Matched (Series in September)

Book: Matched by Ally Condie

Series: Matched

Books: Matched* (1); Crossed (2) - to be released November 2011
* indicates a book I have read

Matched by Ally Condie tells the story of Cassia Reyes a teenager living in "The Society" - a utopian world where life appears perfect. Disease has been eradicated and every person trusts in the government to control aspects of their life from what they will eat, where they will work, who they will marry, and when they will die (which for everyone is at the age of eighty, peaceful and surrounded by loved ones). The story begins on Cassia's seventeenth birthday, the day of her Matching banquet when her future husband will be revealed to her.

Cassia couldn't be happier when the Matching data pairs her with Xander Carrow, her childhood friend and trusted confidante, but when just for an instant she sees the screen flash to the face of Ky Markham, Cassia wonders how much The Society really should control about her future. Ky has always been a bit of an outsider in Cassia's neighborhood but once he appears as a possible match for her, she is determined to find out as much about him as possible. Xander and Ky come to represent two different sides of Cassia's life tearing her between safe, comfortable choices and the chance to really choose for herself.

I suppose when I heard the premise of Matched I rolled my eyes a little. Dystopia in young adult fiction seems to be the replacement for supernatural beings in trendiness and I wasn't overly thrilled about another book with a love triangle. But I plunged ahead with reading Matched after hearing so many good reviews for it, and I couldn't be more glad that I did. Where other novels present a shattered dystopian universe, The Society represented a utopia of sorts. It is a world where technology takes over but rather than destroying life it is a structure built to persevere through removing free will. Like many such science fiction stories, there is also a hidden world in Matched but through most of the novel, the darker portions remain hidden under the veneer of The Society's perfection.

The love triangle was also handled really well in the story. Xander and Ky didn't fit typical teen male stereotypes and I actually found myself understanding Cassia's draw toward each of them and for one of the first times in a young adult book I was as conflicted about the choice as the protagonist. My largest complaint about this book is the one area where it most follows the pattern of recent young adult releases - it is book one in a series. I really wanted Cassia's story to be resolved and though there is a great story arc in the book, it's definitely a novel to leave readers wanting more.
 In many ways I feel like a bit of a broken record with this review coming so soon after Tyger, Tyger.  Also, having just recently finished Andrea Cremer's Nightshade, (review to come next month) I know many of my same sentiments apply to that work as well.   Despite some glaring similarities, I appreciated that these books were all very original and unique from one another.  Yet, with the sequel-wait I'm inevitably tormenting myself with, I do have a bit of regret about devouring so many "Book One"s in a row!

Tyger, Tyger (Series in September)

Book: Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

Series: The Goblin Wars

Book Order: Tyger, Tyger* (1); In the Forests of the Night (2) - coming November 2011
* indicates a book I have read

Teagan Wylltson, also known as Tea, is a more or less average teenager with an artistic mother, a bookish father and a younger brother Aiden who has a gift for karaoke.  She has a great internship working with primates at the local zoo and is on track for a college scholarship, yet things start to get strange when Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives.  Introduced as a not-quite-cousin, Tea and her best friend Abby are pretty sure that Finn is trouble despite Tea's attraction to him.  Finn leaves almost as soon as he arrives, but when malevolent shadows strike out at Tea's family, she soon discovers that the Irish stories and legends her parents used to read to her are more than just myths and fantasy. She learns that Fear Doirich - the goblin king - is frighteningly real, and when he spirits away Tea's father it's up to her, Aiden, and Finn to mount a rescue.  Delving into a land that she barely understands, Tea must learn the truth about the stories she thought she knew, including the secrets about her own identity and the normal life she's always known.

Kersten Hamilton weaves an enchanting young adult urban fantasy story in this book.  I loved that it was set in Chicago with ties to Irish myths and legends.  Teagan was an exciting and dynamic heroine who displayed honest emotions - fear, concern, uncertainty, regret - while still possessing a bold spirit to face the challenges in front of her.  Finn was intriguing, a good conflicted hero, and I hope there is a bit more development of his character in the second book.  The supporting cast was also delightful and musically-minded Aiden and Teagan's friend Abby - who may have ties to the mafia - added a spark of humor to the novel.  Filled with action and imagination, the book was well paced.  At times chilling, funny, sentimental, and surprising Tyger, Tyger was a great blend of modern storytelling with Irish mythology.  Continuing on with William Blake's influence for a title, the second Goblin Wars book In the Forests of the Night (due to be released in November of 2011) promises to carry on the beautiful setup of this novel and hopefully deliver more of the same.  

