March 26, 2012

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

My first reaction to hearing about Grave Mercy was that I liked the cover and its mixture of historical figure and modern font. At the same time, I dismissed it somewhat in my mind, sort of preemptively lowering expectations. I adore historical fiction. We have a long history together (pardon the pun). However, I sometimes wind up feeling as though the YA historicals I read have been watered down, so to speak. But the hype surrounding this one has been so adamant (check out all those stars rolling in), that I went ahead with the huddled masses yearning to read free and requested in on NetGalley. Author Robin LaFevers has quite a few middle grade books under her belt, including two separate series. Grave Mercy seems to be her first full-fledged YA novel, and it is the first in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. If you're not currently in the mood for a trilogy, it does look as though this one will follow different characters in each installment. Having read it, I would say you get some good closure at the end. I also still like the cover after the fact. And at the same time, I think more lurks beneath the pretty cover than meets the eye.

Narrowly escaping a fate worse than death in the form of an arranged marriage to a boor of a man (he hardly deserves the name), Ismae finds herself whisked away to the fabled halls of the convent of St. Mortain. A convent dedicated to the god of death seems a contradiction in terms, and there are many who fear its halls and the women who serve their morbid lord so fanatically. But to Ismae it is a refuge in the simplest and most meaningful terms. The sisters not only give her her life back, they give her a purpose and a way of channeling her pain and anger and transforming it into something bigger than herself. Trained in a variety of seemly and not-so-seemly art forms, the girls of St. Mortain long to complete their education and be called beyond the walls of the convent to embody the saint's will. The elite serve as assassins, sent by the Abbess on missions to find the doomed who bear the saint's mark, dispatch them, and send them on their way to meet their maker. Soon it is Ismae's turn, though her mission does not take the form she expects, as she is sent to the high court of Brittany disguised as the mistress of a certain nobleman close to the throne. Itching to be about her business, Ismae chafes at the constraints that inherently bind her in her role. Hounded by the various factions at court, she quickly learns she is not immune to human emotion as she struggles to discern who is to be trusted and who is to be killed.

Ah, I do love a good intrigue! Grave Mercy is winding and twisty and packed to the rafters with the kind of political maneuverings and machinations that make my little historical fiction-loving heart go zing. I know many went in expecting kick-butt action and were disappointed that the emphasis lay more on the patterns of power and deceit running rampant through 15th century Brittany. I was not one of them. While I always welcome a good girl-assassin-in-disguise smackdown (they're good for the soul), I was pleasantly surprised at how subtle a story this was. I like my smackdowns served hot with a side of internal conflict. And if the author wants to add a dash of romance to the mix, I say more power to her. Grave Mercy delivers all of this and more. It takes its time about it (in a good way), never lost my interest, and builds up to a fine conclusion, coming through with high levels of both excitement and anxiety. A favorite passage (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
Duval drops the chess piece back on the board, then holds up his hand. "The Spanish prince is too ill right now to think of pursuing his betrothal agreement, although his royal parents have offered fifteen hundred troops to aid us. The English prince went missing from his tower over five years ago and is unable to follow through with those betrothal plans. Two of the other contenders are already married, although they are seeking annulments from the pope even as we speak. That leaves the Holy Roman emperor. He is by all accounts a good leader and a decent man, as well as a powerful ruler over both Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. But he is mired in wars of his own and cannot send us aid. Further, if we betroth Anne to the Holy Roman emperor, France will call it an act of war, and we will need troops to defend the alliance."

"Thus the plea to England for support."

"Exactly so. And we still do not know which side the English king will favor."

I stare at the board, painfully aware just how desperate the duchess's situation is. "She is well and truly under siege then," I murmur.

"That is a most excellent assessment of the situation, I'm afraid." Duval's gaze lingers on me for a long moment before he reaches toward the board once more. He lifts up a discarded white pawn and sets it in front of the white queen.

"Who is that, my lord?"

When he looks up, his eyes are so dark they seem almost black. "You," he says, our eyes holding for a long moment.
You've likely already heard the comparison, but it bears repeating. If you liked Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study, this book is deserving of your attention. It also shares a certain spiritual kinship with The Scarlet Pimpernel. I did wonder a time or two whether I was mistaken in thinking this was YA. The themes and storytelling are quite adult. But let's face it,17-year-olds were middle aged back then. The romance is so well done, creeping up slowly (and somewhat dismayingly) on both parties, and any potentially adult content is tastefully handled. There is a particularly nice parting line as well. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and call my time with this book time well spent indeed.

