Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

Happy Tuesday fellow book lovers!

One of my favorite Young Adult authors, Kimberly Derting, debuts a new series today with "The Taking."  Other new releases in the genre include "Exile," by Kevin Emerson, "Tease," by Amanda Maciel, and "The Treatment," the 2nd novel in Suzanne Young's "The Program" trilogy.

Over in Romance, you'll find "The Unexpected Duchess," by Valerie Bowman, "Sweeter Savage Love," by Sandra Hill, "Secrets of Seduction," by Nicole Jordan, "Dreams of Lilacs," by Lynn Kurland, "It Takes a Scandal," by Caroline Linden, and "How to Seduce a Vampire Without Really Trying," by Kerrelyn Sparks.

Mystery fans can pick up "Black Lies, Red Blood," by Kjell Eriksson, "Smarty Bones," by Carolyn Haines, and "The Poor Boy's Gone," by Dennis Tafoya.

Slide over to Science Ficton/Fantasy for "Dark Serpent," by Kylie Chan, "Dragon Age: Asunder," by David Gaider, "Morningside Fall," by Jay Posey, and "Thornlost," by Melanie Rawn.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!! Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fairy Interesting: OUAT - A Curious Thing

3.19 "A Curious Thing"
(any ideas why this is the title? All I could think was "love is a curious thing" but it just seemed an odd title)

Tonight the zingers just kept coming as our intrepid fairy tale cast searches for a way to destroy Zelena - or at least break the memory curse. Regina and Robin do some lip locking while Henry finally gets completely fed up with the lies he's been fed and Hook tries to avoid Emma and still save Henry. In flashbacks to the missing year we finally get to see how they ended up back in Storeybrooke, watch Philip and Aurora get turned into monkeys (seriously?), and go see Glinda who looks like she's been trapped in Narnia with the White Witch.

At one point NaomiRuth asked if the writer's were high while writing some of this dialogue. Her other comment was that the dialogue must be an effort to make up for the continued presence of Zelena.

I will say that I find Zelena marginally palatable when she is just being and doing evil. As soon as she starts elaborately plotting and pontificating I want to push her off a very tall balcony. Repeatedly.

I was very happy to finally get some real action out of Henry. Though he was still a bit too passive for my taste. I was glad that the book was the key. I've been calling that since they returned to Storeybrooke. But I would have preferred for Henry to have found it and remembered on his own. Ah well. His memories are back and he can finally be a real part of everything again.

The flashback was enjoyable as well, though there are still so many questions I have about that missing year. And I'm really afraid we're not going to get many more answers to anything now that the bigger picture stuff has been covered. There is SO much character development that could have happened and I want to see it!

Seeing Regina and Robin finally together was great. Regina is absolutely adorable in the flush of new love - something she hasn't had since her first love was killed by Cora so long ago.

On a side note: My one major complaint was the hideousness of the castle CGI. Seriously. Did they just blow their budget on the Rumple/Neal transformation? (Because that was pretty cool). But the castle green screen was so painful I could barely watch it.

When Emma was yelling at Henry (and for most of their conversations since returning to Storeybrooke) all I've been able to think about is Henry and Emma's pact that she would never lie to him again. And then that's all she does.

And I would just like to point out that unless they get the curse reversed or lifted or whatever Emma and Killian can never ever kiss. This is tragic. Especially now that Neal is gone.

Also, Neal being the one to save the day made me so very happy.

One question that we had was about the flying monkeys. First, is that really the end of Aurora and Philip's story? I mean, I don't really care much about them, but what a crummy ending. And also, if you shoot/kill a flying monkey are you killing the person? So in the battle did they just kill Aurora and Philip? More explanation on this is needed.

