The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley is a recent discovery for me and I have been slowly going through all of her backlist and simply adoring each new story. So it was with extreme joy that I began Kearsley's latest, The Firebird. Adding to my excitement was the fact that it was to be a continuation of the characters from not just one book - but two (The Winter Sea & The Shadowy Horses)! I just love it when authors overlap stories that are not originally connected.

Here's the synopsis (via Goodreads):
Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.
The Firebird had all the potential for a book that I would absolutely love:

2. an art historian heroine
3. one handsome Scotts hero

Not to mention one of the *best* opening chapters I have EVER read. Seriously, it was perfect. Read it here and see if you can resist the rest.

I am sorry to report that somehow all that fabulous potential just didn't connect for me in the end. Although I did LOVE Anna and her travels from Scotland to France to Russia; the historical background on St. Petersburg, usually distilled with such care and detail by Kearsley, seemed more like an info dump in this book. And while the relationship between Nicola and Rob was sweet, it just didn't have the same snap and sizzle that I've enjoyed in Kearsley's previous books. Thankfully, we are given a lovely conclusion to Anna's story but I really wanted more time with Rob and Nicola -- if only to clear things up between Nicola and her grumpy grandfather. If Ms. Kearsley wants to go back and do his story, I'd read that in a flash. In short, I just wanted more from Nicola. It was like this fascinating character was dangled before me but only part of my questions were answered in the end.

series reading order:
~ The Shadowy Horses (loosely connected)

because everyone likes a second opinion:
Between the Covers review

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

I am not, by any stretch of imagination, a reader of mystery novels. But sometimes I stumble across an author who just happens to combine the right amount of atmosphere with unique characters and I'm utterly helpless to resist. Like with Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series. Or practically anything by Mary Stewart. Once again the stars have perfectly aligned and have brought me another winner: Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice. It's the first novel in a series featuring a young orphaned girl called Mary Russell who happens to stumble across Sherlock Holmes in his retirement. Holmes immediately recognizes a fellow savant -- albeit one many years his junior -- and Miss Russell's continued visits to the detective spark an unusual partnership full of unorthodox lessons and later, intrigue.

Now I am not a devoted fan of Sherlock Homes (other than a slight addiction to the Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman version, that is). So if The Beekeeper's Apprentice had been written as a 'Sherlock' book with Mary Russell as a supporting character a la Dr. Watson, I would never have become as engrossed in the story as I did. Happily it was not. Shifting the POV to Mary's perspective gives the reader such a open look at England during WWI and the changing roles a woman faced during that time. Not to mention all the early forensics work Sherlock teaches Mary. Fingerprinting, soil identification...fascinating stuff. Also! There are plots and schemes to be unraveled which of course kept this reader continually in awe of watching the true brilliance of Mary's agile mind unfold under the tutelage of Holmes.

Perhaps most notable is that Mary comes into her own by the close of the story, not simply functioning as a protege but a true, valued partner to Holmes, for which I am ever so grateful. Furthermore, Laurie R. King does a superb job introducing suspense and letting her characters stop to feel the tension, rather than just plow through the action. Such subtle yet realistic treatment of emotions are the basis for the lasting connection forged between Mary and Sherlock that I am happy to discover continues on for many books more. I believe I've found a new favorite friends.

series reading order:
~ The Beekeeper's Apprentice
~ A Monstrous Regiment of Women
~ A Letter of Mary
~ The Moor
~ O Jerusalem
~ Justice Hall
~ The Game
~ Locked Rooms
~ The Language of Bees
~ The God of the Hive
~ Beekeeping for Beginners
~ Pirate King
~ Garment of Shadows

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
A Striped Armchair's review
BookLoons review

Twofer: Blade Song & Night Blade by J. C. Daniels

Like many of you I often find myself reading books based on the reviews of others. There are, however, a few reviewers I trust implicitly, so when I received a recommendation from one of my favorite book pusher friends Angie, strongly suggesting I pick up Blade Song and Night Blade by J. C. Daniels like, right now, well, you can be sure I sat up and took notice. And since I read both books in a matter of days (really, you could probably count it in hours), I'm gonna post this review as a twofer. Because I'm thoughtful like that.

