Sunday, August 31, 2014

New Releases 9/2/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Seven Wonders by Ben Mezrich

Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman

The Secret Place by Tana French

Personal by Lee Child

The Lewis Man by Peter may

Night of the White Buffalo by Margaret Coel

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Fall of Night by Jonathan Maberry

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Barter by Siobhan Adcock

Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

An Italian Wife by Ann Hood

The Fatal Tree by Stephen R. Lawhead

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

The Golden Princess by S. M. Stirling

The Alliance by Shannon Stoker

Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

New on DVD:
Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
They Came Together

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Third Rail by Rory Flynn
Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell
Abroad by Katie Crouch

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It seems just about everyone is talking about Emily St. John Mandel's upcoming book - and you can add me to the list! It sounds utterly fabulous and is definitely on my must have list for September.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of Last Night in Montreal, The Lola Quartet, and The Singer's Gun. Station Eleven is due out September 9 from Knopf.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

I've decided I'm going to devote free Fridays to short fiction of some kind! I have a massive list of bookmarked Tor shorts as well as piles of collections and anthologies to get to - and lots of e shorts saved up on the e reader as well. So here goes - kicking it off with Delilah S. Dawson!

Madam Morpho arrived at Criminy Stain's Clockwork Caravan with little to her name, but she promised an act unlike any other. Even without Tish's help, Stain knows the woman is hiding something, but then who with the caravan isn't? With one touch, Tish can tell that Madam Morpho will be a fine addition and Stain agrees to take her on. 

Madam Morpho's act requires props, though, and for this Stain sends her to Mr. Murdoch, the caravan's clockwork master. No one in the caravan save Stain and Murdoch's assistant, Vil, have ever set eyes on the man - Madam Morpho is to be the first and the meeting unsettles them both. Before long they find that they share a passion as well as secrets that could endanger them both. 

Dawson's Blud series is seriously fun! The world - filled with bloodsucking creatures and people - is deliciously intriguing and I am enjoying every taste! The Mysterious Madam Morpho is the first of the Blud novellas and takes place post Wicked as They Come, but instead of focusing on Criminy and Letitia, we meet Madam Morpho (and her butterflies) and Mr. Murdoch. Dawson nicely paces the story, enticing the reader with teases and hints as to the truth behind both their secrets along the way. The romance develops somewhat quickly, but overall their story is still quite enjoyable.

Sang is such a rich world to play with that it's nice to return to it with extras like these. I wouldn't really consider the shorts and novellas so far to be necessary to the series as a whole but they are all nice in-between tales and a fun bonus to series fans.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flings by Justin Taylor

Hi, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Justin Taylor's debut collection, Flings.

People young and old face all kinds of choices. Decisions that will affect their lives not only immediately but just as much further down the line. Friends newly graduated and deciding what to do next; a couple about to get married and facing down secrets from their past; a divorced father spending an evening with his grown children... these are just a few examples of the stories in Justin Taylor's new collection. 

I think there's a certain amount of discomfort I felt in reading these stories. Most of the characters are drifting, much in the way I imagine a lot of older twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings are. It's being faced with the very truth of today's post-college reality that's unsettling to someone like me and so with that in mind I can't say that I enjoyed these stories.

In terms of being realistic, well written, and effective, however, Justin Taylor most certainly has accomplished that. All of the people are well drawn and real. There's a depth to them that is intriguing. It makes you wonder - is the sign twirler on the corner skimming off the top? Is the person next to you on the airplane making a run for it from his longtime love? And what about that happy family in the corner booth of the restaurant - is there some dark tragedy that mars their past?

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Justin and his work you can visit his website here and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand

Just last month, Amazon Publishing and Alloy Entertainment announced that they were teaming up to create a new digital first imprint focused on young adult, new adult, and commercial fiction. 

Here's a bit more about the new venture:

The new imprint, named Alloy Entertainment, will be part of Amazon Publishing’s Powered by Amazon program. Powered by Amazon enables publishers and authors to leverage Amazon’s global distribution and personalized, targeted marketing reach. 

“One of our strengths is working with talented authors to create and develop properties that have mass entertainment appeal,” said Leslie Morgenstein, President of Alloy Entertainment. “This program is an exciting extension of our business and will allow us to leverage Amazon’s ability to distribute to an incredibly diverse and broad readership.”

The announcement was paired with the release of the imprint's first three titles - Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter, Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart, and the one I'm covering today, Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand.

Ven was born and raised in Twig City. Just five years old, and yet a full grown teen, she was created as an Imitation: a perfect copy of someone living in the outside world, an Authentic. From day one Ven is taught to mimic her Authentic in language, behavior, and manner, all in preparation of one day being needed. When her Authentic is publicly attacked, Ven is sent to stand in until the criminals can be caught. 

But all the training in the world could never prepare Ven for being Raven Rogen. Ven is her own person, and she's nothing like Raven. Pretending takes every ounce of her concentration, but she's willing to do it until she can find a way to escape. 

I've been in a mood of late, readers. A bit of a blah mood. It happens to the best of us and for me, while it makes it harder to settle on a book, the kind of escape I get out of a good book is exactly what I need. I can say that while I wasn't blown away by Imitation (and some of that can be chalked up to the mood) it did provide the kind of escape I was craving. 

The story takes place in a futuristic setting wherein the über rich can afford genetic clones for whatever purposes they can think of. The clones - or imitations - are supposed to be exact copies and so they spend much of their time observing their Authentic. The idea is that no one will know the difference between the Authentic and the Imitation. This is particularly difficult for Ven because Raven is pretty much a self-absorbed snob. 

I liked Ven and I liked the setting. I thought Hildenbrand did a pretty good job putting together a believable situation as well - someone is after Raven and it's up to Ven to be the bait until that person can be caught. There's much more to the story, of course, and Ven realizes that as soon as she steps foot outside Twig City. 

I wasn't surprised or really wowed at any point during the story, but I did enjoy it. There was a nice twist at the end and a super cliffhanger that makes it clear there's more to come. Imitation is technically a reprint so early readers likely have already read the follow up, Deviation. The Alloy Entertainment edition is due out in December. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Really Want to Read but Don't Own Yet

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: books I'm dying to read but don't actually own.

I'm going to limit it to books that are out already - there are WAY too many in the wish list otherwise.

