The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

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. 
For what seems like months now, Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom has been talking up one particular author: Franny Billingsley. Especially to praise her books The Folk Keeper (which was published almost a decade ago) and her newest novel, Chime. Needless to say, my curiosity was sparked and since I haven't been able to get ahold of Chime yet (but trust me, I will), I was able to track down an older copy of The Folk Keeper in the meantime.

Corinna is a survivor. Not only was she able to transform herself into a boy named Corin to escape the drudgery of life as a female orphan but taught herself to become a Folk Keeper in the process. As a Folk Keeper, Corinna is responsible for watching over the elusive and sometimes dangerous Folk that live underground. Relatively happy with the control she now has over her life, Corinna suddenly finds herself at a loss after she is whisked off to Marblehaugh Park, a wealthy family's seaside manor, where whispers of her own dark past await. Always Corinna has been able to appease the Folk, but in this wild new manor house by the ocean, she is staggered to discover how ineffectual her powers have become. That is, until Corinna discovers new, startling abilities of her own which begin to manifest themselves in response to new dangers.

The Folk Keeper is one of those uniquely atmospheric books that I am clueless as to how to classify; so I will simply say this book squarely resides in a class all its own. Written as a series of journal entries, Corinna details her dealings with the temperamental Folk - her successes and failures - and later, her dealings with the Lord Merton's family. At the outset of her Record, Corinna is sharp, vengeful, and truth be told, almost a little scary in her intensity. But her self-awareness is utterly compelling and the imagery of her new life living close to the sea... utterly stunning. This is perhaps where the author, Franny Billingsley shines - in the crafting of such a tangible, natural (albeit fictional) world where the sea crashes, storms rage, and the land swells with secrets. As the secrets surrounding Corinna's connection to Marblehaugh Park begin to unravel, I found myself wishing there was another 100 pages of Corinna's story to discover.

I've read that fans of Neil Gaiman would probably find themselves a home in Franny Billingsley's books and after finishing The Folk Keeper, I agree. Just enough darkness and excellent world-building based on folk tales to keep you flipping the pages. And occasionally even looking over your shoulder.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Green Bean Teen Queen review
Things Mean A Lot review
Wondrous Reads review

book source: purchased

Two Moon Princess Winner!

A big Thank You to all those who entered the Two Moon Princess giveaway. 

And the winner is..

Congrats and thank you again to Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban for stopping by.

Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

In a fictional world full of medieval castles and kings and knights, Andrea has never wanted to be the princess her parents expect her to become. So Andrea herself finds a way to make her dreams come true. One unexpected evening she finds a portal from her home world into modern California and her life is forever changed afterwards. To help her navigate the unfamiliar world of beaches and universities and parties, Andrea finds help in her Tio Ramiro who has been living a double life between the two worlds for many years. Much as she doesn't want to return home, Andrea does indeed find her way back to Xaren-Ra with her crush John in tow. But Andrea had no idea such a simple accident could stir up such trouble within her family -- even to the point of sparking a war.

I've always had a special spot for fish-out-of-water stories, where characters are thrust into unfamiliar circumstances and expected to survive on their wits alone so Two Moon Princess struck an immediate chord with me. And for most of the novel, Andrea is just that - a young girl trying to figure out where she belongs. One of Andrea's strengths is that she is extremely stubborn and refuses to give up on her dreams but that same trait also helped her to make some pretty poor choices. Often I found myself wanting to yell at her to simply open her eyes to the reality of her circumstances and the feelings of others around her.

Although I felt like Andrea's world of Xaren-Ra was brought to life with great detail, much of the specifics of Andrea's life were pretty much glossed over to the point of extreme vagueness. I never had a clue how old characters actually were and it seemed there were too many coincidences to really ever make the story truly believable. Two Moon Princess was a story that has lots of promise but just failed in the end to capture me like I was hoping.

series reading order:
~ Two Moon Princess
~ The King in the Stone

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Caught Between the Pages review
One Book At a Time review
Poisoned Rationality review
Ticket to Anywhere review

book source: The Teen Book Scene tour

RT Book Fair Recap

As I mentioned last week, two Saturdays ago I was lucky enough to attend the RT Book Fair down in Los Angeles. With over 300 authors in attendance, you can imagine what a madhouse it was, but it was MY kind of madhouse - stuffed full of booklovers and authors with everyone generally having a good time and lugging around sacks of books. Just check out the size of this place!

I was joined for the day by my good book friend Becca and we both got to meet many, many awesome authors - including:
Julie James (middle)- who, oh my, could seriously be any one of her characters. The woman is gorgeous and very, very nice. We both got our copies of Just the Sexiest Man Alive signed and went away with happy smiles.

Sarah Rees Brennan (right)- Frankly I was extra excited about meeting Sarah and may have wound up babbling like a fool just a little bit while talking with her. True to form, Sarah was more than willing to share spoilers for the upcoming The Demon's Surrender but since I couldn't bear to hear them, she did tell us the story about the time she tried to dye her hair pink like Mae, only to have it turn out a startling green. Also, she was extra generous with the swag and I even scored an alternate first chapter of The Demon's Lexicon with the author's commentary. Excellent reading.

Ann Aguirre - So happy to meet this prolific writer. Ann was even extra nice when I gushed like a goon over her latest YA novel, Enclave. Although I was a bit sad to not see any of her Jax books on display...

Simone Elkeles - So don't look at this picture too long, it's a wee bit fuzzy. Probably because Ms. Elkeles was super expressive and hardly sat still while we were talking. The best part about meeting Simone was hearing all about her trouble while writing Chain Reaction - the third Perfect Chemistry novel which follows the youngest Fuentes brother, Luis, who is..wait for it..a nice guy. Simone said she had no clue how to write a male character that wasn't a jerk who falls for the good girl. Needless to say, I'm even more intrigued now to see how she ended up pulling it off.

Patrick Rothfuss - I have no idea why I didn't get a picture of this awesome author, but for some reason I totally forgot. Probably because I was to busy being incredibly fangirlish at the moment [but you can see him complete with crazy hair here in a picture from the Dear Author's recap]. I adored his book The Name of the Wind and even purchased another copy there just so I could have him sign it since mine was currently on loan to a friend. He was a bit like a fish out of water among so many romance authors and even agreed that it was a little odd to be one of the few men without a rippling six-pack wandering around (courtesy of the Mr. Romance competition).

Linnea Sinclair (right) - As funny in person as she in her books. My favorite author moment? She kept pointing out all of her cats that were used on the covers of her novels.

I didn't get pictures of them, but I also met Kelley Armstrong and Claire Dunkle while catching glimpses of many, many others. All in all, it was a fantastic event - one I wish I had been able to attend more of. But here's the lovely stack of books I got signed:

Annnndd.... Here's the massive amount of swag I came home with. Now, I'm going to be giving some of this away later on when books are released, but I do have a bunch of romance author swag to pass on right now. So if anyone is interested in a bunch of romance bookmarks, teasers etc. drop me a line at mmillet at gmail dot com and I'll send it off to you. First email gets it folks. Taken!

Ann Aguirre Guest Post - Enclave Casting Call

As you guys probably noticed yesterday, I am a major fan of Ann Aguirre's newest YA dystopian novel, Enclave - which just so happened to have been released this week! Yay!

As part of her blog tour for Enclave, Ann has graciously agreed to stop by today to share a little more about her book by revealing who she thinks would make good casting choices for each character. As I am woefully out of the loop when it comes to current actors (blame it on too much Disneyfied TV courtesy of my 3 year old) - I was much impressed with her choices.  But I'll let you judge for yourself ;)

Take it away Ann!

Deuce -- Saoirse Ronan. She proved she has the chops in THE LOVELY BONES, and she's a little older and Deuce is 15 in book one, but the actress looks young, and it's pretty common for people to play younger than they are. In appearance, she's perfect.

Fade -- Paul Dano. He stole the show in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE without every speaking a word. He has exceptional presence and the right look. He -is- Fade. He radiates that brooding energy even in his photos.

Thimble -- Ellen Page. She has the right look, and it would be interesting to see what she did with the role.

Stone -- Chris Evans. He's a little old, but yum. Enough said.

Stalker -- Taylor Kitsch. He can definitely pull off the wild blend of honor and brutality that Stalker embodies. He'd just need to blond up a bit. Yum, Gambit! I know I don't need to say more.

Tegan -- Evanna Lynch. She has such an otherworldly charm that she would be wonderful in this role.

Longshot -- Jeff Bridges. If you saw TRUE GRIT, you don't need to ask why.

Momma Oaks -- Kathy Bates. Just because I loooove her. (You get a bigger part in Outpost!)

There are more characters like Silk, Copper, Twist, Whitewall, and the Wordkeeper, but I'm not going to cast them. Once you read the book, you can do that on your own, and then you'll have some thoughts on how well I did.


So what do you think? Personally, I think Ann's choice for Deuce and Fade are fabulous. And so is Evanna Lynch! Ooooh! And Kathy Bates! Okay, okay, I really love all these actors and am just nodding my head over how well they fit the characters in the book.

Thank you again Ann for dropping by today! Go here to read the first couple chapters of Enclave.

What do you think? Have you read Enclave yet? Which actors would you pick?

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

All her life Deuce has only wanted one thing: to become a revered Huntress within her underground community, the Enclave. Settlements like hers are the only existing communities left after the Topside world was destroyed and deemed uninhabitable years before. As a Huntress, Deuce has the responsibility of hunting food within the tunnels while fighting the lethal mutant Freaks who roam their depths. But Deuce's naming day becomes a bittersweet event when she realizes her hunting partner will be Fade, the perplexing young man who was brought to the Enclave after surviving on his own for years in the deadly tunnels.

Life within the Enclave is tightly controlled, with rules regarding almost every aspect of life. But Deuce has always believed that the Elder's strict regulations were essential for the continuing survival and protection of their small community. But once Deuce and Fade return to the Enclave with grim information about a local settlement destroyed by Freaks, a warning which is completely ignored by the Elders, does Deuce begin to question the complete devotion the Enclave seems to require.

With her trademark grittiness, Ann Aguirre has yet another winner on her hands, this time a young adult novel no less! Most dystopian novels are somewhat dark and bleak due to the nature of the genre itself but Enclave does not shy away from those harsh details whatsoever. From the very first few pages of Enclave, where Deuce is awarded her Huntress status in a ceremony that leaves her with six perfect (and painful) scars on her arms, I was immediately transported into her world where such extreme sacrifices were commonplace. Descriptions of her patrols with Fade were equally riveting (will they run into Freaks? will they find food? will they wind up forever lost in the tunnels?) - usually because I never knew what the enigmatic Fade would reveal or do next.

That isn't to say that Enclave is only a dark and harsh read. As Deuce and Fade come to rely more on each other and even eventually discover truths about the world as it really is, their relationship really takes off. As I've found in her Sirantha Jax series, Ann Aguirre is beyond talented at crafting complex, emotionally-wringing relationships and this one is no exception. There were some truly lovely scenes between the pair which only served to leave me, once again, waiting another whole year until the sequel, Outpost, will be released. Dang it.

Read the first two chapters here.

series reading order:
~ Enclave
~ Outpost (Fall 2012)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
All Things Urban Fantasy review
Between the Covers review
Presenting Lenore review
Sophistikatied Reviews
YA Highway review

book source: ARC from publisher

The Masked Retriever

For all of you librarians out there who secretly think of yourself as a super-hero. Here's your very own theme song.

Interview with Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban & Giveaway

Today I am happy to welcome author Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban, here to talk about her wonderful time-travel book Two Moon Princess. Since I won't be reviewing the novel here on the bloggy until later next week, here's a quick look at the story:
In this coming-of-age story set in a medieval kingdom, Andrea is a headstrong princess longing to be a knight who finds her way to modern-day California. But her accidental return to her family's kingdom and a disastrous romance brings war, along with her discovery of some dark family secrets. Readers will love this mix of traditional fantasy elements with unique twists and will identify with Andrea and her difficult choices between duty and desire. [via Goodreads]
Welcome Carmen! What sort of music do you listen to while you write (if any)? Does Two Moon Princess have a soundtrack?

I never listen to music when I write. I find it distracting.

When I was writing Two Moon Princess my children were little and I didn't have much time to write. But the characters and their story were always in my mind especially while I was driving. And I remembered listening to a tape (it was that long ago) called Kids Songs Sleepy Heads by Nancy Cassidy. It included children's songs and old Irish ballads. Among them Somos El Barco.

This song sets the mood perfectly for Two Moon Princess because two scenes between the main characters take place in a boat, and because the song is both in English and Spanish. And also because it is a love song and although Andrea doesn't know it, she is falling for her prisoner.

Andrea has the chance to live in two completely different worlds – modern California and the medieval-esque land of Xaren-Ra. If you had to choose between the two worlds which would you pick?

Modern California, no doubt about it.

Let’s pretend you get sucked through Andrea’s portal back into Xaren-Ra. What are the three things from modern life that you just wouldn’t be able to live without?

Electricity. Candles are very romantic but not very practical.
Running water. I can't do without a hot shower in the morning.
Computer. No internet connection? Are you kidding?

I hear a sequel to Two moon Princess, The King in the Stone, is in the works. Can you give us any hints about what you have in store for Andrea (and Don Julian)?

**Spoilers Alert**
The King in the Stone reprises the story just after Two Moon Princess ends. As the story starts, instead of the happy ever after they expected, Julian and Andrea realize their plans are incompatible. Andrea wants to stay in California. Julian, to return to Xaren-Ra as soon as he learns how to irrigate the dry lands of his kingdom.

To complicate things, after their argument, Andrea goes to Spain with John making Julian jealous. Then, before they can work out their differences, the full moon opens a door in the mountains and sends them into the past.

The King in the Stone is told from both Andrea and Julian's points of view so we'll see more of Julian this time.

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

Apart from Harry Potter? For if I had, I would be rich and could write anything I want and get my books published. And that is any writer's fantasy.

As for movies, I loved Pan's Labyrinth.

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

~ The Shamer's Chronicles
by Lene Kaaberball. The four books in this series are amazing and not well known. A shame (pun intended). You can read my review of The Shamer's War here; if interested.

~ The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Another great series.

~ The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell. He is the best in historical fiction.

~ Rosemary Sutcliff's novels. The Eagle of the Nine, Song for a Dark Queen among many others. Rosemary Sutcliff writes beautifully and her plots are clever, her characters historically accurate, no XXI century characters in period clothes.

Yay! Another Megan Whalen Turner fan! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by today Carmen. 

As part of the Two Moon Princess blog tour, I also have one copy of the book up for grabs. You know the drill, fill out the form below and I will pick a winner Monday, April 18th. US residents only please.

April RAK

Random Act of Kindness (or R.A.K.) is a monthly event hosted by Book Soulmates, in which everyone creates a wishlist and some outstandingly awesome blogger may buy or send you one of the books you want! Also, you get to make someone happy by sending a book or two from another blogger's wishlist. Basically win-win for everyone, right?

Here are the rules, taken from the sign-up post:
• Sign up each month you'd like to participate in.
• Show off your participation! Grab one of the buttons available :)
• Create a wishlist and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month.
{Post on your blog, Amazon, where ever as long as there's a link to it.}
• If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wishlist and contact that blogger for their address.
• At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K!
Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it with us :)

Lets's keep our International bloggers in mind and in our hearts.
Remember, there's always the Book Depository and they offer FREE shipping!

I'm joining in for the very first time this month, but phew! A fantastic concept, no? Now I'm off to visit the wishlists to see if I can make some other blogger happy too!

River Marked by Patricia Briggs

***Just so we are all on the same page here, this review contains unavoidable SPOILERS for the previous FIVE utterly amazing Mercy Thompson books. So if you haven't read those ones yet (and why the heck not?!?), consider yourself warned.

Change could absolutely be Mercy Thompson's middle name. Well, that and Trouble. But Mercy's hoping for a little bit of R&R from all her recent troubles now that she's finally snagged her man, local alpha werewolf Adam as the pair are headed off to spend a few days - alone - alongside the Columbia River. Shortly after their arrival however, Mercy lives up to her reputation when a rescue effort reveals the presence of a centuries-old evil now residing in the river's depths. Struggling to understand this newest threat, Mercy is startled to find help coming from her unknown father's family - a Native American heritage she has never felt a part of - but one she must now turn to if she and Adam wish to return home alive.

Words cannot even begin to describe how incredibly pleased I was with this latest installment from Patrica Briggs. Truly I have loved every single book in this outstanding series, but River Marked gave us readers something just a little bit different and I wholeheartedly approve. For starters, essentially 90% of River Marked is about Mercy and Adam, together, but separated from the pack and their own regular friends and responsibilities. Forcing the two to spend so much time together, uninterrupted, allowed for some decidedly intimate conversations. Adam reveled himself to be so much more than Mr. In-Control-Alpha, and whoa baby, that man is all heart. But his love isn't one sided either. Each is so overwhelmingly in love with the other, my little heart just melted as I watched them simply be together... joking, flirting, and yes, even fighting together.

River Marked also gives us a much better handle on Mercy and her Native American heritage, including the father she never knew. I for one found the translation of Indian myths into Mercy's world utterly fascinating and hope like hades some of the key players make return appearances in future novels (sorry for the vagueness here...I'm trying to keep some secrets). Together with her newly cemented status as Adam's mate, Mercy getting a better grip on her own personal genealogy added yet another layer to her already complicated yet vivid personality with satisfying results.

Each and every book in this series is absolutely outstanding, but I think River Marked will always hold a very, very permanent place on my keeper shelf. Primarily due to that final letter which left me with tears streaming down my face and shaking my head over the absolute rightness of Mercy and Adam together. Truly my friends, THAT is something worth waiting six books for.

series reading order:
~ Moon Called
~ Blood Bound
~ Iron Kissed
~ Bone Crossed
~ Silver Borne - my review
~ River Marked

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
All Things Urban Fantasy review
The Book Smugglers review
Fiction Vixen review
Smexy Books review
Tempting Persephone review

book source: my local library

I could start hyperventilating at any point

Big, BIG news people.

Due to this comfy rock I've been living under for some time (I think it's called pregnancy or something), I just found out about the RT Booklovers Convention to be held this weekend in Los Angeles. Since I just found out about it, I am not going to be able to attend any of the workshops, but I am going down Saturday for the ginormous Book Fair. Can you just see me bouncing up and down in my chair right now? Cause I totally am. There are literally TONS of authors that I simply cannot wait to meet and have them sign my books. Here's just a few of the people with pens I am dying to meet:

Sarah Rees Brennan (!!)
Julie James
Simone Elkeles
Holly Black
Ann Aguirre
Jeri Smith-Ready
Linnea Sinclair
Kelley Armstrong
Rachel Vincent...

This is actually one of my very first author events I've ever attended, so you can be sure I'll take lots of pictures and look appropriately wide-eyed and dazed in all of them. If any of you lovelies are also heading to the Book Fair on Saturday, please, please let me know! I'd love to meet up with some fellow book lovers and indulge in squealy fangirl moments together. Just look for the highly pregnant (4 weeks and counting people) blonde haired loon wandering around with an armload of books and a perma-smile.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Over the past couple of years I have seriously lucked out in the book department thanks to the awesome Book Blogger Holiday Swap and my secret santas. This past year, Jennifer of The Introverted Reader sent me a wonderful package full of goodies (edible and readable) including the much talked-about but never read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. A book which I didn't know much about, besides knowing good things were in store.

Bookish, introverted Frankie has never been much to talk about (as far as her male peers are concerned) until the summer before her sophomore year when she gains weight in all the right places and winds up catching the eye of her longtime crush and Mr. Popular himself, Matthew Livingston. Being the arm-candy of Alabaster Prep's most sought-after upperclassman draws Frankie into a entire new world of Matthew's bold and exciting friends. It's everything Frankie thought she wanted - until she decides she wants more. After a couple of canceled dates and flimsy excuses, the ever-observant and extremely crafty Frankie discovers that Matthew is part of a decades-old all boy secret society -- and Frankie wants in.

Frankie is the best kind of protagonist. She thinks. She analyzes. And then she makes rational decisions in her own trademark-Frankie way. But she's also a far cry from perfect. She makes mistakes and gets her heart broken but that just makes her all the more brilliant in my book. Also, she's hilarious. Her fascination with neglected positives a la P.G. Wodehouse like gruntled or turbed or maculate had me in stitches throughout. The secondary characters were also absolute stand-outs, especially the tongue-in-cheek hilarious phone conversations Frankie had with her clever sister Zada. If I had any complaints (which are very few) it would be the lackluster relationship development between Frankie and Matthew's best friend Alpha, who always came off as much more layered and complicated than Matthew ever was.

Aside from being an incredibly funny yet heart-wrenching story to read, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks also takes an intimate look at the roles females play at Alabaster Prep (and later on in society). As she's heard from her father (an Alabaster alum) her entire life, Alabaster Prep will enable Frankie to form connections and learn truths she'll use the rest of her life. Problem is, Frankie doesn't just want to be the pretty but smart, complacent girl who eventually marries some investment banker. She wants into the Good 'Ole Boys club herself where she can make those kind of lasting connections. Anyone reading this book - male or female - could not but take a moment to evaulate their own expectations for women in general. Genius.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Bookshelves of Doom review
The Book Smugglers review
Forever Young Adult review
Presenting Lenore review

book source: Book Blogger Holiday Swap - The Introverted Reader