As a private investigator serving the supernatural community of East Orlando, Kit Colbana takes on all sorts of jobs -- well, at least until business gets better she does. Delivering messages, a little light spying, missing persons; her half-human blood and her own brand of magic enables her to do it all even if some cases suit her tastes more than others. But from the moment a particular shapeshifter strolls into her office, all charm and assurances of easy money, she wants nothing to do with this particular case. That is until she learns it's about a missing shifter teen -- Kit has a soft spot for runaways -- and that someone might be targeting such runaways does she reluctantly agree. And like everything else Kit dives into, trouble is hot on her heels as she fights to simply get the kid -- and herself -- out of it all alive.

Whew. That rather generic cover (ho hum...another scowling girl with a sword) for Blade Song did not prepare me in the slightest for what J. C. Daniels had in store for Kit or myself. Kit Colbana is a force to be reckoned with. She is brash and damaged but not cliched, her demons are absolute but Kit just. doesn't. quit. Ever. She's scrappy and mouthy and she can freaking hear her sword singing to her. I'm quite partial to women whose favorite accessory is a sharp sword. Combine that with a bitingly smart tongue, Kit is no push-over. Which is exactly what she needs to be to hold her own against the more powerful shapeshifters and vampires headed her way. All that rigorous training as an assassin she endured as a teenager coupled with her expertise with an enchanted sword proves that Kit is more than a match to those deemed of 'superior' strength. Throw in some seriously witty dialogue and terrifyingly non-stop action and I admit to falling fast and hard for this first installment of the Colbana Files. I couldn't wait to return to this gritty world and thankfully was able to jump right back in with Night Blade, already queued up and waiting for me.

***SPOILERS FOR BLADE SONG*** I wouldn't do this to you normally, but go read the first book already. Then we can discuss Night Blade. Trust me, you aren't going to want to miss this one.

Time has passed since Kit rescued the missing shifter teens and Damon (the charming cat shapeshifter mentioned above) became the alpha of clan of cats. Still settling into their new and thrillingly serious relationship, Kit is starting to find a small bit of peace and even happiness with Damon. Not without bumps of course, but they wouldn't be Kit and Damon without bumps. Still, she'd do anything for Damon which is why when a former flame turned government worker drops a case into her lap she can't refuse, Kit is faced with the terrifying prospect of having to clear Damon's name -- or else. To make matters worse she can't talk to anyone about the case -- again, or else.

If I only had one word to describe Night Blade to you it would be gutting. Seriously J. C. Daniels is a genius for penning a book so filled with layered emotions and the complicated consequences of fighting for those you love that it simply left me reeling. I mean, Blade Song was good but Night Blade? Night Blade is freaking dinner. So much happens in this book that it boggles the mind how deftly J. C. Daniels was able to juggle all the threads with equally strong results. And unlike my first gut reaction to all the secrecy involved, Kit's inability to come clean with Damon just made the story all the more compelling - not less so, as I would have predicted.

One thing I adore about these books is the assortment of friends Kit collects along the way (in addition to the one man force of nature known as Damon Lee): Damon's ward Doyle, the scarily helpful witches, Damon's best friend - the shadowy Chang, not to mention all the misfits from Wolf Haven. All combined, this motley collection gives Kit support when she least expects it but when she typically needs it the most. But the heart and soul of Night Blade really is Kit and Damon's complicated relationship. She's half-human, he's an alpha shapeshifter and when their worlds collide it's of the supernova variety. That said, they work so well together -- charming and overly protective on both ends, just expressed in their own explosive way. Which is why I'm going to be purposefully vague and simply say: I was so so so not prepared for that ending. I year is an awful long time to wait for Broken Blade. But you better believe I'll be there all the way.

series reading order:
~ Blade Song
~ Night Blade
~ Broken Blade (January 2014)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review (book one & two)
Fiction Vixen review (book one & two)
The Romanceaholic (book one & two)
Tynga's review (book one & two)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Well I knew it was going to take a spectacularly unforgettable book to bring me out of my reviewing stupor and I am here to say that Fangirl is it. It seems to me that Rainbow Rowell is trying to outdo herself with each subsequent book. Attachments had great promise but lost me around the three-quarters mark, Eleanor & Park was pretty dang spectacular but this book...this book just caught me. Caught me up in its characters and its life now all I want to do is tell every single person I know about it.

