silence, and something changes. Tim’s shoulders straighten. He stills, but not frozen, more like . . . more like . . . alert.

“Yeah? Then . . . I’ll be here,” he says quietly. 

The narrative alternates back and forth between Tim and Alice's perspectives, a touch that I appreciated and one that definitely aids in the reader having enough time with them to not only love, but get, these two individuals. No one has an easy time of it, and I wasn't sure at times things were going to work out in a way that felt both realistic and well (not a requirement, but frequently a hope). But it was such an enjoyable journey, and it has a last line that sticks with you the way I always want them to. Even now—a couple of days later—I'm murmuring it to myself as my lips curve in a satisfied smile.

Buy:

Linkage
Book Binge - "I definitely recommend this book to fans of the contemporary YA romance but also of the first book in this series."
Book Rock Betty - "YOU. MUST. OWN. THIS. BOOK."
Christina Reads YA - "The Garretts, as always, are the charming backdrop, providing much needed humor and stability for the characters and us readers."
Good Books and Good Wine - "Fitzpatrick is a master of creating family dynamics that are both exasperating and exhilarating in contrast."
Love is Not a Triangle - "Even more than a romance, this book is all about Tim, and his growth is amazing to watch." 

August 17, 2015

Choose Your Own Edition: 84 Charing Cross Road

You guys. I have come across another perfect edition of a book I adore, and I simply have to share. Actually I discovered one lovely edition and that one led me to another, and, well, I need to know which you yourselves would choose. I ran across the whimsical yellow cover and found it charming, particularly in comparison to the edition I own, which I love, but which has determinedly large violet numbers on it. And we all know how I feel about violet anything on the covers of my beloved books. Sigh.


But then. Then. I found the stamped AirMail envelope cover. My heart, you guys. It is perfect. I do really like the cream one with the actual photo of Marks & Co. on it, naturally. In fact, my heart clenches each time I look at it and remember that when I finally made it to London, that blessed shop had been turned into a Pizza Hut. A Pizza Hut. And so to exorcise the demons (and because I have no lender copy), I plan on ordering one of these lovelies sooner rather than later. Your thoughts?

July 28, 2015

Perfect Opening Lines

So get this. In all my years of blogging (I can't believe I just typed that), I've never written up a post on my favorite literary opening lines! This strikes me as funny given the fact that I somehow have made time to discuss my favorite first kisses, favorite endings, favorite big bads, and all manner of other Very Important Lists. So. Today, we're going to dig into the best first lines, the ones that sucked me in so fast my head spun. For purposes of space, we're going to exclude classics. I know. It's just that once I get started with Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, etc., I have a feeling we'll start spiraling out to sea. 

Some of these lines make me laugh. Some make me cry. Some fill me with the kind of nostalgia only a pivotal book in my life does. And some woo you in gently with their come-hither eyes, deceptive in their simplicity. No matter their ilk, all of them belong to books that reside firmly on my Beloved Bookshelf. And so. Favorite opening lines that are not, "It is a truth universally acknowledged . . . " 

Side note: I thought about organizing these by title, by author's last name, by the order in which I read them, by order of personal preference, etc. In the end, I went with the far more scientific order in which they came to mind.

"It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn't that dumb. There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life." 
– Sunshine

"Three children lay on the rocks at the water's edge. A dark-haired little girl. Two boys, slightly older. This image is caught forever in my memory, like some fragile creature preserved in amber." 

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." 

"Theo, by occupation, was a devil."
 – Westmark

"The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink." 

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany." 

"It was a dark and stormy night." 

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." 

"My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted." 

"When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. Maybe he had been turning towards her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands. There must have been some movement, a gesture, because every person in the living room would later remember a kiss." 
– Bel Canto

"On a cold, fretful afternoon in early October, 1872, a hansom cab drew up outside the offices Lockhart and Selby, Shipping Agents, in the financial heart of London, and a young girl got out and paid the driver. She was a person of sixteen or so—alone, and uncommonly pretty. She was slender and pale, and dressed in mourning, with a black bonnet under which she tucked back a straying twist of blond hair that the wind had teased loose. She had unusually dark brown eyes for one so fair. Her name was Sally Lockhart; and within fifteen minutes, she was going to kill a man."

"The angel Gabriel went to the oracle on Mount Sinai, looking for a wife." 
– Archangel

"The whole affair began so very quietly." 

"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die." 

"On Christmas morning, Rebecca lost her moral virginity, her sense of humor—and her two best friends. But, other than that, it was a hell of a holiday." 

***

So which would you add to the list? Do we share any favorites? And, perhaps more importantly, do any of these entice you to run out and grab the book right now

July 22, 2015

Tell the Wind and Fire Cover


Stop the presses (except not really because I need this baby in my hands pronto)! Entertainment Weekly has revealed the cover for the brilliant Sarah Rees Brennan's upcoming novel Tell the Wind and Fire. For those of you savvy readers who recognize the title quote, this book is a modern, magical retelling/adaptation/what-have-you of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Which fact sent me into paroxysms of joy when I found out. We finally have a release date for this beauty, and it is April 5, 2016. I know it's a ways down the road yet, but I feel like I've been waiting forever and an actual date helps set my jitters at ease a bit. As part of the reveal, Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive excerpt from Chapter One. Go check it out and let me know what you think of the excerpt. Personally, I'm still reeling from the excellence.