Along with featuring this book for Series in September, I want to include it as part of my 2011 Fairy Tale Challenge (8 out of 12).  The incorporation of traditional characters from Irish legends make this a great work for those that love updated versions of classic stories.  I was originally attempting to blog one fairy tale a month, so I'm a little behind on my schedule, but I hope to still make 12 by year end.  I'll happily take recommendations for tales I should read, too!  And if you want more information about the genesis of the 2011 Fairy Tale Challenge check out the blog that started it and got me hooked on fairy tales once again: Tif Talks Books!

The Legend of Lady MacLaoch

I know I've lamented my lack of travel experience on this blog before but I've also stated that I love books for their passport nature.  It's exciting to me to visit new places and travel the world without going farther than my local library and one of my recent journeys took me on a trip across the Atlantic to a locale I've long dreamed of visiting in real life. 

Cole Baker is a spunky American graduate with a passion for her family's past.  In studying her ancestry she discovers a link to a Scottish clan with a strange history.  Unable to sate her curiosity where myth and legends cross with reality she hops a plane overseas determined to find her family's roots. 

Rowan MacLaoch is the modern day laird of the clan linked to the bizarre story of ancient star-crossed lovers that Cole uncovers.  Curses should be a thing of fairy tales but Rowan's people have a hard time shaking the superstitions they have lived with for centuries.  Cole finds herself drawn to the secretive Scotsman but as a veteran of the RAF, Rowan lives with scars and shadows of his own past even on top of the legends of his clan. 

The Legend of Lady MacLaoch was a delightful journey through the past and present castles and highlands of Scotland.  From the sights and sounds of lush gardens to the intricate tastes of Scottish whiskeys, author Becky Banks paints masterful scenery that leaps from the page in stunning details.  Cole is a heroine to cheer for with equal parts smarts and sass and Rowan walks a delicious line between brooding heartthrob and renaissance man.  From start to finish, the book was hard to put down and it seamlessly blends action, mystery, and romance with just a dash of magical realism.  Not since Diana Gabaldon's Outlander has a book left me with such a desire to see Scotland for myself, but The Legend of Lady MacLaoch is certainly cheaper than plane tickets and makes for an excellent literary journey.
I'm pleased to be part of author Becky Banks' Legendary Blog Tour promoting this book.  Check out my previous post for my interview with Becky Banks and a chance to win a paperback copy of The Legend of Lady MacLaoch (leave a comment on this review for an extra entry into the giveaway!)

And of course I'm still trying to pinpoint what it is about Scotland that has me so enamored.  The kilts?  The accents?  The highlands?  The whiskey?  Maybe it's all of the above.  Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts about the book (or Scotland) below!

Author Interview - Becky Banks (Plus a Legendary Giveaway!)

 I'm pleased to start this week as a stop on Becky Banks' Legendary Blog Tour celebrating her novel The Legend of Lady MacLaoch! Be sure to check out my next post with my review of the book and after reading through this author interview, leave a comment with your best guess to the trivia questions as an entry to win a paperback copy of the book - details below!

Hi Becky! Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started as a writer and how did a girl from Hawaii end up writing a book set in Scotland?

Alooooooha! Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) Lisa for having me! Well, the two-second explanation on how a girl from Hawaii got to Scotland is, by plane. Iceland Air, specifically.

Ha-ha! No, really though, I first attended college here in Oregon (go Beavs!!) then settled down in Portland and started my career in the environmental field. A handful of years went by and in 2009 my husband and I took a trip to Scotland. At that time I had already dabbled in novel writing, I had written but not finished two manuscripts and with the excitement of the trip began my third. After Scotland, being immersed in the history and ancient lore of places like Portree, Urquhart, Drumnadrochit, Sterling, Elgin, and Dunvegan the tapestry of The Legend of Lady MacLaoch took shape.

What type of research went into constructing the details of this novel?
Being curious by nature and having a knack of never forgetting certain details, the majority of the book came right out from memory from the ten days we spent in Scotland. The biggest research portion was the fighter jet scene at the beginning. Right at the beginning *spoiler alert* Rowan and co-navigator Vick are cruising in a jet and get struck down. Now, I’ve logged my fair share of mileage in planes traveling to and from the islands from the mainland, but an airline is called an airbus for a reason. It’s pretty much a different world from being in a fighter jet. I feel that one can be told or read about what it’s like to be in the cockpit of a jet but for me nothing can replace seeing it, or being there. I have a healthy fear of heights so I wasn't about to sign up for ride in one. Enter YouTube. I spent hours flying in jets, doing flybys and ejecting all via uploaded videos. You’d be surprised on how many ejection videos there are on there – and some recorded from the cockpit!

On your website, you have a poll for readers to choose which Scottish actor they most picture as Rowan MacLaoch. Did you have any of these highland hotties in mind when writing Rowan?

Ha-ha! Oh, great question. Actually, Rowan is none of these men. He lives and breathes as a bartender in Portree on the Isle of Skye. Of course I took a few major liberties on his persona, using his looks and physique as the inspiration. I did little more than converse briefly with him (he being a MacLeod) and when he overheard my husband and I talking about visiting the MacLeod castle estate that day he said, “Ye visited my castle today, aye?” One look at him, and into the story he rolled.

What would you say are the highlights and challenges of working as an independent author?

My other profession, besides being an author, is in the marketing field. I have been involved with taking an environmental start-up company with a bootstrap budget to a successful nationally recognized leader in its industry. With this experience under my belt I thought going independent would be easier than trying to go the traditional route with the manuscript. I also need to confess now, I am a control freak. As an independent author I have control over my novels from beginning to end. From cover art to editing styles. The other great part of being independent has been choosing my own team. As you may have read in the acknowledgement section, this was a community effort to create The Legend of Lady MacLaoch. My editing team are an awesome set of talented women, my peer reviewers too are amazing and each of them make being an independent author a major highlight of this career. The challenge however, is finding time to do it all. Because I take on more roles than just writing as an independent author, I find that writing, plus working a day job and still finding time for the rest of my life can be a little difficult. But despite that challenge, being an independent author is bliss.

What authors or works have inspired or influenced you?

Well, I have to say two books influenced me the most. The Berenstain Bears and Madeline L. Lingle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I wasn’t a huge fan of reading as a kid so these stuck with me because I can remember, still, reading them for the first time. Though I have to say that it wasn’t necessarily books or authors that influenced me the most, it was cinema. One of my most beloved pastimes was watching movies with my father. We seldom had extended time with him so when he would bring home movies we (my brother and I) would just go nuts. The action adventures with strong female leads are the ones that resonate deepest with me. One in particular that is a wonderfully fierce and funny movie called The Long Kiss Goodnight. I still love this movie; it’s right up there with Top Gun. Ha-ha!

Your blog recently mentioned a tribute to your late grandmother (you have my condolences) and you referred to her as a "certified badass" who instilled her spirit of strength and confidence into you. Do you see her present in Cole's character?

That’s a very interesting point! (And thank you for your condolences she was truly and amazing person) Gran and Cole do have many things in common, both are southern ladies who have more of the Wild in them than they do the Lady and both have a stubborn streak. :0) Cole also has an analytical air to her when it comes to research – in that she sees the data and sometimes gets pigeonholed there not seeing the world that the data exists in. Hence she has a hard time believing in coincidences. However, my gran was more an observer of the world, she enjoyed the stories that people told, and everyone whether they knew it or not had a story to tell. For her, the more coincidences and outliers, the better the story.

What projects are you currently working on and where can we find out more about your work?

The next project that I’m currently working on is another novel, its working title is The Mechanic. The Mechanic, is very very different from The Legend of Lady MacLaoch, as it is set here in the US and is much more of a gritty love story. The main character is a woman named Eva Rodgers. She’s a businesswoman and chief editing officer for a large magazine, the man in the story is a man named Nathaniel Vellanova. Nate is a street-wise European auto mechanic with a brutal past. The grit comes out in strong language, even stronger characters and a storyline that is about fast cars, smart yet tragic youths and intense life changes. Oh, and the bond of it all? Love. Currently planned to release early 2012.Thanks for having me Lisa and if people want to get more info or personally drop me a line visit me at  Happy reading!!

Thanks for joining me, Becky!

And now for the giveaway! One lucky Her Book Self reader will win a paperback copy of The Legend of Lady MacLaoch!  The contest will run from now until October 1st and is open to entrants in the US and Canada.  To enter leave a comment below with your name and email address and your best guesses (or well researched answers) to these two trivia questions:

Question 1: What castle is Castle Laoch in The Legend of Lady MacLaoch loosely based upon?
Hint: This answer can be found in the comments at the first tour stop at

Question 2: What does laoch mean in Gaelic? As in MacLaoch.
Hint: Lisa's last name translated from Spanish has the same meaning.

You can gain up to three entries for this contest - one entry for making a guess at each answer, one entry if you get both answers correct and a third entry for leaving a comment on my review of The Legend of Lady MacLaoch!  Good Luck!