Overall, this was a great episode ramping things up for the finale. I'm really curious to see where they are going to leave the season. I don't know for sure, but it does look like the show has been renewed for season 4 (and I just found an article that Michael Socha is slated to come onto Once Upon a Time since Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was canceled. I only saw a couple of episodes of the spin-off before I just lost interest/ran out of time/had too many shows playing at the same time, but he was the highlight for me, so I hope that this rumor is true! We need another strong male character after the loss of Neal.

And now I offer my favorite zingers, quips, and quotes from tonight's episode:

Regina: "To be fair, the first time I was threatening you. Everyone else just became collateral damage."
Grumpy: "Remind me again why we forgave her?"
Regina: "Because I'm helping!"

Regina: "What are you even still doing here?"
Robin: "What I'm doing here is saving your ass."
(Seriously Robin, just pull her pigtails and be done with it)

Snow: "If I didn't know any better I'd say you were smitten."
Regina: "If I didn't know any better I'd say Hagen Daz is smitten with your stomach."

Regina: "I don't have time to wait for the handless wonder."

Robin: "Where I come from a simple thank you would suffice."
Regina: "Where you come from people bathe in the river and use pinecones for money."
(we actually had to pause it after this line because we were laughing SO hard we couldn't hear anything else that was going on)

Snow: "Because after true love there is no more powerful magic than footwear. It has to be protected."

Excited about next week's episode, though the preview seemed awfully spoilery as in giving away the ending? What do you think?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

If you're wallet is a little fuller this week thanks to a tax refund, I bet you'll want to splurge on some of this week's new reads.

You can discover the "Secrets in the Shadows," by Jenna Black along with "East of Ecstasy," by Laura Kaye, "Otherwise Engaged," by Amanda Quick and "Falling for Owen," in Romance today.

Over in Mystery/Thriller you can uncover "From the Charred Remains," by Susanna Calkins, "Don't Ever Look Back," by Daniel Friedman, "Ruin Falls," by Jenny Milchman, "Stop Dead," by Leigh Russell, and "A Few Drops of Blood," by Jan Merete Weiss.

Skip over to Science Fiction/Fantasy for "Heaven's Queen," by Rachel Bach, "Afterparty," by Daryl Gregory, and "The Forever Watch," by David Ramirez.

"How I Got Skinny, Famous, and Fell Madly in Love," is a new Young Adult novel by E! News Correspondent Ken Baker.  "Don't Call Me Baby," by Gwendolyn Heasley, "The Hunt," by Stacey Kade, and "The Art of Secrets," by James Klife are also new in the genre today.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.  Happy Reading!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fairy Interesting: OUAT - Bleeding Through

3.18 "Bleeding Through"

In tonight's episode we learn about Zelena's end game (that is unless you were watching the "next time on" clip at the end of last week's episode - because we learned about it then...). We also get a sweet heart to heart between Snow and Regina and learn a little bit more about their twisted histories.

Another enjoyable episode without much depth. I liked it; it moved the plot forward; but there just isn't much to comment on. Even though the flashback was about Cora, this was really a Regina-centric episode and I loved it for that.

I will say that this conflict with Zelena is showing Regina her own flaws in a way that nothing else has been able to do. When Zelena says "Envy's just another word for ambition" and Regina responds, "Well, that's just ... not true," not only was Regina's delivery of that line absolute perfection, but it also shows the change in her character. Season one, or even season two, it could have been Regina speaking that line to Snow or Emma. Now she sees through it for what it truly is - false. Her smile throughout the conversation with Zelena was perfect too. She's cocky and sure of herself and sure that she can eventually defeat Zelena. While she may admit her doubts to the rest of her group (another thing she never would have done a season ago), she instinctively realizes that she has something that Zelena doesn't.

Also, when Robin gives up her heart to protect the most adorable little Roland, season 1 or 2 Regina would have gone into a rage and killed something or someone. Instead, her first (very first!) thought is whether someone was hurt and her knee-jerk reaction is understanding, not anger. Love, forgiveness, family - all these things have worked on her in a way that has transformed her character, but not erased who she is and all she's endured and committed.

Her conversation with Snow, her admission of the complications surrounding Snow's murder of Cora, her frustration and failure to communicate with Cora - all these things lead Regina to the final moment when she can take hold of her own destiny and seek out Robin. Finally!

Cora certainly seems to be the manipulative and cold woman we have known all along. Even in her "innocence" she is conniving and plotting. That was one good thing about this flashback. There were no twisted things to try to get us to sympathize with Cora's situation or decisions. She twists things to get what she wants and through this ends up destroying herself and those around her. I'm glad that they work at having nuanced characters on this show, but I'm so relieved not to have another complicated "parent/child drama" storyline for once. Especially since Cora's character is basically out of the show.

It was also nice to see Rumple back to himself a little bit, but maddening to see him back down like a dog when Zelena waved the knife at him. Here's to hoping they retrieve that knife very soon. I would really like to see Belle get some actual happiness for once.

Also good to see Emma finally getting a grasp on her magic without spending huge amounts of plot time illustrating it. But Henry? Where is he this whole time? How long before he starts to figure things out? Another, I hope it happens soon, for that plot line!

Curious to see where it goes from here and to learn more about what happened in the missing year.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Timmy Failure, Mistakes Were Made

Book Details:

Why Wombly and I Enjoyed This Book:

  • This book had a Calvin & Hobbes-ish feel to it. If Calvin was a Private Eye and Hobbes was a giant Polar Bear. I love that kind of feel to a book, as I love Calvin and Hobbes.
  • I love the illustrations.
  • One of the reasons why Wombly and I loved this book was that the whole time you, the reader, felt like you knew more than the main character, Timmy Failure. Because, despite protestations to the contrary, Timmy Failure is not that smart of a guy. This lends the reader the ability to be in a position of superiority. And who doesn't love to feel superior to other people? And now that Wombly is glaring at me we shall move on!
  • I laughed. Wombly chuckled. It's good to be able to laugh/chuckle.

Wombly and I Read This Book Because:

  • I picked it up at a store. I was drawn to it because of the cover. I like more simplistic line drawings. Then I opened it up and immediately starting snortling (a snort/chortle). I knew immediately that I'd have to find it later and share it with Wombly. I am definitely looking forward to reading more.
  • It's written in the same style as Diary of a WImpy Kid and Dork Diaries and I love that kind of format for a book.
  • The author is the same guy who wrote Pearls Before Swine (which is NOT a kids book), which is a Day-by-Day calendar I read and liked, so I was excited to read a Middle Grade book by the same author.
  • Also: I watched the video preview for this book and it made me want to read the book even more.

You Can Find This Book At:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 Things I Loved About All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry

Julie Berry has become one of those authors whose books I wait impatiently for. When I saw this one I literally danced in the aisles of my bookstore and took it home and devoured it. If you want to know more about Julie Berry or her other books you can check out her website, blog, or her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.
Now - here are my top 10 things I loved about her book All the Truth That's in Me.
  1. This is the closest I've ever found to a young adult novel written in 2nd person and it fascinated me. Even though it's technically a 1st person narrative, so much of it is directed at Lucas that it feels as though it's written in 2nd person. I loved it. It's so hard to do, but Berry does it brilliantly and with purpose.
  2. The narrative style is so unique as well. In some very tiny ways it reminded me of Juliet from Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me series or Fia from Kiersten White's Mind Games duology. Judith's mental state is so clearly reflected in her narration. At the beginning of the book the narrative is almost stream of consciousness and at times nearly incomprehensible as she jumps from thought to thought and shies away from very specific topics due to the things that happened to her. However, as the story progresses and her character develops, the narrative slowly shifts and evens out and becomes more coherent and cohesive.
  3. The book is set in the American colonial period (at least from what I could tell). I have found few books that can tell a really good young adult story in that period. And this one does.
  4. Judith. I loved the way her character developed and the ways she learned to cope with the horrors she had endured. The way her humanity has endured even as she is marginalized and grotesquified by those around her.
  5. Lucas. I know we're seeing him through Judith's very rose colored glasses, but you come to care for him as you see the way he treats Judith.
  6. Darrel. I never thought he would be one of the things I liked about the book, but his character fills its role well.
  7. Maria. Another character who was developed so effectively through the course of the story. I loved that she was never what you expected her to be.
  8. Berry does not shy away from difficult topics but handles them in an effective and believable way. From the experiences Judith has gone through being abducted and mutilated, to her best friend's disappearance and murder, to the things going on with the school teacher and the reaction of the entire town (and Judith's mother) to Judith, Berry weaves a narrative that feels true to the time, yet completely timely for our modern lives.
  9. The set up of the  book itself. I like the cover art and I absolutely love the pages that divide the sections of the novel. The numerated sections break up the narrative well, especially toward the beginning, helping to move you through what could be a confusing narrative as you adapt to Judith's voice.
  10. The unraveling of the mystery. I was pretty sure I knew what had happened, but as the story progressed I became more and more unsure until all my expectations were turned on their head and I loved the book even more.
So there you have it - 10 things I loved. Did I miss anything you loved about it?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fairy Interesting: OUAT - The Jolly Roger

3.17 "The Jolly Roger"

Tonight we learn a little bit about Hook's missing year as he struggles to deal with his feelings for Emma. Regina and Emma have a magic lesson, and David tries to convince Henry that he is a cool grandfather.

I really enjoyed most of this episode, but I find myself without a lot to say.

Regina has definitely become one of my favorite characters. I feel like the actress and the writers have finally settled in with who she is and the chemistry is finally working right.

I did notice a heavy theme of black, white, and red in the colors throughout the episode. I'm not really sure of the significance (other than the traditional Snow White story connection), but it does stand in pretty stark contrast to the green of Zelena.
One thing I found odd was how confused everyone was that Hook talked about the Jolly Roger as a woman. From pretty much any book or movie or tv show that has sailors or pirates usually has said sailors or pirates referring to their ship as female. Guys do that with cars too. And a lot of captains in sci-fi shows refer to their starships that way. So I wasn't understanding the confusion. Of course, the derision from Ariel made sense in the story line, but Smee? He should have gotten it.

Zelena seriously invokes a gag reflex every time she's on screen now. If it wasn't for the fact that I wanted to know what weird thing she had cooked up with Hook I would have fast-forwarded through that screen. I hate her. And I want her dead already. Ahem.

I also don't understand how she could claim that Hook's oath was selfish self-preservation. He was putting aside his pride in confessing, and admitting that love was the most important thing to him - that true love was now driving his actions. This should not have been something that would allow her to place the kind of curse she describes for the reasons she describes. It just didn't make any sense to me at all. It felt very contrived (as much of the wicked witch story line has).

I do like the fall out possibilities of him not being able to kiss Emma, but there had to be a better way to come to that.

Perhaps I'm being picky, but this second half of the season, and even some of the first half of the season, has felt more like the writers or producers came up with ideas of characters they wanted to introduce and really big picture events, and then just started hooking them together in any way they could to get from point A to point B without it having to make sense. (Example - massive build up in the mystery around Pan's shadow which evaporates when Tink can suddenly just trap and burn him with virtually no effort).

I did enjoy Regina's lesson with Emma and think she's hit on the only way to really get Emma to realize her full magical potential. I hope we get to see a little bit more of this rather than having Emma suddenly just brilliant at magic.

Curious to see what Hook does now that he knows of this curse. He's trapped in a bit of a Catch-22. If he saves her life he puts everyone she loves at risk. If he kisses her, then he's doomed everyone anyway, because Emma is the only one who can stop Zelena.

So where will it all fall? We shall have to wait and see. And hope that Zelena gets as little screen time next week as she did this week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Wombly-Eyed View

Troll's-Eye View

Book Details:

  • Compiled by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
  • Written by Such Authors as Garth Nix, Jane Yolen, and Nancy Farmer
  • Published by Viking Penguin
  • Cover Illustration by Esao Andrews (be aware some of his work may not be Down Under friendly)

Important Things to Know:
  • This is a collection of stories for middle grade readers, probably in the age range of 8-12
  • There are some darker themes in the book, so be aware if you or your child/niece/friend/alien spawn is uncomfortable with slightly darker stories

What Wombly and I Thought About This Book:

  • Wombly and I agreed that we neither loved nor hated this book.
  • Why we didn't love it: honestly, it was forgettable. It's been a little while since I read this book (I read it beginning of winter) and there is nothing about the book that I found memorable.
  • Some of the stories were okay, some were pretty good, but I think that many of the stories were sub-par. I know it can be difficult to write for Down Unders, and I know short stories (for novel writers) can be tough, but honestly? I was expecting more and so was Wombly.
  • However, I don't regret reading the book. I did give it four stars on Goodreads, which means that it gave a powerful first impression.
  • For readers interested in fairy tales and villains Wombly and I recommend giving this book a try. Let us know what You thought about it.

Wombly and I Read This Book Because:

  • I've been trying to read more short stories and short story collections. I was at my college library and Wombly pointed out this book to me, so I decided we could give it a try.
  • Also: this was a re-telling of fairy tales from the villains perspective. I love switching up character perspectives and I love fairy tale retellings.

You Can Find This Book At:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

Happy Tuesday everyone! There are lots of great books to cheer about this week.

Ann Brashares steps away from contemporary fiction with "The Here And Now," a dystopian Young Adult adventure.  Other new releases in the genre include "Irresistible," by Liz Bankes, "Always, Forever," by Nancy Ohlin, "Dreams of Gods and Monsters," the conclusion to the "Daughters of Smoke and Bone" trilogy by Laini Taylor, "Swim That Rock," by John Rocco and "Noggin'" by John Coney Whaley.

Move over to Mystery for the 29th "Stone Barrington," caper, "Carnal Curiosity," by Stuart Woods plus "Leaving Everything Most Loved," by Jacqueline Winspear, "Playing With Fire," by Renee Graziano, "Miss Julia's Marvelous Makeover," by Ann B. Ross, and "Confession," by Carey Baldwin.

Rush by Romance for "The Devil Wears Kilts," by Suzanne Enoch, "Redemption," by Shelley Shepard Gray, "Night Diver," by Elizabeth Lowell, and "The Cupcake Diaries: Sprinkled With Kisses," by Darlene Panzera.

Slide over to Science Fiction/Fantasy and check out "Steles of the Sky," by Elizabeth Bear, "Shipstar," by Gregory Benford, "The Adjacent," by Christopher Priest, "Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion...So Far" by Terry Pratchett and "A Dance in Blood Velvet," by Freda Warrington.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fairy Interesting: OUAT - It's Not Easy Being Green

3.16 "It's Not Easy Being Green"

So while the rest of the world is tuning in to Game of Thrones, I am settling in to watch Once Upon a Time to find out what sort of dismemberment they have planned to rid Storeybrooke of the plague that is Zelena *cough* I mean, to find out how the showdown between Zelena and Regina will play out. Also, seriously? Zelena and Regina? For real? Read their names out loud if you still don't get what I mean.


There is a bit more snark in this week's write-up. I'm afraid Zelena is a bad influence on me.

Sadly Zelena survived the episode with limbs and life intact. And now we've received enough backstory to completely dislike her and remove any remaining vestiges of hope that she might possibly be any kind of nuanced character that might possibly be kind of interesting (not that I had much to begin with). We also see Belle trying desperately to reach Rumple and Rumple fighting to be with her while Regina flirts with Robin Hood and Hook takes Henry on a trip down memory lane.

I believe even more strongly that Neal's death was one of the most pointless things on the series to date, but it does seem to have snapped Hook out of his funk, so there is one good side to that plot twist. However, if they kill Hook off as was sort of possibly alluded to in the "next week" clip then I am going to have a really hard time staying invested in the show.

I really feel like this season has been the "kill of characters for shock value" season for many tv shows. I don't have a problem with a character dying for a purpose. It happens. It's shocking and it's sad, but if there is good reason (as with most deaths on The Walking Dead and even the recent death on Teen Wolf to name a couple) I will deal with it. But when it's kind of like - hey, we want to draw ratings, so let's jeopardize main characters and then kill one off - then I have a bone to pick. I guess we'll see how things play out with Neal out of the picture.

As for Zelena's backstory I don't think any of us were shocked to find out that her reprehensible behavior stems from mommy and daddy issues (wow, what an original plot device...). However, it has become clear that she is a bitter, wicked, unredeemable character whose time should be drawing to a close soon.

For all my whining about Regina's wishy-washy-ness last season, looking back I can see the way that they crafted her character to be so much more complex than simply the evil queen. Was it always handled as well as it could have been? No, but I never hated Regina with the simple loathing I feel toward Zelena - and this is not in any way the "love to hate" kind of hate either.

Anyhoo. Zelena hates Regina, she hates Rumple, she hates love, she hates her adoptive father, she hates Oz... does that about cover it? I did appreciate the fact that they made the slippers silver, staying true to the original story. But weren't the shoes that the Hatter brought Rumple ruby? However, I was a little surprised that Emma's almost-fiance monkey boy was actually the great and powerful Oz. Probably should have seen that coming, but I didn't.

The tag line for the episode "No dear; it's the wicked west." Is probably one of the worst lines of dialogue I've ever heard on this show. And the actual showdown was basically non-existent. We do however know now that Zelena was in fact after a heart. So whose brain does she want?

Also, Rumple's training of Zelena with the blind fold was like some sort of strange reverse Obi Wan Kenobi where she was being asked to embrace her hate rather than fight it.

I do have another question about Rumple now, though, in who his caretaker was and who else might have grown up with him. I have a weird feeling we may come back to that at some point.

Please do not tell me that Rumple is Zelena's father. I had this thought during the episode and I'm pretty sure it made me throw up a little.

But speaking of hook-ups, there was some adorable flirty-flirting going on between Regina and Robin this episode and, as has become Regina's wont, she claims my favorite line when she tells Tinker Bell, "Right now I have better things to do than to gossip about boys."

Gillian's talk with Henry about Neal was adorable. I want Henry to remember, but I do like that he is basically the same person, even without the memories. But it's so hard to have him even further outside of all of the happenings. It was bad enough when he was in the know but kept out. Now he's completely clueless and I can just see that coming back to bite Emma later.

I definitely want to know what happens, but I'm really scared that we'll be stuck with Zelena into next season. That would definitely turn this into a tragedy.

What are your feelings on this episode? Do you like what Zelena's character brings to the show and if so, what is it that makes you feel this way? I am honestly curious as to whether everyone shares my frustration (as most of my non-web friends do) or if there are people who like the character.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

February Book Club: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

After deciding to stay with the other peculiar children at the end of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob is faced with a whole new set of problems. Miss Peregrine is still trapped in bird form, many of the peculiars have died in the battle with the hollowgasts, and they have to leave the island to try to find someone who can help them survive. As he and Emma grow closer together other challenges arise as well leaving Jacob scrambling to keep everyone alive in a world he's just starting to understand himself. Friendship, betrayal, and more peculiars await them all as the hollows begin to close in and threaten the world as they know it.

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What we thought:

Rebecca T: Although I thought there were a couple of rough patches, overall I thoroughly enjoyed this installment in the Peculiar's lives. There is a lot of danger and a lot of travelling, making this kind of a bridge book between the introduction we get in the first book and what will most likely be the major climax and battle in the third. Although is was terrible that they lost so many of the peculiar children, it was really nice to focus in on a handful of them and get to know them all better as they traveled together. I felt like the images were not as well integrated as in the first book, but that was to be expected since there are certain expectations on a second book that are not placed on the first. The twists that erupted at the end of the novel were astounding and definitely have me waiting for the next book.

Eileen: Ransom Riggs does a great job of making a story around a group of vintage photos in Hollow City. I loved learning more about the origins of the wights and Miss Peregrine. Their discoveries about the history of peculiars from the story book Miss Peregrince used to read to them also piqued my curiosity. I'm hoping for a book of those stories at some point from Ransom as well.

Jenn N: I really enjoyed Hollow City. The premise of building a story around the photos Ransom Riggs found is incredible in itself. You'll be wondering what the true origins of the photos are. On top of that, the story of Jacob's and the Peculiar's quest to save their beloved Miss Peregrine is thrilling and intriguing. My favorite part of the story was when they encountered the Peculiar animals. I also appreciated that Jacob still reflected on his family and questioned whether running off with Emma and the others was really the best thing for him. Jacob is a very thoughtful and relate-able protagonist.

For March we decided to tackle Jim Henson's biography so look ahead to a review of that. In the meantime, did you read Hollow City? What did you think? We'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

10 Things About Amalia Dillin and Honor Among Orcs

Arianna might be a princess, but she's grown up being viewed as purely a tool for the king's use. Mocked, belittled, and humiliated she seeks refuge in the forbidden rooms that used to be her mother's. When she finds Bolthorn, an orc trapped in a magic mirror, Arianna is struck by his strength and his sense of honor. And she begins to see a glimmer of hope that perhaps they could save each other. But escaping the castle could only be the beginning of all their troubles. Do they have enough faith to survive or will their differences shatter any hope of freedom?

Yesterday Amalia Dillin's new book Honor Among Orcs came out and if you haven't, you should definitely pick it up, add it to your TBR pile, and get to it as quickly as possible. I reviewed her book Forged by Fate last year, and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to be an advance reader for Honor Among Orcs. I met Amalia via Twitter several years ago and have loved following her as she has gotten published and moved forward in her writing career. But instead of just reviewing the book, I thought it would be fun to get to know Amalia a little bit better as well.

So first I give you five things you might not know about Amalia Dillin.

1. If you had to tweet a summary of your book what would it be?
Tolkien meets Beauty and the Beast when Princess Arianna finds an orc trapped inside a magic mirror in HONOR AMONG ORCS!

2. Where did you get the idea for Honor Among Orcs?
There's a line in the Silmarillion which says that the orcs were elves once, before they were stolen, and essentially tortured into their current form - the idea just captivated me, especially combined with the concept of the half-orc. I kept thinking, under what circumstances might a human woman and an orc get together WITHOUT violence or assault? Honor Among Orcs is kind of my answer to the combination of those two ideas!

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your publishing journey for this book?
I wrote Honor in 2012 as part of NaNoWriMo - it actually ballooned out from a short story, to a novella, to a series. I queried it a bit and got a few requests, but ultimately I signed my agent with a different project, and once we'd gotten that one out the door, I pitched her Honor Among Orcs. Because it's pretty cross-genre, my agent suggested self-publishing might be the best option, and after some hesitation and number crunching, I agreed. I hadn't ever really intended to go the self-publishing route, necessarily, but I just couldn't NOT give this book a chance. I'm actually REALLY excited about it, and the whole process of getting it ready to go live has really been a labor of love. Bolthorn and Arianna *might* be my favorites! (But don't tell Thor I said that.)
Rebecca T here - I am so glad you pursued self-publishing because the thought of never getting to experience this book saddens me immensely. It's amazing and I think Bolthorn and Arianna just might be one of my favorite book couples ever.

4. If you had to pick one, what book or author do you think was most influential, either to you as a writer or to the development of this book?
Tolkien, for sure, as the most influential for Honor Among Orcs. But I think Tolkien is kind of the answer for a LOT of high fantasy! We owe a lot to him as an inventor of the genre. I'm not exactly a Lord of the Rings devotee, but I really admire his work as a reinvention and creation of a mythology for Britain. He's pretty much amazing. Honor Among Orcs plays a little bit with Norse Mythology too, so we have that in common, as well.

5. What is your favorite dessert?
Oh man. It is a tie between cookies and chocolate pudding. Particularly home made chocolate chip cookies. I spread the dough as a big sheet and bake them kind of like a brownie, then I cut them into bars, and they are maybe the best cookies in the history of cookies, imho. But cook and serve chocolate pudding, with that awesome skin on the top after it cools a bit - I have so many fond memories of making it with my grandmother and there's just nothing else like it!
Rebecca T here again - I concur. I love pudding skin and never understood people who thought it was gross!

So there you have it - 5 fun facts about Amalia. You can follow her on Twitter or Tumblr, like her author page on Facebook, become a fan of her on GoodReads, or check out her blog to keep up with new projects she has coming up. Or just because she's a pretty cool person.

Now for 5 things I loved about Honor Among Orcs. I may have a hard time keeping this to just five, but here we go.

1. The Premise. As Amalia mentions above, there is definitely influence from Tolkien, but this is not a Tolkien story either. I love the way the orcs are constantly yearning to return to their "true" forms as elves and how that impacts the behavior, politics, and decisions which in turn affect both Arianna and Bolthorn.
2. Arianna and Bolthorn. Like I said above, I think the two of them are so well drawn. There is an amazing development of the relationship between these two characters, yet they are defined in and of themselves as well. And there is a moment in the book where I was actually sending Amalia threatening e-mails if she dared to do what I thought might happen. Prepare to get invested in these characters' lives!
3. The World. I know this is connected to the premise, but the crafting of the world that the characters live in is so vibrant. I could envision everything from the castle where Arianna is all but a prisoner to the forest to the mountaintops. It all comes to life in Amalia's deft style.
4. The Supporting Cast. Vana, Fossegrim (how much do I love him?!), Eistla, Hyndla, Bolvarr - the whole group of secondary characters is as wonderfully drawn and I am yearning to know what happens with them in the next book.
5. It has a little bit of everything. There's fantasy, romance, magic, mythology, political manipulation, danger, intrigue - everything you could want in a book.

So go find yourself a copy of Honor Among Orcs! I'm sure you won't regret it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

No foolin', there are plenty of new books available this week. 

The wait is over for fans of J.R. Ward's "Black Dagger Brotherhood" series as the the 12th installment, "The King" is released today.  Other new releases in Romance include "Betting the Rainbow," by Jodi Thomas, "The Wicked Widow Meets His Match," by Stefanie Sloane, "A Shocking Delight," by Jo Beverly and "Wild Wolf," by Jennifer Ashley. 

Over in Science Fiction/Fantasy, you'll discover "Reign of Ash," by Gail Z. Martin, "Irenicon," by Aidan Harte, "The High Druid's Blade," by Terry Brooks, "Dark Eden," by Chris Beckett, and "Circle of Desire," by Keri Arthur.

Migrate to Mystery/Thriller for "By Its Cover," by Donna Leon, "The Cold Nowhere," by Brian Freeman, "Frog Music," by Emma Donoghue, and "Destroyer Angel," by Nevada Barr.
"Dorothy Must Die," by Danielle Paige puts a dystopian spin on the land of Oz in this contemporary Young Adult update.  Other new releases in the genre include "Salvage," by Alexandra Duncan, "Love Letters to the Dead," by Ava Dellaira, "The Ring and the Crown," by Melissa de la Cruz, "The Last Forever," by Deb Caletti, and "Cold Calls" by Claire Bell.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us! Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.