July 23, 2016

Wonder Woman Trailer


Yeah, I was never not going to post this the moment I saw it.

"What I do is not up to you."

2017, I need you now

July 22, 2016

Come Hither Pretties


You guys, I'm just avidly excited about these three upcoming pretties. I need them now and I will not have them until October (in two cases) and next April in the other. Alas. Alack. Until then, I shall have to content myself with the odd gaze at these instances of the benevolence of the Cover Gods.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
As you know. I love Sherry Thomas. Historicals, YA fantasy, you name it, she can do it. This time she's turning her hand to a gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes retelling. Charlotte Holmes takes the name of Sherlock Holmes in order to solve the mystery behind a trio of murders that have cast suspicion upon her sister and father. Say no more.
Due out October 18th

Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin
I'm sorry, but this cover, you guys. It's like my heart grew ten sizes the day I saw it. It is utterly perfect for a book about one lonely girl who has a heart that ticks and builds a robot companion. Set in a dystopian/steampunk post-epidemic city made up of people with biomechanical parts. Take my money.
Due out October 4th

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
What an elegant cover. It's been awhile since I've read a good Sleeping Beauty retelling, and I'm ready for a fresh take. Half sisters, one illegitimate and one legitimate. One tithed her sight, the other her touch and voice to the Faerie Queen. Then one drop of blood changes it all.
Due out April 11th (I know)

July 12, 2016

Bibliocrack Review + Giveaway | Alice by Christina Henry

So. As much as I adore retellings, I recently realized I'd never actually read an Alice in Wonderland retelling. And what with the absolute rash of them inundating the publishing world these days, I figured it was high time. I've always loved the original classic and the Disney film, but I've never seen any of the more recent film adaptations. When Ace contacted me about reviewing Christina Henry's Alice in anticipation of the sequel's release, it felt like the perfect entry point. Funnily enough, I actually read the first book in Henry's Black Wings urban fantasy series ages ago. We didn't particularly hit it off, but I found myself massively intrigued to find out what she might do with a grown-up Alice. Also, the cover. It sends chills down my spine every time I glance over at the copy sitting on my nightstand. Having now read the words behind that cover, I can verify that the chills only increase after you make the acquaintance of Henry's White Rabbit.

Alice is mad. Or so they said when they found her stumbling back out of the Old City, having escaped an unnamed horror, with blood running everywhere and the Rabbit's name on her lips. And so they locked her up for ten years in a asylum for those who had taken leave of their senses, who the New City was too impatient to deal with. But two years in, someone whispers through the mouse hole in her cell. Someone by the name of Hatcher, who never takes the powders the orderlies bring, who fights tooth and nail to avoid the regular baths every inmate must take, who awoke years ago surrounded by bodies with a bloody ax in his hands. And so the two become friends and allies, working desperately to keep a shred of sanity in a world they no longer recognize. Hatcher is determined that one day the opportunity for escape will arise. And when it does in the form of a fire, he and Alice fight their way out of the prison that formed every fiber of their beings for so many years. But now they are on the run. Working their way deep into the twisted streets of Old City, they find themselves on a mad mission to escape the evil the fire released from the asylum and to recapture enough of Alice's memories to know who to hunt and who to flee.
If she moved her head all the way up against the wall and tilted it to the left she could just see the edge of the moon through the bars. Just a silver sliver, almost close enough to eat. A sliver of cheese, a sliver of cake, a cup of tea to be polite. Someone had given her a cup of tea once, someone with blue-green eyes and long ears. Funny how she couldn't remember his face, though. All that part was hazy, her memory of him wrapped in smoke but for the eyes and ears. And the ears were long and furry. 
These opening lines sealed the deal, I'm afraid. There was no going back after I met Alice and she met Hatcher and the two of them agreed to hold hands throughout their ordeal. I was completely unable and completely uninterested in not being with them. Which is saying quite a lot, because their ordeal is not for the faint of heart. I repeat, beyond this point there be dragons of the deepest and darkest kind. I want to make this point early, because this book will not be for many readers. The violence factor is high. Hatcher is an actual ax murderer, after all, and he has set his sights on keeping Alice safe from any threat, which means the body count is astoundingly high in this dark fantasy that takes all the unhinged zaniness from Lewis Carroll's classic tale and neatly amplifies it by one hundred percent. Essentially, this book and I had no business falling as madly in love as we did. But there you have it. I loved it beyond reason. I kept waiting for the level of horror to send me packing, but the corethe light that Alice and Hatcher make by the mere fact of their survivalkept me following. Their fight to stop the mindless violence of the Jabberwock, their run ins with each of the unspeakably evil crime lords that run Old City, and the slow and terrifying awakening of Alice's memories are all excellently rendered.

