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Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Face Off: Paper Valentine

Well. I have been MIA all week, so sorry about that. BUT I'M BACK BITCHES. ;P
Um... So Friday Face-Off time, yeah?
This week we're taking a look at Brenna Yovanoff's Paper Valentine (which needs to be in my hand like NOW). Below are the US and UK versions of the upcoming book, with two very different covers.  What I find particularly interesting is that in the US, Brenna's books (all stand-alones) have a sort of cover theme going, while the UK books are each their own thing (shown below the FO). But though I may find it interesting, and like the idea of a "set" even though they're not part of a series, this week's Face Off isn't about them, it's about Paper Valentine - so which do you like? Which would you reach for, which would make you curious, and which would you rather have on your shelves?
Which one did it better?

US versions of The Replacement & The Space Between (above)
and the UK versions (below), where TSB is called Smoulder.

Last Week on FFO:  US and UK versions of Cate Tiernan's Immortal Beloved series went head to head, and though we were all pretty decided on the new UK style being boring and generic as hell, we were tied on the originals vs the new US. So in this fantastic series, it doesn't matter what it looks like - just pick it up!


Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Face Off: Immortal Beloved series

I'm pretty sure I've talked before about how Cate Tiernan's Immortal Beloved series underwent an overhaul between the first and second books (going from this to what you see below); and I know in my rare gushing review* for the first book, also titled Immortal Beloved, I showed some of the other covers from around the world, including the UK edition, which is also below. But it wasn't until I finished the 3rd book a couple of days ago that I actually went through and really looked at the different editions and realized that they needed to be a Face Off.
Personally, I was a little unsure of the US redesigns (below) when they were revealed, and was quite taken with the UK editions. But now it looks as if the UK has had a last minute redesign of its own (which is bizarre, if you ask me - why not finish out the series, it's the last book, why would you keep them from matching?!), and the set together is a little jarring.  So that may throw some of you off in voting this week, but feel free to tell us which design you like best, whether US, original UK or new UK.  By now you know the drill, so
Which one did it better?

*The second book, Darkness Falls, also got a glowing review. The third will, too.

new US editions
original UK editions + new style?

Last Week on FFO: The hardcover and paperback editions of Katherine Longshore's Gilt went head to head, with the steamy revamped paperback just barely snagging a win.
Winner ------->

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book Haul: November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, yo!  Sit back, enjoy your fourth third "second" piece of pumpkin pie, and look at the pretty books!

(0:06) A Corner of White: http://amzn.to/SbSHCq
(1:29) Pure: http://amzn.to/UoBuV9
(2:08) Eternally Yours: http://amzn.to/TIYdIB
(2:36) Morganville Vampires vol 4: http://amzn.to/Thf4pY 
(there are still some bargain bin copies left!!)
(3:28) Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits: http://amzn.to/10gN8FK
(3:56) Troll's Eye View: http://amzn.to/UoC2u8
(4:33) The Wild Things: http://amzn.to/RVwAyC

Immortal Beloved series: http://amzn.to/QbM9Uo
Morganville Vampires series: http://amzn.to/Thh0id
Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling anthologies: http://amzn.to/RVzCD5
Where the Wild Things Are: http://amzn.to/RVwBCG
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: http://amzn.to/UoIvW0
The Velveteen Rabbit: http://amzn.to/Thhd4Q

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review Double Header: Babe in Boyland & Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman

To go along with yesterday's interview with Jody Gehrman, I present to you: a Double Header review of Gehrman's books, Babe in Boyland and the most recent, Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft.
First up:

Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
Get It | Add It
Contemporary, 292 pages
Published February 17th 2011 by Dial
When high school junior Natalie-or Dr. Aphrodite, as she calls herself when writing the relationship column for her school paper-is accused of knowing nothing about guys and giving girls bad relationship advice, she decides to investigate what guys really think and want. But the guys in her class won't give her straight or serious answers. The only solution? Disguising herself as a guy and spending a week at Underwood Academy, the private all-boy boarding school in town. There she learns a lot about guys and girls in ways she never expected-especially when she falls for her dreamy roommate, Emilio. How can she show him she likes him without blowing her cover?

"But I like you. And so do the bitches at MVH, apparently."
I want to slap him for that, but stop myself. I'm finally getting somewhere with the upper crust; this is no time to ruin everything by giving in to feminist impulses. Instead, I move my head back and forth like a cocky prizefighter. "What can I say? I got a way with the bitches."

I know I say this every time I review a contemporary novel, but I rarely actively want to read contemporary. I just can't get over this roadblock in my head that says contemporary is either Gossip Girl fluff or slit-your-wrists depressing. This, despite all of the incredible contemporary I've read. Whatever, welcome to my brain. The point is, I rarely wishlist contemporary books, but Babe in Boyland, for whatever reason*, was one I wishlisted. So when Jody emailed me, asking if I'd like to review Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, and also offered up Boyland, I jumped at it. And once again, I was reminded of why I need to take down that roadblock, brick by brick, because I'm missing out on really good contemporary books.

This was funny. Really funny. Like, laugh out loud, snorting and chortling and reading parts over again, funny. Natalie just sparkles on the page, she is so thoroughly likable and engaging. Most readers will be familiar with the story because, lets face it, we've seen it before. This is a pretty common trope, actually**. But there's a reason it cycles back periodically - there's something compelling in it, and something with built in shenanigans, which always makes for a good time - but I think Gehrman puts her own stamp on things quite nicely, and Natalie is so engaging that I don't think I would even care if it was an exact play-by-play of something else. Though the men at school may hate Natalie's alter-ego, Dr. Aphrodite, and may think Natalie is clueless, it's hard not to like Natalie herself as a narrator. She is clueless in the beginning, but adorably so, and she doesn't stay clueless for long.

The friendships are fantastic as well - the interactions and the confronting of stereotypes/cliques, etc., are nicely handled. It's sadly rare to see positive female friendships in books these days - they tend to go either Mean Girl or Cardboard; if they're not flat and boring and easily substituted, they're competitive, combative, snide, and fake. Less friends, more frenemies. It's sad because while, yes, occasionally one girl may have that relationship with another girl - who may or may not be her friend - that's not the standard. (Surprise! Girls can be friends! Anne and Diana aren't faking it!) Natalie has good, tried and true, close friends who she cares about and who care about her, and help her in her ever-increasing shenanigans. (This isn't to say they don't have their ups and downs, because that would also be cardboard; but they don't serve as a shallow plot device, and I appreciate that.) The boys in Boyland start out as stock characters and evolve from there, much as they should in this type of story - they are fleshed out as Natalie realizes how little she knows, and opens her mind to get to know them, allowing the reader to do the same. Basically, character dynamics were a win in Boyland.

And - that's it.
I don't really have negatives, honestly. Some will feel like it's been done, and it has, and if that bothers you as a reader, you should maybe skip this. But as they say, there's nothing new under the sun, and I think most people either won't have come across this trope often enough to be bothered by it, or will like it too much to care.  It reads like it could easily be a movie (partly because its type has been, partly because Gehrman is also a playwright and she put those skills to work).  Babe in Boyland is now another in a longer-by-the-minute list of contemporary books that have done their best to convince me to start reading more contemporary. This super quick read (I devoured it in one sitting) was engaging throughout, and despite any unoriginality in the plot, I don't have any reservations in recommending it.
Also: Emilio Cruz. Win.

*Gender-bending. Gender-bending was the reason. And the cover, because seriously? Gold star, I love it.
** In fact, one such similar work, the 80's movie Just One of the Guys, even centers around the main character doing her cross-dress thang in an effort to win a journalism contest. Which is Natalie's goal. So there's that...

And now:

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman
Get It | Add It
Supernatural, 293 pages
Published June 30th 2012 by Magic Genie Books
Falling in Love, baking a magical cake, fighting an evil necromancer—it’s all in a day’s work for Audrey Oliver, seventeen-year-old witch-in-training.

When her mother goes missing and her twenty-one-year-old witchy cousin shows up out of the blue, Audrey knows something’s gone horribly, dangerously wrong. Now it’s up to her to get her own magical powers up to speed before everyone she loves is destroyed by the sorcerer intricately connected to her mother’s secret past.

Coming on the heels of Babe in Boyland, I have to say, I was sadly disappointed. There were a number of reasons, but I think the biggest reason was voice. Natalie from Boyland had such a strong, distinctive, engaging voice - her personality was completely there. Audrey... Audrey is often closer to a stock character. There were moments when her humor and personality would come through more strongly, and I would feel what the book could be, but most of the time, I felt like you could easily swap her with another character from any quickly churned-out paranormal fantasy and not notice too much of a difference. She was never completely cardboard (not a lost cause by any means), but compared to the vibrant Natalie, and knowing what Gehrman is capable of, I was always waiting for that injection of personality, and it made me a little sad (and made the book harder to get into) when it didn't come.

Basically, the book felt a little unfinished to me. It felt...hmm, it felt like I was reading an earlier version, before things were tightened up and streamlined.  It's never a good thing when I feel myself wanting to redline things, but I did have that urge. The dialogue needed tightening, the magic needed more of a foundation, and the whole book needed another "pass" - another round of tweaking and perfecting.  The magic especially just felt too easy, too Bewitched-wink-and-nod-and-POOF! = magic, y'all. That never works for me, especially when it's combined with the suddenly-I'm-magic trope. I require balance in all things - if there are great advantages, there need to be great drawbacks. And if there are not, if this is just the way your magic works, I need to know more of the Why. I need to believe it, because if I don't buy that, how can I buy anything that happens as a result?

I felt the plot needed some tightening, too. Sometimes it seemed to move too quickly and drop the connections that were needed to build tension, and sometimes it seemed to be stuck in limbo, leaving me wanting to just push through already. It's tricky to review, actually, because there were plenty of times when it flowed along and did what it was supposed to do, pulling me along with it. But there were enough patches that left me frustrated and wanting to fix, that they marred my overall impression.

And though I don't want to go into spoiler territory, I do want to address the pitfalls of having a suddenly very powerful main character and a sort of nebulous Big Bad. Audrey accepts everything way too easily, especially for as smart of a character as she is. If someone shows up at your house (with a boa constrictor wrapped around her neck) and says your mom has been kidnapped because she's magic(k), and then all manner of weird things begin happening and hey, wouldn't you know it, you're magic(k), too, and a maybe rare, powerful, uber-magick, then please, start to question everything. Because if you (the character) do not, your reader will, and they will be put off by the fact that you didn't.  You don't just accept things like that, even in the face of flying shit and proofproofproof, because that's a HUGE paradigm shift, and you are required by law (or something) to question whether someone is playing a really elaborate prank on you, or you've lost your damn mind.  You just have to, at least for form's sake, before giving in and saying, okay, guess I'm magic(k)!  (And same with the Big Bad - I need to buy it, buy who he is and why he's so Eeeevilll! or he'll end up coming off cheesy. This particular Big Bad just walked that line. I didn't fully buy who he was or why he does some of the things he does, though I'm sure that will be explained more in future books. But he did give me the creeps, so that gets him villain points.)

But all this is not to say it's not a worthwhile read, and maybe I should have opened with that before unleashing all of my grievances. But I never seem able to do that because I have to get it out, so...there you go. I think if I'd read this when I was younger, many of the things that bothered me may not have. (And maybe if I hadn't read this just after reading Babe in Boyland, which I really enjoyed, things may not have bothered me as much as they did in comparison.) I do like Audrey, even if she's not quite as "real" as Natalie. There's good tension and romance, even if I did wish for more depth in both. It's very quick, and Gehrman's storytelling is engaging, and I think there are those who will connect with Audrey and love her, and ignore or forgive the story's flaws as a result. But I can't help but wish for something more memorable, knowing Gehrman is capable of it. Still, I'd recommend it for a quick Halloween read without much hesitation - but whether I'll read more of the series is up for debate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview with Jody Gehrman, author of Babe in Boyland & Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft

Jody Gehrman, author of the recently released Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, joins us today to talk a bit about writing books and plays, the publishing world, and why chocolate should always come with peanut butter.
Check it out below, and make sure to stop back by tomorrow for my reviews of Audrey's Guide and Babe in Boyland! =)

Your current book, Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, is very obviously the start to a series - how many books do you have planned for Audrey's story/world?

It's planned as a trilogy. I'm working on Book II right now and I'm having way too much fun with it. I'm not sure why, but so far it's one of my favorite books ever to write. I feel like I'm completely immersed in Audrey's world.

You also write plays; has the play/act structure or the visual aspects of plays helped in your novel writing?

I think writing plays before I wrote novels really helped define my style, for better or worse. Plays are all about dialogue; it's your only tool. I'd like to think writing plays hones my dialogue skills so when I go back to novels that muscle is stronger. Plays are much more communal by nature, too. You usually work with the director and cast; that helps fight the solitude of writing novels. When you see a play performed you get to feel what the audience feels; you know when a joke falls flat, when a kiss or a monologue moves people. With novels, you have a huge space between you and your readers; only through reviews and emails do you know what they're thinking. But novels help me reach a wider audience, and I get a bigger canvas to paint on. I can delve into setting and pack in all kinds of sensory details. For me it's ideal moving back and forth between the two forms. I call it "cross-genre pollination." My work in one form inspires and strengthens my work in the other.

If you could only write one or the other - plays or novels - for the rest of your life, which would you go with?

Ohhhh noooo! Don't make me choose. You're too cruel. I really couldn't. That's like "do you want peanut butter or chocolate?" I must have both!

Working in so many different styles/genres, how do you decide what type of story you want to tell next, and whether you want it to be in novel or play format?

That's a great question. I find plays really help me bond with other artists, much more so than novels, so one way of answering that is to say when I feel lonely I turn my attention to plays, but that's not about the writing so much as the development/production aspect. When a story comes to me in dramatic scenes, it feels like a play. If I hear the character in my head telling me her internal monologue and I see a setting that begs to be described, I'd tend to try that as a novel.

You've gone the traditional publisher route with some of your books, and the indie route with others, like Audrey's. Was this a conscious decision on your part, or just how things happened to work out?

The choice to go indie with Audrey was a mixture of happenstance and opportunity. My first six novels were published by traditional houses (Penguin's Dial Books published all my YA titles and before that I was with Red Dress Ink, an imprint of Harlequin). My agent submitted Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft to a variety of publishers, and when she didn't find a home for it right away, we talked about the pros and cons of going indie. Since I'd been tied up with contracts for almost a decade, it felt like a good time to experiment with doing my own thing. It's a whole new world, and publishing is changing every day; I figured doing this would keep me current. I don't know if I can ever make a living with indie publishing, but I'm learning a lot about the business and I love having control over every aspect of design and marketing. It's very empowering.

How would you say the two compare (control over your work, publicity, etc.)?

Traditional publishing is like living with your parents. You don't always get to call the shots, but they take care of you. You're unlikely to starve under their roof, anyway. Indie publishing means striking out on your own, and it comes with all the pros and cons of that. Most of us don't move out of our parents' house into a mansion. Sometimes indie publishing feels a lot like couch surfing, eating ramen--that sort of thing. But there's something scrappy and fun about designing one's own cover and creating one's own marketing plan. If nothing else, you really start to appreciate all the things your parents did for you!

What would be the most convenient witchy power to have?

The Witch's Wardrobe, a spell Audrey learns. You can conjure the perfect outfit to match any mood. I think that would be so fabulous!

Least convenient?

Mindreading. I don't think I want to know.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

CLOSED Giveaway: The Man Who Loved Jane Austen & Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen!

A few days ago I had a guest post from Sally Smoth O'Rourke, as well as an excerpt of her newest book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen - I hope it made you want to read the book, because now you can win it!

Sally has graciously offered up 3 books to 3 lucky winners!

  • TWO people will win Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (one print and one ebook)
  • and ONE will win The Man Who Loved Jane Austen
  • This is INTERNATIONAL (international winners will automatically win ebook editions)
  • Ends 11/26
  • Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Face Off: Gilt

The paperback edition of Katherine Longshore's historical intrigue debut, Gilt, will be coming out next May, so the cover was recently released, and the only thing to stay the same is the font! The the two covers are completely different, I think they actually work together in a really interesting way - they could almost be two different angles of the same scene. But even though they can give much the same impression, that doesn't mean they always will, and I'm sure there are those of you who wouldn't bat an eye at picking up one, but would never reach for the other. So the question is, which? Which one would you reach for, which would grab your attention and make you curious about the story inside?
Which one did it better?

Last Week on FFO: The hardcover and paperback editions of Jessica Spotswood's Born Wicked went head to head, and though feedback for both was mostly positive, with the votes being nearly split, the original, earthy version managed to snag a win.
Winner --------->

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Chat: Books You Want to Re-read Again for the "First" Time

Welcome to Book Chat, my dears. This month's topic may be one of my favorites yet - books you wish you could read again for the FIRST time; those ones that stick with you, that make you jealous of people who haven't read them yet and get to experience everything, fresh and new...

Feel free (please!) to make a video response to this month's Chat (at any time, even if it's AFTER next month's chat!), and/or link up your vlogs and blogs below! (You can also share your picks in the comments, of course.)

Jellicoe Road: http://amzn.to/P8EpAy
The Book Thief: http://amzn.to/T3UJ8v
Pride & Prejudice: http://amzn.to/PXfoJU
Anne of Green Gables: http://amzn.to/W7V6RB
An Old-Fashioned Girl: http://amzn.to/ZNgDxJ
The Song of the Lioness: http://amzn.to/QcLRIZ
Oryx & Crake: http://amzn.to/UEJNQy
The Year of the Flood: http://amzn.to/ZNfNBd
Sunshine: http://amzn.to/LTjdzG
Madapple: http://amzn.to/QmJ4hS
To Kill a Mockingbird: http://amzn.to/LTjvXx
Daughter of the Forest: http://amzn.to/Ms6S5B
and anything (and everything) by David Mitchellhttp://amzn.to/UqAca2

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guest Post: Sally Smith O'Rourke

I'm spoiling my Janeites this week - I know we just had a Moment of Jane on Monday (and will start having them regularly), but I've got more Janey goodness for you today. Author Sally Smith O'Rourke has stopped by to tell us a story about her first book, The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, and a run-in with everyone's favorite Darcy (don't even try to deny it; all of you Matthew Macfadyen-ers and Elliot Cowan-ers are just being stubborn...).
To go along with her story, she's also sharing an excerpt of her new book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen - but first up: Darcy...

Some of you may be aware that my late husband, Michael, and I collaborated on The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It was a very personal project that he called the ultimate valentine because it came out of our love for each other.

We decided to bind the finished product and give it as gifts to friends and family. Originally we did a dozen copies that were hand bound with green ribbon in three volumes as Austen’s books were printed. When people started asking for additional copies we had them professionally printed and bound rather than trying to keep up with the demand with handmade editions.

It was fun that everyone seemed to enjoy the book, but the fun didn’t last long. I lost Michael suddenly on November 14, 2001; my world crashed. Everything went on the shelf, even my life.

A few months after the funeral, a close friend (the best man at our wedding) called and told me that I needed to get out so he was taking me to the screening of a movie. He was right of course, it would have been very easy for me to become a hermit. As a member of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) he had passes to an, as yet, unreleased British film. I grudgingly agreed to go and just as I was leaving he called again and asked that I bring a copy of the book. “Why?” I asked (he had gotten one of the original hand bound editions). “I want to give it to someone.” I picked up a copy and left.

