August 12, 2014

Tillerman Pretties


A couple of years ago, Atheneum Books put out these new editions of Cynthia Voigt's incomparable Tillerman Cycle and I swooned. I've never been over the moon for the past covers of these books, and my own set is a somewhat mismatched (but much beread and beloved) collection of mass market paperbacks. But this time—oh, this time they got it right. Something about these simple, slightly dreamy illustrations perfectly fits these stories of one family's struggle to survive and stay together. I require them.

As I never tire of talking about this series, have you read them? Which is your favorite? I waffle (don't I always?) between Dicey's Song, A Solitary Blue, and Seventeen Against the Dealer. Yeah. Yeah.

July 28, 2014

Dead Heat Cover

So a lot of times spin-off series fall somewhat flat for me. Either I'm so invested in those original characters that I have trouble shifting my loyalty as unswervingly to these previously side characters, or the story lines are just not as strong, or the genre shifts in a direction that just doesn't click for me as well, or what have you. But from the moment I picked up the introductory novella to Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega series, Anna and Charles were just in with me. And the three novels that followed only cemented that fact. It looked like we might not be getting another book for some time, which is why I was so thrilled to hear she'd gone ahead and written a fourth. Dead Heat is due out March 3rd of next year, and when I saw the cover all I could do was squee. Because Charles in human form. And because fourth book in a series I truly love.

July 22, 2014

Amour et Florand

Today, I'm over @ Chachic's Book Nook (one of my favorite haunts) with a guest post for her inspired Amour et Florand week. The week celebrates the works of Laura Florand, and I've contributed a few words on why I love her Amour et Chocolat series. If you've got a moment to spare, stop in and let me convince you to read these books sooner rather than later!

July 4, 2014

Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

I remember thinking nothing could top Shiver and then being introduced to Cole St. Clair in Linger and realizing Maggie Stiefvater had several more tricks left in her bag. Then Cole and Isabel proceeded to go for each other's throats and I forgot to worry at all. I loved them so much, though, that the continuation of their storyline was perhaps my biggest problem with Forever—the "conclusion" to the "trilogy." The two of them were just left hanging. And because at that point I really felt like Sam and Grace's story was winding down just as Cole and Isabel's was ramping up, I had a hard time with the wide open, barn door left swinging in the wind ending they were given. The funny thing is that I desperately wanted more but really didn't give any thought to the possibility of her writing more. That ship had sailed, we'd all moved on to killer water horses and dead Welsh kings. Which is why when the news hit that there would in fact be a companion novel to the Shiver trilogy and that it would clue us in on what was going down with our favorite emotional assassins, well, that my friends was a good day.

Cole St. Clair is back from the dead and better than ever. He's landed in L.A. and is slated to record his new record as part of a reality webseries with the notorious Baby North—a Hollywood producer known for destroying her subjects as a matter of course. But that's not why he's really in L.A. Not really. Cole is there because that's where Isabel Culpeper is. And in Cole's book, Isabel is pretty much the only thing worth pursuing. If he can revive his music career and make a killer album along the way, so much the better. But Isabel is supremely less than thrilled to see the former NARKOTIKA rocker darken her doorstep. That is to say, it is achingly good to see him. But everything about Cole has spelled nothing but trouble for Isabel, especially his addictive tendencies, be they for drugs, women, or turning into a big, bad wolf whenever the notion (or temperature) takes him. And so begins this epic dance between the two unhappiest people in L.A. Isabel refuses to be drawn into the glitzy hell that is Cole's life, and Cole refuses to be put off his dogged pursuit of the one girl he can be himself with. And as they dance, they're forced to step around Cole's former bandmates (both alive and dead), the new ones Baby North foists upon him, and the last dying gasps of Isabel's parents' marriage. The question is whether the whole cast and crew of the Cole & Isabel show will drag them under or whether they'll find a way to be. Together.
What I had earned was a trophy for generalized disinterest. It felt as if it had taken all of my energy to be so limply disengaged.

As I pulled aside the linen curtain to the back room, I heard the front door open again. If it was Christina returning to make a second effort at my leggings, I was going to be forced to get loud, and I didn't like getting loud.

