February 28, 2014

The Monthly Digest: February 2014

Welcome back to The Monthly Digest here at Late Nights with Good Books. With these posts I hope to recap everything reading- and blogging-related for the past month.
The Books

Favorite Read from February:
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch  

Notable Quote from February:
If a life can be ruined in a single moment, a moment of betrayal, or violence, or ill luck, then why can a life not also be saved, be worth living, be made, by just a few pure moments of perfection?
Marcus Sedgwick, Midwinterblood

The Blog

The Writing
Writing Research:
First of all, I now have a Pinterest account. I had a personal one connected to my Facebook but got bored of it over time. This one is going to be primarily reading- and writing-related, and hopefully it'll last longer. Feel free to follow me! (And let me know so I can follow you back.)

Part of the reason behind my decision to create a Pinterest account is because I've been reading Susan Dennard's wonderful advice posts for writers. They're so detailed and so, so helpful. I confess that I haven't actually read her debut trilogy yet, but I plan on doing so soon!

I'm also working my way (very slowly) through Maria Tatar's The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales.

Writing Progress:
Does writing down some research/ideas in my writing journal count? I feel as though I'm failing epically when it comes to writing this story.

March will be a month for writing. My goal will be 7,000 words, but hopefully I'll end up writing quite a bit more. Positive thinking here.

How was your February?
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February 27, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Published: 2014, Viking Juvenile
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Source: Library
Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble

“This is why we all fight so hard. Not just for the vote, but for an equal opportunity in the world. A vote is a voice. I think you underestimate yourself, Queenie. This is your fight, same as it is mine.”

I confess that A Mad, Wicked Folly disappointed me. Once again, I fear that it was the hype that did me in. I mean, it sounded like such a perfect book for me: art, suffragettes, an Edwardian heroine unwilling to allow her gender determine her place in society, who strives to be better than her male peers. But ultimately it’s not as much of a “me” book as I had hoped.

As the daughter of an upper middle class family, Vicky Darling’s life is more or less set out for her. And as far as her parents are concerned, Vicky is in France to attend a finishing school. When they learn otherwise - that Vicky has not only been secretly taking art classes, but that she agreed to pose nude for her fellow artists - she is immediately sent home. The only way they see Vicky’s name (and their own) back in good graces once more is to focus on Vicky’s societal debut and arrange for her marriage.

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February 25, 2014

Top Ten Things on My Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week is a rewind week, meaning that we can each pick older topics to revisit. A few weeks ago, I missed the chance to write about the top ten things on my reading list, so this week I plan to rectify that. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but these are ten aspects that I love in books – and want to see more of in future publications.

Female friendships –
Not every book can be Code Name Verity (and I think that's a very good thing), but I would love to see more books focus on the importance of friendship among their characters, rather than using romance as the primary means to draw readers in. 
Less focus on romance in general When done well, I do enjoy reading about romance. But not every story should have a romance, and I think it's unfortunate that so many authors and publishers feel a romance is necessary in order for a book to do well.
An unrequited love interest protagonist I have begrudgingly accepted the fact that love triangles aren't likely to disappear from stories any time soon. If they have to stay, then why not take a more interesting approach than the female protagonist being the love interest of two guys? Show me stories from the unrequited (or unchosen) romantic interest's perspective.
More pseudo-historical non-European settings in fantasies I love a good European-inspired world as the basis of inspiration for a fantasy series. It's a popular setting because it works well. That doesn't mean that non-European-based fantasy worlds are any less compelling or readable, however. I'd like to see some more of those.
A strong emphasis on political intrigue in speculative fiction I don't care much for real-world politics, but I love it when politics feature heavily in works of fantasy and science fiction. I think a focus on political intrigue is just another way to have readers appreciate the complexity of a fully-imagined fantastical world.
More fairy-tale retellings (preferably from sources that aren't already frequently retold) I love my "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" retellings. But why are only a small fraction of the hundreds of fairy tales attributed to the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Anderson being retold? And what about some tales from non-European countries?
Stories about valkyries – To be fair, I have yet to read either Lesley Livingston's Starling or Ingrid Paulson's Valkyrie Rising, and so clearly there are some recent releases about valkyries. But I want that trend to blossom and continue. I'm fascinated by valkyrie lore and the idea of female warriors who guide the dead.
More speculative fiction standalones Not going to lie: it's super nice to start a new fantasy/science fiction book knowing it's part of a series. I do, however, appreciate those standalone gems where authors have simply one story to tell within this world, and that's it.
Paranormal stories where the humans are superior to the paranormal beings I'm sick of reading stories where humans are the weaker, inferior beings. Where are the stories where paranormal beings just aren't that great? The stories that show how awesome humanity can be, even without mystical powers?
More stories told in the third-person past tense – This is my favorite type of narration right here. I was over present tense before it became (probably) the most common narrative tense for current YA novels. I loathe first-person present tense. I just like how third-person past tense tends to be a bit more formal and distant. I feel like I get a better view of the novel as a whole.