July 6, 2015

Choose Your Own Edition: The Messenger

This Choose Your Own Edition comes to you courtesy of my Instagram rambles through evil, evil Maggie's feed. She posted a pic of the playing card edition of Markus Zusak's The Messenger (published as I Am the Messenger here in the States), and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. I need that edition, you guys. My copy is the red and black American paperback from 2002, I believe. And while I am attached to it because I love the size and texture of it (and because it was the very first Zusak book I ever read), I've never loved the artwork. So one thing led to another and I found myself scouring the web for different editions.  




Here you have my three favorites. They are—perhaps coincidentally—all Australian versions, and as such are not what you might call "readily available" to the likes of me. But availability (and funds) aside, let's talk covers. I love aspects of each, particularly the white figure of the juggler (which reminds me a bit whimsically of the dancing figure of Death on some editions of The Book Thief) as well as the envelope and taxicab. In the end, I still think I lean toward the playing card one in the middle. Because perfection. But. I require your thoughts on the matter.

June 23, 2015

Review | Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I eagerly delved into Naomi Novik's standalone fantasy, having heard rave reports of her Temeraire series for years, but for some reason having not read them. It's often easier for me to dive into a standalone with a new author than it is a series it seems. The blurbs from luminaries such as Tamora Pierce and Maggie Stiefvater (and the comparisons to my beloved Robin McKinley) did not hurt things one bit. And the opening chapter is absolute perfection. I knew I was in for something special right off the bat. And, having finished Uprooted, I stand by my feelings that it is something special and absolutely worth your time and money investment, even if my overall impression came off not quite as glowing and awed as I might have hoped. It's worth taking a moment to admire that beautiful cover. My, how I love it. And the UK edition is glorious in a very different way. Lucky book, to be so beautifully packaged on both sides of the pond.
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.
And so opens Agnieszka's story. Hers is a Slavic-feeling fairy tale worthy of any Grimm wordsmith. The land and history are utterly developed and weighty with the years of folk tales, villagers, royalty, and political machinations that have shaped it into the place Agnieszka calls home. When she is chosen to apprentice to the legendary Dragon in place of her beautiful and fierce friend Kasia, she immediately fills with every fear every village girl has felt since the selection began. Her time in the ageless wizard's castle is a brutal education and the two get off to the rockiest of starts. His disdain for her plainness and disinterest in his lofty spells fairly drips from the page, mucking up Agnieszka's every waking moment. But when her uncanny ability with more organic magic comes into its own, their partnership begins to take on a more even and compelling nature. Of course, the aforementioned political and monarchical machinations come into play before they can really get off the ground, and the truly terrifying forest surrounding them begins to threaten the lives of every member of the kingdom.

There is almost nothing not to love about Uprooted. From its implacable protagonist to the hearty elements of horror embodied by the terrifying denizens of the Wood, the elements of Novik's fairy tale are woven together with love, care, and a meticulous attention to what makes up a riveting tale. To say nothing of the utterly brilliant homage to Robin McKinley's work itself in the form of the legendary Luthe's Summoning spell, which no one has successfully cast in fifty years. Be still my heart, people. That alone is worth the price of admission. My only quibble is that I felt a small but persistent lack of attachment to the main characters. Make no mistake, I was incredibly fond of them from the start. The Dragon himself reminded me in no small way of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl, which I know will endear him to countless readers. And the comparisons to McKinley and Marillier are there without a doubt. My heart ached with loss on a number of occasions, as Novik clearly understands the price that must be paid when playing with magic and hubris on such a grand scale. However. Unlike McKinley's and Marillier's characters, I struggled a bit to hang on to Agnieszka and the Dragon. I admired them, smiled at them, and worried about them. But I can't say I loved them. They didn't become a part of me the way so many of my favorite characters do. I'm not sure if the fault is with me (since mine may well be the only dissenting voice on this aspect of the book), but while I loved the experience of reading it and have gained a wonderful appreciation for Ms. Novik's skill as a storyteller, I can tell it will not make my regular rotation of rereads, which is possibly more a reflection of my particular taste these days (perhaps more pages with Agnieszka and the Dragon actually within at least five miles of each other would have ameliorated this feeling of emotional distance) and not in any way an indictment of the book itself, which is a thing of beautiful craftsmanship.

Buy

Linkage
Dear Author - "The set-up and the slow realization by Agnieszka of just what she was made for compelling reading."
The Book Smugglers - "The brilliant, beauteous, dark, and enchanting new fairy tale from Naomi Novik."
Ivy Book Bindings - " It's beautifully written, scripted to perfection, and unique in the sense that it reads like lore."
Fantasy Cafe - "This stand alone fantasy is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a long time!"
My Friends are Fiction - "I loved the writing, story and I had legit swoons though I’d hoped for a tiny bit more development for the relationship."

June 16, 2015

Lakeside Reading, or Angie's Top Eight Summer TBR Books

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

So it's time tomorrow to head off for parts north. Every other year, DH's family gathers lakeside for a family reunion full of sand, sun, and late-night card games. I for one am eager to get out of town, kick back in a beach chair, and lose myself in some solid summer reads. These are the books I'll be taking with me, and I gotta say—I'm pretty dang excited about my prospects. Have you read any of them already? Yea or nay? Any of these on your TBR as well? 



 Three days, four nights, eight books. I call that perfection.