But it wasn't Christina I heard at the front of the store.

Instead, a very familiar voice said, "No, no, I'm looking for something very particular. Oh, wait, I just saw it."

I turned around.

Cole St. Clair smiled lazily at me.

I gave so many damns at once that it actually hurt.
This is the passage that started me smiling, and I really did not stop until several hours after closing the book. If ever a pair of ruthless protagonists launched a full-scale assault on my emotions, Cole & Isabel are the ones. And just as I was hoping it would be, it was so crazy good to be back in their presence and to just listen to them snipe at each other and put an icily blank (Isabel) or dazzlingly jaded (Cole) face on things. The bright and shameless L.A. setting proved to be such a solid change-up for Stiefvater and the rest of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Gone are the freezing temperatures, wooded forests, and quiet ennui of Minnesota. Bring on the baking sun and the sand and the concrete jungle that barely masks too many emotions, too much energy and life being shoved and sculpted into ill-fitting, empty boxes. They are both so strong in this book, Cole & Isabel. The signature alternating POV chapters sing with the distilled and chilled 100-proof vodka that runs in their veins in the place of warm blood. What's more, every side character worked for me, from Isabel's psychotically domestic cousin Sofia to Cole's clear-eyed ex-bass player Jeremy and his hilariously deadpan driver Leon. It was good to be somewhere new with new faces and new threats. The entire paranormal side of this series was notably dialed down in favor of the more human element. Sometimes Cole is a wolf. Sometimes he chooses to become one in lieu of shooting some other form of oblivion up his arm. Sometimes these two facts make Isabel want to murder someone. Preferably him. And that's it. These things are real. But more real, more tantalizing, is the possibility that if they could each just stop killing themselves trying to prove they don't give a damn—just for a minute—they might find a space in which the pain is held at bay. And the hope of that minute, that swoony, devastating minute of peace that could turn into two minutes and then an hour and then a kind of life worth something? That's worth reading.

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July 3, 2014

Landline Audio Clip Teaser


For those of you who like your multitasking, I thought I'd let you know that Landline is also available on audiobook (read by Rebecca Lowman). Macmillan Audio was kind enough to offer up an audiobook teaser clip for your pleasure. Enjoy!

July 1, 2014

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

This might be my most anticipated novel of the year, people. It's hard to say for certain, what with Sinner having just come out (more on that soon) and Isla and the Happily Ever After hitting shelves in August (the day before my birthday, but who's counting). And then there's the annual Briggs and Andrews to look forward to. But Landline? Yeah, I think it was the one. I started it just as fast as was humanly possible after it arrived in the mail, and then I held it for long minutes after finishing, just . . . not wanting to be physically separated from it yet. I've even had difficulty letting it out of the house since. But then I'm the same way with my copies of Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. I want everyone in the world to read them, but I get just a bit twitchy while they're gone. Rainbow Rowell's books tend to hit me where I live, whether that's the me that rode the bus tense and lonely in high school, the one that fell in love unexpectedly and hard in college, or the one that has three kids, a job, and a husband that everything rests on. So it made sense that I went in eagerly and with not a little fear that I would be a bit destroyed by the whole thing.

It begins with an impasse years in the making:
Neal had both hands on the counter, clenching the muscles in his forearms. Like he was retroactively bracing himself for bad news. His head was hanging down, and his hair fell away from his forehead.

"This might be our shot," Georgie said. "Our own show."

Neal nodded without lifting his head. "Right," he said. His voice was soft and flat.

Georgie waited.

