Monday, August 31, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning..."

I am really in denial that this is the last Terry Pratchett book. BUT if it had to end, it's ending with my favorite character, Tiffany Aching.

Lady of Magick by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sylvia Izzo Hunter brought “both rural Brittany and an alternative Regency England to vivid life” in The Midnight Queen, her debut novel of history, magic, and myth. Now, in her new Noctis Magicae novel, Sophie and Gray Marshall are ensnared in an arcane plot that threatens to undo them both.

In her second year of studies at Merlin College, Oxford, Sophie Marshall is feeling alienated among fellow students who fail to welcome a woman to their ranks. So when her husband, Gray, is invited north as a visiting lecturer at the University in Din Edin, they leap at the chance. There, Sophie’s hunger for magical knowledge can finally be nourished. But soon, Sophie must put her newly learned skills to the test.

Sophie returns home one day to find a note from Gray—he’s been summoned urgently to London. But when he doesn’t return, and none of her spells can find a trace of him, she realizes something sinister has befallen him. With the help of her sister, Joanna, she delves into Gray’s disappearance, and soon finds herself in a web of magick and intrigue that threatens not just Gray, but the entire kingdom."

Um, it's Regency Magic, did you have any doubt I'd recommend this?

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Published by: NAL
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth."

I am SO STINKING EXCITED for Deanna Raybourn's newest series. She's just been getting better and better as a writer and now she's jumping from paperback to hardcover too!

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest
Published by: Roc
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From Cherie Priest, the award-winning author of Maplecroft, comes a new tale of Lizzie Borden’s continuing war against the cosmic horrors threatening humanity…

Birmingham, Alabama is infested with malevolence. Prejudice and hatred have consumed the minds and hearts of its populace. A murderer, unimaginatively named “Harry the Hacker” by the press, has been carving up citizens with a hatchet. And from the church known as Chapelwood, an unholy gospel is being spread by a sect that worships dark gods from beyond the heavens.

This darkness calls to Lizzie Borden. It is reminiscent of an evil she had dared hoped was extinguished. The parishioners of Chapelwood plan to sacrifice a young woman to summon beings never meant to share reality with humanity. An apocalypse will follow in their wake which will scorch the earth of all life.

Unless she stops it…"

More Lizzie Borden and more Cherie Priest, I approve. 

A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October "Toby" Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life -- and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere's seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what's past is never really gone.

It's just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

A Red-Rose Chain is the ninth installment in Seanan McGuire's urban fantasy October "Toby" Daye series."

Yes, this week might have too many new books I need.

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This fall, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return in the highly anticipated follow-up to Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST.

In this adrenaline-charged thriller, genius-hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist face a dangerous new threat and must again join forces.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a trusted source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female super hacker–a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering.

Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Lisbeth for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. In The Girl in the Spider's Web, the duo who thrilled 80 million readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest meet again in an extraordinary and uniquely of-the-moment thriller."

Did I really like the original trilogy? Not really. Will I read this? Definitely. If for no other reason then there's so much bad press from Larsson's partner.

A Beam of Light by Andrea Camilleri
Published by: Penguin Books
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In time for Andrea Camilleri’s 90th birthday, the nineteenth installment in his irresistible New York Times–bestselling Inspector Montalbano Mystery series.

When Inspector Montalbano falls under the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his longtime relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant's young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn."

For my mom, who loves this series. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review - Lauren Willig's The Lure of the Moonflower

Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: NAL
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 528 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Jane doesn't know if it's wise to be working with Jack Reid, alias the Moonflower. But her mission is in Portugal, she doesn't speak the language, and he's the agent on the ground. Seeing as her old companion Miss Gwen is married to Jack's father, Jane has heard all there is to about Jack and his ever shifting allegiances. What she hasn't heard about Jack is that perhaps the legend doesn't match the man. And that man has sure heard of the legend of the Pink Carnation, who is now supposedly leading this new mission that he isn't allowed any input on. Jane is not suited to the rugged search for the Portuguese Queen across the rough and tumble countryside, yet that is just what she plans to do. She is being dictatorial and living down to his expectations. But that is the problem. They have both prejudged each other and found the other lacking. If they could just start over then perhaps they could find more than just a serviceable working arrangement. That new start happens when the deadliest of French spies, the Gardener, appears on their trek. They both have a history with him, and neither one is pleased to see him. They scrap all their plans and go off the grid, trying to beat the Gardener to the Queen and trying to become compatriots. While in the future Eloise and Colin are facing something just as daunting. Their wedding day. Which should go off without a hitch, that is until Colin's beloved Aunt Arabella is kidnapped the night before the ceremony and Colin reveals she was spy in her day! So they just have to deal with the kidnapper's demands and THEN they can get married.

While I haven't been a part of the Pink Carnation fandom since it's inception, arriving only two years late to the party, I hope I've made up for those two years with my cheer leading. Yet it was still hard to say goodbye to all the characters I have loved, even minus those two years. I thought that I'd be OK with it. I thought, given enough warning as well as re-reading all the previous eleven volumes I wouldn't have any pangs. I was wrong. These characters have been my friends through ups and downs for eight years! There's a scene near the end on Lord Richard's ship where Jack stumbles into the assorted crew, many of which are his family, and it just hit me. This might be the last time I see these characters in a new adventure. I didn't want to let go. I was on that ship and I was immobilized. I wasn't looking from face to face with bewilderment like Jack, I was looking from face to face and thinking of all the stories left to tell. There's Jack's little sister Lizzy, I don't just want, I need to know about her future adventures. Plus what about Jack's other sister Kat? Yes, she ends up with Tommy, but how? Also what about all the characters we have yet to meet? This world is teaming with stories that are now being set aside. Closure was given, but it's surprising sometimes that closure is the last thing we really want. What we really want is one more chapter before bedtime. 

My initial problem, aside from the series ending, was that I've never been the biggest fan of Jane. She's always been an enigma, and rightfully so, she is illusive after all. Always in the background setting the world to rights. Lauren previously needed her to be infallible and maddeningly omniscient and capable. These traits don't lend themselves to a character of flesh and blood, but an analytical ice maiden. A perfectly coolly composed heroine does not make the most interesting read. The Lure of the Moonflower gets off to a rocky start because, like Jack, we only see what Jane wants us to see. This capable perfect agent. When the truth starts to creep out, her self doubt, her sacrifices, how much she and Jack feel the weight of the mantle of spy, do you finally start to relate and to understand Jane. The loneliness, the long nights, the seclusion, the isolation from everything and everyone else as you have to be self sufficient and self reliant. That is where Lauren succeeds and the book comes together, she believably gives us insight into Jane. Slowly the layers are peeled away and the person who was once inconceivable is now all too human and relatable. While Jane's dalliance with Nicolas (aka the Gardener) shows us that she does have desires, her calculated seduction doesn't really give us any insight. It's in opening up to Jack that we learn about the real Jane behind the carefully constructed mask. If anyone had every told me my heart would ache for Jane I would never have believed them. But when she talks about her parents declaring her dead and her tombstone, that was it. Like Jack I wanted to protect her even though she didn't need the least bit of protection.

