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I don't know why I sat on this one for so long after receiving a copy for review. I was so excited about the early buzz and then, when I actually had it in my hands, I think I fell prey to the hypemonster and let my worry that it wouldn't live up to expectations get the better of me. Wasn't the first time, won't be the last. More's the pity. Fortunately, that lingering suspicion that it might, in fact, be just lovely stuck around. And the other night I paused my regularly scheduled programming of historicals for this debut contemporary from Jasmine Guillory. As you can probably guess, I have exactly zero regrets.

Alexa Monroe is excellent at what she does. As the mayor of Berkeley's chief of staff, her latest project is getting her boss on board for a youth arts rehabilitation program. And while she doesn't so much have a life outside of her job, she does have a handful of close friends and an older sister she admires, even if she never sees her. Then one evening, Alexa gets stuck in an elevator with Drew Nichols, a pediatrician who is in town reluctantly attending the wedding of his former girlfriend to one of his best friends. Drew is in dire need of a date and, over a handful of cheese and crackers, somehow talks Alexa into filling the role. When he accidentally refers to her as his girlfriend in a conversation with the groom, the two virtual strangers are forced to up the ante on their ruse. The results are surprisingly successful. So successful, in fact, that Drew delays his flight back to L.A. to spend the next day with Alexa. What follows is a series of flights between Oakland and L.A. as Alexa and Drew can't seem to let go of this thing between them. Their respective friends have their qualms, namely Drew's inability to maintain anything resembling an actual relationship and Alexa's inability to come out and say how she's feeling. There's also the fact that Alexa is black and Drew is whiter than white. But when they're together, none of that seems to matter. Until, of course, it does.
Hey," was all he said.

She looked up and smiled at him, just the way he'd wanted her to. He smiled back, so happy to see her that he had to take a step back.
The meet cute in this irresistible novel is pretty freaking cute. But it's what comes after that really steals your heart. The helpless happiness that both Alexa and Drew experience whenever they're together is absolutely tangible. And the way that Ms. Guillory manages to capture and bottle that happiness carries the reader along with these two quite disparate individuals on a wave of stomach-fluttering hope and longing. My favorite part of Alexa and Drew's story is how they felt like people I know and work with and pass on the street. What I'm trying to say is, their days and their nights, their lives and their love―it felt plausible to me. Every once of it. I felt grounded in their arc and just how extremely satisfying it was to stick with them. Both of them have their flaws and hangups, particularly Drew (there, I said it). All of these felt organic to me, too, and not as though they were being amplified out of proportion for dramatic effect. I liked how the narrative refused to shy away from the flaws, how directly Alexa faced and voiced their inherent differences in race and culture, and how Drew wasn't perfect in his responses at first (or second), but how he accepted her read on them and adjusted his perspective and words and actions accordingly. And expected those around him to do the same. The result was that I felt empathy and respect and patience both for and with them.

There are no epic misunderstandings in this novel (praise be), though there are (happily) a few incredibly romantic gestures. But what really makes up the bulk of The Wedding Date are real conversations, real emotions and feelings being risked and hurt, genuine fears being silently held, a raft of swoonworthy quiet moments, and copious amounts of delicious food being eaten cozily on each other's couches. Truly, this book will make you want tacos something fierce. And crackers and cheese. And pizza. And doughnuts with sprinkles (and I don't even really like doughnuts). But they represented happiness here. And so I wanted them, and I wanted them for Alexa and Drew. Two smart people who found each other and didn't want to let go. I just loved The Wedding Date, and I can't wait to read more from Jasmine Guillory. Lucky for us, Drew's best friend Carlos's story is due out in September.

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It has been a very lovely year thus far when it comes to new-to-me authors. Some years are like that, while others (I'm thinking of last year in particular) are often quieter and filled with familiar voices. Both are wonderful. But I confess to being rather thrilled that this year has held so many new authors. As part of my previously mentioned (and apparently ongoing) historical binge, I recently ran across the work of Jillian Eaton by way of her Bow Street Brides series. Side note: I find myself reading about many brides this year. Brides are positively in abundance, especially around Bow Street and Belgravia. A Dangerous Proposal is the second book in the series and my clear favorite so far. The third book just released in March and is sitting on my Kindle waiting to be started as I type this. This series involves a number of mysteries featuring interlocking characters, and I very much enjoyed that aspect of it all.

Felicity Atwood does not recognize her life. The whole of it went so suddenly and so irrevocably south that she and her two young children are still struggling to pick up the pieces. Though she remains Lady Ashworth, she is no longer married to Lord Ashworth. The divorce took care of that. Now he lives with his new wife (and former mistress), while Felicity and the children he no longer wants anything to do with are forced to get by on their own in the decidedly dodgier part of town. Enter one Mr. Felix Spencer, former jewel thief turned Bow Street Runner. Felix and Felicity first met months ago as part of a theft in the home of Scarlett―Felicity's sole remaining friend. Felix was naturally doing the thieving and managed to nick one quick kiss off a very startled Felicity on his way out the window. Neither would be able to forget the incident. Now he is reformed (somewhat) and determined to keep the young single mother safe now that her circumstances have been so drastically reduced. And if Felix has his way, he'll also be able to convince her to give love (and him) another chance as well.

What an unexpectedly sweet story. It's quiet and thoughtful and ever so genuine. Felicity is so easy to feel for. She has had nothing but bad experiences with the men in her life, from a terrifying and damaging encounter years ago with Scarlett's dissolute husband to her own husband's omnipresent coldness and eventual blank betrayal. I didn't once question her reticence in the face of even Felix's determined charm. And he is nothing if not charming. Felix is a delight from cover to cover. Full of roguish, persistent kindness, he is the perfect person to quietly enter their lives when Felicity is at the end of a long and wearying road. And so a gentle courtship commences against the backdrop of the Runners' investigation into a series of murders around Felicity's new home, one that stretches its tentacles back into both of their pasts. The balance between mystery and relationship development was just right, and I hoped and feared equally for these eminently likable characters.
What are ye afraid of?" he murmured, the bristle on his jaw scraping against her cheek as he rested his chin on the sloping curve of her shoulder.

"I am not afraid," she said, but they both heard the lie in her voice. She began to stiffen, to draw back, but on a soft, whispering sigh she let herself relax against him. After so many months―so many years―of nothing but coldness she needed warmth. Like an untended flower that had grown too long in the shade she desperately yearned for the sun. For the heat it gave, and the comfort it brought. For no matter how deep the dark, the sun would always find a way to rise again. And when it did its light would be brighter and reach further than ever before.

"I am not afraid," she repeated as tears gathered. "I am not afraid."

"Ah, love." Felix's embrace tightened. He began to sway from side to side and she swayed with him, a dance where the only music came from the rhythmic beating of their hearts. "I know ye have no reason to trust me. No reason to believe a bloody word I say. But I want ye to know I'm not him. I won't hurt ye. I would never hurt ye."

"I know," she whispered as a single tear spilled down her cheek. "I know.
This level of gentle sweetness runs throughout the novel, and I found it (and them) utterly disarming. Felicity's children, Henry and Anne, their interactions with her mother, the intriguing crew of Bow Street Runners, and Felix's way with the whole lot of them are engaging and lively. I heartily recommend A Dangerous Proposal for your next cozy night in.

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Robin Hood (2018 Movie) Teaser Trailer – Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Jamie Dornan - YouTube

I mean, I am the worst when it comes to keeping my expectations even remotely in check regarding Robin Hood adaptations. I seem to be incapable of giving up the hope that maybe this one will be the one. And you know that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword flick that everybody universally crapped on awhile back? I just recently watched it, and I did not hate it, my friends. So I am nothing if not here for this new one due out November 21st of this year. Jamie Foxx as Little John? Bring it. The whole Robin as a hyped up Assassin's Creed version of Hawkeye bit? Yep. 
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I'm delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Julia Whelan's debut novel My Oxford Year. I'll confess this beautiful cover is what initially drew my eye. It's just a book I wanted to have on my shelf aesthetically. But even before I saw the cover, I'd heard of this title. It's as though it's been floating around in the ether for awhile now, what with a major motion picture already being in development. Truthfully, that level of advance hype gave me pause, as did the implied titular time constraint. Something about it fairly screamed, "Unplumbed depths of pain lurk beneath this charming cover." I was wary. But some gut instinct kicked in, encouraging me to give this one a chance. I am so very glad I did. The novel is an adaptation of an original screenplay (a fact I found out after turning the final page), and I sat with that for awhile sussing out how I felt about it. In the end, I don't think it really alters my experience with this text. I've formed my own primary relationship with it here. I'm also looking forward to seeing the film and giving that experience its due.

Ella Durran is literally standing in the London customs line about to embark on her dream year at Oxford when her phone rings. On the other end of the line is a job offer she can't refuse, working on the presidential campaign for a candidate she genuinely believes in. But Oxford has been the goal for as long as she can remember, so Ella (being the savvy contender that she is) strikes a deal. She'll be available day or night, working remotely from Oxford until the duration of her Rhodes scholarship ends, whereupon she will return to Washington, D.C., her future literally laid out before her. And it seems like the perfect plan. Until the idyll suffers a seismic shift in the form of a seemingly innocuous (if incredibly unpleasant) encounter with an obnoxious man in a chip shop. The momentary blip turns into a long-term nightmare on the first day of classes, when the man from the shop turns out to be none other than Jamie Davenport, Ella's literature lecturer. Not only do they not see eye to eye on the subject of condiments, they seem to differ on everything under the sun, beginning and ending with the literature they both love and just why and how it forms the fabric of life. Before long, they can't seem to leave each other alone in or out of the lecture hall. And it's becoming more and more difficult to remember a time before they sparred in quiet pub corners, to say nothing of that seemingly distant point when it will be time to leave.
Some of the larger buildings have huge wooden gates that look as if they were carved in place, a fusion of timeless wood and stone that steals my breath. Maybe those doors lead to some of the thirty-eight individual Oxford colleges? Imagining it, dreaming of it all these years, doesn't do it justice.I look skyward. Punctuating the horizon are the tips of other ancient buildings, high points of stone bordering the city like beacons.

"The City of Dreaming Spires," I murmur to myself.

"Indeed it is," Gavin says in my ear. I'd forgotten he was still on the line.

That's what they call Oxford. A title well deserved. Because that means, before it was my dream or Seventeen magazine girl's dream, it was someone else's dream as well.
It was that last line, right there at the end of the first chapter that sank me. It captured perfectly my feelings the moment I stepped off the coach and started my own wander in Oxford. The layers upon layers of dreams and knowledge and wanting fairly suffused my soul that October day. It came as no surprise, then, that I felt fully involved from that moment on in Ella's time among those hallowed halls and lanes. The lovely bit is that Whelan's writing strikes an appreciable balance between the inherent lightness and untroubled nature of a 24-year-old young woman on her first real adventure in a foreign country and the nuanced depth of that woman's dedication to forging a better world using every carefully honed skill she possesses. The love for literature (most particularly Ella's love for Middlemarch) that forms the foundation of Ella and Jamie's bond also serves to anchor the story. And you likely knew the second I mentioned Middlemarch that this book and I would get on. But predilections aside, I cannot fail to mention a moment in which Ella makes an observation on Dorothea Brooke that rang so true for me, it took my breath away. It is echoed once more at a pivotal moment in the novel to exquisite effect, and it has lingered with me ever since. 
Fifteen minutes after leaving Sophie in the filthy bathroom, I'm standing at Jamie's door, sopping wet and no longer calm. That vanished when I turned off Banbury Road onto Norham Gardens, my wet clothes chafing with every step, the wind wrapping my hair around my face and throat like clingy fingers. In its place, single-minded, near-homicidal rage.

We were better than this, Jamie and I. We weren't much, maybe, but we weren't this. This cliché. This statistic. This sadly predictable inevitability. As Jamie had said in our first tute, "We're the clever ones. We're Oxonians."

This is not the way the clever ones end.
"I'm sorry. About everything, okay? I should have realized you weren't―"

"No, please. Stop right there. You feel bad, I feel bad, but we will not plague each other with guilt. It's an absurd emotion, reserved for those who we fear might feel less than they ought." He looks in my eyes. "You and I, we carry on. If we stop, it is to only catch our breath. Well, breath caught.
It's that way with them. And it's that way with me. I love how direct these two are. I worried so much, as I could feel the weight of the untenable situation they found themselves in starting to close in ever tighter. While reading novels of a somewhat similar bent, I often find myself feeling hounded by the heavy hand of the author as the whole thing crosses over into the kind of emotional manipulation I detest. And while the nature of the conflict flirted with the edges of my tolerance, it never crossed over for me. It's the genuine and subtle exploration of the written word that held me with Ella and Jamie, that held them with each other, when the inevitable darkness comes to call. And call it does. Far earlier than I expected, even going in as prepared as I thought I was. But it is okay. I repeat, it is okay. Because words are the bridge. The accumulated words of the centuries that fold in around us to let us know we're not alone. Bridges of all sorts are important in this lovely novel. Bridges formed by our family, the past, our combined failures, and our dreams. But always by words.


ABOUT JULIA WHELAN
Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.

CONNECT WITH JULIA

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To celebrate today's release, William Morrow has kindly offered up one paperback copy to one lucky reader. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada addresses and will run through Tuesday, May 1st. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter. Good luck and happy reading!

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This cover seduced me from the moment I clapped eyes on it. It is so perfect that when I saw it in person I had to actually take a moment before I could touch it. With the gold foil? And that precise shade of blush? I mean, I mounted a token resistance. But nobody was fooled. And then yesterday it was so beautiful out, right? It was sunshine and blossoms on trees and my feet told me they were just going to take me for a short walk around the city center, when what they actually did was march me right down to the nearest bookstore and over to the C section of the stacks. I didn't stand a chance at that point. We were going home together, and neither of us had any questions on that score.

Penny Lee can see the end in sight. She has her acceptance letter to UT Austin in hand, and if she can just withstand her clingy mother and her well-meaning but doltish boyfriend a couple more days, she'll be free. And so it is with equal amounts relief and trepidation that she moves into her new dorm with her alarmingly gregarious roommate Jude. Jude comes along with an even more alarmingly vapid best friend Mallory and one 21-year-old ex-uncle by the name of Sam. Sam seems to primarily consist of caffeine and insomnia. He's a surprisingly good chef at a local coffee house. And he is nursing one hell of a broken heart. Penny has no business being captivated by Sam. But then one night she encounters him having a full-blown panic attack in public, and she steps outside her own rigid personal boundaries to try to help. Which is how she ends up listed in his phone under "Emergency Penny." And thus begins a difficult to define, but utterly heart racing relationship made up of texts and longing. But, of course, Sam was having a panic attack for a reason. And Penny has none of the tools she believes she needs to engage in an IRL relationship. And before long, everything looks to come crashing down. As if they weren't balanced precariously enough when they met.

I really had no idea going in what this book would be like. The Rainbow Rowell blurb obviously brought Eleanor and Park (and Fangirl, too) to mind, but I was understandably wary of allowing those comparisons too much room in my head. I resolved to just allow it to surround me and see who we both were together and how we got on.
Penny was looking at her phone when the screen lit up in her hand.

It was a call.

From Sam.

Whoa.

Penny glanced at a still-sleeping Jude, quietly got out of bed, and went into the bathroom.

"Hi."

His voice was deep, as if he'd just woken up.

"Hi?"

Penny cleared her throat. "You called me."

She heard him laugh.

Penny ran the shower, as if the room were bugged.

"I'm aware of that."

"Why the escalation?" she asked him.

He laughed again. Penny had no idea why she worded it like that.

"I mean, why'd you call?"

"You didn't answer me."

"What?"

Penny's heart was hammering. She sat on the floor.

"I asked if you were okay. You didn't respond. I became momentarily worried."

"Oh, sorry. Yeah, I'm fine. I was thinking about momstuff."

"Well, it's the responsibility of the emergency contact to inquire."

"I'm going to be honest with you: The rules of emergency contacts continue to evade me."

He laughed again. Penny smiled so hard it broke her face.
I was smiling and disarmed within a handful of words. Emergency Contact is relentlessly its own thing. It has a distinct groove and offbeat rhythm that I found incredibly appealing, even as it dug its way under my skin. Penny and Sam are both already wrecked and waving in the wind when the story opens. There was no way it was going to be a comfortable ride. And it really isn't. It is not a comfortable tale in any way. But you can't get it out of your head. And the truth is I never even wanted to. It's messy and a bit grimy, coltish and self-conscious at every turn. I loved it. And those texts. Those blunt and awkward and endlessly charming texts. Once they really get going, it's impossible to resist crushing quantities of hope. That they will meet, for once, with everything laid out on the table. That real life interaction will be a distant possibility and that it won't simultaneously ruin the delicate ecosystem that is their virtual relationship. That the heaviness of their pasts won't overshadow the truth of where and who they are now. The presence of Jude and Mallory, Sam's . . . Lorraine, along with Penny's mother and the specter of Sam's take up just the right amount of space in the story. Everyone is flawed and possible, and the whole thing is just so real I could feel every one of Penny's unwelcome blushes and the ragged edge of Sam's defeated mattress on the floor. I held my breath. In the end, I suppose that's the best way to characterize my enjoyment of this debut novel. I held my breath.

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So, for the past few weeks, I have basically been on one massive historical bender. It has been rather wonderful, really. And it's probably worth warning you that the highlights are going to be making their way here over the next few weeks. The whole thing began with a Laura Lee Guhrke reread, which led to a binge of her recent books, which led to one headlong Julie Anne Long tear. Somehow, I'd only read three of her Pennyroyal Green books and inexplicably decided that was as far as I was going? Utter nonsense, that. I happily downed at least five more charming entries in the series and, somewhere along the way, I discovered Charis Michaels. For which thing I am absolutely delighted. Because Ms. Michaels has just a lovely touch. I started with her first series and moved on to her most recent release Any Groom Will Do―the first in her new Brides of Belgravia series. While I've enjoyed each of her books, this one is my favorite. Allow me to tell you why.

Willow has a plan. She is getting herself (and her two best friends) out for good. And if she has to advertise for husbands for all three of them, then so be it. She has lived the life her dead father and indifferent mother laid out for her long enough, and she will have no more of this lifeless inactivity. She is putting her considerable dowry up for grabs in the hopes of securing an inoffensive husband in need of ready cash who will allow her to live her own life―separate from his―in London, where she will be able to pursue her vocation as a designer. One who will, perhaps, not mind that children will never be a part of the deal. Time is, of course, of the essence. And so when one Lord Brent Caulder, Earl of Cassin, arrives on her doorstep in answer to her advertisement, Willow is determined he will be their ticket out. Caulder, unfortunately, is not nearly so sure. Desperate to save his failing estates and prevent his mother and sisters from destitution, Caulder hopes the advertisement's mysterious investor will finance his long shot business venture to the Caribbean. Marriage was not in any of Caulder's cards. And yet. Despite the patent insanity of Willow's plan, he finds it difficult to walk away from this isolated young woman intent on living her life, with or without him.
The risk of discovery by Lady Lytton was a welcome new source of panic, but Willow was too preoccupied to really care about her mother. Against all odds, the Earl of Cassin held great potential. His reserve. His caution. His willingness to flee the house. Very great potential, indeed.

And flee they did, down the corridor, through the ballroom, and out onto the terrace that led to the garden. They did not run, precisely, but they were hardly strolling.

The new location meant there would be less time for everything, of course, no more beating around the bush. He would have to declare himself, yea or nay. But perhaps this, too, was preferred. In Willow's view, she'd already said enough. All the while, he'd said―well, what had he said? He'd done little more than challenge her.

But he did not go, she thought.

Even now, he did not go.
That is one of my favorite (of many) things about Cassin. He does not go. If you enjoy a good marriage of convenience tale, then you do not want to miss this one. I fell instantly in love with Willow and Cassin and their avid (on her part), if unwilling (on his) alliance. The two of them (both individually and collectively) are so ridiculously endearing, it was pure pleasure following them along on their unexpected journey. Neither of their lives resemble the ones they ever saw themselves leading. And these unfulfilling, at times impossible, existences wind up converging in something of a grey area―one which Willow is convinced will lead to mutual (albeit separate) satisfaction and which Brent is certain will lead to naught but ruin. But it turns out that, when pressed, they neither of them are willing to give up on those lost lives. And, to his chagrin, Brent realizes he is willing to do rather more than he thought previously possible to support his family and give Willow a chance at independence. Solid sterling, is Cassin.
I'm leaving," he announced, resuming his prowl, "and I won't be back. I believe we've said all available words on the matter." When he came to the glass-paned terrace door, he stopped and tested the knob. The door yawned open to the cool morning. He remained where he stood and slammed it shut.

She watched his struggle. He'd said no in so many ways she'd lost count.

He went on, "Marrying a stranger for dowry money is utterly out of the question." He embarked on another lap of the room. He was a tiger in a cage.

Willow said, "Perhaps you should reconvene with your partners to gauge their current feeling on the matter."

"You've selective hearing," he said. "Or perhaps you think I'm coming 'round."

"What I think," she said, gathering her nerve," is that you do not not like me."

He stopped walking. He was behind her now.

"Is that what you think?" he whispered.
It's just every scene with these two. And the fact that they are straight with each other. From the start. Theirs is a genuine arc, its sweetness most essential to its success. And succeed it does. Michaels's dialogue is first rate, imbued with every complex layer of emotions her characters carry. Each restrained gesture, each quiet glance is delineated with grace. Her writing is at once light and certain, possessed of the emotional weight I always seek when I come to any story. I'm so pleased to have discovered her work this year, so looking forward to more to come.

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Oh my word. I can't quite believe it's here and happening this year! Markus Zusak's new novel Bridge of Clay will be published October 9th. This is not a drill. Here is the announcement in Publisher's Weekly. I love that he says, "Every book we write means something to us, but sometimes it comes to mean everything." It's been 13 years, you guys. Thirteen years since The Book Thief. I've longed for this next book for so long, but I don't feel any resentment at all that it took how long it did. I trust the author implicitly. Zusak (like Megan Whalen Turner) can take precisely how long he needs, and I (like Ronan) will be right here, waiting for him to tell me where to go. I am so looking forward to meeting the five Dunbar brothers and joining them in their story.

How about you? Will you be buying your copy on release day? Or will you wait for the initial reviews to come out (or your library hold to come in) before diving in?
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A little while ago, Book Riot published an article on "one-sitting books." The post was part of their Read Harder challenge and included suggestions for books you might be able to inhale in a day, should you be so inclined. Though making a habit of it would likely wreak havoc on my health, I love it when a one-sitting book reveals itself to me out of the blue, when I find myself swallowed up in a novel and it dawns on me that I'm going to be finishing it in one gulp. That, in fact, I don't really have much of a say in the matter—the characters, the writing, the sheer magic of it all have me in that much of a glorious stranglehold.

So I thought I'd share a list of titles I actually did read in one 24-hour period the very first time I cracked them open. These memories are all choice ones for me, as evidenced by the fact that the sights and sounds of where I was when I read them are imprinted in my memory. I can still feel the slats of my son's crib pressing into my back, the cold tile of my in-laws' bathroom floor underneath me, the precise texture of the duvet cover tucked around me in a small Moroccan riad. There are more than these, of course. But when I started sifting through my mind, these were the ones that immediately stood out (with links to my reviews, should you be in the market for an all-nighter this weekend).

The Road Home
How I Live Now 
A Certain Slant of Light
I am the Messenger 
My Heartbeat
Song of the Sparrow
Such a Pretty Girl
I've Got Your Number
Eleanor & Park
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
When You Reach Me
Speak Easy, Speak Love
Do you ever give yourself up to a book and finish it in one go? I'd love to hear.
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It has been too long since I've had a new Alpha and Omega novel in my hands. Dead Heat was a solid entry on my Best of 2015 list, and I have missed Anna and Charles (and Bran) ever since. Burn Bright is, if you can believe it, the fifth installment in the series. So it's no wonder I began reading and instantly felt how good it was to be back in Aspen Creek again with all of Bran's crazy foundlings. By now, Patricia Briggs' books are firmly comfort reads for me, whether they're brand new or not. They feel like home. Which is probably why the dedication in this one made me tear up. I'm so glad we go on. I'm so glad words go on. And that we are connected to one another through them.

Anna and Charles are somewhat housebound in Aspen Creek since the Marrok up and took off for Africa to see a man about a horse how Sam is doing. And, in his absence, it is Charles the pack looks to for leadership, enforcement, and otherwise keeping things in line until Bran returns. Which is fine. Except it means little time alone and their days spent making sure the various shifting relationships and dominance issues don't get out of hand. But when a distress signal from the mate of one of the outlying wildlings comes in, Anna and Charles are forced to go on the hunt for the mysterious attacker. To say nothing of the fact that Charles is increasingly concerned about the real reason his father left and why he's not responding to any of Charles's calls for help.

Burn Bright is an extremely satisfying installment in the series. I love that it takes place entirely at Aspen Creek, because I am so fascinated by the machinations among that group and thoroughly enjoy being allowed to watch Charles on his home turf and Anna integrating further into her life there. When I realized Bran was going to be MIA for the majority of the novel, I was all set to be properly irritated. Until. Until I realized just how much in the way of insight his absence would bring us, most especially with regards to Leah. The Marrok's mercurial mate has been one of my favorite aspects of both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series ever since we initially met her way back in Moon Called. And, even as she was being awful, I just never could buy that there wasn't a darn good reason why she was his mate and that we would eventually become privy to it. Well, we're not all the way there yet, but we do take several steps forward on that front in this volume. Personally, I can hardly stand the wait for more. In the meantime, Anna and Charles make such a good team. They genuinely bring out the best in each other, and their respective individual inner dialogues with regard to caring for and supporting (and affectionately teasing) the other are such a pleasure to read. Real humor, real love. They form the backbone of their arc together. A snippet from one of my favorite conversations:
Charles was kneeling beside the couch. One hand on her face. The other hand was holding . . .

"That," Anna said, "is a really big axe that you didn't have this morning when you left." And it had blood on it. Not his blood, she didn't think. It didn't smell like his blood.

Not ours, agreed Brother Wolf happily.

Charles grunted, then when she raised her eyebrows, he answered her implied question.

"When you contacted me the first time, I'd just stolen the axe from the Viking who attacked me and broke his leg with it."

"I see," she said.

"It took me awhile to take out his twin brothers, or I'd have gotten back to you sooner."

She considered that statement and decided he wasn't trying to be funny. He looked apologetic.

"I would rather you not get hurt by Viking twins . . . " she had to say it again, "because Viking twins are apparently a thing here."
I always laugh at these classic Briggs exchanges. Like Mercy calmly explaining about the werewolf throwing her against a packing crate while she's trying to rescue the girl from the evil witch and the drug lord, Charles earnestly describing the Viking twins he had to dispatch before he could get to Anna is so endearing it fills me with fondness. For him. For this world. And for the integrity with which Ms. Briggs's sees to it all. As ever, the pacing is note perfect, the stakes high, and the consequences far-reaching. I'm in it for the long haul.

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So we haven't talked about the three new Shatter Me books that we are getting from the lovely Tahereh Mafi yet, have we? I've been remiss. I know. I mean, I'm pretty sure you could have guessed that I'm positively delighted by the prospect. I was one of the ones happy with how and where she left things in Ignite Me. I know others were not. Which is why I think it's no small task Ms. Mafi has set herself in returning to this world and picking up the threads of her tale. But I'm along for the ride. That was never really even a question.

The first book is titled Restore Me and is due out next month! The sixth, to be exact. I do love this whiteout version of the set of covers we've got going for the series. Actually, it might be my favorite cover thus far. But my question for you today is have you read the first four chapters excerpt they released yet? I wasn't planning on it, opting to just sort of ride out my gentle anticipation until release day. But then I went and broke down and read them earlier today. And it basically injected a massive shot of adrenaline into my excitement for this next installment in Juliette's story. One of the reasons why is this book is told in alternating chapters from Juliette's and Warner's points of view. And, well, it kind of feels like the book gods have sent down a little gift just for me.

So what about you? Did you read the excerpt? Will you be picking up the new book?
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