hello, goodbye

you say goodbye, I say hello

I had a lovely little post ready to go for this, then I decided I wasn’t ready. Then I decided I was, but scrapped my original announcement…

In a nutshell, I feel the time has come for me to say goodbye to book blogging.

I find that when something that should be fun becomes a chore, it’s time to let go. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about the pressure to keep up with the pace of book blogging while also trying to write books of my own and manage all the other odds and ends that life throws my way. It’s been a wonderfully enlightening experience–I’ve discovered great reads and highly introspective bloggers–but my own posts have become few and far between. The time has come to move on and stop holding on to something that no longer gives me the pleasure it once did.

That said, I’m not going to disappear. I’ll still be blogging about life, writing, and other moments of madness on things she said (with the occasional reading update thrown in for good measure), but the idea of book blogging as a solitary pursuit is no longer in the books.

Adieu, good day, goodbye, and farewell.

giving in to the hype – reading The Cuckoo’s Calling

I enjoy a good mystery, but I’m not as familiar with the genre as I am with SFF or literary fiction. I’m less likely to pick up an unknown in mystery than I am in SFF. Biased? Probably, but it’s a bias I am aware of and trying to fix in my effort to expand my literary horizons and all that jazz. So… yeah… the chances of my picking up The Cuckoo’s Calling before the great reveal would’ve been slim to none. Just being honest.

That said, I did enjoy the book. It started slow, but the mystery developed fairly quickly once all the players were introduced. It’s a classic British mystery, which fans of Sherlock and the like will appreciate. Rowling has a way of giving you all the pieces before you even realize their significance–a skill she used to great advantage in HP. My biases may be showing again, but I find I prefer her genre fic over her literary work (The Casual Vacancy was kind of a letdown for me).

Not much of a review, but I figure there’s enough that’s been said about this novel. I liked it. Yes, I’ll probably read the next one and look forward to it.

Now, back to the TBR shelves!

sometimes, I enjoy a spot of romance

The Arrangement by Mary Balogh

arrangementI haven’t read many Regency romances, and I’d never read Mary Balogh before, so I don’t have much ground for comparison, but this was a sweet romance with a twist that made the relationship between Vincent and Sophia all the more believable.

Blinded during battle, Vincent Hunt, the Viscount Darleigh is plagued by relatives who want to compensate for his handicap by managing his life, but that is nothing to the potential for disaster when status-seeking acquaintances try to throw their eligible daughters in his path. Tired of being an object of scrutiny and pity, Vincent seeks the safety of his former home and is nearly snared by the power-hungry Marches, but is saved by the quick-thinking Miss Sophia Fry, neglected niece of the Marches.

More than grateful for Sophia’s intervention, Vincent feels it his duty to come to her aid when she is expelled from her home. He offers her a marriage of convenience, but they soon find that there is more between them than can be satisfied by mere companionship…

The relationship between Vincent and Sophia emerges slowly and grows through mutual regard, a nice change from the usual love-at-first-sight theme. I enjoyed the novel and found myself interested in reading the rest of the Survivor’s Club series. It’s a great weekend read when you need something warm and cozy.

Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan

shadowShadowance is the fourth installment in Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series, which has just about everything you can want in a fantasy romance set in an alternate, supernatural-infested Victorian London.

Longtime adversaries, Mary Chase and Jack Talent are thrown together when supernaturals start turning up dead. Determined to prove herself, Mary stubbornly agrees to work with Talent, despite his constant haranguing, but there’s more to Talent and his attitude than Mary knows… and there’s more to Mary than Jack imagines.

Just… wow. I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (yes, I skipped ahead to this one, but you don’t really need to read them in order to follow along), this one went way beyond all expectations. If you’re looking for hot hot sex, this is it. Ditto, if you’re looking for strong characters who grow beyond their flaws. Angst, love, revenge, mystery, action… all there. And did I mention the sex? The tension between Mary and Talent is so well crafted, you just know sparks are going to fly. I love a sexy romance that features love between equals and Callihan definitely knows how to make that happen.

I received Shadowdance as a netgalley offer from Forever Romance, but will definitely be purchasing a copy for my collection.

Entwined by Kristen Callihan

entwinedEntwined is part of the same universe as Shadowdance, but serves as a companion story rather than part of the ongoing series. Not quite a prequel, Entwined introduces characters that are related to others in the series, but are not directly involved in the main storyline. It’s a quick read and can be read as a standalone. I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers, but it follows a mixed-up, epistolary love affair between Eamon Evernight and his brother’s betrothed, Lady Luella. Like Shadowdance, there is a good mix of fantasy and romance, and a nice dash of sexytimes.

Thanks to Forever Romance and NetGalley for this one as well.

What I’ve been reading… another random mini-post

I’ve been reading plenty, but there is only so much time in a day and I’ve sacrificed book blogging for the sake of staying sane and not turning into a regimented oddball… So here is a mini-reaction post to keep the thrill alive.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Yes, I picked this one up after watching the show, and while it is vastly different from the sexed up dramady that is the Netflix original series, Piper Kerman’s memoir on her year spent in prison is incredibly sensitive to the reality of life in prison. She bears witness in a way that captures the stories of the women she meets without sensationalizing their experiences or victimizing them.

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Bridget is back! I’ve been a Bridget fan for years… confession, it was Bridget who turned me on to Jane Austen. For a fictional character, she’s had a huge influence on my idea of womanhood. I was so excited when I learned that the sequel was coming out and I was not disappointed. Bridget has grown, but she is still the Bridget I love–flawed, slightly neurotic, but always funny and real. Loved it 🙂

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I just had to read Attachments after reading Fangirl and Eleanor & Park. It was a bit slower than her other books, but still enjoyable and full of nostalgia.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
In my effort to read more nonfiction, I checked out Salt Sugar Fat and became hooked. Moss’s style is journalistic and very detailed… it’s a history of the best/worst foods that most of us grew up with (especially, if you were a 90s child… terrible things came out of the 90s).

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
I received an advance copy of NOS4A2 from William Morrow but I regret to say that I couldn’t get through it. I read about half of it but just could not relate to any of the characters and gave up when it started to seem like a task to continue reading. Just lost interest and didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. I really wanted to like Joe Hill, but I don’t 😦

on connecting with a book (and author)

There are books you love, and then there are books that consume you.

I haven’t had that feeling in a good long time. There have been books I’ve loved, books I recommend, books I enjoy and worlds I will miss, but it’s been a while since I’ve had that grip you and won’t let go feeling after reading a book.

Rainbow Rowell has totally blown me to literary smithereens.

I read Fangirl a couple of weeks ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Not only did I immediately connect with the story, it made me remember all the things I love about been a book lover, a writer, a fan, a geek, and a student all in one. The novel is emotionally charged and deals with some heavy subjects (depression, social anxiety, drinking), but Cath’s ability to overcome these things through writing and books is a powerful message in itself.

And then I read Eleanor & Park and there were so many feels, I’m still reeling. I just want to read these books again and let them wash over me.

These are the kinds of books I want to tell everyone about. I know I’m going to sound like a sales lady every time someone asks me for a book recommendation at work. It’s like when I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or the Georgia Nicolson books, or Harry Potter and couldn’t stop trying to get all my friends to read them too. These books are an experience.

Some of the best books I’ve read lately

A quick round-up of some of the best books I’ve read in the past month… I’ve been speed-reading my way through my collection as I balance work, life, and writing. Can’t help myself.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Is pretty much perfect. In some ways, it reminds me of Atonement and Possession (two of my all-time favorite novels), with a heaping dose of string theory-ish, multiverse what-iffery thrown in for good measure. Ursula’s many lives are full of joy, frustration, heartache, danger, and a constant sense that any second, everything will change. I really enjoyed Atkinson’s writing and look forward to reading her other works in future.

Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

The Dark Lord cometh! Doescher’s Shakespearean-inspired rendition of A New Hope is so well done, it completely rekindled my love of Star Wars. A great, quick read for anyone who loves Star Wars, Shakespeare, or both. (I am currently immersed in this play at work… we picked it for our campus read and it’s all Star Wars all the time for me at the moment.)

The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

A novella, oh my. I try to change up my reading every so often, which means that I’m trying to make a concerted effort to read outside my usual genres and styles. Novellas and short stories are among those styles that I generally avoid because they often leave me wanting more… The Mysterious Madam Morpho is just such a one. I’ve read several AU London steampunk fics, but Dawson’s world filled with bluds and carnivalleros is unlike any of the others I’ve read. This is a well-crafted story with fully realized characters and wonderfully realistic sexy bits (I do love me some realistic relationships where both partners are equals). The best part is that it’s a series! No sense of loss at the end of a great short.

Summer Reading, part 4

Summer is very nearly over. Just a few more weeks and students will be back and it will feel like all work and no play once again. I’ve managed to read (or try to read) most of the books on my self-appointed summer reading list, with the exception of the Kate Locke book… I’ve been distracted by library holds that arrived all at once. I’ll try to get to it before the summer ends.

My latest read was Among Others by Jo Walton, a story about magic, ethics, sci-fi, and growing up. It’s one of those books that starts slow but then sucks you in and doesn’t let go even after you’ve finished. I stayed up reading this one (and I’m a strict 8 hour sort of girl, I don’t stay up for any old book).

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Of course, despite my best effort to be a responsible book keeper, I’ve gone out and acquired more books… It can’t be helped. I’ve been wanting to read these for ages and they were autographed, so I gave in.

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I really only went to the shop for the pins… Talk about impulse buys.

In which I try to read outside of my genres and remember why that doesn’t work

It feels like I’ve been on a bookish speed date, trying different reads and quickly dropping them. These are some of my latest misses.

True Love by Jude Deveraux

loveMy first and probably last book by the author. I received an ARC of the book during a conference and thought I’d give it a try. It started as a light, summer read but it was long and dull. Too many characters with vague connection, too much talk about Nantucket, inexplicable secrets (as in, they were pointless secrets and I couldn’t understand why they were being kept in the first place), and a romantic couple that didn’t really work for me as a reader. Alix did not read like a 20-something and Jared was not particularly sexy as a love match. I finished it, but only because I felt I was in too deep to give up. Nothing is really resolved, but there’s an epilogue to package it all neatly.

Received via Random House rep.

Losing It by Cora Carmack

losingI wanted to love this book. I was so excited when it went on sale for the Nook, I downloaded it right away, but about 30 pages in, I knew it was not going to work. I like the idea of independent 20-somethings taking life on their own terms, but there was too much cheese and not enough substance. I just couldn’t take it seriously when the main character picks up a boy who just happens to be British (OMG! Accent! And Shakespeare! He’s so hot!!) and immediately goes all gaga and clumsy. I quickly lost it with this one.

The Edge of Never by JA Redmerski

neverThis started in much the same vein as Losing It–skanky friend wants to take sensible friend out so she can get wild and get laid–but it soon became depressed girl goes on trip to nowhere after having a bitchfight with skanky friend. There’s a lot of riding in buses and being clueless about potential dangers, but there’s an equally troubled, hot guy to save the day. I got about a quarter of the way into the book, but just didn’t care enough to find out what happens between Cam and Andrew.

Received this one via NetGalley.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

oceanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of those novels that grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. It is a slim little volume, easy enough to read, but it leaves you feeling that you’ve learned and lost something in the reading. It is the story of a man who once was a boy and a few days that were filled with wonder and terror. It is about a pond that is an ocean, and such an ocean it is.

It is about nature, and dreams, and memories. But it is also about life and growing up, finding yourself, and finding the magic in small things. And it’s about cats and women and wisdom. It’s a novel that has all the essence of a fable, something that has been part of story as long as there have been stories, and yet is entirely new. Neil Gaiman has a way of doing that with his words, weaving tales that are at once new and eternal.

I could make comparisons to The Graveyard Book or Coraline, even to Big Fish, but the novel is really a creature all its own. As with these works, it takes you into a world that makes you doubt the truth of reality and experience, makes you wonder if there is more to be seen just beyond the edge of your vision.

I can’t say much more than that. It is such a privilege to have received this copy for review from William Morrow.

 

 

Summer Reading, part 2…

or getting my YA on

Finished Beautiful Creatures last night and can’t wait to get my hands on Beautiful Darkness. I was really surprised that I enjoyed the book as much as I did. I’d been getting away from YA during the last year… I’d had a hard time finding books that I could connect with and was starting to worry that I was losing my youthful whimsy. I haven’t lost it :). Beautiful Creatures drew me in from the start. It’s not perfect—there are some scenes that turned me off, especially the party scene, and it’s YA, so there is bound to be the near insta-love element that is so common in this kind of fiction, but it worked for me.

What I find especially engaging is the way that the Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl evoke the unique character of the South. The individual voices are wonderful–especially among the adults in the book. Who doesn’t love Ethan’s kooky aunts and the magical Amma?–and the settings are nicely rendered and imagined. There is a great atmospheric quality to the narrative that almost reminds me of Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (without all the minute details).

I was afraid this would be one of those in-the-shadow of Twilight books, but it is most definitely not. The romance between Ethan and Lena is easy and develops naturally, though you know it’s bound to happen the moment they meet and there’s that shock of attraction (and I do mean shock). There’s love and sacrifice, but it’s not a toxic love, and that’s one of the best things I can say about any YA depiction of romance.

Even as I write this, I find myself thinking of The China Garden by Liz Berry, another great YA read about a family curse and one of my favorite books. I’m sure fans of Beautiful Creatures would love it too!