Cath Avery is not your typical college freshmen. True, she's got all her books ready and is all set up in a perfectly good dorm room (complete with one sarcastic roommate) but Cath is not pleased at being separated from her twin sister Wren. Her much more outgoing, prettier twin sister (in Cath's mind) Wren. But that's okay. She's got special permission to take an upper-level fiction writing course, boxes of protein bars to sustain her, and her Simon Snow fanfiction to occupy her time. So what if the majority of her friends are either online or only live in books? She can handle this split from her sister and her scatterbrained dad. She can. Only what happens when life really starts to come crashing down on Cath? Can she figure it all out without losing herself?

Fangirl is something special. Okay, Cath is something special. I can't remember falling so hard for a character in such a long time. How can I even quantify it? Cath is neurotic in the best way possible. She's a genius that could have just moldered away her entire freshman year if it weren't for her world-wise roommate Reagan whose mission in life (alongside the smiling Levi) it is to drag Cath out into wide world. And it goes without saying that anytime Levi graced the pages you can be sure I sat up just a bit straighter. Take this scene where he (and Reagan) meet Wren for the first time.
"Hey, Cath," he said, already smiling, "are you--?" He looked at the bed and stopped.
"Levi," Cath said, "this is my sister, Wren."
Wren held out her hand.
Levi's eyes were wide as Cath'd ever seen them. He grinned at Wren and took her hand, shaking it. "Wren," he said. "Such fascinating names in your family."
"Our mom didn't know she was having twins," Wren said. "And she didn't feel like coming up with another name."
"Cather, Wren..." Levi looked like he'd just now discovered sliced bread. "Catherine."
Cath rolled her eyes. Wren just smiled. "Clever, right?"
"Cath," Levi said, and tried to sit next to Wren on the bed, even though there wasn't enough room. Wren laughed and scooted toward Cath. Cath scooted, too. Reluctantly. If you give Levi an inch...
"I didn't know you had a mother," he said. "Or a sister. What else are you hiding?"
"Five cousins," Wren said. "And a string of ill-fated hamsters, all named Simon."
Levi opened his smile up completely.
"Oh, put that away," Cath said with distaste. "I don't want you to get charm all over my sister -- what if we can't get it out?"
Reagan walked back through the open door and glanced over at Cath. She noticed Wren and shuddered. "Is this your twin?"
"You knew about the twin?" Levi asked.
"Wren, Reagan," Cath said.
"Hello," Reagan said, frowning.
"Don't take this personally," Cath said to Wren. "They're both like this with everyone."
Doesn't that just leave you with a smile on your face? There were so many unforgettable moments in this book. Laugh out loud moments. Cry your eyes out moments. And times when you just want to go hug your best friend moments. Rainbow Rowell manages to juggle all these different plots and ideas and underlying emotions that it simply blows my mind.

And then there's the Simon Snow stuff. I cannot begin to tell how much I wish those books -- or Cath's Simon and Baz fanfiction -- were real. I have never wanted to read a fake book so flippin' much. Fangirl is the ultimate keeper. Cath and Levi and Reagan and Wren have all settled themselves into my heart and I just never wanted the story to end. But I think Rainbow Rowell gets that.

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Book Harbinger review
Cuddlebuggery review
Dear Author review

How I Live Now Trailer

This trailer gave me the shivers. 
And considering the amount of emotions I felt while reading Meg Rosoff's crazy-incredible book I'm betting this one will probably be a doozy.
Now, who wants to go see it with me?

Ilona Andrews San Diego Signing

So awhile back I found out that the universe had aligned itself the husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews would be visiting Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego as part of their tour for Magic Rises
Yes. That Ilona Andrews. 
At this point, imagine me jumping around the house doing wildly uncoordinated fist-pumps while the hubby looked on in amused bewilderment. Keeping up a steady manta of "I want to go to there," I immediately called upon my dear friends Becca and Gladys to make the three hour road trip with me to meet one of our favorite writing duos.
Here we are at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.
Despite my almost normal expression here, imagine an entire colony of juiced up butterflies pinging around my stomach at this point. I was a wee bit excited.

The bookstore was packed but somehow Becca and I wound up literally sitting at Gordon and Ilona's feet during the Q&A session. Which Gordon opened up by simply saying "So. What do you want to know?"
By the end, my butt was numb and my legs were all jittery from sitting still for so long but it was totally worth it. We are such book nerds.

