April 30, 2009

The "YA Thing"

I just wanted to note the discussions surrounding the "YA Thing," as stemming from comments in Frank Cotrell Boyce's article in The Guardian last summer, in which Boyce referred to the "young adult ghetto." Much has been made of this issue and, though I feel passionately about it, others have ranted better than me. So I'm simply going to highlight a couple of the best responses I've read recently.

Laini Taylor chimes in (again) on the YA stigma. A favorite passage:
Teens are an audience any writer would be lucky to get. Kids too. Kids and teens aren't going to pretend to like your books because the lit-snob aristoi tell them they should. You have to earn them. And if you do, you will have earned readers who will write you wonderful emails, read your book ten times and tell their friends to read them too, create art about your books, dress up as your characters for Halloween, sneak under the covers with a flashlight to stay up late reading. You will have earned readers who will be transformed, and who will tell you so. If you don't want them, you really really don't deserve them.
She's absolutely right. Read the rest of what she has to say here.

Ms. Taylor also points readers to John Scalzi's remarks on the subject. Scalzi's Zoe's Tale is up for the Hugo Award for Best Novel this year and is considered "YA-friendly," as he puts it. Two of the other four nominated titles are YA. In response to dissenters, Scalzi states:
Yes, how horrible it is that some of what’s being hailed as the best science fiction and fantasy written today is in a literary category designed to encourage millions of young people to read for the rest of their natural lives. Because God knows the last thing science fiction and fantasy publishing needs right now is a whole generation of new and enthusiastic readers who might actually get hooked into the genre until they die. It’s a goddamn tragedy, it is.
Yeah. Couldn't have said it better myself. *bumps Zoe's Tale up in her TBR stack*

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce

I've been waiting for this book for three years. I loved Terrier--the first book in Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper trilogy and I looked forward to spending more time in her company. I've been a Pierce fan for a long time now and with this series it was literally like coming home being back in Corus, the capital of Tortall. It was also a nice change of pace to have the story set a few hundred years before Alanna's time, and revolve firmly around the lower classes. Unlike Alanna's day, Beka's Tortall is a place where lady knights roam the countryside freely and girls can grow up to be part of the city guard if they want. That is exactly what Beka's always wanted and, thanks to the Lord Provost's benevolence, she's able to escape the city slums and help support her mother and siblings on a Dog's salary.

In Bloodhound Beka finds herself characteristically partnerless. When one of the senior Dogs is laid up after a riot, Beka is temporarily partnered with her idol Goodwin and the two of them are sent to Port Caynn to run down the source behind a forgery ring that's been pouring silver plated copper "coles" into circulation throughout the realm. Transplanted out of her natural habitat, Beka is literally forced to step far, far outside her comfort zone in order to pass herself off as a flighty Dog who slides by on others' coattails and uses her womanly wiles to take credit for others' successes. Pretty much the polar opposite of her reserved, forthright, and honor-bound self. Going about her task with her standard single-mindedness, she doesn't expect to meet a young gambler who takes a romantic interest in her. She doesn't expect a mad Rogue who lets her people suffer and spends their takings. And she doesn't expect to be left alone.

Bloodhound weighs in at over 550 pages and the entire story is told through Beka's painstaking journal entries. This is a very interesting (at times problematic) installment and not at all what I was expecting. The majority of the story simply follows Beka's daily movements as she prowls through Port Caynn, inserts herself into the underworld, and struggles with her growing isolation and strong need for companionship despite her at times overwhelming natural reticence. I missed Beka's circle of friends at home in Corus as they were absent the majority of the time. I missed Rosto and his prickly friendship with Beka, the way they stretch and counter each other. I found myself painfully uneasy as I watched Beka grow closer to the gambler/bank messenger Dale Rowan. In fact, I longed to step in and help Beka throughout this book. She is an amazingly strong character and I love her. I just wish she didn't have to stumble and fall sometimes. And I wish she didn't have to experience some of the pain she did. She deserves better and she can't seem to see a few very important things. Also, Pierce seemed to lose her way a bit and her usual strengths as a writer seemed oddly absent. At the same time I can be grown up about these things (honest I can) and recognize that perhaps they were necessary and be okay with that. I was underwhelmed with this story but remain very excited to read the third and final book in the trilogy--Mastiff--due out sometime next year. Knock on wood.

