September 30, 2012

In Which I Get Personal @ The Readventurer

Well, they asked me to! To be precise, the lovely trio over at The Readventurer invited me to contribute a guest post for one of their excellent features and I chose If You Like This, You Might Like That. It's my own fault what happened from there on out. So if you'd like a peek into the randomness that is my bookpushing brain, hop on over and give it a look-see.

September 26, 2012

Retro Pretties

Two pretties posts in a month (barely)! You can tell I'm looking ahead these days. Just the two pretties for you this Wednesday morning/afternoon. But truthfully I was so taken with this pair of covers, I didn't even really want to slap anything else up there with them. I'm content to sit and gaze at them admiringly, imagining what they'll feel like when at last they're in my hands.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I read Rowell's first book, Attachments, with uneven results. I adored the first third of the book. Loved the hushed setup full of awkward longing. Unfortunately, the pacing stuttered for me after that and it was a chore to finish. Many loved it though, and I always sort of planned on checking out what she wrote next. This one takes place in 1986 and features a couple of misfits wrestling with first love and mix tapes. I am in deep smit with that cover. Everything about it is awesome. And check out that cover blurb. Not too shabby.
Due out February 26th

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
And here's one by a lady who comfortably resides on my "I read whatever she writes first and ask questions later" list. Described by the author as "a heartrending future classic" (hehehe), it is rumored also to include Easter eggs and copious amounts of French toast. It's the rain-spotted, neon sign cover with the dog on top that really gets to me, though. With Rosoff it's anyone's guess what you'll find inside. Thank the gods for authors who surprise me.
Due out March 7th

September 24, 2012

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

It was hard to guess, when the initial information on The Raven Boys was released, which Maggie Stiefvater it would be. I discovered Maggie's writing through her first book--Lament--and I have never looked back. I've enjoyed her urban fantasy, her fantasy, her paranormal romance, whatever you want to call it, in spades. I am  honestly up for whatever she chooses to write. However, her style does vary from book to book, series to series. And I was very intrigued to find out what we would be getting here, especially as I was somewhere in the vicinity of absolutely floored by The Scorpio Races. Perfect books always have that effect on me. Particularly ones that come five books in when you think you know an author. The early word was sparse, but inviting. And, as always, she had a great title and  a lovely cover. So it was with grabby hands that I picked up a copy at BEA and took it home with me in my carry-on bag.

Blue is the lone normal in a family of female psychics. Though she desperately tries to cover up her embarrassing staidness with tufty hair and charmingly obtuse clothing choices, she's really quite sensible at heart. And so it's been a long sixteen years living under the weight of her own personal fortune of doom. Her mother (and countless psychics after her) have each read her cards and seen the same fate. If she ever kisses her true love, he will die. No questions asked. And so Blue, being the sensible girl that she is, decides she will never kiss anyone. Just to be safe. Certainly not a raven boy--one of the outrageously wealthy, outrageously privileged boys who attend the local private school of Aglionby. Then one night her world shifts when she who has never shown the slightest smidgen of  ability sees something she's never seen before. Unfortunately, the vision seems to confirm her terrible fortune. And when the boy she sees shows up at her mother's the next day asking for his fortune, Blue is even more determined to have nothing to do with this boy, this Gansey, or any of his raven boy friends. But Gansey himself is more than he seems. And it is his quest, his tireless search that will encompass them all.

I've heard several readers comment that The Raven Boys starts out slow, but I don't think that is actually the case. For me, it started out incredibly well, then meandered into a deceptively slower period of development, before cinching its choke hold on my emotions and barreling at a breakneck pace toward its wild conclusion. The moment I reached the point of no return, it became embarrassingly clear to me how much was actually going on behind the scenes, if you will, during that developmental period. And I as the reader was blissfully unaware of it, until the aforementioned moment, when I realized just how crucially fond of these characters I was and how much it was going to hurt me this ending that was not an ending, these choices that Blue and her beautiful raven boys were going to make. Honestly, I'm still aching over them. Because Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah . . . they're the real thing. Like Dally from The Outsiders, Adam was so real he scared me. And, like Dally, I loved him all out of proportion. Somehow, Maggie Stiefvater managed to make the nice guy the razor-edged one in this book. To unassuming eyes, Ronan would appear to have that market cornered. And he does. And I love Ronan with seven kinds of crazy stupid love. After all, as Adam so perceptively notes,
Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn't know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.

Even now, I have difficulty telling you how much I love that passage. But it is Adam that has the jagged edges that worry me (and that ultimately endear him to me forever). And that is all I will say about Adam. Too recent wounds . . . you understand. But how do I feel about Gansey, you ask? The nominal leader and reason for the seriously-hazardous-to-your-health escapades that take place within these pages? Well, I'll tell you. Or rather Maggie's beautiful writing will:
Sometimes, Gansey felt like his life was made up of a dozen hours that he could never forget.
That's right. Gansey understands loss. He understands regret and loneliness and grief and, most importantly of all for the purposes of this novel, he understands friendship and how to look after the people you love, the ones who've been entrusted to you. What I'm saying is that it is clear why the others follow him. I understand their devotion. I would not fault them for it for an instant. But he wasn't the main character. Not really. In fact, I'm not sure that there actually is one. And I love that about this book. I enjoyed that it alternated point of view chapters, because I was invested in the lot of them. And because they were bound up in such a way as to make them essential to my happiness, and inextricably so. Read this book. Read it because it involves ancient magic, dirty Latin, and sleeping kings. Read it because it deals in questionable professors, violently orange Camaros, and honorable rapscallions. I don't care why you read it. Just as long as you do.

Buy: Amazon B&N | The Book Depository

Alexa Loves Books - "As always, I admire the seamlessness of story and character in her writing."
Bookishly Yours - "The boys . . . oh how I loved all the boys."
Literary Exploration - "I was able to immerse myself so fully into the story that I began to believe it was real."

September 21, 2012

Les Misérables Extended First Look

You've likely already seen this, but it's quite beyond me not to post it here. I have very little to say except that, what with this one and The Hobbit, it's going to be a lovely Christmas.

September 16, 2012

In Which I Require Your Best

I've been coasting lately. Reading steadily to be sure, but not falling very hard. I've got a host of options at my fingertips, but . . . well, you know. None of them calling my name as of yet. The urge to reread is strong, but I really would like to find something new. Something I'll fall for so hard I'll want to take it home with me and make it breakfast in the morning.

So I'm asking for your very best. These recommendations, they need to be amazing. As in you needed to own them amazing. You know without a doubt you'll be rereading them amazing. The writing and the characters had you at their MERCY amazing. So on this late Sunday afternoon, could you possibly trouble yourselves to sift through your beloved bookshelves and throw me a rope?

I'd be ever so grateful.

September 14, 2012

Retro Friday Review: Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here @ 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!

So I had another one of those uncomfortable realizations while musing on which book to review for this edition of Retro Friday. It came to my attention that the only Shannon Hale book I've actually reviewed is The Actor and the Housewife. That's the only one! As Grover would say, "How embarrassing . . ." I read and loved Hale's Books of Bayern long before that ill-fated meeting between myself and the Book That Shall Not Be Named (even though it just was). It's high time I went back and shared my thoughts on those first books. Because they are so good. I remember passing by the original hardcover of The Goose Girl in the bookstore and doing a double take, halting in my tracks over that cover. That unbelievably gorgeous Alison Jay cover. It was the perfect face for that story and I took it home with me that day, cradled gently in my hands. I was unfamiliar with the Goose Girl fairy tale, and it was a delight to discover it as well as Hale's unique writing. I could not wait to see what she would write next. Little did I know her sophomore novel would turn out to surpass its predecessor (at least for me) and give me a heroine who would take up residence in my mind and heart for many long years to come. At some point, I'll go back and review the first book. But for now we'll go with my favorite. 

Enna has gone back home. After the escapades of the year before and the marriage of her best friend Isi to the prince, Enna is ready for a measure of normalcy. And she intends to find it among the familiar trees and hollows of home. But fate seems to have a different story in mind for the chicken girl. Just as neighboring Tira flexes its muscles, intent on war with her homeland of Bayern, Enna stumbles upon a frightening ability. Fire laps at her fingertips. With the flick of her wrist she can set whole cottages ablaze. With every good intention in her heart, Enna sets out to do her part in the war effort, spying on Tiran enemy camps and using her new-found power to burn to help her people. She is joined by her old friends Finn and Razo as all three take on new (sometimes uncomfortable) roles in the name of defending their homes. But fire is insatiable. And soon Enna can no longer keep it contained within her own fragile frame. The battle turns inward as the once carefree girl becomes a conduit of flames. And when she is captured by a charismatic captain in the Tiran army, the line between right and wrong blurs amid the swirling smoke and haze. 

Everyone loved The Goose GirlAnd so did I. How can you not love Isi--the princess who becomes a goose girl and learns how to fight and save her own life? That said, much like Finn, I was even more captivated by Isi's best friend Enna. So naturally Enna Burning became my favorite of the two books. I mean, the title alone . . . Upon subsequent rereadings, I have to say The Goose Girl improved the second time around (and I truly did love it the first time, truly). But Enna Burning, on the other hand, was just as I remembered it. Strong and painful, fiery and deep. Like Enna herself. Razo describes her best,
She hated it when her hair touched her neck. She also hated having dry fingertips, music without drums, and potatoes without salt.
For some reason, I just love that description. It tells me everything I need to know, from the voice of a friend who goes way back. I can see, taste, and feel Enna through Razo's words. And she is truly a heroine made for me. She burns. Literally. Enna can set whole armies on fire. And does. Several times. Not perfect and not a princess, she's just a girl. A girl who loves to laugh and fights for her country. And this girl, this girl I would be friends with, goes through a lot of pain before coming to terms with the consequences of burning. But when she does, she comes to terms with a vengeance. And, when she is literally on the brink of losing control and burning herself up, Enna proves her mettle by forcing herself to harness the fire in order to help Isi. It is her friend that reaches her and the two of them risk their lives for each other. This friendship between these two young women is so much of what seals Enna Burning's place in my heart. It's there in the first book, but it comes to fruition here. I remember listening to Ms. Hale speak about these two books and the reactions she got to them. She spoke of how many people who loved The Goose Girl (including her mother!) were disappointed with Enna Burning because Enna makes some big mistakes. She is not always firmly on the side of right. She struggles, is attracted to the fire and the darkness, in short she has layers. As for me, give me protagonists like Enna every day of the week. Because she's like me. Her days are hard. She wants so much. She's reckless and afraid and well-meaning and full of messy, glorious life. It is these wonderful gray areas that explain why the book resides on my Beloved Bookshelf. I love her relationship with Finn. I love how it dances back and forth, how Finn forces Enna to see him, and how she must make the choice in the end. In that way, their friendship echoes Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe to me. I love Sileph and the twisted, painful thing that grows between them and how much Hale made me ache for a character I could just as easily have hated. And she does it in such exquisite words. Hale manages to imbue the tiniest inanimate object with a wealth of emotion and movement, with the result that her worlds feel so tangible and real, you forget they're not. That you don't live there. That you haven't all your life. Every time I return to it, Enna and Finn are there. Razo's hair is spiky as ever. And it is so good to be back.

Buy: Amazon B&N The Book Depository

Reading Order
The Goose Girl
Enna Burning
River Secrets
Forest Born

Retro Friday Roundup
Heidi @ Bunbury in the Stacks reviews Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

September 11, 2012

Seven Days for Sevenwaters

Today you can find me over at Book Harbinger guest blogging for Holly's Seven Days for Sevenwaters. This week-long event highlights Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series, a set of books I've been attached to for quite some time now. I hope you find the time to stop in and share your thoughts as I ruminate a bit on Daughter of the Forest, the first time I gifted it to someone, and why I return again and again to this special series.

September 10, 2012

BBAW: Appreciation

Today is one of my favorite days to be a blogger because it means (thanks to Book Blogger Appreciation Week) I get to let my favorite bloggers know how much they bring to my days. I usually like to highlight a new-to-me blog (or blogs) from the last year. This year I'm picking three blogs that I knew of before but that I became a full-fledged fan of this year, meaning when they post I click on the link. No questions asked. And I can honestly say, I never regret it either. In addition, they all happen to possess three of my favorite site titles and designs. Clean, clear, and absolutely unique to them as well. Brava, ladies.
Jess runs The Bluestocking Society, and she's just as intellectual, informal, and conversational as the society her site is named after. I click on Jess' links because she always surprises me. I never know what she's going to read next or what her reaction will be. I'm lured in by the possibilities and the frank honesty she exhibits in every post. Be sure to drop by. She'll make it worth your while.
 Sarah is proprietress of Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, a blog I frequent on a daily basis because that's how often she posts. And her posts are meaty. They range from in-depth reviews to thoughtful and lively discussion posts. We have very similar taste in books, and I so enjoy hashing out the latest and greatest or oldest and boldest with her. Do drop in. Sarah brings the smarts.
Shannon is the dedicated reading force behind Giraffe Days, a name I love on several levels. She reads widely and without inhibition. She brings to my attention books I would likely never have come across. And she connects a diverse swath of readers in a way I admire. Her writing is sophisticated and clear, ensuring that I return again and again.

Thanks, you three. Keep it comin'.

Silent Night Cover

Because I am a Lady Julia Grey addict, I am obligated to report that the cover of Deanna Raybourn's upcoming novella has been released and it is a Lady Julia Grey Christmas novella! Christmas novellas and I do not have a long history together. But as I recently made the acquaintance of one I quite liked, I'm thinking we could have a future together, Christmas novellas and I. And so I plan on pursuing the relationship with renewed determination come November 1st when Silent Night (love the title) is released. Julia, Brisbane, a return to Bellmont Abbey, the crazy Marches, a prowling ghost?! Who could ask for a better way to kick off the holidays?

September 6, 2012

So Far Away Pretties

So never mind that these three pretties aren't due out until next spring. Let's focus on how awesome they are likely to be and how ecstatic I was to run across their covers. I trust all three of these authors (two of them new-to-me discoveries this year) to come through with beautiful writing and a sophisticated tale. One is a direct sequel, one a companion novel, and one a standalone. All three bode well for 2013.

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
This is the second in the His Fair Assassin trilogy and sequel to the most excellent Grave Mercy. Though I'm not quite as enamored of this cover as I was with the first one, I am no less excited for Sybella's story. And I love the tagline, "Vengeance is divine." You spend most of the first book wondering what in the world is going on with this girl, so it's going to be just very good to find out!
Due out April 2nd

Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb
At last! A cover! My heart can only stand so much happiness and the release of the long-rumored companion novel to Whitcomb's fabulous A Certain Slant of Light is going to push me pretty close to full capacity. I consider the first book pretty much perfect, and I won't be fit for polite company until I get my hands on Jenny and Billy's story. They deserve a good one.
Due out May 14th

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was something of a sleeper hit for me this year, and so it is with much delight that I anticipate her sophomore novel. I'm eager to delve into her writing again and the Sleepless in Seattle-ish story line puts a smile on my face. I also love the way it will look next to its sib on my shelf. With the matching font, the silhouette, and the bright yellow for contrast.
Due out April 2nd

September 4, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

The moment I heard about a steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre, I geared up for its release. I am always up for a retelling of this book. And I've had spectacular success in the past. This one is not YA, or even New Adult, and I could tell it relied more heavily on the rich fantasy aspects of the world and story, all of which I was eager to fall into. I love the cover, particularly the iron mask, and everything about it just had the ring of excellence to it. This is not to say that I wasn't apprehensive, because there's always a bit of that when you go into a retelling of any kind, isn't there? But do any of you ever start to tire of your own wariness when it comes to upcoming releases? I go back and forth between feeling justifyingly jaded (particularly when it comes to oversaturated genres or tropes) and feeling like shaking off all my suspicion and caution and just jumping in like I used to as a kid. Because the exhaustion of both maintaining expectations and forcing yourself not to have them . . . it's exhausting. So all of that to say that when an ARC floated my way via NetGalley, I didn't even blink before downloading it to my nook and settling in that evening.

Jane Eliot survived the Great War. They don't call it a victory as the Fey just up and disappeared rather than outright lost. But the humans who survived are altered beyond recognition. Some of them inwardly and some of them (like Jane) very much outwardly. Those struck by Fey fire during the war bear a curse. The curse not only affects the victim but spills out from the site of the wound onto all those they come into contact with. Each curse is different. For Jane, it is rage. From the jagged scars on her face that never heal, rages pours through her and onto those she encounters. That is until she stumbles across the Foundry. There ironworkers create what they call ironskin. These pieces of iron attach to their bodies over the wounds, sealing them in, preventing the curses from affecting passersby. And so Jane wears a mask, and all the rage is bottled inside.  Nevertheless, when she applies for a job taking care of the reclusive Mr. Rochart's daughter Dorie, she does cherish some small hope that in this wild, remote location she might find a place where she could belong. Of course, Mr. Rochart, his daughter, and the entire household are so strange that Jane begins to feel the normal one. Despite her mask and veil. Despite the rage boiling under her skin. For something very wrong lurks behind the doors of her new home and Jane may find her mask is not the only one keeping curses at bay.

This is a fantastic setup. I found myself instantly caught up in the whole notion of the ironskin, of seeping curses from fey wounds, of Jane filled with an unnatural post-war rage. I even enjoyed Connolly's revisionist version of Mr. Rochart's uber-creepy secret. The whole world, its history, the way it was peopled, and the horrors they bore set my imagination racing. I couldn't wait to watch it play out. But then it . . . didn't. Unfortunately, I felt as though the writing itself never matched up to the premise, which was grandly dark. The words just plodded along, never rising above serviceable, never engaging in an organic way with the world's potential to really give the story wings. Add to that the fact that the characterization just stagnated after the beginning. Jane herself is primed to be a force in her own story, yet she remains flat throughout. Mr. Rochart comes off as a mere placeholder, and I felt as though I was waiting the entire novel for the "real" Mr. Rochart to reveal himself, or at least make an entrance on stage. No such luck. And without any actual chemistry between those two key players, it's quite impossible difficult to make this particular tale work on any level. Without that connection, the hints at the horrific left me simply cold, without that delicious chill that comes when it is happening to people you care about and have some emotional investment in. In lesser problems, several twists felt fairly predictable to me, and I was uncomfortable with some of the implications when it came to the various races and/or creatures in this world and the way they were viewed. The end result was, as you can imagine, me struggling to finish the book and mourning the myriad of missed opportunities and empty characterizations where so much richness was possible.

Ironskin is due out October 2nd.

Pre-order: Amazon B&N The Book Depository

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