That Summer Read Along

TSRA

The Facebook page for the That Summer Read Along is live today!  Head on over to https://www.facebook.com/events/1470021306587444/ to get yourself signed up.

Lauren announced on her website this morning that one lucky reader who signs up for this event by August 4th will win a signed copy of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla.  If that isn’t enough to convince you, there will be prizes and insider info throughout the month.  The first week will be led by Christina, a blogger over at Austenprose.  Tomorrow, Lauren will be kicking the event off with a welcome, so make sure you get signed up today.

Happy Release Day, Daisy Goodwin!

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Today’s book birthday is Daisy Goodwin’s The Fortune Hunter.  I’ve already read and reviewed this one, and I thought it was great!

Here is what St. Martin’s Press has to say about it:

Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.

Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National—until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that jeopardizes the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and threatens all of their futures.

This brilliant new novel by Daisy Goodwin is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures.

Secrets of the Lighthouse

lighthouse

I’ve never read anything by Santa Montefiore before, but I know she has fifteen novels to her name, and I have picked up The Mermaid Garden several times in the book store and debated buying it. Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster, I just had the chance to read her upcoming release, Secrets of the Lighthouse.

The story is divided between to narrators. The first is Caitlin Macausland, who died mysteriously at a lighthouse off the coast of Connemara, Ireland. Her husband, Conor, is the only witness of her death. The locals whisper that Conor may have murdered her, and there is a rumor that a third person was seen rowing away from the lighthouse that night. Caitlin chose to stay near her husband and their two children rather than “moving on,” but she can’t communicate with them and resents any indication she sees that they may be prepared to move on with their own lives.

Ellen Trawton is five months away from her wedding when she decides she has had enough – enough of her overbearing mother, her tepid fiancé, and her life in London that is her mother’s ideal rather than hers. Desperate for space, Ellen heads for the one place that she knows her mother would never think to look for her. Her mother worked hard for 33 years to bury her past in Ireland, and so Ellen is surprised when she arrives to find not just her Aunt Peg, who she assumed was her only family, but a whole village full of aunts, uncles and cousins she has never known. To put off thinking about what to do with her own life, Ellen starts looking for answers to why her mother ran away from her family without ever looking back. Her quest brings her into the path of Conor Macausland, and the two of them are drawn powerfully together. They both have elements of their past to put behind them, but Caitlin’s spirit is not ready to watch Conor create a future that doesn’t include her.

Santa Montefiore’s style reminded me a bit of two of my favorite authors, Susanna Kearsley and Maeve Binchy. Susanna has a gift for writing about women who take their troubles off to remote locations to start over and wind up finding something extraordinary. Her books are gothic and suspenseful, usually romantic, and totally captivating. Maeve Binchy wrote about Irish women. Her stories weren’t plot driven, but character driven – beautiful, moving stories about the small moments in people’s lives. I felt like Montefiore was aiming for something that was a mix of both these styles. She came close, but the magic was missing. It was a good story, and I definitely enjoyed reading it, but it just didn’t have that special something that keeps you from being able to put the book down. Also, there were a few places where a line or two of dialogue seemed to jar with the rest of what was happening in the scene.

The only other thing that kept this book from being a five-star read for me was the speed at which Montefiore threw Ellen and Conor together. In a 300 page book, it takes a hundred pages for Ellen and Conor to even meet for the first time, but the minute they do, they are a couple. It was just too fast to be really believable.

Montefiore does a great job with her setting. Connemara jumps off the page at you, and all the important locations of the book (Conor’s castle, the lighthouse, the local pub, Aunt Peg’s home, and the local chapel) felt realistic and familiar. I liked the character of Aunt Peg, with all her eccentricities and spunky personality, but I did have a bit of trouble keeping all her uncles and cousins straight.

The majority of the “secrets” in this book are pretty easily guessed early on, but I still enjoyed watching Montefiore weave everything together.

Announcement: Part II

 FinalPink

I have been so excited to tell you about this that I can barely stand it. I promised you something big and something pink. Here it is!

Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series will be coming to a close when the twelfth book is published in August of 2015. The Pink books have been a great ride, and I have gobbled them up like candy every time a new one was published. The challenge for readers of a series that has climbed to twelve books? Keeping twelve books’ worth of characters and events straight in your head. Lauren is a whiz at bringing back characters we haven’t seen for a few books and giving them new jobs to do. When I read the tenth book last August, Lauren tossed in a few references that I knew I recognized, but I couldn’t remember quite why. Next year, when Pink XII is released, I want to be up to date with what’s going on. I need to go back and reread the whole series to get ready.

So guess what? I’m going to do just exactly that. Starting in September 2014, I will read one book a month until, voilà, the twelfth book is published in August 2015. That means one year of Napoleonic spies, balls, treasure hunts, sword fights, secret assignations, mistaken identities, heroines of all stripes, and plenty of other good stuff. I’m calling this Pink Extravaganza “Pink for All Seasons.”

The best part of it all? Several of my fellow Pink Enthusiasts are coming with me, and we want you to get involved too! Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance (who designed the beautiful banner and is generally amusing and awesome), Erin, and Beth have all signed on to pick their favorite Pink book and lead a month of fabulous reading. We’ll talk about read-alikes, characters, history, popular conventions, deleted scenes, casting in our “if-only” movie adaptation scenarios, and plenty more.

Did I say the best part? Perhaps I spoke to soon. If you are a regular here, or know me at all, you will know that my affection for Lauren rivals that of Leslie Knope for Ann Perkins .

 Leslie fish

Because Lauren is incredibly gracious and kind, when I approached her about hosting this year-long reread, she agreed to autograph a copy of each of her books for me to give away here on the blog.

To sum up: One year of Pink reading. One book per month. Guest bloggers to guide us through. Prizes. General frivolity. This is going to be an amazing year.

Have you read the Pink books? Do you have a favorite? If you do, and you’d like to participate in Pink for All Seasons, let me know! So far, the only books that are spoken for are these:

  • Pink I: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
  • Pink II: The Masque of the Black Tulip
  • Pink III: The Deception of the Emerald Ring
  • Pink V: The Mischief of the Mistletoe
  • Pink VIII: The Orchid Affair

That leaves seven Pink books for you to choose from, if you are so inclined! Send me an email at ashley.pinkforallseasons@gmail.com, and we can talk about how you can participate.

If you haven’t read the Pink books, this will really be the perfect time to give them a try. I mean, it’s not just me who thinks they are awesome. Lauren’s books have been Romantic Times Top Picks and RT Readers’ and Reviewers’ Choice nominees and winners. Her books have won a RITA, a Booksellers Award, a Golden Leaf Award, and regularly appear on the NYT Best Sellers lists. September is right around the corner, but you have plenty of time to get yourself a copy of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and get excited. This is going to be awesome.

Announcement: Part I

Although I am thoroughly sad to be back from a lovely vacation, it makes me feel MUCH better to be able to announce the first of two surprises on the horizon.

Lauren Willig and St. Martin’s Press are hosting a That Summer read-along on Facebook for the entire month of August. The book will be divided into four sections, and we’ll read six or seven chapters a week to finish by September. Each section of the book will have its own moderator, and guess what? I will be moderating Week 2, August 9-15, and the second section of the book.

There will be prizes. There will be Q&A. There will be behind-the-scenes info. If you haven’t read That Summer yet, get yourself a copy (my library has several copies available – I’ll bet yours does too!) and read along with us. If you HAVE read it already, come hang out with us anyway and swap theories on characters and plot points that you’re still thinking about. I’m anticipating some great conversations.

The FB page is not quite ready to go, but once it is, I will post the link!

“But Ashley,” you are possibly thinking, “what does this have to do with your blog? And I thought you said this surprise would be pink?”

Oh, it is. More exciting news coming tomorrow.

In Which I Am Not Here

plane

The Bubblebath Reader is going on vacation.  We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week.

And just so you know, I have something super exciting to tell you about next week.  Something is coming, y’all.  It’s going to be big… and very, very pink.

Happy Release Day, Deborah Harkness!

book of life

For those of us who have been keeping up with the All Souls trilogy, today is a big day. Deborah Harkness’ new novel, The Book of Life, is out today. It’s the final book of the trilogy, and we’ve been waiting for it for two years. After reading all the hype about the first book in the series (“It’s like Twilight for grown-ups!” Is that a good thing or a bad thing??), I decided to give it a try. Honestly, it was a bit of a slow starter, but by the end, I was invested. The second book, Shadow of Night, grabbed my interest much more quickly, because the characters begin the book by time-traveling to Elizabethan England. Cameo appearances by Shakespeare and Marlowe? Sold. So I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while, and I’m excited to see how Harkness wraps up her story. My only concern – it’s been two years since I checked in with Diana and Matthew, and I may be a little fuzzy on my plot details. We shall see.

Here is what Viking has to say about The Book of Life:

The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

Top Five Friday: Authors as Characters

Anyone who knows my reading habits or has ever looked at my bookshelves knows that I have a definite preference for historical fiction. I’ve gotten accustomed bumping into historical figures like Anne Boleyn, Napoleon, and King George in my books, but it still surprises me when well-known authors pop up as characters. Sometimes they just have little cameos, but in some books, they can be major players in the story. For today’s Top Five Friday, here are my favorite books where authors appear as characters.

mistletoe 1. The Mischief of the Mistletoe, by Lauren Willig. Without a doubt, this book is my favorite in Lauren’s Pink series, and who should put in an appearance but one Jane Austen, friend and confidante of Lauren’s heroine, Arabella. Although Jane only appears in a few chapters, I loved that she was present to be Arabella’s sounding board for everything from her new career in teaching to a developing romance.
 alice 2. Alice, I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin. This is the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, who the world remembers as “Alice in Wonderland.” Benjamin tells the story as an 81-year-old Alice looks remembers the events that would turn out to be the most formative of her life, in both positive and unforeseeably damaging ways – her early friendship with Lewis Carroll.
 good hard look 3. A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano. Although she is not the main character, all of the action in this book hinges on Flannery O’Connor. At twenty-five, Flannery is struggling with lupus, and her mother has insisted that she leave her life as a famous author in New York City and come home to Georgia where her family can look after her. When her mother drags her to the wedding of a family friend, Flannery sets into motion a chain of events that will impact the entire town. Flannery once wrote that “the truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it,” and the cast of characters in this book is forced to acknowledge her truth.
 wide and starry 4. Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan. In 1875, the only socially acceptable way for a woman to leave a cheating husband was to travel to Europe. So when Fanny Osbourne realizes her husband Sam is having yet another affair, she takes her three children and boards a ship to Belgium with the hope of attending a painting school. Fanny’s trip to Europe leads her from Belgium to Paris and, when tragedy strikes, eventually to a house in Grez where a group of poets and playwrights are taking a few weeks of vacation. It is here that Fanny meets Robert Louis Stevenson, and though are initially skeptical of one another, they forge a passionate relationship that will survive terrible illness, betrayal, relentless traveling, and the disapproval of Stevenson’s friends and family.
 paris wife 5. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. This is the story of Hadley Richardson, who was quietly resigning herself to spinsterhood when she met Ernest Hemingway. From the minute they meet, they have an undeniable connection. Their whirlwind courtship and wedding take them to Paris, where they fall headlong into the social circle that will become the “Lost Generation” – Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and the Fitzgeralds. Hadley loves Ernest more than anything else in her world, and she constantly rearranges her life to accommodate him, but she finds that life with Ernest, even though he confesses that he “would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley,” is not the romantic adventure she anticipated.

Does anyone have good recommendations for books where authors are characters?

Happy Friday!

Happy Release Day, Chris Bohjalian!

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Chris Bohjalian has published more than fifteen books, and he’s also written a forward for a 2013 translation of Les Misérables and an introduction for a 2001 Modern Library Classics edition of Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe. I think it’s fair to call him prolific. He has a 2013 release called The Light in the Ruins that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now, since I have considerable affection for World War II novels. He’s also coming to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on July 23rd, which sounds like something I need to take advantage of. Today, his newest novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, is available for purchase.

Here is what Doubleday has to say about Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands:

A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the bestselling author of “Midwives” and “The Sandcastle Girls.”

“Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands” is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily’s parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer’s house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can’t outrun her past, can’t escape her grief, can’t hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

You can read an excerpt for free on Bohjalian’s website.

Top Five Friday: Books That Should Be Movies

I’ve been thinking this week about movies based on books. I think it has something to do with all the adaptations that are either out now or coming soon – The Fault in Our Stars, Mockingjay, The Giver, etc.

I’m sure most people have at least one book that they feel deserves to be a movie. Plus, it’s always fun to think about which actors you would cast for the characters if you got to make the important decisions. So for today’s Top Five Friday, here is my list of books that deserve movie adaptations.

 

pavilions The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye. Okay, I know this book already has a TV mini-series adaptation, but it’s from 1984, and I really think it deserves its own movie. The story is set in India in the late 1800s. A young boy named Ash who doesn’t know that he is British (makes sense when you read the book) and the Indian princess Anjuli are playmates when they are young. The book spans two decades, so you see Ash and Anjuli’s relationship develop as the people of India endure the Sepoy rebellion, British retaliation, and the Second Afghan War. Kaye’s historical and cultural details are so rich, and the story is really immersive.
 pink carnation The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig. Since this is one of my favorite book series, naturally I’d love to see it picked up for movie adaptations. It’s a dual timeline story; in modern London, an American grad student named Eloise is trying desperately to find source material for her dissertation on British spies in France during the Napoleonic Wars. She’s hoping her research on the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian will lead her to the identity of the highly effective and still unmasked spy, the Pink Carnation. In 1803, Amy Balcourt and her cousin Jane Wooliston sail to France to visit Amy’s brother, but Amy has an ulterior motive for the trip – to find the elusive British spy, the Purple Gentian, and establish herself as his second in command. Lots of swashbuckling, secret assignations, and snatching French aristocrats out from under the nose of the Chief of Police. I think the frame story format would make for a great movie.
 king The King Must Die, by Mary Renault. Movies based on myth tend to do pretty well – I’m thinking of Troy and Clash of the Titans, and there’s the new Hercules movie coming out in a few weeks. This is the story of the Greek hero Theseus coming into his own as a king, and it’s the story of the labyrinth and the Minotaur. Renault’s version is great! Political intrigue, revolution, romance, and mythology all packed together so that a story that feels familiar is also original and exciting. Also, I think Luke Evans would make a great Theseus. Just saying.
 chased the moon The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen. I think this story would go over well with people who like magical movies like Big Fish or southern movies like Steel Magnolias. Emily Benedict is in high school when her mother dies, and she moves to Mullaby, NC to live with her grandfather. It’s a small town, and Emily learns quickly that whatever scandalous past her mother had here (which somehow involved the prominent Coffey family) has caused the people of Mullaby to treat Emily with caution. Although she feels she has been singled out, Emily is hardly the only oddity in Mullaby – her grandfather is over eight feet tall, the wallpaper in her bedroom changes color to suit her mood, and mysterious lights dance in her backyard at night. Also, her neighbor Julia bakes cakes as an outlet for expressing her feelings and hopes that they can somehow bridge the gap between her and someone she used to love. It’s a story about second chances and about embracing the quirky things about yourself that make you who you are.
 cinder Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. So if I write a list like this again in a month, this book might not make the cut. But I just finished reading it last week, so it’s on my mind. This is a really interesting futuristic sci-fi take on the Cinderella fairytale. I can’t think of an adequate description at the moment, so here is what the book jacket says: “Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…  Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.” I feel like all the world building that Meyer does in this novel would make for a pretty awesome summer blockbuster.

There are so many other books I want to see made into movies. What about you?

Happy Friday, and Happy Fourth of July!