Grave Mercy is due out April 3rd.

Linkage
Books with Bite review
Candace's Book Blog review
Feathered Quill review
Jen Robinson's Book Page review
Refracted Light review
The Reading Housewives of Indiana review
The Readventurer review
Wear the Old Coat review

March 15, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

For the past few months, I've been a member of an international book group called the YAckers. The YAckers is an invitation only YA book club that utilizes Facebook as its base of operation. Our motto?
Saving the world (and defenseless tortured bunnies) from shitty books. 
Obviously this book group and I were Meant To Be. Each month, the Keeper of the Book *moment of silence for the dread Keeper* is drawn by random number generator (because we're fancy), and that person is responsible for choosing a book and leading the discussion in our Super Secret Hideout. The discussion is then compiled and posted on our of our blogs. These are very . . . frank . . . discussions of the books. They are not reviews, but rather our gut responses. As my pal Sya says, if you are easily offended, have a heart condition, or are heavily pregnant, you might want to move along. As luck would have it, February was my month to be Keeper, and the book we read was The Fault in Our Stars. Cause the ladies in our group just have good taste that way. Obviously, you should beware of spoilers, yes? Yes. So. The following is essentially how it all went down.
***
I started off the discussion with the question, "So anyone into TFiOS yet? I'm just really enjoying it so far."

MelissaSo, I picked it up last month, and read it practically in one sitting. Then again, I'm a John Green fan, so it was to be expected.

Angie (yours truly)Great! Aaron and I are reading it aloud together, and it's been so fun.

SyaYeah, I read it a few weeks ago and thought it was his best work yet.

DonnaI've yet to read any John Green and I haven't gotten my copy of this yet, but this is per usual. I usually wait until the last minute to read our books.

SabrinaI read it! I agree, none of his previous books were specially great for me, but this... wow. I never cry in books. Until now, apparently. Loved it a lot more than I thought I would.

DonnaI finally started reading it. The voice is phenomenal. The thing is I just recently read CATCH & RELEASE by Blythe Woolston and the set-up is really similar: two teens with the same issue that nearly killed them bond. I'm wondering how similar the two will end up being.

LauraI'm almost half-way through. God, I freakin' love John Green. And I'm perfectly ok with the teens in this book talking above the level of normal teenagers because in a perfect world (one created by John Green) we'd all have been a hell of a lot smarter at that age. Emily, I know you've read this book and if you don't start talking about it I'm going to round up twenty snotty faced, sticky-handed, incontinent children and BRING THEM TO YOUR STORE. 

DonnaIf I keep reading these contemporaries with effed up dying teens I'm going end up slitting my wrists. I need something insanely light after the bender of contemps I've been on. Not to say it wasn't good. But holy crap. Like a 48 hour Lifetime marathon. And I liked the voice but it was a bit reaching for the teens. Is this typical of Green? It's the only book of his I've read.

Emily: Ah! Sorry. Ok, first John green book for me and I loved it! I balled my eyes out and fell in love with the main characters. It's been October since I read it, so let me look at a copy and think of some smarter things to say. Laura keep the snot away from me!

LauraIf by typical of Green do you mean he makes teenagers sound smarter and a lot more interesting than they actually are? Then yes. :) However he really only writes characters that are outside the norm and usually gives a plausible reasons for their intelligence (you know, honors students, graduated early, child prodigy, read a whole hell of a lot). Like I said, perfect world. Go with it  Donna...believe....believe...

DonnaIs this where I clap my hands wildly and the book will come alive?

MelissaI can see the perfect world criticism (?) of Green's work... but I find him incredibly funny so it makes up for that. That said, I like his vlog a whole lot better than I like his books. Oh, and this one wasn't nearly as funny as his last three... which is sad. I missed the humor.

Sya I'm so glad that everyone is enjoying it - I loved it big time. I think that Green has, in the past, had a tendency to write his protagonist as, well, himself. However, in TFIOS it's as if he's created An Imperial Affliction almost to give his more wildly existentialist philosophies free reign (as well as giving him opportunity to play beautifully with writing and structure). Due to this, Hazel and Augustus actually seem less smart than his previous characters and therefore more believable (although still WAY better than actual teenagers, sadly). I certainly think that Hazel is his most successful protagonist yet.

Emily: Maybe I'm the only one who had this experience, but I have a couple of book clubs with kids very similar to the Hazel and Augustus. I mean, I know they were smart, but like Sya said, I felt like they were believable smart. I haven't read his other books, so I have no idea how this books characters stack up against the others, but Hazel and Augustus weren't unbelievable for me. However, the author Peter Van Houten showing up in Hazel's car at the end of the book was really unbelievable for me. And weird. And unnecessary.

MelissaI think the whole thing with Peter showing up at the end was a bit far-fetched. And kind of weird.

DonnaAgreed. I probably would have maced that guy if I were Hazel.

SyaYeah, it did seem a bit weird, but then he WAS a bit weird. You could totally have cut that scene and the book would have been no worse off.

LauraI get that it was added as a means to explain why Van Houten was the way he was. It was almost as if Green couldn't stand to have a bad guy in one of his books but I was already completely comfortable with accepting that he was just an eccentric jackass just for the sake of being an eccentric jackass. I felt his behavior alone was enough of an explanation and agree that the whole van scene (which was creepy...I kept picturing Richard Dreyfuss as the creepy child molesting teacher turned mailman on Weeds) could have been left out- "it" the proverbial all-encompassing "it" wasn't about him and his background wasn't necessary. But boy did I love this book. It's impossible to not love they way John Green (and I like to believe he puts himself into his books too) sees the world through the eyes of his characters. I've fallen completely in love with his skill with language and turn of phrase. This is possibly the most depressing book I've ever read and I bawled my eyes out the entire time. But even while I had ugly snotty face, -I- was not depressed. It's almost impossible to be when Green continues to subtly maintain a sense that life, even when in a completely shit time, is just so damn interesting and marvelous and I loved his realistic approach to "the bigger picture". My copy of this book is covered in dogears and tear splotches. There might be some snot in there too.

MelissaI'll be the heartless bastard, heret: I didn't cry. Not a bit. Not even tiny drop. I figured 1) it was a book about cancer, someone will die and 2) it would be very typical and somewhat cliche to have it be -- spoiler -- Augustus. So, I expected that. That said, I agree with you, Laura, about John's view of the "bigger picture." One of the things I've always liked about him is his philosophical view of life and the afterlife, and I thought that came through pretty strongly in this one. The best thing for me when reading TFiOS (even though it's not my favorite John Green; Paper Towns is, followed closely by Katherines), is that I thought he got philosophical and reflective without being pretentious. He attempted the former in Looking for Alaska, and it just came off as snotty and pretentious. This time, I felt like it was more genuine.

Sya I totally agree - he's managed to pull of a novel that explores pretty deep existentialist themes without appearing to talk down to or patronise his readers. It definitely works far better here than in Looking for Alaska.

LauraI have Paper Towns! I forgot about Paper Towns! I will read Paper Towns!

SyaI struggled with Paper Towns the first time I read it. I really didn't like the female character. But then I realised how clever clever CLEVER Green is and wrote about it here (if you wish to see why).

MelissaAh, I can see how Margo would be off-putting. And I went back to my review; interestingly enough, I said that Katherines was my favorite. But I think what you discovered,  Sya, is what I felt: there's genius in that book, and it's the one that has stayed with me the longest.

DonnaIt has come to my realization that Green is a literary writer of YA. I liked his book but I think if I read more than one of his books a quarter, I may set it on fire. I HATE existentialism. HATE, HATE, HATE. So when they got to talking about that part, my brain went thbbpp thbbpp thbbpp and shut down. I totally skimmed anything deep and read simply for the character's stories. I don't want to wax poetic about life in a book, I don't want to ponder the bigger meaning. I just want to see what happens with the plot. He is far more awesome than adult literaries and his sense of humor is spot on but Green is a small doses writer for me.

LauraWell all this literary what-not and heavy thinking and reading into stuff and well thought out discussions with references. Aren't we smart....I'm reading vampire porn.

SyaI feel better now,  Laura, I felt we were getting a bit highfalutin...

Laura Sya I do hope that when you said highfalutin or even thought it, you did so with a southern accent.

SyaOf COURSE! Is there any other way to say/think it?? I think not.

SabrinaI need to show up here more often! This discussion was very insightful. I totally agree with the crazy author in the van part--completely unnecessary. And I did not see the Augustus dying coming, I thought he was just there to make her time left meaningful, like any other cancer story. So yes, I bawled. Paper Towns was good, but it had like a huge whole in the middle...

Angie I just keep thinking about the ending. And how Green is so good at them in general. I remember when I first discovered him, I read about his obsession with last words and all the famous last words people have uttered over the years. Somehow that has to have played into his comprehensive understanding of how to end a story. Because it's always the right way. Even after ups and downs and various characterizations and explorations of thought and meaning and the universe, his endings impress the hell out of me. They're quiet and personal, which make the stories quiet and personal. Which is what endear them to me. This one may be my favorite of his, though I quote the end of Looking for Alaska to myself often, when I'm at the part of my day or week when I need to be reminded of something real and good. But I felt closer to Hazel (and actually Augustus, too) than I have to his other protags, and so I think that's why his last words (literally) and hers (narratively) struck such a chord.

DonnaI kept expecting this one to end like the fictional title in the story which escapes me at the moment. Something with affliction in it? That it would just end abruptly because Hazel was going to die. It was a shock that Augustus died because I kept expecting it to be her and while I felt the ending was abrupt, it didn't feel unfinished. I'd still like to know whether she survived. Or not. But I guess that's the point.

Sabrina I did too! Although as soon as I thought it I went straight to the last page and saw I was wrong, but that wouldve been cool...

Melissa: I never thought Hazel would die. Partially because, up front, Green states (or has Hazel state) that he loathes cancer books, and how all cancer sufferers need to be made out into heroes or victims. So, I figured he wouldn't kill off his main character. But, since it's a realistic cancer book, someone had to die, and Augustus was the most likely candidate. Sounds callous, but it didn't shock me. Move me, yes. But not shock me. I liked what you have to say,  Angie, about Green and endings. There was this line in his story from Let It Snow, I think, where he had his character say there is no happy endings, only happy middles (or something like that). I think his books are somewhat the same way.

AngieOh, that's nice  Melissa. Happy middles. I really am glad he decided to write Hazel. I wondered how it would go when he did try a more substantive girl (and first person, etc) and I really liked how it went.

***

So overall a lively discussion and a very positive response, I'd say. It was the first John Green for some of us, while some of us have been crushing on his books for awhile now. As for me, I would venture to say The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite of his books now. I am an unabashed fan of Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters, and that beautiful, beautiful ending.

YAckers involved in this discussion: 

Melissa @ The Book Nut
Sya @ The Mountains of Instead
Donna @ Bites
Sabrina @ YA Bliss
Laura @ A Jane of All Reads
Angie @ Angieville

March 14, 2012

Unspoken Cover

Too pretty (and exciting) not to share, this is the just-revealed cover of Sarah Rees Brennan's upcoming Unspoken. First in a new trilogy--the Lynburn Legacy--Unspoken features, and I quote:
Sarah Rees Brennan brings Gothic romance kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century with a funny, modern heroine who can take care of herself, an angry, beautiful boy who needs to be saved, and the mysterious forces that bring them together and tear them apart.
For the love of all this is holy, GET ME THIS BOOK NOW.

March 13, 2012

Ender's Game Movie

As Leila said in her post, I have conflicting feelings about the upcoming film adaptation of Ender's Game. My nervousness exists on several levels. I'm almost apoplectically excited, and I'm simultaneously terrified they'll botch the job. But these cast pictures sure do give a person reason to hope. Petra, Alai, Bean! Whaddya think?

March 12, 2012

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I've never read any Sophie Kinsella before. It's true. I'm not sure if it was the titles of her Shopaholic series that put me off, or if they were merely big at a time when I wasn't reading much chick lit at all, but one way or another I was never tempted to pick them up. After that. I likely relegated her name to that series alone and never investigated any further. Silly me. But. I began seeing reviews of her latest, I've Got Your Numberpopping up here and there. Ari's review over at Emily and Her Little Pink Notes in particular caught my eye (as her reviews are wont to do). So (and this is becoming a familiar refrain), when it popped up on NetGalley I just went right ahead and hit request. As far as covers go, I'm liking this one. I love the silhouettes, the text bubbles, and the font. More importantly, I think the cover overall accurately gives the reader a sense of what she will find inside--a phenomenon that seems to me to be becoming rarer these days.

Poppy has, well, she's taken leave of her senses. In a moment of madness, she allowed her bridesmaids to pass around her engagement ring at a posh party in a London hotel. It (along with her cell phone) go missing in the fray, and Poppy is reduced to canvassing the entire hotel and menacing the staff into finding the missing ring. Alas, nothing turns up. But the frantic Poppy does spot a discarded cell phone in the hotel garbage. Utterly at her wit's end, she snatches up the phone in order to stay in contact with the hotel in the coming days, hoping they'll call saying her fiance's treasured family heirloom has magically appeared. But a wrench is thrown in the wheel of Poppy's mad machinations, when one Sam Roxton enters the scene saying the phone she found belongs to his former PA and he needs the information on it ASAP. Poppy convinces Sam to let her keep the phone just until the ring is found, promising to forward on any and all important messages and emails. And so a hilarious and awkward relationship is born. Poppy and Sam become inextricably linked through a near constant stream of texts and emails. Being the outgoing, curious girl she is, Poppy can't resist peeking into the insane business world Sam lives in. And for his part, Sam loosens his tie long enough to offer his help and opinions (welcome or not) on Poppy's tendency to be a pleaser and focus on everyone else but herself.

I've Got Your Number is a real charmer. Though it might initially feel like you've read this story before, the connection between Poppy and Sam quickly breathes life into a potentially tired setup. On top of her two sympathetic leads, Sophie Kinsella drizzles hysterical predicaments throughout the story, ensuring that I stayed up well past my bedtime laughing. Incorporating texts, emails, messages, and footnotes into a narrative can be courting disaster, I often think. Many a story stumbles in its execution when these elements aren't handled just right. Happily, "just right" is exactly the note Kinsella strikes. The various communications feel real and appear in natural and perfect amounts, enriching but never overwhelming the story. The heart of this book is in the unexpected discovery of kindred spirits by two people who were so busy filling their lives with things they thought they wanted, so busy being the people they thought they should be, they didn't even realize what was missing. It's a slow burn sort of falling in love. You're all in before you realize it. And, as long as we're talking romance, I'll just go ahead and say that I've Got Your Number builds up to one of the most steal-your-breath moments I've had the pleasure of reading. Seriously. The fact that their relationship is conducted and developed primarily via technology (though they do interact some in person) leads to some pretty fabulous and subtle buildup, and it all happens without the reader even noticing. So, so worth the wait. All in all, I've Got Your Number has everything I want in contemporary chick lit. I'm so glad I gave Kinsella a shot, and I will definitely be coming back for more. I've already gifted a copy to my sister. I rather suspect it'll be just the thing.

Linkage
The Book Scoop review
Dear Author review
Emily and Her Little Pink Notes review
Fabbity Fab Book review
Fiction Vixen Book review
Five Alarm Book review
Smexy Books review

March 8, 2012

Gunmetal Magic Cover

I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of bouncing on my chair right now. Ilona Andrews has revealed the cover for Gunmetal Magic--the upcoming novel in the Kate Daniels world featuring Andrea! Andrea (and Raphael) kind of rock, so the fact that she gets her own book is splendiferous in the extreme. Coverwise, I love how Andrea looks. She's got the take no prisoners/I'm the small package good things come in attitude down pat. And I always love when we get a little magic-frayed Atlanta in the background. Gunmetal Magic is due out July 31st, and I simply won't be happy until it's in my hands.

March 7, 2012

Wednesday Giggles: Dollar Shave Club Version

Apropos of absolutely nothing except that I can't stop giggling over this hilarious startup video, I give you your Wednesday giggles (via DH and the Dollar Shave Club). 

March 5, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I know this is an almost unpardonably early review. But honestly, I waited on it as long as I possibly could before the effort of holding it in caused me some sort of bodily harm. I've been anxiously looking forward to For Darkness Shows the Stars for going on two years now, and the day an ARC showed up on my doorstep was just a very good day indeed. When a book you've been dying to read finally falls into your lap, do you ever just hold onto it and savor the possibilities? I do. I did with this one for a little while. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I just tear into it immediately. But sometimes I don't. Because sometimes dreaming about it while you're actually holding it in your hands is special, too. So I savored and I dreamt and I started reading and . . . I was gone. My first reaction to finishing it was a sense of complete satisfaction mingled with sadness that it was over. My second was thinking that I cannot wait to see For Darkness Shows the Stars work its magic on readers far and wide. As post-apocalyptic retellings of classics go, it pretty much killed it on all levels for this devoted Austen girl.