Because this totally happened... 
I got to meet them!!!! And they kindly agreed to sign all my Kate Daniels books.
I cannot even begin to tell you how super cool and nice and gracious and funny they were. Maybe you can tell by my crazed I'm-a-swimfan-grin I've got going on here but they pretty much were amazing. Also. Ilona hugged me. I think I died.

Still high on endorphins and sheer giddiness, we met up afterwards with Maggie from Young Adult Anonymous (who is incredibly cool) 
 and enjoyed some seriously delish sushi while we rehashed every single hilarious thing Ilona and Gordon said (and the fact that they sorta matched, which was kind of funny). 
Like the fact that even though we all knew that Ilona was from Russia none of us expected her to actually have such a killer Russian accent... 

Or that some of the things Gordon said would remind me so much of Curran. I think at one point when they were talking about some changes they wanted their editors to make to Magic Rises very late in the publishing stage he said: "We're not asking you. We're telling you. It's our name on that book." I sat there giggling to myself just thinking of all the times Curran said something like that to Kate or to one of the Pack...

Or that Aunt B is their favorite character to write *sobs*...

Or when asked if Derek is ever going to get the girl and his own happily ever after Gordon responded with "Well he should!"

It was an incredible day. I could not have imagined them being more candid or funny or working so well together. Frankly, I'm still a bit in awe of their abilities. And of their books. Thank you so much for doing what you do so well. This is one loyal fan you've got in your corner forever.

Novel Gossip: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth E. Wein

When Chachic and I first decided to begin the feature Novel Gossip we both knew that one of the books we wanted to read together was Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. We both loved the heck out of Code Name Verity and knew that this was a book we'd need a bit of friendly support for.
The bloggers behind Chachic’s Book Nook and See Michelle Read chatting about books, thousands of miles apart.

While our thoughts were a bit all over the board during Rose Under Fire, we both really enjoyed it. But let me preface this discussion by giving a plug for Code Name Verity (that is, if you're one of the crazy people who haven't read it yet). While it's not exactly a sequel, the beginning of Rose Under Fire focuses a lot on what happens in Code Name Verity, so naturally, it'll make your experience that much better to understand the story. Also beware: this is a concentration camp book. So. You know...feelings...and all that ahead. Our conversations took place over several days and has been edited to remove spoiler-y bits. Here's the description for Rose Under Fire via Goodreads:
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
And here we go...

Michelle: I'm curious about this book because honestly it's starting just a wee bit slow. I'm not connecting with Rose yet. What do you think of her as a narrator so far? I know she is a naive, young American but lots of the observations she makes seem a little too daft - maybe they weren't for the time period, but since we have so much information now, it seems a bit like overkill. I don't know, maybe she'll grow on me, I sure am hoping so.

Chachic: Rose sounds really young, I was a bit surprised that she's only 18. I don't think the observations that she makes are unnecessary because I don't know a lot of these details so it's all interesting for me. We didn't really study the war that much back in school and the focus was on how it affected the Philippines, not on what happened in other parts of the world. It's either that or I've forgotten most of it.

Michelle: This is probably a prime example of my egocentric American up-bringing showing, but I suppose I just assumed everyone who reads this book would have a pretty good knowledge of WWII history. WWII is pretty much THE CONFLICT that historians talk about. People actually refer to it as 'The War' and there are hundreds of books and documentaries that come out constantly -- it's a huge fascination over here. I'm curious if that kind of mindset is present in the Philippines or just in America.

Chachic: I think that kind of mindset over WWII is only present in America. I don't see that kind of fascination in the Philippines. If anything, it's been said that Filipinos have short memories and we tend to forget things.

Michelle: I am wondering if all these little things that keep popping up are foreshadowing of what is going to happen to Rose: the concentration camps, having the disable a bomb fuse, etc.

Chachic: I know what you mean about foreshadowing! So we already know that Rose will end up in a concentration camp, I'm a little scared for her as she hears details on how horrible they are.

Michelle: I know! I'm worried for Rose too, I CRY like a little girl during any story about concentration camps so I'm not sure how this is gonna go.

Chachic: I usually try to stay away from books about concentration camps or about WWII but since Elizabeth Wein wrote this, it's a must read for me.

[about half-way thorough]

Michelle: Oh my. Poor Rose. This scared little Rose is sorta freaking me out. These descriptions of her first few days in the camp, her 'controlled flight into terrain' -- how terrible! I can't imagine how sick that would make you.

