May 24, 2012

October Pretties

I am so excited about these upcoming releases. All three are due out in October (within a week of each other, actually), which seems so very far away at this point. I love all three covers, all three titles, and all three fascinating premises. I have never read anything by these authors, so it's anyone's guess as to how things will play out. I do have to say that I love that Eve & Adam is written by a husband-and-wife team. Other such teams have worked out just incredibly well for me in the past. I look forward to adding another set to the list.

Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
After a bad accident, Eve (short for Evening) realizes she's healing faster than is to be expected. Recuperating in her mother's biotech lab, she and an unusual guy named Solo embark on the creation of the perfect boy.
Due out October 2nd.

Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Steampunk faery retelling of Jane Eyre. I could elaborate, but I think I'm gonna exercise a little restraint and just let that little chunk of awesomesauce sink in.
Due out October 2nd.

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh
Historical fiction, ho! This one sounds part Shakespeare, part Three Musketeers and follows a court dwarf called Jepp who sets out to find his destiny and finds the adventure of a lifetime. That cover is just achingly gorgeous.
Due out October 9th.

May 23, 2012

The Great Gatsby Trailer

All right. Bring it on. Tell me what you think. Are you gonna see it as soon as it comes out? What do you think of Leo and Carey as Gatsby and Daisy? I'm a bundle of emotions. Definitely going to see it. Not sure what my response will be. But as of now? Tentatively excited.

May 14, 2012

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I can tell you exactly what it was made me pick up this book for review (and what it was not). It was the comparisons (yes, multiple) to one Anna and the French Kiss. It was not the cover. Yeah, the colors are pretty and the font is nice. But otherwise it's just awkward. And cheesy. And this book is neither. I think I would have left it at the fence and skipped the junior high dance pose couple. Because while this book does have a romance in possession of the kind of heat you do not want to miss, that couple does not do them justice. There. I've said it. We shall move on. I wasn't planning on reading My Life Next Door at all, until I read the aforementioned comparisons and early happy reviews. Together they pushed me over the edge, and I went ahead and took the plunge. I mean, who in their right mind doesn't want to read a debut in the same vein as a Stephanie Perkins novel? I am pretty much incapable of resisting that lure. So.

Samantha Reed has a secret. One she keeps from her high-powered, ambitious, and judgmental mother. She watches the Garretts next door. Sort of like a hobby. Her mother despises their next door neighbors, with their constant noise, eight active children, and inability to keep their lawn in order. But Samantha? She is fascinated by them. They're everything her little family of three is not. Gregarious, messy . . . happy. With her mother always campaigning for office and her older sister absorbed in her boyfriend and summer job, Sam is content to watch the Garretts. Until she unexpectedly makes the acquaintance of the third-oldest Garrett--Jase. And everything changes. Samantha tries desperately to keep it on the down-low, knowing full well how badly her mother will react. Knowing that one wrong step could mean she won't be able to keep them. And that is exactly what she wants. Because it doesn't take much time spent in their actual company for Sam to fall head over heels in love with not just Jase, but the whole lot of them--this twirly spectacle of a family who, unlike the Reeds, seem to have a firm grip on what it means to love each other and know who you are.
The Garretts were my bedtime story, long before I ever thought I'd be a part of the story myself.
Love that line. It's the one that reeled me in within the first few pages. So, while I can see what reviewers were thinking when they linked My Life Next Door with Anna and the French Kiss, I don't in the end find the comparison that apt. You certainly might enjoy one if you enjoyed the other. They are both contemporary YA novels. They do both involve just incredibly swoon-worthy boys (though Jase would simply tower over St. Clair). But there the similarities end. After the fact, I am of the opinion that the Sarah Dessen comparisons are much more accurate. Which, you'll understand, unfortunately means this novel didn't work out for me quite as well as I was hoping. But it also means that it is compulsively readable. And it very likely means that a lot of you out there are going to simply love it. Let's start with the positive. The Garretts. They are mesmerizing. Like Samantha, I just could not look away from them. And I love the image of her growing up, watching them--in all their chaotic effervescence--from her solitary bedroom window across the way. There are so many of them, yet I felt Huntley Fitzpatrick did such a fine job of giving each sibling a distinct personality and role in the family and in the book. I loved each of them, and only wanted for more time in their company. These were by far my favorite moments in the book--when Sam is over at the Garrett's house babysitting, feeding the animals in Jase's room, or just basking in their company. Which leads me to Jase, who's company is most baskworthy. You are going to love Jase. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He's kind of ideal in every way, which did occasionally lead me to wonder if Sam was really, well, up to speed if you will. I liked her a lot, but there was a bit of a disconnect between how utterly charming he was and how blatantly normal she was. I like the boy next door as much as the next girl, but this one did kind of steal the show from our girl. Which is not to say that I did not eat up every one of their scenes together with a spoon. Because let me tell you I did. It was these mundane details that made the book for me. Ms. Fitzpatrick has a gift for making the commonplace beautiful. But I did wish for a little more shine from Samantha to keep up with Jase. Here's a favorite interaction (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
When I get home from work the next day, sticky from walking back in the summer heat, my eyes immediately turn to the Garretts'. The house seems unusually quiet. I stand there looking, then see Jase in the driveway, lying on his back, doing some kind of work on a huge black-and-silver motorcycle.

