Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Slut Awards - Willow's picks.

2012 came and now it's headed out. The year is glancing back over its shoulder at us and giving a wave, and I imagine a smirk, because it didn't end the world. No zombies or angels, and not one vampire. 2012 was trying and exhausting, but like any book worthy of my shelf, it tested and its characters, who maybe had never even considered themselves all that tough, stood up as best they could and best of all? They fell into epic loves.

Here's to the year that didn't break us and to the books that are overcrowding both my here on the ground made of wood and nails shelves and the cloud ones. Because it's about to be 2013, you guys, and while we may not have those hoverboards McFly promised us yet, we do have shelves in clouds and that's pretty magical.

Here is my list of the new discoveries, the ones I finally read, the recommendations that turned into obsessions and the book that carved its' name onto my soul.

(I'll show you the scars.)

2012 Slut Awards - Pen-rye-n's Picks

2012 was a weird year, wasn't it? A lot happened. We watched a ship capsize and the Giants won the Super Bowl. We lost Whitney and Etta and Michael and Phyllis and Sherman and Andy and Nora and Donna and Dick and Davy and Ray (Oh God, will I ever recover from that one?) and Neil and a whole slew of other celebrities that broke our hearts when we heard the news. Hurricane Sandy rocked the northeastern coast and we were enraged when Trayvon Martin was shot. We mourned for people in Aurora, Colorado and Newton, CT and cheered when Sandusky was convicted. We wondered if the zombies were rising and we saw a dude jump from space and the Mayans were wrong. We proved we don't go back once we go black. We met Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss and fanfiction got a movie deal and vampires saved my grandma.It was a busy year, full of heartache and happiness, joy and sorrow, and we spent it doing things. And reading. We read a lot.

So now, as we take down the streamers and sweep up the glitter and get ready to pack 2012 away, I'm rounding up all my faves from this year for one last go around.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Broken bones, Bad Divorces and Horny Dogs.

The Other Side of UsThe Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sarah Mayberry feels like a new discovery. A second wind that's sending me rushing through everything I love so much about a really good, solid contemporary romance. This is where character counts. Everything comes down to the two leads when you don't have car chases, epic quests or dragons. It all comes down to chemistry, growth, humor and the unfolding of a romance. It comes down to the story of two people and whether they're strong enough to carry it.

Maybe not everyone thinks of all those things when they think of romance, but a really good writer will. Sarah Mayberry is a fantastic writer that knows her characters, this genre, and the magic that can happen when you write a really good, solid story about two people falling in love.

Can you hear me sighing? It's a long, delicious one.

Oliver is the grown up guy version of a Sad But Still Mad Taylor Swift song. But in a hot, gruff Gonna Get Away For Awhile kind of way. He was in a big band several lifetimes ago, and since then has been working as a sound engineer for others, and he'll shrug his shoulders with that small smile and say he followed the predictable path of the washed up rock star. He just found out like a punch to the face that his wife of six years is having an affair.

The wife who was once the singer in his big band.

It's a nasty, awful place to be so he leaves to put to rights his dead aunt's beach house, where next door a tiny pixie of a woman is right off the bat rude to him. Unknown to him she's on the mend from a horrific car accident, and will turn the tides with her own hands if it'll only mean she can finally get back to her high stakes life of being a TV producer.

Except, they're not waiting for her, and she's riddled with scars and this close to losing it. She just wants to avoid people right now.

Too bad their dogs are trying to bang it out. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Have Yourself a Swoony Christmas.

It wasn't until last year while I went through shelves and shelves of Holiday themed romances that I actually read one. There I was, working at the library, setting up display upon display of holly jolly books, and people were coming up and asking for recommendations and I was the Scrooge that hadn't dabbled in the glitter and mistletoe.
I was a reindeer in the headlights. 
The Paperback Queen. The Book Slut. The Swooner of Rakes, Lumberjacks and Alphas alike.
And I hadn't read a holiday romance? What was wrong with me? The swoony moments are bountiful in books filled with hometown drama, depressed drinking, and forced cheer. 
So, I jumped in with spread hands and I grabbed and I took and it was magic. 

 Here wrapped in shiny bows are some of my favorite holiday romances. May they cover you in tinsel and sexual tension.

Monday, December 3, 2012

(Rêveurs) Passing Notes: The Night Circus.

Dear friend,

It is back.

It wasn't announced this time. There was no whispers from the other Rêveurs around that reside near me. Maybe it was unplanned? I don't know for certain. I only know that I went to bed two nights ago and the field was empty. When I woke up the next morning and let the dog out, the black and white striped tents loomed against the sky, as if they had always been there in my backyard and I had never noticed.

I could barely concentrate all day. 

You know, better than any other in our circle, that I do not have the privilege of following the circus around like so many of the others do. There is simply too much for me to do here at home. A family that depends on me to be here doing for them. But when it's nearby, I simply can't keep myself away. It calls to me, like I suspect it does for so many others. It makes me believe in things I haven't since I was a child, but wanted to. Oh, how I've wanted to.

I thought about taking the boys this time. After all, hadn't I just told you a few weeks ago that when it comes back, when it sets up shop in the field behind my house once again, that I would? It would delight them, I'm sure of it. They take more after me in that, than they do their father, who is a wonderful, but realistic man. I couldn't do it though. I still haven't done it. Though my oldest has asked about it every morning since it arrived.

Perhaps I will take them tonight.

It's just that it feels like it's mine, you know? That when it comes, it comes solely for me. To remind me that magic is real. It's hard to share that, even with my own flesh and blood. There's a part of me that wants it to stay mine, even from those whom I call my own. I'm terribly selfish that way.

But it has not changed, friend! True, they are offering more treats than they were the last time I was there. A sweet dough fried and topped with cinnamon and sugar. Like a donut, almost, though lighter. Airier. There were a few new tents as well. The labyrinth has become even more elaborate with new rooms and tunnels and mazes. Dreams stacked upon dreams. I could have stayed there all night. I nearly did.

 The illusionist is still missing.

I missed her performances greatly. I always stopped there, you know? To watch her. To feel the enchantment of her acts hum across my skin like electricity. In fact, where her tent once stood, always stood, no matter where they set up, what nearby city I visited them in, wasn't even there. I'm not sure what that could mean, but I suspect we've saw the last of her. I know you will feel the same amount of disappointment I do about that theory. After all, we did meet there, didn't we? Forged our friendship leaving a tent that had us closed in only moments before. I haven't written to any of the others yet, to tell them the news. I felt as though you should know first.

But everything else is still the same. And what a lovely same it is. The clock, that glorious clock, still waits to greet us. A little bit of our founder looking over us, beckoning us to the very place that brought us all together in the first place.

I have this fear, one that I've never told another, that I'm going to visit it one day, step through the gates, past that clock, and discover the last few years were nothing but a glorious dream. That the object of my obsession is nothing more than an ordinary circus that happens to keep odd hours. That there's nothing there but fabric and slight of hands and a fire that burns bright in the center, but is nothing more than a regular fire in a regular pit. I've woken up out of sound sleeps with this very fear making my heart race. It would be like losing a piece of myself, were it to happen. A piece that laid dormant until I visited the circus for the very first time and became spellbound by what I found there. You and I, we are more than simple enthusiasts, as the other Rêveurs call themselves. We are the obsessed. The believers of magic. The ones who feel what is going on behind every show, every illusion. The circus is our true home, they ones we live in every other time of the year just a resting place.

I must go for now. A few other Rêveurs were in attendance last night and I invited them over for dinner tonight. We are, of course, going back after I get the boys into bed. Unless I decide to take them after all. Share the specialness that is that place with them, watch the wonder as it fills their hearts like it does ours.

Until next time.

Dearest friend,

I'm waiting. As I have been since it last left, and as I will until it returns. That's the in between stage, isn't it? We Rêveurs, we the obsessed, we are perpetually waiting, pacing, searching. 

I kept hoping that when you next sent word you would have new stories about the Illusionist. That I'd read how you turned the corner and finally, yes, there was her tent and as you hurriedly went inside with that delicious tightness in your chest, hardly able to sit still until finally that quiet hush came over the room. The one that catches fire with barely a breath from her. But to know that she's still gone, and appears to not be returning gives me pause. It's a heavy, grief-filled one. The kind where a believer must set down their pen and look away from this for awhile. Maybe look past the hill for the tops of tents. 

I'm anxious for it to return, however it may come to me. I need to walk the ice garden, climb the clouds. I have wishes to plant. I need to disappear past the clock and lose myself in a flame while wearing cinnamon coated fingers. In my day to day life I can not match the freedom I find when I'm there. The freedom of possibility. Each turn that leads into an opening of a tent is a promise of more. One that will delight or surprise or stretch what you thought possible, but with warm, nimble hands. It's a soft, soothing touch that life outside that gate can not promise. It's that initial walk into the tent that I could happily share with others, but like you, what I find inside, what illusions it creates in my mind, nose and heart are selfishly mine. 

And so I wait. Bundled in my coat, I spend more of my waking life sitting on a bench beside a playground looking past the hill. My mind's eye draws the scene, and I find myself taking deep breaths, searching for hazelnut and chocolate. I hear children laugh and I wonder of the twins and their delightful kittens. A child stretches her legs up onto the monkey bars and it's the Contortionist mystifying me as always. I sit so still it makes me think of the statues, and I wonder of their thoughts. Especially the lovers; how slow, how torturous. A voice startles me from my thoughts and it's the joyous shriek of a little girl as she flies down the slide into her brother's arms. They race towards me and I know that next time, I, too, will share the circus with my children. I want to plant this seed of magic into fertile soil. 

I hope that my next letter to you, always to you first, will be filled with new stories. Of the morning when I'll walk into my children's bedroom and finally see something past the hill. Of taking them to the playground on yet another day, but this time knowing that beyond it mine has returned. 

Give my best to the others. May we live in this in between together. 

Yours in Waiting, 

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Our rating: 5 of 5 stars