georgia on my mind

Sunday, June 30, 2013 | | 7 comments
My roommate and I have started subscribing to food magazines.  I don’t know if that’s a sign that we’re finally real adults, but we pore over them the day they arrive and try recipes found within (some to acclaim, others…eh).  When this month’s Food & Wine showed up, Emily decided to make a drink recipe.  She enlisted my advice and taste-testing abilities, but she’s the one who gathered the ingredients and put it all together.  So while I took the photos and can attest to the taste of the drink… I didn’t make it.  This is Emily’s Georgia on My Mind.

georgia on my mind cocktail

Georgia on My Mind (adapted slightly from this month’s Food & Wine recipe)


1/3 cup lightly packed mint leaves, plus small sprigs for garnish
12 ounces bourbon
4 ounces peach schnapps
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces pure maple syrup
24 ounces chilled apricot or peach ale (we used Dogfish Head’s Aprihop)


In a pitcher, combine all ingredients except ale, ice, and mint sprigs for garnish.  Stir until the maple syrup is dissolved and then refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Add the apricot ale to the pitcher and stir well.  Pour into 8 ice-filled glasses and garnish with mint sprigs.

georgia on my mind cocktail

Note: this mixture doesn’t keep well in the fridge after the ale has been added, so if you plan to make ahead, don’t mix that in until the last second.

Recommended for: when you need a lazy summer evening cocktail with a hint of fruitiness.

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

sea change author guest post

Thursday, June 27, 2013 | | 2 comments
Debut author S.M. Wheeler is here today at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia with a guest post about her novel Sea Change and its origins in fairy tale.  Sea Change was released in hardcover by Tor on June 18, 2013.  

sea change by s.m. wheeler blog tour
I spent the first thirteen years of my life on a slow-motion tour of the United States, following my father’s work in the telecommunication business, with a brief side trip to Jamaica. Settling down at last in Upstate New York when my parents purchased an inn, I spent a difficult year attempting to adapt to the small local school and the company of my agemates. Ultimately, my family made the decision to educate me at home. Some of my time came to revolve around the business, which grew to include a bookstore and restaurant; some of my attention went to the school textbooks from which I learned. Mostly, I read and wrote.

Fantasy, science fiction, myth, folklore—I favored the unreal in reading and told the same sort of stories as soon as I could articulate those ideas in words. This became an important tool when I developed several chronic health problems in my adolescence. Rather than using the world of fantasy to escape from these, I normalized them by creating disabled characters within the familiar landscapes of the fantastic. One o’ clock in the morning with an unruly mind and aching joints was best faced with characters whose hallucinations and missing limbs were oversized projections of my own difficulties.

I flew out of Upstate to California for college with one suitcase of clothes and ten boxes of books. I am now living with family while attending the University of San Diego, where I am pursuing an English degree, a Classics minor, and all excuses to write fiction.

I credit the fact that I finished my first novel, Sea Change, in part to the inspiration of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

I first hit upon fairytales as a young teen in a bookstore decorated with dragon statuettes and sticks of incense. This was already my natural habitat: my father introduced me to fantasy when he read my child-self Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, and I’d inherited the D&D Monster Manuals from his college days. As I browsed through the section on monsters and cryptozoology, I came across Russian Fairytales: decorated sparsely with stylized illustrations by A. Alexeieff, translation by Norbert Guterman, cover imprinted with a gold gilt pheasant. I wanted it terribly and my parents were (are) terrible at saying no to books.

Today, my library is double-stacked in a too-small bookcase and consists primarily of folklore and fairytales. I can’t say any one tale in that first Russian collection sparked this fascination, as I’d read my way through so quickly as to leave an impression of one continuous, if fragmentary, novel. The tropes and archetypes, the arbitrary magic and bizarre tasks, the brutality: these stuck with me. You can even prompt me to exercise my oral storytelling abilities by asking after some bit of folklore or fairytale. I pride myself on my rendition of “The Baboon’s Circumcision” particularly, which required three runs before I figured out who would best serve as the main character.  

(Yes, I have told a story called “The Baboon’s Circumcision” to three different people. The reactions I garnered were, respectively, “I have no idea what actually happened in that story other than it was disturbing”, “Why did you tell me that?”, and laughter. This one has a punch line, and it goes “The baboon said, ‘Oh, brother, you’ve been terribly hurt!’ and fled.”)

Sea Change isn’t a punch line kind of book (there is one joke about testicles, granted). Rather, it nods to the pitiless side of the tales. I would not say that gritty means true, nor that there’s a greater interest in the old versions versus the later bowdlerized ones, or even—further back—what we dream of as the original oral tales. I went through a period of reading children’s books to see what they had done with the raw material, which I recommend to any author who works with fairytales. It’s instructive. I was upset at the alterations made to soften the stories until I reflected on the fact that I quite changed them.

For example: women have agency in Sea Change. Ugliness is not cured. Biological parents are not faultless.

I do credit myself with doing well by the original material all the same. Which is to say: it might be that an evil step-mother and her ugly daughter are not thrown into a barrel studded with nails and rolled into a river, but I’ve included my share of violence and sexuality. The main character, Lilly, is a somber young woman; her traits of industriousness, politeness, and self-sacrifice are all virtues of the Grimm heroine (excepting the trickster tales, like “The Three Spinners”). I’ve always liked the trope where a character gets bits lopped off—that’s here, though married with the ability to cut open a character’s guts without subsequent death (see “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids”). 

Looking back on the process, on the fairytales and folklore closest to my heart, and what they did for my writing, there is one that has kept with me for all the years since I first read it. The title is translated as “A Tale About the Boy Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was” by Jack Zipes. Once in a while, you come across a story with which you can identify whole-hearted, and the protagonist’s inability to feel the creeps, his social naivety and quiet acceptance of a world that doesn’t make that much sense—well. There’s quite a lot of him in Lilly, too.

And least to say this is another one I can be prompted to tell; at the end, after the wife has dumped a bucket of cold water and minnows down the back of the protagonist’s shirt, it’s with sympathy and satisfaction that I exclaim his final line: “Oh! So that’s the creeps!”

Thank you for joining us, S.M. Wheeler!  I know I've enjoyed Lilly's journey in Sea Change, and I think any fan of dark fairy tales will do so as well.

sea change by s.m. wheeler book cover
The unhappy child of two powerful parents who despise each other, young Lilly turns to the ocean to find solace, which she finds in the form of the eloquent and intelligent sea monster Octavius, a kraken. In Octavius’s many arms, Lilly learns of friendship, loyalty, and family. When Octavius, forbidden by Lilly to harm humans, is captured by seafaring traders and sold to a circus, Lilly becomes his only hope for salvation. Desperate to find him, she strikes a bargain with a witch that carries a shocking price. 

Her journey to win Octavius’s freedom is difficult. The circus master wants a Coat of Illusions; the Coat tailor wants her undead husband back from a witch; the witch wants her skin back from two bandits; the bandits just want some company, but they might kill her first. Lilly's quest tests her resolve, tries her patience, and leaves her transformed in every way. 

A powerfully written debut from a young fantasy author, Sea Change is an exhilarating tale of adventure, resilience, and selflessness in the name of friendship.

top ten books i’ve read (so far) in 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | | 18 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

At the end of each year, I put together a list of the best books I read from January to December.  This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic has me doing the same thing, but at the halfway point.  I am listing my favorite reads of the year, irrespective of their actual publication date.  The only requirement is that I read (and reviewed!) them in 2013.  Oh, and I couldn’t keep it to *just* ten, so there’s one honorable mention.  So many choices!

Top Ten Books I’ve Read (so far) in 2013

1. Written in Red by Anne Bishop – I’ve read this book twice already.  There’s just something about it…the fantastic world-building, the atmosphere of danger, premonitions, engaging characters, an intriguing paranormal milieu, and tension that may (or may not) lead to something in the next book. I want to read it again, just writing this paragraph.  Book crack!

2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – All of the feels EVAR!  I wept (messily) on my couch for a good 45 minutes, and I then tried to tell everyone I know how wonderful this book was.

3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Another book that featured magnificent world-building and a unique political situation and relationships.

4. Relish by Lucy Knisley – Food, a coming-of-age memoir, lovely drawings, and a quirky-funny sensibility made this little volume an absolute pleasure to read.

5. Under My Hat edited by Jonathan Strahan – This collection of stories focused on everything witchy, and magical, and the result was a truly enchanting anthology.

6. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman – A brief middle grade book with heart, mythology, and story to spare.

7. A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff – Graff mingles cakes, Talents, and several narrators to create a gentle fantasy narrative that weaves together generations, stories and life callings.

8. The Silvered by Tanya Huff – This one is an epic fantasy with a steampunk-ish edge, a journey into enemy territory, and a heroine growing into her power.  Also contains: werewolves, family expectations, and an evil megalomaniac.

9. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold – Sci-fi on a grand stage and a no-win situation for an unlikely couple are the hallmarks of this chronological first book in the Vorkosigan saga.

10. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger – Carriger brings her trademark banter, adventure and unique fantastical steampunk world to YA readers.  Heroine Sophronia is a character, and her first year at finishing school is FUN.

a natural history of dragons by marie brennan book cover
Honorable Mention: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan – I couldn’t help but hear Maggie Smith (the Dowager Countess/Professor McGonagall) narrating this book in my head – it’s a memoir of dragon-related adventures and mishaps, set in an alternate 19th century.  Singular and fantastic.

What books would make your ‘best books from the first half of 2013’ list?

potato, leek and chicken pie

My girlfriends and I are going to vacation in Ireland in September.  We each have certain things that we’re excited for (scenery! castles! beer!), and one of those bits of interest for me is the cuisine.  I’ve heard lovely things about Irish seafood, and I own Darina Allen’s cookbook The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, but my Irish food experience won’t be complete until I’ve tasted a savory pie in a pub.  

potato leek and chicken pie

My friend Katie gifted me with a cookbook on Irish pub food, so I’m well on my way to learning the ins and outs of this mainstay recipe.  I made this pie for our Ireland trip planning meeting last week, and it was a hit across the board.  I’ll be adding this recipe to my permanent entrée repertoire.

Potato, Leek and Chicken Pie (from Irish Pub Cooking)


2 potatoes, cubed (I used Yukon Gold, though the original recipe specified ‘waxy’ potatoes)
1/2 cup butter
6 ounces chicken tenderloin, cubed
1 leek, sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (if you’re not a mushroom person, switch out for carrots and cook them up with the potatoes)
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
8 ounces store-bought filo pastry, thawed
salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet and cook the chicken for 5 minutes, or until browned all over. 

Add the leek and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, stirring.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Gradually stir in the milk and bring to a boil.  Add the mustard, sage and potatoes (and carrots if you used them), season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small pan.  Line a deep dish (I used a 9”x13” pan) with half of the sheets of filo pastry.  Spoon the chicken mixture into the dish and cover with 1-2 sheets of pastry.  Brush with melted butter and lay another sheet on top.

Cut the remaining filo pastry into strips and fold/arrange them onto the top of the pie to create a ruffled effect.  Brush the strips with the remaining melted butter and cook in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.  Serve hot.  Yields 4-6 servings.

Note: I started Weight Watchers a couple of weeks ago (!) so I calculated the points – 10 per serving for this recipe.  And you get a healthy amount of veggies (always a good thing).

Recommended for: a hearty, homey main dish that isn’t too heavy or involved, and for a delicious taste of pub cooking at home.

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

the sweetest dark

Thursday, June 20, 2013 | | 3 comments
Superman is back in the pop culture lexicon (did he ever leave, though?), so I think I can safely say that something is ‘my kryptonite’ and everyone will know that it kills me.  Right?!  Well, here goes nothing: LOVE TRIANGLES ARE MY KRYPTONITE.  I’m seriously allergic to them.  It used to be that I could tolerate this now-dreaded young adult romance cliché, but too many bad experiences have scarred me.  Or maybe I’ve just lost patience like the old grouch that I am (on the inside).  The sad truth is that there are *very* few exceptions to this rule, and Shana Abé’s The Sweetest Dark was not one of them.

the sweetest dark by shana abe book cover
Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems. 

England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny. 

Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves. 

Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.

Lora has grown up in horrible circumstances – she was found mute and with no memory of her past on the street at age ten, and from thence deposited in an orphanage.  She heard music that no one else did, and was sent away for a stint in a mental institution.  She’s become very good at appearing normal ever since, but so far she hasn’t turned hard.  That doesn’t mean she isn’t damaged in other ways, though.  When the Great War starts and London is bombed, Lora gets her one golden opportunity – she’s sent to the coast to an exclusive school for girls far above her station.  It is there that she will find mysteries beyond the ordinary, and two very different young men.

I picked up The Sweetest Dark on Liviania’s recommendation – we’re practically reading twins, and so I usually try what she thinks is good (and vice versa).  She loved this book, so I read it.  Easy peasy.  There were certainly things I liked about the book.  Abé started off with quite a hook – a girl who hears things, and doesn’t know why, and a (separate) mysterious old story told in anonymous letters.  I was invested immediately, and intrigued by the gothic feel of the narrative – it reminded me a bit of Jane Eyre, actually.

As I’ve already said, the sticking point for me was the love triangle, which was introduced when Lora arrived at Iverson, the school-in-a-castle.  Part of the trouble was that I felt that one character was completely extraneous to the story.  The tension that the author wanted to create with him could have been contrived in other ways without the instant fascination/eyes-that-follow-Lora-everywhere-creep-factor.  Perhaps the easiest way to explain my unease with the love triangle is to say that it read like a FORMULA.  One that I’ve seen too many times.  And I thought the writing and descriptive passages were very well-done, and the story didn’t need that formulaic plot element.  So I felt cheated.  The headline would read, “Lovely WWI historical fantasy ruined by love triangle!”

But let’s go back to things I liked.  The world-building was standard-to-good, the inclusion of early methods of dealing with mental illness poignant (and horrifying) by turns, and Lora’s exploration of an old and mysterious house was quite satisfying.  The feeling of impending doom mixed with a unique paranormal element was pitch perfect.  And I did like the ending, bittersweet as it was.  Basically, if you take away the love triangle, I’d call this a super read.  So hopefully you like love triangles.  *grin*

Recommended for: fans of young adult historical fiction and fantasy, anyone with a thing for dragons, and those who liked Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood books or Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series.

waiting on wednesday (55)

Today I’m participating in "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Its purpose is to spotlight upcoming book releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I've been meaning to read more YA sci-fi (no really, i made it a new year's resolution).  To tell you the truth, it's an easy goal to meet because the 2013 YA sci-fi lineup looks amazing - from the gorgeous covers the story summaries.  At the verrrrry end of 2013 we have one of my most anticipated books (sci-fi or not) of the year.  It's an epic, with romance and mystery and two teens from different classes and a SPACECRASH.  Oh, and did I mention that the lovely local author Meg Spooner is a co-author?  Yes indeed.  Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars will be released on December 10, 2013 by Disney Hyperion.  AND I CANNOT FLIPPING WAIT.

these broken stars by amie kaufman & meagan spooner book cover
It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

The first in a sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.

What books are you waiting on?

top ten books on my summer to-be-read list

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | | 13 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

A few months ago I listed the books I planned to read this spring, and (i am ashamed to admit) I’ve only read ONE of the ten.  That is a sad, sad track record.  Here’s hoping I do better this summer!  Speaking of summer reading, this list is full of books I’ve heard great things about, picked up at BEA, or have been waiting for for ages.  A couple are on my library hold list, a few on my bookshelf, and several live in my online wishlist.

Top Ten Books on My Summer To-Be-Read List

summer 2013 to be read list

1. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters – Liviania is my reading twin, and she LOVED this book, so I know I will too.  I have it out from the library at this very moment, and I’m just waiting for a free moment to dive into it.

2. Starglass by Phoebe North – Young adult sci-fi, gorgeous cover art, and the promise of an intriguing plot.  No wonder I’ve been waiting on this one for months!

3. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling – Any anthology edited by Datlow and Windling is sure to be fabulous, but this looks extra-great because it’s all steampunk-esque/historical fantasy (which is the best sort, of course!).

4. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein – You may recall that Code Name Verity broke my heart into tiny pieces (well, not just MY heart – everyone’s!) not long ago.  I snagged a copy of this companion novel at BEA, and I am very certain I shall cry all over it one day very soon.

5. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – This story sounds like a humans vs. supers showdown, with the bonus of awesome Brandon Sanderson world-building.  I’m in.

summer 2013 to be read list

6. Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Speaking of supers… what about supervillains?  Victoria Schwab has written a story about archnemeses with terrible powers and an old betrayal.  It should be pretty epic.

7. The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton – When a book is compared to both Neil Gaiman’s AND Holly Black’s work, I don’t have to hear anything else.  I’m sold.  OMG it’s Norse-mythology inspired YA fantasy.  Someone hold me!

8. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block – This book was a ‘Waiting on Wednesday’ pick for me a while back, and the concept of The Odyssey done in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles still sounds amazing. 

9. Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell – Oh, how I loved The Princess Curse!  Haskell has a way with middle grade story, fantasy and history, and I can’t wait to read her latest release.  Plus: DRAGONS!  *grin*

10. The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison – And to round out the list, a book on French cheese!  What could be better?!  I do love food writing, and the bonus of learning about one of my favorite snacks (or let’s face it, food groups!) is enough to have me looking forward to this nonfiction title.

What books are on your summer reading list?

the 5th wave

Thursday, June 13, 2013 | | 6 comments
Usually if a book is going to hit it big, I begin noticing press and blogger excitement several months in advance.  Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave proved that wrong (or maybe I’m just paying attention to the wrong news outlets?).  It was only about two months before release that I started seeing extremely positive reviews from all quarters – media, authors, and bloggers.  With that in mind, I tried to stay away from reviews and wait my turn for a library copy to become available.  I didn’t want to spoil what everyone was saying was a fantastic read.  Here’s what I knew going in: aliens, a fight for survival, multiple viewpoints, and lots of terrifying moments.  No wonder that I chose to read this book poolside, drenched in sun and heat!  I try not to court nightmares, after all.

the 5th wave by rick yancey book cover
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. 

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

The Others arrived, and humanity tried to make contact.  The Others didn’t respond.  Then came the first four waves – wiping out ninety-seven percent of the human population.  Cassie survived, but now she’s alone, and she stays alive by staying alone and not trusting anyone else.  She has bent, but so far she hasn’t broken.  Or maybe she has broken - she doesn’t know.  The only thing that keeps her going in the midst of this alien extermination is a promise she made to her little brother Sammy.  That promise and her wariness won’t be enough.  Because the 5th wave is coming.

While Cassie is the clear focus of the book and at times the narrator, the author also skips into other characters’ heads and voices to tell the story.  And what is that story? It’s a Hunger Games-esque, survive-at-any-cost thriller (to say any more would be too much).  There are children fighting, deadly stakes, and no true sense of who/where the enemy is.  It is that aura of dangerous mystery about the Others that creates an atmosphere of menace.  I was not surprised by any of the twists, possibly because by the time I was thirty pages in, I had internalized Cassie’s distrust.

As for the sci-fi aspects of The 5th Wave, I had a couple of doubts and questions.  The first being: how does everyone (read: Cassie) know there will be a 5th wave?  If the underlying message of the story is that hope and love are unquenchable symptoms of the human condition (and I believe that was the point), the standard awareness/anticipation that a 5th wave was on its way doesn’t make sense.  I mean, every character seemed to think the same way.  I identify that as rushed characterization.  Another red flag was the widespread knowledge of what each wave was, and how it was caused.  If a true communication breakdown was in effect as postulated in the book, I would expect a lot more rumor and supposition, especially among kids, who know less of the mechanics of society’s infrastructure (especially if they're from the first world).

There’s no doubt that The 5th Wave is a riveting read.  I’m just not sure it was GOOD.  Let’s go over the pros: the writing was excellent, the plot moved at breakneck speed, Cassie was a well-developed character.  Beyond that, I felt that there were holes in the world-building and secondary characterization that were patched over in part by action sequences and scenes meant to shock and awe.  At the end of a book, I asked myself: Did the story feel authentic?  And my answer in this case was yes/no. Cassie and her fear were real.  It was the rest that I had qualms about.

Recommended for: fans of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Neal Schusterman’s Unwind, and anyone looking for pulse-pounding young adult sci-fi/apocalyptic fiction.  Be ready for a menacing thrill.

waiting on wedneday (54)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | | 5 comments
Today I’m participating in "Waiting On" Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. Its purpose is to spotlight upcoming book releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Robin McKinley is one of my all-time favorite, pre-order months before release, auto-dial authors (i don’t know what an ‘auto-dial author’ is really, but it sounded good).  When she released Pegasus in 2010, I was ecstatic to again be immersed in a richly-detailed epic fantasy.  And while I’m still waiting for books 2 & 3 in that story, McKinley has written an urban fantasy.  I think it looks really interesting, and knowing McKinley, the writing will be superb.  Ahhhh – I can’t wait!!! Shadows will be released on September 26, 2013 by Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin).

shadows by robin mckinley book cover
Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago. 

Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know…until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage. 

In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.

What books are you waiting on?

top ten beach reads

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | | 15 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

My definition of a beach read is different than most peoples’.  Summertime can be oppressively hot, and it’s difficult to hold on to deep, dark thoughts while you’re baking or taking short dips in the water.  That’s why I like to save up the dark, disturbing and sad books on my reading list for the poolside or beach.  I say, if you’re determined to read a book that will wring a metric ton of emotion out of you, you might as well be in the sunshine, in easy reach of a relaxing activity that should purge your dark thoughts.  Keep that in mind as you check out this week’s top ten.

Top Ten Beach Reads

1.  Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry – This angsty, angry teenage post-apocalyptic novel features brothers and zombies.  And definitely calls for sunshine.

2.  Sunshine by Robin McKinley – Don’t let the title fool you – this is one dark vampire story (and the only one featuring bloodsuckers that I consistently recommend. i mean, MCKINLEY.).

3.  Written in Red by Anne Bishop – A recent read, and a bit unlikely for the beach, as it’s set mid-winter in an alternate Chicago.  The violence, emotion and world building-depth are very well-written.

4.  Above by Leah Bobet – Combine an underground community, mental instability, and a killer on the loose, and that equals a tight plotline.  Then add the final element of delightful storytelling.

5.  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – What better way to spend a sun-drenched day than with a story that eerily mirrors the legend of Jack the Ripper?  Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything either.

6.  Peter & Max by Bill Willingham – A brutal, dark take on fairy tale mythology. Perfectly acceptable beach material for guys/girls.

7.  American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Take the old gods of Europe and put them in middle America, and the results are disturbing, strange and wonderful.  Gaiman’s writing is, as always, a wonder.

8.  Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Young children compete in a battle school for the chance to graduate and fight the alien destruction of Earth.  Gripping, classic YA sci-fi.

9.  The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger – A boy and a ballplayer exchange letters over the course of WWII, and their friendship via correspondence is by turns funny and heartbreaking.

10.  The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy – Alien invasion.  Survival.  Dread, distrust and danger.  Thank goodness for cloudless days and the pool, or I might not have gotten through this one.

What are your top beach reads?

outcast by adrienne kress review, giveaway & blog tour

Today’s review is part of the blog tour for Adrienne Kress’ new book, Outcast.  It’s a paranormal romance with a vintage vibe and a gun-toting heroine (with attitude).

outcast by adrienne kress blog tour

We all know (or suspect) how much a pretty cover can influence us to pick up a book.  This is me, admitting to giving this book a chance because of its cover.  What can I say? It’s so SHINY!  *ahem*  Back to business.  Often, authors don’t have anything to do with their book covers, but in this case, Adrienne Kress helped create the beautiful artwork for Outcast, and I think you must agree with me that she’s one talented human being.  After all, she wrote a funny paranormal romance, AND designed its cover. 

outcast by adrienne kress book cover
After six years of “angels” coming out of the sky and taking people from her town, 16-year-old Riley Carver has just about had it living with the constant fear. When one decides to terrorize her in her own backyard, it’s the final straw. She takes her mother’s shotgun and shoots the thing. So it’s dead. Or … not? In place of the creature she shot, is a guy. A really hot guy.  A really hot alive and breathing guy.  Oh, and he’s totally naked. 

Not sure what to do, she drags his unconscious body to the tool shed and ties him up. After all, he’s an angel and they have tricks. When he regains consciousness she’s all set to interrogate him about why the angels come to her town, and how to get back her best friend (and almost boyfriend) Chris, who was taken the year before. But it turns out the naked guy in her shed is just as confused about everything as she is. 

He thinks it’s 1956. 

Set in the deep south, Outcast is a story of love, trust, and coming of age. It’s also a story about the supernatural, a girl with a strange sense of humor who’s got wicked aim, a greaser from the 50’s, and an army of misfits coming together for one purpose: To kick some serious angel ass.

Riley Carver has spent the last year mourning her best friend, who was ‘taken’ by the angels only a week after they’d shared their first kiss.  Now, on the anniversary of his disappearance, she’s mad instead of sad.  When she sees an angel, she lets the anger take over and shoots it.  In the face.  If only that were the end of things!  Somehow the angel has turned into an unconscious naked guy.  When he wakes and believes he’s from the 1950s, Riley has to decide who to trust, what to do with a town of angel-obsessed people, and how to survive this year in high school.  It’ll be quite an experience.

I’ll just put this out there: I’ve been burned by the angels-as-paranormal-heroes thing before.  But when I read the first few pages of Adrienne Kress’ new book, I knew that I’d found a different kind of story.  For one thing, heroine Riley Carver is a quirky badass.  After all, she shoots angels (well, just the one, really).  After that, there’s really no telling what will happen next, because things just get more and more unlikely.  In a really interesting way, of course.

As a character, Riley is a hoot.  She’s introspective, feels like an outsider, is dealing with losing her best friend, and trying to figure out what to do with a lot of mysterious occurrences and a guy who she may or may not be able to trust.  Oh, and small town life.  Riley’s adventures and misadventures reminded me a bit of Nancy Drew, although her inner dialogue was a lot more sassy and hilarious than I remember that other teenage sleuth being.

Gabe, the ‘angel’ is a James Dean lookalike with a chip on his shoulder and over fifty years of history to catch up on – but it’s pretty clear he thinks Riley is fantastic.  His only ‘con’ would be a propensity to always address Riley as either sweetheart or dollface.  That gets old pretty quickly.  His and Riley’s friendship (once they develop a level of trust) is one of discovery and fast-paced banter.  It’s light and enjoyable reading.  However, my favorite character aside from Riley is cheerleader Lacy.  She’s not a cardboard secondary character – in fact, I think her story (only hinted at) is probably just as interesting as Riley’s in its own way.

As for the plot, it follows Riley and her adventures in Hartwich over the course of a year, and there’s a lot of growing up mixed in with the occasional moments of fear, paranormal activity and high school politics.  It makes for an unusual blend, but it works for the most part.  My two small quibbles with the story have to do with the fair amount of exposition (rather than action) that it takes to describe what is actually going on in this sleepy Southern town, and one of the late-in-the-story reveals. 

The strongest part of Outcast is definitely Riley, but Kress also writes dialogue with humor and feeling.  The awkward conversations felt awkward.  Riley’s interactions with her parents were spot-on.  And the swoony bits were very good indeed.  In addition, Kress’ unique take on angel mythology was pretty fascinating.  In all, this is an entertaining light paranormal romance with some interesting twists and a fantastic heroine. 

Recommended for: fans of Gina D’Amico’s Croak, those who like light romances with a paranormal twist, and anyone looking for hilarious dialogue as a main element in their YA reading.

adrienne kress author photo
Adrienne Kress is a Toronto born actor and author who loves to play make-believe. She also loves hot chocolate. And cheese. Not necessarily together.

She is the author of two children's novels: Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and Timothy and the Dragon's Gate (Scholastic) and is a theatre graduate of the Univeristy of Toronto and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in the UK. Published around the world, Alex was featured in the New York Post as a "Post Potter Pick," as well as on the CBS early show. It won the Heart of Hawick Children's Book Award in the UK and was nominated for the Red Cedar. The sequel, Timothy, was nominated for the Audie, Red Cedar and Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards, and was recently optioned for film. She's also contributed to two anthologies in 2011: Corsets & Clockwork (YA Steampunk Romance short story anthology, Running Press Kids), and The Girl Who Was On Fire (an essay anthology analysing the Hunger Games series - Smart Pop).

Her debut YA, The Friday Society (Penguin), was released in the fall of 2012 to a starred review from Quill and Quire. And her quirky romantic YA, Outcast (Diversion Books), is out this June.

Interested in learning a little more about Outcast and Adrienne?  Check out these blog tour stops:

AND… if you’ve made it this far, please do enter the giveaway!  One entrant will receive an e-copy of Outcast.  To enter, simply fill out the FORM.  Giveaway open internationally, will end on June 24th at 11:59pm EST.  Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.  Good luck!

Fine print: I received an ebook of Outcast for honest review from Diversion Books.  Giveaway prize will be provided by the publisher.  I did not receive any compensation for this blog tour post.

top ten books that feature travel

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | | 7 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

This week’s topic is open for interpretation.  There’s the straight version: contemporary nonfiction travel monologue.  And then there are the more liberal interpretations: travel into other worlds, or across space, or in the past (fictional and not).  My list has a little bit of each of those, and it also has books for all ages.  I’m pretty sure that’s because the thrill and strangeness of travel appeal to every generation.  You know the drill: pick up one of these books and travel miles with your imagination.

Top Ten Books That Feature Travel

1. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy – This series features a round-the-globe adventure in an alternate history where the Great War (WWI) has just broken out.  Clever beasties, strange machinery, and plots and adventures in far-flung locales abound.

2. Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende – Allende writes lyrical historical fiction about the first European woman to settle in Chile, and her personal odyssey from Spain to the New World.

3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien – Epic fantasy is often about a quest, and this classic series is no different.  Frodo Baggins’ journey from the Shire to Mordor is pretty serious travel. 

4. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner – I read this travelogue/investigative tome while moving across the country, and found it an interesting take on various cultures’ attitudes about the concepts of happiness and contentment.

5.  Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books – September, the heroine of Valente’s gorgeous middle grade fantasies, travels to Fairyland. And then she travels around, above and below it, too.  What that description doesn’t tell you is that the trip will break your heart, make you laugh, and leave you longing for just a bit more magic.

6.  Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce – Liam is 12 years old, but he’s so tall that he’s constantly being mistaken for an adult.  But even that doesn’t explain how he’s ended up in space, and making it home again might not be the biggest challenge he faces.

7.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Quintessential American literature, yes.  Also?  An homage to Mississippi waterways, growing up, and independence.

8.  The Travels of Ibn Battutah by Ibn Battutah – Ibn Battutah is one of the most famous travelers of all time – he traversed much of the known (and unknown) world in the 14th century, including Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East (he certainly surpassed Marco Polo).  However, I’d never heard of him until I took a class on Byzantium and Islam in college.  His travel accounts are extremely interesting and valuable, and surprisingly accessible.

9.  The Chronicles of Narnia, but especially The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis – Narnia’s presence on this list was a forgone conclusion, really.  Several of the books in Lewis’ series are based on a journey, but perhaps the most celebrated is that of the ship the Dawn Treader, on which two of the Pevensie children and their cousin Eustace are headed for The Lone Islands (and the end of the world).

10.  Relish by Lucy Knisley – Knisley’s graphic novel memoir revolves around food, family and travel, and the travel portions are funny, heartfelt and charming.  That alone would make this a worthy addition, but then there’s also FOOD.  Yum!

What books are on your list?


If you browse around here at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia, it’ll soon become apparent that I love food almost as much as I love books.  And in news that should surprise exactly no one, the recipe posts I occasionally put up are the most popular ones on my blog.  After all, food is one of the necessities of human existence.  I also consider books necessary, but I know I’m in the minority in thinking that.  Combine books and food, and we’re in business.  Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel memoir Relish does just that, with charm.

relish by lucy knisley book cover
A vibrant, food-themed memoir from beloved indie cartoonist Lucy Knisley. 

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe—many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy's original inventions. 

A welcome read for anyone who ever felt more passion for a sandwich than is strictly speaking proper, Relish is a book for our time: it invites the reader to celebrate food as a connection to our bodies and a connection to the earth, rather than an enemy, a compulsion, or a consumer product.

Lucy grew up as the daughter of foodies, and as such developed a taste for all things different and gourmet (and sometimes expensive!) at a young age.  Because she associates certain memories with food, it naturally made sense for her to write a food-based memoir, complete with recipes at the end of each chapter.  And as a talented illustrator, she can also share her memories in images.  Lucy’s upbringing in the kitchen and wonderful talent are on display in Relish, and her experiences from childhood through early adulthood come to life through her writing and art.

Of course Lucy doesn’t transcribe her experiences in a completely linear fashion.  She approaches each set of images as a separate piece of the puzzle, and though it may not be immediately apparent, she plays with perspective until each panel fits in the whole.  There’s no extraneous, self-indulgent filler – the medium won’t allow for it.  This, combined with subjects she clearly loves (food, family, travel, art), makes for a thoughtful, lively story that will appeal to graphic novel pros and newbies alike. 

I’m also convinced that Lucy and I would be friends.  It could happen!  (in my dreams…)  While each chapter/vignette in Relish has its own charm, my favorite part of Lucy’s story was her obvious love and respect for her mother, which is visible on almost every page.   I too credit a lot of my own quirks and character to a loving family and food.  In all, Relish is a delightful change of pace, and it made me happy and proud to be a budding foodie.  I can’t wait to try Lucy’s  Spice Tea (chai) recipe!

Recommended for: anyone who enjoys graphic novels (or is hoping to start reading them), foodies, and those who enjoy YA memoirs.  Probably most appropriate for readers ages ten and up.

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

Fine print: I received an electronic advanced copy for review from First Second (Macmillan) via NetGalley.  And then I got the book from my local library because I didn’t finish it in time.

etiquette & espionage

There’s something about steampunk that hooks me time after time.  It’s fantasy set in an alternate Victorian Era, so you have the feeling and trappings of historical fiction.  It’s also speculative (sci-fi or fantasy or a mix of the two), with a sense of hope about what technology would/could do to make society different.  In the hands of young adult authors, steampunk is also often fun and adventurous.  I was certain that I’d like Gail Carriger’s first YA steampunk novel (she wrote the adult Parasol Protectorate series, which started with Soulless), and I wasn’t disappointed.

etiquette & espionage by gail carriger book coverIt's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea—and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right—but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

Sophronia is a tomboy-ish younger sister who throws her mother into fits.  She simply doesn’t care that she’s not supposed to be interested in running and jumping and listening at doors.  After all, it’s natural to her, and she can’t see a good reason to start being boring like her elder sister.  However, her mother doesn’t agree, and sends her off to a finishing school to reform her temperament and behavior.  And that’s when things start to get very interesting.

Sophronia has a personality, if you know what I mean, and she’s the life of the book.  Sophronia makes Etiquette & Espionage worth reading because her inquisitiveness, cunning and dismissal of scruples lead to one scrape after another.  Sophronia isn’t attending an ordinary school (although there are the requisite moments of school chum bonding and teaming up to outwit teachers), after all – she’s also learning the fine arts of espionage and murder.  At first she’s bemused and mystified, and later she embraces her lessons with verve.  Her energy and penchant for disregarding the social niceties (while everyone around her is obsessed with them) makes for entertaining reading and hijinks galore.

While this book won’t best please those YA readers who have come to expect romance as a major element of their reading, it will satisfy those with an eye for a unique setting, a soft spot for clever characters, and anyone who has secretly wanted to become a spy at some point in their lives.  The girls at Madmoiselle Geraldine’s learn about poison, machinery, making enemies and friends, and learn to curtsy at the same time.  It’s a bit of a comedy of manners, but a dashing one, and seeds are planted for continuing story arcs.  The formula = mystery + adventure.

Recommended for: fans of YA steampunk (think Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan or Kady Cross’ The Girl in the Steel Corset), and anyone waiting for their entrance letter to a school of magic or espionage.
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