I want to say right here that I am by no means the kind of girl who finds motorcycles and leather jackets appealing. In the last. Michael Kristoff, with his dark turtlenecks and moody poetry, was as close as I've gotten to liking a "bad boy," and he was enough to put me off them for life. We dated almost all spring, till I realized he was less a tortured artist than just a torture. That said, without planning, I walk right to the end of our yard, around my mother's tall "good neighbor" fence--the six-foot stockade she installed a few months after the Garretts moved in--and up the driveway.

"Hi there," I say. Brilliant opener, Samantha.

Jase props himself up on an elbow, looking at me for a minute without saying anything. His face gets an unreadable expression, and I wish I could take back walking over.

Then he observes, "I'm guessing that's a uniform."

Crap. I'd forgotten I was still wearing it. I look down at myself, in my short blue skirt, puffy white sailor blouse, and jaunty red neck scarf.

"Bingo." I'm completely embarrassed.

He nods, then smiles broadly at me. "It didn't quite say Samantha Reed to me somehow. Where on earth do you work?" He clears his throat. "And why there?"

"Breakfast Ahoy. Near the dock. I'm saving up for a car."

"The uniform?"

"My boss designed it."

Jase scrutinizes me in silence for a minute or two, then says, "He must have a rich fantasy life."
Great, isn't it? Which leads me to where things lost their fizz a bit for me. There is a conflict involved in the story (naturally) to do with the problem of Sam's mother seriously disliking the Garrett family in general. This conflict did not work for me. Instead of folding neatly into the story, it felt forced. Everything else was humming along so well (see the passage above), and this crisis felt fabricated simply for the sake of having some kind of conflict and resolution. I understand the reasoning, I just felt that in this case the story didn't need it. I would be happy to read about Sam and the Garrett family for ages of pages. When characters are that well drawn, I don't require a flimsy conflict to satisfy my need for drama. Pointless drama aside, My Life Next Door is a fun and knowing portrait of family, first love, and growing up. With it, it felt needlessly taxing and predictable. I pressed through the last section missing the quiet warmth of the first two-thirds. This will be a quibble (or even a complete non-issue) for many of you, and I still grin widely when I think of a few of the more memorable moments. So if any of this leaves you at all curious, be sure to check it out for yourself when the time comes.

My Life Next Door is due out June 14th.
Book Loving Mommy review
The Busy Bibliophile interview
Charissa Books review
My Overstuffed Bookshelf review
Proud Book Nerd review
A Soul Unsung review
YA Librarian Tales review

May 11, 2012

Retro Friday Review: The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

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!

Guy Gavriel Kay (and this series) has been on my mind lately. I'm not sure why. I am sure, however, that the inaugural Retro Friday review was Kay's Tigana, and it makes me happy to have started with that book. But these are the first of his books that I read, and I read them on the recommendation of my husband (then-boyfriend). Which memory also maketh me happy. He'd read them years before and guessed (rightly) that I would love them, too. When I went to the bookstore to pick up the first book, the red trade paperback had just been released. I snatched it up and stroked the cover. It has one of those buttery matte covers that catch ever so softly on your fingertips and make it impossible to stop stroking them. Ahem. It had been a little while since I'd ready any true high fantasy, and it was good to be back again. Though this series does have a bit of the urban fantasy about it to begin with. The main characters are all university students from Toronto. And I liked the fresh combination of segueing from one to the other. The Summer Tree was originally published in 1984 and was Guy Gavriel Kay's first book. It is the first in the Fionavar Tapestry (I've always loved that series title), which is a trilogy. They are very visceral, very Tolkeinesque in scope, and should most definitely be read in order.

Kim, Jennifer, Paul, Dave, and Kevin are friends. They attend the same college in Toronto. And, on one extremely fateful night, they attend the same lecture by a renowned professor. Dr. Marcus even invites them back to his home after the lecture, and that is approximately where things begin to run off the rails. It turns out Dr. Marcus is in fact a mage from another world known as Fionavar. Fionavar is the original world, Dr. Marcus (or rather Loren Silvercloak) informs them, upon which all other worlds (including Earth) are based. He would like to formally invite the five to return home with him, as it is the 50th anniversary of the current king's reign, and celebrations are in order. Confusion reigns as well, and before they know it, the two girls and three boys are far, far away. Thrown into a massively foreign and complex world, they each struggle to find a reason they were called to be there in this auspicious moment in Fionavar's history. Of course, there are a myriad reasons and they each find out (with a vengeance) the precise role they are to play in the violent and mythical conflict that is about to go down. Whether or not they will ever return to their homeland is a question that becomes increasingly irrelevant the longer they spend in this First of all Worlds.
After the war was over, they bound him under the Mountain.
While this series clearly inherits largely from Tolkein and C.S. Lewis (via The Chronicles of Narnia), I feel it's fair to say that you haven't read a writer quite like Kay. His language is poetic and sprawling, and he has a gorgeous talent for metaphor and poignancy. The Summer Tree definitely starts off with a bang, but it took me awhile to get my footing amid Canadian college students suddenly mingling with elves and archmages. It also took me a good number of pages to warm up to four of the five main characters. Paul was always where it was at for me. I liked him from the start, this haunted boy with so much music and loss in his past. It was without surprise that I found he was to have the longest road to walk of all. But warm up to the rest I did, and that is mainly due to the way they care about each other and the way that Kay wove them into their roles. The denizens of Fionavar are, well, awesome right from the start. I particularly enjoyed the politics and the expansive geography of this realm, all of it existing under the shadow of the Unraveller--Rakoth Maugrim. A fallen god himself, his specter taints every interaction in this sweeping tale. The whole thing builds to a ripping good (and excruciating) climax, in which my beloved Paul plays a pivotal role. Things get painful at the end. And violent. And I do mean painful. And violent. But know that it gets better. Also, there is a serious cliffhanger. So I would advise having book two in hand if at all possible. The incredible setup, the world itself, and the final chapters are what make this book. There are quite a few disturbing turns taken as well, and I can only say that the next two installments are thoroughly worthwhile. While I think The Wandering Fire is my favorite (I'm a sucker for middle novels), the entire trilogy is a feat of storytelling. If you're in the mood for beautiful prose and the highest of high fantasy, I suggest a trip to the K section of your library or bookstore.

Reading order
The Summer Tree
The Wandering Fire
The Darkest Road

Retro Friday Roundup
Chachic of Chachic's Book Nook reviews Life Without Friends by Ellen Emerson White
Cecilia of The Adventures of Cecilia Bedelia reviews The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

Chaotic Compendiums review
Fyrefly's Book Blog review
Keeping the Door review
The Literary Omnivore review
Speculative Horizons review

May 9, 2012

Bitterblue Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of the copy of Bitterblue and the Seven Kingdoms tote bag is . . . Elisa!

Congratulations! Elisa's answer to my question of which character in the series you'd want as a BFF was:
There aren't a lot of girls I can easily be around for long periods of time, but I like to think Katsa would be the exception to that, so I'll say her.

But I would never walk away from Po... 
Amen to that. As a matter of fact, Katsa won as favorite BFF hands down, with Bitterblue and Po not far behind. Brigan and Giddon each got a vote apiece, which made me happy. Because I loves them both. As for me? It's such a tough call. Why did I ask such a hard question? In the end, I think I have to echo Elisa. Katsa for the best friend, and she can bring Po along any old time she wants. Thanks so much to Penguin for hosting the giveaway and to each one of you for taking the time to enter and share your love for this series and these characters. 

May 8, 2012

Hearts and Bones: On Rereading, the Viscerality Thereof

So I finally broke down and ordered an actual physical copy of Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar a couple of weeks ago. Because I couldn't go any longer without having it in my house, in my hands. Yes, yes, I know I already do have it in ebook form on my Nook, and that's all fine and dandy. But I've been itching to reread it something fierce lately. And for some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to reread the ebook. Why? Well, honestly, I was stumped for awhile. I'm a serial rereader, for one thing. Rereading is extremely important to me. I can finish a book for the first time and know instantly if it's going to be one I'm going to want to experience again or not. And if it is, I must own a physical copy. It has to sit on my shelves, so I that I can see it when I pass through the room and reach out and touch the spine to reassure myself of its presence if need be. When it's just one of many files on my ereader, I can't do any of those things. I simply get no thrill from waking my ereader up, tapping over to the file, and gazing at the words on the screen. To say nothing of the way I miss an actual spine and binding.
Good . . .
. . . Better

I realize this is beginning to sound a bit rabid, a bit unhinged. Certainly to readers who don't connect viscerally with a physical book. And most definitely to non-rereaders. But it's the truth. And I confess I'm curious. Do any of you out there know what I mean? Because I had the most unexpected and moving experience this past week and I have to talk about it with someone. My copy of Raw Blue arrived all the way from New Zealand (thanks Fishpond--you were there when I needed you) the other day, and I got the usual tingle from holding it in my hands and running a finger over the glossy cover. For some reason, I thought it would be matte. This small, glossy surprise was part of the pleasure. I started it that night. Now, this is a book I freaking loved when I first read it almost exactly a year ago. I knew it would hold up well on rereading, but I wondered (as I always do) what the experience would be like, if new things would jump out at me, and if so, what they would be. I hoped I would love Carly and Ryan as much as I did the first time.

Guys, I was wholly unprepared for this read. Even now, I'm having a hard time finding the words for how hard this book hit me the second time around. My stomach was jumpy with every turn of the page. Every interaction hit me in the gut, every wave Carly paddled through caused my breathing to hitch, my heart to squeeze with sympathy and admiration for her. It was something else entirely from the first go-round on my Nook. Where the first read was a "good time," this one was a visceral and comprehensive experience. You know the usual trouble you have concentrating while going about daily tasks when you're in the middle of a great read? This was that and then some, because I felt not only emotionally involved, but physically as well. What's interesting is when I go back and read my review, none of that is there. It's just the bones. The characters, their history, the way things went down. It didn't make a physical impression on me. I just loved the words. Having mused over it now for a few days, I feel confident chalking this unexpected second response up to having the book itself. To the fact that I was holding the story in my hands. I could grip it and pause, turn the page back and wait, breathing deeply, until I was ready to move on. This time I had the heart of it, pumping all its rage and hope and longing into me through our connection at my fingertips. I finished it last night, and I had trouble falling asleep, I was so wired. It was an incomparable experience, one that I treasure. And I'll tell you one thing--I'd pay double the cover price + international shipping to have it again. In a heartbeat.

May 4, 2012

Retro Friday Review: Valiant by Holly Black

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 have retellings on the brain right now. So you'll have to bear with me as this week you get another one--one of my favorites. Valiant is the second book in Holly Black's excellent Modern Tales of Faerie trilogy. I read Tithe back in the day, and it immediately became my favorite Tam Lin retelling. I've been somewhat his and miss with that tale, and this angsty teen version of it worked remarkably well for me. So my introduction to Ms. Black was a fine one. When Valiant came out, I didn't know exactly what to expect given that it switched characters entirely. Things always seem to go one way or the other when that happens in a series, don't they? But I wasn't so utterly devoted to Kaye and Roiben that I couldn't make room in my heart for a few more beautiful, crazy denizens of Holly Black's urban fantasy world. And though I should have guessed, I didn't put together the fact that it was actually a Beauty and the Beast retelling until things started getting interesting with Val and a certain troll. By that time I was completely enraptured, and it has remained one of my favorite retellings ever since. As far as the covers go, the one with the sword is my copy and far and away my favorite. I like the whole snipping hair with scissors vibe on the other one, but the horned model dude is kind of freaking me out. Besides, the sword has too much importance not to feature on the cover of this book.

Valerie Russell has chosen to disappear. When her not-so-great-to-begin-with home life takes a turn for the horrible, Val leaves. Striking out on her own, she falls in with a band of misfits who live in the New York City subway system. They take her in when she's at her most vulnerable. Unfortunately, companionship and the squatter lifestyle comes with some pretty unhealthy chains, and they all seem to lead back to the Unseelie Court. And it turns out Val has a long way down to go before she finds out what it really means to disappear. A favorite passage, involving Val and a troll by the name of Ravus:

"So you'll teach me?" Val asked.

Ravus nodded again. "I will make you as terrible as you desire."

"I don't want to be--" she started, but he held up his hand.

"I know you're very brave," he said.

"Or stupid."

"And stupid. Brave and stupid." Ravus smiled, but then his smile sagged. "But nothing can stop you from being terrible once you've learned how."
I love Ravus and his role in Val's story. This little snippet of dialogue pretty fairly captures the twist in the gut you experience while reading, but it also hints at the hope underscoring all the doubt and fear. 

I rarely stand a chance when a woman scorned takes up a sword to fight for herself and for those she cares about. Val came through for me like gangbusters. No one could consider what happened to her to be anything other than outrageously unjust. And yes, when faced with the ultimate betrayal, she barrels off and makes a series of seriously ill-advised choices. Seriously ill-advised. I worried myself sick about her. About Val and Lolli and Luis and Dave. It wasn't easy watching them scrabble desperately for escape . . . for control. Val's journey is a rough one. But it is also such a rewarding one. In that sense it occupies the same space in my mind as Enna Burning and Ink Exchange. These are the "dark" installments in their series. The ones in which your favorite characters make mistakes. Sometimes their mistakes are so bad the consequences stretch out to encompass loved ones. They're also my favorite books in their series in each instance. Val, Enna, Leslie. These girls are so strong. They're such survivors. I love watching them pick themselves back up again, learn from their mistakes, and extricate themselves from destructive situations. Even if they are of their own making. Especially if they are. It is these incredibly human elements that make these fantastical stories of death and faeries and love in dark places soar. It is Val's story that is paramount in this version of the tale. The fact that there are lessons in sword fighting (obviously), a sweet romance, and a gritty mystery make it that much more the whole package. I enjoyed Valiant so much, I missed Val and Ravus and that crystal sword for weeks after finishing it. While not for the faint of heart, it does such a lovely job of contrasting the flaws in Val and her companions, the bleakness of their lives, with the sudden beauty of finding you're stronger than you believed. And for that it has my heart. To quote Val, "and it was perfect, was exactly right, was real." 

Reading Order

Retro Friday Roundup
April from Good Books and Good Wine reviews The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
Liviana from In Bed with Books reviews Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde

thebookbind review
Fyrefly's Book Blog review
This Fleeting Dream review
Mindful Musings review

May 1, 2012

Bitterblue Giveaway!

That's right! Today I'm thrilled to celebrate Bitterblue's release day with a giveaway.

One (1) winner will receive:

·         A copy of Bitterblue
·         Bitterblue tote bag featuring the names of the Seven Kingdoms

All prizing provided by Penguin.
Giveaway open to US addresses only.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me which character from this series you'd want for a BFF and why. Make sure to include your contact information. This giveaway will be open until midnight May 8th.
I have to say, I am pretty envious of the person who wins that tote bag. It is awesome. 

About the book:
Bitterblue is the long-awaited companion to New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire.
Eight years after GracelingBitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

To find out more:
Graceling Realm website: