Maggie Stiefvater's Linger Giveaway

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

Books by Mail + Update

So after my existential crisis of not having much to read/everything else, I have returned with a new, fuller library and the general excellency of a contraption called Books by Mail.

I attribute it, affectionately, to my new residence, which is largely populated by--dare I say it?--elderly people who can't leave the house.  My new library has a system in which one can request books to be sent to their doorstep by a helpful Library Person With a Car.  They arrive in a neat little package, all pretty and perfect, and you can send them back by mail if you wish.  (Though I don't want to go that far,  because then I'd feel kind of...  Annoying.)  It's the agoraphobic's pickup system.

My new library also has a much more extensive selection for me to choose from.

Upcoming Reads.

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Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen

Original Year of Publication: 1999
Hardback Page Count: 197
Genre: Fantasy

Summary: In a retelling of "Rumplestiltskin", Napoli and Tchen take us back to the story before the story.  Telling a dual tale of both Rumpelstiltskin and his victim, Spinners moves through the perspectives of "the tailor" later to become "the spinner" and Saskia, a young girl with whom he shares a mysterious connection.  When Saskia's drunken father promises a skeptical king that she can spin straw into gold, she feels that she is sure to fail and die.  But that's when the spinner arrives, giving her an offer she can't agree to--but nor can she refuse.

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Fairy tale retellings are generally fabulous, and there are a lot of great ones out there; but Spinners isn't one of them.  Napoli and Tchen rework the plot in various ways--but not in the way the story needed.  Their creative energy was there, but remained out of focus and centered on the wrong targets throughout the novel.  They expanded on the wrong parts of the story; they were fixated on the wrong characters; the point is that the book works out to be downright impossible to enjoy, despite its meager length.  It, as many books written by co-authors do, comes together as a puzzle with mixed-up pieces. 


Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

Original Year of Publication: 1995
Paperback Page Count: 384
Genre: Drama, General

Summary: Seventeen and seven months pregnant, Noval Nation--a girl with an unlucky streak when it comes to sevens--is left at a Wal-Mart in the small Oklahoma town of Sequoyah by her boyfriend, Willy Jack.  Far from home and with only seven seventy-seven in her pocket, Novalee secretly camps out at the Wal-Mart, helped only by kind strangers she meets along her way.  In the meantime, Willy Jack gets thrown in prison, tangled up with a ruthless music agent, and haunted by the biggest lie he ever told.  Traveling through seven years in Novalee and Willy Jack's parallel lives, Where the Heart Is tells a very simple, yet very complicated story of different kinds of love, untruths, and growing up.

I saw Where the heart Is, the movie, a few years ago.  It starred Natalie Portman in a very good turn as a convincing Novalee.  But as good as the movie was, I felt that it was missing something.   Now, when I first picked up the book, I did not know that it was an Oprah's Book Club pick.  This probably owes to the fact that I despise Oprah and all of her many branches of popularity.  But surprisingly, Where the Heart Is Didn't turn out to be as corny or typical as I feared it would be.

The book does have its faults--namely the ones that I mentioned above.  It seems that there are a ton of novels running in the same vein: country girl with a baby gets mistreated by a redneck boy who's so awful and so terrible, while a bunch of sweet Aw-Shucks-Aren't-They-Adorable people take care of her.  As a girl from the South--where many of these books are set--who is related to a couple of girls who went through mildly similar situations, I know the real deal.  In the real world, people like Sister Husband and Moses Whitecotton aren't going to help you out.  In the real world, a kind, sensitive librarian won't take on you and your kid.  In the real world, things would be a lot tougher than Novalee lets on.

Those kind of happily-ever-after plot devices annoy me to no end, because they can get a bit... condescending?  But luckily, Letts skates just by the preachiness many novels in this string possess.  Novalee's innocence does wear on you for a bit--as she's the main character--but it is balanced out by the opportunistic perspective of Willy Jack, and the occasional glimpse into Forney's mind.  Because, as unrealistic as he is, Forney is a truly lovable character.

I did feel like Letts had a tendency of just scratching the surface with some characters, and not fleshing them out.  I would have liked to see more flaws in the side characters; even Forney suffered from that problem.  Lexie was probably the most flawed out of the bunch, and even she didn't seem to have a mean streak.

Could a pregnant teenager really live in Wal-Mart?  Probably not.  But Letts convinces us that it could and did happen.  The strangeness of Novalee's life contrasts sharply to Willy Jack's, which gives the book a dose of reality.  Willy Jack, however, isn't a complete villain.  He's simply, it seems, too stupid and self-centered to know the difference between right and wrong--not until it's too late.  (I did feel like Novalee was far too kind to him at the end of the book, but whatever.  Some people place a lot of weight on their child's biological parent.) 

Four out of Five Stars:
Is it corny in spots?  Yes.  Is it nauseatingly sweet in others?  Of course.  But do we expect any different?  No; as soon as you read the first page, you know the tone and meaning of Where the Heart Is.  It's a book without mystery, and without anything particularly surprising.  But at the same time, it holds an endearing quality.  It's worth a shot, but only if you like books of the supposed "real life" genre.

Also by this Author: Shoot the Moon

Cassandra Clare's Trilogy Extended

... And other news in the realm of Cassandra Clare.  Though I haven't reviewed any of Ms. Clare's books officially, I am, however, a big fan of her Mortal Instruments trilogy--which, as it is, shall no longer be a trilogy.

Recently announced:

The lowdown for those of you who don't want to be spoiled is that there will be a fourth book in the series, from Simon's perspective.  Of course, other characters will be visited, and there will be a love triangle--one that was set up earlier.  But basically, what we thought was over isn't over.

In other Mortal Instuments-related news, the series has been optioned by a film company.  With the recent success of the Twilight Saga on screen, I wouldn't be surprised if it pulls through.  One thing: they'd better make all the books into separate movies, or else it will turn out very badly.

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Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Original Year of Publication: 2006
Paperback Page Count: 545
Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: From the time she is a child, Maria Antonia, daughter of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, is bound for greatness.  Wed to the Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste at the tender age of fourteen, she is tossed into the judgmental French court with little preparation.  With a cold--if well-intentioned--husband and a complete ineptitude for politics, the Dauphine--now known as Marie Antoinette--must navigate the world's harsh waters on her own.  As time passes, she is aided by a colorful group of friends; but the love that France once had for her fades as she herself plunges into hot and cold mood swings accompanied by the gambling, gluttony, and royalism that will immortalize her as the victim-villainess, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.

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Four and a Half out of Five Stars: A beautiful life story-style piece of historical fiction, the best of the best among Marie Antoinette novels.  Naslund tricks us into thinking that we're friends with Fersen or the Duchesse de Polignac--and most importantly, Marie Antoinette--without skimping on the drama of the true story, as so many authors do these days.  Falling just short of perfect, I would recommend Abundance to anyone who loves history, anyone who loves Marie Antoinette, and anyone who loves a great read.  Definitely worth buying!

Also by this Author: Ahab's Wife, Sherlock in Love, Four Spirits.
Up Next: High Five, Hot Six, and Seven Up by Janet Evanovich.

Mary Called Magdalene

Original Year of Publication: 2001
Paperback Page Count: 656
Genre: Biblical Fiction

Summary: Mary Magdalene is one of the Bible's most controversial figures--some argue that she was a prostitute, others the wife of Jesus.  Even more wonder if she was the most beloved of his disciples, his best friend and counselor.  Margaret George's book follows the life of Mary from when she was a young girl, to her wife and motherhood, and on to her following Jesus.  It paints a picture of a young Pharisee woman who, after being driven to the edge of sanity by demons, finds a different calling with a strange prophet...


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Four out of Five Stars: Not Margaret George's best, but certainly far better than Henry VIII and Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles.  The main problems with this book are its annoying main character--though I have a feeling that it's just me who dislikes her--a slight plotline that is kind of, well, stupid, and a bad beginning.  Overall, I would say that it's an interesting read, and casts Jesus very well.  It makes Bible stories more exciting, but as an entire book, is nothing amazing.  It didn't grab me, but I have a feeling that a lot of historical/biblical fiction fans will like it.  As a Christian, I can also add that there is nothing in the book that truly offended me.

Also by this Author: The Memoirs of Cleopatra, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles, Helen of Troy.
Similar Books: The Red Tent. 
Up Next: No clue.



Queenmaker by India Edghill

Original Year of Publication
: 1999
Hardback Page Count: 376
Genre: Biblical Fiction

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One and a Half out of Five Stars: The writing is all right, but not amazing.  The characterization is fairly weak, but at least original.  The accuracy is terrible, and I doubt that anybody wants to read about a brother and sister falling in love--when reality, that brother raped his sister.  It's disrespectful in several ways, and just plain annoying.  Couldn't finish it, though I came very close.

Similar Books: The Red Tent,

Also by this Author: I don't know.
Up Next: Mary, Called Magdalene.


Shanghai Girls by Lisa See


Original Year of Publication: 2009
Hardback Page Count: 314
Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: Covering twenty years, from 1937 to 1957, Shanghai Girls chronicles the story of sisters Pearl and May Chin, sold to Chinese-American men in marriage when their father loses all the family's money.  Used to fun parties and in love with the artist whose advertisements she poses for, older sister Pearl does not expect her or May's lives to change after they marry strangers.  They'll stay in China while their husbands go back to America, continuing to be "beautiful girls"--models.  But when their city is invaded by the Japanese and their family attacked by gangsters, Pearl and May must leave China, bringing with them a terrible secret which they keep hidden from their new family.  Traumatized by what happened to her in China, Pearl now must take care of her sister and get to know a man she doesn't want, while facing the hardships of a Chinese immigrant in 1930s' America.


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Similar Books: Memoirs of a Geisha, Bound.  (Bound is more YA, but it focuses on an older China, retold in a Cinderella story fashion.)
Also by this Author: Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
Up Next: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon.



Film Versus Book: P.S. I Love You


P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern was made for the big screen. It's got the romantic comedy elements, the romance, and the tearjerker plot that call for chick-flick-ness. The novel was published in 2004, and if I'm correct, the rights were optioned before it was even released. A few years later, out comes the Americanized movie version, starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank. (There. Now that you know who the man on the above image is, you may prance off to stalk him.)

An American myself, I didn't even know that the movie was based on an Irish book until after I saw it. Needless to say, I adored the movie--it, obviously, is no Oscar-winner, but it's one of my favorite romantic comedies--but dragged my feet on reading the book after hearing that it wasn't even set in the same country. I didn't want to feel bitter towards the filmmakers for "messing up" the book.

But I read it anyway, and here are my views on P.S. I Love You vs. "P.S. I Love You".   (It'll be in bold; I don't know why.)

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The Winner Is: The movie. I know, I know--and really, I usually don't make this decision. Maybe it's because I saw the movie first; maybe I'm being shallow, and it's just Gerard Butler that has me. But I liked the movie more. It was funnier, more moving, and a true tearjerker. The book was just adequate.