I’m Going To Need Bigger Yoga Pants. And Probably a Cheeseburger.

Because this is my blog, and I get to do what I want, we need to talk about binge-watching. This has become a completely legit phenomenon in today’s society thanks to Netflix, Hulu, OnDemand, and even tv series on dvd. (If you’re old-school. Which sometimes I am. I need my Downton Abbey at my fingertips at ALL times.) Even our local cable provider is in on the deal now, hosting the brilliant “Watchathon Week” where they make seasons of hit shows available to marathon to my little introverty heart’s desire.

I can’t help but be both a little sad and relieved that this wasn’t really a “thing” while I was in college*.

On one hand, there’s no way that I would have been able to successfully juggle my 20+ credit semesters, practicing and performing ensembles if I knew that I had a couple of seasons of Dawson’s Creek waiting for me back at the dorm. (WHAT. It was the early 2000s.)

On the other hand, the idea of a lost weekend with my college friends watching smutty tv, not changing out of our pjs and imbibing some TOTALLY legal adult beverages with nothing else to worry about but maybe venturing to the caf for food is completely AMAZING. Kids these days, they’re totally not grateful for these opportunities. Back in my day, the most “social media” we got was posting angsty song lyrics as our AIM away message.

Oh yeah. I went there**.

Anyway, out of the blue I received a tweet on Friday from none other than XFINITY!

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What?! They noticed my obsession with the completely pants-meltingly  face-meltingly amazing “Outlander”?! I was intrigued, so I dm’ed them back.

And look what arrived for me in the mail!

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A complete Watchathon survival kit, including amazing Outlander Swag! Please imagine me jumping up and down for five minutes nonstop. Then texting Army Boy to show him, and resuming jumping up and down for ANOTHER five minutes.

Now, my only problem is deciding just what show to focus on.

Some of my favorites currently?

Outlander– OBVIOUSLY. I don’t even need to tell you how the story of a nurse from the 1940s who gets swept back in time through a stone circle and “rescued” by a clan of highlanders is my favorite thing right now. Ever. If you have feelings or want to have feelings, you should probably watch it. It’s on Starz, but the whole first half of the first season is available On Demand right now for Xfinity/Comcast customers. You can ALSO buy it on dvd wherever fine Scottish Men dvds are sold.

ER– Somehow Army Boy never got into this series! We’re buying a season at a time and marathoning it. Before tv doctors were Mc-Anything, this show set the bar high on medical drama. Noah Wyle! Young George Clooney! Alex Kingston! Anthony- do I really have to continue? Because I could. My college ritual involved putting on pjs and running across campus to watch every new episode with my bff Jeff.

The Only Way Is Essex– I’ve tried SO hard to get my friends as addicted to this UK phenomenon as I am! This show is available on Hulu, and is basically Britain’s answer to the Jersey Shore. Ridiculously attractive early-20-somethings hook up, fall out, and always look fabulous. I really want to hang out with them. Really really. There are 13 seasons available, so tuck in and enjoy!

Nashville– I KNOW. I have no idea why I’m so behind the curve on this one, but I’ve been watching it on Hulu and it’s just so juicy! Season one was a little slow, but season two picked back up with more music, more scandal, and loads of juicy relationships. Sometimes I find my eyes leaking from a particularly poignant performance. It’s so embarrassing.

The Originals– I never got into “The Vampire Diaries,” because I read the books back during Twilight Fever and was not impressed. The characters were flat, the setting boring, the vampireyness not too sexy… Needless to say I didn’t really give it a try. However, this spin-off series set in New Orleans with the “original” vampire family features witches and werewolves, and enough bitchy one-liners to keep me laughing. I’m watching this one on Netflix.

What else should I be watching on Netflix/Hulu/etc? Have you ever had a lost weekend due to marathoning tv? Pull up a chair, we’re all friends here.

This post was not really sponsored by Outlander OR XFINITY, I just got super excited. It happens. Now excuse me while I go put on even faker pants and resume sitting on my butt. For… science?

*- I just got invited to my TEN year reunion. From College. How did we get to this point?! Someone hold me.

**- since you asked, YES favorites did include Ani DiFranco, Jimmy Eat World and Dar Williams. Shut UP.

Release-Day Review: “Bai Tide” by Erika Mitchell

BAI CoverI couldn’t be more excited to finally be sharing my review of “Bai Tide,” by my good blog-friend and author extraordinaire Erika Mitchell. Erika and I have been in correspondence since she published her first book, PWNED, and I am always on tenterhooks waiting for her next release.

Erika writes thrillers for those of us that wouldn’t necessarily characterize ourselves as thriller-readers. If I was stranded at an airport and forced to choose between the latest sugary YA Vampwolf Saga or Steve Berry, you can guess which way I’d go.

All that was definitely turned on its ear when I started reading Erika’s work. She takes characters from unlikely circumstances (A professional StarCraft player and an accountant among them) and allows them to grow into the protagonists that she needs. Bai Hsu is her first “typical secret agent,” but even his assignment in the beginning of the novel is far from mundane.

We pick up shortly after “Blood Money,” with Bai on assignment at a private Girls’ School for the daughters of high profile political figures in California. Erika makes good use of the humor of the situation off the bat, with Bai making multiple remarks about his undercover work mixed with the more mundane aspects of his cover as a gym teacher.

As an undercover counterintelligence operative, however, it was a matter of no little concern that I hadn’t caught and questioned the man who’d blown up a car to get away clean. I’d need to phone in to headquarters about this one and do a little digging, to say nothing of the inevitably unpleasant conversation I was going to have to have with [the headmistress] about why I’d failed.

All that and a volleyball tournament next Friday. It was shaping up to be a busy week.” (pg 4)

The action in this book doesn’t take long to kick off- from the first page you’re thrown in and scrambling along with Bai as he attempts to find out who on Earth would break into the school’s Welcome Formal and what their motives are. The plot is far from crystalline, though. There are some clever side plots involving other teachers and students at the school thrown in for interest. There’s even a thorny bit of romance for those of us who tend to lean more toward books with more kissing than butt-kicking in them.

The story is populated with a number of convincing characters, with distinct mannerisms and backstories. A particular highlight to me was Agnes, the headmistress of the school, who I immediately pictured as an “M” from James Bond (Most recently played by Dame Judi Dench).

The similarities to Bond don’t just end there though- Erika creates a twisty villain on par with some of the Bond villains, were there are far more dangerous motives lying beneath a pleasant façade. I wanted to keep reading, but at the same time almost wanted to look away for fear of what would happen when the end fireworks began.

For fear of giving away too much of the plot, I won’t say more, but definitely need to give props to the writing itself. I’m always in awe of just how much research goes into books, and it makes it that much more impressive when you’re in contact with the author and can picture her poring over martial arts styles and international airport terminal layouts. The challenge of getting a character from plot point a to plot point b is confusing enough without having to know the architecture of Beijing international and the perks of particular firearms. I think it’s fabulous that she’s managed to avoid some TSA watchlists, to be honest. 😉

In all seriousness, the action sequences are impressive, with great descriptions of hand to hand combat. Erika clearly did her research to make the fight sequences exciting, and not a standard recitation of “kick kick kick punch punch ow blood.” She also writes very well from the point of view of a cocky CIA agent. It was fun to get to know Bai a little better, and to see some vulnerability from him as well. He’s an entertaining hero with a young voice who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Though he’s obviously an elite agent, he’s far from stuffy and his internal monologue is relatable for a younger generation of readers looking to venture into espionage thrillers for the first time.

Also, a certain blogger that you’re familiar with may or may not make a very well-dressed cameo appearance as a junior officer at the San Diego field office, and gets to flirt with Bai just a leeeeeeetle bit.

I was not blushing, I swear.

Ok, I was. Book crushes, for the win.

By the way, if you think I’m finished talking about “Bai Tide,” you’d be sadly mistaken. I have some more fun posts in store, including the first in a new series I’m hoping to start and an interview with Ms. Mitchell herself to coincide with the paperback release. I have all kinds of surprises up my sleeve!

As the weather is starting to FINALLY warm up, download your copy of “Bai Tide” and enjoy some early summer reading! You’ll be just as hooked as I was!

Bai Tide is available every downloadable books are sold- Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo and Google Play. There’s even a giveaway right now over on GoodReads.

Also, pop over to Erika’s blog today for some more trivia about the hottest new superspy around. 😉

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.

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)

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)

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.

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.