January 28, 2011

Friday Giggles: Super Cool Version


DH showed me this the other night because he knew it would make me giggle and then sigh. I want a dog so bad!

January 27, 2011

Perfect Pretties


It's been awhile since my last pretties post. I guess I've been waiting around for three covers (and synopses) that really got my heart going, you know? Well, these three are it. I cannot wait to get my hands on them and they each sound completely different from the others but completely perfect in their own way. These are three new-to-me authors and how utterly exciting is that? I also (amazingly) wouldn't change a thing about any of these covers. Not the titles, not the artwork, not a thing. They're perfect.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
This one has slowly worked up my interest as I've seen the cover popping up all over the place. But I finally caved and read a (very) short synopsis and now I'm officially really looking forward to it. It's an amnesia tale (they can really go either way, can't they?) and it reminds me somewhat of Gabrielle Zevin's Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, which I enjoyed. But I've perused the author's website and I like what I see. Especially how cryptic it all is. High hopes here.
Due out September 27th.

The Returning by Christine Hinwood
My excitement for this one is two-fold. First of all, Adele from Persnickety Snark gave it a resoundingly good review and Trisha from The YA YA YAs has it on her most anticipated titles of 2011 list. Both incredibly good signs. Secondly, ohmygoodnessdidyounoticethecoverblurbbynoneotherthanMeganWhalenTurner? SOLD. Interestingly, this is Ms. Hinwood's first book and it was originally published in Australia in 2009 under the title Bloodflower.
Due out April 14th.

Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia
It's to do with the title. I am in very deep love with this title and wanted to read the book before I even remotely knew what it was about. Turns out, it's about three very different young girls who become roommates at a Swiss boarding school. An Iranian princess, a German-Canadian eccentric, and a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom. Well, why not?
Due out July 12th.

January 26, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr

It's a little bit strange, but I feel as though I've grown particularly choosy when it comes to the dystopian novels I pick up lately. I'm not sure if this is a result of the seemingly increased number of YA ones, in particular, being released. Or if it's merely that my taste is evolving somewhat over time. I did read several for the SciFi/Fantasy panel I served on for the Cybils this year. Some were good, some not so good., as is to be expected. But so often the substance fails to live up to the premise for me. And those are sad days, where I wonder what went wrong and if it was the book, the execution, or me. In any event, I was looking forward to the release of Julia Karr's debut novel--XVI--with a fair amount of anticipation and curiosity, hoping it would stand out among its fellows and earn a permanent spot on my shelves. I read it in the space of a single evening and have been examining my thoughts on it for a little while now.

Nina Oberon is about to turn sixteen. And in her world, this monumental occasion is about more than just a driver's license and more freedom on the dating field. So much more. At the ripe old age of sixteen, or "sexteen" as her world calls it, girls are essentially fair game for any and every boy/man/pervert that comes strolling by. Girls turn sixteen and get the infamous XVI tattoo on their wrist proclaiming their newly available status and Nina, for one, is scared. Most girls, like her hyper best friend Sandy, can't wait to achieve their new status in the world. Drunk on the wealth of male attention that will come their way and the promise of a whole new host of opportunities that will come their way, they anxiously look forward to the day they get their tattoo. Not so for Nina. Raised by her pragmatic, if romantically hapless single mother Ginnie, along with her younger sister Dee, Nina has grown up dreading what will happen when she reaches her sixteenth birthday. Her mother has trained her not to believe the rosy, inane images the media blithely shoves down young girls' throats and Nina is cautious to the point that when her longtime friend Derek begins to see her in a different light it triggers outright panic in Nina. Then her mother is brutally murdered in a back alley and, on her death bed, she reveals to Nina that her father isn't actually dead and that she must find him and keep her sister Dee safe.

