In Which Nobody Puts TxtingMrDarcy in a Corner… Least of all Herself

Hello again Blogloves!

I have a confession to make. I’m sure that it’s going to surprise exactly .01% of you, but here it is:

I wrote myself into a corner.

After years of reading blogs, and loving blogs, and writing blogs, I felt the need to try to FOCUS myself.

“I should pick one thing and be really good at it!” I thought. “Every REALLY good, successful blog has an IDEA! Or a FOCUS! Or a THEME!”

Obviously, since I posted about books a great deal of the time, I pegged them as the thing that I am PASSIONATE! about, and started only posting about that.

And then? I got bored. SO bored.

If I didn’t love a book, I didn’t post about it. I got tired of trying to sound knowledgeable, and trying to formulate well-written opinions based upon my vast amount of reading. Even when I loved a book so much that I wanted to buy a notebook solely for the purpose of writing “Brooke + Life After Life” over and over again with pink puffy hearts? I still didn’t want to write about it.

I started to long to get back to just writing about LIFE again. Life, while it’s happening. Whether it’s boring and repetitious,  or fantastic and fresh every single day. That’s what I did when I started almost three years ago. (Holy crap) It worked for me.

(Example: I didn’t even blog about THE ROYAL BABY. Because I didn’t think it “fit.” How stupid is that?!)

(PS- OMG da widdle PrinceGeorgiekins and his widdle cheeks!@.)

Even while I didn’t blog for so much of this year, I tried to keep connected via Twitter, and Instagram, and other forms of social media. And even though it’s been A YEAR, the smoke has started to clear, and I’m ready to get back to interacting with all of you again. I miss the perspective that you give me- that whatever I’m going through here, there is a BIG world out there full of fun and laughter and amazing friends that I have yet to meet.

So, allow me to introduce myself, Internet.

My name is Brooke. I’ve been married for two years to my childhood sweetheart-of-sorts Army Boy.

We are parents to a devious beagle named Wesley (OF COURSE it’s after the Princess Bride.)

We live in a small town in Pennsylvania, with a lot of corn and cows, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We just sold our first home and bought our second, and I suddenly found myself a bit of a country girl.  Not, like Pioneer Woman -level country girl, but it feels close.  We dream sometimes of adventure, and when we do we do it big-time. See: Ireland in 2011 and Scotland in 2013. (The UK has my heart forever and ever.)

I am a completely unashamed book hoarder, but also share my affection with cupcakes, wine, travel and anything British.

Thank you for stopping by today, and I can’t wait to get to know you all again.

 

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When Katniss Met Bella… Or Something?

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawaimmortal rules

Book Description: (from Amazon)

In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

It’s official, Interwebs… I have gone to “The Dark Side.” While my primary preferred method of reading is definitely real physical books, I have to admit to installing the Kindle and iBooks apps to our iPad, and making liberal use of both lately.

A great deal of my reading this winter has been of the smut variety… Two Nora Roberts Trilogies, in fact. While they may be wonderfully escapist and make great entertainment for the time I spend on the elliptical, I don’t find myself particularly inspired to write reviews about them. If you’re looking for a fun diversion during the rainy spring months, don’t hesitate to check out the Irish Born trilogy and The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. I particularly enjoyed my time spent with the feisty Concannon clan in County Clare.

The one perk of having an e-reader is that I can finally make use of the fantastic resources out there for book bloggers, and can finally make good use of having signed up for Netgalley. In preparation for the release of The Eternity Cure (on April 30!!), Netgalley had The Immortal Rules available for download this month. I’m really not sure how I let this one slip under my radar… Perhaps it was a bit of YA Fatigue, and seeing yet another angsty-face cover didn’t make me inclined to give it a second look during my book-buying jaunts?

In any event, I am SORRY Julie Kagawa. I will never stray again. Plus, great call on the new paperback cover. It is bitchin’.

For the first time in a few months, I’ve found myself talking about a book and its heroine. As I mentioned, I was starting to weary of the YA dystopian heroine, who all too frequently falls in and lets her story happen TO her. Allie Sekemoto is the exact opposite of this, and would belong more in the company of Katniss Everdeen than Bella Swan. In attempting to explain this book to Army Boy, I actually referenced both characters.

“It’s like… The Hunger Games meets Twilight… only Allie is Edward… and the world is more like The Passage, with crazy vampires running around killing indiscriminately instead of being veggie-vamps or whatever the Cullens were…”

Allie is an UnRegistered living in the vampire city of New Covington, where every day is a struggle to stay alive and to remain under the radar of the city’s vampire officials. After finding a cache of food one day, Allie brings her gang outside the city walls, with disastrous results for all involved.

Forced to leave her old life behind, the reader is caught up as Allie learns about her new life from her sire, and struggles to come to terms with being what she most despised. She’s got spunk, and is determined not to lose her humanity, no matter how difficult that may become. Her loyalty to the human race could be her undoing, and her affection for Zeke continually tests her. She’s a character that the reader both admires and empathizes with, because at heart she’s still a scrappy teenaged girl who allows herself to care too much about the “wrong” people.

Best of all, Julie Kagawa doesn’t write “down” to her audience. She doesn’t rely on some of the clichés that running rampant through the YA genre right now (Love Triangle, I’m looking at you!), and instead gives us a story that’s both epic in scale and personal for Allie. I’m thrilled that I was able to go right into The Eternity Cure.

Five out of Five Kitanas.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review.

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Author Interview: Erika Mitchell

small photoOne of the true marvels of being a blogger is connecting with people from all over, regardless of age, location, or life experience. I started reading  Erika’s blog when I was a baby bloggerling, and was immediately drawn to her wit and fellow geek-girldom. I mean, of course I was hooked when she decorated her son’s nursery in a Mario Bros. theme. Can you think of anything cooler?!

Luckily for me, we struck up a blog-friendship that has lasted a few years, two children (for her) and now two published novels! Oh, and she’s not even thirty yet. Let me pause and let that sink in. (Really, I’m pausing while I re-evaluate my life goals. Don’t judge, y’all.) I had so much fun doing a Week of Erika Mitchell when PWNED came out that I jumped at the chance to do it again for Blood Money.  But enough of me blabbing…. Erika was kind enough to answer my questions about life, the book, and everything in between.

I really have to ask- what gave you the idea to make the protagonist of this book an accountant?? After reading it, it makes perfect sense, but I’m dying to hear about your ‘lightbulb moment.’

Accountants never get to be the hero, you know? They’re kind of like the gears inside a watch, they keep everything going but you never see them. When I was coming up with this story, I knew the protagonist had to be someone no one would ever see coming, someone in a position to do some real damage. It just goes to show you: Never turn your back on an accountant.

 I make absolutely no secret of the fact that I’m an unabashed anglophile, and loved that the beginning of the book was set in London. Why did you choose to make that Omar and Azzam’s “home base”?

Whenever I write a book, the main character kind of just walks up to me and introduces him/herself. Azzam had an English accent right from the start, and it was up to me to figure out how my Iraqi accountant came to sound like he hailed from London. It puzzled me at first but I figured it out eventually. Since London is an international business hub, it made sense to me to have Sun Corp headquartered there. I’ve never actually visited the city in person, but I’ve had a craving to go ever since I wrote the first draft of this book.

You and me both, obviously. Only if we can do a wee bit of royal watching in the process. Princess Kate Baby Bump Whaaa?

*Ahem*

The amount of research that went into this book had to have been immense. (Unless you are actually a secret Muslim counter-terrorist accountant in your free time.) Did you ever feel overwhelmed as the scope of the book got bigger and bigger? 

Ha! No, not overwhelmed. God bless Google. I mean seriously, what did writers do before Google? I spent so much time Googling everything from pound/dollar exchange rates to how long it would take to ride the Underground from Hampstead Heath to Charing Cross to biological weapons, and even to how to use C4. It was a lot of fun to find out things I thought I knew from movies (like how long it takes to pick a lock) are wrong (it takes a few minutes, even if you’re pretty darn good at it).

Did you have the plot for Blood Money mapped out from the beginning, or did you learn about events as you wrote them? Does a character or plot twist ever come out of nowhere and surprise you?

I had the seed of an idea when I first started writing this book, I was as surprised as anyone about what happened as I went along. I remember when I was about three quarters of the way through the first draft when an idea tackled me in the shower and I raced out all sopping wet to jot it down on a notepad before I forgot it. That idea turned out to be a pretty big twist in the story, but it truly came out of nowhere. It was awesome.

I felt like Blood Money was a very sensory experience. From the floor of the mosque, to Azzam’s greasy American food, to a certain hard wooden chair, I really enjoyed all those details that kept the reader sucked into the story. Is that something you focused more on in this book?

Yes! It tickles me that you noticed. I took a writing seminar in 2011 and the presenter said something that stuck with me. She said that modern novels are nowhere near smelly enough, and I took that to heart. It’s fun to write that way, using all the senses to tell a story.

I would say that you definitely accomplished that! As well as giving me fast food cravings multiple times throughout the story.

shah1If this book were made into a movie, who would be your dream cast? For some reason I was picturing Azzam as an older Dev Patel the entire time I was reading it. Which is totally the wrong ethnicity and why I’m not a casting agent.

When I was writing, I kept picturing Shah as being played by Naveen Andrews (he played Sayid Jarrah on Lost). He has the look and the body type and would play that part perfectly. I’m not sure who would play anyone else, though. Who would you cast?

Is it wrong to suggest Maggie Grace for Ashley? It could be that I am really behind the rest of the world and JUST saw “Taken,” but she is who immediately springs to mind when you need someone who could be both vulnerable and have the emotional steel needed for that role. Plus, she’s really got a “girl-next-door” quality that Ashley needs.

…Which also just happens to be a perfect segue into my next question: Ashley shows remarkable strength and composure throughout the story. Would you picture yourself handling her situation similarly?ashley1

I hope so, I really do. Ashley is a very special character in that I felt her emotions deeply when I was writing her scenes. To a somewhat alarming degree at times. I had a lot of fun thinking about what I would do in that situation and problem solving in as realistic a way as I possibly could. It was a fantastic theoretical exercise.

When you wrote your first book, you were balancing writing and being a mom to a busy toddler. Now you’ve got TWO little ones at home. Has the juggling act changed for you at all?

Oh my gosh yes. When I wrote Blood Money I had just the one tiny human and I wrote that book during his nap times. Now I have two tiny humans whose nap times don’t always happen concurrently. That means I work in fits and starts and frequently lose track of what I was doing or thinking about. This is why I haven’t written any new novel-length stuff lately, it’s just not possible for me to work like that. My kids are adorable distractions.

You are fabulous at coming up with unlikely combinations for your heroes (Azzam, Sean, and your ballerina jewel thief notable among them). Have you thought of some other protagonists that you haven’t shared with the world?

I literally have a running roster of main characters (and villains) I’m just waiting to get to know better. An autistic college student who saves the world from the zombie apocalypse, an unemployed social media marketing expert who runs PR for a guy who overthrows despots, you name it. The minute I have more spare time I’m going to let these characters run wild.

Both of your protagonists so far have been male- was that intentional, or were they just clamoring for their stories to be told? Do you find it easy to write from a male point of view?

I don’t know why, but yes. I do find it easier to write from a man’s point of view. I’m not averse to writing a woman’s story, I just haven’t had many female protagonists snag my attention. I really liked Ashley from Blood Money, and enjoyed her streak of quiet courage, but I’m still waiting for that one special lady who can carry a whole story on her own.

When I talked to you about PWNED, you mentioned that you’d started writing a third novel. How’s the progress on that? Is it the same story that you worked on during NANOWRIMO this year?

You are talking about my unfinished novels number three and four and unfortunately they’re both languishing on my hard drive, unfinished. I love them, though, and I miss them. I’ll finish them someday when my kids don’t need my help/attention/boobs every five freaking minutes.

 I have to admit, I had a little literary crush on Bai. He was level-headed, capable, and just a little bit mysterious… Would you ever consider a sequel following him to his next assignment? (Please say yes!)

You liked Bai, huh? He was the most fun character of the novel, for sure. Just for you, Brooke, I will consider writing a sequel following his exploits post-London. It would definitely be fun to spend more time with him.

*Updated to Add*:

twitters1

If it happens on Twitter, it has to be true!

As always, Erika, it has been a real pleasure. I eagerly await the further results of your literary endeavors, however long they may take.  Thank you for “stopping by”!

Just as a reminder, Blood Money is available to download via Amazon, OmniLit (in a variety of formats), Kobo and directly from the publisher, Champagne Books.

(author photo courtesy of E. Mitchell, other photos via Google)

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Release Day Review: BLOOD MONEY by Erika Mitchell!!

“Blood Money”~ Erika MitchellBlood Money cover

Plot Teaser (From Erika’s website):

Blood Money, published by Champagne Books, tells the story of Azzam Abdullah, an Iraqi-born accountant living and working in London for Sun Corp.

Sun Corp has a squeaky-clean image, but only a handful of trusted employees know its true purpose: a front for global Islamic extremist terrorism.

When Azzam’s employer finds out Azzam’s been informing on him to the CIA, he kidnaps a woman from Azzam’s past to ensure his surrender.

A stranger in a foreign land, Azzam has the dubious honor of deciding between the life of one woman and the safety of millions.

I have to admit, nothing would make me come out of writing-hibernation faster than a request from Erika Mitchell to do a review of her newest thriller! I couldn’t have been more excited when her name popped up in my inbox the other week, asking if I’d be interested in reading her second book, “Blood Money.” From following her blog, I knew that it was going to be a doozy, and that she was very excited about it, so naturally I was as well.

Of course, you remember Erika from her last visit to my blog to talk about her first novel, PWNED. If you need a refresher, it’s about a gamer-turned-fugitive who overcomes the nefarious plotting of his rival with the help of his gaming friends. One of whom happens to be wicked hot. Throw in some possibly-illegal international travel and some edge-of-your-seat tournament action (something I never thought I’d be typing!), and you’ve got a refreshing, witty thriller for a new generation of readers.

Most notable about the plot of PWNED was how (for me) it turned “Gamer” stereotypes on their head. That seems to be a general theme in Erika’s work, because she’s gone and done it again with Blood Money. If you’ve followed this book from the beginning (*ahem,* like me), you’ll know that the working title was “Enemy Accountant.” Which, wha?!? Because  typically the word “accountant” does not exactly bring exciting things to mind. That, my friends, is where you’d be dead wrong.

As mentioned in the teaser above, Azzam is an accountant for a London-based corporation that is actually a front for an Islamic terrorist group. What we learn quickly, however, is that Azzam isn’t really down with the whole “murdering innocent people in the name of religion” thing, and has been working with the CIA for years to attempt to bring down Sun Corp. By knowing where the money goes and what it’s being spent on, he’s able to tip off his contact and keep the CIA one step ahead of his boss’s plans.

Unfortunately for Azzam, his boss didn’t become the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation without having some brains, and begins to be suspicious when his latest scheme goes awry. He has one of his “guns for hire” start looking into who could be leaking information, and that’s when things start to get REALLY interesting. What nobody counts on is an “Enemy Accountant” with honor and courage in addition to brains.

This book, even more than PWNED, had me absolutely hooked from the very beginning. It was a treat to escape from our recent blah winter weather into the intrigue and excitement of Azzam’s life, and a sweaty-palmed rush to see how Erika was going to bring the threads of her plot together. I was also blown away by what a departure this book was from her first novel- we got to spend a lot of time with Sean and Norman in PWNED, but they were our main points of view. We met other characters, but none with the depth and vitality of the people that chose to take up residence in Blood Money. They each had their own strengths and weaknesses, and watching those unfold throughout the pages was a delight. It was a great step in the evolution of Erika Mitchell as a writer, and guarantees that I will keep coming back for more of her stories.

(And if you’ve followed my reviews, you know that I’m typically NOT a ‘thriller’ person.)

Five out of five sudoku puzzles!

**LINK TIME!!** Blood Money is available TODAY to download via Amazon, OmniLit (in a variety of formats), Kobo and directly from the publisher, Champagne Books.**

Of course, when I come out of pseudo-blog-tirement, I have to do it with style. Erika has agreed to do another interview with me, and she’ll be here on the blog later this week, talking about life, writing, and hypothetical Blood Money movie casting. Stay tuned!

(image file used with permission granted by the author)

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WATCH THIS SPACE!!!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, any and all faithful readers who continue to check my poor neglected blog despite months of radio silence.

I wanted to crank up my line to the Interwebs a little early this week to let you know that I’ve been scheming with Erika Mitchell again, and we have an exciting week planned for the release of her new book!! *Squee!!*

Please check back Tuesday for my review of Blood Money, as well as links to buy your own copy. Wednesday, I’ll have an exclusive interview with Erika herself, which I couldn’t be more excited about.

Just to further entice you, here is a photo of Henry Cavill, shirtless.

henry cavill

He does not appear in the book, but this is not at all gratuitous. Not at all.

*drool*

Update for those Male readers*:

lperdue2

*-Yes, CJHannas. I’m talking to you. That’s as gratuitous as I could get with an Olympian… but gotta give the girl credit. She looks cute in a swimming cap. (Bathing cap? Diving cap? Head-swimmy water-maker-faster-thing?)

(Image via here)

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TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Worth Waiting For” Edition

“The Little Book”~ Selden Edwards

Book Description (From Amazon):  Thirty years in the writing, Selden Edwards’ dazzling first novel is an irresistible triumph of the imagination. Wheeler Burden-banking heir, philosopher, student of history, legend’s son, rock idol, writer, lover, recluse, half-Jew, and Harvard baseball hero-one day finds himself wandering not in his hometown of San Francisco in 1988 but in a city and time he knows mysteriously well: Vienna, 1897. Before long, Wheeler acquires a mentor in Sigmund Freud, a bitter rival, a powerful crush on a luminous young woman, and encounters everyone from an eight-year-old Adolf Hitler to Mark Twain as well as the young members of his own family. Solving the riddle of Wheeler’s dislocation in time will ultimately reveal nothing short of one eccentric family’s unrivaled impact upon the course of human history.

Edwards, author of The Lost Prince, brilliantly weaves romance, art, history, and culture in this unforgettable and dazzling debut novel.

Hello? *taps microphone* Is this thing on? I mean, it’s been so long I’m beginning to question if this little channel to the Internet is even still open.

Fortunately for me, it appears to  be. That means I can fill you in on the little secret that I discovered thanks to Shelf Awareness. (Yes, since I am spending so little time communing with my fellow book bloggers anymore, Shelf Awareness is quickly becoming my sole source of all things bookish. They have yet to steer me wrong, I’m happy to say.)

About two months ago, they shared a review of the book “The Lost Prince,” by Selden Edwards, referring to a wonderful time travel plot and delicious female characters. And joy of joys, it was a SEQUEL to “The Little Book.” Which I had never even friggin’ heard of. I promptly hightailed it to my library, reserved a copy, and dug in.

Let me preface by saying this: If you enjoyed “The Time Traveller’s Wife,” this book is for you.

The book begins with Wheeler Burden waking up in 1897 Vienna with absolutely no idea how he arrived there. The last thing that he remembers is a book signing in 1980s San Francisco, so he’s really stumbled into quite a dilemma. Fortunately for him, he had a Wise Older Mentor who was FROM 1897 Vienna, so he has a bit of an advantage right off the bat. He allows himself to travel through the city as an observer, and then to gradually become absorbed in the exciting turn-of-the-century culture. He’s aware of the care he needs to take when interacting with people, lest he inadvertently affect the future he is to be born into. That becomes exponentially more difficult when he starts to stumble across figures from his own past, and the resulting complications are delightful to witness.

Selden Edwards is obviously deeply in love with the time period he writes about, and his book reflects it. The story is deeply sensual, with descriptions of everything from glorious coffee with cream to intricate gowns, and even a night at the opera. There is a rich cast of characters both male and female, and it wonderfully prepares the reader for the next installment, in which we get to revisit one of the female characters. The reader also is treated to encounters with a host of historical figures, including a young Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler. With a time travel plot, it’s difficult to discuss too many details without giving away spoilers, but I am so glad that I was clued into this book’s existence. With my crazy schedule, it took me far longer than usual to get through its packed pages (Hint: I renewed it at the library TWICE. Oh, the shame!!), but it was worth every minute. I’d highly suggest it as a great read for the cooler weather ahead.

Four and a half cups of strong coffee.

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TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Bite-Sized” Edition

Well hello,  Interwebs!  Oh, I’ve missed all of your lovely faces! We’re finally back in working-computer business here at the Casa, so my brief hiatus is over. I’ve been reading like a fiend (thanks to some downtime in training classs… which is now over, le boo.), and not able to write nearly as many reviews as I’ve read, so I wanted to crank out a couple of mini-reviews to get myself caught up.

Hopefully I can get back on the ball and return to my regularly scheduled posting.

“Tigers in Red Weather” – Lisa Klaussmann

I admit to primarily choosing this book because of the setting- I have a soft spot for anything that takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Having spent time there during the summers as a little Brooke, there are very few places that I love more. Just the name can evoke so many wonderful memories. Something about being able to picture the environment so clearly in my head makes the story come a live that much more vividly. There’s something about the New England Islands that gets into your blood and stays there, as one of the characters astutely remarks: “I think it’s in the genes, salt water. Whether you like it or not.” There’s a certain blue to the sky and bite to the air that you can’t find in any other places, and it’s the perfect setting for this fever dream of a novel.

The thing that’s so remarkable about this book is the plotting- Lisa Klaussmann nails it, introducing her characters and their motivations gradually, so the build to the climax is gradual and allows the feeling of dread to build up beautifully. Something  in the characters’ world is verrry wrong, and you will keep breathlessly turning pages to find out what it is.

Five out of five perfect martinis.

“Crossed”~ Ally Condie

It took me quite a while to be motivated to pick up the second book in this series, and now I remember why. It’s just mediocre. The writing wasn’t good enough to keep me caring about the characters, and the plot was far too commonplace- “two characters in love are on a journey to find each other, testing their limits and taking most of the book before they find each other only to immediately get in a fight and eff it up. And then they make up and unforeseen circumstances separate them again. Look out for the love triangle!” Yawn.

Two pages of poetry.

“Uglies/Pretties”~ Scott Westerfeld

I have no idea why I didn’t pick up this series until now. I honestly think that I was put off by the covers/titles enough to avoid them completely. “Uglies” was a pleasant surprise- Tally lives in a dystopian society in which you are “cured” of being ugly at age 16. She’s missing her best friend Peris, who was two months older than her, and is spending her days killing time until she can have her operation. She meets a new friend Shay, who opens Tally’s eyes to the possibility of remaining “ugly”, and questioning a society that places so much value on appearance. When Shay escapes to the wild, Tally is recruited to find her or risk being “ugly” forever.

Oh, and then “Pretties” happened… and the YA curse appeared and made me lose interest in reading the third book. Tally has finally become Pretty, and spends her nights partying with all of her new Pretty friends. She’s been reunited with Peris, is bff with Shay, and has caught the eye of the mysterious Zane. Everything seems pretty perfect until she meets a mysterious masked stranger at a costume ball, and she remembers her real reason for becoming “Pretty.” The rest of the book struck me as convoluted and a bit overdramatic.  See my issues with “Crossed” above. ;) A potentially fascinating subplot is introduced, only to be interrupted by the ending. Which I  haaaaaaaaaaated.

Uglies: Four out of five hoverboards.

Pretties: Three out of five bungee jackets.

“Day After Night” ~ Anita Diamant

After “The Red Tent,” I’ll read anything written by Anita Diamant. While this book didn’t quite grab me the same way, her talent with historical fiction can’t be denied. Based on a true story, the book follows four women who have survived the Nazis only to be kept in a British detainment camp in Palestine. Each character reveals her experiences during the war slowly, gradually coming to terms with the reality of being one of the “lucky” people who survived when everyone they cared about was lost. Watching them gradually find joy again was both hopeful and bittersweet, and simple moments caught me completely off guard with their emotional depth.

Four out of five loaves of challah.

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TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Here There Be Dragons” Edition

Seraphina~ Rachel Hartman

Book Description (From Amazon): Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Soundtrack: “Ave Maris Stella”~ Otto Olsson

So much of the book revolves around Seraphina’s relationship with music, and this gorgeous choral piece came to mind immediately.

After reading about this book in a recent issue of “Shelf Awareness,” I was beyond excited to snag a copy from the library.

In a country where there is an uneasy truce between humans and dragons, Seraphina has spent her entire life attempting to hide her true identity.  Turning her considerable musical talents to a position as the assistant to the court composer, she is unable to evade notice for long.

When a member of the royal family is killed, and the murder appears to have been commited by a dragon, Seraphina finds herself dragged into the investigation and forging unlikely relationships along the way.

It is not exaggeration to say that I LOVED this book. Seraphina’s character is so richly imagined that she practically leaps off the page. The reader sharply feels her turmoil at reconciling her public and private lives. She’s a very typical young woman, wanting to feel beautiful and valued but believing herself unworthy of those things. Seeing her explore her unique talents and realize that what makes her different also makes her remarkable is fantastic.

While Seraphina herself is reason enough to read this book, I can’t do it a disservice by neglecting to mention the supporting characters.  Each of them is challenged in some way by their role in society- Prince Lucian is contracted to marry his cousin regardless of his personal wishes, Orma finds himself fighting his very nature when it comes to loving his niece, and Seraphina’s father is an expert in the law despite having broken it himself long ago.  The mythology is developed to a wonderful degree.  Ms Hartman developed a unique class of dragons, with their own quirks, emotional characteristics and habits. She’s given the human residents of her world their own caste rules, prejudices and religious system.

In the case of this book I would even be tempted to break my own rule regarding YA series. Though the ending resolved the plot well, I wouldn’t have been opposed to spending a lot more time with Seraphina and following her as she and Kiggs move forward and prepare for a potential war between the humans and the dragons. I didn’t do a great deal of searching, but if I were to read that Rachel Hartman was planning a sequel, it wouldn’t cause any gnashing of teeth on my part.  There’s music, there’s romance, and plenty of intrigue to keep you turning pages until the end.

Five out of Five Ivory Flutes.

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TxtingMrDarcy Reads: Sentimental Edition

“Sisterhood Everlasting”~ Ann Brashares

Book Description (from Amazon):

“On the cusp of turning thirty, Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget are now living
separate lives, out on their own. Yet despite having jobs and men that they
love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained
them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but
misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but
still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her
longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to
settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness. Then Tibby
reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a
reunion that they all breathlessly await.

And indeed, it will change their lives  forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.”

Soundtrack: “Both Sides Now”~ Joni Mitchell

Love, in all of its many forms, has always been a key topic of the Sisterhood Books. This one is no exception, only it’s a bit more bittersweet this time around.

Best Enjoyed With: A cold beer and a brownie. Preferably to share.

I have to admit to some sentimentality when it came to choosing this book. I’d read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants when it came out, and loved the four Septembers in their first appearance. Likewise, I enjoyed both of the movie adaptations. I’ve kept up with the books over the years, even as I grew older and the characters became “too young” for me.

Ann Brashares returns to her girls ten years after the events in the last books. They’ve all pursued life paths true to character- Carmen is a successful actress, Lena teaches art, and Bee floats wherever the wind takes her. The only mystery to the girls is Tibby, who moved away to Australia with Brian when his software design took off. They’re overjoyed to receive letters from her with an invitation to a reunion in Santorini, and each girl knows that it’s been far too long since she’s spent time with her best friends.

**Spoiler Alert! If you intend to read this book, stop here. I tried to write this review multiple times, but found it impossible to discuss some of the themes without revealing this one important plot point**- One of the girls dies tragically early in the story, and a letter she leaves behind indicates that her death was not an accident.

I admit to getting pissed off at Ms Brashares at that point. How could she possibly continue the story after making a plot choice like that?! And why create such seemingly unnecessary drama in something that was supposed to be a “light” read full of friendship and love?

Trust me, she has her reasons.

The tragedy forces each of the characters to deal with grief in her own way. For one, it’s running off the rails and once again coming to terms with the sadness in her own past. For one, it’s throwing herself into planning a wedding she doesn’t necessarily want. For the last, it’s cocooning herself even further into the solitude she’s cloaked herself in, to the point of pushing away anyone who would try to help her.

Rather than pulling the girls closer together, their sadness drives them apart. Each feels that trying to cope in the presence of the others would magnify her own sadness, and each blames herself for the loss of one of them.

I know, I’m making this sound like a real downer, but trust me, it is a gorgeous book and a very fitting end to the story of the Septembers. It’s a lovely examination of the ruts that we can fall into in life, and that the people we allow ourselves to become are not necessarily who we truly are. There’s just enough magic to remind the reader of the Pants, without being corny, and returning to this group of characters (all of them. Even Effie.) was reminiscent of visiting with old friends.

If you’ve read any of the story to this point, you absolutely must read this book. I read most of it in one day, and was sad to turn the last page. Could it be called too sappy? Possibly. Consider it a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or raw cookie dough. Sometimes, you just need some sweetness.

Four and a half fireflies.

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Six Of One…

A quick update from our neck of the woods:

Our final working pc is on its last legs, making very angry noises as I type.  Please bear with me if posting is infrequent for the next weeks or so- we’re working on getting a new one, but it may be a couple of weeks before we’re back in business. *sob*

Some of you are amazing at posting on phones, and I wish I could count that among my skills. Know that I haaaaate being cut off from my online friends and am thinking of you constantly. Also I don’t think that I could quit Twitter and Instagram without a twelve-step program.

Cross your fingers that the Computer Fairy visits us very soon!

(The new job is going very well, btw. The timing of my departure couldn’t have been better, and I’m feeling like I’ve got my feet under me in my new role. I’m even adjusting to the earlier hours and longer commute. *gasp!*

In our time without a computer, we’re going to devote some of our time to continued nesting in the casa- the upcoming three day weekend is going to be fabulous for hopefully getting a couple of rooms painted. There’s something so refreshing about making a literal mark on your home and seeing it creep its way toward the vision you have for it.

Yeah, ask me about that again in a few days after we’re done painting and have aching arms and necks. I’m sure I’ll be all sunshine and butterflies then as well.

Also!! I am still delighting in my renewed association with the local library. We stopped on Saturday and I escaped with a treasure trove of FIVE books… I’m hoping that I’m not in need of another book-related intervention. Stay tuned for my review of “Seraphina”… [*gives computer deities the stink-eye*]Actually, don’t stay tuned. Read it NOW.  You will NOT be disappointed.)

(End segue that was longer than the actual post *facepalm*.)

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