Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eight New Series I Want to Read

There is really nothing I love better than a good series (see my obsessions with J.D. Robb, Lauren Willig, and Janet Evanovich), so I can't wait for these new installments and series to come out! 

1. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
3. Reawakened by Colleen Houck
4. Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins
5. The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton
6. The Murder Complex by Lindsey Cummings
7. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
8. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Have you read any of these series? Which one should I put at the top of my list? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Canon's Fall Favorites | 2014

It's finally starting to feel like fall in Northern California. The days are shorter, the mornings are cooler, and the leaves are all colors. It's my favorite season and the perfect time to curl up and read! 

Favorite drink for reading | Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha and Yogi Kombucha Green Tea

Favorite Snack | Homemade chocolate chip cookies and carrots and hummus (for when I'm feeling healthy)

New TV Show I Can't Wait to See | Gotham

Favorite Website for a Laugh | Literary Starbucks

Series I Can't Wait to Read | The Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig (in progress)

Favorite New Writing Prompts | The SITS Girls

Books on my Fall TBR
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Winterspell by Clair Legrand
Festive in Death by J.D. Robb
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

What are you loving this fall? Let me know and happy autumn! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Canon Talks | I Want Your Book Recommendations!

I made a trip to the library yesterday morning. My library bag was overflowing with books to return, and the overdue fees were starting to get a little terrifying, so off we went. 

I don't know about you, but I have a routine when I go to the library. I start with the new books, then the Lucky Day shelf (the most requested/popular books) and then I wander the fiction. It was one of those unsuccessful library trips - I didn't find any hidden gems in the shelves or authors that I love. Which brings me to this post...

What are you loving right now? What books are on your radar, that you can't wait to read, or just finished? Do you have this same problem at the library? What do you do when you need some new ideas (I love to ask you!)?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall Reading Challenge | The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Title: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Author: Lauren Willig
Publication Date: December 2006
Publisher: New American Library
Series: The Pink Carnation {Book 1}
Source & Format: Owned; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard's Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon's invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation's identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation has been one of my favorite books since high school, but I haven't made the time to reread it in a long time. In the years since I opened Willig's debut novel, I had forgotten the little nuances, magic, and reference that made me fall in love with the story of a modern-day history grad student obsessed with spies and her 19th century counterpart. 
The two heroines of this story really make The Pink Carnation stand above other historical romances. Eloise, the determined, yet slightly clumsy grad student, is hunting down the Pink Carnation, the spy of her dreams. I immediately clicked with Eloise in the first scene as she tumbles into some guy's lap in the Tube. Her romantic nature made her easy to cheer for, and her determination to find the truth about the Pink Carnation gave us all something to search for. 
Her counterpart, Amy, has the same personality, but a different standpoint. Losing her father to the French Revolution gave her a mission - to join the league of the Scarlet Pimpernel - and from childhood, she taught herself disguises, tricks of the trade (so she thought), and dreamed of the day when she could return to France. Amy's naivete and determination mix to create a bright, energetic character who can't wait to live out her childhood dreams.
The romance between Amy and Richard, the Purple Gentian, is adorable, heart-stopping, and simply wonderful. The tensions between the two of them as they dance around each other in Bonaparte's court brought the story to life - I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
The mystery of who is behind the Pink Carnation I'll leave to you - I don't want to spoil the mystery. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

DNF | Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen

Title: Juliet's Nurse
Author: Lois Leveen {website}
Publication Date: September 2014
Publisher: Atria
Source & Format: Netgalley; ebook
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
An enthralling new telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—told from the perspective of Juliet’s nurse.

In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappellettis’ darkest secrets. Those secrets—and the nurse’s deep personal grief—erupt across five momentous days of love and loss that destroy a daughter, and a family.

By turns sensual, tragic, and comic, Juliet’s Nurse gives voice to one of literature’s most memorable and distinctive characters, a woman who was both insider and outsider among Verona’s wealthy ruling class. Exploring the romance and intrigue of interwoven loyalties, rivalries, jealousies, and losses only hinted at in Shakespeare’s play, this is a never-before-heard tale of the deepest love in Verona—the love between a grieving woman and the precious child of her heart.

In the tradition of Sarah Dunant, Philippa Gregory, and Geraldine Brooks, Juliet’s Nurse is a rich prequel that reimagines the world’s most cherished tale of love and loss, suffering and survival.

At 37%, I threw in the towel. 

I hate marking books DNF for a few reasons. I'm always wracked with guilt; this is someone's pride and joy, their work, their love. And I've given up on it. Even though I wrote about how I was going to give myself a break on marking books DNF, it's still tricky for me. Juliet's Nurse just didn't do it for me; I didn't feel the magic, the connection. I kept staring at the bottom percentage on the screen, willing it to go faster. I intended to finish this book last month, but I couldn't make myself pick it back up again. 

It all came down to one thing: expectations. I expected Juliet's Nurse to launch quickly (if not immediately) into the fantastic Shakespeare tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. I expected the background on the nurse to build the character, but when I saw retelling, I wanted Juliet's story, not hers. At 37%, Juliet's Nurse was background and portrayals of day-to-day life. There was little to no forward movement in the story; when I ended, Juliet was still a toddler. I know her romance to Romeo occurred when she was an early teen, but I couldn't handle the idea of nine plus more years of just background story.

Leveen's main character, the nameless nurse (at least at 37%), was interesting, but in a historical way. I felt no connection, no pull to her. She wasn't real to me; she was a woman who was (a little too) obsessed with the baby (that wasn't hers). I wanted to love her, to feel that connection, but she only became more distant from me as the story went on.

The only character I truly enjoyed way the portrayal of Tybalt as a child. His character felt true to the grownup one we meet in Shakespeare's famous tragedy. He had depth, personality, and a charming childlike wonder that made it impossible to not care for him. However, he wasn't enough to keep me involved in this novel.

If you're looking for an in-depth look at the world of 1500s Verona, into the life of the servant class versus the wealthy, Juliet's Nurse is perfect. Leveen doesn't lack for thoughtfulness in her details and scenes. My expectation, however, was for Juliet's story, not her nurse's. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review | Empress of the Night by Eva Stachniak

Title: Empress of the Night
Author: Eva Stachniak {website
Publication Date: March 2014
Publisher: Bantam Books
Series: Catherine {Book 2}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Catherine the Great, the Romanov monarch reflects on her astonishing ascension to the throne, her leadership over the world's greatest power, and the lives sacrificed to make her the most feared woman in the world--lives including her own...
Catherine the Great muses on her life, her relentless battle between love and power, the country she brought into the glorious new century, and the bodies left in her wake. By the end of her life, she had accomplished more than virtually any other woman in history. She built and grew the Romanov empire, amassed a vast fortune of art and land, and controlled an unruly and conniving court. Now, in a voice both indelible and intimate, she reflects on the decisions that gained her the world and brought her enemies to their knees. And before her last breath, shadowed by the bloody French Revolution, she sets up the end game for her last political maneuver, ensuring her successor and the greater glory of Russia.

I dearly wanted to love this book. The cover immediately grabbed my attention, the romantic, gothic title caught my eye, and the book blurb made me put it in my library bag. Catherine the Great, one of the most famous monarchs in Europe (let alone Russia) is a woman I know next to nothing about, but I would love to. Empress of the Night was a disappointment on many counts. 

The narration wasn't cohesive; it was almost too fluid, too comfortable floating between memories and present, random thoughts and servants' comments, to present a true image of this great woman. The beginning, detailing the last moments of Catherine's life, was well-suited for this loose, dreamlike narration, but it continued throughout the story of her life, skipping over details and historical events. I wanted decisiveness, action and a present frame of mind in the young Catherine. Instead, I had barely a clue as to what was going on. 

I became irritated with Catherine's lovers, but through no fault of their own. The narration refused to describe their personalities in detail, and soon, they all just blended together. Another would pop up in the future, but since I couldn't remember him from the past, I had no connection to him. I had hoped Catherine's love life would bring a depth of emotion and character to her. Nope.

The best redeeming quality of Empress of the Night lies in the portrayal of the relationship between Catherine and her granddaughter. Here (and only here) she shows emotions that make her into a complete character instead of the cardboard cutout who has been parading through the scenes. Her warmth and love for her grandchildren gave her dark character a silhouette, but wasn't enough to save the book. 

The dreamlike nature of the novel could have been fascinating, but the lack of description and character took away the high hopes I had when checking this book out of the library. I would love any recommendations you might have about this fascinating woman and her life. Unfortunately, Empress of the Night just didn't do it for me. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

If We Were Having Coffee | New Job

If September was the month of goodbyes, October is the month of change.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that going to a full time job from waiting tables has been a huge change for me. I have no free time during the week - I start my workout at 5:30am and finish the day with a run at six. It feels productive, though. Satisfying. I feel good when I go to bed at night. 

I'd tell you that it is really strange to be at a desk as opposed to on my feet all day. It's a completely different work environment, which is good in some ways and strange in others. I'd tell you that sometimes I miss the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, the pressure, the craziness of the chefs yelling at the servers to get out, and the clatter of plates. I'd also tell you that I think sometimes I romanticize it; when this happens, M is more than happy to bring me back to earth.

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you that it's been hard to keep up with my reading schedule. I'm hoping that once I get really settled into this job, it won't be a problem anymore, but for now, it feels like I don't have as much time. I'd tell you that I miss being able to write more, to read more. 

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you I'm really glad I made this choice