Happy International Women’s Day!

12472544_10156820221785495_6201442404138695054_n

Happy International Women’s Day!

I realized that the majority of my shelves are filled with female authors 🙂 Who are some of your favorite female authors?

(Not pictured: Amy Poehler’s book, which I read her narration of, and Frankenstein which I forgot! Boo.)

7 Vampire Novels That Go Way Above and Beyond Twilight

7 Vampire Novels That Go Way Above And Beyond ‘Twilight’

You guys already know how I feel about Twilight and Discovery of Witches. Any other ones on here that you’ve read or are on your list?

Also you may have noticed I just posted a bunch of lists from Bustle. I follow their book lover’s facebook page and the lists are excellent! Definitely worth checking out.

Review “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic” by Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

Emily Croy Barker

Pub: Aug 2013, Pamela Dorman/Penguin

16158565

Rating 3.5/5

“Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.” -Goodreads.com

I had a lot of trouble rating this book, due to various reasons. I picked this up at a random trip to Barnes & Noble; it hadn’t been on my reading list but it sounded interesting and the fact that Deborah Harkness’ review was on the front definitely hooked me. (I always questioned whether those worked and apparently they do). If this was to be anything like All Souls Trilogy I knew that I’d love it. I also liked the quote on the back of my edition that said: “If Hermione Granger had been an American who never received an invitation to Hogwarts, this might have been her story.” (People).

I will say that the title is absolutely horrible, I don’t know how that got past editing. I continuously forgot it when I tried to talk about it with other people: “The Practical Woman’s Guide to Magic? No that’s not right. The Smart Woman’s Guide to Practical Magic? No that’s not right either.” was my constant inner dialogue until I took out my phone and looked it up.  Short and sweet is always better. I was also surprised that a lot of this book didn’t get cut out of editing (although I’m sure it did, but more on that later). It’s rare to see a dense ~550 page book with lots of details and information that aren’t completely pertinent cut out. I didn’t mind too much though. Her prose was dense but accessible, well-done and beautifully detailed. World-building prowess? Hell yes.  If you’re looking for lots of action and plot, this isn’t it. The beauty is in the details and slow buildup.

The characters are great. Mostly Aruendiel (how do you pronounce that correctly anyway?). He was crotchety and grumpy but pretty funny. Barker is great at capturing little nuances. I will say that I was very disappointed in the ending. I was only slightly placated by the promise of a sequel and also a book three, which you can find more about here. I had to look this up immediately, thinking it just can’t end here. I get pretty annoyed when author’s set up a book for a sequel and leave things unresolved. Pro tip: if your writing is good enough I WILL come back for more, no need for tricks. She does say in that article that it was originally 1,000 pages long and her agent told her to save it for a sequel. I get it, but it could have ended in a better place to appease fans. People seem pretty angry about it on Goodreads. As a writer myself, I don’t feel the need for quite that level of hostility, but on some level I get it.

There were so many what ifs, unanswered questions and plot lines in this book. It’s akin to real life but not completely entertaining for fiction. Maybe I just needed a little bit more to happen or a little bit more from Nora. With that said I am still looking forward to the sequel. This book was long and took a bit to get through but I enjoyed it and it never felt exhausting to me. I give props to the author for still making it exciting and for her world-building. Like Deborah Harkness, she comes from the world of academia and it shows.
Any thoughts?

PS: This Goodreads summary is really quite the spoiler about a passage home opening. Not pleased about that.

I Met Deborah Harkness!

Hey guys! Deborah Harkness, author of All Souls Trilogy, is doing a tour for the release of the paperback version of The Book of Life. She came about an hour out of Chicago, so needless to say I was there. Here are some pictures! (I was hamming and totally told her that she was an inspiration to me as an aspiring writer and that she is an amazing writer).

 

IMG_8732 IMG_8734 IMG_8739

Attention All Souls Trilogy Fans!

Hello fellow bibliophiles! I was just checking out Deborah Harkness’ Facebook page and it turns out the BBC bought the rights to the All Souls Trilogy and is in “conversation” to turn it into a TV show!!! Now I know it will be a very long time (writing the script, finding actors, filming) but this definitely means that we have not seen the last of Diana and Matthew’s world. I’m super excited. And the BBC is awesome. The British just do everything better don’t they?? 😀 Well just wanted to let you guys know! Also if you’re great at writing and have $5,000 to spare Deborah Harkness is hosting a writer’s retreat talking about the benefits of using history  in your writing, it’s all inclusive and supposed to be amazing.

 

Who do you think should play Matthew? Somebody mysterious and gorgeous I hope. I know there’s a whole youtube dedicated to it.

Review of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

8667848

Rating 5/5 Stars

A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness

Feb 2011 Viking Penguin

“Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.” –Goodreads

Guys. Guys. This book. Holy shit. I don’t think I have been this obsessed or enamored by a book in years. As a disclaimer (and the reason why I have not been present for some time) is because I’m writing a book, and there are vampires and other supernatural creatures in it so I have been immersing myself in the literature and pop culture, as well as myths and legends. This book has been on my to-read list for a while and I thought it was finally time.

I’d only gotten about 70 pages in, or less, when I decided that I was absolutely in love with it and I ordered the second. I loved it so much that I tried to pace myself and read it slower so that I could savor it, much like the last season of Gilmore Girls on Netflix. It’s one of those books that reminds you of why you love reading in the first place.

But why did I like it so much? I have been a huge vampire fan since I read Carmilla in a literature class, so I’m predisposed, but I will tell you why you will like it, even if you don’t like fantasy. Deborah Harkness is a historian/scholar who has won fellowships such as the Fullbright, and it shows. Her writing simultaneously makes me want to strive to be a better writer and makes me feel slightly inferior. This reads like a grown-up fairytale: it’s full of credible history, forbidden love, alchemy, and supernatural creatures. I think Harkness saw this supernatural genre and thought: ‘OK now who is going to write something great for adults?’ I saw it described as historical-fantasy which is perfect.

Something I constantly complain about in this blog is weak characters. To me, characters should always come before plot. Without strong, developed characters nobody would care about the plot. Her characters are so vivid and alive (or undead), they have woven histories and depth and they leap off the page. Also the vivid Oxford setting was amazing, and really made me want to travel there.

Possible the only negative thing I could say about this book, although it wasn’t really a negative for me but may be for the author’s intentions, was that I found myself not really that interested in Ashmole 782, the primary mystery of the book. Maybe towards the way end, but other than that I really just loved following Diana and Matthew.  I found myself skimming through some of the more historical and scientific parts, but it is certainly clear that Harkness did her research. She proved (and you’ll get this when you read it) that this genre is not full of sex. If anything I would have liked a little more. 🙂

Something I thought was beautiful, and I can’t say much without giving it away, but Harkness weaves in a story from Diana’s childhood that caught my breath when I read it. These are the moments in a book where I think, damn, if only I could write like that. The careful planning and outlining is evident.

This is certainly not a story that relies on plot and a linear progression from point A to B, it’s like the characters in the book: woven in a mysterious web of past and present, history, romance and fate. This is probably my most informal review I’ve ever written. But, I can’t help myself. I feel like a giddy teenager falling in love with reading all over again. This book is truly magical and I’ve already started the second. I know I will be sad when it comes to an end, but who knows, this seems like great movie material! I’m delighted to have my first five star book on here. I rarely give 5 stars because to me, that is perfection, and how often do we really read a book like that? I could count them on my hands. But this book is perfection. I can almost guarantee you will love it and if not, you will appreciate it for what it is: a work of art.

 

Any thoughts?