April 29, 2009

Tell Me What to Do

I need your advice. I just finished Tamora Pierce's Bloodhound (review forthcoming) and I've got such a lovely stack sitting next to me and no idea where to start. That's where you come in. Here are the options:


So give me your input. Have you read any of these? What's it gonna be?

April 28, 2009

Dangerous Pretties

A few dangerously enticing upcoming pretties for your viewing pleasure today.

Debut author Lisa Mangum has The Hourglass Door coming out May 13th. Scooper has a lovely early review of it here. Sounds promising!

Diana Peterfreund is not kidding us with the latest cover of Rampant--due out August 25th. This is the final version and definitely my favorite. Seriously cannot wait for this baby.

Rachel Vincent is breaking into YA with the first in her new Soul Screamers series--My Soul to Take, which is due out August 1st. It's got banshees. I'm just sayin'.

April 27, 2009

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

As you know, I read a lot of urban fantasy. I love the supers, the gritty cities, the strong women, and (in my favorites) the dry sense of humor. And though there are a ton of UF series out there, relatively few of them make it to the upper echelon for me. Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series sits comfortably in the #1 spot. I put Blood Bound down and it was all over. I've got the Mercy's Garage shirt proclaiming my ubergeek fangirl status. Exactly a year ago I read the first two Kate Daniels books. I enjoyed Magic Bites just fine and Magic Burns even more. But I'm telling you this third volume is the one. I went in with very high expectations and still I was taken by surprise at just how good it was.

Magic Strikes takes place four months after the events of Magic Burns. For four months, Kate has been learning the ropes at her new job with the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid. For four months, she's been supporting Julie--the lost young girl she took under her wing--at a boarding school outside the city. And for four months, she's been doggedly avoiding the Pack and the powerful Beast Lord Curran, who seems to think she ought to come at his beck and call. Her efforts to cruise under the supernatural heavyweights' radar stall when her sometime client Saiman calls her claiming he's holding a werewolf who broke into his apartment. Kate has a soft spot for the young werewolf in question and, in order to spare him Curran's wrath, she agrees to do a favor for Saiman in return for Derek's quiet release. The favor turns out to be more than she bargained for as Saiman draws her into the turmoil that is the Midnight Games--an extremely private, extremely illegal paranormal fight club. When Derek ends up in a coma after infiltrating the games and Curran's chief of security simultaneously goes rogue, Kate gives up any pretence of disinterest and races against the clock to save her friends and exact revenge on Derek's attackers.

I continue to love the subtle humor in this series. By the third book I'm utterly invested in these characters and the complicated give and take of their relationships that so perfectly mirror the ebb and flow of magic and technology in Ilona Andrews' Atlanta. This scene in particular had me snickering with appreciation:
I got out four plates, found silverware, and set the table. Doolittle put a glass of iced tea in front of me. I tasted it. It had so much sugar, if you put a spoon into it, it would stand up all by itself.
Jim put a slice on my plate. When I made Beef Wellington, it looked good. His looked perfect.
Brenna sat next to me. "Sorry about the thigh."
It took me a second to connect the stinging bite on my leg to the quiet woman next to me. "No problem. Sorry about the needle."
The scar on her throat had faded, but a thin gray line was still there. "It's okay," she said. "I've had silver in me before."
"Where is everybody else?" I asked.
Nobody answered. Chatty Cathys, the shapeshifters.
I cut into my Beef Wellington and put a small piece in my mouth. It tasted like heaven. Jim cut his meat with the precision of a surgeon.
"Curran called."
The three shapeshifters around me stopped breathing for a moment.
"I thought I'd mention it before you started eating. I didn't want you to choke."
"He say anything?" Jim asked.
"You have three days to turn yourself in." I imitated Curran's voice. "After that he'll have to find you. And he doesn't want to find you."
"Anything else?"
"He mostly cussed after that. I told him you and I were having a hot roll in the hay and he was interrupting."
Tea came out of Brenna's nose.
Jim struggled with it for a long moment. "I wish you hadn't done that."

