February 3, 2016

The Door in the Wardrobe, or Angie's Gateway Books

A week or so ago, my dear friend Chachic wrote a delightful post on her top ten gateway books. Ever since, I've been musing over which books would make up my own list. I'm a huge believer in the notion of gateway books—those marvelous titles that find their way into your life and wind up serving as your successful point of entry into an entirely new genre. In my mind, they're the door in the back of the wardrobe leading to Narnia. Appropriately, the first book on my list is unquestionably The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, sent to me by my aunt when I was ten and about to embark anxiously on my own unknown. So here is my list, and as I look at it my mind shies away from the thought of having never discovered even a single one of them. Where possible, I've tried to include the cover of the edition that I first read. Please share one or ten of yours in the comments!


Fantasy
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The line that hooked me:
My Dear Lucy, I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
Mystery
The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene
The line that hooked me:
I have a hunch.
Scifi
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The line that hooked me:
Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.
Retelling
Beauty by Robin McKinley
The line that hooked me:
I shunned company because I preferred books; and the dreams I confided to my father were of becoming a scholar in good earnest, and going to University. It was unheard-of several shocked governesses were only too quick to tell me, when I spoke a little too boldly—but my father nodded and smiled and said, "We'll see." Since I believed my father could do anything—except of course make me pretty—I worked and studied with passionate dedication, lived in hope, and avoided society and mirrors.
Historical Fiction
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The line that hooked me:
On a morning in mid-April, 1687, the brigantine Dolphin left the open sea, sailed briskly across the Sound to the wide mouth of the Connecticut River and into Saybrook Harbor. Kit Tyler had been on the forecastle deck since daybreak, standing close to the rail, staring hungrily at the first sight of land for five weeks.
Urban Fantasy
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
The line that hooked me:
MS. THOMPSON, it said in heavy block letters, PLEASE KEEP YOUR FELINE OFF MY PROPERTY. IF I SEE IT AGAIN, I WILL EAT IT.
New Adult
Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
The line that hooked me:
Brandon turned a page and kept reading.

"Of course," I went on, taking my seat and swiveling to face him, "you've always been better than me at that. Writing stories on the fly, I mean."

His eyes paused their back-and-forth scanning, and he blinked. "Thanks."

"I'm better at the scrambling."

"You're certainly demonstrating that now."

I swallowed. Too far.

Brandon nodded his head toward a neat stack of manuscripts at the corner of the desk. "Those four are possibilities."

And the Terse Award goes to . . . Brandon Weare. "I'm sorry about last night."

He finally looked at me, for all the good it did. I couldn't tell one thing from his expression. "Which part?"

Any part that hurt his feelings.
Space Opera
Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
The line that hooked me:
I'm just staring at him, mouth half-open. As soon as I realize it, I find something to say, anything.

"Who the hell are you?"

"March," he tells me.

"That a name or an order?"
Magical Realism
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
 The line that hooked me:
For awhile after that, she thought her great-grandparents were surprising her with books. She'd find them on her bed, in her closet, in her favorite hideouts around the property. And they were always books she needed. Books on games or novels of adventure when she was bored. Books about growing up as she got older. But when her great-grandparents confronted her about all the books she had and where did she get the money to buy them, she realized they weren't the ones doing it.

The next day, under her pillow, she found a book on clever storage solutions. It was exactly what she needed, something to show her how to hide her books.

She accepted it from then on. Books liked her. Books wanted to look after her.
Contemporary Romance
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
The line that hooked me:
Cal sighed and gave up on the conversation for the rest of the meal. There was a skirmish at the end when Min tried to insist on separate checks, but Cal said, "I invited you, I pay. Back off, woman." She looked as though she were going to argue for a moment, and then she nodded.

"Thank you very much," she told him. "You've given me a lovely meal and a new favorite restaurant," and he felt appreciated for the first time that night.

When they left, she kissed Emilio on the cheek. "Your bread is the greatest, Emilio, but the chicken is a work of art." Then she kissed him on the other cheek.

"Hey," Cal said. "I'm right here. I paid for the chicken."

"Don't beg," Min told him and went out the door.

"Morrisey, I think you just met your match," Emilio said.

"Not even close," Cal said, grateful to be without her for a moment. "This was our first, last, and only date."

"Nope," Emilio said. "I saw the way you looked at each other."

"That was fear and loathing," Cal said, opening the door.

"God, you're dumb," Emilio said, and Cal ignored him and went out into the dark to find Min.
Historical Romance
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
The line that hooked me:
She'd so believed he could—that decades marked by disdain for emotion could have been nothing more than a faint memory in his checkered past. That she could love him enough to prove to him that the world was worth his caring, his trust. That she could turn him into the man of whom she had dreamed for so long.

That was perhaps the hardest truth of all—that Ralston, the man she'd pined over for a decade, had never been real. He'd never been the strong and silent Odysseus; he'd never been aloof Darcy; never Antony, powerful and passionate. He had only ever been Ralston, arrogant and flawed and altogether flesh and blood.

January 21, 2016

Choose Your Own Edition: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I've mentioned before that I wrote my masters thesis on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. What that means is this book is extremely dear to me. I first read it while on study abroad in London, and I fell madly in love with Anne's fierce introduction to the second edition and with Helen Graham and the way she slammed her bedroom door—her heart too thoroughly dried to be broken in a hurry, absolutely determined to live as long as she could. I own a rather limp Wordsworth Classics edition that I believe I picked up for a pound in a charity bookshop. It will always be my first. But I admit to having been on the lookout for a lovelier one for some time now.


Which brings us to these three pretties. All available in fairly affordable copies from The Book Depository. Each eye-catching in its own way. I have to say, it will be difficult for me to resist the overturned glass of wine for the chills is sends down my spine (not the good ones, but if you've read the book you know what I mean). And just as Anne doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of marriage, I am drawn to a book cover that does the same. However, there's no denying the Penguin English Library edition is lovely. And I do like the deep blue on white, the images of Wildfell Hall itself and the birds in flight. Lastly, there is the more modern charcoal edition with its somewhat haunting tree. Decisions, decisions. Are you drawn to one of these more than the others?

January 19, 2016

Beth Brower Bookshelf Painting Giveaway!

I've got an extra special giveaway today to celebrate the release of Beth Brower's debut novel The Queen's Gambit. Not long ago, I posted the amazing painting of my library she gifted me for Christmas. Now, she's selling an entire line of beautiful bookshelf paintings on her website. Be sure to check them out here. Each bookshelf is its own unique piece of art, signed and dated by year. Today, she's kindly offered to do a giveaway to celebrate the book's release. One person will win the original 4x6 bookshelf painting pictured below. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open internationally and will run through Tuesday, January 26th. Good luck!



January 14, 2016

January 6, 2016

Rose Lerner Guest Post + Giveaway!

I'm excited to have one of my very favorite authors back today to celebrate the release of Listen to the Moon—the third book in her Lively St. Lemeston series. Today, Rose Lerner is here discussing how Wolverine was the inspiration for her latest hero.

***

I've learned that casting my characters really helps. (It helps me picture them physically and hear their voice, it gives me somewhere to start with characterization, and it helps with sexual chemistry, too—since of course I pick people I think are hot!) Nick from Sweet Disorder started out as Nate from Gossip Girl, for example. Ash and Lydia in True Pretenses began as Stephen Bloom from The Brothers Bloom and Lydia from Teen Wolf.

And...this may seem a little weird but it's true...

My starchy, very proper valet hero in Listen to the Moon was inspired by Wolverine, as played by Hugh Jackman.

Me and my best friend spent a few months nursing a very, very intense Wolverine obsession after The Wolverine (a basically perfect film) came out in summer 2013. I saw that movie...four, five times in the theater? We loved it so much that we actually went back and rewatched all the X-Men movies, and even fast-forwarded our way through X-Men Origins: Wolverine (a basically worthless film).

Here's the thing about Wolverine. He has this vibe, right? This tough loner don't fuck with me vibe? But actually, he is irresistibly drawn towards mentoring young people, especially girls. When there's trouble at the Mutant Academy, all the kids rush to Wolverine because they know he'll look out for them—and they confide in him, too. He's like everyone's cool uncle. He immediately has a connection with Rogue, with Yukio, with Mariko.

(I know not everyone did, but I actually loved Wolverine/Mariko in the movie even though I really wished that 1, she'd made the first move and 2, they had slept in separate beds because flashback claws.)

And I was thrilled when he showed up for a team-up with Ms. Marvel

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ms-marvel.jpg
One of the dreamiest moments ever in the history of anything is in X-Men 3 (which is otherwise mostly garbage, sadly), when he realizes that Rogue has decided to give up her powers. And what does he say to her?

"I hope you're not doing this for some boy. Look, if you want to go, then go...just be sure it's what you want."

Fictional strong, silent misanthropes have a tendency to be self-centered, to be unfair, to walk on other people's feelings, to have intense opinions about everything and relate everything to their own pain. But Wolverine doesn't try to boss Rogue around or put his own issues on her. He just tells her to be sure she's doing what she really wants, and then he gives her space to make her own decision.

I loved seeing that. Not very many people took me seriously when I was a teenager. Not very many people take teenage girls seriously, period. Just look at the media coverage of Twilight if you don't believe me. But Wolverine relates to the toughness and the pain of teenage girls.

I thought to myself: I want to write a strong, silent, cranky guy who looks like he should be a loner but is actually surrounded by found family everywhere he goes, especially young women and girls. Oh, and I want him to look like Hugh Jackman and do this with his eyebrows.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/22095854396964706/
Then it hit me: Toogood!! I had already written Sweet Disorder (although it wasn't out yet), and I thought Wolverine (if he cleaned up a little!) would make a great caring, exaggeratedly quiet, yet passive-aggressive valet. (Most of what Toogood does in Sweet Disorder is unostentatiously take care of Nick and complain about the state of his clothes.)

Plus, a majority of domestic servants were young women and teenage girls in the Regency (and beyond), even in large households. Perfect!

Thanks so much having me!


What romance protagonist do you think would make a great superhero or heroine? What would their powers be?

***

Thanks so much, Rose. I love it! And now for the giveaway. One person will win a digital copy of Rose's latest release Listen to the MoonTo enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway will be open through Wednesday, January 13th. Also, I wanted to point out that the first two books in the series are on sale right now. Sweet Disorder and True Pretenses (my favorite) are both just 99 cents! Rose also has a big giveaway going on over at her site, so be sure to stop by.

January 5, 2016

Typographical Pretties


First pretties post of the year is here! And just look at these elegant covers. I can hardly wait to get my hands on them. These three hail from two debut authors and one who is on her third novel, and I just have to hand it to their cover designers. That seal on The Queen's Gambit . . . that dripping ink on Traitor Angels . . . the stuff authorial dreams are made of, I'd wager.

The Queen's Gambit by Beth Brower
A young queen determined to protect her homeland. A mysterious traveler with a violent past. They strike an uneasy bargain, but at what cost to them both? I'm just going to go ahead and say that Beth is my dear friend (of the library painting fame) and that I had the opportunity to read a draft of this novel and that you do not want to miss it.
Due out January 19th

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill
Britta Flannery is a wanted woman. In exchange for her freedom after being caught poaching, she is to hunt down her father's killer. Of course, there are complications. A bit of a gender-swapped fantasy Robin Hood, this one sounds. Color me intrigued.
Due out December 27th

Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman
Okay, John Milton training his daughter to sword fight by night even as she helps translate Paradise Lost by day? A secret code hidden in the poem? A dark Italian scientist? And it's a standalone? Take my money.
Due out May 3rd

January 1, 2016

2016 Must Be Mine List

I feel ready for a new year's reads. Do you? These are the ones I'm salivating over the most:



 And no covers on these yet, but the anxiousness I feel is no less real:

The Inexplicable Logic of My Heart by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Thirteenth Earl by Evelyn Pryce
The Howling Boy by Cath Crowley
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen
A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn
A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

Tell me. Which titles are you languishing away for?