Sometimes she lost her place when she was arguing with Neal. The argument would shift into something else—into somewhere more dangerous—and Georgie wouldn't even realize it. Sometimes Neal would end the conversation or abandon it while she was still making her point, and she'd just go on arguing long after he'd checked out.
Georgie McCool (best name ever) has been waiting years for her big break. Along with her best friend and writing partner Seth, she's scraped her way into television with a sitcom they both pretty much hate but that has proven wildly popular. And every second she's not working on it, she's working on their real show. The one they love, the one that will make it just as soon as someone decides to invest the money. When she's not eating and breathing work, she's at home with her husband Neal. Neal. The one who has supported her through everything, who's raised their two little girls, who she fell in love with in college. Now, on the brink of Christmas, it seems as though they finally have someone interested in funding the show. Trouble is, they have to work through the holiday to do it, and she was meant to be going back to Omaha with Neal and the girls to spend Christmas with his mom. As straws that break the camel's back go, this one's fat and juice and possibly the one. Neal tells her to go. That of course it's important. That they'll see her after Christmas. But something inside Georgie knows, this separation might be the end. But when she goes to her mom's house the night after Neal and girls have flown to Omaha, after trying and failing to reach him on his cell, she picks up her old landline phone in her old bedroom and she calls Neal. But the Neal that answers isn't her Neal. Or at least, he isn't her Neal today. Somehow, inexplicably, he's the Neal of their college days. The Neal she fell in love with. The one who doesn't know yet where their life will take them. And so with Neal from the past on the line and Neal from the present out of reach, Georgie must decide what she wants. And if she would change it all if she could.
You don't know when you're twenty-three.

You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten—in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.

She didn't know at twenty-three. 
I don't know. Rainbow Rowell's novels fill my eyes with tears. Whether they're tears of mirth, sympathy, or pain (likely all three at once), my eyes are glassy from start to finish. But they were, perhaps, closest to spilling over with Landline. Rowell has the uncanny ability to capture the essence of a time period, of being a certain age in that time period, of being in love at that age in that time, and the exhausting and joyful task it is containing and parsing out the accompanying emotions. And in Landline she does that with multiple timelines at once. We first meet Georgie and Neal as they are standing at the edge of a precipice. Their emotions are taut and eerily quiet. It's agonizing for the characters and reader alike. And if the reader were only ever given the present day timeline, it might have been too much. But the landline to the past (and the attendant glimpses we get of Georgie and Neal as they were falling in love) saves the whole thing. In perfect increments, and without disrupting any of the flow, these conversations and memories allow the reader inside—into the full picture of a long term relationship. It's inexpressibly riveting. The trademark Rowell humor is present, but muted somewhat, echoing the ways in which Georgie and Neal's relationship has become overshadowed by time, experience, parenthood, life. It all cut so close to the bone, that at times I had to look up from the page and remind myself to breathe and not allow too many of my vital functions to hinge on the outcome of this story. Because I was breathlessly worried. As with her other books, I marvel at the way I find myself approaching the end with a fuller comprehension than is my wont of how fitting a number of different outcomes would be. Even the ones I fear. Perhaps those ones most of all. Yet I am always at peace with the one she chooses. Each timeline is given appropriate attention in the end, and there is one small moment leading up to the close that is perfect in every way, in which every narrative thread coalesced for me. My, how I read this book.
Neal licked his bottom lip and nodded. "I think . . ." The closer she was, the more he looked away. "I think I just want you," he said.

"Okay," Georgie agreed.

Neal looked surprised—he almost laughed. "Okay?"

She nodded, close enough to bump her nose up against his. "Okay. You can have me."

He pushed his forehead into hers, pulling his chin and mouth back. "Just like that."

"Yeah."

"Really," he said.

"Really," she promised.

She reached her mouth toward his, and he twisted his head up and away, looking at her. He was breathing hard through his nose. He was still holding her cheek.

Georgie tried to make her face as plain as possible:

Really. You can have me. Because I'm good at wanting things and good at getting what I want, and I can't think of anything I want more than you. Really, really, really.

Neal nodded. Like he'd just been given an order. Then he let go of Georgie's hand and pushed her (pinned her) gently (firmly) back into the sand.

He leaned over her, his hands on either side of her shoulders, and shook his head. "Georgie," he said. Then he kissed her.

That was it, really.

That was when she added Neal to the list of things she wanted and needed and was bound to have someday. That's when she decided that Neal was the person who was going to drive on those overnight road trips. And Neal was the one who was going to sit next to her at the Emmys.

He kissed her like he was drawing a perfectly straight line.

He kissed her in India ink.
Landline is due out July 8th.
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