I love Kate's motivations in this installment. She's under my skin at this point and she absolutely rocks every page of this action-packed ride. She busts her butt all day long and into the night for days on end trying to manage the supernatural community at large, keep her gradually growing group of friends alive, and keep herself from attracting the attention of anyone too powerful or too in the know. Anyone who, when presented with the reality of who she is, would not be able to go on overlooking her. Meanwhile, she and Curran butt heads continually and, as they spar (physically and verbally), we are treated to a welcome glimpse into their individual pasts. I was hoping for some insight into Kate's history and we get even more than I hoped. (It's gripping, by the way)! But what I wasn't expecting was some revealing backstory on Curran's rise to power in the city and what makes his Furry Majesty tick. The best part, though, is how these insights lead them to treat each other with a bit more care. Sometimes this extra caution goes unvoiced as these two unbelievably strong people are not necessarily built to give up any ground at all. But it is nevertheless there. And it serves to bring the reader that much closer to them and their struggles. Also, the fighting at the Midnight Games was awesome. Freaking awesome. This story built up to an incredible climax and I was riveted the entire time. Really. If you haven't given this series a shot yet, run out and get them now. This is urban fantasy at its most entertaining, at its very best. Magic Strikes knocked my socks off.

April 24, 2009

Poetry Friday

I love Billy Collins. But it took Chelle referencing it in her Reading Meme to lead me to this gem. I read it for the first time two days ago. Left me breathless.

Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
by Billy Collins

First, her tippet made of tulle,

easily lifted off her shoulders and laid

on the back of a wooden chair.


And her bonnet,

the bow undone with a light forward pull.


Then the long white dress, a more

complicated matter with mother-of-pearl

buttons down the back,

so tiny and numerous that it takes forever

before my hands can part the fabric,

like a swimmer's dividing water,

and slip inside.


You will want to know

that she was standing

by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,

motionless, a little wide-eyed,

looking out at the orchard below,

the white dress puddled at her feet

on the wide-board, hardwood floor.


The complexity of women's undergarments

in nineteenth-century America

is not to be waved off,

and I proceeded like a polar explorer

through clips, clasps, and moorings,

catches, straps, and whalebone stays,

sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.


Later, I wrote in a notebook

it was like riding a swan into the night,

but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -

the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,

how her hair tumbled free of its pins,

how there were sudden dashes

whenever we spoke.


What I can tell you is

it was terribly quiet in Amherst

that Sabbath afternoon,

nothing but a carriage passing the house,

a fly buzzing in a windowpane.


So I could plainly hear her inhale

when I undid the very top

hook-and-eye fastener of her corset


and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,

the way some readers sigh when they realize

that Hope has feathers,

that reason is a plank,

that life is a loaded gun

that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

April 23, 2009

Contests, Friends, and Zombie Chickens



First off, Steph is holding a fabulous contest over at Reviewer X this week. Enter to win a complete set of Diana Peterfreund's Ivy League Novels. That's right--all four of them! So if you haven't yet, now is definitely the time to jump into that series. I've made no secret of what a fan I am. You can read me go on about them here, here, here, and over here. Leave Steph a comment and you're entered. Contest runs through next Wednesday. Go check it out.









And in the spirit of matched sets, The Epic Rat (love the name) is giving away a set of all three of Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares books. I've reviewed all three books (here, here, and here) and they really are a hoot. The giveaway ends April 28th so head on over and leave a comment!






Next, I've been the happy recipient of a few awards over the past couple weeks and I wanted to make sure to thank the lovely bloggers who passed on the bloggy love.


Kimberly of Darque Reviews passed on the Let's Be Friends Award.
The Let's be Friends Awards stands for this: These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.
Thanks so much, Kimberly! It's not every day you get dubbed "exceedingly charming" and I treasure every blogging friend I've made. I'm going to pass this one on to a relatively new blog I've run across that I find delightfully charming: Young Adult Romance Reviews. Reviewer Ana pays specific attention to the romantic relationships in YA novels and her rating system is both thorough and quirky, including such factors as Overall Chemistry, The Bases, and Likelihood of an Eventual HEA. Love it.