It's this opening up to Jack that not only makes Jane relatable, but that made me connect to her. Most of my young life I would shun help and advice. Even things like the simplest critique of how to write a paper better and I would shut down. Obviously I should know how to write my own paper! Sheesh. It wasn't until college that I realized that part of growing up is finding people to help you, people to lean on. Of course, this is a very trial and error procedure. Sometimes the people you think you can rely on the most turn out to be AWOL when you need them the most. Which is why I reverted to old habits and only counted on myself. So I totally get where Jane is coming from. But there's such a burden, so much weight on your shoulders if you go it alone. Finding the right people, the right group of friends who are their to lift you up when you're down, to help you over the rough patches, that is the most precious gift we can get in life. Over the course of The Lure of the Moonflower Jane realizes that Jack is just such a person. Someone who takes the weight of the mantle "The Pink Carnation" off her shoulders. Neither of them have any reason to trust the other, but their experiences together and there similar backgrounds makes them compliment each other. To have Jane find someone to compliment her is a wonderfully happy place to end this series, but more than that, to find someone to share her burdens, to rely on, someone with whom you can let down your defenses and admit you need help, that is the true happily ever after.

Also getting to a point where Eloise was allowed a happily ever after was a nice balance. While her future is more writing the exploits of daring do than perpetrating them, there was finally a nice symbiosis between the two plots to end it on the right note. I have always been a fan of the modern framing device used by Lauren with Eloise and Colin, but there were times when it felt they were just there to tell the future history of what happened versus being integral to the story. And sometimes you even wondered if perhaps Lauren's publishers were right to think of writing them out. By finally bringing spies, ever hinted at but never seen, into the present, the past and present finally clicked like they never have before. Aunt Arabella being a spy just makes so much sense. It's one of those things that when it happens you think, "how did I not see this before!?!" Eloise always wondering about Colin's spy affiliations felt forced. There was no way this gentle country squire was in any capacity related to any activities at Thames House. But Arabella! SO MUCH SENSE! Her globetrotting ways, her keeping of the family secrets. All of it just made this book reach another level. Of course some of that level was of the French farce variety, but when has Lauren's books ever disappointed by going farcical? Of course now I want an entire series just for Aunt Arabella, in the manner of her friend M.M.Kaye's "Death in" series. If there was more proof needed that I don't want to ever leave these characters desiring all these different spin-off series would be all the proof you need.

As for the book within the book. Perfection. I had been hoping for some time that Eloise might drop her academic career and have the series pull a meta switch on us and that's just what Lauren has done. I remember when it was first bandied about that Colin was secretly a spy, only to turn out to be writing about them, that wouldn't it be ironic if Eloise turned her dissertation into a book and became a bestselling author before Colin. And not only that, but a bestselling author writing about his family! Little meta jokes have always entertained me, hence my love of Abed on Community. Yeah self-referential humor! But more than that, I like that it brings the series full circle, beginning again at the end. Guess I'm supposed to read them all again right? I also love that Colin is such a great guy he literally doesn't mind this twist of fate. He and Eloise are a perfect couple. But the line that really captured it for me is when Eloise mentions to Aunt Arabella that there's a story in the Pink Carnation's further escapades, and Arabella replies more then one, I sighed wistfully. These characters have been my friends on more then one adventure, and I wish them the best of luck. Because obviously they live on and keep having adventures, even if Lauren isn't writing them. Yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Begining of the End

We always knew it would end with Jane. Therefore the announcement of Jane's book on February 18th of last year was bittersweet. Lauren said it best:

"It’s official. Pink XII – aka the book after The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla – will be the last book in the Pink Carnation series.

Twelve is a pretty good number for a series, don’t you think?

Here’s what I can tell you about Pink XII so far. It’s Jane’s book. It’s set in Portugal in autumn 1807. And it will presumably make its appearance at some point in 2015.

The first book in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, was published in 2005. It’s hard to believe that the Pink series has been going strong for nearly a decade – but the decade mark seemed like a good time to wrap it up, before it begins to go stale.

Wrapping up the series doesn’t mean that we’ll be leaving the world of Pink forever. I’m not ruling out the possibility of novellas or related novels. After all, there are still far too many characters who need their stories told….

More about Pink XII soon!"

The copious comments on this post reflect my emotions. But I was prosaic about the whole thing, I went through the five stages of grief rather well. Rarely does an author get to end a series on their terms. Either they sell phenomenally well and the series is pushed beyond it's viability, resulting in parody, bad stories, and installments that are a shadow of their former brilliance and strain credulity. Or they sell badly and the author is never given the chance to wrap everything up in a neat and perfect little bow. Lauren's Pink Carnation series worked better than most long running series in that each installment was predominately self-contained but still placed within this larger framework. And yes, there are stories I still want told, yes, there's characters I don't want to part with. But I would choose this bittersweet ending over a broken heart any day.

Twelve books, three novellas, and ten years. I have a copiously laden bookshelf devoted to Lauren. Yet the true balm isn't in the satisfactory conclusion of this series, and yes, you will be satisfied. The balm is that Lauren continues to write. With her first three stand-alone novels Lauren has proven that she can keep us in her thrall. Plus it's also fun to play "spot the Pink Carnation reference." But when a series goes from hardcover to paperback, you know the end is nigh. Thanks go to Penguin, Dutton, and NAL for letting Lauren end the series on her terms. Also thanks for all the ARCs over the years, you couldn't have been lovelier. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: August 25th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. Including Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache, who now live in the little Quebec village.

But when the boy disappears, the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.

And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.

And now it is now, writes Ruth Zardo. And the dark thing is here.

A monster once visited Three Pines. And put down deep roots. And now, Ruth knows, it is back.

Armand Gamache, the former head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, must face the possibility that, in not believing the boy, he himself played a terrible part in what happens next."

So, yeah, I'm kind of getting into the Gamache mysteries now... got quite a few to catch up on first!

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory
Published by: Touchstone
Publication Date: August 25th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"By the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the Starz original series The White Queen, a riveting new Tudor tale featuring King Henry VIII’s sixth wife Kateryn Parr, the first English queen to publish under her own name.

Why would a woman marry a serial killer?

Because she cannot refuse…

Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives—King Henry VIII—commands her to marry him.

Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as Regent.

But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and the first woman to publish in English, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her. The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy—the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…

From an author who has described all of Henry’s queens comes a deeply intimate portrayal of the last: a woman who longed for passion, power, and education at the court of a medieval killer."

More Royals behaving badly and I can't seem to get enough.

Breakout by Ann Aguirre
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: August 25th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"All hell is breaking loose in the edge-of-your-seat follow-up to Havoc and Perdition from New York Times bestselling author Ann Aguirre…

The prison ship Perdition has become a post-battle charnel house with only a handful of Dred’s soldiers still standing and now being hunted by Silence’s trained tongueless assassins. Forging an uneasy alliance with mercenary commander Vost—who is their only chance at escape—the Dread Queen will do whatever it takes to end her life sentence on Perdition and keep the survivors alive long enough to cobble together a transport capable of getting them off station.

If Dred and her crew can win the deadly game of cat and mouse, the payoff is not only life but freedom—a prize sweeter than their wildest dreams. Yet the sadistic Silence would rather destroy Perdition than let a single soul slip from her grasp…"

Come on, of course I need this, was there any question?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - Toby Stephens (Jack Reid)

Ah, Jack Reid. The British Harrison Ford. There is one man and one man alone I could ever see playing you, no matter what his age. He IS Jack Reid.