1. A Simple Plan by Scott Smith - Smith was praised by no less that Stephen King himself when this book released. I've read (and loved) The Ruins so there's no real reason for me not to have bought this one yet except that I have so many others to get to in my TBR right now. 

2. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris - I adore Harris's work but this is one of her few titles yet to be released here in the States. It is available through Book Depository but I haven't gotten around to ordering it yet. 

3. Crackpot Palace by Jeffrey Ford - his The Shadow Year was completely brilliant, so of course Ford's short story collection is in my must have list. 

4. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke - I've heard nothing but great things about this book and have had it on my wish list since it released. Now there's a second one out that I need to add to the list as well!

5. The Osiris Ritual by George Mann - there are now four books in this series out with a fifth one coming. I've read the first book in this series and really quite enjoyed it. I just haven't bought this follow up yet. 

6. Blythewood by Carol Goodman - I've not yet read Goodman's titles as Juliet Dark but I do love her work as Carol Goodman. This one is her first teen outing and I've so far heard very little about it. It's probably in my next round of book buying :)

7. The Elementals by Michael McDowell - this one was highly recommended by another author I read. I recently found out that it was reprinted and is available once again. Yay! Another one that'll be in the next batch I buy. 

8. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - this falls under the I-don't-know-why-I-don't-have-this-yet header! I loved Miss Peregrine's and had Hollow City added to the wish list before I'd even finished the first one. And yet, I don't have it!

9. Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg - ok, so the reason I don't have MOST of these is just that I haven't bought them yet. I've tried to make myself a deal - I'll buy more when I finish a large enough chunk of the current TBR. 

10. Visions by Kelley Armstrong - I haven't read the first in this series yet but I already know I want to buy this latest as soon as I can. 

Inamorata by Megan Chance

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Megan Chance's latest, Inamorata.

Joseph Hannigan and his sister, Sophie, have come to Venice to meet the people who can make Joseph a star! He has the talent - his art immediately catches Nicholas Dane's eye - and the siblings are almost immediately swept into the city's thriving art community. But the Hannigans are hiding something, something that caused them to leave New York quite suddenly. Something they don't want their new friends to know. 

Nicholas has his own reasons for wanting to keep Joseph close. Nicholas himself was once a talented poet. Alas, all of his ideas have left him. He blames this on Odilé, his one time muse. Odilé serves as muse to many poets, musicians, and artists. It's how she lives. Nicholas knows her secret and knows that Joseph is exactly the kind of man Odilé would choose. And Nicholas wants to make sure that doesn't happen. 

Since I had no idea what Inamorata was really about when diving in, I'm going to leave it a surprise for you as well. No spoilers :)

I've read Megan Chance just once before this. Her City of Ash was amazing and was set around early stage life in nineteenth century Seattle. Given how much I'd enjoyed that one, I jumped at the chance to join in on the Inamorata tour.

Chance has an almost hypnotic style. Her prose is the kind that literally drowns out everything around you, wrapping you up in the setting and the characters. In this case it's nineteenth century Venice and the art scene. Whistler makes an appearance. Poets the likes of Byron and Keats are mentioned and even Schumann has a bit of a cameo (in a sense). And the city! I've never been to Venice but here I was imagining I was alongside Sophie and Joseph and Nicholas and Odilé as they told their tales!

Inamorata is a bit odd as well. Joseph and Sophie, for example, - as a reader it's hard not to immediately suspect that there's something off about their relationship. It doesn't escape Nicholas either. Part of the twins' plan involves Sophie gaining Nicholas's attention but she doesn't seem to realize that her connection with her brother also stands in the way. Nor does she realize that he's already obsessed with another woman.

Oh, and once we realize exactly what's going on between Nicholas and Odilé the story takes on a whole new level of wonderful!

Inamorata was darker than I'd imagined. And much more otherworldly as well. It was really fantastic not only to return to an author I've enjoyed but to find that she had so many surprises up her sleeve!

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Megan Chance and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Releases 8/26/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Lock In by John Scalzi

No Time To Die by Kira Piekoff

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland

The Mill River Redemption by Darcie Chan

Summer of the Dead by Julie Keller

The Remaining: Fractured by D.J. Molles

The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner

Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen

The Aftermath by Jen Alexander

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

How to Fall by Jane Casey

Revenge of the Seven by Pittacus Lore

Deliverance by C. J. Redwine

Feral by Holly Schindler

New on DVD:
Age of Uprising
Blood Glacier

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Left Turn at Paradise by Thomas Shawver + a Giveaway

Hi, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Thomas Shawver's latest Michael Bevan mystery, Left Turn at Paradise. There is a tour wide giveaway here so be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

While preparing for a trip to the California International Book Festival, Michael Bevan stumbles upon a rare and surprising find. Hidden away in his attic, in a box that dates back to his military days, Bevan discovers an eighteenth-century journal penned by a sailor on the HMS Endeavor. The volume is relatively unknown but the sailor who wrote it accompanied Captain Cook on all three of his voyages. What makes the book in question even more of a find is the fact that it would be a first look at a side of Cook's story that is both uncensored and could reveal more about the famed explorer than ever before. 

Bevan makes a connection at the show who also has a journal in hand by the same sailor. Together their set could collect quite a bit of attention and money, but they both suspect a third journal may be hiding somewhere. They agree to consider their options overnight but wake the following morning to find that both journals have been stolen. A bereft Bevan is close to throwing in his book selling towel when he's offered up one last shot to find the book. But of course tracking down the stolen and rare tome won't be easy!

Readers may recall that when we left the ex lawyer/ex marine antiquarian bookseller in The Dirty Book Murder, he'd just barely escaped his last adventure with his life. It's ok if you don't remember, though, there is a small recap worked into the beginning of this follow up. We also begin with the promise of wild dog attacks, cannibalism, a ritual with a fertility god, and the immortal Captain Cook, which for another Michael Bevan adventure is pretty promising.

I love that this series is based in the book world. Books about books are almost irresistible for a reader like me! I also enjoy the fact that a first glance might leave a reader under the impression that this is a cozy series. Further delving into Shawver's books reveals this is very much not the case. The books are actually kind of violent and twisted. And the plots themselves are pretty clever.

Shawver does have a tendency to get a bit wordy. To me wordy is fine as long as I don't notice it, so when I saw Shawver is wordy I mean there are extraneous bits of information I find don't really move the story ahead. (The same could be said for my reviews sometimes, though, so it's totally subjective!) In spite of that, this is a series that I am rather enjoying, flaws and all.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Thomas Shawver you can like him over on Facebook.

And now for the giveaway. Again this is tour wide, to enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Joanna Hickson's The Agincourt Bride.

Mette was just fourteen when she lost her first child. Her loss left her bereft beyond measure but her mother was able to secure her a position as wet nurse for the King's newborn daughter. At first, Mette feels no connection with the child. Instead, she continues to mourn the loss of her own son, wishing it were he she was caring for. But soon she and Catherine begin to form a bond - one that will stand the true test of time. 

Amidst political upheaval - a king whose sanity leaves him unable to rule and a queen who's plotting with her lover against the king's advisors - the royal children are sent down separate paths. Catherine, just four at the time, is sent to Poissy where she will be taught the manners and bearing of a royal. It will be almost ten years before Mette is reunited with the girl. But this time Catherine will need more than mothering: the princess is to become an important piece in a game that pits the French against the English and, more importantly, her brother the Daughin against their mother, the queen. 

Ooh, more historical intrigue! As a US student, there's very little included in our education about the lineage of any country's monarchy. In truth, I have to admit that my ability to keep them straight comes from historical references I've gleaned through pop culture and books like Hickson's. So this Catherine of history is Catherine de Valois. Her brother is the king Joan of Arc fights for. Her son (Henry VI) is the king dethroned during the War of the Roses. Her grandson (Henry VII) is the king who finally ends the battle between the Lancasters and the Yorks.

But that's not this story! This is Catherine's younger years - from birth through to her marriage to King Henry V (and there's a sequel called The Tudor Bride from that marriage forward). Her story is told through Mette - Guillaumette - Catherine's nurse and friend.

It's a turbulent time in France. Their leader's mental health has been in decline and forces from England have been attempting to reclaim French lands for themselves. Charles VI, Catherine's father, becomes fairly unable to rule and the actual decision making falls into the hands of various others like his uncle, the Duke of Burgundy. Loyalties are split between two parties - the Burgundians and the Orleanists and no one is safe from the strife.

Meanwhile, Henry V of England is the latest to try to lay claim to land in France said to belong to England. Catherine, caught between her mother's plans and her brother's, is offered up as a possible bride for Henry in an attempt to forge a treaty. Catherine is well aware of the position she's in. In fact, Hickson portrays her here as an intelligent girl who attempts to forge her own political connections, first aligning herself with her brother against their mother. She also sets aside many of the social norms of the time in an attempt not only to piece together a family of sorts but to learn more about what's going on around her.

Hickson really does a wonderful job in The Agincourt Bride, smoothly plotting around the history itself and building believably complex characters out of their real basis. The story reads quite easily and quickly - just the kind of historical fiction I like to lose myself in!

With The Agincourt Bride Hickson displays a true expertise in the time period. As mentioned above, there is a second installment - The Tudor Bride - already out in the UK and due out here in the States this fall.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Joanna Hickson and her books, you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Hi, all! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Courtney Miller Santo's latest, Three Story House.

Spite House, a historic landmark in Memphis, Tennessee and the house where Lizzie spent much of her childhood, has fallen into grave disrepair. In the time since her grandmother passed away the house was apparently abandoned and left to rot. Now the city has stepped in and Lizzie and her mother are in danger of losing it unless it can be fixed to code. Enter Lizzie's cousins Elyse and Isobel. 

Best of friends since Lizzie's mother married into the family, the three girls are as close as siblings. Together they'll work to fix Spite House and uncover its secrets. But the renovations also offer each of them a chance to fix their own lives as well. Lizzie, who dreams of a chance at the Olympics while recovering from her latest surgery hopes the house will finally give her the opportunity to learn about her father. Elyse is using Spite House as a chance to escape her sister's looming marriage - a marriage to the man Elyse has been in love with much of her own life. And Isobel has always dreamed of recapturing the attention and celebrity she had as a child. For her Spite House might prove to be exactly what she's looking for. 

As with her debut, The Roots of the Olive Tree, Courtney Miller Santo once again offers up something of a family saga. This time it's one year in the life of three cousins, each on the brink of thirty and each unsure what to do next in life.

The book is split into three sections, each piece told from one of the girls' viewpoints. This is a format I usually enjoy quite a bit but I'm not sure that it was the best option here in Three Story House. First, the house itself was of the most interest to me. Spite House - there's a story there! Unfortunately it's pushed to the background and only generally glossed over. The girls never really became fully developed or fleshed out either. Sadly I never really felt like I was seeing anything beyond their surface stories - I never felt like I was really getting to know any of them and ended up having quite a hard time connecting with them and becoming invested in their stories.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Courtney and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Releases 8/19/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Confessions by Kanae Minato

One of Us by Tawni O'Dell

Visions by Kelley Armstrong

The Equalizer by Michel Sloan

Ark Storm by Linda Davies

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark

The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo

Gun Metal Heart by Dana Hayes

Payoff by Douglas Corleone

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Flings by Justin Taylor

One Kick by Chelsea Cain

A Dancer in the Dust by Thomas H. Cook

Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Windigo Island by William Kent Krueger

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

You by Zoran Drvenkar

Blind Moon Alley by John Florio

Never Mind Miss Fox by Olivia Glazebrook

New on DVD:
The Quiet Ones
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Amazing Spider-Man 2

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath
Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin

A couple of weeks ago I put up a post about some free summer samplers, one of which was a peek at the new Simon451 list. The first title featured in that particular sampler just happens to be the debut release from Gillian Anderson, A Vision of Fire, a book she's cowritten with Jeff Rovin.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads if you haven't yet checked out the sample:

Renowned child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is a single mom trying to juggle her job, her son, and a lackluster dating life. Her world is suddenly upturned when Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts speaking in tongues and having violent visions. Caitlin is sure that her fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father—a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan to dangerous levels—but when teenagers around the world start having similar outbursts, Caitlin begins to think that there’s a more sinister force at work.

In Haiti, a student claws at her throat, drowning on dry land. In Iran, a boy suddenly and inexplicably sets himself on fire. Animals, too, are acting irrationally, from rats in New York City to birds in South America to ordinary house pets. With Asia on the cusp of nuclear war, Caitlin must race across the globe to uncover the mystical links among these seemingly unrelated incidents in order to save her patient—and perhaps the world.

A Vision of Fire is to be the first in a new series and I have to say the first chapters are really intriguing! Unfortunately it's not due out until October, so I've a bit of a wait to read beyond chapter two. I am pretty stoked, though.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Abroad by Katie Crouch

For Taz (Tabitha), a college student from Ireland, her year abroad in Italy starts innocently enough. As part of the Enteria program she'd chosen Grifonia for her year of foreign study. Her Italian is passable - not great, but enough to get by - and the city seemed a bit of a better choice than either Rome or Florence. Safer. Unfortunately for Taz her time in Grifonia will end in tragedy as her year abroad evolves into something quite different from the learning adventure she'd expected. 

I'm finding it really difficult to piece together my thoughts on Katie Crouch's latest. It is a fabulous book - an emotionally draining book, but a fabulous one nonetheless. The story is inspired by the Amanda Knox trial - something Crouch admits to having become a bit obsessed with in this essay from 2011.

Last October, in my review of Jennifer duBois's Cartwheel - yet another book based on the case - I admitted that I really didn't know anything much about the trial. My curiosity about Abroad stemmed mostly from realizing it was a new direction of sorts in Crouch's writing (much of her other books are set in the South and aren't exactly what I'd describe as mysteries).

The story is told from Taz's perspective and as the doomed narrator there is a tension in simply waiting for her story to build to it's inevitable tragic end. She's a normal girl in every way. She craves acceptance, love, and friendship. She gets involved with a questionable crowd, but otherwise doesn't make any terrible decisions or go crazy in her year away from home. Instead, she explores the city and enjoys the freedom of being a young twenty-something in a college town.

But the town's history is one that's filled with tragedy. Crouch borrows a real group called the Compagnia della Morte to help build a backstory in which the women of Grifonia have never truly been safe. Profiles of other Compagnia assisted deaths are sprinkled throughout the book as Taz catches glimpses of these very same women throughout her story. They are heralds of Taz's fate, though it takes some time for that to become clear.

Ultimately Taz's story is one of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pieces of the story and the people involved all come together in a whirlwind of circumstance that seemingly can't be stopped.

Abroad has to go down as a favorite of mine this year. It was a powerful read, one that I found myself truly unable to tear myself away from. I apparently got a little too wrapped up in Taz's tale, too, considering how incredibly unsettled I felt upon turning the final page.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, August 14, 2014

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

Hi, everyone! Today I'm part of the TLC book tour for Marie-Helene Bertino's debut novel, 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas.

It's Christmas Eve eve in Philly and Madeleine Altimari wants to sing! For just a moment, there's hope, Clare Kelly is in the hospital and Madeleine is the only other choice. But then Clare miraculously appears and Madeleine's dreams are dashed. And then she's expelled. No one seems to be in Madeleine's corner, with the exception of her teacher Miss Greene. It doesn't matter, though, Madeleine has discovered that her town has a jazz club - The Cat's Pajamas. 

That very morning owner Jack Lorca discovers that he's in danger of losing The Cat's Pajamas. With pretty hefty fines and only thirty days to address them, it seems there's no way the club can be saved. 

In one night, the night before Christmas Eve, all three will cross paths finally meeting at The Cat's Pajamas. But can the club's magic give each of them what they've been searching for?

On the one hand, 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas is a charming tale. Madeleine is a precocious narrator - an almost orphan at almost ten years old. Her mother was an exotic dancer who passed away less than a year prior to when the story takes place. Madeleine's father has been overcome by grief and is as absent as he can be. Madeleine has no friends, with the exception of a local cafe owner (whose affection Madeleine does take for granted).

Meanwhile her teacher Sarina Greene has only just returned to the city in the wake of a divorce. A chance encounter leads her to a reunion dinner that puts her face to face with an old crush.

And then there's Jack Lorca. Jack who offered an out for a group of friends who were close to rock bottom. But now Jack himself has hit bottom. His girlfriend has left him, he doesn't connect with his son, and the club's various violations cost more than he can possibly raise in the timeframe given.

What I didn't love about Bertino's debut was the constant shifting of narrators - beyond just the three characters mentioned. It did clearly illustrate all the intersections and crossings the characters make throughout the story, but for once I have to admit it was a bit too many characters for my liking. It felt like - with the exception of Madeleine - I really didn't get to know anything about any of them. Certainly not enough to connect with them and their stories.

One could argue instead that the city itself is the main character. But again, if that's the case, I still didn't feel like I was getting enough of it to be fully captivated by the tale.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Marie-Helene and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Their job is to enforce King's Law but in the wake of their king's death the Greatcoats find themselves living in a truly lawless land. Many have lost respect for the Trattari, now referring to them as tatter cloaks at best and bandits and murderers at worst. The Greatcoats are held responsible for the king's death, standing aside as the dukes of the land sent their own men to assassinate their lord and master. In truth, they were following the king's orders. Now, years later, Falcio, Brasti, and Kest are still together trying to uphold King Paelis's code as best they can. 

When their latest employer is murdered at the hands of a mysterious woman, the find themselves framed as killers. They are forced to join up with a team protecting the daughter of the very woman behind the plot against their king. But the job turns out to be more complicated than simple protection along the trade routes. The three soon learn that the dukes are plotting once again and while their new employment may not be desirable, it does put them in a position to learn more. Perhaps it'll even mean a chance  to avenge their king once and for all. 

Sebastien de Castell's debut is packed with sword-fights, double crosses, and political scheming! Add in a dash of magic and a pinch of mystery and you have a recipe for a sure fire fun read.

Traitor's Blade is very much in the vein of the Three Musketeers. A band of protectors, loyal to the king and seemingly beyond temptation, the Greatcoats have fallen far from their former glory. Over a hundred strong once upon a time, they've been scattered to the winds and all at the order of the king. Yes, it's true, each of them was given a different task, one final order from their monarch before his murder at the hands of the duke. And in the time since his death our three heroes have strangely seen almost none of their former brothers and sisters at arms.

Falcio's task is the only one we're privy to in this first of the series: he's been ordered to find the King's Charoites but he doesn't know where or even what they are. The reader is definitely able to tease out this particular truth well before Falcio himself does, but it was a clever plot point and one that will likely be a driving force in the next book of the series.

Kest and Brasti don't get as much attention, but for pretty fair reason considering much of the story follows Falcio. All three have their own parts to play as the heroes of the tale so I'm hopeful that the other two will get a bit more face time and development in subsequent releases.

Traitor's Blade is out now from Jo Fletcher/Quercus.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Books I'm not sure I want to read for various reasons. 

Ooh, here goes:

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - maybe if I didn't know that it was a huge sobfest I'd be more excited about reading a book EVERYONE is talking about. 

2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman - see above reason :)

3. Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy - I was pretty interested in this book until the show came along. I watched a few episodes and just couldn't get into it. I did try to go back to the book after that and had a hell of a time getting past the first few pages. I just don't think this is going to happen. 

4. The Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore - soooo I saw the movie and kind of want closure but I'm not sure I can bring myself to actually read these. 

5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - I actually do really want to read this one but I think it might be the book that intimidates me most at the moment simply because I've heard the style is so odd. 

6. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - I've read and enjoyed two of Moyes's titles so far and I am well aware this one is everyone's favorite. But that makes me wonder if a. I'll like it as much as everyone says and b. if I can handle all the sad.

7. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - once upon a time I thought I would read this. I bought it and it's been sitting on my shelves ever since. It's so long and while that wouldn't normally intimidate me it's about the building of a church. In spite of my having read and enjoyed Follett and in spite of the generally good reviews this gets, I still have yet to attempt to tackle it and now I'm not sure I ever will. 

8. Anything else by Anne Rice, ever. I've read a couple, I've attempted a couple more. I think I'm done. It feels almost blasphemous to admit that I don't like her work. 

9. One Day by David Nichols - I stumbled onto the end of this movie and now I don't think I can force myself to give this book a try. 

10. Many of the classics! I hate to admit this but I do collect some of the classics with the idea that once in a while I'll be able to squeeze them in. It never happens. Never. 

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech

Good morning, readers! Today I'm kicking off the TLC book tour for Sarah Creech's debut, Season of the Dragonflies.

For four generations the Lenore women have had a hand in something truly magical. Their perfume, distilled using a rare flower brought over from Borneo, has a strange effect on its wearers: they become instantly more attractive and confident, something that's come in handy with the Lenore clients. Actresses, singers, politicians, businesswomen... each Lenore client is handpicked and contracted. In exchange, they pay a premium for the perfume that helped launch their careers and make them successful. 

Mya has lived all her life knowing that the family business will be hers. Her younger sister, Lucia, never had any interest until now. Reeling in the wake of a divorce and certain that her own career is over she returns to her childhood home to discover that all is not exactly well there either. Her mother, Willow, has been having memory problems and both she and May have made a possibly grave mistake with one of their new clients. What's worse, this year's crop of flowers seems to be losing its scent before it can be distilled; a lost batch of perfume would be devastating to the business. Mya's solution is to change the formula but Lucia isn't so sure. After all, the Lenore founder claimed a curse would come down on anyone who meddled with the original recipe and now strange things have started to happen to Mya. 

At the start I wasn't so sure this book and I would get along. I didn't particularly like Lucia, Mya, or Willow when they were introduced. It wasn't until Lucia returned him and the women started interacting with one another that they each started to grow on me.

Season of the Dragonflies does have that same whimsical and magical feeling that Sarah Addison Allen is known for. In fact early promotional material mentions Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman, amongst others, as comparable authors. There's definitely a similar feel to Practical Magic here as well, what with the sister and all. That said I do think Creech stands on her own with the particular setting (Blue Ridge Mountains) and the spell casting through perfumes. Readers who enjoy the above mentioned authors will love Season of the Dragonflies and likely welcome a new addition to their must read lists (as I have!).

It's a sweet story in the end, one about sisters and family, and above all love. I found myself quite wrapped up in it before too long and anxious to see how it would all turn out!

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here

For more on Sarah and her work you can find her on the web here. You can also like her on Facebook.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes

Hi, readers! Today I'm part of the TLC book tour for Ned Hayes's Sinful Folk.

It is the winter of 1377 and five boys have died in a tragic fire. The village of Duns fears this was no accident and vows they will have justice for their loss. The bodies are packed into a cart and a handful of local men set off on a journey that will be both long and dangerous. 

Miriam has been living in Duns with her son, Christian, for the past decade. When she arrived, she was being hunted - to be caught would mean certain death for both of them. And so, when the villagers who discovered her assumed she was a man, she embraced the deception. For ten years the people of Duns have seen her only as Mear, a mute man and father. Christian was among those lost in the fire and Mear will stop at nothing to discover the truth about his death. As Mear, she travels the King's Road alongside the other fathers, listening and learning their secrets. But Mear has secrets of her own - secrets well beyond the truth about her own sex.

Ned Hayes's latest is superb, guys! I mean really superb! There are so many things I want to note but I'm trying very hard to restrain myself because I think I'd prefer to leave some of the surprises for other potential readers to discover on their own. So here goes!

It's historical fiction set in 1377 with a truly fabulous narrator. Mear/Miriam has very good reason to hide her identity, not least of which is the fact that we soon discover the villagers' fear of single women living amongst them. As their travels progress Mear becomes even more afraid of the possible discovery of her identity in spite of the fact that she oftentimes is the one who saves many of them from grave peril.

And it's Mear's secrets that really make this a stand out - what she's running from and why she's kept her identity secret for so long. Hayes intertwines Miriam's tale around Mear's journey, revealing pieces of her past through her own memories while also giving clues through other characters along the way.

Hayes's tale is wrapped around a true historic event - apparently medieval records do note the deaths of a handful of village children in a fire in 1377 and the villagers' journey to seek justice from the king. But the twist is even more clever - there's a second historical note that has inspired this tale and that's what I don't want to give away. I will say this, considering some of my recent reading this was a timely one for my TBR.

Sinful Folk has elements of mystery and suspense and an obvious careful attention to historical accuracy. Hayes sets the tone nicely and Mear does all the rest! Historical fiction fans take note, this is definitely one not to miss!

Rating: 4.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Ned Hayes you can visit his website here. You can also like Sinful Folk over on Facebook and follow Ned on Twitter and Pinterest. And one more link for you, Sinful Folk has its very own website here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Releases 8/12/14

Some of the new title hitting shelves this week are:

The 6th Extinction by James Rollins

Season of the Dragonflies by Sharon Creech

The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier

An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd

Cursed Moon by Jaye Wells

The Black Road by Tania Carver

Friendswood by Rene Steinke

The Reckoning by Rennie Airth

The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson

The Sea Garden by Marcia Willett

The Godless by Ben Peek (8/14)

Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb

Butternut Summer by Mary McNear

Fatal Conceit by Robert K. Tanenbaum

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

The Family Unit and Other Fantasies by Laurence Klavan

My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart

Sisters' Fate by Jessica Spotswood

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

New on DVD:
The Railway Man

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco
Wolf by Mo Hayder

Friday, August 8, 2014

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook by Alexe van Beuren with Recipes by Dixie Grimes

So I mentioned in my Homesick Texan's Family Table review that I have a bit of a cookbook obsession. I'm really not lying, it's because I kind of love to cook. But for me to pick up a new cookbook at this point it has to have a few things:

1. an abundance of recipes I actually want to make
2. great design aspect (who wants to make recipes that don't LOOK tasty)
3. ease of use - I need to be able to actually find the ingredients and make the recipes

Not too terribly much to ask. When I turned in my second Blogging for Books review and looked over the selections for another book the BTC Grocery book caught my eye. After a little research (I checked the sample pages and recipes online) I decided it would be a welcome addition to the cookbook family (our eat in kitchen table is supported by bookshelves for cookbooks, I kid you not!).

I'm a Southern girl and I love (and miss) Southern food. You can imagine then that I was pretty jazzed when this cookbook arrived. Thumbing through the book resulted in a number of flagged recipes and I got to cooking!

What I love about this book is the fact that I immediately found a lot of recipes using items I had readily available: Summer Stuffed Zucchini, Red Cabbage Cole Slaw with Golden Raisins (we had red cabbage in the produce delivery that week), Shrimp and Sweet Corn Chowder.. really a ton of things I could make right off the bat.

Others like the Honey Goat Cheese Frittata and the Chicken Asparagus Mushroom Casserole required very little in the way of shopping (the goat cheese and proscuitto for the frittata and the asparagus for the casserole). And still others (Honey Pecan Catfish) were simply too irresistible to pass up.

In all - to date - I've tried each of the above recipes as well as a half dozen others including one of their fancy mayo ideas, the Tomato Caper Cream Cheese, and the pickles (we'll see in 8 weeks how those turn out). In general I've had a pretty positive experience with this cookbook: for the most part the recipes turn out great and I didn't find them to be terribly complicated. I've actually had a lot of fun cooking out of the book the past few weeks.

I should point out, though, that a lot of the recipes have a LOT of ingredients. One I had mixed feelings about was the Italian Chef Salad. (What can I say, I love a good salad.) The dressing for this one seemed to call for some of just about every item you can find on an olive bar these days. And I don't know why. It just didn't need that many ingredients and by the time you got them all in there you couldn't taste or identify any of them anyway.

I do happen to have a pretty ridiculously stocked pantry, so I can see where the sheer number of ingredients in some of the recipes would be a turn off. Even I have to admit there are a few I likely will never try for that single reason. I should point out too that the stuffed zucchini was quite tasty but was sadly missing an oven temp.

All of the extras this book had to offer were quite nice. I've never been to Water Valley and had never heard of BTC before this, but I enjoyed the stories about the business and the people who shop and eat there. I think this will likely offer a nice bit of nostalgia to folks who have visited and eaten at the BTC Old-Fashioned Grocery. I know if I'm ever around Water Valley I'll certainly be checking it out. I do have immediate plans to make more of the dishes from the book as well.

All in all from a general cookbook standpoint I think this might not be the best choice for someone looking for easy or budgeted cooking. For someone who is willing to make a bit more effort and loves great Southern food, though, I think the BTC cookbook has a lot to offer.

Rating: 3.5/5

Per Blogging for Books requirements: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The New Men by Jon Enfield

Morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Jon Enfield's The New Men.

In 1914 Henry Ford introduced a truly revolutionary idea - a $5 workday. The pay increase was in the form of profit sharing and the company had strict requirements for eligibility. To enforce this the Sociological department was created. Anthony Grams, an immigrant from Italy, is newly promoted to the department and believes he is part of something truly great. The job allows him to support his family and he's helping the company in creating a new work force. But Tony soon realizes the job isn't all it's cracked up to be. The onset of WWI brings about a change in the US and with it come the harsh new realities of living in the United States. 

This particular gem in American history is pretty fascinating all told. I had absolutely no idea that this had ever happened. On the one hand I'm in awe of an idea that seemed like the beginning of a fair wage but am shocked that investigators were allowed access to every piece of a person's life to determine if they were worthy. To give an example of what Enfield outlines as being undesirable traits, Sociological was apparently on the lookout for people who would be spending their hard earned wage in unacceptable ways - too much alcohol, gambling, and anyone who exhibited behavior beyond "clean-living." And of course undesirables weren't eligible.

At first, Tony is 100% behind his job. But when the checks and restrictions start to hit a little too close to home I think he begins to realize just how precarious his position and that of the workers really is. He himself has spent his money on prostitutes, is later blamed for a pregnancy he isn't responsible for (which seemed much like an act of vengeance), and sees in his own family behaviors he's supposed to weed out in Ford employees.

With the war, the whole sentiment in the US changes. As an immigrant he himself faces some of the prejudice but none so much as his friend Merry and as Thia's Jewish father. Tension escalates, bringing the plot to an inevitable tragic point.

The New Men is a pretty great historical fiction. I was not only impressed by how much effort Enfield obviously put into the history side of the tale (and he does outline some of his research in the Historical Note) but how well the story read as a whole. The characters were real and the plot was interesting. I'd worried that it would be too focused on labor issues and Ford, but that turned out not to be the case in the least.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on Jon Enfield and his work you can visit his website here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Ah, the Southern Reach trilogy. This is yet another series that has been on my personal list of highly anticipated 2014 reads. The first title, Annihilation, released in February and was Christmas gift card purchase of mine. It's fairly short, clocking in at just 195 pages, but I never did seem to find time to squeeze it into my reading plans. When we went on vacation for my birthday, though, it was tops on my travel reads list.

They call it Area X - a site that is closed off from everything. A site where strange things happen. There have been eleven other expeditions before now. The last over two years ago. Expedition twelve is made up of four women: a psychologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist, and a biologist. The women are to map and observe, documenting their experiences along the way.

This is what the biologist saw.

Annihilation is strange. I probably should have known better than to expect it to be an easy read just because it's short. I've sadly lost most of the wonderful ability I had in my youth to completely tune out my surroundings while reading. This makes it particularly hard to concentrate when reading in places like the airport and on planes. Add to that the fact that this was such a bizarre story in terms of both style and plot and you have a really bad combination. Bleh.

Actually, had I not been trying to read in such an awful surrounding I probably would have zipped through Annihilation. While a much more dense read than expected, it is nonetheless fascinating. The narration is limited - we see only what the biologist supposedly writes in her journal. She does take a very scientific look at things but we aren't all that certain we can trust her for increasing reasons along the way.

As an intro to the series it is an interesting creative choice. (I've peeked at the second title, Authority, and the narration is completely different.) Annihilation leaves readers with so many questions. What exactly is Area X, what is the Southern Reach (who controls Area X), what's the purpose of the expeditions and what do they hope to learn from Area X, and what the heck happened there to begin with? Annihilation clears up nothing, instead adding more and more questions before all is said and done, and leaves readers like me craving more!

If you're into oddball reads this is truly the one for you. If you're easily frustrated by the lack of explanation in a story you'll want to steer clear. I personally am waiting to read through both Authority (out now) and the upcoming Acceptance (releasing in September) to see how the whole thing plays out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Teen Recommendations for Adults

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Recommendations for Readers Who Have Never Read X. So this week I'm going with recs for adults who don't read YA. 

I get it, a lot of adults have yet to dip their toe into the teen pool. I only started when I had teen sisters of my own. They'd express their great appreciation for a certain book and convince me to give it a try. Before too long I was the one reading and passing teen titles along to them! 

All of the titles I'm recommending are books that I think read as well as anything found in the "adult" section of the bookstore. They just happen to have teen characters.

1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan - If you're not into zombies this might not work, but I do so love this series and find it truly effective and horrific as an adult. 

2. Sabriel by Garth Nix - who doesn't love this book? It's an excellent fantasy read regardless of your age. 

3. The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver - I knew very little about this series when I read this one but I couldn't put it down. I read it in one sitting!

4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - this one is just such a unique premise and Taylor's style of writing is hypnotic.

5. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - another one with a unique premise. The use of vintage images paired with an incredibly fun (and dark) story. 

6. The Circle by Sara Elfgren and Mats Strandberg - this is a Scandinavian teen trilogy about witches.  But it's also about those painful teenage years. 

7. White Space by Ilsa Black - so this book seems to be very polarizing - you either love it or hate it. It's so incredibly weird and twisty and I of course loved it! I'm careful about who I recommend it to but for the right reader it's a real adventure. 

8. Pure by Julianna Baggott - my impression is that even the publisher was cross marketing this one for teens and adults. 

9. Velveteen by Danny Marks - this is a teen release from Mark Henry. It's oh, so dark and definitely one that can work just as well for adults as it does for teens. 

10. The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist - I thought this one deserved much more love than it got when it was released! This is a teen sci-fi title with a fabulous narrator. It's also Dahlquist's first teen release. 

Q&A With Lev Grossman + a Giveaway

Happy, happy book birthday to Lev Grossman whose final book in The Magician's Trilogy hits shelves today! Thanks to the publisher I've got a fun Q&A with the author to share with you and I'm also able to offer up one copy in a giveaway. Be sure to read through to the bottom to enter.

But first, a very, very fun trailer for you (psst, it's a Chapter 1 reading with some pretty recognizable participants):

Agh! I can't wait to crack this one open! I'll have a review for you in the coming days. Until then, here's a little Q&A the publisher passed on for posting:

A Conversation with Lev Grossman, author of The Magician’s Land

Q: People considered The Magicians to be Harry Potter for grown-ups and an homage to writers like C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. But in THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, Quentin is nearly thirty years-old. Can we expect any new allusions to those books? How has the series grown up over the years? 

A: On some level all the Magicians books are written as a conversation with Lewis and Rowling. It’s a complicated conversation – sometimes it’s affectionate, occasionally it’s rather heated – and it continues in The Magician’s Land. I thought Rowling let Harry off a little easy by never showing him to us at 30. We never really saw him having to deal with his traumatic past – his abusive childhood, his experience of violence and death, his massive world-saving celebrity as a teenager – and struggling to figure out what the rest of his life is about. Those are things Quentin has to do in The Magician’s Land. When you’re a magician, and there’s no ultimate evil to defeat, when you’re not a kid anymore, what is magic for? 

As for Lewis, Narnia fans will pick up echoes of The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle, the stories of Narnia’s creation and of its destruction. Lewis made a bit of fetish of childhood and innocence: Narnia was a place for children, and when you grow up and get interested in adult things, you lose that special magic. You see that in Peter Pan too – it’s one of the dominant tropes of 20th century fantasy. In The Magician’s Land I wanted to think not just about what you lose when you grow up, but what you might gain. You lose the magic of innocence and wonder, but do you gain a richer, more complex kind of magic? 

Q: You come from a family of serious academics. What was their reaction when you chose to write genre fiction rather than something more “literary”? 

A: It sounds funny to say it, but writing The Magicians was a serious act of rebellion for me. Coming from the family I do, it was an act of calculated treason. I had to nerve myself up to do it. But I had to – it was the only way I could say what I wanted to say. I couldn’t do anything else. 

I think it’s fair to say that reactions were mixed. My mom was cautiously enthusiastic, and my brother and sister have been hugely helpful with the books. But I don’t think my father ever read any of The Magicians books. 

Q: The Magicians books have stirred up a lot of controversy among readers. They attack or invert the most sacred conventions of fantasy, and as a result, have divided the fantasy world. Can you speak a bit about this diverse reader response? 

A: No question, the Magicians books are polarizing. They’re supposed to be. The same way Neuromancer did with science fiction, and Watchmen did with superhero comics, the Magicians books ask hard questions about fantasy. What kinds of people would really do magic, if it were really, and what would the practice of magic do to them? What would really go on in a school for magic, with a bunch of teenagers in a fairy castle being given supernatural powers? What would happen if you put in all the depression and the violence and the blowjobs and the drinking that Rowling leaves out? What would happen to those kids after they graduated? What would happen if you sent these kids through the looking glass, into a magical land that was in the grip of a civil war? 

These aren’t the kinds of questions everybody wants asked, but that’s how genres evolve. Watchmen was a brutal interrogation of the superhero genre – and it was also the greatest superhero story ever written. You couldn’t write a comic book the same way after Watchmen was published. I’m not saying the Magicians books are the greatest fantasy novels ever written, but they’re asking the same kinds of questions. 

Q: What were your major influences from science fiction or fantasy genres? What about more mainstream, literary works? How do you see these manifesting themselves in THE MAGICIAN’S LAND

A: What got me started writing The Magicians was reading Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in 2004. There were several novels around that time that did things with fantasy that had never been done before, used it to say things that had never been said before. George R.R. Martin’s books were like that, and so were Neil Gaiman’s, especially American Gods. So were Kelly Link’s. When I read those books, I knew that I had to be a part of whatever they were doing. 

I also have a bit of an academic background – I spent a few years in graduate school, and I studied the literary canon, particularly the history of the novel, pretty intensely – and that comes out in the Magicians books too. You can find bits of Proust in them, and Fitzgerald, Woolf, Donne, Joyce, Chaucer, T.S. Eliot. You can find a lot of Evelyn Waugh – Brakebills owes a lot to Hogwarts, but it owes a lot more to the Oxford of Brideshead Revisited. I wanted to see what happens when you take techniques and tropes from literary fiction and transport them, illegally, across genre lines. 

Q: As a literary critic, you’ve worked to promote the value and respectability of genre fiction – one year you put George R.R. Martin at the top of Time’s list of books of the year. You did the same with Susanna Clarke and John Green. Does that fit in with what you do as a writer of fiction? 

A: In my own nerdy way I’m trying to start a revolution, or maybe I’m just trying to join one that got started without me. It’s a literary revolution, but not the usual kind, where people who are writing difficult, avant garde literature figure out a way to make it even more difficult and avant garde. I’m talking about a revolution of pleasure, where the question of a book’s worth is de-coupled from the question of whether or not it’s hard or unpleasant to read. 

Q: If The Magicians, The Magician King, and THE MAGICIAN'S LAND were made into movies or a television series, who would you envision playing Quentin and his friends? 

A: The challenge with the Magicians characters is to convey a lot of intelligence, and also to not be overly good-looking. They’re a clever lot, and they’re also very real – they look like real people. Ben Whishaw has probably aged out of the Quentin role, but people mention him to me a lot, and that seems right. Sometimes I pictured specific actors while I was writing – Eliot, for example, I imagine as something like Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I. I often imagine Alice as Thora Birch from Ghost World

Q: There are a lot of tech references in The Magicians books that would seem more at home in science fiction than fantasy, ie. the origin of magic is described in hacker language. Why did you choose to juxtapose so much tech with magic? 

A: I’m very committed to the project of making the Magicians books feel real, and to that end I made a deal with myself: everything that’s real in our world would be real in Quentin’s. And that means including contemporary technology, cell phones and the Internet and so on. 

But beyond that, I think the same people who are interested in technology in our world would be drawn to magic if it were real, as much as the Wiccan crowd. Magic is interesting and complicated and powerful the same way technology is, and it requires some of the same mental discipline. 

Also, I’m a science fiction writer manqué. I like the way SF writers look at the world. I like to think I write about magic the way good SF writers write about technology. 

Q: You have a degree in comparative literature from Harvard but dropped out before getting your Ph.D. from Yale. What made you decide not to become an academic yourself? 

A: I can’t even remember what made me decide I wanted to be one in the first place, except that I was unemployed and wanted to read books and talk about them as much as possible. Which I did get to do, and I loved it. But I knew from watching my parents that the life of an academic is not a glamorous one. It is frequently an underpaid and inglorious one, except for the superstars, and it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be one of those. Fortunately I married one instead. 

Q: You have an identical twin brother, Austin Grossman, who is also a Harvard grad and successful fantasy novelist. Why do you think you’ve traveled such similar paths professionally? How do you think growing up as twins shaped your writing, respectively? 

A: It’s a mystery. I don’t know if twins have much more insight into it than regular people have. Austin was a very successful video game designer in his 20s, whereas I spent most of that decade looking for a career of any kind. But then somehow, for some reason, we re-converged. It happens all the time, not just with our writing. We live on opposite coasts, and only see each other a few times a year, but there’s always some uncanny coincidence in what we’re doing, or wearing, or listening to, or reading. 

Though I’m very conscious of the differences in our work too. We’ve read the same things, seen the same movies, and watched the same shows, so our cultural points of reference are all the same. We know all the same words. But he writes only in the first person, and I only write in the third person. We use the same raw materials to construct very different stories. 

Q. Over the past decade, fantasy has become more accepted in mainstream and literary circles. What do you think has changed and where do you see the genre going? Does fantasy get the respect it deserves among scholars? 

A. A lot has changed for fantasy in the last decade or so. The 1990's were all about science fiction—Star Wars, Star Trek, the Matrix—but something changed around the turn of the millennium. After 2001 the popular imagination became focused on fantasy -- Harry Potter and Twilight and The Lord of the Rings. En masse, we turned to fantasy for something we needed and weren't finding elsewhere. What that is, it’s hard to say, but it’s led to a glorious resurgence of the genre. Fantasy is evolving and maturing. It’s definitely not just for kids anymore. Writers like Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, China Mieville, George RR Martin and Kelly Link are making it more complex and interesting and sophisticated and powerful than it ever was before. 

But no, as far as I can tell, it still gets very little respect from the academy. 

Q: What’s your favorite part of writing outside of reality? 

A: What makes fantasy interesting to me is what it can’t do. Magic doesn’t solve everybody’s problems. You have characters who are capable of drawing energy from invisible sources, making it crackle from their fingers, performing miracles. But when they’re done, they’re still who they are. Life is still life. Magic doesn't change relationships. It doesn’t fix your neuroses. Those basic problems are still what they were, and they have to be solved the old-fashioned way, just like in any other novel.

And now for the giveaway (HUGE thanks to the folks over at Viking for the Q&A and the giveaway copy!). To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, August 18 (US only and no PO boxes, please). Good luck!