Views from the Depths

Views from the Depths
Jessica Grey
Tall House Books, 2013

I'm a bit of a Jessica Grey fangirl. Aside from the fact we're self-appointed, long-lost sisters, she has a knack for storytelling that keeps me spellbound. As with her previous collection of fairy tale shorts, Grey has taken familiar, beloved fairy tales and turned them inside out. Unlike Views from the Tower however, Views from the Depths has a dark edge to its tales.

Grey has delved deep into the psyche of pivotal characters in four classic tales (The Little Mermaid; Snow White; Twelve Dancing Princesses; and Beauty and the Beast), finding answers to the questions you didn't know you needed to ask. These deeply personal glimpses reveal the truth behind the sparkling glass dome of "happily ever after" ... They're darker, at times almost unnerving, but never overwhelming. Never too dark. There's always a whisper of hope -- a shimmer of light peeking around the corner, reminding you that the story isn't over yet.

Also, her "Beauty and the Beast"? Ah-mazing.

eARC provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: Love at First Slight

I am super excited to be a stop on the blog tour Jakki put together for J Marie Croft's new book Love at First Slight! Click on the banner above to see the full schedule, and check out my review below.

Love at First Slight
J Marie Croft
Meryton Press, 2013

This is one of those books that is just plain fun. Croft took the familiar and beloved tale of Pride and Prejudice, and gave it a fresh new update that is sure to make you laugh out loud. (I did, the cats were frightened). She keeps the original context, it's a historical, Regency novel - and the key scenes definitely do happen. You know, important stuff like the ill-fated first encounter at the Assembly, and a visit to Rosings Park - not to mention the surprise encounter on Pemberley's grounds. But everything plays out with an entertaining flair and a whole new flavor. You see, all the gender roles have been reversed in Croft's rendition.

Admittedly, it's a little unusual at first glance: No Mr Darcy! But once you start reading, and the five Bennett brothers take over, it works. Our Darcy is now Elizabeth - a much sought-after heiress with a fortune beyond belief. Her starcrossed lover is the middle Bennett brother, William. (He. Is. Awesome. Also a reverend). Mr Bennett is prone to nervous complaints and has an urgent need to marry off his five sons to rich wives. It is Casper Bingley who is after Miss Elizabeth Darcy, and his sister Jane - a wealthy widow - catches the attention of Charles Bennett. Mr Collins is himself, however he has a sister who is ... a force to be reckoned with. And then there is Sir de Bourgh and his sickly son Andrew. Seriously, this gender-switching works so much better than I'd have expected - and the added hilarity of knowing these characters as other characters amplifies the fun.

The story itself follows the pattern of the familiar original -there are misunderstandings, bad decisions, rash words, fierce encounters. With the different gender roles, the way things play out at the end is a little different, but I found it refreshing and not un-Jane. I love Lizzy, and really, really love Will Bennett. At times irreverent, always carefully fun and light, this is definitely a worthy addition to the Austenesque collection.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Blog Tour: Porcelain Keys (Excerpt)

Today I am pleased to present another excerpt to whet your reading appetite! If you can't tell from the banner, the cover of Porcelain Keys is simply beautiful. You can feast your eyes on a bigger image in just a minute, but first, a synopsis for you:
Aria's life is full of secrets--secrets about her mother's death, her father's cruelty, and her dream to go to Juilliard. When Aria meets Thomas, he draws out her secrets, captures her heart, and gives her the courage to defy her father. But when tragedy strikes and Thomas disappears, Aria is left alone to transform her broken heart's melody into something beautiful. Porcelain Keys is a captivating love story that will resonate long after the last page is turned.
Intriguing, no?

Pair that synopsis with this cover, and then I'm pretty sure you'll be racing down the page to devour the excerpt ...

Excerpt from Porcelain Keys
            Aria has just spent the night in her neighbor’s tree house—a secret and secluded place where she goes to hide when she needs to get away from her dad’s volatility. No one has lived in her neighbor’s house for a couple years, so she thinks she can stay in the tree house without being discovered.

            I awoke to a creaking sound, like wood bending under the weight of a heavy foot. But when I opened my eyes, there was no one there. Only a blue jay perched on the threshold of the doorway, his plumage vibrant in the early morning light. He tilted his crested head and stared at me curiously with one eye, then ruffled his feathers before going still again. He appeared to be listening, waiting expectantly for something.
            Wanting to sleep longer, I shut my eyes. Every joint in my body ached as if I’d hiked a mountain the day before. The blue jay called again, a musical whistle that sounded like a rusty old swing. I picked out the notes and the melodic interval. B-flat to G, I thought, a minor third. He repeated the call again and again, but soon another creak silenced him.
            I sat up in my sleeping bag, my ears suddenly attuned to the sounds outside the tree house. Weak wood whining against the strain of pressure. The tread of a shoe gripping the edge of a step. Labored breathing.
            Someone was climbing to the tree house.
            The blue jay’s crest bristled outward in warning, and in one movement I shed the sleeping bag and shot to my feet. The bird beat its wings and let out a hawk-like scream before flying up into the rafters, trapping itself along with me.
            My first thought was that Dad had finally found my hidden sanctuary. If he saw me here, I could never come back. As stealthily as I could manage, I scooped up my sleeping bag and receded into a shallow space behind a tall cabinet. My sleeping bag bulged around the corner, and I hooked my leg around it and drew it as close to my body as possible. The sounds of the blue jay’s escape attempts only added to my anxiety. A thump against a window, a clatter against the roof, an ear-piercing warning call. Every now and then I saw a flash of blue feathers in the rafters. My heart beat as wildly in my chest as the trapped bird’s wings.
            A shadow stretched from the doorway across the floor, and I held my breath and stiffened my body, hoping Dad would take a quick glance, then go on his way. But instead I heard the creak of steps. They were slow and tentative, and were coming closer. My lungs burned for want of new air, and I eased the stale air out and silently drew in more.
            Another step closer. Too close. I guessed he was right around the corner of the cabinet. If I moved a fraction of an inch, he would hear me. My muscles cramped up from being tense for so long, but I couldn’t release them without being discovered. I heard one more step, then my stomach contracted as someone stepped into my line of vision.
            It wasn’t Dad.
            It was a boy, tall with dark, tousled hair. His back was to me, but a moment later he turned to face me and his eyes locked with mine. The look of surprise I expected to see was strangely absent. Instead, his expression seemed to say, Oh, there you are.

Meet the Author:
SARAH BEARD is the author of Porcelain Keys, a YA contemporary romance. She has a degree in communications from the University of Utah and splits her time between writing and raising three energetic boys. She is a cancer survivor and a hopeless romantic. She enjoys reading and composing music, and lives with her husband and children in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow Sarah on twitter at @authorsarahb, or on facebook. Her website is www.sarahbeard.com.

Buy Links: Amazon and Barnes & Noble


Olympic Fever Strikes Again!

You guys. The Olympics are back!!!!!! Please imagine me bouncing up-and-down in my chair, grinning like the little girl who just won a trip to Disney and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Yeah. That big. I love the Olympics. I've been watching them pretty much my entire life, with my first Olympic memories involving Kristi Yamaguchi winning gold in 1992. Since then, I've been hooked ... My appreciation of the various sports has evolved as I've grown older. At first, I was drawn solely to the pageantry and grace of figure skating and gymnastics, yearning to have a quarter of the coordination necessary to "do that." Eventually I became interested in track-and-field (which has since waned a bit), then fell hard for the "X Games" sports and swimming. Right now, as it stands, the only Winter Games sport I detest is hockey, though my decided favorites are snowboarding, skating (all disciplines), and freestyle skiing (X Games, anyone?).

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a bit of a sports junkie to begin with. It used to not be so -- the Olympics were the only thing "athletic" I really cared about until the end of high school, when I fell long and hard for football. Eventually I became enamored with the NCAA basketball tournament (but only tourney ball!), and most recently picked up a weird interest in the World Series. But the Olympics have always been something special -- a time that allows me to flaunt my American pride a little higher, to feel like I'm part of one huge group of people cheering for the same much smaller group of people who are fighting for honor and glory and the title of "Champion." It's a sense of community that is distinctly national, while also bringing together the world in a universal community. The music, the flair, the pomp and ceremony, the prestige. I love it. And I love Team USA. And I love that every two years, I can put things on hold and curl up to watch the world come together in something so huge, so filled with tradition, and know the world is watching with me.

I've blogged about my Olympic viewing experiences. The last several Games, I've live-texted with friends in different states, trading both excessively subjective commentary as well as technically objective analysis. This year ... things feel different. Oh, I'm psyched out of my mind, and fully prepared to feel like a zombie at work the next two weeks from staying up too late watching coverage. But my friends -- they're not. Some of them never watch the Olympics (how that stayed secret for the 7+ years we've been friends, I don't know), others just don't want to watch these Olympics. Oh, there are a few fellow Olympic faithfuls, but I'll have a far smaller circle of buddies with whom to gush over things with. Important things. Like breaking down all the technical elements and "What were they thinking?!" aspects of figure skating costuming. (This is serious stuff, y'all.) And we can't forget the breathtaking daredevilry of snowboarders, and watching the face of American snowboarding attempt to earn his third straight gold. (If you don't know who I'm talking about ... I pity you.) This year there are NEW SPORTS to contend and contest, and that's guaranteed to be worth dissecting.

It's these little, silly things, as well as the big, momentous, actually-important things that make the Olympics so great, and hold me spellbound.

To each his own, I suppose, but this girl will be faithfully watching -- and cheering.
Because it's The Olympics. And I can't imagine doing anything else.