Chachic: We're only just at the start of Rose's experience and I already feel so bad for her. It's a terrible experience and I can't imagine how she must have felt while going through it.

Michelle: Also reading about how cruel the women guards are at Ravensbruck is terrible. The part that really stuck out to me was was "The randomness has left it's mark. I am scared of anything arbitrary now - of anything that happens suddenly." Because what a perfect way to describe how horribly the guards behave. How depressing and sad. While they are busy dehumanizing the inmates, the guards are also dehumanizing themselves. What amazes me, like Rose, is that these guards are scaring them, and hurting them on their own. No one is telling them how far or what to do to the people. The Nazis let the guards have free reign to cause as much pain as they felt like.

Chachic: I know, I was a little surprised when she said that the guards were women, it's not men who were mistreating the prisoners but fellow women. And on such a massive scale - there were thousands of prisoners in that concentration camp. You're absolutely right, while the guards are dehumanizing the inmates, they're also dehumanizing themselves. It probably became transactional for them to be mean, they were probably not even thinking about their actions anymore.

Michelle: I think I misunderstood Elizabeth Wein's initial reason in making Rosie a bit naive -- where I didn't like it at first, now, I need no convincing she was spot on. She has built this perfect setup for Rose's inability to fully comprehend what has happened to her once she's in Ravensbruck. Rosie can't conceive that's she in a real concentration camp because she has no idea WHAT THEY ARE. It's genius.

Chachic: I think you have a point about why Rose was so naive at the start of the book, she has no idea what she will undergo because she doesn't really know what concentration camps are. Also the naivety provides a contrast to how different she is after her ordeal.

Michelle: Yes. Also I am incredibly thankful that Elizabeth Wein is using flashbacks to tell Rose's story. "I am writing at a rate of 170 miles an hour and going nowhere." If Rose had been telling all these awful things in the moment, I think it would have been just too painful to read. Creating these flashbacks gives the reader a safe place to land in between bouts of insanity and breaks up the madness. I am infinitely glad she wound up free and that she was only in a camp from September to April. One day was probably enough for anyone.

Chachic: Me too. We get pauses to let the horrors sink in before moving forward. Also, it's a practical way of storytelling because like Rose said, she would never have been allowed the luxury of having writing materials while she was in prison. Sigh, poor Rose. She will probably endure so much before we get back to the present. I am so glad she's alive though.

Can I just say that I loved that bit when Rose first gets out of the plane after she lands in Germany and the guys there give her an applause of her perfect landing? From fellow pilots to another pilot, reminding her that they're just human beings too.

Michelle: Agreed. That was a pretty perfect moment for Rose. I hope it helps sustain her in the months to come.

Michelle: So this is probably obvious to everyone but I figured from the beginning that once in the camp Rose would memorize names of the people she meets there. Especially after Felicyta talks early on in the story about how people just don't even know what happens to their families.

Chachic: It wasn't certainly wasn't obvious to me that Rose would have to memorize names when she got to the camp! It didn't really occur to me. But she only had to memorize the Rabbits' names, right? I was wondering why it was just the Rabbits that she had to remember. Was it because what they experienced was one of the most cruel things in that camp?

[after finishing the book]

Michelle: Yeah, I think because the Rabbits were subjected to some of the most horrible medical ‘experiments’ imaginable. They effectively carried physical proof on their bodies of what happened to people in Ravensbruck.

Michelle: Maybe I'm coming into this book all wrong but my gut reaction to Rose Under Fire is this: while good and with lots of interesting tidbits, I did in no way like it half as much as I liked Code Name Verity. I mean I didn't even CRY when reading it and I cried buckets during Code Name Verity. Buckets. Maybe it’s because what I like so much about Code Name Verity was this great relationship between two young women and then what happens to them during the war. I didn't feel like Rose had a similar connection to anyone in Rose Under Fire.

Chachic: I do agree that Rose Under Fire didn't blow me away like Code Name Verity did. I remember I sobbed towards the last few chapters of Code Name Verity and I couldn't stop until I reached the end. And even after I finished reading it, I would become teary-eyed if I come across anything that reminded of the book. I agree with you that what I loved about Code Name Verity was that it was about this beautiful friendship between two girls who wouldn't have met if not for the war.

Michelle: I just didn't feel the same way about the friends Rose makes in the camp.