Jackie of Literary Escapism gave me the much-coveted Zombie Chicken Award.
The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...
LOL. Far be it from me to bring down the wrath of the zombie chickens. Fortunately it's a no-brainer coming up with five rave-worthy bloggers.

The Book Smugglers (Ana and Thea are there for all your zombie needs)
Jen Robinson's Book Page (I look forward to Jen's thoughtful comments and love her Reviews that Made Me Want the Book feature)
Lurv a la Mode (KMont devours books and when she gets her reviewer groove on the results are smokin')
Mary Stewart Blog (Jennie runs this site dedicated to one of my all-time favorite writers and the whole thing's a labor of love)
Someone's Read it Already (Stephanie keeps the focus on excellent reviews; she is both prolific and pithy)

You're good people. I'm glad I know you.

April 22, 2009

A Fresh Coat of Paint

I'm waist deep in spring cleaning here at Angieville and just wanted to take a moment and give a shout out to my sweetheart of a brother-in-law for the new banner, which he hand painted in a fit of spontaneous awesomeness. Clearly, he's a kindred spirit. We love a good story. Yes, we do.

April 21, 2009

The Trouble with Demons by Lisa Shearin

I fell in love with Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series at the tail end of last year. Shearin's delightful blend of wry humor, high-speed action, and brief moments of sizzling chemistry make for highly enjoyable reads. The only problem being that they end leaving you thirsty for more. The Trouble with Demons is the third Raine Benares book and has my favorite cover (and title) so far. This girl looks more like the Raine in my head and the title is certainly...apt. There are demons galore in this one. Demons pint-sized, demons ogre-sized, demons every color of the rainbow, oh my!

Raine is tired. Just last week she and her goblin more-than-friend Tam narrowly managed to foil a slew of elven assassins and now this week the demons are coming out of the woodwork. Turns out a Hell Gate has been opened, a demon queen is in search of her husband's captive soul, and the acting archmagus would love to see Raine take the fall for the entire debacle. Meanwhile, the Saghred still has its hooks in Raine's soul and the wards the Guardians have placed on it seem unable to hold its power in check. And, for better or worse, Raine finds herself drawn inexorably closer to both Tam and Mychael as the three of them are forced to combine their respective powers in order to try to stem the flow of demons and close the Hell Gate for good.

I remain amazed at how much punch Lisa Shearin can pack into such a short period of time. Like its predecessors, this story spans barely a week's time. And somehow at the end you feel like the characters have grown and changed and fulfilled your expectations. I am hoping for a little bit larger chunk of time in the next one, as it just seems like the story has grown too large by now for such short installments. But we'll see. I continue to be very fond of Raine and I love the fact that, though they are polar opposites and disagree vehemently over a girl, Mychael and Tam are friends. They understand and respect each other. Tam particulary is able to see beyond himself to make painful decisions for the greater good. That may be the fact that I Am Team Tam All The Way talking, but I categorically refuse to believe he will have a relapse and/or give in to his dark past. Nope. Not gonna happen, my friends. And while he may have his sights set on Raine, he knows how to be her friend. He's good at that.

I do find myself concerned as to how these three heroes (because that's what they are) are going to maintain the uneasy alliance they've formed as tensions only look to be rising for the foreseeable future. And along with that I worry about the triangle drawing out indefinitely. Triangles start to make me twitchy after three books. So sue me. Interestingly, for an author so good at slam-bang action, Shearin proves herself quite adept at crafting a quiet moment or two between her characters. Moments where the banter stops and the pauses are pregnant. In which you as the reader find yourself just aching for them. I cast my vote for a few more of these. Also, more Talon. The kid is pure awesome and never fails to crack me up. These are good characters. I have such hopes for them.

April 20, 2009

A Life in Pages

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Mary Stewart. 40 at last count. There's a pretty good story behind that number. Maybe I'll share it with you one of these days.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
I own four copies of The Blue Sword and four copies of The Ivy Tree. That's right. It's a tie.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
So you're saying I have to pick just one...well, I won't. Today you get two--one that I've been crushing on for several months now and one that I've been in love with for going on two decades. Poe/Jamie/Pajamie (the Ivy League Novels by Diana Peterfreund) and George Cooper (The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce). Respectively.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
Ooh. I'm gonna have to go with The High King by Lloyd Alexander. Although The Hero and the Crown and Lioness Rampant are not far behind.

5. What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. First line: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Yep. Still awesome.

6. What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Unfortunately, that honor goes to Breaking Dawn for its monumental jumping of the shark. Sigh.

7. What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Riiiiight. We'll just break it down by genre now, shall we? UF: Iron Kissed. Fantasy: Heir to Sevenwaters. Mystery: Silent in the Sanctuary. Steampunk: Clockwork Heart. Fairy Tale: A Curse Dark as Gold. SciFi: The Host. YA: Graceling. Contemporary: Rites of Spring (Break).Wow. Now I feel like re-reading several of those...

8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Middlemarch by George Eliot. I will never get over this book. So much compassion for the human condition in its pages.

9. What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Ulysses by James Joyce. Now, admittedly, I was suffering from extreme morning sickness the entire time I was reading. But still. Brain candy it's not. But I finished it. "yes I said yes I will Yes."

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I'm actually gonna have to go with the Russians on this one.

11. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Yeah. Only one answer there. Shakespeare.

12. Austen or Eliot?
You're really gonna make me choose between these two? Very well. Austen.

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Okay, here it is. *deep breath* I've never actually read Little Women. *runs*

14. What is your favorite novel?
You don't really know me at all if you think I can answer that question.

15. What is your favorite play?

16. What is your favorite poem?
Something by Yeats. Probably "Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven."

17. What is your favorite essay?
"Professions for Women" by Virginia Woolf

18. What is your favorite short story?
"The Dead" by James Joyce. Poe and O'Connor are made of awesome, but this one's probably my favorite.

19. What is your favorite non-fiction?
A Room of One's Own. She's just so good.

20. What is your favorite graphic novel?
I haven't read enough for my opinion to matter really. I'd like to read more. But of what I've read so far I really enjoyed The Professor's Daughter.

21. What is your favorite science fiction?
Fahrenheit 451. I've read a lot of killer scifi, but this one still wins. Man, I love Bradbury.

22. Who is your favorite writer?
See answer to #14 above.

23. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I really have no idea. Hard as I try, I can't seem to get into Diana Wynne Jones. But as she is so beloved, I've always assumed the fault was mine.

24. What are you reading right now?
Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews. Kate's swingin' Slayer around and Curran's on the prowl. So far, so great!

25. Best memoir?
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. If you haven't read this slender gem you're missing something truly lovely.

26. Best history?
I'm going to tweak this one to favorite historical/biographical. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. Fascinating.

27. Best mystery or noir?
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. Up in the middle of the night, sitting on the cold bathroom floor, dying to find out what happens kind of good.

And what about you?

April 14, 2009

Risky Business


The lovely Shannon Hale has an extremely interesting post up on her blog about why she writes what she does, why the next book won't necessarily be the one you want, and why that's the way it has to be. I've long been fascinated with how writers answer the question: what do I write next? How does one go about balancing the pressures of following up one success with another hit, the mounting desires of clamoring readers, and one's own inclinations? Shannon has some valuable insights into where she falls on the issue.

Robin McKinley addresses the subject (with her signature style and vigor) in this post on her blog entitled "There is no sequel to SUNSHINE." And as much as it pains me to hear there won't be sequels to some of my favorite books, there's no way in Hades I would want any of my favorite authors to go against their nature (or the demands of the Story Council) merely to satisfy fans. I want the next story they have in them. I don't care if it's a sequel, a prequel, or an entirely unrelated treatise on the life of the fruit fly. If Robin McKinley writes it, I'll read it. Period.

At the same time, as a reader, I really do appreciate it when authors address this question. If just so I can reorient myself in the whole author-book-reader spectrum. I know my place, I appreciate theirs. It's one more link in that ever-evolving, weird, and awesome relationship that exists between authors and readers, particularly in the age of the internet. One of my more recently acquired favorite writers, Moira J. Moore, recently outlined the many projects she's currently working on/mulling over and put it to her LJ readers to see which they thought she should proceed with and which should perhaps go on the back burner for awhile. It was great to get a glimpse of her process and (FWIW) give my inconsequential input.

So what do you think? Readers, do you ever find yourselves wondering why your favorite authors don't just churn out sequel after sequel? Authors, is this an issue that plagues you?

April 13, 2009

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

And today we have the first in yet another series I had heard much good about but avoided picking up for a variety of no good reasons. I think my reluctance stemmed somewhat from an uncertainty as to just what kind of series Michelle Sagara's Cast series was. I think at first I had the impression it was a paranormal romance, possibly an urban fantasy (the covers influenced me this way). A few chapters in I was surprised to find Cast in Shadow much more a mix of dark and high fantasy, peopled with a smattering of solid gold, humorous, and truly sinister characters living in a fully developed, layered, and fascinating world.

Kaylin Neya is a Hawk. The youngest of that number, in fact. In the city of Elantra, the Hawks are charged with policing the streets and guarding the citizens. They share that responsibility with their sibling organizations the Wolves and the Swords. Together the three forces are headquartered in the Halls of Law. Elantra's citizens are made up of a mix of humans like Kaylin, winged Aerians, furred Leontines, and the immortal Barrani. Seven years ago Kaylin left a life of squalor on the streets of the fief of Nightshade, gave herself a new name, and made her way to Elantra in search of a fresh start. Now her past has caught up with her as a series of murders takes place in Nightshade. Disturbing in their own right, they also bear an eerie resemblance to events in Kaylin's past she thought for sure she'd left behind.

Cast in Shadow starts at a good clip and doesn't slow down once. The writing is uncluttered and engaging and Kaylin is an extremely likeable heroine. She runs from a past so dark she has avoided revealing it to her closest friends. She has a gift for healing and will drop everything at a moment's notice to deliver a baby or rescue an orphan in trouble. It was actually kind of refreshing to read about a kick-a** heroine with a soft spot for children. So often they have an allergy to kids or have issues with some of the "softer" emotions and I loved Kaylin because she was both fierce and compassionate. I cheered her on when she was fighting and I wanted to help guard her secrets. Of which she has many. She has friends, enemies, comrades, and those who would use her for her unusual abilities, yet Kaylin remains a little aloof from them all, determined to make her own way. A favorite passage:
"Hawklord," she said.
His face grew more stonelike.
"Lord Grammayre," she added.
"I have been waiting for half of a day, Kaylin. Would you care to offer an explanation for the waste of my time to the Emperor?"
Her shoulders fell about four inches, but she managed to keep her head up. "No, sir."
He frowned, and then turned toward the distant curve of the shadowed room. In it, she saw a small well of light. And around that light, a man.
Some instinct made her reach for her daggers; they were utterly silent as they slid out of their sheaths. That had been a costly gift from a mage on Elani Street who'd had a little bit of difficulty with a loan shark.
"I have, however, no intention of embarrassing the Hawks by allowing you to speak on their behalf. I have a mission for you," he added, "and because of its nature, I wish you to take backup."
Great. She looked down at her boots, and the low edges of the one pair of pants she now owned that wasn't war-zone material. "Lord Grammayre--"
"That was not, of course, a request." He held out a hand in command, but not to her. "I would like to introduce you to one of your partners. You may recognize him; you may not. He has been seconded from the Wolves. Severn?"
She almost didn't hear the words; they made no sense.
Because across the round room--a room that now seemed to have no ceiling, her vision had grown so focused--a man stepped into the sun's light.
A man she recognized, although she hadn't seen him for years. For seven years.
In utter silence, she threw the first dagger, and hit the ground running.

Yep. Still gives me the happy shivers. That's my kind of girl. This scene comes only a handful of pages into the book and I was completely invested from that point on. And I knew right away it would be the section I would quote in my review. Because that scene? Made of win. I loved this story and can't wait to move on to the next installment--Cast in Courtlight.

April 9, 2009

Tap & Gown by Diana Peterfreund


I was having a truly mediocre day. Nothing was going right. I couldn't snap out of it. And the whole thing was rapidly approaching a complete wash. In a last ditch attempt to jar my mood, I went out to check the mail. An ARC of Tap & Gown was waiting for me and presto! Crappy day salvaged. Ironically, writing this review has been hard. Truth be told, I've actually been avoiding it. And it's not because I didn't love it. Because let me tell you, I loved this book like George Harrison Prescott loves women. No, I've been avoiding it for a much more cowardly reason. You see, I kept getting a lump in my throat every time I went to write it. Because writing it would mean it was really over. The book, the series, the whole Amy at Eli saga. And, yes, I know Rampant will be out soon and I am seriously looking forward to that. But this series will always hold a special place in my heart and it's hard to see it come to a close. Even the kind of close that leaves you with a big, ear-to-ear grin on your face.


Amy's made it to her last semester at Eli. Time is running out and she has a thesis to
write
finish, a brand new boyfriend she'd like to spend some "quality" time with, and an appropriate replacement Digger to find who will supposedly take her place within the tomb of Rose & Grave. And though she's studiously avoided thinking about it up until now, she also has to deal with her own personal post-traumatic fallout from the events at the end of spring break. Feeling rundown, anxious, and like senior year is kicking her butt seven ways from Sunday, Amy finds herself the unexpected recipient of rather a lot of attention from a few very hopeful, very accomplished undergrads. Of course, in true Bugaboo fashion, when she does stumble across the perfect tap, her potential choice comes complete with the kind of baggage guaranteed to scandalize the venerable patriarchs of R&G. It seems she is once more surrounded by secrets, some of them harmless, and some of them poised to wreck everything she's worked so hard to achieve.

Amy is such a strong character. She's an everygirl and, as a result, it's just so dang easy to empathize with her, particularly when we've had the opportunity to follow her through four books and watch her progress from an uncertain, unwelcome, uncomfortable-in-her-own-skin fledgling Diggirl, to a confident lynchpin member of a whole new order of Rose & Grave. Perhaps most satisfactory of all, she becomes brave in her honesty. Even when it scares her. She learns to be careful with (and protective of) the relationships she formed in her time at Eli. She understands how she fits into the larger scheme of things and she knows what (and who) is important. Frankly, I was proud of the girl. I have to say, it is extremely gratifying to finish a series feeling like the characters would be people worth knowing, like it played out the way it was meant to, like the author knows the score. Diana Peterfreund delivers with Tap & Gown.

I hereby confess: It was good for me.

April 8, 2009

A Letter from Laurie

Dear Friends,

With a new book coming out and an ongoing celebration ("Fifteen Weeks of Bees") in theLaurie R. King e-universe, I wanted to include ways to help Independent booksellers, libraries, and people to whom hardback novels are but a distant dream. Here's what I've come up with:

Indies--A piece of art:
Readers who buy a copy of The Language of Bees from an independent bookseller and send us their receipt will beentered into a drawing for a truly gorgeous piece of art: an original, limited edition letterpress broadside (value $125) of "A Venomous Death,"a new, illustrated Laurie King short story featuring Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes, and... bees.

Libraries--A set of Russells:
During National Library Week, we're collecting library love letters from their patrons. The winning letter gets a copy of the new book, The Language of Bees. At the same time, their library wins a complete set of hardback Russell and Holmes novels, beginning with The Beekeeper's Apprentice. We will also do a drawing this week from the "Laurie Loves Libraries" list on the LRK web site, and send that library a copy of the new book.

Fundraiser--Name a character, hear from Holmes:
Both to help the world and to honor bees (two books with bees in the title, after all,) we've set up a fundraising page atHeifer International to send beehives to poor communities worldwide. Those who donate two or more hives will get an exclusive Heifer booklet on beekeeping by Sherlock Holmes--and be entered into a drawing to name a character in the next Russell and Holmes novel.

I would appreciate it if you spread the word, and lend a hand to three great causes.

Laurie

____________________________

The links:

Fifteen Weeks of Bees:http://www.laurierking.com/?page_id=912

"A Venomous Death" Indies drawing: http://www.laurierking.com/?p=2614

Libraries:http://www.laurierking.com/?page_id=2653

Heifer Int'l beehive project:www.heifer.org/laurierking

The Fifteen Weeks contests:http://www.laurierking.com/?page_id=1725

Free e-book download of The Beekeeper's Apprentice:www.TheBeeisFree.com