Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

As spring leisurely breaks winter's strong hold on the small town of Mercy Falls, Sam slowly begins to accept the fact that he is not going to turn back into a wolf. At times he's still unable to believe that he's been given this unexpected gift of constant humanity but with Grace by his side, he's willing to accept it. Alternately, the once unflappable, practical Grace is feeling more and more restless with the arrival of spring. On top of the strange symptoms she's been experiencing, Grace's previously non-involved parents have become increasingly more and more resistant to Sam's steady presence in her life. Which is the last thing either want to deal with as Beck's new wolves begin to return to their human form - full of confusion and uncontrollable instincts; ultimately requiring direction and protection from Sam.

Even though I adore Maggie Stiefvater's books and her unusually beautiful writing, I resisted picking up her latest, Linger, out of sheer perversity. Really, let me explain. Hands-down, Shiver had one of the loveliest endings I've read in quite some time and I just wasn't ready to watch life unravel for Sam and Grace as I knew it ultimately would. Eventually I gave in. And I'm glad I did. Maggie Stiefvater is truly an amazingly talented writer. Her words flow so easily from the pages, full of incredible imagery and sensory descriptions so strong I found myself thinking about particular scenes from Linger - in detail - days after finishing the book. I also quickly fell in love with the additional narrative voices of Isabel Culpeper and Cole, one of Beck's new wolves. Isabel was a stand-out character from Shiver and her straight-forward approach to life could not be more refreshing. Undeniably, Ms. Stiefvater is unparalleled at her craft but I did find myself bothered by a couple of aspects of the novel.

Which leads me to the list of... Things that Bothered Me in Linger:

1. Another Absurdly Talented Musician. I get it that Maggie Stiefvater herself is something of a musical genius (I am not, so I will simply bow down to her prowess) but do we really need yet another dreamy boy with a passion for all things music? And then the fact that Cole and Sam never even once discuss their shared interest in music (highly improbably in my experience with musicians) is incredibly suspect. Can we not just find another interest for our characters? Which leads me to...

2. Cole. While I love me a bad-boy rocker, I have issues with certain aspects of his character. The bad-boy part I'm totally on board with - especially the whole: I'm jaded, where's my next big high? persona. Love that. It's the tortured genius thing I don't really believe. That whole explanation seemed rushed and basically wound up as a convenient plot solution. Hopefully this is addressed more in Forever, because I really, really like Cole - I just don't think he's been fully developed yet.

3. NARKOTIKA. Can someone please explain to me why in heavens name Cole's band is called NARKOTIKA?! And WHY is it always written in caps? I feel like I should be yelling it every time I read it. (Gee, I guess I'm supposed to.)

4. Crappy Parents. Yet again. And this award doesn't just go to Grace's parental units (Hello! Can you not tell your daughter is sick here?). The Culpepers, Cole's smarty-pants family, and even Sam's adopted father, Beck, all seem to be gunning for this coveted title. I know Grace tends to envy Sam's upbringing, but Beck has always seemed a little off to me with his whole "let me bite and create more unstable werewolves" thing.

Harsh, right? I know. But it's not to say that I didn't like Linger. Really, I did. It just isn't my favorite although guaranteed I'll be tracking down Forever (which, HELLO! has a gorgeous new cover) once it's released next year to find out how it all ends for Sam, Grace, Isabel, and Cole.

series reading order:
~ Shiver - my review
~ Linger
~ Forever (July 2011)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Presenting Lenore review
Not Enough Bookshelves review
The Compulsive Reader review
YA Highway review

book source: ARC tour

Banned Books Week 2010

This year Banned Books Week runs from September 25-October 2 and I think it hits specially home to many readers after Wesley Scroggins recently called for the banning of Laurie Halse Anderson's stunning novel, Speak, about a young girl dealing with the effects of rape, citing the novel as being 'pornographic.' Many bloggers and authors have expressed their outrage at this unbelievable attack and I add my name to the list of those totally shocked by his claims against the book.

Unbelievably, this happens all the time.

According to a press release dated April 14, 2010 the American Library Association cited the following books as the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2009. After the title and author of each book are the reasons cited for the challenges:
  1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
  2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: Homosexuality
  3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
  5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
  6. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
  7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
    Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence
  8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
  9. The Color Purple Alice Walker
    Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
  10. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
    Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
Book banning happens to some of the best books out there and it only makes me sad. But as individuals we can take a stand against censorship - this week, make a commitment to read a challenged or banned book in a effort to keep all these wonderful books in circulation.

Visit the ALA Banned Books site for a complete list of the Top 100 Banned Books of the Decade (2000-2009) and the Top 100 Banned Classics.

Because it's Friday

And this is pretty dang funny.

Unholy Magic & City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Last month I picked up Unholy Ghosts and was floored by its unique world-building and character development. After hearing from many blogger friends that book two - Unholy Magic - was actually better than book one, I literally went out that night bought the second and started right in. What then explains the radio-silence for the last month? For starters, book two happened. Going in I knew it would be an emotional wringer, but I just could not wrap my head around all the horrible, terrible, awful things that happen to Chess within. I literally had to stick it on the shelf, walk away, and not think about it for a few weeks. It made me that upset. A few days ago, I was finally able to get a copy of City of Ghosts and life ended up being much better. So instead of me posting one depressed, confused review and one positive, satisfied review - I'm going to do a double review for both Unholy Magic and City of Ghosts because I just don't think you can't talk about one without the other. I'm going to try to keep spoilers down to a minimum, but sometimes that might be hard.

In Unholy Magic, Chess is basically trying to solve two mysteries: 1. a Church-sponsored Debunking - trying to verify if a ghost truly is haunting a home - in this case, a television celebrity and 2. multiple hookers have been killed in Downside and Chess' dealer, Bump, wants her to figure who's doing it. Both of these cases were equally gruesome and dark and really didn't add much to the overall tone of the novel. Chess herself continues to walk a dangerously thin line while working for Bump and his awesome enforcer Terrible and 'dating' Lex, a rival gang member. To put it bluntly, everything that can possibly go wrong in this book does. Due to Chess' constant poor choices in her dating life, she utterly screws things up for herself with Terrible and the expected backlash ensues.

Okay, that was an understandably short and dirty rundown but suffice to say that Unholy Magic simply left me feeling broken and wondering if there was ANY way Chess could pull herself out of this mess. I mean, like I mentioned before, Chess has been through some truly awful things in her life and consequently turned to drug use as a coping mechanism. Fine. I'm okay with that but here she gets into some past personal history that I could barely even handle reading. Between Chess' relationship downward spiral and the yuck-factor of both her cases, Unholy Magic was pretty dang rough with nowhere soft for a reader to land. As I'm sitting here, I can see how talented an author Stacia Kane must be able to make me feel this torn and confused after reading one of her books, but man, did she really have to go that far? It just...hurt...a little too much.

Okay *deep cleansing breath* onto City of Ghosts, which opens with Chess basically walking around in an emotional daze after dealing with all the horrible aftereffects from Unholy Magic (hey! just like me!). She's surprised and a little wary when the Church Brethren call her in for a special job which would require her to work with the exclusive Black Squad and Lauren, the daughter of the Grand Elder himself. Usually Chess would use any excuse to get out of working with another Church employee (especially stubborn, spoiled Lauren) but the paycheck is too much of a temptation and Chess agrees to the money and a special binding which makes it magically impossible to discuss her work with anyone else. But of course, Bump again wants to find out who has been killing so many people in his part of town and forces Chess to 'allow' Terrible to follow her around and help since she can't directly communicate her findings with Bump. Ever since Terrible discovered Chess' betrayal, he doesn't want to touch her with a ten-foot pole and thus makes for a decidedly tense working environment for Chess and Terrible both.

It was really tough for me to finally return to this series, but am I so glad that I did. City of Ghosts was everything that I hoped would happen in Unholy Magic but didn't. Even though Chess is shattered that things went so sour with Terrible, she's determined to do whatever she can to fix things. She 'breaks up' with Lex. She tells Terrible the truth - even about things even he doesn't want to hear. Even as he continues to basically ignore her, Chess knows he's the one guy she just can't let go without a fight. And that's a conclusion I can only agree with. Terrible is an absolute winner and completely unlike any other UF hero I've come across. From his mutton chops and his Downside speech, to his appreciation for intelligence, Terrible is an intriguing package. And Chess! Talk about your layered heroine! As a character, she constantly surprises me. And even though I want to shake the girl over some of her choices, she knows when she's being an idiot and is often trying to make the best of what she's got. This passage really got to me as it sums up Chess and her choices pretty dang nicely.
She was only human, only herself. She'd never had anyone to advise her, to pat her on the back and hold her hand through life. She'd had to make her own mistakes.

And she'd made them.
Overall, this is one unique animal of a series. Stacia Kane's characters are unlike any I've ever encountered before and the world-building is astounding. That said, Downside Ghosts is a dark series and every bit of happiness and redemption is incredibly hard-won and consequently, richly deserved. Trust me on this one when I say that you're going to want to have all three books ready to go when you do decide to sit down with Chess - it'll make your life a lot easier.

series reading order:
~ Unholy Ghosts - my review
~ Unholy Magic
~ City of Ghosts

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
All Things Urban Fantasy review
Babbling About Books and More! review
The Good, The Bead, and the Unread review
Rabid Reader review 
Smexy Books review
Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks review

book source: purchased

The 10 Essential Classics

Classics are often a classic for a reason. But what are the top classics for YOU? Penguin wants to know. After compiling a list of the top ten Classics every person should read, they're now asking their readers to submit their own Top 10 favorites. But really Penguin...we can only choose 10?
Last year, we compiled a list of the top ten essential Penguin Classics every person should read.

We thought our list was complete.

We were wrong.

You wrote in about the books we left off our list. Where was War and Peace? Don Quixote? On the Road?

So we're creating a new list edited by you. What are your ten essential Penguin Classics?

and then enter for a chance to win a Penguin Classics gift bag with an assortment of Deluxe Penguin Classics (official rules below) on the Essential Classics REDUX Survey.

What are you waiting for? Go forth and vote!

Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

***SPOILER WARNING: See, I hate to do this to you, but there is no way I can talk about what happens in Dark Road to Darjeeling without revealing a major, major detail from Silent on the Moor. So. If you haven't read this series yet (and why the heck not?!?) I am warning you now that spoilers be contained hereafter.

There, now that's done with. Let's get onto the good stuff. Yeah, that would be onto more Julia and Brisbane.

Having enjoyed a relaxing and calm honeymoon together for the last eight months, Lady Julia and Brisbane are unexpectedly brought back to the real world with the sudden arrival of Julia's sister Portia and brother Plum. Portia has arrived in a flurry, insistent that Julia and her detective husband accompany the pair to Darjeeling, India to help Portia's former partner Jane Cavendish. Ever since the death of Jane's husband, Portia has been worried about the vagueness of Jane's letters - worried for the impending birth of her first child and worried that someone might have killed Jane's husband. Naturally, Julia insists Brisbane takes the case and her help along with it but Brisbane is not about to thrust his wife into the middle of a possible murder investigation. Mad as a wet hen, Julia's continued determination to prove her usefulness to Brisbane in his work sparks a disagreement that lasts throughout much of the novel as both are too stubborn to compromise on the subject. As one hopes only to help while the other tries only to protect.

Upon their arrival in the Valley of Eden, Julia is struck by the eccentric qualities of almost all of Jane's new family and neighbors. A grieving doctor who cannot remain sober, a free-spirited American artist married to an English clergyman and even the White Rajah, a recluse who has adopted the native dress and customs. There amidst the lush and stark Indian landscape of the Cavendish's prosperous tea plantation, Julia finds herself quickly deducing a plausible motive for murder in every single person she has met. The trouble is sorting out who the killer is before he can strike again.

As the fourth installment in what has to be one of my favorite series out there (mystery or not), Dark Road to Darjeeling is a unique animal. As a Lady Julia mystery, some elements remain the same - like the previous novels, a murder is solved - although always drastically different than how you would have expected - but there is also a decided departure from some previous standards. Starting with the new cover image and title format and extending even to the landscape - no longer in traditional England but India. Both settings equally evocative while remaining worlds apart.

Once inside the story, the changes continue. As a married couple Julia and Brisbane are faced with the difficulty of striking a balance between their private and personal lives. The pair are both passionately driven individuals and it is only natural they would clash (if you don't believe me, just read their previous books - tension galore). I was so grateful that Deanna Raybourn did not sugar-coat this aspect of their marriage. Yes, they are honeymooners - utterly in love - but they are also very much strong individuals. Their disagreements have never been easily solved but that just makes for a more satisfying resolution in my opinion. Ms. Raybourn's characters have never failed to entrance me with their sharpness - I can easily imagine any of them alive and wandering around, sticking their noses in other people's business - and that remains to be true in Dark Road to Darjeeling. As always, Deanna Raybourn strikes the perfect balance between tension (oh the delicious tension!) and humor (especially where the Marches are concerned) and yet again I'm awed and more in love with Julia and Brisbane than ever. Ms. Raybourn hasn't steered them wrong yet.

series reading order:
~ Silent in the Grave
~ Silent in the Sanctuary
~ Silent on the Moor - my review
~ Dark Road to Darjeeling (October 1, 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Allure of Books review 
And She Reads review
Angieville review

book source: review copy from the publicist

In My Mailbox: September 19

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. This meme is about books that you received or bought during the week.
I can hardly believe that we are halfway through September! Good heavens this year has gone fast. Hopefully everyone had as much fun as I did this past week discovering many, many wonderful new blogs thanks to Book Blogger Appreciation Week. As for books -- I didn't get many -- but what I did receive was pretty dang good. I was sent Bayou Moon for review as well as an ARC of Linger and got City of Ghosts and Killbox from the library. All four have been on my top to-read lists and I may have bumped a couple of these to the top of my TBR pile because I couldn't bear to let them waste away on my shelf. ;)
for review:
Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

my library:
City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane
Killbox by Ann Aguirre

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Killbox Winner!

and the winner of the *signed* copy of Killbox by Ann Aguirre is...

Trin Rimes

Thanks again to Ann Aguirre for stopping by and for all you awesome folks who entered the contest!

BBAW: Unexpected Treasure

Well, I for one have had an absolute blast with this years Book Blogger Appreication Week so far. I've discovered so many new interesting blogs - especially the wonderful Amy of Amy Reads, who I swapped interviews with yesterday. In keeping with their 'treasure' theme, today the BBAW committee asked us all to:
We invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?
Now I'll admit that this topic was a bit of a hard one for me. As far as genre reading goes, I'm pretty dang predictable of late. Lots of fantasy with good amounts of YA thrown in for good measure. Sure, I read books all the time that were recommended to me by other bloggers, but they generally tend to always fall within those two genres. Then I remembered a very, very dear series of books that were fortuitously recommended to me by another blogger -- Angie of Angieville. Angie's picks are, of course, legendary and these were no exception. But it took me a little prodding to finally make my way to their goodness because of the simple genre labeling stumbling block -- mystery. Otherwise known as immediately-not-interested to Michelle.

Curious yet?

Well, the books were the Lady Julia Grey mysteries by Deanna Raybourn and the rest, they say, is history. I adore Julia and her crazy family and I am also deeply smitten with one Nicholas Brisbane. This entire series about an unconventional woman of means who can coolly solve mysteries is utter perfection. Mystery has never really been my 'thing' before, but after adoring every single one of Deanna Raybourn's books, I'm starting to rethink that status.

series reading order:
~ Silent in the Grave
~ Silent in the Sanctuary
~ Silent on the Moor - my review 
~ Dark Road to Darjeeling (my review will be up next week - trust me, it's good)

What unexpected treasure have you discovered thanks to a fellow blogger?

BBAW: Interview Swap - Amy Reads

And now onto what has to be my favorite part about Book Blogger Appreciation Week - the Interview Swap. It all started a couple of weeks ago after I received an email letting me know I had been paired up with Amy of Amy Reads for my partner. Now Amy's blog was completely new to me but it looks like I am in the minority here after discovering that her site had been shortlisted as a 2010 Best New Book Blog. As I began emailing back and forth with Amy while checking her blog regularly, I began to see what all the fuss was about. Amy is one of those voracious readers who truly has eclectic taste in books. She makes a point to switch between non-fiction, fiction and YA novels with lots of ethnically diverse books thrown in for good measure (just check out her picks from the interview!). Not only does her reading pile inspire me to start reading more non-fiction again, but she is a wonderful person to get to know and I am utterly jealous of the fact that she lives in the iconic Prince Edward Island - even if her work schedule doesn't allow her much time to enjoy it. I'm so pleased to have her here today - so here we go!

When did you start blogging and what were some of your goals for Amy Reads?

I started blogging on January 1st, 2010. Yep, I'm that OCD that I really wanted to start on the first day of the year. And as I finally made the decision after working late on a big project and then having some wine by myself on New Years Eve (working on NYE = not fun)... well, it was a last minute decision that really paid off! My goal was that I really wanted to be part of this community that I saw online. I had followed it online for some time and just couldn't get over how friendly everyone was to each other (I was a lurker, too shy to actually comment). I really wanted to get in on all this fun and book discussion - very few people I know in real life will talk books with me, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

What do you do when you hit a reading slump and nothing seems to pull you out of it? Do you have comfort reads your find yourself returning to?

Hmm... this is a hard one! My reading slumps tend to happen either when I look at the tbr shelf and just have trouble settling with something (too much choice can do that too me!) or when I've read too much and just need a bit of a break. Usually I just keep trying different books until something clicks for me. Young Adult books tend to snap me out of them more often than not though, I think because they are just fun and lighter than some of what I read (I have a big love of random non-fiction books...!).

Have you always been a dedicated reader? If not, what changed? What types of books did you like when you were younger?

I've definitely always been a reader :) Growing up we weren't allowed watching much TV, so I read a lot. I remember library trips fondly (I had my library card number memorized) and read pretty much everything in the house and in our tiny little library. During University I read less than I used to, but that was mainly because I had so much school texts to read. I read a lot of series - Thoroughbred, Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, and really just whatever I could find in the house. I was always rereading the same books over and over because they were around. I definitely do read a lot more now than I used to though as well.

You mentioned on your blog that you travel often for work. What are some of your favorite places you've gone to? And right along with that, what books do you have stashed in your overnight bag awaiting your next trip?

I spend between 50-75% of my time on the road. Usually I go for 1 to 2 week trips, though occasionally for longer, and usually a week or two at a time at the same place. My absolute favorite place to go was Botswana this January / February but that was a one time thing - unfortunately the rest is only around North America. Some other favorites are Minnesota, Northern California and Bermuda.

Funny enough I am on a trip as I write this. I have a wide collection of books in my suitcase from Imperial Brotherhood (about cold war policy and feminism), The Tiger (about a man eating tiger in Siberia), What They Always Tell Us (young adult GLBTQ), and Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (a Tanzanian novel). Books are almost always the last thing I pack. I check out my review pile and grab anything I need to review during or immediately after my trip, and then spend as much time as I have sitting in front of the tbr bookshelf trying to decide what to bring. Usually I try to get a variety. Then I have to go through again and limit my pile to what will actually fit!

Audiobooks, print copies or ebooks? Any preferences or strong feelings?

Ohhh how I love print copies! I have a Kindle, and I do love it for travel, but I just have so many print copies that I have to fill my suitcase anyway. I love having the actual book - I love the smell, the touch, the look, and also just the ability to lend it around or pass it on once I've finished it. I do see me using the Kindle more and more as I read through my tbr shelf though. As for audiobooks... I am trying to listen to more, but I do find it more difficult to pay attention. I am a fast reader so I find it much slower to listen to a book rather than read it.

Is there a particular book you find yourself recommending over and over again?

Oh gosh, I can only pick one?! I really don't know... I think it really depends too on what I've just read, who I'm making the recommendation to and what they normally read. I am drawing a complete blank here actually! (Which doesn't happen often ;) heh)

Do you adore any lesser known books that you wish got more love?

Oh yes, this one is much easier. My top five favorite authors are all international, and I wish that everyone would read them. Some are all fairly well known but I do wish that everyone would give these books a try. I can't pick just a book by each so I will just list authors instead (cheating, I know!):

Dubravka Ugresic
Slavenka Drakulic
Assia Djebar
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Thank you again Amy for taking the time to answer all my questions! I had such a wonderful time getting to know you and can't wait to see what you'll be reading next.

Take a moment to stop on over to Amy Reads now for Amy's interview with me.

BBAW: First Treasure

It's that time of year again folks! Today marks the starting line for this years Book Blogger Appreciation Week so adjust your party hats and let the festivities begin! The good folks hosting the week-long extravaganza have prepared an incredible schedule and to kick things off right, today is called First Treasure:
We invite you to share with us about a great new book blog you’ve discovered since BBAW last year!  If you are new to BBAW or book blogging, share with us the very first book blog you discovered.  Tell us why this blog rocks your socks off and why you keep going back for more.
I've happened to come across a few really great blogs this year, but both of my two favorites are blogs that are fairly recent discoveries for me.

Inkcrush - I first happened upon Inkcrush and the wonderful Nomes who runs it after my red letter discovery of the fabulous Jaclyn Moriarty books (Nomes loves her too!). She's an Australian blogger with many fabulous recommendations and always keeps me up to date with the latest in Aussie YA lit news. Plus I love her entire page dedicated to Australian authors complete with highlighted favorites - I so want to read almost every single starred book on that page.

YA Highway - Even though I'm not an aspiring YA author, I still love to drop in at the fantastic YA Highway. It's run by a group of actual authors(!) so you know these ladies know what they're talking about y'all. I'm a sucker for their how-to writing posts but I truly get excited for the Road Trip Friday feature which pulls interesting tidbits from all over the YA interwebs. I can always count on those posts for interesting links and lol funny content.

So, these are my new favorite blogging stops - what new-to-you blogs are you currently crushing on?

In My Mailbox: September 12

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. This meme is about books that you received or bought during the week.
Is everyone gearing up for all the wonderful Book Blogger Appreciation Week festivities starting tomorrow? I know I am. I had so much fun discovering new sites last year that I already anxious for this year to begin!

And so, onto the books! Here we have yet another week of my shameless book acquiring for your viewing pleasure. Seriously, I'm not sure how these books pile up so fast. They seem to multiply faster than tribbles! For review, I got Freefall by Anna Levine - which was really wonderful (review to come soon) - and an ARC of Rich and Mad. The others I snagged at my local second hand bookshop for next to nothing [happy dance]. I'm particularly excited about Elantris as I've never read anything by Brandon Sanderson and this looked like a good place to start.
Freefall by Anna Levine
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Rich and Mad by William Nicholson

Thankfully this week I was also able to make it back to the library and found plenty of lovely books to occupy my time. I was most excited about the Dark and Stormy Knights anthology and the fantastic Kate Daniels novella within. I haven't gotten around to reading any of the other short stories as I not really familiar with the other authors, but I'm tempted. Any particular favorites? The other books were ones that caught my eye while browsing - as if I didn't already have enough to tide me over or anything ;) For the past year I've been steadily winding my way through Sharon Shinn's Samaria series and I'm now down to the final installment Angelica. It's a series I've read fairly slowly because I'm enjoying them so much and want to savor every one. I can't recommend them enough!
Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P.N. Elrod
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Angelica by Sharon Shinn
Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

"A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews

I'm not sure if it's because I'm so used to reading all the wonderful snippets Ilona Andrews posts on her blog or if the husband-wife writer duo is just excellent at writing period (I'm thinking it's the latter), but I was exceptionally pleased with their latest novella "A Questionable Client" found in the Dark and Stormy Knights anthology. After Magic Bleeds rocked my world earlier this year, I was in need of another Kate fix fast and this short and sweet little story did the job nicely.

"A Questionable Client" is set a few months prior to Magic Bites; a few months prior to Kate Daniels' move to Atlanta and her first meeting with the Beast Lord Curran  - so don't expect his Furriness to make an appearance in this one. In the absence of Kate's favorite sparring partner, our fearless mercenary for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid winds up meeting the slippery Saiman for the very first time. After Saiman's original bodyguards bail while still on duty, Kate is called in as a quick replacement and winds up spending one hectic night facing down all sorts of nasties that would like to see Saiman very dead. In the course of the eventful evening, Saiman becomes fascinated with the smart and capable mercenary who is immune to his constant shape-shifting.

Saiman has always been a favorite character for me, so the explanation of how he and Kate first became 'business associates' is truly intriguing. As is her bottomless wealth of knowledge: this time featuring a good deal of Russian folklore which went a long way in making this reader happy. As for Kate herself? Despite it's short format, "A Questionable Client" still contained plenty of Kate's trademark wit and sarcasm as well as her deadly sword-swinging skills. All very good things. But man, how much longer do we have to wait until Magic Slays?

Read an excerpt here.

series reading order:
~ "A Questionable Client" (novella in Dark and Stormy Knights anthology)
~ Magic Bites
~ Magic Burns - my review
~ Magic Strikes - my review
~ "Magic Mourns" (novella in Must Love Hellhounds anthology) - my review
~ Magic Bleeds - my review

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
All Things Urban Fantasy review
Inside of a Dog review
My Book Addiction review

book source: my local library

Because I am lacking in self-control

I was recently given a Amazon gift card and now it's burning a proverbial hole in my pocket. As I was searching for books I'd like to try, a couple of deliciously beautiful covers caught my eye in particular. But which to choose?

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:
What does he want from me?
How could I have let this happen?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace's pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

A story of dark secrets, intense friendship and electrifying attraction.  -via Goodreads

That electric red hair and intense stare intrigued me from the start, but now I'm loving the blurb too. Coming January 2011.


When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. He seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on… but some questions should be left unanswered.  -via Goodreads

I read my first Courtney Summers novel, Some Girls Are, earlier this year and while I'm not a huge fan of most contemporary YA books I am very, very interested to see what else this impressive author has to offer up. Although I do like the YA Highway version too. Coming December 2010.


Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.  -via Goodreads

I think I've mentioned this before, but I have a very strong, very unexplainable fascination with all things Russian. The last few days, I've seen some intriguing reviews pop up about Plain Kate and now I want this pretty one more than ever.

Have you spotted any other new ones I should put on my wishlist?

Jane by April Lindner

Lately there has been an influx of all sorts of classic novel retellings hitting the book scene. There are too many that you couldn't pay me to pick up (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies anyone?), but I have come across a select few that I find immediately intriguing. Ever since I caught the breathtaking cover for Jane by April Lindner and then learned it was a modern retelling of one of my all-time favorite novels, Jane Eyre, I knew this wouldn't be a book I could pass by.

Ms. Jane Moore couldn't be more desperate. After losing her parents a few months prior in an unexpected car crash - leaving her penniless and bereft - Jane is facing the harsh reality of having to drop out of college to become a nanny to simply pay the bills. A decision that leads her to Discriminating Nannies, Inc. and eventually a job offer as a nanny for the daughter of one Nico Rathburn. Even studious Jane has heard of Mr. Rathburn, a rock star of epic proportions who's known more for his out-of-control lifestyle as much as for his music. On the brink of launching his comeback album and tour, Mr. Rathburn is in search of a nanny for his five year-old daughter Maddy and as someone who isn't much for celebrities or popular culture, Jane fits the bill nicely. And just that quickly, Jane is bustled off to his sprawling estate, Thornfield Park, where she no doubt feels like a fish out of water. But as she settles into the lifestyle of nanny and eyewitness to the lifestyles of the rich and famous, Jane unexpectedly finds herself safe, trusted and among true friends for the first time in her life. Because nothing is as she expected it would be at Thornfield Park, least of all Nico Rathburn.

I cannot begin to tell you how quickly I devoured this book. Like Jane herself, her words are unique and quiet yet too forceful to be ignored. There is such depth of feeling contained within the pages of Jane; Jane Moore is an old soul who has faced innumerable heartaches in her life - an indifferent family, financial ruin - yet she still manages to see such good and hope in every person she meets. That said, Jane is also unfailingly honest in every aspect of her personality. Many times Mr. Rathburn is baffled by her seeming indifference to his 'sex appeal' - scenes which I found deeply gratifying on so many levels. Tho it's the stunning relationship between Jane and Nico that makes Jane so special above all; the sheer contentment of watching such a splendid relationship develop that makes me love them so. Both are a little wounded and both wind up finding something in the other that they never dreamed was possible but let me tell you, it's a pleasure to watch it all unfold.

Jane is a beautiful and haunting tale full of atmospheric descriptions that enable Jane's iconic story to transfer effortlessly into a modern setting. Knowing (and loving) the original story of Jane Eyre, I of course knew what was in store for our heroine every step of the way, but I was still breathless with anticipation for the actual events to unfold. Because April Lindner basically managed the impossible; she took very specific, very recognizable details from Jane Eyre, but then turned them into something new and utterly refined for Jane. I already know that Jane is going to be one of those books that I will wind up returning to again and again, not only for the truly affecting romantic bits but for Jane's own unflinchingly honest and pure narration. Because at heart she's a kindred spirit. Reader, you'll want to know that I was helpless to resist.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
An Addicted Book Reader review
Angieville review
Book Harbinger review
Happy Book Lovers & Co. review

book source: ARC provided by the publisher

In My Mailbox: September 5

As the hubby has recently pointed out, lately I've been acquiring a hefty amount books at an alarmingly speedy rate. I'm not sure why, but my shelves are filling up faster than ever and I've found myself scrambling for a good way to keep track of what I buy and when. Which inevitably led me to IMM. I figure if it works for The Story Siren (and hundreds of other bloggers) then I'd best join on in.
In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. This meme is about books that you received or bought during the week.
So this was a particularly good week for me. I was able to snag a copy of Feeling Sorry for Celia off Paperback Swap (love, love) and picked up Spindle's End and Milkweed at the used store for way cheap. Although the highlight of my week was, hands down, the arrival of the much anticipated Jane by April Lindner. It's a modern retelling of Jane Eyre complete with a rock-star Rochester and seeing as I am an utter Jane Eyre fan-girl, you can imagine my delight at having it arrive all shiny and new on my doorstep. And this hasn't happened in months, but I actually didn't manage to make it to the library (my home away from home) this week - mostly due to the awful flu that hit our house this week.

for review:
Jane by April Lindner
Jumbee by Pamela Keyes

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Spindle's End by Robin McKinley
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

So, what did you get in your mailbox?

The Darkest Edge of Dawn by Kelly Gay

I first picked up Kelly Gay's debut urban fantasy, The Better Part of Darkness earlier this year after hearing many intriguing reviews about a single-mom cop working in a city populated by two powerful, polar-opposite alien species. After meeting Charlie for myself, I found her extremely likable even if the story itself was somewhat slow-going. But I was more than ready to pick up the sequel, The Darkest Edge of Dawn, for the incredible cover art alone. All authors should be so lucky to have Chris McGrath in their corner. The man is a genius and I will fully admit to stroking my shiny copy on multiple occasions. Come on: just check out the detail on this bad boy.

Charlie Madigan may be one of the main reasons why the city of Atlanta has endured non-stop darkness for the past few weeks, but she's also trying to desperately fix it. As a special forces cop, Charlie and her siren partner Hank, are once again called to investigate a mysterious murder only to find that the victims include several high-ranking and highly-powerful off-worlders. Desperate to keep the news of this latest threat under wraps for fear of sparking an all-out war, Charlie and Hank begin searching for clues among the trails of left-over magic. And if the deaths themselves weren't enough to spur them on, the Druid King has set a time-limit on their solving the case before he exacts vengeance for himself. Tricky and delicate.

And if that wouldn't keep a girl busy enough, Charlie's facing some growing pains in her home life as well. Still clueless as how to tell her young daughter Emma that her ex chose to bargain his life with a revenant (who has since taken control of said body), she's flat-out shocked to discover her baby girl wielding some hefty magic of her own. Add in a vivacious sister who has suddenly gone off the deep-end after involuntarily becoming addicted to ash and a partner who'd like to turn their relationship to more than just a professional one and you've got a mess. Charlie's keeping it all together - but only just.

Once again, I was utterly enthralled by the myriad descriptions of the two alien races - the Elysians and Charybdons - and their mythologies. Kelly Gay has crafted an intensely detailed culture for both races and even though I was frantically trying to refresh my memory as to their names/beliefs for the first 50 pages or so, I was still fascinated by all the descriptions. Due to her newly altered DNA, Charlie's got a little bit of both races in her and the constant warring of the disparate magics would be enough to drive anyone crazy but she explains her confusion and self-doubt beautifully. That said, the pacing was still not what I would have liked - usually on the too slow side - but I did like the added bonus of a love-interest for Charlie. Romantic tension was basically zilch in The Better Part of Darkness and I was happy to see that was fixed for The Darkest Edge of Dawn. In all, a decidedly intriguing urban fantasy with characters to love; you know I'll be watching for book three.

series reading order:
~ The Better Part of Darkness - my review
~ The Darkest Edge of Dawn

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
All Things Urban Fantasy review 
The Fiction Enthusiast review
Fiction Kingdom review
Lorri Jeanne review 
Reading with Tequila review

book source: review copy from publisher

These are a few of my favorite (bookish) things

So since I've been battling the plague these past few days and haven't had the energy to do much besides shuffle from the bedroom to the bathroom and back again, I wanted to share a couple of artsy bookish things I recently discovered that have gone a long way in lifting my neglected spirits.

Spotted via Shelf Awareness:
There is book-inspired jewelery and then there is book-inspired jewelery.

This is the latter category.

The genius artist, Jeremy May of Littlefly, has managed to create a line of uniquely wearable bracelets, necklaces, rings and earrings made from actual book pages using a special paper laminating process. After the piece is completed, it's re-inserted into the book it was made from and delievered to the happy customer. I am in awe and want them all.

a shiny bracelet

purty earrings (complete with book!)

and a lovely necklace with bits of text poking through


Thanks to my college buddy Julie and fellow art lover, next up is the art installation, Sorted Books, coming soon to the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art by Nina Katchadourian. Basically she takes seemingly random books and arranges the titles into various clever sentences or thoughts.
(read titles in sequence, top to bottom)
If you are in the Portland area, please go for me.