September 30, 2009

North and South or, Things Angie Can't Get Out of Her Head















Not long ago we had a splendid discussion about book to film adaptations, our favorites, and those to be avoided at all cost. When I made my list of favorites, I had only just barely watched the excellent BBC adaptation of North and South. I longed to put it on my list, but did not as I have not actually read Elizabeth Gaskell's novel--a fact I really should remedy. Gaskell is one of the few rather glaring absences in my 19th century reading. For those of you wondering why the BBC would adapt a Civil War novel, this is not the John Jakes doorstopper or the 80s miniseries starring Patrick Swayze. This is a classic Victorian novel of the same name, which focuses on a middle class young woman who moves with her family from the south to a grim, industrial town in the north of England. There she encounters a cotton mill owner by the name of John Thornton and is thereby caught up in the roiling conflict between lower class workers and upper class masters that is on the brink of tearing the town of Milton apart. The BBC adapted it in 2004 and the film stars the relatively unknown (at the time) Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.

I loved this adaptation. I watched it first at girls' night with three other friends and then couldn't get it out of my head. So I watched it again, this time with my mother, and she loved it just as much as I did! Not that I doubted it, but you know how you can love something so much you have that slightly nagging feeling in the back of your head telling you you're unhealthily obsessed and other, more normal people would think the object of your obsession was nothing special? I'm not saying I'm obsessed. I'm just saying. I really liked this movie. And a lot of it has to do with the dude above on the left. He spends the majority of the time looking just like that, btw. Grim, brooding, barely suppressed fury at times. He's Rochester meets Darcy and, come to think of it, the movie itself gives off a rather Jane Eyre meets Pride & Prejudice vibe. These two dislike each other on sight and go out of their way to discomfit and annoy one another. But under the surface, subtler currents are at work undermining their carefully crafted disdain. There's even a botched proposal and then more brooding. Unlike P&P, however, the story is not just about the two leads. It is equally rife with biting social commentary and thoughtful explorations of the areas where class and gender meet and cross. It is a dark story and death lurks around almost every corner, though thankfully there are no mad wives in the attic. But two hours go by before anyone smiles and you do begin to wonder if you're in for anything other than suffering and longing glances. But trust me, you are. You so are. I mean, at one point, he actually removes his cravat...

I'm not going to go into any more detail for fear of spoiling it for the two of you who haven't seen it yet. All I'm going to say is it has the most breathtaking ending ever and please to go watch it now! And, as always, come back and tell me what you thought. One last glance to cement your resolve:
Note the distinct lack of cravat. *swoon*

September 29, 2009

On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

I let out a very undignified squeal when this unassuming package showed up on my doorstep completely out of the blue. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Here I am fairly wasting away for the fourth Kate Daniels book and then, swooping in like a risen phoenix, a brand, shiny new copy of Ilona Andrews' On the Edge saves the day. The first in a new series, do we even dare hope to two Andrews releases per year a la Patricia Briggs? The two of them together easily top my favorite urban fantasy writers and this new book (and series) does nothing to shake those stats, I'm happy to say. As with Briggs' Alpha and Omega series, I think it's important to go in with a clean slate, so to speak, not expecting Kate and Curran but ready to embrace a wholly new world, and I think you will enjoy this book on its own merits.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge--the narrow strip of land between the Broken and the Weird. Yes, you read that right. She and the two little brothers she's raising live a dangerous half-life in between a world where magic is myth (the Broken) and another where it is king (the Weird). Edgers, as they are known, have their feet in both worlds but don't seem to belong to either. They, unlike, the denizens of the Broken are aware of the Weird in all its incomprehensibility. And, unlike the inhabitants of the Weird, they are awkwardly connected t0 (even long for at times) the banality of the Broken. When she was eighteen, Rose was effectively ostracized by the whole of the local town for letting loose a stream of magic and then refusing to marry one of the hometown boys. With her parents out of the picture, two half-magical little boys to take care of and train, and determined to control her own life, Rose takes an illegal job in the Broken and attempts to fly under the radar. And it works. Sort of. Until Lord Declan Camarine appears on her porch step, sword strapped to his back absolutely reeking blue blood Weird, announcing she will be his come hell or high water. Rose responds...less than favorably. And we have ourselves a story!

Once again Ilona Andrews plunges me into a fully realized world without a by your leave. And I love it. Like Kate's Atlanta it is full of complexity and contradiction and a wonderfully messy history. But it is also wilder, in a sense. Rose carries a rifle and she has to use it more than she'd like. The people in the Edge are almost clan-like in their politics. Feuds happen and they last for decades. Payment is harsh and exacted when and where the wronged party decides it will be. This series has a different focus than the more traditionally urban fantasy Kate Daniels series and, though in the end I didn't love it quite as much, I loved the world building and the children who actually seemed real to me. On the Edge is definitely heavier on the romance side of the urban fantasy spectrum and, as a result, Rose and Declan's relationship is more central than Kate and Curran's in the Magic series. Occasionally the descriptions and general admiring of each other's forms got a bit cloying for me, but the nice thing is that they are both well-rounded, compelling characters. At first I wasn't sure about Declan. He does start out a bit looming, take no prisoners, you will be mine for my taste. But there is more there than brawn and arrogance. And it is a very intriguing more. As far as Rose goes, she's had it rough and is still full of fire--just the way I like my UF heroines--but (and this is key) she has the creds and the depth to back it up. She's tough and at the same time she longs for education and training to harness and develop her powers. But instead she spends her days flogging her guts out to support her little brothers. She loves them unconditionally and is determined their lives will be better than hers. I love how full she feels as a character. I believed in her and I liked her. As for the boys, Jack and Georgie, you won't stand a chance against their charms and that is all. There is that trademark humor throughout the story as well and it really held the whole thing together, especially when the particularly creepy elements started rearing their ugly heads.
A great passage:
"What kind of animal do you turn into?" Declan asked.
Jack narrowed his eyes into sly slits. "I'm not supposed to tell you."
"Why not?"
"Because Rose told me not to talk to anybody about it."
Declan leaned forward and fixed him with his eyes. Jack tensed. If Declan were a changeling, he'd be a wolf, Jack decided. A large white wolf. Very smart and with big teeth.
"Do you always do what Rose says?"
Ooooh. That was a trick question. If he said he did, Declan would think he was a mama's boy. If he said he didn't, he'd have to tell him that he was a cat. Jack thought about it. "No. But I always know I'm supposed to."
"I see," Declan said.
Jack decided he had to explain, just so there wouldn't be any doubt that he wasn't a mama's boy. "My mom died. My dad left to hunt for treasure. I don't remember him. He was a good dad, I think, but he might have been not that smart, because when Grandma talks about him, she calls him 'that stupid man' sometimes. She can do that because he's her son, so I don't get mad."
"Aha," Declan said.
"So until my dad comes back, I'm Rose's cub. So I have to do what she says."
"Makes sense," Declan said.
"You like Rose?" Jack asked.
"Yes, I do."
"Why?"
"Because she's smart, kind, and pretty. She stands up to me. That's hard to do."
Jack nodded. That made sense. Declan was hard to stand up to. He was tall and big and he had a sword. "Rose is prickly."
"She is certainly that."
"She's nice, too," Jack said. "She takes care of me and Georgie. And if you ask her really nice, she'll make you a pie even if she's tired from work."
"And she's funny," Declan said confidentially. "But I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell her that. If she knew I thought she was funny, she might not take me seriously. Women are like that."
Jack nodded. He could keep a manly secret, and it wasn't something that Rose had to know. "If you win the challenges, you'll take Rose away."
"That's the agreement," Declan said.
"Can we come?"
"Yes."
"Breakfast!" Rose called.
Jack started for the door and turned. His eyes flashed with amber fire. "I won't help you win," he said.
Declan grinned. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
On the Edge comes out today.

September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009

It's that time of year again, when we get to celebrate Banned Books Week! Every year, during the last week of September, the ALA sponsors Banned Books Week highlighting the importance of free and open access to the written word and the dangers of censorship. My favorite passage in their written statement is as follows:
Imagine how many more books might be challenged--and possibly banned or restricted--if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.
Amen.
I went through and did a quick cull of my shelves, pulling down a few of the most frequently challenged books over the years. These are some of my very favorite books, people. These are books like To Kill a Mockingbird (see wonderful Harper Lee quote above), Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, A Separate Peace, and so many more.
You already know my feelings on this issue (they are strong), so I thought that this year I'd simply include a list of a few of my favorite recent links from around the web on the subject and hope that you check out all the wonderful posts being written in support of the right to read. Make sure to stop in this Friday to catch my special Banned Books Week edition of Retro Fridays.
Lastly, here is the incomparable John Green's excellent defense of his book Looking for Alaska.

September 25, 2009

Retro Friday Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

When we got to talking about film adaptations yesterday, I knew today's Retro Friday post would have to be about one book, and one book only--84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I owe the discovery of this wonderful book to DH, before he was DH, in fact. He gave the movie to me for my birthday--the first birthday I had after we started dating. Along with the Old Friends Simon & Garfunkel box set and a kiss. At the time we were living in different cities and meeting up somewhere in the middle for our "dates." So I drove home that night and watched the movie all by myself. I cried. Twice. I laughed and laughed and laughed. And I went out and bought the book immediately. I was on my way to London for a study abroad program and so it was a going away gift of sorts. He's particularly good with gifts, as you can tell. It is without a doubt my very favorite memoir and the movie adaptation starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins is pretty much my favorite movie of all time. Just another of those little things that my man brought to my life that I might never have found without him.
84, Charing Cross Road tells the true story of Helene Hanff and Frank Doell. Helene is a loudmouth, eccentric, struggling writer from New York. Frank is a quiet, reserved, always proper bookseller from London. In a fit of rage at being unable to find the vintage editions of classic books she loves in New York, Helene drafts a letter to Marks & Co.--an antiquarian bookshop located at 84, Charing Cross Rd. The first letter reads as follows:
Gentlemen:
Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase "antiquarian booksellers" scares me somewhat, as I equate "antique" with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes and Noble's grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies.
I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean secondhand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?
Very truly yours,
Helene Hanff
(Miss) Helene Hanff
And that is how this exquisite little gem of bibliophilia begins. Frank Doell answers Miss Hanff's letter on behalf of Marks & Co., signing his letter FPD. Over the course of twenty years, these two book lovers exchange letters and, in the process, become fast friends. Though they never actually meet, their friendship spans years, nationalities, personalities, and an ocean.
It's hard for me to express how much I love this collection of letters. I'm always wanting to talk about it with other readers but know few outside my immediate family who've heard of it let alone read it. Which is sad as, when I think about books about books and book lovers, I have a difficult time coming up with a better, more moving and intensely personal story. It doesn't hurt that I'm extremely tactile when it comes to my love of books. I adore owning multiple editions, particularly old, used, loved copies picked up in used bookshops around the world. The day I walked into Hay-on-Wye I promptly broke out into a cold sweat at the sheer number of "antiquarian booksellers" within a one-mile radius. And in this book, Helene Hanff's love for the physical books themselves, the words within, and British literature especially just suffuses this reader with joy and a beautiful sense of camaraderie. I'll close with one of my favorite passages and the hope that, if you haven't picked 84, Charing Cross Road up yet, you will. And come back and tell me how it was.
Please write and tell me about London, I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet. I want to walk up Berkeley Square and down Wimpole Street and stand in St. Paul's where John Donne preached and sit on the step Elizabeth sat on when she refused to enter the Tower, and like that. A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived notions, so they always find exactly what they go looking for. I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said:
"Then it's there."
Sigh.

Retro Friday Roundup
Last of all, here for your viewing pleasure is the trailer for the movie. Just watch it and you'll see what I mean.

Ballad Giveaway!

I think it's time for a giveaway, don't you? Thanks to the generous people at Flux, I have one copy of Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater to give away to one lucky commenter!
I'm very excited about this giveaway because I thought it was such a great read and an excellent companion novel to Lament. You can find my review of both books here and here, as well as an interview I did with Maggie last month. I've posted Maggie's awesome book trailer here before, but here it is again because it's totally worth a second viewing.
Maggie has since put together a playlist for Ballad, which you can also check out here.
The rules for the contest are simple. To enter please leave a comment telling me your favorite ballad or love song. One extra entry if you become a follower, two for current followers. Make sure to leave me a way to contact you. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only and closes on October 1st--Ballad's official release date!

September 24, 2009

Adaptations


So it seems like every time I turn around they're adapting another book to the silver screen. Just in the last week or so I read that they're making films of: Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, Stephenie Meyer's The Host, and (of all things) the Sweet Valley High series. I happen to love book-to-film adaptations, but I always walk into the theater with my heart in my throat, unsure of how well or badly it will come off. I mean, I somehow managed to sit through all of Blood and Chocolate, but there's two hours I'll never see again. On the other hand, there have been some truly breathtaking adaptations over the years. I was musing on some of the best and came up with a short list. I apologize for all the listiness lately and promise not to make a habit of it.
I kept this one to novels made into films, and not only that, but novels I have actually read myself. There are a whole host of adaptations I love from books I've never read, just as there are so many wonderful plays that have been adapted into excellent films (Hello, Zeffirelli and Branagh--I'm lookin' at you), but as for films based on actual books that I've read, here you go:
Some of them are faithful, some of them are not. Some of them are not my favorite book but the film is something special. Either way there's something about each one that strikes a chord with me and makes it so that I come back to them over and over again.
What are your favorite book to movie adaptations and what's the worst one you ever sat through?

September 23, 2009

Favorite Mystery Series

Not long ago Jen Robinson posted about her top 12 Favorite Mystery Series. The list included the mystery series she keeps going back to, picking up each new installment, and enjoying the arc of the series as a whole. In her words,
These are series that haven't petered out for me--I'm just as interested to read the 10th book in hardcover (if available) as I was to read the second. They are automatic selections for me.
I loved this post as it gave me a few new recommendations I'd never heard of before (Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series for starters) as well as made me think about which series would make my list. As I suspected, Jen and I share a couple favorites. I've been a mystery reader since my Nancy Drew days and I've been thinking about my list and I think I've whittled it down to the cream of the crop for me. There are so many series that are classic or already completed, but I kept this list to ones that are still in progress.
My top 7 favorite mystery series (in no particular order):
These are all auto-buys for me. I own most of them in a hodgepodge mixture of paper and hardbacks as I generally have discovered them mid-series. They're up, they're down, they're laugh-out-loud funny, they're can't-fall-asleep-at-night scary. And I love them. I re-read them often. I can always count on a good time within their pages.

What are your favorite mystery series? And which ones am I missing out on?

September 22, 2009

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Thanks go to BiblioBuffet for sending me this book! Honestly, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy once I heard it was a modern-day Beauty & the Beast retelling. Then I saw the cover. *clears throat* That's one good cover. Reminds me of another cover I'm rather fond of. In fact, reading and finishing this book prompted an immediate re-read of Perfect Chemistry. The two actually have a fair bit in common, though they are very different in style and length. There was a lot of hype around the blogosphere surrounding Crazy Beautiful and I found myself anxious to see if it lived up to my expectations. This was also my first novel by Lauren Baratz-Logsted and I was very much looking forward to both a new author and a fresh take on one of my very favorite old tales.
My arm rises toward my face and the pincer touch of cold steel rubs against my jaw.
I chose hooks because they were cheaper.
I chose hooks because I wouldn't outgrow them so quickly.
I chose hooks so that everyone would know I was different, so I would scare even myself.
Lucius is starting at a new school. He is unenthused, to put it mildly. Recently he, his parents, and his little sister relocated to a new home and a new town in an attempt to rid themselves of the taint of what happened to Lucius last year. Where he used to be plain Lucius Wolfe, now he's that crazy boy with hooks for hands. And he likes to live up to the reputation. It's clear from the word go that he's working pretty hard at not examining his life too clearly. It's just not exactly clear why. Aurora is also starting at a new school. The same school, as fate would have it. She and her father are trying to get back into the groove of their lives now that her mother is gone and the two of them are all each other's got. Where she used to be beautiful, popular Aurora Belle, now she's that new girl whose dad is the school librarian. Lucius and Aurora inadvertently make eye contact on the school bus one morning and a connection is forged, whether they know it yet or not.

My first reflection upon finishing this book is how much I loved the title. I love how it captures the way these two characters are perceived by the outside world, which is in direct contrast to the insight the reader gets about who they really are under the surface. Told in alternating point of view chapters, we get to experience firsthand Lucius' awkward blend of defiance and resignation when faced with all the rumors and insinuations about his mental status and the state of his missing hands. We get to be in the room with Aurora as she puts on a good face for her grieving, desperately hopeful dad, while achingly unsure whether or not she can get through another day pretending to be fine. Most of all, as is true with all good Beauty & the Beast retellings, we get to watch as two people in need find each other and see beyond the superficial to find that they are able to fill the cracks left by their past. Crazy Beautiful is such a brief story. Weighing in at a featherweight 208 pages, I was worried I would emerge at the other end wishing for more, feeling like I only just got a taste of these two. I'm happy to say I didn't feel that way at all. On the contrary it felt like a perfectly natural glimpse into an ongoing story. There was a lot of crap that came before Lucius and Aurora encountered one another on the bus and, in the same vein, their story continues on beyond the final pages of the book. The lovely writing lent this modern high school story just the right hint of fairy tale splendor. I may be a sucker for this particular tale, but I thought Ms. Baratz-Logsted pulled it off beautifully. I read it in one sitting and it was exactly the sweet, funny, and moving read I hoped it would be.

September 21, 2009

The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson

I was so excited to find another Eva Ibbotson book! Awhile back I blew through the wonderful A Song for Summer, A Countess Below Stairs, A Company of Swans, and The Morning Gift. When I surfaced again, I found myself really hoping the magic spell wouldn't end there. Happily there was one more sweet historical in store for me. The Reluctant Heiress is a (retitled) re-issue of Ibbotson's Magic Flutes, which was originally published in 1982. It is set in the 1920s and revolves around the outrageously funny and touching members of the Viennese Opera Company, in particular a young woman named Tessa who eats, drinks, and breathes music and is the heart and soul of the company.

First things first. The prologue opens with the following lines:
They were both born under the sign of Gemini and for those who believe in the stars as arbiters of fate, this must have seemed the link that bound them. She herself was to invoke the heavens when at last they met. "Could I be your Star Sister?" she was to ask him. "Could I at least be that?"
Certainly it would seem to need the magic of star lore to link the life of the tiny, dark-eyed Austrian princess--born in a famous castle and burdened, in the presence of the Emperor Franz Joseph, with a dozen sonorous Christian names--with that of the abandoned, gray-blanketed bundle found on the quayside of a grim, industrial English town: a bundle opened to reveal a day-old, naked, furiously screaming baby boy.
Her birth thus was chronicled, documented, and celebrated with fanfares (though she should have been a boy). But his . . .
It was the merest chance that he was found at all . . .
The narrative alternates between Tessa and Guy's stories as they work their way toward meeting one day in the bowels of the theater when Guy walks in on a weeping Tessa, who (an absolute martyr when it comes to opera) has just chopped off all her beautiful hair to provide a wig for the diva to wear in that night's performance. From there their lives intersect at more or less regular intervals and these two individuals with such wildly different backgrounds unexpectedly become friends. The one thing they share is a love of music. And music permeates the pages of this book, wrapping itself around you as you read. Tessa has turned her back on her past and made the opera the focus of her entire life, while Guy has all but nullified his humble origins by molding his life around the pursuit of wealth and power. When the woman he's loved since he was a young student at Oxford is suddenly widowed and back on the market, he lays out an alarmingly elaborate plan to woo and win her back and gift her with the life he believes she deserves. Unsurprisingly, no one is who they seem to be and that presents several sticky problems for our protagonists to tackle.

Opening up an Eva Ibbotson book is like biting into a hot biscuit smothered with butter and jam--at once perfectly satisfying and extremely comforting. Similar to A Countess Below Stairs there are few, if any, unpredictable events in this story. But that's not really what it's about. It's about those arresting passages you come across at just the right moment and think--perfect. Absolutely perfect. Similar to A Song for Summer and A Company of Swans the characters' love of art and nature fairly leap off the pages and it's hard to resist their charms and not wish you lived in a time and place where ancient royalty glided about crumbling castles and Mozart was god. In fact, my favorite bits in this book are the ones where the characters talk about Mozart and Beethoven and the way music makes life worth living. I liked Tessa and Guy quite a bit. I wish they had a few more scenes together. There is one point near the end of the story where they find themselves alone in the same place for the first time in months and months and their quiet conversation is exquisite. The story needed just a few more of those intimate moments to really cement the arc of their relationship and move it from like-minded acquaintances to soulmates. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my read, laughed several times, had tears in my eyes twice, and fell in love with each and every member of the opera company. For Ibbotson fans, this volume is not to be missed.

September 19, 2009

BBAW Giveaway: Silent on the Moor Winner

And the winner is . . . cqueen2!

Please contact me with your mailing adress and I'll get your copy of Silent on the Moor sent out. I was so happy to see all the entries as this series is really something special and I hope you all get a chance to read it if you haven't yet. After all, everyone deserves a little Brisbane in their lives.
I think this is such a wonderful rendering of Brisbane.
Check out more of Doris' wonderful artwork here!

September 18, 2009

BBAW: My Personal Bookpushers

I'm a bit late on this, but now, as part of the great BBAW, it's time to talk about the reason I love book blogs the most: the book recommendations they bring my way. Specifically, the ones I would never have picked up otherwise but that I absolutely loved and can't imagine having never read.
Today we encourage you to blog about a book you read only because you discovered it on another book blog. Preferably, this will be a book you loved! You might also write a bit about the blog you discovered it on!
Ahem.
I've talked before about the gateway blogs that got me into the whole crazy, awesome book blogging world and Bookshelves of Doom is pretty much at the top of the list. I discovered Leila's supercool blog a long time ago now it seems and rarely a day goes by I don't check in to see what books are being challenged/banned across the nation, which books almost get her hit by cars, what the weather's like in Maine, etc. It was Leila's review that made me go out and buy the first Secret Society Girl book by Diana Peterfreund. And that, as you dear readers know, led to a most excellent love affair with a certain character. Several, actually. Amy is one of my very favorite heroines for how real she seems. And the enigmatic GHP...well. He can come round glinting his copper-penny eyes anytime. I also owe my discovery of Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series to Bookshelves of Doom. It's the funny, incredibly involving way Leila writes her reviews that really gets me. Witness a snippet of her review of Silent in the Grave:

Silent in the Grave grabbed me from the first paragraph:
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.
Funny! A possible suggestion of future romance (dude, this is how my mind works -- I make predictions based on 27 words)! A twitching body! A mystery (Why is he twitching? Why is he almost dead? Why is the narrator so flip?)! In other words, a hell of a hook!
And then, the next paragraph made me happy, too:
I stared at him, not quite taking in the fact that he had just collapsed at my feet. He lay, curled like a question mark, his evening suit ink-black against the white marble of the floor. He was writhing, his fingers knotted.
The DRAMA! Writhing!
Obviously, I had to continue. And I did.


I laugh all the way to the bookstore is what I do. Then I just settle in and read. It was one of her posts that inspired my Top Ten Kick-A** Heroines of YA post and that's really when I started getting serious about "this blogging thing." Thank you so much, Leila!

Very shortly after I discovered Bookshelves of Doom, I ran across The YA YA YAs. Run by three YA librarians, this blog quickly became a go-to one for me. Trisha, Gayle, and Jolene do a bang-up job of covering a wide range of young adult novels and issues and I always look forward to what they have to say next. Most recently, I ran across Trisha's review of Perfect Chemistry:

Simone ElkelesPerfect Chemistry is a teen romance full of clichés, melodrama, an unrealistic denouement, and a completely over the top epilogue. And I freaking loved it. Ate it up with a spoon like it was an ice cream sundae.
Mmmm. There was no way I was passing this one up. Particularly given how I trust Trisha's reviews. She is extremely upfront and honest about a book. She lays it out for you and I can always tell whether or not it'll be one for me. Such an appreciated quality in a reviewer. And sure enough, Trisha came through again not long after with her review of Printz Award-winning Jellicoe Road. When she said it's not a book for everyone but that it's a book that demands your attention and that she loved it? I buy the book. I do not pass go and I do not ever experience buyer's remorse. What a beautiful, beautiful book it was. Thank you, Trisha!
And what post about blogs I love would be complete without a shout-out to my beloved Ana and Thea? (No kind of post is the correct answer, in case you were wondering). It's difficult for me to express the mighty crush I have on The Book Smugglers. Fortunately for me, it sounds like the feeling is mutual. I go to their site for humor, for romance, for kick-a** urban fantasy and scifi, and basically anything else I need in a given 24-hour period. From their nonsensical weekend polls to their deliciously long and insightful joint reviews, I am riveted. Taking notes. Nodding, laughing, talking-to-the-computer-screen enjoying myself. It's thanks to these two that I went ahead and picked up the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. Based on Thea's double feature review of the first two books (and the glowing Patricia Briggs quote on the cover), I jumped into Kate's crazy, psychedelic Atlanta headfirst. I fell in love with Kate from the word go. I ate up the world-building and was cautiously optimistic about the Beast Lord Curran. When each book got exponentially more mind-blowing, I was hooked. The most recent installment, Magic Strikes, is shockingly good and this series is easily in my top three favorite urban fantasy series. I also followed the Smugs' recommendation and gave Linnea Sinclair a shot, thereby falling in love with Games of Command. Sinclair is to space opera what Eva Ibbotson is to YA historicals. You know what to expect and you can absolutely count on her to deliver a good time. As Ana said, "Not a single one disappoints." The same can be said of The Book Smugglers. They are made of awesome. End of story.

September 17, 2009

Mary Stewart Pretties + Giveaway

Chicago Review Press has been reissuing a few Mary Stewart classic mysteries in gorgeous, atmospheric trade paperbacks. Aren't they lovely? Today is Mary Stewart's birthday and, in honor of the event, Jennie over at the Mary Stewart Novels Blog is giving away a copy of The Ivy Tree to one lucky commenter. It's one of my very favorite Stewarts and a great way to be introduced to her work if you haven't had a chance yet. Check out the blurb for The Ivy Tree here and then go enter to win!

September 16, 2009

BBAW: Reading Habits

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
Not usually, no. If we have leftover baked goods lying around then I will occasionally settle in with one or two. I'm actually much more likely to have a drink next to me than a snack. All that invested emotional energy, the occasional sweating of bullets...makes a girl thirsty!

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
It doesn't horrify me. I just don't do it much. I marked up my textbooks like crazy and if I give a book as a gift I do love inscribing it with a short message, but otherwise no. The funny thing is Ilove used books with writing in them, love perusing past owners' thoughts and handwriting. It makes them more valuable to me.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
This is a tricky question. My gut reaction is: bookmark. On a brand new hardcover, it's almost painful to crease the page. But when I was a teenager I dog-eared the corners without thinking twice about it. And those copies are the ones I love the most now. There seems to be a rhythm to my re-reads. So that going through a second or third time I frequently find myself stopping at the same places. And, over time, specific pages were dog-eared so many times the corners hardly held up on their own at all. I've noticed that if it's a paperback and I'm loving it, I'll casually dog-ear instead of bookmark and I can only assume it's because I know this one's gonna be one of the special ones and dog-earing it is the mark of honor.

Laying the book flat open?
Now that horrifies me. *shudder*

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Fiction. To quote my old friend CK, "So let it be done. So let it be written."

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copies. A friend of mine once said listening to an audio book was great but she still finished it feeling like she'd cheated on the book with a cheap floozy. I still laugh when I think of that and it pretty much sums up exactly how I feel.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
If bedtime is the only deadline I'm facing then I will always read to the end of the chapter. But if I'm snatching passages here and there throughout the day I can, and will, put it down whenever I have to. Those hurried snatches are infinitely better than nothing at all.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
Sometimes. Usually I like to feel my way through it and then encounter it again in another book and see if the answer I puzzled out was correct. If I'm still unsure, I look it up.

What are you currently reading?
On the Edge by Ilona Andrews. It's so good I'm snatching hurried passages whenever I can!

What is the last book you bought?
Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs. She's an auto-buy for me and I look forward to her release days twice a year with much anticipation.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
For the most part I'm quite faithful to the book I'm with. But if the night's dragging and a sexy stranger comes along, my attention has been known to wander. From time to time. But I never forget who's taking me home.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
Nighttime, in my bed, book propped on my bent knees. DH on the pillow next to me.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I don't have a preference if the book's well done and stays true to itself. If it's a standalone with a killer ending, I'm perfectly satisfied. And if the author has more story to tell about characters I've fallen in love with then I am beyond tickled to read more installments in the series.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
*dies laughing* Where do I start without sounding like a broken record? I am known for shoving stacks of Ellen Emerson White, Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, and Sharon Shinn books into people's hands. Lately I've been doing it a lot with Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series, Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, and Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey mystery series. Finest kind, every one.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
Alphabetical by author's last name. Chronologically within each author. I flirt with other options but, in the end, I think I'll stick with the old standby.

There you have it. I'd love to hear your answers to any or all of these questions!