My one issue with the novel is the absolute preponderance of violence directed toward women. It is omnipresent in Henry's world and it is massively disturbing. Alice is essentially its only survivor, and I think she is meant to be the seed that grows a revolution. Which I am clearly fine with, as I stuck with her through the entire bloody gauntlet. But I want to be sure to say that while I comprehend the reasons behind the dark world Ms. Henry has created, I feel that the story's integrity could have withstood a toning down of the violence against women (particularly during their sojourns with the Caterpillar and the Walrus) and still retained its spine-unhinging terror.

That said, this novel is utterly magnetic. Reading it feels like a madcap sprint to the finish. I swallowed it in 100-page chunks and came back each night just eager to slip back into this nightmare world. And the reason why is the two main characters. Alice and her mad Hatcher. Their heartbreaking connection and the furious way in which they cling to it is everything I look for when I come to a tale. I loved their story in all its brutal, broken beauty. I sense they will never be far from my thoughts from now on.
"You remember it all now," Hatcher said, and it wasn't a question.

"Yes," she said. She was beyond weeping for the child she once was. "It is, more or less, what you would expect. Except for the part where I escaped. Nobody expected that."
Buy
Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

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And now for the giveaway! To celebrate today's release of Red QueenAce has graciously offered up a brand new paperback copy of Alice to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only and will run through Tuesday, July 19th. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. Good luck, and happy reading!

July 8, 2016

Interview with Deanna Raybourn + Giveaway!

You guys. It is a genuine thrill for me to welcome Deanna Raybourn to the blog today! I am such a fangirl. I discovered Ms. Raybourn's work through her debut novelSilent in the Grave—a book I consider perfect in every way and one that I foist upon other readers every chance I get. To say I was excited when she announced she was writing another Victorian mystery series is a not-so-mild understatement. A Curious Beginning is the first in the Veronica Speedwell series and it is being released in trade paperback on July 12th. We're celebrating with a giveaway of one copy, complete with gorgeous new cover. I literally can't stop stroking my copy. So, without further ado, please welcome Deanna Raybourn!

This is your second Victorian mystery series. How did the idea for the series develop and how differently did your protagonists make themselves known as opposed to Lady Julia and Brisbane? 

I am so lucky to have another chance to explore Victorian London! I love this time period unreservedly, and when my previous publisher declined to continue the Lady Julia series, I was not ready to leave the 19th century. I have studied Victorian female explorers since college, and I have always been smitten with Margaret Fountaine, a lepidopterist who traveled the globe, collecting butterflies and lovers, and writing a series of genteelly-salacious journals. I used her as inspiration for Veronica’s character; they have very different backstories, but the notion of a woman who travels on her own was extremely appealing for me. By definition, that made her different from Lady Julia who has been reared in the hothouse atmosphere of English aristocracy. The Julia books show her evolving into an independent, inquisitive, self-actualized woman; Veronica is already there when we meet her.  I like tortured heroes, so there was no question that Stoker would have a painful personal history. Because I lowered my heroine’s social status for this series, it made sense to elevate the hero’s. Stoker is more highly born than Brisbane and has been to the right schools, carried a noble name. He has rejected that life, taking a sort of downward trajectory while Brisbane has been upwardly mobile. It has made for an interesting change for me to switch up that dynamic, and having one very successful sleuthing couple has made it much easier to create another.

I'm a huge fan of name origin stories and how an author goes about naming her characters. Veronica Speedwell and Stoker's names are so perfect for them and for this series. Can you elaborate on that process for us?

Veronica’s name came about when I was researching herbs and came across the plant Veronica. Its common name is speedwell, and I thought that together they sounded like the perfect Victorian heroine; I knew immediately who she was—intrepid, unconventional. Stoker was completely the opposite. I went through an entire draft with a totally different name! It never felt right, and I had to keep working at it, trying and discarding a variety of options. Then I recalled the Deborah Mitford, the late Duchess of Devonshire, had a son nicknamed Stoker. I put that together with Revelstoke, a name I’d always wanted to use, and it suddenly came together. As an aristocrat, he needed a double-barreled name and an Honourable, just to gild the lily a bit. I tend to squirrel away names that I like in hopes of one day finding characters to fit.

What do we have to look forward to on the horizon?

Veronica’s third adventure! I am writing it now and having a wonderful time digging deeper into their world. I hope to be able to keep writing Veronica for a very long time. I have so many plans for her and for Stoker! The Lady Julia TV series is still in development in the UK, and I’m quite excited about that too.

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

I have wrestled people down to make sure they’re listening when I rave about Lyndsay Faye’s JANE STEELE, a truly superb book that reimagines a Jane Eyre-type character as a serial killer. Genius. And I’ve just discovered M.R.C. Kasasian’s Gower Street Detectives series; it’s wonderful. That’s two, and I’m not choosing between them—I can’t!

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

Veronica: badass
Books: life
Stoker: wounded
London: history
Sexy: husband
Victorian: queen
Love: grace
Collage: inspiration
Home: dog

Thank you so much for stopping by and whetting our appetites for more Veronica!

***

And now for the giveaway! Penguin Random House has graciously offered up a brand new paperback copy of A Curious Beginning to one lucky reader. This giveaway is open to U.S. addresses only and will run through Thursday, July 14th. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. Good luck, and happy reading!

July 7, 2016

Review | A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A new Victorian mystery series from Deanna Raybourn is no small treat. I was basically beside myself with joy when I found out she would be returning to my favorite of her settings with an all new intrepid protagonist and (word had it) a broody hero to boot. Nobody broods like Brisbane broods (say that five times fast), and I was eager to make the acquaintance of this Veronica Speedwell and this natural historian by the name of Stoker. I did love the original hardcover for the heroine's dress and the misty fog drifting up the cobblestones. But I have to say, I'm more partial to this lovely new trade paperback edition. The butterflies! The silhouette of Veronica with her net! The typeface! I love it all. When a copy arrived in the mail for review, I could not have been more pleased.

Veronica Speedwell is used to being on her own. She is used to striking out for locales unknown and obscure butterfly species heretofore undiscovered. What she is not used to is abduction attempts on her person. Particularly not after she has just buried her last remaining relative and is about to wash her hands of the ties that bind in general and embark on her next adventure. But foil an abduction she does, and it's off to London with a mysterious (but kindly) German baron and into the highly unexpected laboratory of one Stoker. Covered in tattoos and dripping with disdain, Stoker is not interested in a lepidopterist no matter how well-informed on the natural sciences she may be. But it seems solitude is not in the cards for either of them, as murder continues to dog Veronica's heels and the two mutually suspicious partners are drawn into a mystery involving Veronica's parents, Stoker's past, and one memorable traveling circus.
I stared down into the open grave and wished I could summon a tear. 
Deanna Raybourn always has me at hello. I've been quoting the first line of Silent in the Grave aloud regularly for going on eight years now, and the opening lines of A Curious Beginning continue the excellence. Veronica is a giant breath of fresh air from the word go, and I was more than content to follow her wherever her wandering soul led. Of course, once she and I fell into Stoker's looming warehouse of a laboratory, it was love at first sight. Stoker is every bit as wary and scarred and recalcitrant as I could hope for. Together, they are marvelously witty and biting and perfect. Veronica's parentage is one of the central mysteries of the novel, and the ever-present (if quiet) longing she feels to know where she comes from is palpable. Stoker's past is rife with pain and secrets as well, and the reader is privileged to accompany them as they traipse through their checkered histories in search of answers. The trip through Stoker's includes a very memorable stay with a traveling circus and its various and sundry denizens. I absolutely loved watching Veronica catch a glimpse of what makes him tick, and their banter throughout this section (and the entire novel) is off the charts enjoyable. I am a fan of the slow burn romance, and this one takes its time, developing in extremely endearing increments. Stoker, for all his ragged exterior, is honorable to the core. His rigid reluctance and decency is beautifully set off by Veronica's levity and refusal to be cowed or dictated to. They have a definite Holmes/Watson air about them as they unravel the threads of their tale. Veronica will always be (among other things) a bit of a gorgeous trial for Stoker. But I am convinced he will never let her fall. If you couldn't tell, I'm in love with them both and eagerly await their future adventures.

The trade paperback edition of A Curious Beginning is due out July 12th. Be sure to check back here tomorrow for an interview with the author and giveaway!

Buy
Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository

Linkage
The Bookwyrm's Hoard - "The book has all the wit, melodramatic flavor, and precise diction of a good Victorian novel without the long-windedness."
The Midnight Garden - "The story is engaging, the historical detail is perfect, the characters are wonderful, and the romance is building to something truly special."
Miss Bates Reads Romance - "Miss Bates says of Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning (and it burns that Miss B. has to use her top-rating, but honesty and integrity above all for her dear readers), “you have bewitched me,” Pride and Prejudice."

Sweet Summertime Reads, or Angie's Moody Summer Reads

Hi all! I hope your summers are going well. I just wanted to let you know you can find me over at GReads! today. I'm taking part in Ginger's annual Sweet Summertime Reads feature with a few of my Moody Summer Reads recsI know, I know, sounds like me, right? If you're so inclined, be sure to stop in and let me know what you think and if you have any recs for me! I'd love some.

June 22, 2016

Cover Reveal + Q&A: A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White

As longtime readers of the blog know, I am a full-fledged Ellen Emerson White fangirl and have been for something going on time immemorial. What this means is that a few years ago, having just finished reading my local library's copy of The Road Home for the second time in as many daysI sat on the couch, brandished the book at my newlywed husband, and told him I was seriously considering never returning it (my conscience did eventually kick in and I meekly returned the library copy—after managing to procure a copy of my own, naturally). 

What this means is I went on to purchase an obscene number of out of print copies of the same title (before it was available as an e-book) and proceeded to send them winging their way across the globe to homes where I knew they were needed. 

What this means is that I refer to Ms. White's characters by their first names in casual conversation (pretty much on a daily basis) with friends and family members, and they automatically know exactly which Meg, Rebecca, Beverly, and Michael I'm talking about. 

What this means is that when I was offered the chance to host the official cover reveal for Ellen's upcoming novel—A Season of Daring Greatly—I was forced to take a moment and compose myself before responding in the unequivocal, if vehement, affirmative. 

And so without further ado, feast your eyes on this beauty:


ABOUT THE BOOK

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Eighteen-year-old Jill Cafferty just made history. Her high school’s star pitcher, she is now the first woman drafted by a major league baseball team. Only days after her high school graduation, she’ll join the Class A Short Season in the New York-Penn League . . . but not everyone is happy to have her there.

On top of the pressure heaped on every pitcher, Jill must deal with defying conventions and living up to impossible expectations, all while living away from home for the first time. She’ll go head-to-head against those who are determined to keep baseball an all-male sport. Despite the reassurance of coaches and managers alike, a few of her teammates are giving her trouble. The media presence following her at each game is inescapable. And to top it all off, Jill is struggling with the responsibilities of being a national hero and a role model for young women everywhere. How can she be a role model when she’s not even sure she made the right choice for herself? Didn’t baseball used to be fun?
Q&A WITH ELLEN EMERSON WHITE

How did the inspiration for A Season of Daring Greatly strike?
I’m not sure I have ever written a main character who wasn’t driven, at some level, by athleticism. I’m an inveterate jock and a big baseball person, so, in retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t write this book years ago. It would seem to be a perfect blending of vocation, and avocation. But, it turned out to be surprisingly difficult to write—possibly because she is so very tall. It’s subtle, but tall people look at the world differently.  I very much hope that we see women playing professional baseball soon, but I want them to be serious, driven athletes, and not novelty acts.

Your books are often about young women who break the boundaries society tries to set for them. What do you think draws you to writing those kind of young women?
I have never intentionally set out to do that—but, I’m guessing that it is probably engrained in my personality. I revere laws—but, I hate rules, and women inevitably seem to come up against a lot of rules, many of which are unspoken, and all of which are tedious. So, I just ignore them, and my characters seem to share that temperament. It’s fun to write about people doing interesting things.

All of the details of Jill’s life on the team feel so authentic and vivid. Did you spend time with minor league baseball teams while you were writing A Season of Daring Greatly?
The thing about talking about book research is that you run the danger of slipping into a “pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain” area. I have never been a writer who interviews people—ever—and I don’t have anyone read the manuscripts, at any pre-publication stage. (I am barely even comfortable letting my agent and editors read my manuscripts—but, that is purely because of nerves.) My process is very internal, and I go out of my way not to analyze it, or give it too much thought, for fear of getting in my own way—which has always been something I do with astonishing skill and regularity. Unfortunately. I will say that I spend a lot of time around baseball at different levels, and have for many years. I have worked with professional baseball players in several different capacities, and I do a lot of sports photography, professionally and otherwise, particularly baseball and softball. I also coach a male 14U baseball team in East Harlem. (I love my team. No one is ever allowed to say anything bad about my team.)

Jill knows how to pitch, but while the physical demands of being a pro are tough, they’re really nothing compared to the pressure and emotional demands, are they?
She’s also only eighteen, and doesn’t come from a sports-loving family, so that makes her life even more complicated. Baseball is challenging, but trying to learn how to be some version of a normal person, while standing under a very bright spotlight, is even harder. The personality you need to be an elite athlete isn’t necessarily compatible with being a friendly and approachable role model. Jill’s walking on extremely thin ice, all day, every day—and that wears on you, after a while. In many ways, this is a sort of going away to college book—being away from home for the first time, having to learn how to take care of yourself, not knowing anyone, missing your family, and so forth. She has the added pressure of so many people wanting her to fail, and that if she does, it will be in an incredibly public way.

In the words of President Bartlet, “What’s next?”
A sequel, I hope. I think there is still a lot of story left to tell, with these characters, and I’m eager to get back to them. Until I actually write a book, I really have no idea what happens next, and I’m very curious to find out. The President’s Daughter books are out in e-book now, which is fun—since we’re now, finally, looking at the prospect of possibly having a female President.

CONNECT WITH ELLEN

PRE-ORDER A SEASON OF DARING GREATLY