Name: Toby Stephens

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Jack Reid, aka The Moonflower

First Impression: The Great Gatsby. OK, it wasn't so much the ill-advised 2000 adaptation with Paul Rudd of all people that was my first impression, it was an article in People Magazine about the adaptation that got my attention. The article was about Toby and his breaking into America with The Great Gatsby. The real reason I found this so fascinating is that Toby is Maggie Smith's son! Even if you aren't a British dilettante you know who Maggie Smith is! Toby Stephens was quite literally born to be a great actor, though not in The Great Gatsby.

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Um, because he just is Jack? OK, you probably need more convincing as I'm casting a forty-six year old in the role of a man twenty years his junior. He has the gruffness down pat. Between playing Mr. Rochester and Captain Flint he's got gruff covered. With Flint he's got that ruggedness that is necessary to survive in the wilds of Portugal. But more then that, think of how Jack creates these characters and lives their lives, there's a survival attitude, but also a mischievous imp in there too... one who might dress up as a gypsy woman to mess with people perhaps? Also, really, I often say how all British actors have an American counterpart and vice versa, he really is the British Harrison Ford. He can call me Princess any day.

Lasting Impression: OK, this is a really close call between Cambridge Spies and Jane Eyre, it's a dead heat tie in fact. In Cambridge Spies I really got a sense of the range of his acting skills, I mean he's such a wicked good actor that you are actually rooting for him to outwit the British. But it was in Jane Eyre that I fell in love with him. He IS my Rochester. Before I had read Jane Eyre and in all the adaptations I have watched I just couldn't get why anyone thought Rochester was so broody and wonderful. Orson Welles, nope. George C. Scott, Timothy Dalton, William Hurt, and even Michael Fassbender didn't work for me. As for Ciarán Hinds? Spare me. No no and no. It's Toby Stephens and only Toby!

What else you've seen them in: Toby is everywhere, never wanting to be typecast or pigeonholed. From several Bronte adaptations, to Shakespeare, great period pieces like Cousin Bette to actually being the villain in a Bond movie, his range and where he will show up next will surprise you. Yes, that's him on Law and Order: UK and Inspector Lewis. That new star-studded production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Where None, yes please! And if you want some comedy with your mystery, check out Vexed, but ONLY the first season. Why yes, why not star in the revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives with his wife! But one of my all time favorite random appearances is Toby's three episodes on Robin Hood as Prince John. He is the ONLY one who understood the camp nature of this show and made you realize how awesome it could have been all along if only he had been there. He was a light in a dark and depressing show, which I did completely watch for Richard Armitage, who now owes me one.

Can't believe it's them: Space Cowboys! Really!?! He played a young Clint Eastwood!?! This is too hilarious to have not known. This is now forever in my mind as the funniest fact about Toby. Might actually have to watch the movie now...

Wish they hadn't: The Chamomile "Cousin Fucking" Lawn. And yes, that is my version of the title, though most people just call Toby's first acting role as The Chamomile Lawn. I remember it so well, the one and only time I watched this miniseries. It wasn't available in the US and I was visiting my friend Sara in Canada and we went to the video store and there it was. I was so excited. But this is such a weird miniseries. All about Tara Fitzgerald having a love affair with twins. Jennifer Ehle has a great line about DANCING! But overall I remember that it was about two cousins who were in love, hence, "cousin fucking." Avoid this, it's not worth your time. Though I do wish my friend Sara had kept a running log of all the random exclamations I made while watching this, it would be quite entertaining, especially as she was in the other room and I would literally yell out random things.

Bio: Toby Stephens was literally born into acting royalty, his mother being Maggie Smith, his father was no less a great actor, being Robert Stephens. After his parents divorced he followed his mother around the world for her various acting jobs. Therefore it is not at all surprising that both him and his brother became actors. While offered so many television and film roles he has almost always shunned Hollywood, turning instead to his first love, theater. When he first started out he quickly garnered many awards, winning the Sir John Gielgud Prize for Best Actor and the Ian Charleson Award for his performance in the title role of Coriolanus at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1994 when he was only twenty-five! He is also a prolific narrator of books, which I didn't know and must now hunt up, oh, looks like he does Flashman, makes total sense for Jack Reid, as well as performing in broadcast radio dramas, yadda yadda, Flashman! He is married to the actress Anna-Louise Plowman, whom he has stared with several times and with whom he has three children. He is also totally and completely awesome. He can be good or evil and whatever he is you will root for him. Doubt me? Watch Black Sails STAT, especially if you want to see him get "reacquainted" with his Cambridge Spies co-star Rupert Penry-Jones.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - Hayley Atwell (Jane Wooliston)

I have never attempted to cast Jane till now. Much like her nom du guerre, she has been a mystery, though a mystery who might have been played by Paloma Baeza. Always there, always watching, waiting, the perfect society beauty that could kill you if you only knew. Therefore I wanted an actress that could be that society beauty but could totally kick ass, and that's why only Agent Carter herself could play Jane.

Name: Hayley Atwell

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Jane Wooliston

First Impression: The first time I saw Hayley Atwell was as the fabulous JJ Feild's sister Rosa in The Ruby in the Smoke. What struck me about her was not only her assurance as an actress, but that the character wasn't pretentious and let her heart, not society, lead her choices. Plus she got a kick ass wedding in the follow up, The Shadow in the North. I mean look at that wedding dress!

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Demure bride by day, kick ass action hero redefining gender stereotypes by night... who else could play Jane? She has the acting skills to bring off that demure society beauty while the physical skills to beat you down. If you really want to see Hayley at her best, watch the thirteen minute mini pilot that was made for Agent Carter. I actually like it more than the series, despite my love of Jarvis. The reason being she is a lone agent, a rogue who can do anything. Which is what Jane has become.

Lasting Impression: Captain America. As you know I totally saw Captain America for one JJ Feild, but his co-star Hayley really stole the show. She went her own way, put up with no nonsense, and seriously is awesome. She went on to form S.H.I.E.L.D. after all! A strong female lead in a male dominated Marvel franchise is sure to make us women viewers sit up and take notice. We're finally not the damsel in distress, we're saving the day!

What else you've seen them in: The Prisoner, Mansfield Park, Brideshead Revisited (and doing a better job than Diana Quick EVER did), The Pillars of the Earth, and The Duchess. Until her stint in Captain America, Hayley really was the go-to actress for period films, no matter the period. In fact I would very much argue that the reason I love Captain America so much is that it's a period piece that just happens to be part of the Marvel universe. Since Captain America Hayley has been in quite literally almost all Marvel films, which makes me actually watch the others occasionally. And let us not forget she is the first female Marvel character to have her own TV show! How freakin' awesome is that?

Can't believe it's them: Cinderella. And yes, I did for some reason go to this overly Technicolor live action reinterpretation of the cartoon which couldn't figure out which time period it was meant to be in. Seriously, what is with Cate Blanchett? She's dressed for the golden age of Hollywood in rural France! What was so odd though was Hayley playing the bucolic and dying mother of Cinderella who looked like she had stepped out of a painting by Rossetti. Also, seriously, what's up with the blond hair? That is SO obviously a wig!

Wish they hadn't: Any Human Heart. Seriously, DO NOT WATCH this piece of shit show. It is depressing and just weird. I mean Matthew Macfadyen, whom I love and adore, plays such a scumbag, he sleeps with his dead son's girlfriend if I recall correctly. The only reason to watch this would be to see the brilliance of a young Sam Claflin, but as soon as he turns into Matthew Macfadyen, yes they play the same character, just stop. It's not worth it waiting for Hayley to show up, she dies in a bombing raid. Oops, did I spoil it? Good. Now you won't watch it.

Bio: Hayley was born to two motivational speakers in London who soon divorced and she spent her childhood divided between the school year in England and the summer in the US in Missouri, being a dual citizen. But having two such outspoken parents led to some interesting experiences, such as walking on hot coals at the age of nine and going on anti-vivisection rallies as a teenager. Her mother believed that theater was an important communal experience and Hayley was taken to productions at an early age, once at the age of eleven seeing her future co-star Ralph Fiennes as Hamlet. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 2005 and getting her first role in a TV movie about Charles and Camilla starring Laurence Fox as Prince Charles. But it was her role the following year in Andrew Davies's The Line of Beauty that really brought her into prominence, getting a role in a Woody Allen film the following year. Though film and television aren't her only outlets, she is also an accomplished stage actress earning a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for the 2009 revival of A View from the Bridge. Most people site 2011, the year Captain America came out, as her big breakthrough, but I think she's been brilliant from day one, seriously, just watch Mansfield Park. Her rise to fame was just inevitable. Plus she has some wicked Dubsmash skills.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Titular Tidings

For someone who reads and writes a lot I have actually never aspired to be an author. But growing up in the publishing world I did have other aspirations that were book related. My main aspiration was to appear either in the dedication of a book or in the thanks. One does love to see one’s name in print and this, I figured, was the closest way to achieving that goal without actually writing a book. I have achieved the goal of being mentioned in an author’s bio… of course that author was my Dad and I wasn’t referred to by name, but still, I was heading in the right direction. This spring I was thanked in the afterward of Marry Robinette Kowal's Of Noble Family for being a beta reader, huzzah! But generally authors don't give you opportunities to get your name in their books. And then I met Lauren. If you’ve been following her books and blog as long as I have you will remember back in the days of yore when she would occasionally be stymied on the next Pink book’s title. The person or persons who helped with the title would be mentioned in the acknowledgements at the beginning of that book.

Ah ha I thought! This shall be how I shall achieve said odd literary goal! The first naming competition Lauren had that I hopefully entered was actually for the novella that became Ivy and Intrigue: A Very Selwick Christmas. I remember pouring over the printouts of this Christmas story and writing copious notes in the margins, just hoping that my titular suggestion would be picked. While I wasn’t the winner I did get an honorable mention and a signed book plate and a lovely letter from Lauren for “Bother the Snow.” Being so close yet so far created a new goal of wanting to name a piece of writing, which would happen sooner then I thought. The next naming competition was for Pink VI, later to be known as The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. Again I poured over the first chapter of the book, I even went so far as to contact my friend Matt who knows all about plants and grilled him on plants that would be in India, but alas, it wasn’t to be, and thankfully so if you've read my previous post. But my time was coming.

In 2012, the most favorite of Lauren’s couples, voted on by the readers, was to get a Valentine’s Day novella. The much loved Miles and Henrietta Dorrington, stars of The Masque of the Black Tulip, trounced the competition. One day I was trolling Lauren's site, as I do, and I noticed that the time had come to name the upcoming story. Everyone was throwing out flower names, but I literally had an instant of pure clarity, and Bunny and Biscuits just came into my head. The title roles off the tongue in an alliteration that I hope Miss Gwen would approve of, and if not it can be Miles and Hen’s crime fighting aliases for when they get a 60s style Avengers TV show. Much like Henrietta I had a cute yet redundantly named duo of stuffed animals when I was little. Hen had Bunny the Bunny, I had Big Bear Bear and Little Bear Bear, the little one was obviously smaller, and the Big was added to Bear Bear so that they would both have unique names, once the little one appeared on the scene. Therefore, despite perhaps being an easily forgettable fact of Hen’s childhood to most readers, to me it made us simpatico. And that’s where the “Bunny” came from. As for “Biscuits” well, all Dorrington men past and present have a love of ginger cookies, or biscuits as the Brits would say… so the title made itself really, as all good titles do. It was there in the work waiting to be said. Though in an ironic twist, “Biscuits” is one of my most misspelt words of all time, after “Sincerely” and “Business.”

So I submitted my entry and the long and short of it is I won! I was overjoyed! There was Numfar’s Dance of Joy (seriously if you don’t know this Whedonverse allusion, get on it) much whopping and hollering, it was a riotous time, Big Bear Bear, Little Bear Bear, and I had some wild adventures in exaltation of this honor, that’s to be sure. And by wild adventures I mean sitting in a comfy chair and reading. Yet my greatest joy to come was reading the story, because Ginger Biscuits played a part. So it felt like the story was written for me. Yeah, I know it wasn’t, but I can pretend. I have always had a deep connection to Lauren's characters, but here... here I felt like every word was for me. For a reader, there is no greater joy and it happens every time I pick up one of Lauren’s books. And I'm sure for a writer there is no greater joy then having a ravenous fan base which demands more work and has year-long re-reads in anticipation of their next book. So, in the end, it might not have gotten me my goal, but this was far better! And you know what? Goals change… and I have a new goal… to get a pull quote of a review I’ve written on the dust jacket of a book… or in those first few pages you always skip over praising the author’s previous works, I’d settle for that.

*This post originally appeared in a slightly different form as "What's in a Name? Bunny and Biscuits" for the "Pink for All Seasons" Lauren Willig re-read on The Bubble Bath Reader Blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Brazening Bindweed?

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily was the very first ARC I was approved for once I started my blog, back in the days before NetGalley it wasn't as easy as hitting a button on your computer screen "requesting" a title. My dream of Lauren Willig ARCs had come to fruition. Interestingly, me and The Betrayal of the Blood Lily had a little bit of a history, mainly I entered the competition on Lauren's website to name the book with ferocious zeal. While I will discuss my titular dreams at another time, I stumbled upon my list of title suggestions recently, and well, they are too hilarious not to share, and so not Penelope it's shame-making. I remember I actually researched plants native to India and harassed my friend Matt who knows a lot about flowers, and well, I have to say it, I'm glad none of my titles were ever considered and that book six will forever be The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, and not, say, The Shame of Sweet Orange.

And now I present my titles, with a precise of what this version of Pen's tale might have been:

The Proud Mantle of a Crown of Thorns: Wherein the culture clash of moving to India and a Hindu country leads Penelope to become a religious zealot and convert to Catholicism, martyring herself for her sins and letting Freddy do as he pleases while castigating herself for her feelings for Alex. There is a dramatic scene wherein Penelope applies a cilice to her body for the first time and she cries out in pain and religious ecstasy. She will eventually retire to a nunnery once Freddy dies.

The Sweat-Damped Indian Caper: A jewel heist involving the Jewels of Berar reminiscent of the "Pink Panther" movies, though far more moist as it's during the rainy season. It's zany, it's fun, and Peter Sellers plays the role of Penelope. This is not to be missed.

The Heralding of the Trumpet Vine: Penelope goes on raucous hunts and is the "easy" wife everyone assumes her to be, sinking further into degradation and depravity, but with a rictus grin playing on her lips. The title refers to the fact that she rides astride elephants while blowing a trumpet to announce her arrival, which makes her flamboyant personality well known to all in India, and the center of all gossip in the English set.

The Shame of Sweet Orange: Penelope is so chastened by her hasty marriage to Freddy and the sad divide between her and her dearest friends, Charlotte and Henrietta, that Penelope slowly becomes more and more demure, eventually disappearing to nothing more then a ghost in the house. She dies within the year, just wasting away to nothing. Charlotte and her Duke arrive to find a drunk and debauched Freddy laughing over the whole affair while Alex leads them to Penelope's final resting place, where sweet orange proliferates.

The Brazening Bindweed or the Bindweed Brazens it Out: Penelope realizes that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. She is brazen in a string of love affairs taking most of her husband's friends and colleagues to her bed, sometimes even their wives. She longs for a simpler life and she falls for Alex, but she will never stoop to being the chattel of one man ever again and continues her licentious life, leaving Alex as a sweet memory she could never have had.

The Ruin of Cupid’s Bower: Disillusioned by her marriage to Freddy, Penelope starts to become the sort of romantic that her friend Charlotte is, reading tomes of doomed love. When she discovers that Freddy is cheating on her she kills herself knowing that she was never worthy of love, especially that budding in the heart of Alex. In fact, her death might just have been a courageous act to save Alex.

The Forbearance of the English Daisy: Penelope arrives off the boat in India determined to make the best of a bad situation. She will put up with anything just to keep up appearances, even brushing Freddy's affairs under the rug. She's the perfect wife, throwing the best parties, having the strongest tea, and always having a shoulder to cry on for anyone in need of helpful advice. She eventually has a psychotic break in later years from all the strain of carrying on and not shattering the fragile illusion she has created of her life.

The Atonement of the Adder Mouthed Orchid: Penelope knows that she has to make up for the shame and disgrace that she has brought to her and Freddy's reputations. She tries her best to be the perfect wife but when a snake is found in her room she allows the snake to strike and the venom to work it's way into her body, knowing that this is the only true way she can atone for her sins.

As you can see, a different title totally conjures up a different story in my mind. Also, what was with all the religious imagery with thorns and atonement and shame? Seriously!?! I swear that this has nothing to do with those eight years of a Catholic education. I hope that this has at least entertained you as much as it did me writing it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

Emma Volume Two by Kaoru Mori
Published by: Yen Press
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 376 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Not wishing to cause a scandal within the Joneses' household, Emma chooses to make a clean break from her old life and takes a train to the sea. As chance would have it, Emma finds herself sharing a car with another maid, one who serves at a large manor in the country. A big house bustling with servants seems an ideal place in which to move forward after losing her mistress and leaving her love back in London. Learning the precise dance of domestic service in her new environment is a welcome challenge, but how long can hard work divert Emma's mind from the longing of her heart?"

Firstly, Kaoru Mori is amazing. Her detail work, sublime, and her little comics about herself at the end of all her books, hilarious. Emma has been out of print for years in the US, I've been lucky enough to read the first eight in this Edwardian saga only because of a good public library system. Grab these gorgeous hardcover re-prints now people! DO IT!

Friday, August 14, 2015

I Start a Blog!

I never really talk about why I started my blog sincerely. I will almost always give the true, though somewhat flippant answer, that it was to get free books, and in particular Lauren Willig's ARCs. So perhaps it's time to tell this story? After my semester from hell, which ended with me getting pneumonia, I was at loose ends. I was supposed to go to Canada for the New Year but was too sick, so I started playing around with the idea of a blog. I thought it would be really cool to have a blog titled "Crazy Random Happenstance" because of the line from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, though my blog would be entirely free of singing. Per dictates in place banning my vocalizations. Though I couldn't quite remember the quote "Crazy Random Happenstance" and instead used "Strange and Random Happenstance" which, if I'm honest, I like far more because crazy, well, I don't like all the connotations and I'm not pigeonholed as a Whedonverse blog then, despite the first post. I love you Joss, but seriously, not liking your recent work. So I made a blog and then school started and I forgot all about it. Then the semester ended and life was still stressful, just minus school. My cat was really sick, and well, really old if truth be told. I was in denial that he might not be around much longer and I needed a distraction. A blog was the answer. On May 19th one of my friends who had just started doing a knitting blog asked if I had thought of doing my own blog. I immediately wrote back: "sweet, I have blog I set up, just haven't started yet (with hopes of free books!) mine is called strange and random happenstance." Within the hour I had written my first post. By 10PM the next day my cat would be dead.

I remember every single moment of that last week with my cat, from watching the newest Brideshead Revisited adaptation to him on his death bed beating me up for water, he had an Evian obsession, and finally, starting my blog. I'm not trying to write the most depressing blog post ever here, what I'm trying to say is that my blog was fortuitously timed. Writing took my mind off losing Spot and also made me part of a community. Some of my best friends I have found through this online gathering of book addicts. The friendships I have forged with readers, writers, and reviewers filled a gaping wound in me. I also succeeded in getting free books. But just because that was my motive back in January when I haphazardly named a blog and parked it, doesn't mean that that is solely what I got out of it. Yes, I got free books, so my minor goal was accomplished. But I got so much more, I forged relationships with authors. I view Lauren Willig, George Mann, and Paul Magrs as dear friends. I know when I drop a line to them I'll get a response back. I also know that if I cold contact an author I admire that they'll be in touch, because I have the "power of the blog" backing me up. In this day and age when publishing is constantly in flux, when the continuation of the written word is in doubt, it's people like us bloggers working with authors to get the word out that makes publishing still a viable enterprise. Readers, reviewers, and authors have a symbiotic relationship, we all need each other more then ever to succeed in these uncertain times. My doing theme months and reviews of books from authors I love is the least I can do because of the hours of entertainment they gave me reading their works. It's been six years since my first post and I am sure that someday their might come a time when I write that "Omega" post, but until that day I'm going to be the best cheerleader there is for books, and especially for Lauren.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

They Meet

In the fall of 2008 I was in the midst of my worst semester ever at school. I was overextended, overstressed, and hadn't really slept in a long long time. Forget about having time to actually read a book, despite trying to carve out time to read the ARC of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. But there was one thing I wasn't going to miss, and that was the chance to meet Lauren Willig! Since 2008 I have been lucky enough to go to several of Lauren's signings in the Chicago area; in 2010 for The Mischief of the Mistletoe, in 2012 for The Garden Intrigue, later in 2012 for the Romantic Times Convention, and in 2013 for The Ashford Affair, but I will still remember the first time. I remember almost missing the turn off to the library and doing a slightly illegal sharp turn. I remember that the library was having a book sale and I picked up a biography on E.M. Forster. But most of all I remember that despite how awesome the other authors were, and are, my mom is a huge fan of Julie Hyzy because of this event where I was introduced to her, the audience was there for Lauren. While searching my email recently for Lauren related topics, I actually found the note I sent to my friend from the aforementioned "A Subway Interlude" regarding the Cozy Library Event in Gurnee and thought it might be fun to publish it here to get my account without the fog of seven years obscuring odd details. Though I couldn't help myself from adding an addendum or five... and fixing some egregious spelling errors.

"So, now that I'm home and don't have to peck little letters out with my thumbs on my phone I can tell you the whole awesome story. (I had an LG Vx9900 that flipped open to a full keyboard that I thought was the bomb, oh how Apple technology has changed me.)

So, author event in Gurnee for this society called the Cozy Librarians, and Lauren was a guest among 7 other authors (actually 8, because apparently I can't count). They did a little, here are all the authors brief bio, then they let each author talk for about 7 mins. Lauren talked about going to Harvard and how she was so sick of Historians and their little historian world and how she tried to think of a fun mad-cap romp she could write to divert herself that would make her laugh and she thought of spies and masked men like Zorro and the Scarlett Pimpernel, and how the Pink Carnation made it extra girly and therefore extra funny. Also she hated how "accurate" history novels were and by writing as Eloise she could get some things wrong. She said she thought that this would easily go in her writing trunk of abandoned work, which also contained a Nancy Drew spoof from when she was 9 and had wrote a story with 2 girl detectives, because 2 is better than 1, which she sent off and got a nice rejection letter. So then as luck would have it, she got published. And then she was thinking "How else could I make my life harder, I know I'll go to law school too!" So she wrote the next two books and in essence had 3 jobs at once. And then she went to New York (because it is her homeland, she is someone who can't even drive a car) where she was actually spending her billable hours at the law firm that hired her writing book 4 (The Seduction of the Crimson Rose). And when book 4 came out she was pretty sure they figured out what she was really doing, but then she quit, and now she's writing only and she's just loving it.

Then book signing, where we actually got to talk to her for awhile (Huyen went with me). So first off, she thought I was just amazingly organized cause I had post-it noted and wrote who the books were too, and I said that happens from being in a family of publishers. (PS, everyone should do this, it makes spelling mistakes not happen and just helps the authors so much.) Also she mentioned a British comic I should read but now I forgot the name, so I'll have to look it up (it's Annie Tempest's Tottering-by-Gently series, go check it out). So I said, cause she saw I had the new book (aka The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, Pink Carnation Book 5), I wondered if the house in the new book, Girdings was based on Castle Howard, she said totally, that and a mix of Blenheim, and I said I totally got that, what with the mural in the entrance way. We then talked a bit about the original Brideshead mini series. Leading to me saying that my dad always wanted to live in a little shack on the grounds of Castle Howard until recently when he changed his mind and would be happy with the chickens at Chatsworth. And then we talked about how amazing it is that the Duchess of Devonshire is one of the Mitfords, and I went on to ask if she knew about her being one of the greatest art collectors in the world, especially of Lucien Freud, and she had the painting of the Queen that the Queen rejected, and she didn't know that. Then I mentioned that she actually sells her books online signed and I got one for my dad, and she said she'd heard about her online store, and then she asked if I knew if it was still being operated as a farm after the death of her husband and I said that I believe it was (still is even after her death)

Then we went on to talk about her website, and then she actually connected me with my posts, and later said I have to keep posting and must tell her what I think of the new book (I hadn't finished yet, read above, too much school), I mentioned I loved the 4th and she said she thinks that's her favorite and I said it's mine because the characters are less goody goody. So back to website, then I said I only keep up with her and Shannon Hale for authors websites, cause I think it's great how her site is so interactive, and she asked who Shannon Hale was, but then already connected her with Austenland, and I said she should so check out the Bayren books being re-tellings of Grimms, which lead to her mentioning this old Tor book she had, and I said funnily enough my Dad is an agent for a Tor author, Mike Norman, who writes these Haunted non-fiction books who is actually having a book signing today, but I came here, and she said that was great that I came here (which she even wrote in my book) and it turns out that she interned with Tor way back and asked if I had even been to their offices in the flat-iron building and I said sadly I hadn't but my dad had many times, and then she was talking about how slow the elevator is there, like 15 mins for a ride, and then she mentioned how Tom Doherty was pro-casual, and liked walking around in his undershirt, and I said he's a good friend of my Dad's (to this day) and that he just refurbished a gorgeous old Victorian in Brooklyn. Following which it was time to get Huyen's books signed, which I mentioned was my master plan, to get all my friends reading her books (and it still is), and we commented on how we couldn't find Huyen's 2nd book so she'd just have to get the three signed. (We eventually found Huyen's copy of The Masque of the Black Tulip and got it signed at the event we went to for the release of The Mischief of the Mistletoe two years later).

Also around this point a few people behind us started wandering away, cause I mean, she signed 7 books for me then 3 more for Huyen plus we were being really verbose (yes, I still feel bad about co-opting Lauren, but when you're having fun time seems to slip away, and I should note, the true fellow Lauren enthusiasts are always so nice and accommodating and it's wonderful to talk to them before events). Then Huyen asked the question she wanted to ask which was, was Richard Selwick based on Cary Elwes as Westley from The Princess Bride, and I said actually I called her before she read it to watch for it, and we both instantly agreed on it, and Lauren said she totally based it on him, with the blond hair and the little black mask, and that we were the first 2 to get that (though there's a bit of Sean Bean as Lovelace in there as well with Anthony Andrews on the side). And then I said, and how sad about what Cary's become, and she was all, yeah did you SEE him in Ella Enchanted! Which I then said too bad we can't like go back in time and get pretty Carey Elwes for the movie adaption, and I mentioned I'm just always casting in my head (as by now you all know), and she said she rarely does it, except for Sean Bean as Vaughn, even though he's the wrong "coloring" that was her intent. Then we said our good bye's, nice to meets, and write on the website.

Lots of fun, she was very lively, especially considering she had a 5 am flight and stayed up till 2 at a friend's party, and now I have lots of pretty signed books, and I'm glad to learn an author I like is nice. And as Huyen said, she seems like the type of person who we'd hang with and would be our friend. -Liz"

So there you have it! An interesting albeit rambling insight into the first time I got to meet Lauren. Side note, I wrote this as soon as I got home after a three hour drive in each direction and then a shopping extravaganza at the outlet malls on the state line, so hopefully the narrative flow can be forgiven somewhat for the complete and utter lack of polish.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
Published by: Touchstone
Publication Date: August 11th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day comes a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons,” Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit."

Um yes. All the yeses there are. Also, fingers crossed there's a book signing near me... even if I've already met her once.

Reawakened by Colleen Houck
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: August 11th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
" The first book in a new multi-book series from New York Times bestselling author, COLLEEN HOUCK, about a teenage girl entangled in an epic Egyptian quest full of romance, adventure, and mythology!

 Author Colleen Houck's first series, The Tigers Curse, was a New York Times Bestseller, a USA Today Bestseller, A Publisher's Weekly Bestseller, and A Parents' Choice Award Winner. The Tigers Curse series is also being made into a movie! Adapted by Julie Plec, creator of The Vampire Diaries, and directed by Shekhar Kapur, who directed the Academy-Award winning, Elizabeth.

When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification. 
And she really can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe.
But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world. 
From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

Sold just by the word Egypt. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - JJ Feild (Colin Selwick)

Ah Colin Selwick. The time has finally come. For years I didn't picture JJ as one of my true dream men, only in the casting sense, and then something clicked this past year and now I can't see any adaptation of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation books without him in them. I think just writing this makes me need to go watch Austenland STAT before I go into JJ withdrawal.

Name: JJ Feild

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Colin Selwick

First Impression: I believe the very first time I saw JJ was in The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton, oddly enough with Anna Madeley whom I dream cast as Penlope! There's a slim chance it might have been The Ruby in the Smoke, but I'm like 75% sure it wasn't. Mainly because I didn't like JJ at first! Well, he was a bit of a dick in The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton. You have this lovely wife whom you cheat on and give syphilis to! Shame!

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Um, everything. He's pretty, he's witty, and he looks amazing in Regency Clothes... oh wait... he's in the modern times. He he. OK, the real reason is that he was one of my back-up casting choices for Richard Selwick, Colin's ancestor, and I thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool if JJ was his decedent? Or JJ could play both, do it like Tobias Menzies on Outlander. Double the JJ makes me doubly happy.

Lasting Impression: Northanger Abbey, oddly this time with my dream casting for Amy Selwick! Which also might be one of the reasons I saw him as Richard Selwick... But back to Northanger Abbey. This might literally be my most favorite Austen adaptation ever. Not only did Andrew Davies perfectly capture the humor and parody that is central to this book, but he also added in those delicious little Gothic fantasy sequences that made me love JJ all the more for showing his humorous side along with his dramatic side.

What else you've seen them in: Captain America, Austenland, To the Ends of the Earth, Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (with an amazingly sexy bedroom scene which doesn't appear on my DVD, for shame PBS and your "editing!), Marple, Poirot, The Musketeers, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, The Night Watch, I have watched them all and I have loved him in every single one. And yes, I did actually see the first Captain American movie in the theater solely to see JJ on the big screen. But of all his films my favorite, hands down, is Austenland. With this film he shows that he is able to parody the rather significant historical period career he has built for himself. Yes, JJ might just be my dream man, that perfect combination of looks and self-deprecating humor. Sigh Mr. Nobley.

Can't believe it's them: The Musketeers, seriously, he's so gruff and yum all at once. Literally, I didn't even recognize him when he first showed up on the screen. About half-way through his two-parter arc I sat up and was like JJ!?! That just shows what an amazing actor he is. He can so thoroughly inhabit a role that you don't even recognize him and are so involved in the story that this knowledge comes as a shock. I wish they hadn't killed your character so that you could come back.

Wish they hadn't: Gotten Neve Campbell pregnant and thus ruined my chances with him? But seriously... TURN! Oh how I hate this show. I watched all of season one, before they added that "Washington's Spies" on the title to liven it up, and, ugh. It is slow, it is unbelievably badly directed, this is the only way I can account for such a stellar cast failing so hard. AND it inexplicably was renewed for a second season when better shows are cancelled all the time and thus tying JJ into this sinking ship and not freeing him up to do other, better, projects. Though, I have one thing to say as a pro for this show, it made me see that rat tails on men can be sexy.

Bio: Despite that luscious accent, John Joseph Feild was born in Boulder, Colorado, making him, shock, gasp, American! Though he comes by that accent naturally, moving with his family to England as a baby. In school he found his love of acting going to the Fine Arts College followed by the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. In his year off he backpacked around Tibet with his two older brothers. He quite literally got his first acting job the year he left school and in the past sixteen years has amassed quite a repertoire from period dramas to theatre. Besides stealing my heart as Mr. Tilney, he has stolen the heart of Neve Campbell, the Scream actress with whom he has a child. Hopefully TURN will soon be cancelled and we can look forward to JJ showing up on our big and small screens in something fabulous in the near future. WTF, TURN was renewed!?! Can they kill JJ's character, he needs off this show now!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - Ellie Kemper (Eloise Kelly)

Eloise Kelly. I have been trying to cast you for years. Literally. I have tried every red-haired actress I could think of and every single one of them fell short. While re-reading all your adventures this past year your humor and your clumsiness shone out like a beacon guiding me to the perfect actress to bring you to life.

Name: Ellie Kemper

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Eloise Kelly

First Impression: While I am not at all a fan of The Office, because I am true to the original British version, this is the first place I saw Kellie Kemper as poor Andy's love interest.

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Aside from being able to perfectly bring out the clumsy red-head aspect of Eloise, it's the range of Kemper that is amazing. Yes, she's known mainly just for comedy, in fact almost only comedy, but there are moments of true heart and depth in each of her performances. Plus there's just something about her that makes me think she'd totally wear a Regency dress to a Halloween party. Call it a hunch.

Lasting Impression: Bridesmaids! But then again, there isn't anything in this movie that didn't make a lasting impression; from the bathroom scene to Chris O'Dowd to that one lone cupcake. But Kemper will probably best be known for making out with Wendi McLendon-Covey before being thrown off a plane. Though I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why they don't wear the bridesmaids dresses from the movie poster in the movie. Yes, this is a weird thing that really annoys me. More then the fact that it's so not filmed in Wisconsin and Illinois.

What else you've seen them in: The Mindy Project, Sex Tape, Robot Chicken, 21 Jump Street, if it's a comedy show or movie with that little clique of people from NBC comedies, like The Office and 30 Rock, or the Apatow mafia, she's there. But I think most importantly she's the star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This is her first staring role and she totally proves that females are strong as hell! There's just such optimism and joy that emanates from her that you can't but fall in love with this show. Plus, if you're a child of the 90s, love that throwback slang!

Can't believe it's them: Important thinks with Demetri Martin. Mainly because I really dislike him. I mean really really dislike him. Seriously, I can't watch anything with him in it even if it contains someone I really like, like Ellie Kemper. This also explains why I've never watched House of Lies despite my love of Kristen Bell.

Wish they hadn't: Get Him to the Greek. Seriously. This was a very unnecessary sequel to the fabulous Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I will say though that if they were to re-edit the movie as a mockumentary focusing on the music and eliminating Jonah Hill and Elisabeth Moss, who I actually hate more than Jonah Hill, it might be a fabulous parody in the vein of This is Spinal Tap. Because, I am not kidding here, the soundtrack is amazingly awesome. The song parodies with Russell Brand just nail each genre they a skewering. And Rose Byrne's Jackie Q isn't half bad either.

Bio: Born and raised in Missouri she has the odd distinction of knowing Jon Hamm before he became famous. Ellie Kemper was a student at John Burroughs School in St. Louis where Jon Hamm was her drama teacher. They have ironically gone on to star together on the big and small screens. While being a studious scholar from Princeton to Oxford, she never gave up acting and doing improve. But comedy and comedy writing is in her blood, her sister and her husband are television writers and she has contributed to The Onion as well as McSweeney's. While she was turned down by SNL and Parks and Recreation, it was the second of these auditions that led to her role on The Office. Since then her career has just been on the rise and with getting the title role in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt she is sure to be around and lauded for years to come.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Subway Interlude

I will freely admit I am a book pusher. I am also a movie, TV, and miniseries pusher as well. But first and foremost I am a book pusher. I think most everyone I know has heard me extol about the pleasures of Lauren's books, if not received one or more of them as a gift. I have one friend in particular whose tastes eerily align with mine. We share some secret bond where often she says something and I look at her with this dumbfounded expression because I was just about to say the same thing. Needless to say I recommended The Secret History of the Pink Carnation to her. I might have even bought her it knowing that she would feel the same way I did. Sadly we now live far apart, stupid New York, and stupid relatives that screwed me over last summer which meant I didn't get to go to New York last August to see her. But recently she visited Wisconsin for the wedding of one of our friends. When she dropped by my house in my office I had a pile of Lauren's books on my desk to aid in my Dream Casting for "Pink for All Seasons" and she picked up The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla and looked at me enquiringly, to which I sadly answered, no, I don't have the final volume yet. Because, what other question could there be? Simpatico. We two are one.

Another love we share is for that of miniseries by Andrew Davies. Why am I bringing this up? Because of Fanny Hill. Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is the very erotic novel by John Cleland written in 1748. In 2007, right after I had discovered the "pleasures" of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, the BBC came out with a miniseries of Fanny Hill adapted by Andrew Davies. She and I both watched it and sent copious emails back and forth as to it's merits, in between talking about the new show Torchwood. She is just like me in that she must read the source material of adaptations, so of course she read Fanny Hill. As she said at the time "I liked the miniseries better than the book. Andrew Davies makes everything better." I couldn't agree more. Another thing we have in common is we blush easily. My friend Matt has for years taken advantage of this with her by trying to make her uncomfortable by repeating the word "moist" over and over again. It's her trigger word. When I recommended The Secret History of the Pink Carnation I said, there's two sexy scenes. Now, compared to the riotous and graphic descriptions of John Cleland, Lauren's writing is very tame. My friend didn't blush once reading Cleland, but because of my warning she wrote me to say that she was commuting into work from the upper west side and her face was aflame the entire way because she felt naughty reading the book in full view of strangers. Lauren Willig, inadvertently embarrassing her readers since 2007!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Concerning a Cat

I don't remember when I finally bought The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I had seen it on the front table of Borders for so long that I eventually was worn down by sheer exposure. I might not remember when I bought it, but when I first read it is forever ingrained on my memory. Think how often a book becomes entwined with the memory of first reading that book. The two become inseparable and that is where my cat comes in. Spot has been gone quite a few years now, he lived to the grand old age of twenty-two and I think in human terms that made him a crotchety dowager duchess whose will was law. If he had only know that certain dowager duchesses had palanquins to carry them about I think he would have put in an order for one. But as you can see from the picture above, at least he was an Anglophile through and through. If there was a chaise and four in a miniseries he would get worked up planing how to kill and eat the four horses. Yes, there were chittering sounds and many incidents of him actually attacking the TV. To get back to the time of this particular story...

At this time Spot was a spry nineteen year old going on twenty, and yes, when he was younger I did sing songs to him from The Sound of Music around his birthday. He had a bad tooth removed and there were complications which resulted in him having some surgery. For a few months he required round the clock supervision. In pure cat logic, instead of wanting to sleep in his comfy bed which was next to the couch, or on my lap, he decided that the faux British manhole cover doormat in the pantry was to be his new home. Therefore the uncomfortable floor next to said manhole cover became my new reading spot. But it was a magical reading spot. Because sitting there, protecting my cat, I fell into the world Lauren created with the Pink Carnation. I quickly devoured the first book and ran out to get The Masque of the Black Tulip. Followed very quickly by The Deception of the Emerald Ring. Quite shortly after that I started hitting up my publishing connections for an ARC of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. No matter how many times I have read these initial volumes I always think of that first time. Uncomfortable on a cold vinyl floor, but surrounded by the love of my cat and a great story. If it wasn't for Lauren's books I wouldn't have this precious memory of time spent with my best friend who left me too soon. I will always be grateful to Lauren for this.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig
Published by: NAL
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 528 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue."

I may have been preparing for this for over a year, but I still think I'm not ready for THE END.

Sophie and the Sibyl by Patricia Duncker
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In Berlin, Max Duncker and his brother, Wolfgang, own a thriving publishing business, which owes its success to one woman: the Sibyl, or Mary Ann Evans, better known as George Eliot,who is writing the final installment of her bestselling serial Middlemarch. Max is as fond of gambling and brothels as Wolfgang is of making a profit and berating his spendthrift brother, but Max is given a chance to prove his worth by visiting the Sibyl and her not-quite-husband Lewes, to finalize the publishing rights to her new novel. The Sibyl proves to be as enthralling and intelligent as her books, bewitching Max and all of those around her.

But Wolfgang has an ulterior motive for Max's visit; he wants his brother to consider the beautiful eighteen-year-old Countess Sophie von Hahn as a potential wife. An acquaintance from Max's childhood, she comes from a German family of great wealth. However, Sophie proves to be nothing like the angelic vision of domesticity Max envisaged; wild and willful, she gambles recklessly yet always wins, rides horses fiercely, and is happy to disobey authority, especially when it comes to her idol, George Eliot. Enchanted by this whirlwind of a woman, Max nevertheless fears he will never be able to tame her.

With its vivid portrayal of George Eliot and how she lived her life, and the turbulent love story of the countess and Max, Sophie and the Sibyl is both a compulsive read and a high literary achievement."

How could this NOT be on your TBR list?

No Comfort Lost by Nancy Herriman
Published by: NAL
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this atmospheric historical mystery series debut, a courageous nurse and a war-scarred police detective in 1860s San Francisco champion the down-trodden and fight for justice …

After serving as a nurse in the Crimea, British-born Celia Davies left her privileged family for an impulsive marriage to a handsome Irishman. Patrick brought her to San Francisco’s bustling shores but then disappeared and is now presumed dead. Determined to carry on, Celia partnered with her half-Chinese cousin Barbara and her opinionated housekeeper Addie to open a free medical clinic for women who have nowhere else to turn. But Celia’s carefully constructed peace crumbles when one of her Chinese patients is found brutally murdered…and Celia’s hotheaded brother-in-law stands accused of the crime.

A veteran of America’s civil war, detective Nicholas Greaves is intent on discovering the killer of the girl, whose ethnicity and gender render her as powerless in death as they did in life. Nicholas’s efforts are complicated by Celia, who has a knack for walking into dangerous situations that may lead to answers…or get them both killed. For as their inquiries take them from Chinatown’s squalid back alleys to the Barbary Coast’s violent shipping docks to the city’s gilded parlors, Celia and Nicholas begin to suspect that someone very close to them holds the key to a murderous conspiracy…"

Yes, this was mainly chosen for the whole I read everything in San Francisco angle... but that doesn't mean it doesn't look awesome.

Not by Sight by Kate Breslin
Published by: Bethany House Publisherss
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Gripping Sophomore Novel from a Rising Historical Romance Talent.

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country's cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she'll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them--or the faith they'll need to maintain hope."

And this was not entirely picked because the whole white feather issue that fascinates me that anyone could be so cruel...

Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase by Louise Walters
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A heartbreaking and deeply compelling debut, Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is a compulsive page-turner about thwarted love, dashed hopes, and family secrets—book-club fiction at its best.

Roberta, a lonely thirty-four-year-old bibliophile, works at The Old and New Bookshop in England. When she finds a letter inside her centenarian grandmother’s battered old suitcase that hints at a dark secret, her understanding of her family’s history is completely upturned. Running alongside Roberta’s narrative is that of her grandmother, Dorothy, as a forty-year-old childless woman desperate for motherhood during the early years of World War II. After a chance encounter with a Polish war pilot, Dorothy believes she’s finally found happiness, but must instead make an unthinkable decision whose consequences forever change the framework of her family.

The parallel stories of Roberta and Dorothy unravel over the course of eighty years as they both make their own ways through secrets, lies, sacrifices, and love. Utterly absorbing, Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is a spellbinding tale of two worlds, one shattered by secrets and the other by the truth."

Lonely bibliophile... yeah, I can relate.

Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: August 4th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.

George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself."

And thus ends a week that will make a big dent on my pocketbook... but it's worth it.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home