See Michelle Laugh: Not a Fast Reader

Vintage illustrations with cheeky captions? My kind of humor.

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

To start things off, I will just go ahead and label Simone Elkeles' latest (and most outstanding) YA novel Rules of Attraction as grade A quality bookcrack. When I explained this phenomenon to the hubby he said: "so you liked it and now you're craving more, but it just doesn't have any nutritional value?" Exactly so.

Rules of Attraction starts off with a bang: readers of Perfect Chemistry will immediately recognize Carlos as Alex's hot-headed, thrill-seeking younger brother who is ready and eager to make his mark. After losing his job and falling into trouble with a gang in Mexico, Carlos suddenly finds himself in the white-bread, upper-class high school in Boulder, Colorado and it's the last place he ever wanted to be. But Carlos is ready to make the best of things: he's happy to spend his days flirting with co-eds while bunking with his brother at the university until a search at school reveals a stash of drugs in his locker. With the threat of juvie hanging over his head, Carlos is forced to attend an after-school program for at-risk youth and agrees - under duress - to move in with one of Alex's old college professors in hopes of helping him to 'straighten' out.

But wait. There's more. *rubs hands together deviously*

Kiara Westford loves her family, her best friend, the great outdoors, and most of all the vintage car she is restoring. But she doesn't exactly love her shy, good girl persona. For her senior year, she's decided to step out of her shell where step number one is to volunteer to show a new student around Flatiron High. Who turns out to be none other than too-cool-for-you Carlos Fuentes. The two mix about as well as oil and water; wherein Carlos leaves Kiara eternally frustrated and maybe both a bit amused after each exchange. But just when she's decided to wash her hands of this hunky bad-boy for good, Kiara discovers that her professor father has decided to invite Carlos to live with them after his most recent brush with the law. Oh boy.

Undeniably, Rules of Attraction was a page-turner. I am a sucker for the good girl/bad boy scenario and although I was nervous it wouldn't be played out as well as in Perfect Chemistry, I was in for a pleasant surprise with Carlos and Kiara. Their seemingly simple story could easily have come across as campy and predictable but nothing of the sort occurs - Simone Elkeles is extremely talented at what she does. Her dialogue is snappy and engaging, her pranks perfect, and her characters! Her characters are utterly unforgettable. Both are believable as teens from vastly different worlds, struggling to understand each other. Kiara especially is made of some tough stuff. Having been setup as a shy wallflower, she could have easily been dominated by Carlos' larger than life personality - but no, Kiara holds her own, giving as good as she gets in an inspiring, girl-power kinda way. And the attraction between these two? Sizzling. Scorching. Have a fan ready. Like I said, it's some good bookcrack.

And I just can't finish without mentioning this truly striking cover. It has got to be one of my most favorite of the year in fact. The barely contained movement and the stillness of passion are just so lovely. And kissing in the rain? Sa-woon baby. What makes it even more special is that it captures a real-live moment from the novel itself! How astounding (and refreshing) is that?!

series reading order (sorta):
~ Perfect Chemistry - my review
~ Rules of Attraction

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
Angieville review 
A Good Addiction review
La Femme Readers review
Sharon Loves Books and Cats review
The YA YA YAs review

book source: ARC provided by the publisher, Bloomsbury

Veronica Who?

Up until a couple of days ago that would have been my response anytime someone mentioned their love of the now off-air quirky television show Veronica Mars.
Somehow, perhaps due that comfy little rock I was living under, I managed to never even have caught a glimpse or peek of a single episode of the phenomenon that is known as Veronica Mars. But as almost any blogger can attest, it's an unusual week when I don't come across at least one reference to that iconic TV show, inevitably leaving me scratching my head or trying to puzzle through just what I was missing out on.

Until two days ago, that is.

On my usual blogsphere rounds, I stopped by GreenBeanTeenQueen's site for a visit when she happened to mention a Veronica Mars re-watch hosted by a couple of bloggers and she casually added you could watch the episodes online for free. Hmmm... Well, I figured, now I have no excuse. Since I was looking at a free evening, I settled in to at least watch the first episode to finally see for myself what all the fuss was about. Three hours and as many episodes later, I can honestly say that that is some seriously addictive awesome stuff. With a side of caustic sass that I could never resist.

So now I'm sorta cursing my little comfy rock for shielding me from this unusual teenage detective for so many years, but I've seen the light: I am proud to be the newest convert in what can only be described as a dedicated and devoted following. But that's all I can say about Veronica's acerbic yet intelligent wit for now - I've got some serious watching and catching up to do.

The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel

At a very young age my older brother handed me The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks and I fell in love. Up to that point I had been stuck with such light, kiddy books as The Baby Sitters Club or Encyclopedia Brown - never knowing about this whole other, magical world. But when I stepped into the pages that epic fantasy, I was completely and utterly lost. And although I no longer name Brooks as my favorite author, I still thank him (and his books) for introducing me to the magical world of epic fantasy. He unavoidably led me to Tolkien - for which I am forever grateful - and is actually one of the main reasons I have never been able to control myself when presented with any sort of sweeping fantasy saga since. Which is why I had high hopes and was immediately rewarded with a bit of bookish nostalgia upon opening Liane Merciel's epic fantasy debut The River Kings' Road - I was getting to step back into my favorite genre.

For generations the provinces of Oakharn and Langmyr have been at war. Separated by the river and years of death and mistrust, a tenuous peace has finally been established between the two regions - but all that changes when a small Oakharn town, Willowfield, and its inhabitants are decimated during the visit from a feudal lord, Sir Galefrid of Langmyr, visiting on a mission of peace. Only a knight in service to Sir Galefrid, Brys Tarnell, and Galefrid's infant son, and heir, Winston survive the tragedy of Willowfield. Understanding the need to take the baby to safety, Brys convinces a young, unmarried mother named Odosse to care for the baby on their perilous journey. But there are many who would see the child and its protectors dead - men who would go so far as to engage the help of the Thorns, a group of sadistic and foreign sorcerers more deadly than entire armies.

Those familiar with the epic fantasy genre will immediately fall into step with Liane Merciel's solid worldbuilding. All the time-honored types are present: the inns, mercenaries, archery contests, evil mages, knights, ladies and bandits aplenty. What sets it apart however is how this common backdrop is sprinkled throughout with a most impressive collection of decidedly human characters. Oh, don't mistake me: the bad guys are really quite nasty and there are a few truly 'good' guys, but even those characters are not sickeningly so. But what I found most interesting is what I like to call her 'gray' characters': men like Brys Tarnell, a moral-less sellsword by all accounts who again and again shows courage and cunning beyond an ordinary knighthood with a past full of intriguing secrets. And then there's the man who would be king, Leferic, Sir Galefrid's younger, bookish brother: upon first glance he is truly despicable but with closer inspection, you find his motives to be pure even if his methods questionable. And that's just scratching the surface: there are religious knights who cling desperately to their vows even when faced with heart-breaking challenges and simple townsfolk who fairly come to life in their variances. There was much to enjoy about The River Kings' Road - even if it was paced rather slowly, I understand the need for adequate plot development in something this large scale and I will eagerly anticipate Merciel's next novel of Ithelas. I'm all for reminding myself why I started reading fantasy books in the first place.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion: 

book source: provided by the publisher, Gallery Books

YA books that NEED to be made into movies

Recently I came across a post from the always funny Sarah Rees Brennan wherein she lists the YA books she would like to see turned into a movie. I am so with her on multiple choices - I think the steampunky Leviathan would be a smash hit as well as Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series - I very much want to see an unlikely hero with mountains of potential like Derek running around fighting evil. And of course it got me to thinking about those books I would dearly love to see brought to life too. Here's my short-list - many more could be on the list, but these are the ones I feel should already be in production.

Beauty by Robin McKinkley I am constantly telling people to read this book. It is by far my favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling, with some truly magical characters. Everyone loves a happily ever after and this book delivers on so many levels. It should be made in a movie immediately. Like right now.
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer Whoa, talk about your dystopian nightmare. I'm not sure how Hollywood would pull of this diary style narrative, but there is more than enough material to make a truly engrossing flick. And special effects? They would blow your mind.
Fire by Kristin Cashore I for one am dying to see the colorful variety of Cashore's monsters come to life. From Fire's hair, to the killer dragons, to all the little monster-creatures roaming around, Fire wold be visually astounding. And I want to watch Brigand striding purposefully around the Dells. That, I would pay good money to see.

Of course, one book that I cannot wait to see made into a movie is actually really and truly going to happen! Thanks to Angie, I heard that Meg Rosoff's dystopian book of awesome How I Live Now will be headed to the big screen. I will be waiting in line for that one.

What YA books would you like to see turned into a movie?

Something About You by Julie James

To say that Julie James has an astonishingly - and refreshingly - irreverent sense of humor would be a gross understatement. Just take James' dedication in Something About You for example (yes, I read those beginning pages; you're missing out if you don't):
To the jokers in the room next to me at the JW Marriott San Francisco -- As you kept me awake with your antics; this is the book I wrote in my head.
Since I opened Something About You knowing it was about a woman who inadvertently winds up next door to an enthusiastically *vocal* couple at a hotel, I may have choked back a laugh or two. And then quickly turned the pages to get started.

U.S. District Attorney Cameron Lynde has earned a vacation. Even if said vacation happens to take place at a swanky hotel mere miles from her home for a little R&R, so much the better. So it might be a gross understatement to say that she was mildly displeased when the couple next door began to engage in some seriously verbal, hot-and-heavy nighttime activities at two in the morning while she was trying for some deserved rest. After calling the hotel desk to complain, Cameron peeks out her door to watch the culprits make the walk of shame but only glimpses a man making his solitary way out. Alone. Fully expecting to finally fall blissfully asleep, Cameron discovers her night is about to get a little bit worse when the room next door winds up becoming a crime scene and the lead investigator is none other than her old nemesis FBI Agent Jack Pallas. AKA Agent Hottie. Cameron and Jack share what I will lightly call 'an unpleasant bit of professional history' wherein Jack made some choice comments about Cameron's ability as a lawyer and in the fallout, was transferred to the Middle of Nowhere. Finally back in the big city and on his first assignment, Jack is not remotely pleased to discover that Cameron is his only eye (err...ear) witness in such an important case.

Upon finishing Something About You, I gave a little sigh. It was a happy sigh because I had such fun with Cameron and Jack - highly loyal and competent people both. Their constant circling was non-stop amusing and of course, Julie James had to go and throw in some truly dynamic secondary characters who were experts at keeping the comedy rolling. That said (*deep breath*), for some strange reason I found Something About You to be lacking in what I call the Unique Sparkle Department (I'm trademarking that BTW) which was oh so present in James' previous two books. One reason could be that the novel lies in the 'romantic suspense' genre: there is an obvious villain, whom Jack and Cameron spend a fair amount of time simply trying to keep her safe from. Which in the end doesn't allow for as much time for their devilishly witty exchanges, darn it.

James' element of humor is what had me previously stepping out of my genre comfort zone to pick up her first two romance novels, Practice Makes Perfect and Just the Sexiest Man Alive in the first place. Thanks to recommendations from The Book Smugglers and Angie, I found both to be laugh-out-loud, is-it-possible-to-die-from-giggling-so-much? funny. And also reports that the 'romance' side of the novels was more left to the imagination than not. I'm one of those readers who like to be left wondering about some things... Which is not to say Something About You wasn't a very good book. It was. It just wasn't exceptionally good - but I will still tell people to read it. In fact, I'm telling you right now: Go Read Something About You. Anytime you get me laughing out loud with your dedication alone Ms. James, I'm going to recommend your book.

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Smugglers review
Dear Author review
Janicu's Book Blog review
Smart Bitches Trashy Books review
Tempting Persephone review

book source: my local library

Interview with Julia Hoban

Today I am pleased to host the lovely author of Willow, Julia Hoban. After tearing through Willow's poignant story in record time, I found myself thinking about it for days (and days) afterwards, resulting in a number of questions. Happily, Julia was kind enough to satisfy my lingering curiosity with some truly insightful answers and I thought I'd share those with you today!


Welcome Julia! Okay, so both Willow’s parents were professors of Anthropology while Guy and Willow herself are no slackers when it comes to the subject. Where did you come up with all the background information for such sites/cultures? Are you a fan yourself or did you just do mountains of research?

That’s the only part of the book I didn’t research! I had to take an Anthropology class in college as a humanities requirement, and I’m sorry to say that it was tremendously boring! I remember one particularly warm day when the windows were closed and the heating was going full blast, I could barely keep my eyes open. Then all of a sudden the Professor said something about the first mirrors, and I sat bolt upright. I was wide awake in an instant, completely fascinated, I had never thought about the origin of mirrors before, but what an idea! I knew right then that I had to write about that somewhere, and when I started Willow, I decided it would be something Willow would talk about.

One of the other anthropological references in Willow is to Tristes Tropiques, an absolutely remarkable book that she and Guy discuss, in fact, I’d say they start to fall in love the minute they start to talk about TT. But as much as I love TT, it took me quite a while to decide to use that as the work that would be the bond between them. I assumed that most anthropology texts would not be familiar to my readers, but I wanted to refer to a book that would resonate in some way. Now Tristes Tropiques is the only book (to the best of my knowledge) that has never had its title changed for translation. The title is Tristes Tropiques in French, and when it was originally published in this country, that title was kept. It was thought to be too evocative, too provocative, to change. The literal translation “Sad Tropics” just doesn’t have the same melancholy beauty. I have to say I agree with the publishers, and even if you’ve never heard of the book, and even if you’ve never had more than high school French, I believe the title does have a certain resonance, that it does conjure up a certain mood.

I have to admit, I was one of those readers who had never heard about Tristes Tropiques. But now I find I have this sudden desire to go track it down... 

While we're on the subject, by any chance is Willow's copy of Bulfinch's Mythology a slight nod to that classic text Mythology by Edith Hamilton? I have a myriad of high school and college memories from that book alone.

It’s funny that you should ask that! The entire time I was working on Willow I kept going back and forth between the Bulfinch and the Hamilton! I went with the Bulfinch in the end for two reasons: 1) I’m fortunate enough to have a rather beautiful edition on my shelf, and 2) although I also have memories of Edith Hamilton from high school, Bulfinch was my introduction to the Greek myths.

What was your inspiration for writing Willow in the first place? And was it always meant to be a love story?

Well, I’ve said this many times, so I hope that if your readers have seen other interviews with me, they’ll be kind and put up with a familiar answer. I wanted to write a book for all of us with self destructive urges, a book that would take one person from a place of self harm to a place of healing, and in doing so possibly make people question their own damaging behaviors. I chose to make Willow a cutter because it is a very dramatic and obvious form of self injury, but it could just as easily have been a book about overeating or doing drugs, or even something as innocent as watching too much television. You may be surprised to hear this, but when I was doing the research for Willow, I found that many of the treatment centers that dealt with cutting also dealt with internet addiction. My point is that even seemingly acceptable behaviors can be less than healthy. As for it always being a love story? Absolutely!! In fact at one point it had the working title: Willow: A Love Story, Sort Of …. That title didn’t last very long though!

As a YA author do you feel that you have a responsibility to write about such powerful – and highly sensitive - issues such as cutting or anorexia or how to deal with profound grief?

Well, no, I think that YA authors, all authors should write about whatever they choose to. However, I think when a YA author does write about certain subjects, then they do have a responsibility to deal with them in ways that are not incumbent on authors in other genres. Let’s talk about the sex in Willow for instance. If I had been writing a sex scene in an adult novel, I wouldn’t have felt the need to explicitly refer to birth control -- as I did in Willow. I would sooner cut off my arm than write a scene where two teens didn’t practice safe sex, unless that was the entire point of the scene, unless I was specifically writing to show the consequences of not practicing safe sex. I had quite a heated argument with another YA author about this by the way, they were in complete disagreement with me.

Were there any particular scenes that were especially painful for you to write? How did you, as an author, go about working through such traumatic moments in Willow’s story?

There was a scene that was tremendously difficult for me to write, and you may be surprised to hear what that scene was. I didn’t have any problem with the cutting scenes, or the more graphic parts of the novel, but the scene where Willow finally let’s go and starts to genuinely grieve? That was enormously hard for me. As a writer, as cliché as it sounds, the only way out is through, you just have to keep going and come out on the other side, only then can you take a look at what you’ve written and see if it holds up. It’s fatal to edit in the middle of the process.

Is there a particular book (or movie for that matter) you wish you had written?

There are a million movies and books I’d wish I’d written! I’ll just mention a few here: Sunset Boulevard, the best film dialogue in history, rent it immediately! Amadeus, the play NOT the movie, Tess of the D’urbervilles, Enoch Soames, a short story by Max Beerbohm, The Glass Menagerie, The Sound and the Fury --- I could die happy if I’d written that. One Hundred Years of Solitude, that’s another one I’d sell my soul to have written… You really don’t want to get me started on this, because I could go on forever!

What books do you find yourself recommending over and over and over again?

The Railway Children is something I recommend to everyone, Tess, The Glass Menagerie…. Interestingly enough, although I think The Sound and the Fury is one of the greatest books ever written, I don’t find myself recommending it that often, although a masterpiece, it’s definitely not the right read for everyone.

Isn't that the truth?! I haven't picked up The Sound and the Fury after it gave me no end of headaches in high school, but I'm sure I'd have a much better experience reading it now.

So many books come out each year, but are there any in particular that you are really looking forward to reading? 

Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson, it’s the sequel to The Explosionist, and comes out in November.

Are you currently working on another project? Can you tell us anything about it? Please?

I am working on another project, and I’m afraid that I have to give the same stock answer that I’ve given other interviewers, I’m WAY too superstitious to talk about it until it’s finished. However, I can add something a little new this time --- I’m 75% done, and will be able to talk about it soon! I hope you’ll invite me back to discuss it!

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by today Julia. It was a pleasure to have you!

Well, thank you for having me! It’s a real privilege to be able to discuss my work, and I’m honored that you were interested in hearing more about the thoughts and processes that went into writing Willow.


A quick heads-up and some mighty good news for all you UK readers: Just this month, Willow was re-released in the UK complete with a shiny new cover and title: Scarred. Trust me when I say it's one you won't want to miss!

Willow by Julia Hoban

I've said it before, but I'm not a huge fan of contemporary YA books. For some reason I find many books in this genre to be trite and surprisingly 'dumbed down' for its intended audience. Teens are not stupid. On the contrary, they always know when they are being preached at or when a story has been slapped together.

Thankfully, there are a select few contemporary YA novels that I do find myself recommending over and over again. These are the startling, unexpected finds that speak to the reader on a variety of issues and levels. Books that contain teens experiencing such honesty of emotion that I can't help but be immediately drawn to. There's not many on that elite list, but today I'd like to add another book to it.

Willow doesn't cut because she is stressed about school. She doesn't cut herself because she's worried about being too fat, too tall, too... too... Willow is a cutter because she was the driver in a disastrous car accident that killed her anthropology professor parents seven months ago. Hiding behind a wall of grief and guilt that threatens to overtake her constantly, Willow now finds refuge in the pain she causes herself while effectively cutting off the entire world outside. She's become a shadow of her former happy self. One who merely floats through school, has no friends, and who cannot even hold a semi-normal conversation with her older brother David who she now lives with. But then she meets Guy while working at the university library and everything is...different. Unlike anyone Willow has ever met, Guy is not only interested in her beloved yet now forgotten subject of anthropology but he is interested in her. And her scars.

I'll go ahead and start by saying that Willow was in no way an easy read. Willow's story is stark and unflinchingly honest in every respect. But at the same time, I found it to be gentle, private, and highly personal. Willow was actually quite beautiful in its starkness. What has to be the genius of Julia Hoban's startling narrative is the lack of sensationalism ascribed to Willow's cutting disorder. Throughout the entire novel, I never once felt like a voyeur ogling a wreck on the side of the road or like I was reading a how-to handbook. Willow's quiet and comfortably open conversations with Guy revealed such a profound, contained grief that I was helpless to do anything but silently urge her forward. Because ultimately, Willow is not a book about cutting. It's a book about relationships and the healing capabilities of love. It's a fabulous read and one I've already started to recommend.

Be sure to check back Friday for a special interview with the marvy author of Willow, Julia Hoban!!

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
Angieville review 
Book Addiction review
Persnickety Snark review
Presenting Lenore review & interview
The Story Siren review
yaReads review

book source: provided by the publicist

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Two Christmases ago, my co-worker gave me a book. No surprise there, but the particular book she presented me with was unlike anything I had ever come across before. The book was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and the genre was magical realism. As soon as I started in, I was lost. I was in love. Upon sinking into the story, I found myself awash in mouth-watering food, complicated yet beautiful relationships, and surrounded by intriguing people with a little touch of magic. Did I mention that the book was set in the south? Yes. Perfection. So it should come as no surprise when I say I was somewhat eagerly anticipating Allen's newest release The Girl Who Chased the Moon. I didn't know much about it, except that it would be centered on BBQ and set in a small North Carolina town. But knowing who the author was, I knew it was gonna be good. I really didn't need much more incentive than that. 

Following the death of her beloved, activist mother Dulcie, Emily Benedict is sent to live with the grandfather she never knew she had in the small town of Mullaby, NC. It's hard enough to find your place as a teen in a new town without discovering that your grandfather is actually a shy, reclusive giant, and that your seemingly perfect mother was really quite cruel and openly disliked as a teenager. Needless to say Emily is feeling a little lost and sorely overwhelmed when she meets the strange and decidedly attractive Win Coffey whose cryptic references to their 'history' leave Emily rather curious about the past and determined to uncover the secrets surrounding her mother.

Living next door to Emily is Julia Winterson - baker extraordinaire and a woman who is counting the days until she can escape Mullaby. Having experienced a fairly troubled and turbulent youth in Mullaby herself, Julia is quick to welcome Emily and is one of the few who don't hold her mother's actions against her. Emily is sure there is something special about Julia - hoping she will be able to lend some understanding to her mother's history - and their first meeting only confirms it: 
Julia laughed. It was a great laugh, and hearing it was like stepping into a spot of sunshine. That she came bearing cake seemed oddly fitting. It was like she was made of cake, light and pretty and decorated on the outside -- with her sweet laugh and pink streak to her hair -- but it was anyone's guess what was on the inside. Emily suspected it might be dark. 
Don't you want to meet this woman? I know I do.

Once again Sarah Addison Allen has ensnared me with her airy and enchanting storytelling. Emily was sweet and endearing in her curious, youthful confusion but I absolutely adored Julia. Adored. Admired. Aime-d. I want to spend the day baking with her or just follow her around in the hope that some of her loveliness would magically rub off on me. Her story alone is too beautiful for words and had me constantly gasping with delight. What's more, the town of Mullaby itself was also practically fit to bursting with quirky and distinct characters - all southern and all steeped in tradition and BBQ. How could you not love a place where people can see trails of butter and sugar in the air, ghost lights dancing in the trees, and wallpaper that changes according to your mood? Not to mention the constant references to Julia's delectable cakes that just might have sent me racing to the kitchen. I just knew it was gonna be good. And it was.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Connection review
Cafe of Dreams review

book source: provided by the publisher, Bantam Books

March Madness

Well, not that March Madness.

But there are several bookish competitions going down in the month of March in honor of that time honored championship.

The School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Book - first round starts March 15th with what looks to be a hilarious match-up of various kids books battling it out for top honors. I don't know where I first heard about this one, but anytime I get to do a bracket I'm happy as a clam.

Nerds Heart YA - A tourney for underrepresented YA novels and accepting nominations through March 31. The guidelines? 
1.    Title can have no more than 15 reviews published throughout the book blogosphere
2.    Title must be either authored by or include a character within the following category:
  • Person(s) of Color (POC)
  • GLBT
  • Disability/Mental Illness
  • Religious Lifestyle
  • Lower Socioeconomic Status
3.   All titles must have been published between January 1 – December 31, 2009
Wow. I am seriously looking forward to this short-list.


DA BWAHA 2010 - How do you say man titty in French? You can bet SB Sarah and SB Wendy know. And that is why these two hilarious maidens have once again (for the third year running!) set the awsomeness that is DA BWAHA in motion. Go, fill out a bracket, spread the word and maybe even win a little something. It's all fun and games folks.

March Cookie a la Sarah Rees Brennan

Have you been keeping up with Sarah Rees Brennan's blog lately?


Well you should.

Why, you ask?

Well, for little cookies like this one of course...

Out and About

For your viewing pleasure, here are a couple of red-hot bookish links I've come across lately. Enjoy!

~ The Book Smugglers have kicked off their Steampunk Week with some very fun things. And like everything else those two marvy girls do, it's in-depth and just frickin' hilarious. New to the whole Steampunk craze? Then this is the event for you my friend. Strap on some goggles and see what all the fuss is about.
~ As long as we're on the on the subject, take a look at this new cover for Gail Carriger's third Alexia Tarabotti novel titled Blameless. Soulless was just pure Victorian-Vampire fun and I am still anticipating reading Changeless, but for now, I'm in serious love with this wine-colored, shadowy London.

~ Leave it to Katiebabs at Babbling About Books, and More! to write one of the best posts on The Respect Entitled Between a Reader and an Author in the wake of some less than professional conduct on a particular author's part. It's a thinker.

~ And just because I have many similar feelings on the matter, be sure not to miss out on Adele's - that would be the Persnickety Snark to you - very succinctly put thoughts on Virtual Book Tours. Yes and yes.

Tap & Gown by Diana Peterfreund

I hereby confess: It has taken me waaaay too long to finally read this book.

Amy and the Diggers have been through some truly rough spots in the past year. When her previous class decided to include girls in their age-old Boys Only club, they knew it was gonna be a bumpy road, but I don't think they ever imagined the sheer chaos in store. So you can imagine my glee when I (finally) picked up Tap & Gown - I never know what's going to happen next with Amy but heavens above, I completely trust Diana Peterfreund to get me there.

Graduation is looming hard and fast for Ivy Leaguer Amy Haskell and unfortunately for her, whereas most of her fellow Rose & Grave brothers have already nailed down their education/career plans, Amy's future couldn't be more hazy. As in trying to find a ray of sunshine in a hurricane hazy. Though of course our heroine doesn't necessarily have time to sit around and worry about what's in store seeing as she still has to submit one senior thesis and help choose the next class of Diggers. Both of which seem a lot easier to accomplish on paper. On top of her academic and society worries, Amy is trying to figure out just where her newly-established (yet truly goofy-grin inspiring) relationship with a certain fella will go. Not to mention that's she's stressed and still a little traumatized from the events of Spring Break (having someone try to kidnap you will do that to a girl), but Amy is determined to continue full steam ahead in true Bugaboo fashion. Though of course no Digger event or ceremony can ever be complete without a healthy dose of secrets, drama, and sometimes even a hint of why should Tap night be any different?

Finishing off this last book in Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl series was a touch bittersweet. Fully awesome and everything and nothing I expected, but bittersweet none the less. I've been meaning to finish this series for months now and then Angie posted such a slpendiferous account of the books during Literary Love that I finally broke down, bought the thing, read it and then proceeded to pass it on to everyone I know. Knowing of course, that it was my last glimpse at Amy and her time at Eli.

Even though I did miss the less-society-centric drama of Rites of Spring (Break), I could not help but sink right back into Amy and the Drama Diggers. It must go without saying that the most anticipated part of this novel was Amy's time with the men-folk. Because, frankly, Diana Peterfreund has done such a bang up job of making me love, nay adore, each and every one of Amy's love interests in their time. First there was Brandon - the uber-smart, yet totally chill boy-next-door that I couldn't stop sighing over. Then came George Harrison Prescott with his sexy smile and bad boy persona: let's just go ahead and say that George is too delicious. And finally we moved onto Poe... *sigh* Poe of the lifesavers, Poe who signs his notes 'Pajamie,' and Poe who has more loyalty in his little finger than anyone in the entire Rose & Grave society combined. sigh And he has nice shoulders. I love the man. I do.

Another little reason I wholeheartedly recommend this series is because Diana Peterfreund is forever dropping little references to things that happened in the previous books. Things that usually meant a great deal when they initally happened, but then will only get a slight mention later on (none of this going back and explaining in full detail why X is so dang important stuff). So unless you are privileged enough to know the whole story,  you would miss out on all that added depth and meaning to many a scene. I'm a big fan of when authors do that. It makes me feel like I'm part of a secret club and I want to run around and ask everyone "did you notice this teeny-tiny part? did ya?" to see if they too caught on. Genius.

I hereby confess: I didn't want it to end.

series reading order:
~ Secret Society Girl - my review
~ Under the Rose - my review
~ Rites of Spring (Break) - my review
~ Tap & Gown

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review 
Me & My Books review 
Not Enough Bookshelves review
Reading and Ruminations review

book source: purchased

Cover Alert: Bright Young Things

Anna Godbersen must have some sort of devious pact with the devil in order to snag the most dazzling covers for her books. Srsly. Those ginormously beautiful dresses from The Luxe series? Sumptuously superb. And now this shiny piece of 1920s perfection will ensure that I pick up her latest, Bright Young Things, as soon as I possibly can - even if that means I have to wait until October for its release...

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

After divorcing her childhood sweetheart and trying to raise a somewhat precocious daughter about to enter that feared stage known as “teenager” Charlie Madigan has had a rough year. At work, she’s the tough Atlanta cop, ready to service Justice no matter who (or what) stands in her way. Especially after she technically died a year ago. After she was brought back, Charlie has been experiencing strange symptoms – headaches, nightmares, and a smattering magical powers that keep popping up that Charlie can’t even begin to figure out. Charlie’s about to be hit with her toughest case yet after a string of individuals surface who have been dosed with an off-world potent drug, leaving users in a coma-like state and on the verge of death without continued use. As Charlie digs deeper, she finds not only herself but her family caught up in the strange politics and danger of the mysterious off-world societies of Elysia and Charybdon, with corruption extending all the way to the top.

The Better Part of Darkness is another one of those new Urban Fantasy novels that has been generating a lot of buzz. I’m a sucker for a tough heroine and Charlie Madigan seemed to fit the bill nicely. Charlie is tough, believable as a single-mom stretched too thin with the added stress of magic wrecking havoc with her life. I quickly became intrigued with Charlie's story despite the fact that her narrative could have used a little bit more editing to cut out about 100 pages of unnecessary descriptions and rambling IMO. Overall The Better Part of Darkness has a lot of good things going for it. Kelly Gay's Atlanta is rock solid in terms of world building - a city full of excitement with a whiff of danger and magic around every corner. The inclusion of the parallel worlds of Elysia and Charybdon has also given Ms. Gay countless options since both worlds were left mainly a mystery. Not to mention the great set-up of relationships between Charlie, her sister, her partner and countless other folks she meets in her unique line of work.

Although I am not one to complain about my home-town getting some deserved attention, what is up with the recent trend of setting every new UF series in a magic-saturated Atlanta? I've read no less than three new books recently that call Hotlanta home, which is not really a problem but something of a strange coincidence. Thankfully Atlanta is so diverse that the stories don't cross over much, but it's still a bit of a coincidence - maybe Atlanta is kind of like the new New York for dark urban fantasies.
And please isn't this cover for the next Charlie Madigan novel The Darkest Edge of Dawn simply abso-frickin-perfect? Edgy, dynamic: I love it. Just check out those expressive eyebrows! And the smoking gun! And the shattered glass! I need this one for the cover alone.

series reading order:
~ The Better Part of Darkness
~ The Darkest Edge of Dawn (August 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Discriminating Fangirl review
Literary Escapism review
Magical Musings review
Night Owl Reviews
Tempting Persephone review 

book source: my local library

The Sweetness of Books

Wouldn't you just love to pick this up from a bakery? 
Kudos to the devilishly clever decorator who crafted these scrumptious looking bookish cupcakes for a book club order. Each tasty treat came with it's own classic title crafted in fondant and are frankly just too darn cute to eat! The selling point in this order however has to be the fantastic vintage book-box the cupcakes were delivered in.  
I wonder if their book club is accepting new members?

Thanks again to Chachic over at Random Ramblings for the delicious link!

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Let me go ahead and say something first: I’ve never before read a book by Sarah Dessen. Although I know she has what can only be described as a ‘cult following’ I somehow have completely by-passed any of her novels. It wasn’t even really a conscious decision on my part – I simply never picked one up; partly because I have somewhat high standards for contemporary YA novels (which usually never measure up), and partly because I am a slacker. That said, she’s been on my radar for quite a bit now and since I knew her books mainly dealt with relationships, I thought it might be fun to try one out during February for Literary Love. Alas, that plan did not work out, but when a copy of The Truth About Forever literally fell into my lap (thank you library gods!), I dived right in but honestly, not really expecting too much.

In the year and a half since Macy’s father has passed away, she’s figured out precisely when someone is about to give her The Look.  The Look happens after someone realizes she is that girl who lost her dad horribly, who will then go on to pat her on the arm sympathetically and say “I’m sorry” in a pitying tone. Macy has come to detest the Look. Like her mother Macy has gone out of her way to avoid it by not only always appearing perfectly fine, just fine but in complete control of every detail in her life. She’s attached herself to the perfect boyfriend, Mr. Model teen Jason, and plans to spend her summer working at the Library Information Desk (which will look exceedingly good on college applications) while said boyfriend heads off to a summer camp for the super-smart.

A few days at the information desk leave Macy feeling inadequate and scared of the other plastic-perfect girls who work there, she agrees to work for a small catering company called Wish on the side where she meets the excessively pregnant and eternally-stressed Delia, Kristy who takes partying and fashion as seriously as a brain tumor, the apocalypse-obsessed Bert, Monotone Monica, and the sa-woon worthy Wes who knows exactly how it feels to lose a loved one. In the midst of constant catering chaos, Macy finds herself loosening, exploring truth and learning that some things just happen without any planning at all. 

After finishing The Truth About Forever I can see why Sarah Dessen is such a beloved author. Although quite long, Macy’s story was intensely readable with each unique character voice effortlessly shining through. It becomes very obvious from the beginning that Dessen aced Relationships 101 in writers boot-camp (they don’t have that? Well, they should). Not one character, particularly Macy, was rushed into developing too quickly or too soon – everyone peaked at just the right time. This coupled with a knack for building emotional tension, went a long ways in producing some highly believable and often downright poignant scenes. Macy in her frazzled quest for perfection was adorable and even periodically heart-wrenching and her late-night confessions with Wes were truly something special. Unlike many other novels, The Truth About Forever had this whole quiet-yet-stable-yet-everything-is-about-to-EXPLODE vibe that I could easily sink into. To be perfectly honest, I think I enjoyed this book because I've been in a bit of a slump of late and really needed something light with an obvious happily ever after. And I must admit that after reading The Truth About Forever, I’m more than ready to go pick up Dessen's entire backlist. Like right now.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Book Addiction review
Chicklish review
Dear Author review
Out of the Blue Book Reviews

book source: my local library