Chachic: While Rose did meet friends in the camp, to the point where she considered them her family (how could she not when they went through so much together? She had to cling on to something), it really isn't the same as the friendship in Code Name Verity.

Michelle: However I did like the fact that Rose is an American. I don't think I've ever read one about an American in a camp before.

Chachic: Yeah, I think it was a unique angle making Rose American. She was the only American in her block, right? Probably in the whole camp.

Michelle: One aspect that really stuck out to me was how the prisoners fought back. Most of the other books I've read have been of the "make the best of a bad situation' type. So I really like the subversive nature of the Rabbits and Rose and Irina -- they were always trying to find ways to 'fight' the system. Even as if how Rose said it was all pretty passive resistance when you looked at it from the outside, but to them it felt like a big deal. Which it was -- especially when you go back to how paralyzed with fear Rose was even after she was safe in the Ritz hotel in Paris.

Chachic: Like you, I thought it was brave of the girls to try and fight back whenever they could. It was good that they has small victories to keep them going. I'm amazed at how they manage to stay alive and stray true to who they are when they could have easily just given up and became emotionally dead zombie-like creatures. Yes, they were always filthy and hungry but their personalities still defined them. How Lysette was still a mother, Rose was still a poet and Irina was still a pilot. In spite of everything, they retained pieces of their lives within them. I ached for them because they all had these lives that were suddenly taken away from them.

Michelle: Speaking of secondary characters, I think one of my favorite people in the entire novel was Anna Engel -- the Kolonka in Ravensbruck. I was utterly fascinated by her evolution from prison hospital tech to prisoner herself. Plus it didn't hurt that she was a tough, sarcastic lady. I liked her lots.

Chachic: I really liked Anna Engel as well, how she represented the idea that even Germans suffered under their countrymen if they went against the system. I like how she tried to be a good person in small ways - she wasn't horribly cruel to Rose and the other girls. But I absolutely had no idea Anna was the same Anna Engel in Code Name Verity! She is, isn't she? I was so surprised at how Elizabeth Wein connected her characters like that. How Anna was a big part of Verity's story and then Rose's as well.

Michelle : ANNA ENGEL IS THE ANNA FROM CODE NAME VERITY?!?! My use of caps is indicative of my level of genuine surprise! I did not catch that one AT ALL! I knew I should have reread it before I read Rose Under Fire!! Now I need to go back and reread that section in Code Name Verity! Awesome. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I would have felt like a dork for not figuring it out.

Chachic: She's the Engel in Code Name Verity, right? I'm not too sure because I don't have my copy of Code Name Verity here with me so I can't check. Maybe I should have reread Code Name Verity before Rose Under Fire too, I think I would have liked the latter more if I did.

Michelle: Yeah, I think it all comes down to the fact that I don't really love Rose as a person herself. Still. I did like some of her poems and how she told the story (with flashbacks through writing) but I never really felt like she was real. Especially in contrast to how I felt about the characters in Code Name Verity.

Chachic: I felt the same way, I wasn't as invested in Rose as I was with the characters from Code Name Verity. Maybe that's why I felt like I was distanced from her story.

Michelle: And I felt like it was a total cop-out that we never see Rose reconcile with her family (besides that initial phone call) back in America. I'm guessing she does eventually, but that very human, painful moment would have done a lot for me to connect with Rose. It's a completely unique experience! Although to be fair, I do understand why Rose stays in Scotland. It was a whole country torn apart by war, not just from afar, but right there with all the bombings, etc. so I can see how she'd like to be there with people who KNEW. But I just can't see her family not swooping down on her en masse once she turned up again. Even if the reunion had to be in Scotland, I think it would have been worth it as far as Rose's character is concerned to have included it in the story.

Chachic: I know, I was so surprised that we didn't get a scene of Rose reuniting with her family. Like you said, I would have thought that her family would fly to Scotland to see her. Of course, they would want to see with their own eyes how she's doing. Speaking of her family, I kind of expected her more to think about them while she was at the camp? I mean it was mostly Nick that she thought of and talked about while she was there, and she didn't even really love him. I get that it's the idea of Nick as a hero and not the actual person himself but I would have thought that it would be normal to miss her family.

Michelle: Yeah that was pretty odd too. Maybe she needed to distance herself so she wouldn't become utterly depressed? I'm not sure. I hope it doesn't come across like I didn't like the book, because I really did. But I was expecting so much MORE from Elizabeth Wein after Code Name Verity. I wanted to be wowed and it sorta felt like a lot of other concentration camp books I've read before. Like she spent so much time on imparting a message that she forgot about building awesome characters. Sadness.

Chachic: I really liked reading the book as well but yeah, I don't love it as much as Code Name Verity. I think I liked it more than you did? Because I can't compare it with other concentration camp novels. I did like the idea of "tell the world" and how Elizabeth Wein said that's what she tried to do with Rose Under Fire. It's an emotionally heavy read and now I need a happy book!

Michelle: Yes! A change of pace after the heartbreak of this one very much in order.

The Story Guy Blog Tour + Giveaway

Yesterday I posted a review for a fantastic new novella I just discovered: The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers. I am excited to be part of the Blog Tour for The Story Guy. So scroll on through -- not only will you find an exclusive excerpt from The Story Guy but a chance to win your very own eBook copy of The Story Guy!

In case you missed my review, here's the skinny on The Story Guy:

In this eBook original novella, Mary Ann Rivers introduces a soulful and sexy tale of courage, sacrifice, and love.

I will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing only.

Carrie West is happy with her life . . . isn’t she? But when she sees this provocative online ad, the thirtysomething librarian can’t help but be tempted. After all, the photo of the anonymous poster is far too attractive to ignore. And when Wednesday finally arrives, it brings a first kiss that’s hotter than any she’s ever imagined. Brian Newburgh is an attorney, but there’s more to his life . . . that he won't share with Carrie. Determined to have more than just Wednesdays, Carrie embarks on a quest to learn Brian’s story, certain that he will be worth the cost. But is she ready to gamble her heart on a man who just might be The One . . . even though she has no idea how their love story will end?

Fun right? Well, just to whet your appetites, here's a sneak peak at what you'll find in The Story Guy...

I finish the email, only trembling a little.



Subject: Wednesdays Only

I’m certain you’ve filled the position, but it’s late (or very early) and I’m intrigued despite the judgment I should possess staring into the second half of my third decade.

My IM handle is “lieberries” on villagemail.

When I send it, my breath comes out in a whoosh and my heart is pounding in my ears. I don’t really expect him to answer, but I open my villagemail account anyway and turn my laptop’s volume up so I can hear the IM chime. I can’t quite work out why I answered him.

Sure, he’s pretty, and maybe I’ve gotten a little comfortable with things, or maybe the insomnia is getting the better of me. It’s been a long day that has stumbled into a sad and quiet morning. I can’t stop thinking about stupid things. My dad’s arm around my mom’s shoulders while she takes pictures of the Alaskan coast. Will and Shelley kissing in their tiny urban goat shed, their homemade cheese in their old beer fridge. I look at my thumb, where the sliver has made it red and swollen.

I pull my T-shirt over my bare legs. Sit up straight and try to think straighter. Practically speaking, meeting a MetroLink stranger for anything, but especially kissing, is not entirely safe. I touch my throat, where a blast of heat burns in the hollow.

Is it really something bad to have a life that’s safe? To wear skirts at a sensible length, to let a friend walk you home from the bar, to meet a man for coffee in a busy diner days before you’re alone with him on your stoop?

I look at his picture, how his cuffs bunch at his forearms.

While I value my contentment, I do apparently have a little fight left—for adventure, for capital “R” romance, for the certain curesthat Shelley teased me about—somewhere deep in my lizard brain. At least the part that, say, motivates happy sea turtles to leave their familiar waters and heave themselves up on the scary beach and lay eggs. Not that my eggs have anything to do with this.

I resolve to at least lean back against the pillows and rest before I have to get ready for work, but as soon as I set the laptop on the nightstand, my IM calls out.

In the quiet room, my gasp sounds totally Victorian.

When I spin the screen toward me, the IM box is as real as can be, and the handle is no one I recognize.

GearTattoo: I haven’t filled the position. Still interested?

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About Mary Ann Rivers
Mary Ann Rivers was an English and music major and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing, publishing poetry in journals and leading creative-writing workshops for at-risk youth. While training for her day job as a nurse practitioner, she rediscovered romance on the bedside tables of her favorite patients. Now she writes smart and emotional contemporary romance, imagining stories featuring the heroes and heroines just ahead of her in the coffee line. Mary Ann Rivers lives in the Midwest with her handsome professor husband and their imaginative school-aged son.

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