Okay. Lots of potential, right? I liked the setup and I definitely liked Nina. She was strong from the start and it was a relief to read about a main character who doesn't spend the entire novel in the dark, floating around believing the garbage her society has set up as reality. However. Those were the only strong points in the book. The rest of the cast of characters felt disturbingly two-dimensional. They were good cut-outs (particularly Wei and Derek) and they could easily have developed into fully-fledged characters who I really admired and followed. But they stayed in the background, flat and chirpy, never fully inhabiting a spot on my radar. Even Nina's growing relationship with a mysterious, possibly homeless, boy named Sal never got its feet off the ground. I didn't buy Nina's too-sudden weak knees, given how adamant and self-possessed she was to begin with. And I really didn't buy Sal's too convenient interest in her, given what we learn about their interlocked past and his involvement with many things underground. There were no real reasons behind their association and I found myself fairly ambivalent toward them both. The treatment of underlying themes soon began to bother me as well. What could have been a compelling exploration of adolescent life in a terrifyingly misogynistic society quickly devolved into an oddly simplistic tale with very little to recommend it. Things moved too slowly and not far enough to provide a satisfying conclusion in which I could feel as though progress was made and character arcs developed. Rather the conclusion was anticlimactic and verging on the trite--so not in keeping with its edgy, loaded premise.


Linkage
DeRaps Reads Review
Forever Young Adult Review
Oh My Books! Review
Princess Bookie Review
YA Librarian Tales Review

January 25, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Can you believe it's taken me this long to get around to this one? To be perfectly honest, I had little interest in it based solely on the title and the vast amount of love it got from, well, everyone. I can be truculent that way. But a sufficient amount of time has passed since the hubbub, that I was quite happy to see a copy show up among my Christmas presents and I opened it up with alacrity over the break. What a perfectly lovely book and how right everyone was talking it up here, there, and everywhere. I was intrigued to find out it was written by two women--relatives, no less. My understanding is that Mary Ann Shaffer asked her niece (and fellow writer) Annie Barrows to help her finish the book once Ms. Shaffer's failing health began to seriously impede its progress toward publication. I'm so glad the book was finished and published and not lost in the shuffle. I wonder, sometimes, how many gems are.

The year is 1946 and Juliet Ashton is a columnist turned author struggling to write her second book, following her wildly successful compilation of wartime essays. Having just completed a rather grueling tour promoting the book, she is back in London and staring at the empty pages on her desk just waiting to be filled. Then she receives a letter from a man by the unlikely name of Dawsey Adams, wondering whether or not she might direct him to some further work by his beloved author Charles Lamb. You see, he purchased one of his own volumes of Lamb secondhand and it had Juliet's name inscribed inside. Juliet is charmed to find another Lamb admirer and immediately writes back to Mr. Adams. And thus begins an extensive and fruitful correspondence the likes of which neither of them have ever known. Dawsey belongs to an extremely unique literary society known as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The name alone whets Juliet's appetite for more. And it turns out there is so much more to this little Channel Island society than meets the eye. Inaugurated during the German occupation of Guernsey, this small group of ragtag members meets faithfully to discuss books and huddle together against the encroaching horrors of war. Through their experiences, Juliet's imagination is fired up and the novel she keeps trying and failing to write suddenly takes off.

This is one of those books that drew my husband down the hall and into the room to find out what the laughter was about. And then, of course, the tears, when I foolishly attempted to read aloud an early passage that hit me in one of those wonderful zing moments. Try reading this portion aloud without choking up:
Best to say we weren't a true literary society at first. Aside from Elizabeth, Mrs. Maugery, and perhaps Booker, most of us hadn't had much to do with books since our school years. We took them from Mrs. Maugery's shelves fearful we'd spoil the fine papers. I had no zest for such matters in those days. It was only by fixing my mind on the Commandant and jail that I could make myself to lift up the cover of the book and begin.

It was called Selections from Shakespeare. Later, I came to see that Mr. Dickens and Mr. Wordsworth were thinking of men like me when they wrote their words. But most of all, I believe that William Shakespeare was. Mind you, I cannot always make sense of what he says, but it will come.

It seems to me the less he said, the more beauty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is, "The bright day is done, and we are for the dark."

I wish I'd known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, plane-load after plane-load of them--and come off ships down in the harbor! All I could think of was damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have thought the words "the bright day is done and we are for the dark," I'd have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance--instead of my heart sinking to my shoes.
It was just one of those moments in which the words--the whole sentiment--was just so right that, despite the fact that I'm not fictional, not a man, did not live during or anywhere near just after World War II, and have not had to watch my home invaded, I knew. The words of William Shakespeare connected us and I knew. Such moments are rare and beautiful in the fictional works I read and I treasure them up. As I said, I laughed innumerable times while reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I saw the events of the time period and place in an entirely new way. The book was so far from the precious and fluffy volume I was expecting that I wasn't completely prepared for how delightful and moving it would be. The history, the love story, the band of friends . . . it was magic. I am, and always have been, a fan of epistolary novels and it was a treat to sit back and let Juliet and Dawsey, Sidney and Isola recount the events and moments of their lives for me through the series of letters and journal entries that make up this remarkable story. I know the format bothers some readers, but for me the slight removal only serves to heighten my awareness of the characters and to underline the subtlety inherent in their private lives. I was won over by each one of them and suffice it to say that a particular scene at the end where a certain someone is on a ladder and another someone is spying through the window still brings a smile to my face and laughter to my lips. I adored this book and think it would be just wonderful read aloud between family, friends, or any group of like minded individuals who share the kind of love for the written word that forms the beautiful core of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A keeper.


Linkage
The Book Lady's Blog Review
Maw Books Blog Review
Novel Insights Review
Savvy Verse & Wit Review
See Michelle Read Review
She is Too Fond of Books Review
Vulpes Libris Review

January 21, 2011

A Girl Who Reads

So thanks to my lovely booktwin Martha's tweet, I ran across this article over at Thought Catalog, entitled "You Should Date an Illiterate Girl." And honestly I have very few words beyond that it's the best thing I've read in awhile. Breathtakingly written, it made me think, try on several different perspectives, and feel so many things so strongly that I was in tears before I knew it. The good kind of tears. And before you say it, yes, I realize I'm pregnant and such a feat is much easier accomplished right now than under normal conditions. But still. Hormones aside, the entire second page of this piece is superb. And the last paragraph is incredible.

A warning: the language is strong and pervasive. The first page may make you upset, even angry. But keep reading. It's ridiculously worth it.

A favorite section:
Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

January 6, 2011

Smuggling

I'm over at The Book Smugglers today with my third annual Smugglivus post! As usual, I'm handing out awards for my favorite characters, kisses, covers, and villains. You'll also get a sneak peek at my most anticipated titles of 2011. Be sure to stop by and say hi!

January 5, 2011

The Dark Enquiry Cover

Isn't it lovely? Deanna Raybourn has revealed the cover for the upcoming fifth Lady Julia Grey novel--The Dark Enquiry. I love it. I love the green and the feathers, the necklace and especially the title. It goes along so well with the transition the series has made (in tone and titles) from Julia and Brisbane as friends to Julia and Brisbane as partners. It's a delicious prospect and I can hardly wait. The Dark Enquiry is due out June 21st. That means you've got six months to get caught up (or start) this series if you haven't yet. Trust me on this--you don't want to wait. I reread the first three over Christmas and it was an unparalleled experience of th highest order.

Thanks to my pal (and fellow Raybourn fan) Holly for the heads up on this cover!

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

I've seen Susanna Kearsley's name pop up hither and yon around the blogosphere for going on a year now. I added her name to my list of authors to check out awhile back and I've spent the intervening time idly wondered whether the enticing comparisons to the likes of Mary Stewart had some merit. Not long ago I decided The Winter Sea would be the perfect maiden voyage with Kearsley. Published a couple of years ago in the UK, the U.S. edition was slated to come out December 1st and I added it to my Christmas list in the hopes it might find its way inside my stocking this year. Happily, I was not disappointed and I have my mother to thank for that--another die-hard Mary Stewart fan herself. So I picked it up the night after Christmas and settled in to see what all the fuss was about. Well, it quickly became crystal clear to me why people love her work. The Winter Sea is the perfectly captivating kind of historical fiction that casts its spell over you from page one and doesn't let go until all is eloquently said and done.

Carrie McClelland is a famous writer of historical fiction. She works best in isolation and frequently travels to the destinations featured in her novels to absorb the local flavor and engage in primary research for the events, history, and people that make up her stories. After an extended period in France, frustrated with the lack of progress she's making on her current manuscript, Carrie agrees to take a break to attend the blessing of her agent's newborn baby in Scotland. On her way up the coast, she stumbles across the ruins of a beautiful castle as she stops to ask for directions. Something about the place seems to call to her. She longs to stay but convinces herself to continue on to her friend's house. Little does she know she'll be returning to Cruden Bay very soon indeed as Castle Slains plays a pivotal role in her chosen tale set during the oft-overlooked Jacobite rebellion of 1708. On the advice of her agent, and the ethereal tugs she continues to feel herself, Carrie rents a tiny cottage on the coast and settles in to let the muse have her way with her. But the closer she delves into the history of Slains, the deeper she is drawn into the lives of its long-dead inhabitants. The characters of her story begin to take on a life of their own and Carrie is no longer sure what is fact and what is fiction as she rushes to get down all the images and conversations bombarding her on a daily basis.

What a beautiful and engrossing story! I'm awfully fond of historical fiction set during any of the Jacobite rebellions. Ever since reading Jennifer Roberson's excellent Lady of the Glen several years ago, I've found the time period and subject matter fascinating, if incredibly bittersweet. This story is no exception. The narrative alternates between the present day and the events leading up to and following the failed rebellion in 1708. Though the story and characters in the past start out as Carrie's own creation, she uses one of her own ancestors as her heroine, and in doing so unwittingly forges a bridge of shared memory between them. The results are unexpected and truly riveting. I never knew for sure which way the chips would fall and whether or not the novel as a whole would cross over into a supernatural/time travel extravaganza a la Outlander or if there would be a less outlandish explanation for the unfathomable link between these two women. I won't spill the beans here, but will say that I was very pleased (and relieved) at the outcome and heartily approve of the deft manner in which Ms. Kearsley handled both the slightly fantastical element to her story as well as the two primary relationships flourishing therein. I initially thought I would get bored with the ancestor Sophia's story, as I was immediately so caught up in Carrie's present-day tale. But that worry quickly fled as I eagerly looked forward to each switch of narration to find out how my other people were faring. Carrie's growing relationship with a very endearing local history lecturer had me at hello and Sophia's perilous and earnest attachment to a young Scottish soldier had me on the edge of my seat. In retrospect, I do wish we'd gotten a more extended resolution for Carrie and her suitor, but overall I closed the book extremely satisfied with the way the relationships concluded. The Winter Sea will appeal in spades to fans of Mary Stewart and Diana Gabaldon. And, not to annoy any Outlander fans out there but I, for one, infinitely prefer Kearsley's reserved and resonant touch to the the rampant floridity of Gabaldon's epic. Highly recommended.


Linkage
At Home with a Good Book and the Cat Review
The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader Review
Bookfoolery and Babble Review
Jennie's B[ook]log Review
Luxury Reading Review
Rosario's Reading Journal Review
Royal Reviews

January 4, 2011

On Angie, the Relative Scarcity Thereof

I've been a bit scarce round these parts of late and I feel badly about it. But there is a good reason and I've been waiting until today to share it with you. Just so I could include one rather pertinent detail.
It's a boy!

Fortunately I'm at the point where I'm starting to feel better, so things should soon start resembling business as usual around here. I, for one, am relieved.