Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quick Bites: Stitchery, Double Takes, and the Twilight of Imperial Russia (Again)

I’ve peremptorily decided to create a new feature for RTET, called Quick Bites. The idea is to write short reviews of books read in the recent past (but perhaps not too recently, thus enabling the requisite shortness), and gather them up into a single post. Minute reviews, if you will. Called quick bites, because they’re quick…and bite-sized…and about books on a blog that also occasionally covers food-related topics… (Yes, yes, I’m terribly clever, I know.) This new feature will appear on the blog…well, whenever I feel like creating such a post. It’ll be crazy! Fun! You’ll never know when one’s coming!!! (…have I convinced you that sporadic is cool?)

The Gentle Art of Stitching, by Jane Brocket
Published by Collins & Brown in 2012
Read: March 2014
From: Library
4 Sashiko Needles

Yay for another crafty book! As you can guess from reading the title, this one is about stitching—all different kinds, in fact. That’s what makes it such a fun book—it goes beyond the basics to cover projects involving Japanese sashiko, Indian kantha-style quilts, interesting ways to use buttons, modern needlepoint cushions… The book is full of ideas, and provides practical information and instructions to complete the projects included, while also equipping the reader to take inspiration from them and create projects of their own devising. I had originally picked it up to see what sorts of cross stitch projects it contained, and while they were cute, I was looking for a bit more complex of a project to take on. My absolute favorite project in the book is one where kitschy embroidered linens from the ‘40s (easily found at antique shops and online) are repurposed into a collage quilt with a very vintage, very fun design aesthetic. The one the author made is the coolest thing, and I can’t remember the last time I was so inspired by a project idea—I was showing it off to everyone I know, and got really excited about making one myself someday. There were admittedly a few projects that were a little TOO kitschy for my taste (anything involving felt, pretty much), but most of the projects were things I’d like to try someday. Very cool book—I will be purchasing a copy, and checking out the author’s other craft books.

The Burning Sky, by Sherry Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray in September 2013
Read: April 2014
From: Paper ARC Susan sent me
3.5 Canaries

You may remember when Susan read and reviewed this one last fall, giving the verdict of “very enjoyable.” Now I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, and while I did enjoy it, I think I perhaps enjoyed it with more reservations than she did. Quick plot rundown for those who didn’t click the link: Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation, being hunted by the Big Bad Guy the Bane and his agents of Atlantis. Titus is the prince of the Domain they live in, but is actually just a puppet of Atlantis, and he wants to find Iolanthe because a prophecy says she’ll help him defeat the Bane. They meet up, he hides her by making her pose as Archer Fairfax, a fellow student at Eton, and they begin training to defeat the Bane and hide from the agents that are trying to capture her.

The book was slow to start, but I kept at it, and overall it was a fun fantasy with historical elements. My main issues with the book, however, involve the world building. It was shaky, holey, and not explained well enough to create a solid base for the story to unfold upon. For example, Iolanthe and Titus are from the Domain. Okay, sounds good. Like maybe some random fantasy place not in our world. But then Titus travels to England to go to Eton. This does not involve spaceships, so maybe the Domain is on Earth, or somewhere close enough for him to reach it by magic? But what about Atlantis? They’re running the show in the Domain and have agents everywhere, and there are mentions of other mage and non-mage realms existing. But do they exist in our world? On parallel Earths? Are they hidden in plain sight in our world, like in another dimension? When I ranted at Susan about this, the best explanation we came up with was perpendicular universes. …when I have a tenuous grasp of something as basic to a book as its setting, that’s a problem for me. I also found Titus too-tragic-to-tolerate for much of the book, but he did get better as it went on. The best scenes were when they were at Eton, and I wish there had been more of that. But even with my complaints, as the book reached its climax involving intrepid travel and danger via the virtual reality-like fairytale training books, I was very invested and flipping pages like nobody’s business. And once Titus stopped being a putz, the romance became cute, too. I’ll probably read the sequel, but it’s not one I’ll feel compelled to grab right when it’s published.

Tsarina, by J. Nelle Patrick
Published by Razorbill in February 2014
Read: March 2014
From: Library
3.5 Fabergé Eggs

Despite crap luck in the past with books involving the downfall of imperial Russia, this one came highly recommended by Maggie Stiefvater, so I thought I’d give it a go. I really, really want there to be a novel on this subject that’s as awesome as Anastasia, and I will keep looking until I find it, dammit! This one was better than the last, but still not quite as much as I’d been hoping for. Natalya, daughter of an aristocrat military officer, is in love with Alexei Romanov. During a ball, Alexei lets his love in on a secret—before Rasputin died, he channeled all of his power into the Constellation FabergĂ© egg, and it will keep Russia and the Romanovs safe. Soon, however, the Reds rise up in St. Petersburg, raiding the palace and capturing the imperial family. Natalya, along with fellow aristocrat and friend Emilia, will have to team up with a mysterious young man named Leo to track down the egg and save Russia and the Romanovs.

I liked that both Natalya and Leo have convictions about their respective White and Red politics, and that over time they come to see that it’s not quite that simple. They gain an understanding of the other’s point of view as the story progresses, which felt realistic, and provided obstacles to their relationship and a meaningful way for it to develop. While we’re on the subject of relationships, we actually only see Alexei and Natalya together in the first chapter, which is really more of a prologue, since it happens months before the action of the rest of the story. Because we have only that and Natalya’s recollections of him to go on, it was hard for me to be invested in their love. Still, even though I didn’t see their relationship unfold, even though I know that Russian society had some big-time problems that needed to be fixed, even though I KNOW what happens, I found myself hoping that the story would somehow take an alternate history tack and there’d be a way for them to be together and have Russia’s problems solved magically and for everyone to be happy. And when the inevitable comes to pass, it was more affecting than I had expected it to be due to foreknowledge of history and a lack of attachment to their relationship.

One of the weaker aspects of the book was the plot line with the mystics—it was a bit muddled, and I just didn’t find it compelling. As historical fantasy, some liberties are taken with the actual history of the Russian revolution and related topics (aging up Alexei, for one). This isn’t the kind of thing that bothers me, but if it would irritate you, it’s something to consider. Overall, while the novel may not rank among my favorites, it was entertaining and highly readable, though I wish it had made me feel more. I may pick up the sequel, but it’s probably not a must-read for me.

Have you already read any of these or plan on checking them out?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Genre-ally Speaking: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

Title: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1)
Author: Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: March 25th, 2014
Read: April 2014
Where It Came From: Library
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4 Quippy Comebacks

I was both excited and a bit apprehensive going into this one—tie-in novels can be a little iffy, but it’s got Rob Thomas’ name on it so it MUST be good, right? Right…? Now that I’ve finished it (in about a day, no less), I’m happy to say right once more, this time in firm agreement. Mysteries have been my drug of choice for most of my reading years, and though I haven’t read many lately, I still love a good one. And this one was! To be certain, if you haven’t watched the Veronica Mars TV series and movie you may be a little lost—background information on main characters and places isn’t covered too heavily, since, let’s face it: if you’re reading this book, you’re probably already a V-Mars fan. The mystery itself can be understood and followed by Marshmallow and civilian alike, but the nuances of character relationships and events preceding this book will probably be lost on those not already familiar with Neptune and its denizens.

But let’s assume you are a fan. All of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) characters make appearances and there are shout-outs to show-related things, but this book does not depend solely on nostalgia for its success. Instead, it firmly moves the V-Mars story forward, picking up shortly after the events of the recent movie. Veronica is still dealing with her dad’s disapproval of her choice to become a P.I. rather than a lawyer, and with the hardships of having a boyfriend overseas for the next six months. Just when she’s starting to worry about the electricity getting shut off at Mars Investigations HQ, she gets hired by the Neptune Chamber of Commerce to investigate the disappearance of a spring breaker co-ed (because the bad press is cramping the influx of tourist dollars, of course). The mystery deepens when another girl goes missing, some unexpected characters turn up, and Veronica finds herself in hot water before she gets her man (or woman. Or multiple people. Or bear. I’m not sayin’.).

I enjoyed the mystery—it held my interest, and kept me guessing about what was really going on. It was neither too outlandish nor too normal, containing the perfect blend of reality and crazy-shit-happens-don’t-it. I only called one tiny part of it, and tore through the pages to get to the bottom of the rest. (As it turns out, the only thing that ended up not making terribly much sense to me was the book’s title.) The trademark quippy snark is there is full force, which made me so happy! It was easy to hear the dialogue in the voices of the characters I’ve come to know and love from the show, and it was just as easy to picture them in the scenes described in the book. I’ve heard some people were a little bummed that there wasn’t much Logan, but I thought it worked and showed that the relationship is not without obstacles (because of course it isn’t!). I could’ve gone for a little more Weevil, especially considering where the movie left him, but I guess that can be picked up more in future novels. Overall, solid mystery, good writing, great characters we already know and love, just in a new format. When does the next one come out?

Oh, also, for those who may be missing Veronica’s first-person narration: Kristen Bell narrates the audiobook, and from the clip I listened to, it’s all a nerdy Marshmallow would dream it to be. If I had an Audible subscription, I would be on that like leather on a PCH-er. The series liiiiiives!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Out to lunch, be back soon.

Just wanted to let all bookworms and moths know that although the posts for the first half of April have been a bit sparse, I'm hoping to get some going soon! My ol' MacBook Pro of 7 years finally went to visit the big circuit board in the sky after taking an ill-fated and inadvertent sip of water, and I've been computerless since. Typing on a smartphone gets frustrating quickly, so as soon as I get the computer situation figured out I hope to get some reviews and other fun stuff posted. If in the meantime you find you need a RTET fix, check out our Twitter and Pinterest accounts, which you can access by clicking the icons below our header. (Thankfully those are things I can easily update from my phone!) Until then, go out and enjoy the sunshine! Have a picnic, read a book en plein air (or would that be al fresco?), and then let us know what you've eaten/read! Until then...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cookery Bookery: The Kinfolk Table

Title: The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings
Author: Nathan Williams with Rebecca Parker Payne
Publisher: Artisan
Publication Date: October 15th, 2013
Read: March 2014
Where It Came From: eARC from publisher via NetGalley*
Genre: Lifestyle-Manifesto-with-Recipes
Rating: 3 Shared Meals

This cookbook will always have the odd distinction of being the one where I opened it up to a random page while browsing and saw my cousin’s wedding photographer staring right back at me. Weird coincidence, right? Check out page 250. There he is! (Took really beautiful photos of the wedding, too.) …I’m trying to come up with some way to connect this to the cookbook itself and what I thought of it, but am failing. Basically I just wanted to share that little tidbit because it was completely unexpected and made me laugh. Okay, moving on.

Kinfolk Magazine is a popular small press quarterly that bills itself as “the lead entertaining magazine for young food enthusiasts and adventure-seekers” and “a blueprint for a balanced, intentional lifestyle.” I’ve seen the magazine in my wanderings about the internet, and the relaxed, simple, rural-hipster vibe appealed to me. I haven’t picked up a copy yet, so when I saw this cookbook by the same people come up on NetGalley, I thought it would be a good way to try it out and get a sense of what Kinfolk is all about.

I love everything that the founder of the magazine, Nathan Williams, talks about in his introduction. He discusses the rituals of gathering together with friends to cook and eat, and how this sort of entertaining inhabits some middle ground between simply hanging out and the rigid, la-tee-dah associations the word “dinner party” can have. He says the idea for the magazine was “born in the course of trying to describe those evenings spent with friends when the hours pass effortlessly, conversation flows naturally, cooking is participatory, and the evening ends with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.” The goal of the magazine is to demonstrate this idea of entertaining and to make it accessible to younger people like himself and his friends. What he describes as casual, meaningful entertaining is something I’m totally behind—I’ve experienced it often in my life, though I never really thought of it in those terms until I read what he’d written about it. Some of those experiences that immediately came to mind while reading included my junior year of college, when my flatmates (of whom Susan was one) and I were the odd ducks who did not subsist on pizza and cheetos, but had higher aspirations for our comestibles. We had an impressive collection of cookbooks and planned out all of our meals a week in advance, assigned people to cook each night of the week, and had a complicated but accurate system for dividing up the grocery bills. We ate dinner at the table together most nights, and for those roomies who could not attend we always saved leftovers. Our senior year, when Susan and I were test cooking for the newspaper column we wrote together, we often invited friends over to help in the process and partake of the results. Later, when I was living in Japan, the other foreign English teachers in my city and I instituted what we called Magic Mondays, where we would gather at one of our apartments and have a delicious dinner that the host cooked for us, talking and venting and laughing until it was time to go home and look forward to the next Monday, when we would descend upon whomever was next on the rotation schedule. Having experienced myself how fun, warm, and good-for-the-spirit these kinds of social interactions can be, I was excited to read about other people identifying and exploring that idea.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blogoversary Fun: Books We're Anticipating

If these books magically came out today it would be the best blogoversary gift ever, but we’re not holding our breath. Instead, we’ll show off pretty cover design and talk a little bit about WHY we’re so darn excited these are all coming out later this year! Some are Susan’s picks, some are Alyssa’s picks, and some are ones we're both eagerly awaiting. Which ones look good to you? Will you give any of these a go?

Arriving: 4/15/2014

Standalone Novel

From the acclaimed and award-winning author: a beguiling new novel about an eavesdropping boy working to discover the obscure mysteries of his unraveling family. He uncovers instead what he least wants to know: the workings of his parents' private lives. And even then he can't stop snooping.

Miles Adler-Rich, helped by his friend Hector, spies and listens in on his separating parents. Both boys are in thrall to Miles's unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is "pretty for a mathematician." They rifle through her dresser drawers and strip-mine her computer diary, finding that all leads pull them straight into her bedroom, and into questions about a stranger from Washington, D.C., who weaves in and out of their lives. Their amateur detective work starts innocently but soon takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family's well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Once burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil, and proceed to concoct hilarious modes of revenge on their villains and eventually, haltingly, learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.

Susan: Since reading Where'd You Go, Bernadette I have been trying to find a book in a similar vein, and I am hopeful that this will be it. First, it involves looking at a troubled marriage through the lens of the child involved. Second, there is logical modern use of computers in the plot (somehow this seems rare in the books that I've been reading). And third, there are some heavy-sounding issues that may be developed over the course of the novel. I'm not convinced this will be as much fun as Bernadette, since it seems to lack the satirical humor, but I'm looking forward to trying it.

Alyssa: I haven’t heard of this one before, but I really like the cover! It sounds kind of like a more intense version of what I did as a kid, inventing mysteries and writing about them in notebooks. I’ll wait for your verdict before deciding if it merits a spot in my TBR pile!

Arriving: 5/6/2014

Third (and final) book in a series

The Selection changed the lives of thirty-five girls forever. And now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

From the very first page of The Selection, this #1 New York Times bestselling series has captured readers' hearts and swept them away on a captivating journey... Now, in The One, Kiera Cass delivers a satisfying and unforgettable conclusion that will keep readers sighing over this electrifying fairy-tale long after the final page is turned.

Susan: At the rate that Alyssa and I complain about America's vacillation and Aspen's emotional abuse, it could seem generous of us to put this on our list of eagerly awaited books. But the Selection series is COMPLETELY ADDICTIVE and I want this last book to wrap up everything neatly and sweetly. America/Maxon all the way. How can author Kiera Cass successfully kill off the mean king to clear the throne for the more even-tempered Maxon? (Will Aspen forsake his vows of loyalty to commit regicide?) And, most pressingly, I want to see more of the book bandits!

Alyssa: I always feel like I have to acknowledge that the writing in these books is not the best, but they’re still so fun for me. Frothy, even! Well, as you know, we had some problems with the second one (America’s wishy-washiness, Maxon’s weird ultimatum, the fact that Aspen’s terrible boyfriend material), but it has certainly given us a lot to talk and laugh about. And when I read the preview chapters of The One you sent my way, I was definitely gnashing my teeth and wanting the rest of the book LIKERIGHTNOW. I have a feeling we may end up having a live-texting session as we both read it!

Arriving: 5/13/2014

Third (and final) book in a series

Saba is ready to seize her destiny and defeat DeMalo and the Tonton...until she meets him and he confounds all her expectations with his seductive vision of a healed earth, a New Eden. DeMalo wants Saba to join him, in life and work, to create and build a healthy, stable, sustainable world…for the chosen few. The few who can pay.

Jack’s choice is clear: to fight DeMalo and try to stop New Eden. Still uncertain, her connection with DeMalo a secret, Saba commits herself to the fight. Joined by her brother, Lugh, anxious for the land in New Eden, Saba leads an inexperienced guerilla band against the powerfully charismatic DeMalo, in command of his settlers and the Tonton militia. What chance do they have? Saba must act. And be willing to pay the price.

Alyssa: Ignore the goofy, teenager-y covers. This series is great! It’s dystopia of a sort I’d never really encountered before, in a future beyond “Wrecker times” (that means us, y’all) when the planet was destroyed, and has since recovered to an extent and resulted in a sort of country, Dust Bowl, Old West-flavored society. The writing style is one you’ll either love or hate, written in a rustic, Old West-y, uneducated-sounding vernacular. I really adore it, since it does so much for the setting and culture in the book. There was some weirdness in book two, but it was nothing that altered my enjoyment of the series, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the story ends up!

Susan: I haven't read any of this series yet, but I trust your taste, and I like dystopian YA. Plus the heroine looks bad-ass on that cover, no?

Arriving: 5/13/2014

Standalone Novel

Paul O'Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn't know how to live in it. He's a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God.

Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online "Paul" might be a better version of the real thing. As Paul's quest to learn why his identity has been stolen deepens, he is forced to confront his troubled past and his uncertain future in a life disturbingly split between the real and the virtual.

At once laugh-out-loud funny about the absurdities of the modern world, and indelibly profound about the eternal questions of the meaning of life, love and truth, TO RISE AGAIN AT A DECENT HOUR is a deeply moving and constantly surprising tour de force.

Alyssa: I think I remember reading about this one in Entertainment Weekly! I thought it sounded both interesting and potentially terrifying...

Susan: This is another one of my attempts to find a book sibling for Bernadette, and it's probably going to be closer in tone to it than Casebook. It sounds like satire (yay!), and again asks questions about our lives in the Internet age. Even independent of Bernadette though, this book has the potential to be one of the most interesting reads of the year. I find contemporary YA a great genre for exploring what identity means in our lives, but this plot seems perfect for reexamining one's long-held identity.

Alyssa: But to be clear, this one is not YA, right?

Susan: Correct! This one is a general adult fiction novel. Now we just have to hope that it gets nominated for some snazzy adult book award so we can feel in the loop in the genre for once.

Arriving: Summer 2014?

Standalone Novel

Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull math class when the high-tech dropship lands in his school's courtyard-and when the men in the dark suits and sunglasses leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he's sure he's still dreaming.

But the dream is all too real; the people of Earth need him. As Zack soon discovers, the videogame he's been playing obsessively for years isn't just a game; it's part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they'll need to defend Earth from a possible alien invasion. And now…that invasion is coming.

As he and his companions prepare to enter their ships and do battle, Zack learns that the father he thought was dead is actually a key player in this secret war. And together with his father, he'll uncover the truth about the alien threat, race to prevent a genocide, and discover a mysterious third player in the interplanetary chess game he's been thrown into.

Susan: YES!! Another novel by Ernest Cline, creator of Ready Player One, one of my favorite reads from last year. This one also looks to be blurring the boundaries between games and real-life, which Ready Player One did so successfully. Granted this one sounds a little more like it walked out of Ender's Game, but I trust Ernest Cline and his treatment of game culture.

Alyssa: People have already been flipping out about how much it sounds like Ender’s Game or The Last Starfighter, but I recently came across an article/interview that addresses this. The article writer states, “It might sound like a rip-off of The Last Starfighter, but there’s one key difference: in Armada, Lightman has seen The Last Starfighter. He’s probably seen it a dozen times, like Cline himself.” He then quotes Cline, who explains,

“In a zombie apocalypse movie, nobody’s ever seen a zombie movie…or in an alien invasion movie, nobody has ever seen an alien invasion movie like Independence Day. That’s what Armada is—if an alien invasion happened today, we’d be aware of all of that and reference all of this pop culture…and we would have expectations of how an alien invasion would go.”
I think that’s an important distinction to make, and after the wonderful imagination, humor, and fun of Ready Player One, I trust this dude. On top of that, the article I reference was published on 3/11/2014, which makes it the most recent news I’ve come across about Armada! I’m not convinced it will actually come out this summer, since it still doesn’t have a listing on Amazon, but I was heartened to read that the manuscript is complete, at least.

Arriving: 8/5/2014

Second book in a series

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to "read" objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners' abilities...

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Alyssa: Libba Bray is kind of my spirit animal. I love her skillful blending of historical periods and the occult, and the first book in this series, The Diviners, was both scary and riveting. Who doesn’t love the 1920s and supernatural shenanigans? I’ll probably need to re-read the first before I pick up this one, but I remember there were some deliciously dangling threads that hinted at awesome things to come in this second installment in the series.

Susan: OMG. I don't love supernatural shenanigans when they are as terrifying as what went on in The Diviners! And when you sing "Naughty John" to me I want to lock myself in a safe room on a bed of Bibles. That being said, The Diviners was great and I am eager to see how the characters continue to grow throughout the series. Just during daylight hours. With somebody nearby to distract me if I get too scared.

Arriving: 8/26/2014

Second book in a series

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Alyssa: You sent me your ARC of the first one in this series, The Burning Sky, but I still haven’t read it yet! I’m in kind of a reading rut right now, though, and I think it might be just the thing to break me out of it. This cover for the second one is really pretty!

Susan: YES! Read it! I'm a little concerned by this plot description for the second book ("a divergent path"? Methinks Epic Reads is bringing in an unusual word from its mega-seller), but I can't wait to learn more about the magic in the series. And enjoy more of the She's the Man hijinks around the Eton campus.

Arriving: 9/30/2014

Standalone Novel

From the author of THE SUMMER PRINCE, a novel that's John Grisham's THE PELICAN BRIEF meets Michael Crichton's THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN set at an elite Washington D.C. prep school.

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC's elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus--something about her parents' top secret scientific work--something she shouldn't know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

Susan: I may have said it a few times already, but I loved The Summer Prince. It was speculative fiction with layers of eloquence and literary quality, a combination that made finishing the book bittersweet. Love Is the Drug made it onto my most wanted list as soon as I saw the author's name. Although this release has very little in common with the setting of The Summer Prince, I have high hopes that the details will be as interesting as the ones in the earlier novel. Another reason to cheer: Alaya Dawn Johnson does careful science research for her sci-fi, so her virology has to be more scientifically accurate than the last virology I saw in a novel (Inferno by Dan Brown).

Alyssa: Sounds like a cool YA thriller, and I like the contrast between the title and the plot blurb.

Arriving: 10/14/2014

In the world of a series, but works as a standalone

Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever thinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.

But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

Alyssa: I AM SO FREAKING EXCITED ABOUT THIS BOOK. I have been waiting YEARS to go back to the Old Kingdom!!! 11 years, to be precise. (I’m not counting the Across the Wall collection, because it only contained one Abhorsen-related story.) Garth Nix is one of my favorite authors, and the Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series is my favorite of the many he’s written. Favorites upon favorites! I’ve been hearing rumblings about Clariel for a couple years now, so I’m SO glad to see it’s being released at last. These books are the reason I got so upset when a zombie crossed a river in the most recent season of The Walking Dead! I subscribe to the Nix-canon of risen deceased, and UNDEAD CAN’T CROSS RUNNING WATER, BITCHES. Whoa, that would be a fantastic crossover—Sabriel and Lirael visit zombie-infested Georgia. How much easier would life be for Rick and Co. if they had some bandoliers of bells?

Susan: I am a latecomer to the Old Kingdom novels, having only read Sabriel just before our blog started last year. I can't believe it took me so long to get to these books! I love the writing style, the role of the Abhorsen, the sense and bravery of the protagonists, the sweetness of interactions. . . I could probably go on. I'll be glad to return to the world with this release.

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