The screening was at one of the film and television studios in Hollywood. As it was only a short time after 9/11 the security was extreme. There were check points to get on to the parking lot, the walk through gate, the building entrance and the theatre itself. Very time consuming.

When we reached the stairs leading to the theatre it was clear the theatre was not yet open as a crowd was gathering in the hall. Apparently the film had arrived without numbers differentiating the reels so the projectionist had no idea in which order they were to run. Until it was cleared up they wouldn’t let anyone in the theatre (never was really sure why, overly secure I guess). A tall, handsome young man politely made his way through the crowd and straightened it all out and we were finally allowed to enter the screening room.

While Roger made his rounds to visit with friends I sat down and waited, still finding it difficult to mingle with people; particularly strangers. After a while he came over, handed me the book and looked up the aisle, “Go give it to him.” I looked over my shoulder, six feet away was the star of the movie we were there to see. The tall young man who had fixed the film roll problem. I looked back at Roger quizzically. “You dedicated the book to him, now give it to him.” “Seriously?” I asked. He pulled me to my feet, “Yes.”

We had dedicated the book to him; to him, Jennifer Ehle and Jane Austen. I took a deep breath and looked back at Roger; he nodded his head and sat down. Slowly I made my way up the steps and stood next to him as he finished a conversation with someone else. He turned to me and smiled, “Hello.” I didn’t reciprocate the greeting, I just said, “I have something for you.”

His lovely smile turned to trepidation and I realized that he was afraid I was a stalker. I assured him I wasn’t, told him about the book and showed him the dedication. The smile returned and he thanked me as the house lights dimmed and we returned to our seats.
After a much anticipated Question and Answer session with the film’s director, producer and cast, Roger and I headed to the exit. As we neared the door the young man stopped me. He thanked me again, saying he was exceedingly touched by the gesture and had never been given a nicer compliment. He bent down and kissed my cheek and then was pulled away by another fan.

In the tram that took us to the car a woman’s voice asked, “You’re the one who gave Colin the book aren’t you?” I turned around; the question had been asked by Minnie Driver who was sitting next to Saffron Burrows. I only had time to respond in the affirmative when we arrived at the car.

I realize now that it was a pretty amazing evening but I didn’t really appreciate and enjoy it as much as I might have. The wound incurred by the loss of Mike was still raw and I was very much in a daze most of the time. Still the gracious young man left an indelible impression and what else can you say when you’ve been kissed by Colin Firth?

Though this post is actually for the launch of my newest book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (also dedicated to Jane Austen, Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) I’m pretty sure that the Jane Austen and Colin Firth fans out there would enjoy the story.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen is an expansion and continuation of the story in The Man Who Loved Jane Austen. It delves into the complex nature of Fitzwilliam Darcy, the 21st century American horseman who slipped through a rip in the fabric of time and met Jane Austen.

Eliza Knight, the Manhattan artist who finds a letter from Jane Austen proving to Darcy that he did, in fact, travel in time, has fallen in love with the enigmatic Virginian after a long weekend at his home, Pemberley Farms. However, his epic tale of love and romance in Regency England puts Eliza on the defensive. How can she compete with the inimitable Jane Austen? And things are happening in the small hamlet of Chawton, England that could change everything. Will Jane Austen be the wedge that divides the modern couple or the tie that binds them?

Ann Channon of Jane Austen’s House Museum (Chawton Cottage) said:
“I have finished Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen and really liked it. Your books are imaginative and very different. Your ideas are new and fresh and endearing. Well, done.”
Find Sally on her blog, twitter and Austenicity.com.
Check out her books on Goodreads, Amazon & Smashwords.

Excerpt: Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen

To go along with the fab guest post I have from Sally Smith O'Rourke, author of The Man Who Loved Jane Auste, I have an excerpt of her newest book, Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen!

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen
Chapter 5

Although the sun was fully up in the Virginia summer sky, it was not yet hot. Fitz found jumping exhilarating; the cool morning air caressing his face, and Lord Nelson, so strong and graceful, took all the jumps with no effort.
Heritage Week was over so things could get back to normal. He shrugged. Whatever normal is. He realized there was a very good chance that his normal was about to change radically. Eliza’s letter—the one she had found written to him from Jane—had ended his search for the truth of his Regency encounter. But Eliza did much more than give him the letter.
He had been merely surviving, not living, in the years since his mother’s death. He’d thrown himself into the business of Pemberley Farms to the exclusion of almost everything else. Eliza’s arrival had heralded an acute awareness of that fact. It was as though a light was suddenly shining so he could see the world around him. She made him want to live again. And she had given him the letter… Jane’s letter.
Fitz reined Lord Nelson to a walk as they entered the cool shade of the woods on the edge of his property.
Jane. He had spent more than three years seeking proof of his meeting with her and of her feelings for him. Almost as if he’d been transported again back to Chawton in 1810, the image of Jane’s sweet face flooded his mind. He thought back to that morning and his inauspicious entrance into Jane Austen’s life.

The combination of his head injury and the laudanum prescribed by Mr. Hudson, the Austen family physician, caused Darcy to slip in and out of consciousness. He tried to sit up, the effort making him dizzy.
Jane gently laid a hand on his chest. “Please, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hudson wants you to remain still.”
Through a cotton mouth, his head spinning, Darcy asked, “Mr. Hudson?”
“The doctor,” Jane said. “You must rest now Mr. Darcy.” The American looked at her face. Her curiosity was palpable even in his drugged state. Unable to think clearly, never mind responding to questions he wasn’t sure he could answer, he closed his eyes completely and turned his head away.
Jane returned to her vanity table where she continued to write; a single candle and the flames in the fireplace her only light. Interrupted in her writing by a low murmur from Darcy, she took the candle and quietly approached the bed. He was tossing back and forth, his face flushed and contorted; he was speaking in quiet tones, a hodgepodge of words that meant nothing to her. He spoke what she could only suppose were the nonsensical ramblings of a sick brain; she attributed words like television and jet to his head injury and delirium. She placed her hand softly on his cheek and was distressed by the heat radiating from him. Using fresh linen soaked in water from the pitcher on her wash stand, Jane swabbed his face and neck, then laid it across his forehead. It seemed to calm him and she went back to her writing.
Each time he grew restless Jane stopped writing and went to the bed to refresh the linen with cool water. After three episodes in close succession she remained on the edge of the bed so she was at hand, and each time he started to toss and turn she would caress his face and neck with the cool, damp linen in hopes that it would, in time, reduce his fever.
She stayed there until Darcy’s features turned placid and he was breathing more evenly. He finally seemed to be sleeping comfortably. She laid her small, soft hand on his cheek. The fever was broken. She dropped the cloth into the basin. Stiff from sitting in one position for so long without support, she stood up and stretched. She was not particularly tired but needed to get some rest.
Quietly she crossed the wooden floor and slipped the small pages of writing she was working on into the drawer of the vanity, then took a nightgown from the closet next to the fireplace. Glancing back at the bed she stepped behind the screen.
He opened his eyes just enough to see her slender, full-breasted figure silhouetted on the muslin screen, back-lit by the remnants of the fire as the light fabric of her nightgown floated down to envelope her.
Jane stopped at the bed before making her way to Cassandra’s room for a few hours of sleep. As she stood over him he watched surreptitiously through the veil of his eyelashes. She leaned down and whispered, “Good night, Mr. Darcy,” almost brushing his lips with her own. In spite of his continuing laudanum haze, he could see that her eyes were filled with a tenderness that caused him to grab her hand as she straightened up; he didn’t want her to go.
Without opening his eyes or letting go of her hand he said, “Please don’t leave me.”
Unsure whether this was further evidence of the delirium or whether he was actually requesting her presence, she pulled her hand away. He did not move to take it again but said, “Please, stay.”
Cognizant of Mr. Hudson’s admonition of keeping the injured American calm and concerned her leaving might agitate him, Jane sat once again on the edge of the bed. Darcy smiled in the flickering flame of the dying fire. He said nothing more but gently took her hand. He did not relinquish it again until she rose to move to a chair by the side of the bed where she finally slept.
The movement woke him. His mind finally clear of drugs, he scanned the room in the dim, pre-dawn light. There were no electrical outlets or switches, no lamps, television or telephone, and the only clock appeared to be pendulum driven. Everyone he’d seen wore costumes similar to the ones people wore to the Rose Ball. Those things and the medical treatment he had received led him to the inexplicable conclusion that somehow he’d fallen into another time—a time when Jane Austen was alive.
And there she sat, serene in what had to be an uncomfortable position for sleep; his nurse, his savior and much prettier than she was depicted in the only portrait of her to survive to the twenty-first century. She was not the brazen hussy of Darcy family lore but a sweet and loving woman who took care of him without concern for her own safety or expecting anything in return. His mother would have said she was a true Christian.
As he watched her in the pale light of the dying embers his head started to throb as though a nail was being driven through it. He closed his eyes and blessed sleep overtook him.
Jane was an incredibly strong, intelligent, willful and virtuous woman who followed the propriety of the day… mostly. During the last three years he’d often wondered what might have happened between them if he’d been forced to stay in early nineteenth-century England. Of course with the way her brothers felt about him, he probably wouldn’t have seen her again.
If the circumstances had been different would he have married her? He could have been happy with her, he supposed, but over the years he’d come to realize that the love he felt for her was based on who she was, the awe in which he held her, caring for him when she certainly didn’t have to, loving him. Then again, did she love him? She had never said it and the letter Eliza had found and given him showed obvious affection but she urged him to find his true love. Apparently she didn’t think she was it. Had they ever loved each other or had it just been a fling across the ages?
He laughed. What difference did any of it make? Jane Austen had been dead for almost two hundred years. Still, the undisputed icon of witty English romance had kissed him whether she loved him or not. He still had to pinch himself to believe it had ever happened.
He had no such questions about Eliza. Everything felt right when he was with her. This was no fling. He had no idea where they were headed, but for the first time in years he was looking forward to the rest of his life. As long as Eliza was with him he didn’t care where they were headed.
Fitz and Lord Nelson crossed the bridge at a leisurely gait; the ground fog was burning off in the warm morning sun. Had it really been only two days since he and the great stallion were galloping across the bridge before the fog had lifted and run Eliza off the road and into a muddy drainage ditch? He hadn’t even realized she was there until it had happened. When he did, he brought Nelson to a stop and, without questioning who she was or why she was walking along a road on his property, he had lifted her onto Lord Nelson’s back and then swung up behind her. She was slightly light headed from the sudden fall, and once on the horse she had leaned against his chest and he’d had to control a strong desire to kiss the top of her head. He still didn’t understand how a complete stranger could make him feel that way, but he didn’t really care. From the first moment, being with her felt right and wonderful and that was all that mattered.
She had touched something in him that no one else ever had, including Jane, even before he knew her. At the Austen exhibit at the New York Public Library he had found himself staring at her. He laughed remembering that he had thought of her as a raven-haired beauty. Then two days ago she had come out of the fog and into his life.
He had told her his story about jumping through a rift in time and meeting Jane Austen. It had been very difficult at first, but once he started it tumbled out and had been a relief that he wasn’t carrying it around anymore. It was as though a weight had been lifted and this slight, feisty New Yorker had done the lifting. She had listened to him with an intensity that had made her a part of the story. She had been kind and compassionate—he had seen real grief when she asked him about leaving Jane—and she had given him the letter that answered his questions about whether he’d actually met Jane Austen and how Jane felt about him.
Jane would always hold a special place in his heart, but Eliza held his heart. Maybe it was too early to take it all for love, but it certainly felt the way he'd always thought love is supposed to feel.
Horse and rider stepped out from the cool canopy of the woods and into the warm summer sun. Spurring his favorite horse to a full gallop Fitz guided him over every fence and stream on their way back to the barn.

Make sure to stop by and check out Sally's guest post, in which she tells about a very serious time in her life and (and!) meeting everyone's favorite wet-shirted actor... ;)

Find Sally on her blog, twitter and Austenicity.com.
Check out her books on Goodreads, Amazon & Smashwords.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shelf x Shelf, episode 2! (More RED books)

Heya! This is the second (in what will likely be a looooong series) installment of my Shelf by Shelf bookshelf tour! If you're new to the tour, I organize my books by color (crazy, I know), and this 2nd shelf contains more of my red books.

Here's the full peek into my madness, but there's also a super quick version, if you'd rather watch that. =)

A Lion Among Men: http://amzn.to/RQqzoc
The Age of Innocence: http://amzn.to/Zzjhav
The Eternal Ones: http://amzn.to/SRQfhQ
Plain Truth: http://amzn.to/QCZnLh
Smudge's Mark: http://amzn.to/RQqmBg
A Spot of Bother: http://amzn.to/ShSWIG
The Circus in Winter: http://amzn.to/ShSV7u
The Dead Boys: http://amzn.to/UzwyRf
Running with Scissors: http://amzn.to/T121JX
I Capture the Castle: http://amzn.to/NC2Phd

Paper Towns: http://amzn.to/ShSA4G
Then We Came to the End: http://amzn.to/UzwkcQ
Warrior Princess: http://amzn.to/UzwfWv
About a Boy: http://amzn.to/TX2Zqw
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight: http://amzn.to/NG1Lfe
Spice & Wolf: http://amzn.to/RUgNjf

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: http://amzn.to/TX2Mna
The Handmaid's Tale: http://amzn.to/S963x9
Thirteen Reasons Why: http://amzn.to/ShRW7x
The Archivist: http://amzn.to/T11NCP
My Little Red Book: http://amzn.to/QCYBhe
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: http://amzn.to/QCYz91
Magickeepers (The Eternal Hourglass): http://amzn.to/UE2EWr
The Fairy Tale Detectives: http://amzn.to/SRPlBS
A Kiss in Time: http://amzn.to/ShRypy
Because It Is My Blood: http://amzn.to/LHQXcH
Some Girls Are: http://amzn.to/T11FmF
The Devil of Nanking: http://amzn.to/SINuyY
A Drowned Maiden's Hair: http://amzn.to/TX2vAG

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Belated #FridayReads...

Oopsies! Forgot to post this for those of you who don't stalk my twitter feed and youtube? (But I mean, really, why wouldn't you? ;P)
Last Friday I once again shared an excerpt for my #fridayreads, and this time it was for the glorious Laini Taylor's Days of Blood & Starlight.
This one's short and not-so-sweet... Check it out:

Days of Blood  Starlight by Laini Taylor


In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Face Off: Born Wicked

I've been seeing the paperback cover for Jessica Spotswood's Born Wicked everywhere lately, and since it's so very different from the original hardcover version, I thought it'd make a perfect FFO.  They're both very pretty covers that I would look into based on cover appeal alone, but I think I find one more visually interesting than the other, and one a little more mass-market... (Feel free to guess which, as I'm sure we're all bound to differ on this...)
But given the choice, which would you rather have on your shelves? Which intrigues you more, or grabs your attention first?
Which one did it better?

Last Week on FFO:  Differing covers for Laini Taylor's Days of Blood & Starlight went head to head: the US version, where it is marketed as young adult, and the UK version, where it is marketed as adult. Though everyone saw some merit in both (and a few people felt like, merit or not, they were both pretty meh), the US cover one in a landslide.
I can only imagine it's even prettier in person, but if you want to find out for yourself, why not try to win a copy? ;)
Winner ----------->

CLOSED Days of Blood & Starlight Blog Tour & Giveaway!!

Hey, guys! I don't know if you've seen any of the great posts this last week for Laini Taylor's Days of Blood & Starlight blog tour (so if you haven't - I have a full list of them at the bottom, and you should.); basically, to celebrate the gorgeousness that is Laini's writing, and as a teaser for the just-released Days of Blood & Starlight, the participating blogs picked a page number, and Laini is stopping by to talk about a scene from that page, and some of the background and beautiful, lyrical magic that went into it.

I get to wrap up the tour today with my page number, 413 - a combination of my two favorite numbers, and no, I really couldn't tell you why that is... I know I probably put Laini in a bit of a pickle, choosing a page so near the end of the book, but I'm certainly pleased with the result.

But enough from me. I'll let Laini take it away. =)

p. 413
“It was magic. Not the magic that he had discovered for himself, cobbled together out of guesswork and pain. He may as well have lived his life scraping and scratching in the dirt, only now lifting his head to see the sky and its infinite horizons, its unguessable fathoms.”

All right. Well, this blog tour format is cool and unique, but the further we have progressed into the book, the more difficult it has become to find a way to talk about passages without spoilers! This one comes during the climax (Akiva is the “he”, by the way) and has to do with the magical systems of this world I have created. So I’ll talk about magic, and creating magical systems a little bit, and see how I can bring it around to this scene without giving too much away.

All of my books have contained magic (even if I tried to write realism, I am sure that magic would wriggle its way in), and none of the systems are quite alike. The first thing I discovered, while writing my first book, BLACKBRINGER, is that you have to be really careful when writing magic into existence, not to make any single character too powerful. If you do, it becomes very difficult to create believable conflict. Your powerful character, be it the protagonist or the villain, will simply dominate and win, and there will be no story. Oops.

A system of magic has to have checks and limits. In the case of BLACKBRINGER, the protagonist Magpie had the potential for extraordinary, unprecedented power, but had very much to learn before she could control it. It was going to take her years to grow into her power. That was the way I kept things in check there.

In LIPS TOUCH, each of the three tales contains its own magic, but I’ll mention Hatchling, the last and most involved, in which the cost of power was no less than one’s humanity, and turned out to be a devastating bargain. There was one quirk of magic that evolved in that story that I love: The Druj (race of immortal, unfeeling demons) achieve their magic through speaking it. Whispering it, in fact. They can shape-shift into animals, but the problem is, once they are animals, they lack the ability of speech to whisper themselves back, so they must trust to others to do it for them or risk being trapped in animal form forever. This idea—this difficulty—became a plot point and added much to the narrative. From small details like this arises the richness and texture of a story.

In DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE, for the entire first draft, magic was a hazy system. I didn’t know its cost, or how it was accomplished. It just was. It was in revisions, working with my editor (Alvina Ling) that I got down to fleshing it out with more depth and clarity. It was fairly late in the game that I came up with the idea of the pain tithe, which is explored in much greater detail in DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT. (Get ready for brass vises and lots of bruises). Also, in this series, the history is that a thousand years ago during a slave revolt, the archives of the seraph magi were burned, and the magi were slain, and ever since, basic knowledge of magic has been lost. Only a few have such a strong sympathy for it that they’re able to “cobble it together out of guesswork and pain,” as Akiva has done.

In the scene above, he has just glimpsed a depth of magic he has never even dreamed, and has realized, for the first time, the full extent of the unknown and what has been lost. He is on the verge of discovering something extreme and extraordinary, something catastrophic which he will not begin to understand until Book 3.

Also, he’s about to stab somebody.

So there’s that.

I'm currently reading this glorious little gem, so make sure you stop back by soon for my review.  Until then, how'd you like to get your greedy little mitts on a copy of your very own?


Little, Brown has offered up one beautifulshinynew copy of  Days of Blood & Starlight to one lucky winner! This is US only, and all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter below! (It'd be great if you left some love for Laini, too. =D )

Full rules and regulations are located in the Rafflecopter.

Also, bear in mind, this is a sequel, so if you haven't read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, you'll want to grab a copy of that first. 
Good luck!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour:
Page 44 – Forever Young Adult
Page 115 – YA Bibliophile
Page 245 – The Book Smugglers
Page 321 – Mundie Moms
Page 413 – The Book Rat - oh hey, you are HERE!


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