Elliot North knows how to work hard. As a member of the elite Luddite nobility, she has a keen sense of what is expected of her, of which actions are acceptable and which ones could get you disowned and out on the streets. It is that very sense of duty that kept her from following her childhood friend Kai four years ago, when he fled servitude on her father's estate for a life of uncertainty and, just possibly, freedom. Their friendship was forbidden from the beginning, as Kai belongs to the Post-Reductionist class, and ever since the catastrophic Reduction, matters or birth and class ruthlessly define every aspect of a person's life. But now, four long years have passed, and at eighteen years old, Elliot is the only thing keeping the family lands going. As her father and sister grow further distanced from reality, the world as they know it is changing. Determined not to be left behind, Elliot convinces her family to lease the land to a group of unusual shipwrights known as Cloud Fleet. Hoping the extra income will save her home, Elliot is, well, gobsmacked when one of the renowned shipwrights turns out to be none other than her old friend--no longer playful, open Kai, but smart, remote Captain Malakai Wentforth. Elliot knows how to work hard, but even she may not be up to the task of withstanding the flood of guilt and longing that threatens to overtake her with his return. Especially given the suspicions that being to swirl in her head regarding just what he and his fleet are up to.

Everything about this book soars, from its supernal setting to the dreams its characters hold in their hearts. Having read (and adored) Persuasion for years now, it was extremely gratifying to see the massive amounts of care and thought that went into the crafting of this story inspired by Jane Austen's final novel. In fact, I felt a healthy dose of admiration for the storytelling the entire time I was reading it. But the wonderful bit is that it won me over on its own strengths entirely. The world and its sinister history, the characters and their eerily perfect names, the writing and its effortless flow--they're all so interlocked and balanced, coming together so as to make hours go by like seconds. I may have been predisposed to like Elliot, but the way my heart launched itself into my throat when hers did, the way my temper rose on her behalf, and the way I held my breath at her restraint and cheered her adamant refusal to be downtrodden . . . I more-than-liked Elliot. I more-than-liked Kai (even when I wanted to hurt him). And most of all, I more-than-liked the brilliant ending. Here is one of my favorite non-spoilery passages, in which you get a feel for the way the writing lauds the original while extending it to support the strengths of these new characters and their spectacular world:
Elliot had had enough. "If you can't be civil to me, Miss Phoenix, I wish you'd leave me in peace. I have never done anything to you, and if you seek to punish me for past misdeeds, there is nothing you can devise that I haven't already suffered." Four years of worrying about Kai, followed by all these weeks of having him back here, but hating her. Was that not punishment enough?

"You baffle me, Miss Elliot," Andromeda replied in the same high-wrought tone. "I can't reconcile the young woman I see before me with the reports I have had."

What lies had Kai been spreading abroad? "I'm sorry to hear that, but it's none of my concern. I am the same person I've always been." She turned her face away from Andromeda, away from the crowd and from Kai. "Maybe you should ask yourself why, if I am the person you've been led to believe, someone would put their faith in me at all?"

"People are foolish when it comes to love."

Elliot hadn't been. She'd been rational, logical, reasonable, prudent. She'd been cold and cruel and disloyal and distant.

She hadn't been foolish.

She'd been the most foolish girl on the island.
Great, no? The killer thing about Elliot (have I mentioned how much I love her?) is that she has all the layers. She's the perfect blend of unmitigated strength and harbored regret. Every moment of every day she embodies dedication and resolve, all the while trying to mask the hope and the pain she lives with every moment of every single day. Here is Elliot:
No one came. Not her sister or her father, not Benedict or the Fleet Posts or even Admiral Innovation. No one appeared in the hall all afternoon but the mute, shuffling figures of the Reduced housemaids as they went about their chores. Time passed, and Elliot sat in the chair, waiting for the verdict from Felicia.

How much of her life had she spent waiting? Waiting for a plant to sprout? Waiting for her father's judgment? Waiting for another letter to appear in the knothole from Kai? Waiting for years after Kai left to feel at peace with her decision? She fed the Reduced, she did her chores, she avoided her father and her sister, and she waited. She did every duty she'd been taught as a Luddite, and she lied with every breath.
I'd say I don't know what to say, but I do. And it's this. Snatch it up the day it comes out--this beautiful book--this meticulous, breathtaking retelling of one of the greatest love stories ever penned.

Lastly, I just want to thank Diana (from the bottom of my heart) for page 117. Got it in one!

For Darkness Shows the Stars is due out June 12th.

Linkage
Nyx Book review
whatcYAreading? review

March 2, 2012

Retro Friday Review: Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time!
I felt like something light today for this edition of Retro Friday. It's been awhile. Quite honestly, life is abundantly busy these days. And while my reading hasn't slowed down, I tend to hibernate with an old favorite when real life gets real. So I may have been forgoing some of the new stuff in favor of doing a little re-reading a la Megan Whalen Turner these days. I also made time to re-read one of my favorite Kristan Higgins books on account of it being repackaged and re-released this week in a glossy new edition to match her others. Catch of the Day was originally published in 2007 and was Higgins' second book. I had already read a handful of her books before finding Catch of the Day, and I sort of thought I had her style figured out, you know? The first two I read remained strong favorites. The rest were like frosting, delectable, fluffy, always-welcome treats. Then I read Catch of the Day and it shot immediately to the top of my faves (along with All I Ever Wanted and Until There Was You). Together these three make up my Kristan Higgins Holy Triumverate, if you will. I'm delighted it's been reissued, as the dog cover wasn't doing it for me. I get that each of her books has a dog in it, and this one is probably even my favorite pup. He's central to the story in a good way, organically a part of Maggie's life and not a distraction from the heart of the story. But having the dog front and center on the cover still kind of puts me off (and I'm a huge dog person). Make of that what you will.

Maggie Beaumont's life leaves something to be desired. It's to do with the fact that she's staggeringly unlucky in love. Her romantic history is long and undistinguished, veritably littered with the horrific and the inappropriate. Take her most recent foray. The poor girl actually had the monumental misfortune to fall for the local priest (albeit before she found out he was her congregation's new Father). And she hasn't been able to shake the crush. It's been long enough. She's certainly suffered enough constant, good-natured ribbing from her friends, family, and the entire town. But she can't help it. Father Tim is just something special. And it's not like anyone else has come her way in teeny, tiny Gideon's Cove, Maine. So she goes about her days: running her beloved diner, contributing in about a million ways to her local church, hanging out with her twin sister, avoiding her judgmental mother, and trying to rid her mind of a certain incredibly charming, incredibly unavailable celibate. And then one small act of kindness from a person she thought despised her. Suddenly massive levels of uncertainty and anxiety (and romance) are introduced into Maggie's regular routine, along with, just-perhaps, a new friend who needs her, too.

You guys, I love this book. It held up prodigiously well on the second read. And that's what cemented its status in the Holy Triumvirate. I will be re-reading the three of them many times over. I can tell. Catch of the Day  is utterly charming, and the bulk of its charm resides in the unerringly wonderful Maggie, the swoon-worthy Malone, and the makes-me-want-to-move-to-Maine-so-bad Gideon's Cove. Maggie is one of the good ones. She loves her hand-me-down diner. She tries hard, laughs loud, and will never stop falling over her feet when it comes to social situations. Malone is a good egg as well, though the opposite of Maggie in nearly every way. Gruff, silent, married to his lobster boat, he had me at that first broody, "Ayuh." And his giving Maggie a ride home from the worst blind date of her life. I was pretty much sold from then on. This thing that starts between them is complicated and tentative, and everything I love in a simultaneously slow-developing and sweep-you-off-your-feet romance. Once again  Kristan Higgins managed to make me laugh merrily even as I'm thinking carefully about the endlessly fascinating, painful, and hopeful facets of human relationships. This is my favorite setting from her books as well, and I was tickled to find out she's returning to it in her upcoming novel Somebody to Love. A few more chance encounters with Maggie, Malone, and the motley crew? Yes, please. Only good can come of it.

Linkage
The Allure of Books review
Book Binge review
A Bookworm's Life review
Dear Author review
The Happily Ever After review

Retro Friday Roundup
Good Books and Good Wine reviews Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta