waiting on wednesday (40)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 | | 11 comments
I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

There are many subgenres that I feel I need more grounding in – if I had limitless time I’d do a lot more adult sci-fi reading, find stellar urban fantasy, and really go back to the ‘classics’ of speculative fiction to see what I missed when I was busy working my way through the college-bound recommended reading list in my high school years.  One genre I feel some guilt about but might actually make some headway in?  YA sci-fi.  I’ve already read some of the foundation titles, and if I dive in, I could ‘keep up.’  The new releases in the genre are too tempting to pass by, in any case.  Cori McCarthy’s The Color of Rain sounds fascinating.  It will be released on May 14, 2013 by Running Press.

the color of rain by cori mccarthy book cover
If there is one thing that seventeen-year-old Rain knows and knows well, it is survival. Caring for her little brother, Walker, who is "Touched," and losing the rest of her family to the same disease, Rain has long had to fend for herself on the bleak, dangerous streets of Earth City. When she looks to the stars, Rain sees escape and the only possible cure for Walker. And when a darkly handsome and mysterious captain named Johnny offers her passage to the Edge, Rain immediately boards his spaceship. Her only price: her "willingness." 

The Void cloaks many secrets, and Rain quickly discovers that Johnny's ship serves as host for an underground slave trade for the Touched...and a prostitution ring for Johnny's girls. With hair as red as the bracelet that indicates her status on the ship, the feeling of being a marked target is not helpful in Rain's quest to escape. Even worse, Rain is unsure if she will be able to pay the costs of love, family, hope, and self-preservation. 

With intergalactic twists and turns, Cori M. McCarthy's debut space thriller exists in an orbit of its own.

What books are you waiting on?

retro friday – house of many ways

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville that focuses on reviewing books from the past. These can be old favorites, under-the-radar treasures that deserve more attention, woefully out-of-print books, and so on. Everyone is welcome to participate!

retro friday

I suppose that from now on, all of Diana Wynne Jones’ books will be ‘retro.’ It makes me sad (nothing new from her ever again!), but it also, oddly, comforts me.  There’s a finite backlist to work my way through.  I imagine that her books will become something like family furniture: easy, well-worn pieces that have chicken soup-like healing abilities upon a reread.  It’s been a rather rough week in Cecelia Bedelia land, so I borrowed an ebook copy of House of Many Ways from my library and sat down to read my way into DWJ-induced happiness.

house of many ways by diana wynne jones book cover
When Charmain Baker agreed to look after her great-uncle's house, she thought she was getting blissful, parent-free time to read. She didn't realize that the house bent space and time, and she did not expect to become responsible for a stray dog and a muddled young apprentice wizard. Now, somehow, she's been targeted by a terrifying creature called a lubbock, too, and become central to the king's urgent search for the fabled Elfgift that will save the country.

The king is so desperate to find the Elfgift, he's called in an intimidating sorceress named Sophie to help. And where Sophie is, the great Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer won't be far behind. How did respectable Charmain end up in such a mess, and how will she get herself out of it?

House of Many Ways was one of my ‘Best Books of 2009,’ in my first year with a blog.  I don’t remember much about that reading, except that I was happy to be among friends (Sophie! Howl! from Howl’s Moving Castle), and thinking that the house itself was the best thing about the book.  After this week’s reread, I can confirm that the story is a good one, but sometime in the intervening years my perception and tastes have changed. 

One of the interesting things about House of Many Ways is that despite being called a sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, it is more like a companion book.  It will be understandable even if you haven’t read Howl; it is not a continuation of that story. 

Instead, it is Charmain Baker’s story, and as a heroine she is younger, more na├»ve, and more passive than Sophie (and Sophie herself didn't start out as a very adventurous sort of person, you'll remember).  This isn’t to say that she’s colorless and drab – oh no!  But Charmain Baker seems to have an immense inertia, pulling her always toward a book and away from action. It feels at points as if the adventure is happening to Charmain, rather than the other way ‘round.  For all that, she is easily identifiable to a lifelong reader: as a mirror of self.  Is there anything more fabulous than a book?  Possibly, but it’s always a great comfort to go back to one eventually, no matter how fantastic your doings.

Another intriguing feature of this story is the manner in which characters are introduced.  They trickle one by one into the narrative, and then toward the middle-to-end, there’s a large spurt, including my new favorite, the Witch of Montalbino.  The book reads as if it were a puzzle being put together very carefully, with a minimum of fuss.  This reader was a bit disconcerted to see the edges of certain pieces – it was a bit like a peek backstage when you have nothing to do with the play.

While not a sequel in a strict sense of the word, House of Many Ways is a satisfying companion book for those who loved Sophie and Howl and Calcifer and wanted a little more time with them.  There’s nothing objectionable, or sad, or really brilliant about it, but it is a comfortable, well-written story.  As such, it is worth the read.

Recommended for: fans of Howl’s Moving Castle, those who enjoy classic middle grade fantasy, and anyone with a soft spot for magic, dogs, and bookworms.

the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there

When you come across a book that is wise, true, good, and is also entertaining and wild, you have found a treasure (and some would say, a friend for life).  These sorts of books seemed to be all over the place in childhood, but as soon as the reader is of age to actively search them out, they go missing.  We could spend years speculating about the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ – are children’s books better?  Do adults lack time and motivation to discover that wonder? But that is not the point.  The point, dear friends, is to share just such a find, that you may enjoy it too.

the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there book coverSeptember has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back. 

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem…

Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books are rare treasures.  With the first, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, I was gobbled up by the magic and imagination and feeling evoked by the story.  With this second book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, I was more alive to its nuances, to the changes and differences between it the first adventure, and fascinated by new characters and new world.

September has finally returned to Fairyland.  After a year of hoping and wishing and being watchful every day of the week (except Sundays), she is back.  However, all isn’t quite what it was when she left – Fairyland has morphed and changed and dear friends are far away.  In addition to that, September is growing up and (as the narrator remarks) growing a heart, and this makes things more complicated than ever.  However, her mission is clear: she must travel to Fairyland-Below and stop the shadow exodus.  September is joined on her mission by a new cast of characters, and the adventures she has will not only challenge everything she holds dear, but teach her to think slantwise and sideways as well.

What was absolutely enchanting about the first Fairyland book? Answer: the world and its tone.  Valente’s vision of Fairyland is unique and fanciful and turns traditional tales halfway around while adding a dollop of whipped cream to the top for good measure.  Combine that setting with a witty, kind and knowing narrator, and the story seems meant to leap into your heart.  In this second installment none of the charm is lost, but there is a slightly darker edge, a loneliness that wasn’t there in the first. September (and the reader) must work harder to trust and find friends – she weighs her actions, hesitates – all the things that creatures do as they grow up.  It makes for haunting reading.

In all, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland is a spectacular sequel, and a book that deserves a place on your shelf.  It has a character named Halloween, which is practically perfect for the season.  I urge you to read it and its predecessor and fall in love with the magic of Fairyland.

Recommended for: fans of magic and wisdom and stories that fit all times and all ages.

Fine print: I picked up an ARC of The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There at BEA in June 2012. 

top ten books to get into the halloween spirit

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | | 11 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

Honesty is the best policy, and I am a huge scaredy cat.  Okay, that wasn’t so bad!  What this means is that my list of books to get you into the Halloween spirit is largely suspenseful/creepy, and not terribly scary.  Because I can’t stand that stuff.  But, you know… it’s still a good list.  Of great books.  For people who don’t like horror films.

Top Ten Books to Get Into the Halloween Spirit

1. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand – I just read this deliciously creepy middle grade book, and found it clever, fun and just the right amount of frightful.

2.  Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow – This anthology contains short stories that start in the realm of dark fantasy and edge over into horror.  I could only read a few each day, or risk nightmares.  Definitely the scariest book on my list.

3. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – Jack the Ripper meets American girl transplanted in British boarding school.  Ghost story and a hint of horror with teen protagonist.  In other words?  Great fun.

4.  Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry – One of the best zombie books I’ve read, period.  My dad picked it up while visiting me last year and read it in a matter of days.  It’s action, tension, angst and life-altering choices. 

5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman – It took me two tries to finish this book, because the first time I was SO. CREEPED. OUT.  No joke.  Coraline is a middle grade story full of sinister doings and strange creatures.  It’s also wonderful, in a very Halloween sort of way.

6.  Above by Leah Bobet – The fanciful cover art for this one hid dark secrets, unexpected twists, and stories within stories, all told in an uncommon voice.

7.  White Cat by Holly Black – Nothing about this book is what you think it is, unless you’re thinking that the Mob, magic, and a boy having strange dreams about a cat is a recipe for awesome.  There’s enough deception and suspense to fill everyone’s trick-or-treat bucket.

8.  My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland – The fantastic cover illustration made me stop and take a second look, and the hilarious, self-deprecating voice of the main character (a zombie!) ensured that I’d go along for the ride.  Weird, gory and entertaining by turns.

9. Sabriel by Garth Nix – What is more Halloween-worthy than a girl who can enter death, and permanently banish people there?  Answer: nothing.  Nix’s story features a girl who must leave the life she knows in order to save a kingdom.  Page-turning fantasy and an absolute classic.

10. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – YA sci-fi, people who can hear each others’ thoughts, danger from all sides, and a race to survive.  Ness knows how to do tension, and this story will string you along until you can’t take it any more.  If heart palpitations won’t put you in the spirit of the season, I don’t know what will, really.

What books are on your list?

a feast in fairyland-below

One of my favorite books last year was Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  The story combined all of the magic of Fairyland with the heart of a brave heroine and the superior writing of a classic.  I came away in awe of Valente’s talent with words, and as soon as I heard about a sequel, I knew it would be a book to feed my soul.

the girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there by catherynne m. valente book coverAnd speaking of food… there is nothing quite like a description of magical victuals, is there?  This scene comes from a Feast (which always precedes a Revel) on page 120 in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.

“The central boulevard of Tain, which A-Through-L could have told them was called Fool’s Silver, erupted with long tables full of the delights of a dozen cuisines.  Goblin tarts and Nuno honey in rock-crystal jars, steaming Spriggan pies of heartberry and blisspeach and pumpkin and moonkin that got bigger and smaller as you grasped for them, green and healthful Gnome soups overflowing with hexweed, passionpoppy leaves, thrallbulbs, memory-mums, and ropes of good, sweet basil and sage.  Glashtyn oatcakes and hay-muffins with golden crusts, Dryad rain-stews and sunnydaise sauces, braided flame-bread for Ifrits and seastone pastries for Marids, genuine cloud-roasts and piles of grilled dunkel-fish and the Jarlhoppes’ special feverblossom coffee.  The Scotch-wights had been saving their best Pining Peat for the occasion—and of course the Wyverns’ beloved radishes scattered here and there on the tables like drops of blood, among charm-tortes shaped just exactly like old books, brown and buttered and crackling.”

Oh, that passage makes me hungry!  Hungry for the food of never, of dreaming and seeming.  I might try a little baking magic of my own one of these days and come up with a recipe for Spriggan pies or Gnome soups (I’m sure it would involve wishing). 

Tell me, have you ever been tempted by otherworldly dishes as described in a book?

Interested in other food-related posts?  Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking!

jane austen giveaway hop – for darkness shows the stars & persuasion

I didn’t understand what a giveaway hop was when I signed up for this gig, and that’s a feat, considering that I’ve been blogging about books for 3+ years.  You know what people say when they’re trying to get you to try a new food?  ‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it?’  That’s what’s happening today.  It seems fitting that the theme is Jane Austen, whose books I’d try to force on random strangers regardless.

So, what’s on offer?  I’m giving away a prize pack of Diana Peterfreund’s YA sci-fi retelling of Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars, and… the ORIGINAL Persuasion by Austen.  If you’d like to win both books, simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open internationally, will end on October 24th at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email, books will be shipped via Amazon or The Book Depository.

for darkness shows the stars by diana peterfreund book coverGenerations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s PersuasionFor Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

persuasion by jane austen book cover
Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and determination. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realizes she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. Moving, tender, but intrinsically ‘Austen’ in style, with its satirical portrayal of the vanity of society in eighteenth-century England, Persuasion celebrates enduring love and hope.

Want to check out other Jane Austen giveaways?  The hop links are listed below.  Happy Friday!

waiting on wednesday (39)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | | 15 comments
I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

Let’s make it official: I am branching out into middle grade.  Especially middle grade sci-fi and fantasy.  This move is motivated in part by the wonderful reading luck I’ve had in the past year.  I’ve found intelligent, heartfelt books that reminded me of the first love I felt for characters and their stories and which turned me into an insatiable bookworm.  I look forward to finding many more in the years to come.  I am hoping that Kieran Larwood’s debut, Freaks, will be one of the standouts.  It sounds like an outrageous frolic, and did I mention the words VICTORIAN SIDESHOW?  Yes please!  Freaks will be released by Scholastic on April 5, 2013.

freaks by kieran larwood book cover
Weirdest. Crime fighters. Ever. 

Sheba, the fur-faced Wolfgirl, can sniff out a threat from miles away. Monkeyboy clambers up bridges and buildings in the blink of an eye -- then drops deadly stink bombs of his own making! Sister Moon sees in the dark, and moves at the speed of light. Born with weird abnormalities that make them misfits, these FREAKS spend their nights on public display, trapped in a traveling Victorian sideshow. But during the day, they put their strange talents to use: They solve the most sinister crimes. And in a dank, desperate world of crooks and child-snatchers, they're determined to defend London's most innocent victims: the street urchins disappearing from the city's streets.

What books are you waiting on?

top ten favorite fantasy authors

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | | 16 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

Today’s directive was to come up with a top ten of favorite authors in X genre.  I chose to list my favorite fantasy authors (big surprise there, eh?).  A note: this isn’t a list of favorite books, it’s a list of authors I auto-buy, favorites for life, and old standbys.  Basically, my comfort zone.

Top Ten Favorite Fantasy Authors

1. Robin McKinley – There was a time when I equated fairy tales with fantasy.  McKinley’s beautiful books certainly contributed to that, I can honestly say that I have loved (or at least severely liked) everything she’s written.

2. Neil Gaiman – Mr. Gaiman is a genius.  Enough said.

3. Diana Wynne Jones – The late Diana wrote many books of fantasy, and I’m slowly making my way through them and savoring the experience.  Personal favorites?  The Merlin Conspiracy and Howl’s Moving Castle.

4. Garth Nix – The Abhorsen Series is exquisite.  His middle grade Troubletwisters and Keys to the Kingdom series are delightful.  Mr. Nix can’t write books fast enough to suit me.

5. Patricia McKillip – If lyrical high fantasy is your thing, you need to read McKillip.

6. Holly Black – Who writes compulsively readable fantasy for all ages? Holly Black.  The author of the Spiderwick Chronicles and (my favorite) the Curse Workers books always seems to have a new trick up her sleeve.

7. Charles de Lint – I came to de Lint’s writing through his Jack of Kinrowan fairy tale retelling, and I stayed for dark urban fantasy.

8. J.K. Rowling – I dare anyone of my generation to read these books and not fall in love with Hogwarts.  I will certainly follow Rowling into whatever world she creates in the future.

9. Patricia C. Wrede – Whether you prefer swords and sorcery, Victorian England, the western wilds of America or worlds unknown, Wrede has written fantasy to fit your taste. 

10. Catherynne M. Valente – The author who wrote September into being has also published adult novels, short stories, novellas – everything you can imagine.  And it’s all good. 

Honorable Mention: Sarah Rees Brennan – I liked The Demon’s Lexicon, but Brennan’s latest, Unspoken, really got to me.  One of the best books of the year, and it’ll cement her as a must-buy for the future!

Who are your favorite fantasy authors?

unbreak my heart

Monday, October 15, 2012 | | 4 comments
I knew I wanted to read Unbreak My Heart as soon as I saw the combination of sweet teen summer romance cover and bittersweet summary.  Plus, I’d heard great things about Melissa Walker’s writing.  Fellow readers tossed around words like ‘light romance’ and ‘perfect beach read.’  That didn’t really prepare me for the depth of emotion in Walker’s novel.  I really liked the book, but it was unexpected.  I’m glad I gave it a chance.

unbreak my heart by melissa walker book cover
Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? 

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

Clementine is sailing with her family for an entire summer.  While most sixteen year-olds would resent the constant lack of privacy and the indignity of navy showers, Clem doesn’t mind floating into the unknown – because she wrecked her social life before embarking.  Clem fell for her best friend’s boyfriend, and the weight of guilt, grief and shame about her actions is casting a cloud over her life, not to mention the family trip.  When she meets James, who is also sailing the Great Loop, she starts to wonder if healing is part of the plan, and most importantly, if she deserves it.  Unbreak My Heart is a story of betrayal, redemption, loss and hope, set against the background of an idyllic summer of sailing.

In terms of characters, Clem is so very human that it stings.  Her first ‘big’ mistake hurts not only herself, but her best friend and entire friend group as well.  Add in to that a very real belief that she deserves her misery, and you’ve got the recipe for a angst and a broken heart with no healing in sight.  Lucky for her, she has a fantastic, cheesy family (unlike many other YA protagonists), including overeager little sister Olive, to help her remember who she is.  James, the boat boy, is almost too sweet for words; if I hadn’t met a couple of ‘James’ in my own journey, I’d say he was impossible.  Amanda and Ethan are part of Clem’s past, but as is the case in life, the past informs the present.  In all, it’s a emotional group, some making good choices, some bad, some in that gray area in between.

The writing itself alternates between sections from the past and present.  Initially this is works well as the reader is unraveling what happened in the past year, and Clem is working through her emotions about it in the present.  However, the middle chapters have such wildly disparate tones (swinging emotions from high to low in a space of pages, over and over) that this reader was tempted to skip the ‘past’ sections altogether.  It made for compelling reading, but the penalty was laughter one minute, and feeling on the verge of tears the next.

Unbreak My Heart is a book about the fallout from deception and self-deception, cheating, forgiveness, grief, self-discovery, spiced with a hint of summer romance and healthy family dynamics.  It is well-written, emotional, beautiful in parts, and very real.

Recommended for: fans of Donna Freitas and Lindsey Leavitt, those who like character-driven YA, and anyone who enjoys bitter/sweet romances in original settings.

Fine print: I received an e-ARC of this book for review via NetGalley, but I didn't read it in time. The copy I read came from the library (thanks Arlington County!).

cape cod october pie

Last year I took on the job of making the pies at extended family Thanksgiving.  It went well.  I’m doing it again this year.  The problem with pie-making is that I’ll only expend that kind of energy on a ‘need to’ basis.  But knowing me, I would forget the secrets of pie dough from one year to the next.  So…I decided to host Canadian Thanksgiving this last Monday to keep my hand in.  To make life that much more interesting, I tried a NEW type of pie.  The original recipe was provided by Big A’s mother (Big A is my roommate’s boyfriend), and it says it’s from Miss Ruby’s Cornucopia.  It was a HIT.

Cape Cod October Pie


pastry for a two-crust pie (I used this pie crust recipe)
1 1/2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup peeled, cored and diced apples (I added an additional 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberry juice (I’d leave this out if I made the recipe again)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry rolled to 1/8-inch thickness, set aside.

Toss together the cranberries, apples, raisins and walnuts with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, cranberry juice and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl.  Spoon carefully into the unbaked pie shell and dot with butter.  Cut strips from remaining pie crust (which can be rolled a tad thicker than the bottom for ease) and make a lattice over the top of the pie.  Crimp together the edges of lattice and bottom crust.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar if desired.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until fruits are tender and pastry is brown.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

I noted above that I’d leave out the cranberry juice if I made the pie again – and that’s because there was a lot of liquid in the fruit mixture even after baking.  It didn’t seem to affect anyone’s enjoyment – it was gone before I could even get a piece.  I’d say Cape Cod October Pie was a smashing success.  Besides, it’s so pretty!  Although clearly I am not the world's most expert lattice maker.  Whatever.

Recommended for: a flavorful and unusual pie at any party that requires an autumnal crowd-pleaser.

Interested in other food-related posts?  Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking.

waiting on wednesday (38)

I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

One of the books I read last year that kickstarted my interest in middle grade (or brought it back into focus, really) was Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse.  That story was a delight, and it made an appearance on my best of 2011 list.  Ever since then I’ve been checking in at Haskell’s blog and Amazon, waiting for title and information about her next book.  Today, I found an update.  I can’t find a ‘real’ summary, but the cover art is beautiful, and I’m excited to read it no matter what! Handbook for Dragon Slayers will be published by HarperCollins, and releases on May 28, 2013.

handbook for dragon slayers by merri haskell book cover
Haskell described Handbook as a “standalone MG…set on the Rhine River in the 1130s. There is an extremely faint connection to The Princess Curse, and I consider it set in the same world—the same slightly sideways version of Europe, even though we are hundreds of miles and years away from Reveka’s story.”

What books are you waiting on?

top ten favorite places to read

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | | 14 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists. If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

Today’s topic is a ‘rewind,’ meaning it’s up to each person to find a Top Ten Tuesday topic they skipped or want to repeat and make it their own.  This week I’m going to list my favorite reading nooks.

Top Ten Favorite Places to Read

1. My parents’ living room – On a cold winter’s day, there’s no better spot to read than my parents’ living room, sitting toasty warm in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate at my elbow.

2. My own living room – We have an enormous old plaid couch in my current apartment, and I love to sprawl on it with whichever book is currently striking my fancy.

3. Bed – I also like reading in bed, but I have to be careful with this, because I don’t fall asleep reading.  If I read in bed, I stay awake in my bed.  And that’s not really what beds are for.  Right?  Right.

4. On the train – One terrible thing about growing up/old is that I can’t read in moving vehicles anymore.  Something about the motion makes concentrating on type ridiculously hard.  UNLESS that moving vehicle is a train.  Reading on the train is my new favorite way to get from one place to the next.

5. Library – A library is a building full of books.  Pulling a volume off the shelf and paging through it to see if it’s worth the checkout is like breathing – it just happens.  I mean that in the best way.

6. Bookstore – Book shops are like libraries, but once you test drive that book, it can be yours forever!  All the more reason to make sure you REALLY want it by reading… and reading… and reading.

7. Mostly empty coffee shop – Coffee and books are two of my largest ‘leisure’ expenses.  This is a true thing and has been since I was a teenager.  I’m not sure what that tells you about my life choices…but combining coffee and reading is a recipe for a good time, as long as that coffee shop is mostly empty/quiet. 

8. Beach – I was never much of a beach kid (chalk that one up to growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where beaches are cold and/or rocky), but I’ve come to enjoy the beach as an adult, as long as I have a great book or three in my bag.  And some strong sunscreen.

9. Tent (while camping) – Yes, I am the camper who refuses to leave her tent when caught up in a good book. I like nature… as a great backdrop to reading.  Bonus: staying in the tent = less bug bites.

10. Sunny park bench – What are crisp fall days for?  I say sunny park bench reading.  You heard it here first.

What are your favorite places to read? 


Thursday, October 4, 2012 | | 13 comments
I worry about stories like this.  I worry that they’ll fill up my heart and mind and ruin me for any other books ever.  Holly Black’s Curse Worker books felt this way – like an ache in your chest and a glitter explosion in your brain.  Intellectually I know it is not true, but it feels like Sarah Rees Brennan’s got my heart and soul tied up in knots.  I’m beginning to think she LIKES it.

unspoken by sarah rees brennan book cover
Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years…

The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.

Unspoken is about Kami.  And Jared.  Jared is Kami’s imaginary friend, and has been since she was a little girl.  Except he just became real.  And it turns out that he’s got a crazy family with issues.  Well that’s alright then, because Kami’s whole TOWN has issues, including but not limited to: sinister secrets, attempted murder, and, oh yeah, ritual animal killings in the woods behind Kami’s back garden. 

The story has all the makings of crazy, but it doesn’t go there (quite).  Instead, it’s wise-cracking, smart, emotional (oh lord, don’t get me started!), and has a gothic mystery at its heart that will take more than one book to unravel (see what i did there?  i warned you, like the good reading citizen that i am).  In the process, Kami, Jared and all of their friends and enemies have taken up residence within me.  You know, like good characters do. 

If I had to pick a ‘best part’ of the book, I’d point to the entire thing.  There’s Kami, who is determined to be a journalist and unafraid of looking silly.  Jared, who is in her head and may have dodgy motives.  Angela, Kami’s prickly best friend.  Ash, who is new and beautiful but confusing.  Rusty, Angela’s trusty brother.  Holly, a new friend.  The entire cast of characters in the village, PLUS Jared’s family and Kami’s family.  It should feel crowded, but instead it is just right.

Can I describe a book as painfully good and make you understand it in the best possible light?  Because Brennan has put me through something delicious and hilarious and dark, and I am not sure I’m ever going to be the same (also not sure i’m going to make it until the release date of Lynburn Legacy #2).  In fact, I am very sure that I’ll spend the next few weeks imagining what happens next, and urgently wishing for more of Sorry-in-the-Vale and magic and murders and epic soulmates.

Unspoken is marvelously entertaining, and I can’t recommend it enough.  It’ll definitely make an appearance on my ‘Best of 2012’ list.  Also a consideration: that lovely paper art cover.  It’ll look spiffy on your shelf.  Go get this book!

Recommended for: fans of fun, life and reading.  Maybe especially to those who like YA fantasy, but definitely not limited to them.   

Fine print: I received an e-ARC of this book for review (via NetGalley) from Random House, and I intend to buy an enormous box of Unspoken hardcovers for my friends for Christmas.  Friends: get excited.  Random House: you are genius for publishing this book.  The end.

waiting on wednesday (37)

I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

During Book Blogger Appreciation Week, one of the daily writing ‘prompts’ involved being an evangelist for a book that has been overlooked.  I highlighted Lindsey Leavitt’s contemporary YA Sean Griswold’s Head.  It’s a charming read with heart, and I’ve been looking forward to spending time with more of Leavitt’s work.  Lucky for me (and you!), her next book sounds like a hoot.  I can’t wait to meet Mallory and her grandmother’s list.  Going Vintage will be published by Bloomsbury, and releases on March 26, 2013.

going vintage by lindsey leavitt book cover
The cure for a break-up? Go vintage and live like it’s 1962! 

When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory decides to "go vintage" and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma’s list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy’s cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she’ll get it done. Somehow. 

Lindsey Leavitt perfectly pairs heartfelt family moments, laugh-out-loud humor, and a little bit of romance in this delightful contemporary novel.

What books are you waiting on?

top ten ‘older’ books i don’t want people to forget

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | | 21 comments
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we all get to exercise our OCD tendencies and come up with bookish lists.  If you’d like to play along, check out this post.

top ten tuesday

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that putting together today’s list was HARD.  Not because I have a shortage of favorite backlist books (in fact, I have too many), but because this feels momentous.  The selection is important, because I don’t want people to forget these books – but it felt like cheating to put in books that no one is likely to forget (I’m thinking Neil Gaiman here).  Anyway… as you’ll see, my list is a mixed bag. 

Top Ten ‘Older’ Books I Don’t Want People to Forget

1. A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter – THIS. BOOK.  Was my childhood.  I mean that quite literally.  I’ve read it over 25 times, and its gentle, beautiful story of a stubborn girl growing up in rural Indiana in the early 20th century will always be a favorite.  It should be one of yours, too.

2. Sabriel by Garth Nix – There’s a wall in this story: a wall between magic and the ordinary.  And if the darkness that’s gathering beyond the wall is let loose, it’ll be the end for all.  Wonderful prose, and another favorite.

3. Chalice by Robin McKinley – I adore everything Robin McKinley, but of her recent books, this is one of the least-celebrated.  Its abstract focus might keep it out of the limelight, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for someone who likes books that are quietly intense.

4. The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle – Bullying, silence, and deliberately making the hard decisions… sounds like a contemporary YA, doesn’t it?  This one needs to be read by anyone who considers themselves a fan of that subgenre. 

5. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen – There was a time when I devoured everything WWII-related, and this story, melding that subject matter with a retold fairy tale, is not quickly forgotten.

6. Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery – You may know Anne of Green Gables, but do you know Marigold?  Montgomery wrote precious few standalones, but this coming-of-age classic full of family dynamics and youthful capers is possibly my favorite of her books.

7. The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones – If you can believe it, I had never read a Diana Wynne Jones book until I studied abroad in Spain.  This madcap adventure was love at first read, and usually the one I recommend to others (if they don’t express interest in Howl, claro).

8. The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger – This book is a heartfelt epistolary tale about baseball and growing up in the shadow of war.  It is not to be missed.

9. The Once and Future King by T.H. White – I first read my mother’s old paperback copy of this Arthurian tale at age… 10?  Its complexity and epic scope mixed with humor and coming-of-age tale made it a favorite.

10. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck – This was a 10th grade Honors English book at my high school.  It’s an important book, and one that not many of my peers have heard of, much less read.  If you have any interest in pre-Communist Revolution China, historical or cultural sagas, or would like to, this is the book for you.

What are the books that you don’t want people to forget? 

shelter & seconds away giveaway

Monday, October 1, 2012 | | 6 comments
Here’s a fun story: I didn’t know anything about Harlan Coben before I picked up his YA debut, Shelter.  Turns out he’s a bestselling author (of adult books), and he’s now bringing his talents to the world of young adult fiction.  His YA series is fast-paced, dark, mysterious, and with a little bit of an edge that will work for anyone who likes horror, thrillers and mystery.  I’ll be buying them for the guys on my reading list this holiday season.  If you’d like to win both books in the Mickey Bolitar series, read to the end of this post – Penguin has generously provided copies for giveaway.

shelter by harlan coben book cover
Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools. Fortunately, he's met a great girl, Ashley, and it seems like things might finally be improving. But then Ashley vanishes. Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that Ashley isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

seconds away by harlan coben book cover
When tragedy strikes close to home, Mickey Bolitar and his loyal new friends—sharp-witted Ema and the adorkably charming Spoon—find themselves at the center of a terrifying mystery involving the shooting of their friend Rachel. Now, not only does Mickey have to continue his quest to uncover the truth about the Abeona Shelter, the Butcher of Lodz and the mysterious death of his father, he needs to figure out who shot Rachel—no matter what it takes. 

Mickey has always been ready to sacrifice everything to help the people he loves. But with danger just seconds away, how can he protect them when he’s not even sure who—or what—he’s protecting them from?

In addition to those summaries, I suggest you check out the Seconds Away book trailer, the official Mickey Bolitar website, and Coben’s author website.  Or, you know, just enter the giveaway and find some dark storytelling for yourself!

Want to win copies of Harlan Coben's YA novels Shelter and its sequel Seconds Away?  Simply fill out the FORM.  Two winners will receive both books.  Giveaway open to US addresses only, and will end on October 15th at 11:59pm EST.  Winners will be selected randomly and notified via email.  All prizes provided by Penguin.  Good luck!

Fine print: giveaway prizes provided by Penguin via Big Honcho Media. I did not receive any compensation for hosting this giveaway (although I did get copies of both books!).
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