So those are some of the elements I'd love to see used more frequently in books that are getting published. Do you agree with any of them? Have any that you think I should add to my list? Let me know! 
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February 21, 2014

Ready to Become a Fan of...Rachel Neumeier

Ready to Become a Fan of... focuses on those authors new and old whose works I have every intention of eventually reading, but haven't been able to devote the time to just yet. By discussing authors and their works that I'm sure I'll love, given the chance, hopefully I can be more easily compelled to take the next step in not simply acquiring one of their books, but actually taking the time to read it.

This month I'm putting on record that I am ready to become a fan of Rachel Neumeier.

About the author:
Rachel Neumeier is the author of seven fantasy novels for adult and young adult readers, including House of Shadows and The Floating Islands. Her most recent novel, Black Dog, was published by Strange Chemistry this past February 4. She has a fairly active presence on her website and various social media platforms.
Work I'm most looking forward to reading:
Lord of the Changing Winds (The Griffin Mage trilogy)

Fire fell from their wings, and the ground beneath them burned …

The desert winds have come to the village of Minas Ford. Griffins, creatures of fire, have appeared in a burning haze – searing the sky a blinding white and scorching the earth to parched, barren sand. These majestic beasts, half-lion, half-eagle, spread the arid desert wherever they roam.

Iaor, the King of Feierabiand, will not tolerate the destruction of his people’s farmland. He means to drive the griffins from his domain – whether by negotiation or brute force.

But not all those who encounter the griffins fear them. Kes, a timid village girl, is summoned to heal the King of the Griffins himself. She will discover her affinity with these creatures, and come to realise that the menace they flee is even more deadly than the blazing fires of the desert. (Goodreads)

Why this author & this work:
I first heard about Rachel Neumeier when House of Shadows was published in 2012. I was so interested in the sound of that story: a high fantasy supposedly filled to the brim with political intrigue. And as more people began discussing Neumeier’s latest work, that inevitably led to mentions of her other novels, all fantasies as far as I can tell.  

It’s not an understatement to say that I was surprised - and pleased - to find a new author who writes novels in my favorite genre. After looking into her published works, I think I’m actually most interested in reading Neumeier’s The Floating Islands. The synopsis and reviews I’ve read of it promise adventure, girls masquerading as boys, and dragons. I clearly am meant to read that story, and I will. Eventually.

Outside of the synopsis here for Lord of the Changing Winds and the knowledge that it is written by a seemingly well-respected fantasy author, I haven’t heard much about that story. Except, apparently, that it features griffins, which is pretty awesome. I picked Lord of the Changing Winds as my introduction to Neumeier’s works first and foremost because I own the omnibus ebook edition. (Nothing better than binge-reading a fantasy series, right?) It will be nice to have even more of an incentive to read books I already own, rather than going out to buy or borrow new ones. Even more than that, however, I am excited about the fact that I know next-to-nothing about this book. Since I started blogging and carefully deciding what books to spend my time reading, I’ve lost the opportunity to go into a new book with few preconceived notions.

While it’s nice sometimes to have at least slight knowledge beforehand about the book I am going to read, I miss reading a book blind, being unfettered by expectations. And what better way is there for me to get back into reading blind than with a high fantasy? I have high hopes that Neumeier will become another fantasy author for me to adore.

For those of you who've already read some of Rachel Neumeier’s works, I'd appreciate hearing what you think about them. For those who also haven't read her works yet, let me know what's been holding you back!

Ready to Become a Fan of... is an original feature of Late Nights with Good Books.
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February 19, 2014

Review: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
Published: 2013, Carolrhoda LAB
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Library
Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble

Evan Carter is the perpetual Fucking New Guy. His dad is a well-known, well-respected computer engineer who moves frequently, with Evan in tow. His dad’s latest move has left Evan attending a boarding school in North Carolina. Evan has no reason to expect that this stint in North Carolina will be anything different than any other move, so he plans on fully taking advantage of his newcomer status to hook up with some girls before moving on.

But Evan has the misfortune of being the object of desire for one girl whose ex-boyfriend isn’t willing to let her go. And Collette, the girl that Evan does initiate a relationship with, is the ex-girlfriend of his current roommate. When the two guys find out about how their ex-girlfriends feel about him, they brutally attack both Evan and Collette.

After the incident, Evan is left with more bruises, stitches, and broken bones than he can count, along with a ruptured spleen. His father pulls him out of school and decides that they should spend the rest of the spring and summer at a family cabin in Pearl Lake, Minnesota. There, his father hopes that Evan can begin to recover.
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February 18, 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader & Being a Blogger

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're discussing the top reasons why we love being a blogger or a reader. I decided to list the reasons behind both why I love being a reader and why I love being a (book) blogger.

I love being a reader because books:  
Are my favorite form of entertainment  
Allow to me be anyone, to go anywhere, and to learn tons of new things in the process  
Provide me with inspiration for my writing  
Give me a better grasp of language and expand my vocabulary (What can I say? I love words) 
Are the best way to de-stress at the end of the day

I love being a (book) blogger because blogging allows me to: 
Interact with fellow book lovers
Be in the know with regard to book trends, upcoming book publications, and book deals  
Have an incentive to think critically about literature 
Gain a greater awareness (and appreciation) of the publishing process 
Engage in analytical, critical writing about literature  

I love how both of these hobbies allow me to introduce others to potential new favorite books. Because, really, I want everyone to love all the books.

This is perhaps not my most exciting Top Ten Tuesday post, but this topic is near and dear to my heart. Being a reader and being a book blogger puts me closer to one of my main passions in life: being a writer. Nothing communicates to me as well to me as stories do, after all.  

Do you feel the same way? Please let me know why you love being a reader, being a blogger, or being both.
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February 12, 2014

Review: The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
Series: Amour et Chocolat, #1
Published: 2012, Kensington Books
Genre: Adult Romance, Contemporary
Source: Purchased
Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble

A thief who stole chocolate but not his laptop? He might have to marry her. He could feel himself falling in love just at the idea.
He hoped she had worn black leather pants.


Cade Corey is heiress to a multimillion dollar chocolate empire. Every minute thousands of Americans eat Corey Bars (sold for 33 cents at Walmart). The Corey empire also owns a significant percentage of all the cacao plantations around the world. Cade has spent her whole life working for the family business, and decides she wants to help the company grow even more by creating an artisan chocolate line, preferably with the name of a famous Parisian chocolatier attached to it.

Sylvain Marquis is widely considered to be Paris’ premier chocolatier, and so Cade travels to France to proposition him with a business arrangement. Sylvain, however, has no desire to sell out–or to lower himself to make chocolate that would be sold at grocery stores. Although their meeting is less than ideal, Cade remains in Paris to seek other potential business partners. But Cade finds she cannot stay away from Sylvain’s chocolaterie, nor can she get him out of her head. And, unbeknownst to her, she haunts Sylvain’s thoughts as well. And his chocolaterie. Parisian chocolate may have brought them together, but a relationship between them will be anything but easy.
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February 10, 2014

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Series: Starbound, #1
Published: 2013, Disney Hyperion
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Source: Library
Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble

It’s not difficult to see the way he looks at me, even though he tries now to hide his impatience and annoyance. How quickly one’s delusions come crashing down–the soldiers aren’t watching is society folk, wishing they could touch us. They’re laughing at us in our bright dresses and parasols, our immaculately re-created drawing rooms and parlors. And what was funny in the sparkling world of the Icarus is simply pathetically ridiculous down here, in the kind of world they live in day to day. I’m not even close to the type of girl he’d want, just as I’ve been signaling at every opportunity that he’s the last man in the galaxy I’d want to touch.
The only difference is that I was wrong.

For both Lilac LeRoux, a socialite and heiress to the LaRoux Industries empire, and Tarver Merendsen, a lower-class young war hero, the journey aboard the luxury spaceliner Icarus is just a means to an end. They come into contact with one another a few times briefly but think nothing of it until they meet again in the worst possible circumstances: something has caused the Icarus to be yanked out of hyperspace. Lilac and Tarver find themselves alone together on an escape pod and crash land on a nearby planet. Shortly afterwards, the two of them witness the spectacularly horrifying descent of the Icarus.

Neither Lilac or Tarver is particularly fond of their current company, or of being stranded on this terraformed planet that for some reason seems to lack any civilization. And so the two of them begin the long trek across the planet to reach the wreckage of the Icarus and, hopefully, rescue ships.
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