A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé (T: French-English by Alison Anderson)

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Source: Goodreads

The Good Novel has been open just over a year in Paris when three of its secret selection committee members are attacked. Now it is up to Ivan, Franchesca, and officer Heffner to unravel the mystery of who is behind the obvious sabotage attempts before someone ends up dead or the store is forced to close. Told from the view of a mysterious narrator who is determined to write the history of the shop and its founders, A Novel Bookstore will carry its readers away just as the stories available at The Good Novel do its customers.

Part mystery, part romance, all literary, A Novel Bookstore astounded me at every turn. Much of the mystery is left in the dark as the narrator can only share what he/she knows, but with each character introduced the intrigue grows and the reader becomes more involved in the story. At 416 pages, this novel is fairly hefty but definitely worth the read. The translation is impeccable. Only one word was mistranslated, and I think it more likely that it was translated correctly and misspelled/autocorrected to the wrong word. While it is, on occasion, hard to understand whether Ivan or Francesa is speaking during their tête-à-têtes due to quotation mark use, the difficulty is only mildly annoying as it typically doesn’t matter for you to know exactly which of them is speaking.

I enjoyed every page immensely, from the bits about book selling to the selection committee, to the backgrounds of the committee people and Ivan and Francesca’s lives. Whether everything was interesting to me because of my love for all things literary as well as historical, or the way the narrator weaves the history of the store, I was mesmerized by every detail. Most of all, from about a third or halfway through the story, I became obsessed with the idea of the narrator. To write, as an author, from a character’s point of view as if they are the author, fascinated me, and then the fact that we do not find out until the final pages who this mysterious narrator is was just too much. I couldn’t put the book down all week, reading a paragraph here and there anytime I had a moment to myself. It is easy to digest, while at the same time it leaves you wanting so much more. The Jane Austen quote, “If a book is well written I always find it too short.” definitely applies in this case.

I do not know if there will be a sequel to Cossé’s work, especially given the way things ended, but if there ever is another work like it or involving The Good Novel and its colorful cast of characters, I will be there on release day to buy it.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Life Log February 25th, 2017 – Meeting Elise Kova

Today is one of those days that I hope I remember forever, and it all started by sleeping in for the first time in a month.

The original plan was to get up at 6:30 and do some early morning writing at one of my two favorites Starbucks locations in the city, but when my alarm went off I decided to sleep in instead. I got up around 11:30 and ate some lunch before heading out into the city to explore, as I have most weekends since I moved here in October. I’m always discovering new things.

My first stop was Coolidge Corner, where I wanted to scope out Brookline Booksmith before I attend the V.E. Schwab signing there on Monday (Update: It was CROWDED, but awesome, and Victoria is pretty great). It’s always good to know where you’re going, folks. After I found it and browsed for a bit, I decided to follow Beacon Street back towards  Boston Common and see what else was in the area. In as little as 10 minutes I was overwhelmed with my love for this city. Everything, even the deserted parts of the streets and the little half-hidden parks and personal gardens make me smile. I felt like standing the middle of the road, twirling, crying, and screaming about how much Boston means to me, but I didn’t because there was traffic and quite a few people around. I did smile and skip through the drizzle that started soon after though, and that was almost as fun.

When the rain started to get harder and the wind began blowing it into my eyes I ducked into the nearest Starbucks, which happened to be at Kenmore Square near Boston University, and settled in to wait out the downpour. Can I just say that the baristas there are super sweet? I was sitting at the counter, working on a map for The Everest Chronicles and sipping my hot cocoa (Starbucks Cocoa is the best), and listening to them chat. One of them was new, and while she had a handle on everything, she was one of those employees that knows exactly the right questions to ask those who’ve worked there longer, like “it’s this syrup, 4 squirts, right?” not “how do I make that again?” She was just fantastic, and her eyeliner was on point. The guy sitting next to me apparently also works there, but he wasn’t on duty and was instead actively studying for midterms. Still, their convos were hysterical to listen to, and they even included me in them occasionally, which was kind of them. Everyone there was just nice, and it made the time fly until the rain stopped.

I emerged back into the sunshine and crossed the street to a Barnes & Noble I had spotted just before I’d reached Starbucks. As I walked through the door I noticed one of those events signs they always have up. The book pictured on the poster was The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova, and it said she would be there at 3 pm on February 25th. I looked at my phone, and wouldn’t you know it, it was 3:15, on the 25th.

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If you’ve never heard of The Alchemists of Loom, fear not. I hadn’t heard of it either until last month, but three authors/BookTubers I follow on social media: Sasha Alsberg from A Book Utopia, Lindsay Cummings, and Regan from Peruse Project on YouTube, have since been raving about it. Lindsay blurbed it, and Sasha and Regan are reading it for their virtual book club this month. It’s been very high on my radar, and therefore I got very excited when I saw the poster. I walked back to the sci-fi/fantasy section and bought the book, and then asked the cashier where the event was. He cheerfully told me it was upstairs, and off I went.

I walked in to find a group of about 10 people sitting in chairs, listening to Elise explain the publishing process. She talked about editing, querying, and the writing process in general. When I asked her, she said that she started writing in 6th grade, when the teacher assigned the class a 5-page story, due at the end of the year. Everyone groaned because in 6th grade five pages sounds like a life sentence, but Elise immediately decided to write a chapter book. Her teacher tried to dissuade her, but Elise was determined. The book ended up being novella length, and while she says it was truly terrible, she did suggest that she might share a few pages with her newsletter subscribers one day.

One mom asked if Kova had any advice for young writers, especially those in high school. I found out later that her daughter and a friend were sitting across the aisle from me, 9th graders. “Write a lot, and often,” Elise said. “Read. And get on Twitter. There are a ton of authors on Twitter to engage with and ask questions of.”

After everyone’s questions were answered, Kova signed her books and chatted with all of the attendees. When it was my turn, I admitted that I hadn’t read the book yet, but I’d heard so much about it from Sasha and Lindsay (and Regan!) that I couldn’t wait to read it. I also told her that I loved what she had to share about publishing, and how I was applying to a graduate publishing program and writing my own stuff. She was extremely nice, and warm, and simply lovely to talk to. She signed my copy of The Alchemists of Loom, personalizing it with ‘To Amanda, You’re perfect! ~Elise Kova’, which made me smile and do an inner little cheer because she’s really just so nice and the fact that she thought I was nice was very cool!

As I left the BU Barnes & Noble, it was still beautifully sunny outside and the cool breeze left by the rainstorm made the city feel like paradise. I continued my exploration for another hour or so before heading home, where I’m currently writing to you from while I eat my Kraft Mac & Cheese. I’ve only now realized that I forgot to grab any of the swag from the Kova event, and also that I didn’t ask to take a picture with her, but since it was my first time at a book/author event, I guess it’s okay that I didn’t do any of that. I was too excited to remember. Maybe next time!

I’m about to dive into the first episode of Stranger Things, and then I’m going to read some more of the book I’ve been carrying around with me all day, A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I’m hoping to be knee deep in the final installment, A Conjuring of Light, by the time I meet her at the book tour event on Monday. As soon as I’m done with that book, however, you can bet that I’ll be devouring The Alchemists of Loom. Stay tuned to Highlights and Hot Chocolate in the coming months for a review. I just have to find somewhere in my posting schedule to fit it in!

I wish you all a good evening, a good book, and a comfy place to read. ❤

I hope you’ve enjoyed this new type of post on my blog, a sort of written version of a vlog (because I don’t have a decent camera or editing software to actually make one of those). I don’t know yet if I’ll keep doing them, so let me know what you think in the comments. While you’re down there writing things, what was your first book/author event? I’m interested to hear everyone’s experiences!

Until next time,

Amanda

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) – V.E. Schwab

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Source: Goodreads

Kell is a traveler, one of only two people in existence who can move between Londons. There’s Grey London, where King George III rules a world where magic is only a legend. There’s Red London, where magic flourishes and the Thames glows with power. There is White London, where rather than be forced into subservience, natural magic has fled, leaving those with amulets and runes the only wielders of the power left. Then there’s Black London, so consumed by its own magic that it was cut off from the others. Abandoned. Forbidden. Hidden. Until now.

Kell is a collector despite the fact that moving anything except royal mail across Londons is illegal. When he is given a token from a stranger to return to Black London, he knows he’s in trouble.

Delilah Bard is a thief who dreams of adventure. When she stumbles upon Kell and the Black London token, she only sees opportunity.

Holland is the White Traveler, but despite this rare freedom, he has become hard and unbearable. Without the Black London token he is hopeless, but getting it could put him in even more danger.

V. E. Schwab’s first novel in the Shades of Magic series sweeps readers up in Kell, Delilah, and Holland’s adventures through multiple worlds where magic is alternatingly unknown, praised, and desperately sought after. Told from multiple points of view, the reader learns about the many Londons and the worlds they inhabit slowly, despite the characters’ knowledge of them. This is one adventure that is both humorous and dark while being twisting and intricate. The first few chapters moved a little slowly for me, in part because it jumps in head first, and adjusting to the multiple Londons takes some time. Once I was used to the world, I couldn’t get enough. The suspense of what would happen to my favorite characters was akin to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (See my review of that here), in that you never knew who was safe, and the dark magic would like to have a mind of its own, thank you very much.

I picked this novel up after seeing it everywhere from BookTube to my Amazon and Barnes & Noble recommendations list, and I am not sorry I did. At 390 pages in paperback, this book is a pretty good size. The organization of the work is amazing. Each section has a name, and the chapters are numbered but not named within each section. The jury is still out on whether this made reading it feel faster or slower. I’m the kind of person who prefers world-building to be upfront rather than scattered in the wind, so this was overall a slow read because I had trouble picturing things where they should be, and also keeping all the Londons straight in my head. But still, the plot was good and the characters mysterious and intriguing, so it’s a win on my list.

I enjoyed the lack of romance. There were hints, here and there, as well as diversity in race and sexuality that were very nice, but this was not a love story within a fantasy adventure, and for that I am grateful. Apparently we’re getting some steamy scenes in A Conjuring of Light, however, so I may need to reassess after I read that installment. I’m curious about Kell and Holland’s pasts, and I can’t wait to learn more about Black London when I pick up A Gathering of Shadows later this month.

Book two, A Gathering of Shadows, was just released in paperback (and conveniently arrived at my house the next day), and book three, A Conjuring of Light, comes out TODAY in hardcover. My covers aren’t going to match, but at least I’ll have all three books for the V. E. Schwab signing I’m going to on the 27th (Next Monday!) here in Boston. This will be my first book event, so I’m very excited.

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – A Gathering of Shadows
Book #3 – A Conjuring of Light

January/February Update – 2017 Goals Check-In

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Hello!!

It’s been nearly two months, hasn’t it? I’ve been wishing I could hibernate until spring comes, but with the snow piling ever higher I know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Boston is still pretty fantastic, especially now that I’ve re-located the Starbucks I wrote so well in back in November. I may have visited every Starbucks in the city over the last 10 weeks in the course of my search. Which is actually quite a feat considering. #SorryNotSorry

So, snow: Check. Starbucks: Check. I saw Hidden Figures recently and oh my goodness is it amazing. And wonderful. And just positively breathtaking. It’s radical. I loved it. I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.

I also made it to the Museum of Fine Art in January to see the Impressionist exhibit and actually cried when I saw all the Monets and Renoirs. My mother loves impressionist artwork, especially by those two, and seeing them in person was magical. I am physically tearing up thinking about it. I also bought a postcard size of Renoir’s Grand Canal and have tacked it up to my storyboard. The colors are so amazing, the water even now seems to ripple in a light wind. Beautiful.

This weekend I am traveling up to the University of Maine, Orono (which I’ve just found out I’ve been spelling wrong for years. I thought it was Orohno, which I found amusing.), for their home meet for Woodsmen’s Team. If you’ve never seen lumberjack sports, you are in for a treat! Despite the deep snow, it promises to be exciting. And cold, as usual. Also, my parents are visiting, so yay, family!

Hopefully, I’ll have time to write individual and more lengthy posts about those three excursions, but I can’t guarantee it right now. Okay, enough chitchat. Onto the goals check-in! I suddenly have a lot of them. Que trying to organize my life.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day:
Nope. But I did write over 2000 words on Saturday between camping out at the library and writing at Starbucks. So that’s pretty good! December was plain nuts with holidays and visiting family, and January was consumed by my Grad School application and severe writer’s block.

I finally realized that my last chapter and a half from NaNoWriMo went off a cliff because I hadn’t written enough background for the side characters to have personalities. Oops. So Saturday I wrote character backgrounds. Fun times.

Apply to Full Time Jobs: #BabysittingLife

Apply to Grad School: You guys, I did it! I got everything, including essays, references, resumes, and transcripts in before the scholarship/fellowship deadline. And now the waiting begins. *Breathes Deeply*

2017 Goals:
Stick to My Budget: meh. Not terrible, but not great. If you follow Curio Street Reads you’ll notice I have a weakness for books.

Pay Lots of Student Loans: Not so much of a party in my bank account. But I’m getting there. Yay monthly payment plans!

Build Savings Account: Actual party in my bank account.

Spend Less Than $500 on Books This Year: Yes, this is a real, albeit first-world, problem. If only people would actually get me books for my birthday/Christmas… JK, I would still have this problem, I’d just also have MORE BOOKS! Rather than attempt to curtail my book buying habit, I’ve decided to try to buy from sites like Thrift Books and Book Depository, and occasionally Amazon (Okay, there’s actually a lot of Amazon. I have prime specifically for this reason.), rather than Barnes and Noble (to which I have a membership because duh.). LET’S JUST AGREE I HAVE A READING/BOOK BUYING ADDICTION, OKAY? Also, I need more bookshelves. And don’t even get me started on all the independent bookstores in Boston that I haven’t located yet. They exist. There’s one I pass on my way to church. I’ve started going to early church just so I’m out of the area before that store opens. My life is a struggle.

Only Buy New Clothes Seasonally: This is agony because I recently discovered I have Primark and Madewell in Boston, but so far I’m doing okay.

Get 8+ hours of sleep/Go to bed by 10 pm: HAHAHAHAHA self you are silly. There are books to read and Netflix shows like The Crown and Stranger Things to watch. Not to mention they’ve done a spectacular job of keeping my favorite cheesy rom-com, A Christmas Kiss (which I own btw, but that’s not relevant), in the streaming library for days like today when I’m all exhausted because hormones.

Only Watch Three Movies/Five Episodes Per Week: Because the struggle is real. I watched five episodes of The Crown this week and it’s only Wednesday. I want to start Stranger Things but this goal is helping me stop myself. I have writing to do. And reading. Yeah. Reading. And writing.

Finish Craft Projects: I have three projects (Crochet, Latch-Hook, Embroidery) that I started over a year ago (some over 10 years ago) that I never finished. They will be done by the end of the year. Period.

Post Regularly: Oops.

Keep Up With Book Reviews: At this point not posting my weekly book review makes me feel like my life is falling apart. Maybe someday this part of the blog will feel the love too. But not just yet.

Plan Monthly Post Schedules: Did that. Didn’t write the posts. Am sad.

Read 50+ Books: I think I’m a book behind to reach 52. But guys, Elantris (Review out 4/25) was long. SO worth it, but the first 300 pages were slow for me. Argh.

Get In Shape: I’ve been trying to explore the city every weekend, but it’s hard to do anything with all this snow.

Walk 40+ Miles Per Month: So far, so good! Pretty happy about this one.

Finish Everest Draft: I Think I Can, I Think I Can. Ideally, I’ll be done by July, though if I have to keep stopping to write character and country background, it might be November. I just sent the first three chapters to three friends who read some of the very rough versions I wrote originally (think grades 7-10), and am letting them edit/comment/proof those for flow, etc. We’ll see what they think. In the meantime, I want to focus on chapters 4-6 and worldbuilding now that everyone is in roughly the same place.

Write 20,000 Words Per Month: Not in January. We’ll see if I can even hit 10,000 in February.  The child is teething.

Run a 5K in under 30 Minutes: If I ever see the ground again, maybe I’ll actually start running and this goal will be feasible.

January Goals:
Submit Grad School Application: YES!

Order New Computer: After SIX years on the same Dell laptop, I am happy to say I am now the proud owner of a new HP Pavillion laptop (and it’s RED!). You have no idea how exited I am, or how happy my back is to be carrying only 5lbs now, instead of 10lbs. *tears of joy* Also, the storage space is positively luxurious by comparison. MY PRECIOUS.

Read 3+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley,
*Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson,
and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, which I didn’t finish until February.

Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished)
*Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (Screenplay),
*Stone Heart by Luanne Rice,
*Grace, Not Perfction by Emily Ley,
*The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss,
and  *Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

Re-Outline Everest: That’s right, I re-outlined and added a whole new thread to the story because I had a huge dead spot in the second half, and now we’ll see where this takes me. It’s going to be a lot of fun to write at least!

February Goals:
Read 7+ Books: (* indicates finished)
*Elantris by Brandon Sanderson,
*Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene
*Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
Tris’ Book by Tamora Pierce,
Briar’s Book by Tamora Pierce,
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé and translated from French into English by Alison Anderson,
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald,
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab,
and *Farewell Speeches by Barack and Michelle Obama.

Write 4+ Book Reviews: (* indicates finished)
*Nancy Drew and the Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene (Review out 2/7),
*The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Review out 2/14),
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Review out 2/21),
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (Review out 2/28),
*Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce (Review out 4/18),
and Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Review out in 2018).

Write 20,000 Words of Everest: We’ll see! Currently: 2513. HA!

Run 12 Miles: Not in this snow, I won’t. I’ll let the people training for the Boston Marathon have the icy roads to themselves, thanks.

 

 

So, that’s me. Plodding along and clearly not hibernating. Oh well, try again next year.

Until Next Time,

Amanda

The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicle, #2) – Patrick Rothfuss

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Source: Goodreads

Kvothe Kingkiller is known far and wide for his deeds, but few know that he runs a small town inn and pretends none of his past actually happened. That’s why  The Chronicler came to Newarre, to write down the notorious and enlightening history of the greatest man who ever lived. Kvothe has agreed to give the Chronicler three days to write his story, of which The Wise Man’s Fear comprises the second.  Mysteries abound as faeries work their magic, kings and mages construct doomed plans, and Kvothe learns to trust more than just himself.

I may have picked the first book because of a guy I liked, but I picked up its sequel because I couldn’t get the first volume out of my head. Again, the books in this series are enormous. The first was 662 pages, and this tome clocks in at 994. Is it safe to guess the final installment will be 1326 pages? It wouldn’t surprise me. I checked The Wise Man’s Fear out of the library and read it sporadically over the month, finally taking it on a trip up the coast, where I again finished the last half in three days. Maybe it’s because I keep cramming these books in, but there’s so much going on that it is hard to keep track. That being said, there are still plenty of slow parts that I wish I could rush through. There was a lot more action in this volume, probably due to the added 332 pages compared with the first novel. The world building continues to be fantastic, and the Chandrian story arch, while taking a seat slightly further back in this volume, is still extremely interesting to follow.

Kvothe travels a lot in The Wise Man’s Fear, resulting in the book feeling almost like a series published as a compilation, but since he is trying to fit his entire life into three days the idea makes perfect sense. We are also given more information about what’s happening in present day, which is pretty exciting! Overall I loved this book even more than the first, and I can’t wait for Rothfuss to publish The Doors of Stone, if that’s what he indeed decides to name the third book.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Name of the Wind

Curse of the Arctic Star (Nancy Drew Diaries, #1) – Carolyn Keene

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Source: Goodreads

In this exciting beginning to a new mystery series, college student and part-time sleuth Nancy Drew is called upon to help an old friend, Becca Wright, the Assitant Cruise Director on board the fancy new ship Arctic Star. Someone has been sending threatening E-mails to Becca and the ship’s headlining act, causing the first superstar aboard Superstar Cruises to quit at the last minute. Now it’s up to Nancy to discover who’s trying to sabotage the ship’s maiden voyage and put a stop to the mysterious accidents plaguing the passengers before someone gets hurt, and Superstar Cruises is shut down. Permanently.

***

A new Nancy Drew? Yes, please! I was a huge fan of the series growing up because my mother and aunt collect them, but it’s been a while since I picked one up. Simon and Schuster’s modernized version of the world’s most famous female detective (yes, even more well known than television’s Veronica Mars!) is spunky and smart, still relying on her wits over technology. It was refreshing to read a mystery where no one whipped out their cell phone and Googled someone to confirm their suspicions.

Although Nancy and her friends Bess and George, as well as Nancy’s boyfriend Ned and Bess’ boyfriend Alan, are all said to be college students, the books are written for 8-12 year-olds and the characters all read like high school seniors instead of college sophomores. The books are short and sweet, but there was a decided lack of actual clues, and what clues there were Nancy seemed to conveniently forget just as she started puzzling over them. Despite this particular frustration, the character writing was quite good, and I enjoyed getting to know the new Nancy, Bess, and George.

Although book one has just been released in hardback, the series started printing in paperback in 2013. Book #15: The Professor and the Puzzle, is due out August 8th, 2017. Overall, I enjoyed the story and will probably pick up the next one when I swing by my library. Hopefully, the clues get more clue-like as the series goes.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars