Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston

"I don't love Sonny Flannery."

That's the lie Kelley Winslow told to protect the boy she loves from a power he doesn't know he possesses. Devastated, Sonny retreats—to a haven for Lost Fae that's hidden deep underneath New York City.

But Kelley's not about to let things end in heartbreak. To get Sonny back, she's got to find out who's after his magick—and how to use her own. She's got to uncover who's recruiting Janus Guards to murderously hunt innocent Faerie. She's got to help rebuild the shattered theater company she called family. And she's got to do it all without getting dangerously distracted by the Fennrys Wolf, whose legendary heart of stone seems to melt whenever he's around Kelley.

The intrigue and romance that began with Wondrous strange and Darklight come to a stormy head in Tempestuous, the breathtaking conclusion to Lesley Livingston's ravishing urban Faerie trilogy.

Tempestuous is the final book in Lesley Livingston's "urban faerie trilogy". Throughout the series Lesley has been consistent with her tying in of Shakespeare's work with this fantastic world she has created surrounding Kelley Winslow and Sonny Flannery. So much so, in fact, she makes the reader (that can't spout Shakespeare at will) feel slightly smarter for the experience.

I was happy to see a few familiar "faces" from Wondrous Strange reappear in Tempestuous, particularly Herne; it was neat to see how all of the characters blended into the conclusion. The part I struggled with most was reconnecting some of the mythology and circumstances involved in Wondrous Strange that played heavily into the storyline of Tempestuous. What would be great is to re-read this series, one book immediately after the other. The time frame between each installment did make me forget a few details, though Lesley does an admirable job of refreshing the reader's memory throughout.

There were elements that occurred in Darklight that had left me quite anxious to get right into Tempestuous: the possibility (however slim) of a love triangle, the mysterious actions of Fennrys, etc. All were tied up quite satisfactorily, though. For whatever reason, I didn't love this book as much as I did the first two. In Ms. Livingston's defense, this may only be because I not big on endings when I've come to love the story and the characters.

 I truly enjoyed the parallel worlds created in this series. While Darklight's action happened, for the most part, in the faerie realm, Tempestuous brings us back into New York, Central Park, and some hidden locations around and under the Park. Lesley gives great descriptions, making the pureness of the Faerie courts vivid while contrasting it with the darker, scarier side of New York (mostly because of all the creatures running amuck.)

I also found an educational aspect, with regards to the many mythological beings that pop up in these books. I did have to look up a few, for instance the sylph. Ironically, I was reading a play by Alexander Pope at the same time, only to discover his use of this airy creature, also. So kudos, to Lesley and to Pope for teaching me a little something (Lesley's are bigger because she made it much more fun :-)

Ms Livingston has a style of writing that grabs your attention and keeps it. For this reason, I'm sure this will end up being one of those series that I will read again and again over time!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Interview with Lauren Oliver

Yesterday, I posted my review of Lauren Oliver's latest novel, Delirium. Today, I'm happy to have Lauren on the blog for a little Q&A session. Please, give a warm welcome and let's see what Lauren has to say, in her own words!

Jackie: Please tell the readers a bit about what we can expect from Delirium?

Lauren: DELIRIUM is a novel about a world in which love has been declared a contagious disease. Scientists have invented a cure and the government has made it mandatory. The book tells the story of Lena, a seventeen-year-old on the verge of being cured.

J: Delirium is a dystopian novel, which is becoming increasingly popular (again?) in YA literature. Do you think this genre has taken over from the overwhelming amounts of vampire, angels and werewolf novels of recent years?

L:Oh, jeez. That’s so hard to say. I think both genres indicate that the popular imagination has been very dark of late. But I try very hard not to think too hard about trends, and what will stay in or out. It’s too stressful!

J: With Delirium being your sophomore effort, did you find it easier to get your ideas down on paper?

L: Definitely not! One of the things that kind of amazes me about writing is that it never gets any easier. In fact, sometimes I think it’s the reverse!

J: Before I Fall drew heavily on your own experiences in high school. Does Delirium share any parallels with your life or is it a complete departure from similarities?

L: Well, to be honest, there have been times in my life when I have very much wished that there was a cure for love! And Lena is a runner, as I am; I actually ran most of the routes described in DELIRIUM. And I certainly relate to the deep ambivalence Lena feels about love—its terrors and attractions.

J: Both Before I Fall and Delirium have been optioned for films. Are these projects in the infancy stage or are they full steam ahead? Will you have much input in the film versions?

L: Before I Fall is chugging along—Delirium is a little farther behind, as it has just been released. I’m lucky that the producers attached to my projects are very open, communicative people, and really committed to making a film that best represents the book. I therefore feel absolutely no fear about leaving it entirely in their hands!

J: For my Canadian readers, do you have any plans to tour in Canada with Delirium?

L: I would love to! I have no immediate plans to tour there, but I think it would be great, and I’m sure we can make it happen!

J: Have you already started on your next project? If so, can we have a sneak peek?

L: My next book is actually a middle-grade called LIESL & PO and it publishes this fall. And after that comes the sequel to Delirium, PANDEMONIUM. No sneak peeks allowed, but it is action-packed, I promise!

Thanks to Lauren for taking the time out to answer my questions; it was a great honour. Hopefully if you haven't read anything of Lauren's yet, you'll get on it ASAP!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

After reading Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver's first book, I knew one thing about this author: she can really stir up the emotions! (I'm still reeling from the ending of that book.) So, I found it curious that her latest book is labelled as "dystopian", which are typically devoid of least out in the open.

But, with this genre, I think Lauren Oliver is a natural fit. Her main character, Lena, admits that she often feels like two different people, one on the inside and one on the outside. Living in a dystopian society, where the paranoia of always being watched is realized, these feelings are understandable, especially in this world that Oliver has created.

Lena is 17, almost 18, the age at which scientist have found a cure for the disease called love (in the book, it is named amor deliria nervosa). From that age, society chooses who you will be partnered with for, basically, propagation of the species. Random meetings, love at first sight, heartbreak, all these normal factors are replaced with scientific match-making (E-Harmony gone wild, as it were.)

So, here's what gets me: First, it seems science doesn't always get it right. Lena's knowledge of her mother's past is horrifying, at least to me. Second, if love is truly taken away before you have your children, they lose out on so much of the parental relationship; it's just heartbreaking to imagine.

Having said this, the emotions drawn out in the reader, especially the anxiety for these poor children living this way, is what makes me feel that Oliver's writing is spot on. She comes from a place of deep understanding of those delicate teen to adult years and the major decisions that are usually made during this time and twists them with all her might. Not to mention, of course, the nerve-racking first love that comes around that time also, (for most people.) All I can say is that I'm glad I don't have to go through all of that again!

Normally, the main story is what keeps you reading and wanting more, and that is very true here, but for me, the secondary characters in Delirium are no small part of this imaginary world. The best friend, Hana, and what role she will play in the future (I have my suspicions) and Lena's cousin, Grace (she has piqued my interest the most, I admit) will encourage me to keep reading this series (Delirium is book one of a trilogy.)

Having recently read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I can see similarities in the way this world has been imagined with the border closures, scientific control, and the fringe element that is necessary for a small measure of hope. The main difference here, I think, is that this story is less of a commentary of society overall (though there is some of that) but more about the fragile inner workings of youth. Delirium is an awesome start to the series!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective's next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning -- crowds sported black armbands in grief -- and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had "murdered" Holmes in "The Final Problem," he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found.

Or has it?

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold - using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories - who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.

I love Sherlock Holmes. I became a fast fan after watching Jeremy Brett's portrayal of the famed detective through the 1990's, but I shamefully admit to not having actually read an original story until this past summer as part of a University course. Not having the time to continue reading Doyle's original canon at the moment, I was excited to hear about this book being released that offered concurrent investigations, albeit mysteries happening more than a century apart.

In The Sherlockian, we meet Harold White, the newest members to an organization called The Baker Street Irregulars. Quickly, Harold becomes embroiled in the modern day mystery of Doyle's missing diary. In the Doyle story line, we see what Moore's imaginative mind concocted as the potential content of said diary,  as events unfold during the dates the missing journal would have involved, and we find another mystery to follow along.

I will admit, I had to invoke my 150 page rule on this one, for several reasons. First, Harold White is not the most vivacious character; definitely no Indian Jones, or, dare I say it? Sherlock Holmes. He's a tad dreary as a leading man. And from the start, Doyle's bitter resentment of Holmes overshadowing the real man, his author, becomes difficult to handle, especially for those (me) loving the fictional man so much.  Secondly, it takes a bit of time to get into the real meat of each mystery as all of the pieces are put together slower than normal because of the two scenarios being built up to.

But, and it's a big one, once you do get into it, the characters and both stories come alive. Moore's portrayal of Harold is honest; he knows his weaknesses, his strengths, and his limits, but he pushes these, showing personal growth for the character and better understanding for the reader. As for Doyle, I was sympathetic to his plight of attempting to establish his own identity, separate from that of the man he'd created. Try as he may have done, I don't think he ever succeeded. He is still synonymous with creating the greatest detective that ever "lived". I can't say if that part of Moore's story was real, but it's definitely plausible.

Towards the end, the story departs from the mystery to become more of a social commentary of turn of the century England and of today, and why so many people the world over love the idea of living in Holmes' England. From the male perspective, you see the romanticized version of life during that time, which Harold offers up quite eloquently; from the female side, you learn stats about prostitution, suffrage, racism and how today's world is that much better for the struggles endured and overcome back then.

The author, in his revealing of the story and it's potential outcome, foreshadows his ultimate message with strategic quotes from Doyle and Stoker at the beginning of each chapter. It becomes quite sad, as there's a general sense of loss of grand times that have passed, of one particular person, once great in Doyle's life, that dies penniless and alone in Paris (Oscar Wilde). It was this part of the story that held my attention the most though. I loved the conversations between Stoker and Doyle, fictional though they may be, it would have been great to have been a fly on the wall as witness. Though Wilde is not an actual character in the book, his presence in the lives of the other two famous authors has a profound affect on the story.

Moore does a great job of piecing it all together with the exception of the mysteries. If you are looking for something comparable to an original Sherlock Holmes, this is not the book for that. Moore pulls out a rather shocking stunt involving Doyle that left me a little bewildered. Putting that aspect aside, it highlighted more about human truths, about what people are looking for and why, and, more to the point, the outcome may not always be as you expect or as neatly wrapped up as a Holmes mystery...but that's life.

As for a particular conversation envisioned by the author, Stoker laments that down the line, people will not remember Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, or Bram Stoker, and definitely not his count from that strange place on the continent, but they will remember Sherlock Holmes. I'm happy to argue the point with the fictional Stoker....if only they could see the continued successes of all of their work. Having gone off on my tangent here, it is because of Moore's ability to bring these people to life in a credible way that I will credit for my future interest in reading and re-reading their classic literature. The Sherlockian turned out to be different from my expectations, but in a very good way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Giveaway! Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C. Beaton

I'm happy to have 3 copies of M.C. Beaton's latest Hamish MacBeth novel to offer my followers in a giveaway. Here's a bit about the book, which releases on Feb. 25, 2011:

In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager's fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney. The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn't believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete's body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it's up to Hamish to discover who's responsible for the dirty deed—and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes.

To enter,you must be a follower and comment below, telling me who your favourite crime solver is. Remember include your e-mail addy so I can contact you if you win. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only and winners will be drawn on Feb. 25th using (entries must be in no later than the 24th). Best of luck to all!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Giveaway! Sins of the House of Borgia by Sarah Bower

Thanks to Beth at Sourcebooks, I'm happy to offer up a galley of Sins of the House of Borgia to one of my lucky followers! Here's a little about the book:

In 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella expel the Jews from Spain, six year old Esther Sarfati finds herself travelling to Rome to join her father, a successful banker who has helped his fellow Spaniard, Rodrigo Borgia, finance his bid for the Papacy. Nine years later, as Pope Alexander VI, he repays the favour by offering Esther a place in the household of his daughter, Lucrezia, who is about to marry Alfonso d'Este, heir to the Duchy of Ferrara. Against her own better judgement, but in accordance with her father's wishes for her future, Esther converts to Christianity and enters Lucrezia's service as lady-in-waiting. Flattered by Lucrezia's favour, seduced by the friendship of her cousin, Angela Borgia and swept off her feet by Lucrezia's glamorous and dangerous brother, Cesare, she is drawn into a web of intrigue and deceit which will test her heart to its utmost and burden her with secrets she must carry to her grave. Set against the glittering background of the court of Ferrara in the early sixteenth century, this is the heart-breaking story of what happens to an innocent abroad in the world of the Borgias.
To enter, just leave a comment below and tell me which is your favourite era in history/historical fiction to read about. Also, include an e-mail address where you can be contacted if/when you win. (Please note, you must be a follower to enter.) Contest runs until March 1, 2011 and is open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. Winner will be drawn using Good luck to everyone :-)

P.S. If you don't happen to win, you can purchase this book once it releases on March 8, 2011.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More free's a free reading weekend!

Sourcebooks has done it again! They are offering up 3 free e-books this weekend for all to enjoy. You can access these books through the Sourcebooks store or follow the links from their site to other retailers. While you're at the store, remember to sign up for their newsletter also, to find out more about upcoming releases ans more special deals like these :-)

Here's what they're offering:

Lydia Bennet's Story by Janet Odiwe

Lydia Bennet is the flirtatious, wild and free-wheeling youngest daughter. Her untamed expressiveness and vulnerability make her fascinating to readers who’ll love this imaginative rendering of Lydia’s life after her marriage to the villainous George Wickham. Will she mature or turn bitter? Can a girl like her really find true love?

In Lydia Bennet’s Story we are taken back to Jane Austen’s most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia’s eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, complications arise. When Lydia is reunited with the Bennets, Bingleys, and Darcys for a grand ball at Netherfield Park, the shocking truth about her husband may just cause the greatest scandal of all ...
Janet's  new release, Mr. Darcy’s Secret, just came out on February 1st

Love at First Flight by Marie Force 
What if the guy in the airplane seat next to you turned out to be the love of your life?

Juliana, happy in her career as a hair stylist, is on her way to visit her boyfriend of ten years who's working out of state. She's wondering why they're not engaged yet. Michael is going to his fiance's parents' home for an engagement party he doesn't want. A states' prosecutor, he's about to try the biggest case of his career, he hates the distraction, and he's having doubts about the relationship.

They sit together on the plane, and discover they're on the same flight coming back. When the weekend is a disaster for each of them, they bond on the plane ride home. But life is full of complications, including their exes, who don't want to let go, and when Michael's trial turns dangerous, the two must confront what they value most in life...
Marie's  new release, Everyone Loves a Hero, just came out on February 1st

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

Royal protector. Loyal servant. Forgotten hero.

A penniless young knight with few prospects, William Marshal is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Henry II's formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In gratitude, she appoints him tutor to the heir to the throne, the volatile and fickle Prince Henry. But being a royal favorite brings its share of danger and jealousy as well as fame and reward.

A writer of uncommon historical integrity and accuracy, Elizabeth Chadwick resurrects the true story of one of England's greatest forgotten heroes in a captivating blend of fact and fiction. The Greatest Knight restores William Marshal to his rightful place at the pinnacle of the Middle Ages, reflecting through him the triumphs, scandals, and power struggles that haven't changed in eight hundred years.
Elizabeth's highly anticipated release, To Defy a King, will be released March 1st

And, you can still download Dreaming Anastasia for free until Feb, 7th:

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Free ebook: Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

Who doesn't love a free ebook? I know I do now that I have my very own e-reader (I'm a bit behind in tech ownership but hopefully catching up quickly!) That's why I was excited to get this in an e-mail from  Paul at Sourcebook Fire:

"I have some great news for you! If you are excited about Joy Preble’s Haunted but haven’t read Dreaming Anastasia we’re making it available for free! 

You can DOWNLOAD Dreaming Anastasia for FREE from Feb. 1st to Feb. 7th—wherever eBooks are sold—in celebration of the launch of Haunted."

This is very cool. And, of course, first thing this morning I was trying to download the ebook from the store at Sourcebooks. Unfortunately, it looks like they may have some glitches in their system as I kept getting kicked out. I've emailed them to let the know what's happening and hopefully will be able to download it later today. In the meantime, here is the book blurb from Sourcebooks:

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…

US residents can click here to redeem this offer at Barnes & Noble or Amazon . And, just updated is Kobo available in Canada and the US!
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