What are Wolves, Alex?

Last night it seems two of my favorite things came together in one big crazy mash-up.

Maggie Stiefvater and Jeopardy!

You heard me right internets. Turns out last night Maggie and her fabulous books, The Wolves of Mercy Falls were featured as a clue on Teen Jeopardy! Jeopardy! I tell you. With Alex Trebek! I used that watch that show religiously in college as a de-stresser and can just imagine the glee Maggie must be experiencing Right. Now. So very awesome.

Here's the clue for all you doubting Thomases (via Maggie herself)
Fabulous case of YAngelism.

Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland

If it hasn't become obvious yet, lately I've found myself becoming more and more critical of every new release or YA novel I happen to pick up. At the risk of becoming too harsh (in reviews, on myself, etc) and getting burnt out, I decided this would be the perfect time to switch gears. After taking a peek at my wishlist of 'I've-always-wanted-to-read-that-but-just-haven't-yet" I ran across Lynn Kurland's Star of the Morning. The first novel in a fantasy series about a female mercenary seemed to fit the bill nicely and it didn't hurt that it had come very highly recommended by my dear friends Angie of Angieville and Holly of Book Harbinger. Truthfully, additional prodding wasn't really necessary.

With the loss of King Adhemar's magic and ability to wield his enchanted sword in one fell swoop, the entire defense of the kingdom of Neroche now rests solely upon the shoulders of the royal archmage - and Adhemar's brother - Miach. Even though he is extremely talented, Miach knows this strain will quickly drain him (and Neroche) of all it's defenses if something is not done to augment the realms' magical power.

Trained as a ruthless mercenary, Morgan is quick to mistrust anything that stinks of magic, preferring to rely on her own strengths (which are many) instead. But even though the blade tucked in with her belongings fairly exudes powerful magic, she is determined to fulfill her duty by carrying it to the King of Neroche. Having never before left her island home, Morgan is vastly relieved when she is joined on her quest by a few loyal comrade-in-arms but not so much by the arrival of the arrogant young man Adhemar and a little later, his handsome brother Miach. It quickly becomes obvious however that something - or someone - is intent on harming their small band and Morgan finds herself turning to magic and Miach's expertise on the subject to simply reach the royal city alive.

Star of the Morning is a beautifully written book, infused with a promising bit of romance, that switches points of view between various characters (convincingly well) while still managing to contain enough intrigue without ever letting that become the focus of the story. I do so love me a good character-driven novel - especially when the characters are not at all what they appear at first glance. Our heroine Morgan could have easily come across as a simple sword-wielding mercenary, yet her past and deep-seated aversion to magic grant her a much wider appeal. Tough and talented as she is, Morgan still has fears and watching her face those down with the help of her friends-in-arms and Miach was immensely satisfying. It seems I am developing quite a soft spot for talented warrior-women lately (much to my delight) and Lynn Kurland has delivered yet another winner in Morgan. Star of the Morning has so much to offer any fantasy fan - you can be sure I'll be tracking down book two, The Mage's Daughter in a hurry.

series reading order:
~ Star of the Morning
~ The Mage's Daughter
~ Princess of the Sword

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Harbinger review
Melissa's Bookshelf review
Reading for Sanity review

book source: my local library

In My Mailbox: February 13

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.
Once again this week saw some awesome books come my way - mostly via Paperback Swap. One I'm most excited about is Monster Blood Tattoo, mainly due to Leila @ Bookshelves of Doom's constant pimping for D.M. Cornish's largely unheard trilogy. You'll also notice another Tiger and Del novel which is just going to sit on my shelf, taunting me, since I'm still waiting for book three to arrive so I can read that one first. I think my sneaky mailman must be reading them before he brings them to me or something...
Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish
Poison Study by Maria Snyder
Sword-Breaker by Jennifer Roberson

Annnnd... I finally finished the brilliant PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey. Such drama! Makes me glad my sister and I are such good friends and don't fight like Mary and Edith. Yowza! Although I am not happy about having to wait until next season to find out what happens to everyone. Any theories out there?

What popped up in your mailbox this week?

Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted 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. 

A few weeks ago I read the exceptional retelling of Robin Hood, Lady of the Forest, by Jennifer Roberson and was obviously intrigued with such a talented author. Immediately I set out to unearth her other novels, which of course led me to discover her Tiger and Del fantasy series. Not withstanding its awesomely bad cover, I quickly ordered the first, Sword-Dancer with high hopes.

Known throughout the Southron for his courage and deadly skill with a sword, the Sandtiger has survived his fair share of dangerous and unusual scrapes as a sword-dancer. But from the minute the strange woman with the pale hair and a sword strapped to her back stepped into the cantina, Tiger knows he's out of his league with Del. Tiger is even more stunned to discover that Del wants hire him to lead her through the Punja desert in search of her brother who was stolen by slavers years before. Knowing a crazy undertaking when he hears it, Tiger still agrees to Del's proposal. No sooner do the pair set off, than they are set upon by viscous desert tribes, fierce sandtigers, and the harsh desert itself; that is when they aren't trading insults or clashing swords.

Holy cow this book is a whole new animal. One that I fell in love with double quick. And that includes its 'unique' cover - which I absolutely adore to tell you the truth - because that is Del. Told solely from the perspective of the arrogant and often narrow-minded (yet oh so lovable) Tiger, Sword-Dancer excels at describing the tricky relationship of Tiger and Del. Both are incredibly strong personalities who are more than capable of taking care of themselves but together they form this crazy partnership that simply works. Obviously Del as a foreigner has buckets to learn about the Southron from Tiger but more often than not, she's the one teaching Tiger a thing or two about his deepest self. And Del. That girl won my heart with her fierce determination and her willingness to challenge every accepted tradition - especially when it comes to women being capable of wielding a sword and wielding it well. I love nothing better than watching strong characters go through the toughest of trials and Sword-Dancer does just that. Tiger and Del face some heartbreaking obstacles and emerge all the stronger. Love this book. Love the characters. I'm anxious to see where Tiger and Del go next.

series reading order:
~ Sword-Dancer
~ Sword-Singer
~ Sword-Maker
~ Sword-Breaker
~ Sword-Born
~ Sword-Sworn

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review

book source: purchased

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Agreeing to travel with her parents as frozen cargo aboard the spaceship Godspeed, expecting to arrive on a new planet 300 years later, was the hardest decision seventeen year old Amy ever had to make. Nothing could prepare her for the actual horror of being frozen nor the semi-conscious state she inhabits afterwards. Unfortunately Amy doesn't understand true fear until she is awakened from her sleep fifty years too early to find herself surrounded by people who all look alike, speak differently, and who see her as nothing more than a deranged freak.

Everyone except for Elder that is. Although he is next in line as leader of the spaceship, Elder is the youngest person aboard and has felt always felt different. Tired of half-truths and avoidance by Eldest - the ships current leader and his mentor - Elder spends more and more of his time with the unique girl who came from Earth itself, hoping for answers. But instead of helping, Amy's life and experiences on Earth only create new questions for Elder - ones that could very well destroy everything he ever believed to be true.

I think I first decided to read Beth Revis' sci-fi debut after reading an online excerpt. Across the Universe doesn't just have a killer first line, the entire first chapter is so gripping I was dying to find out what would happen. Like right then. Make no mistake, Amy's account of watching her parents being cyrogenically frozen (and then experiencing it for herself) was riveting. It wasn't pretty or simple and Amy's fear and revulsion are just so palpable. After that initial burst however, I slowly began to lose interest in Elder and Amy's story, with my attention only being caught now and then by some tidbit or scene.

Although the idea of Across the Unvierse is extremely appealing, I wasn't too thrilled with the direction Beth Revis chose to take Amy and Elder. Instead of taking the time to discuss some of the wicked cool technology developments (which, okay, she does - but only a bit and my inner geek-girl was practically drooling for more) or the background on why the space expedition was even happening in the first place, we got pages and pages on the Season (uck) and a murder 'investigation' that seemed more stale than CSI-worthy. Not to mention the 'romance' of Amy and Elder, which never went past the attraction phase in my book. I'll admit, there were several pretty brilliant ah-ha! moments of discovery, but most came in the last 50 pages or so and consequently felt rushed and not as well developed as I would have liked.

Overall, Across the Universe reads a bit like it's cover. Upon first notice, the spectacular star-strewn sky and title are appealing but then the almost-kiss and cover tag line ("What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?" ::gag::) go and mess things up for me. Which also applies to the story itself. This is a book with a basic fascinating premise: How would humans truly handle a 300 year long journey through space? Beth Revis gives her readers a believable portrayal but one that ended up getting bogged down by other details. So not really a true sci-fi novel (other than it takes place aboard a spaceship), but perhaps YA fans who like mysteries and romance will find this one fulfilling. It just didn't suit me.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Forever Young Adult review
Frenetic Reader review
Inkcrush review
Janicu's review
Steph Su Reads review
The Story Siren review
yaReads review

book source: my local library

In My Mailbox: February 7

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.
It's been a while since I've done one of these but I couldn't help share some of the wonderful books that have been coming my way lately. In an effort to clean out my bookshelves, I've traded a bunch at Paperback Swap (*love*) and have been happily ordering more with the available credits. This past week, a few excellent selections arrived.
Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson
Sword-Singer by Jennifer Roberson

All of these have been on my wishlist for some time now and after having already read a couple, they are all living up to my (high) expectations. Lately I've really been drawn to older books and have discovered some truly unforgettable stories. Hopefully, I'll get some reviews up here in the next day or so.

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Masterpiece: Downton Abbey

PBS Masterpiece just gets better and better every season, doesn't it?
This most recent Masterpiece Classic miniseries brings us the incredible Downton Abbey - a story of a traditional English household, upstairs and down, at the turn of the century. I for one am loving every second of it. So many fabulous characters, intrigues, and insights to that turbulent period of time. If you haven't checked this one out, be sure to do so. It's only online for free until February 22nd. Although - I still have two more episodes to watch, so if you've seen them all already (lucky!) Please. Don't Tell Me What Happens!

In expected fashion, I already have my favorite quote of the series (so far) and it came from the imposing Dowager Countess, played by the fabulous Maggie Smith:  "No Englishman would ever dream of dying in someone else's house!"