"Influence is Bliss" (Series in September)

“All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.”
-Michael Chabon

This quote from Michael Chabon made me giggle a little, since I've complained in the past about wanting more standalone novels and less sequels and have also composed a list of sequels I'm eagerly waiting to read.  I know I've felt before that all new novels are sequels but at the same time I can only partially agree with such a pessimistic take on novel writing.  I know there's some truth to the idea that there are no new stories and that every new work is an old one wrapped up in new clothing, but I still stand that creativity and originality are rampant in fiction these days.  I think some of my very favorite books are the ones in which authors really are creating something fresh and unique. What are your thoughts?  Is everything new these days a reinvention of something previous?

Anne of Avonlea (Series in September)

Book: Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Series: Anne of Green Gables

Book Order: Anne of Green Gables* (1), Anne of Avonlea* (2), Anne of the Island (3), Anne of Windy Poplars (4), Anne's House of Dreams (5), Anne of Ingleside (6), Rainbow Valley (7), Rilla of Ingleside (8) 
* indicates a book I have read

Anne of Avonlea is the continuation of the story begun in Anne of Green Gables of L.M. Montgomery's indomitable heroine Anne Shirley.  Grown up from the first novel, Anne begins book two as a school teacher in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island.  Many of characters from Anne of Green Gables return in the sequel - Marilla Cuthbert, Diana Barry, Gilbert Blythe, Rachel Lynde - but Anne also makes many new acquaintances and her students and neighbors provide some fresh drama to the story. 

I love this series, but I did feel that this book wasn't quite as enjoyable as the first.  There was something enchanting in book one about discovering Green Gables and Avonlea through Anne's innocent eyes, and this book felt a bit more - for lack of a better word - ordinary.  There were definitely memorable moments and fun points to the story but it's hard to say that any of them were as brilliant as Anne's antics in the series opener.  The first book was the story of a young girl and this one is clearly the story of a young woman.  Anne has matured and so the book lacks some of her youthful humor and fanciful imagination.  Still, it is the characters and the picturesque scenery that make this book a heartwarming read as well as Montgomery's slowly unfolding love story between Gilbert and Anne. 

For any readers who complain about the irksome trend in popular fiction of eye-roll-inducing love at first sight, I give you a quote revealing a different perspective:
"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps... perhaps love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."
~ Anne of Avonlea, L.M. Montgomery
Even if I may not have loved this book as much as the first in the series, this quote melted me.  The more I read of the Anne of Green Gables series, the more I realize that the beauty of Montgomery's saga is not just in the individual works, but in the sweeping narrative as a whole.  I still wish I had read these books at a younger age, but even discovering them as an adult, they are charming, lovely works and I look forward to the next six in the series.

Pirate of My Heart (Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!)

Yo ho, yo ho!  It be Talk Like A Pirate Day once more an' the only thing better than a bottle o' rum be a bottle o' rum and a piratey book to read!  Today the Dread Pirate Brody be bringin' ye a review o' Pirate of My Heart by Jamie Carie. 

Lady Kendra Townsend is left in a dire situation when her greedy uncle takes over her father's estate. Given the choice between being married off to a husband twice her age or being shipped off to live with relatives in America, Kendra chooses an unknown life overseas.

Captain Dorian Colburn has his own plans for the running of his new cargo ship and escorting Lady Kendra as a passenger to America was not one of them. At first he is annoyed by the inconvenience of the heiress aboard his ship but soon he finds his attraction to her an even larger distraction from his duties.

Set upon by pirates during their voyage and facing family conflicts and burdens of the past once they reach their destination, the relationship between Kendra and Dorian is far from simple. She is a woman of faith and turns to God during all her difficulties, and she is unsure if the ship captain fits into God's designs for her life. Though the element of Christianity is a turn-off for some, I thought it was dealt with really well as an aspect of Kendra's personality.

Yet, I would have preferred the book more had Kendra been a stronger heroine and relied less on Dorian to come to her rescue. I also thought more of the story was going to take place at sea, with pirates playing into a larger part of the plot. Nevertheless, this was still an enjoyable novel and I'd be willing to check out future works by Jamie Carie. 
Thar ye have it.  On top o' my review, I say I be lovin' the arrrt work on the cover o' this book.   The picture made me be thinkin' that it be a book more about pirates and seafarers than a tale o' love on land.  I be receivin' a copy o' this book on me Kindle for review from the ebook service by the name o' NetGalley -  I be thinkin there be a pirate ship lurkin' among their site but I've yet to find one!

Not sure if anyone else be celebratin' Talk Like a Pirate Day but it be a holiday I been bloggin' about fer many a turn o' the tides. Check out me review o' Treasure Island for more bookish pirate fun or spy The Dread Pirate Brody's Pirate Arrrrchives from me former blog. 

Do you "Like" me?

I know as recently as four days ago I said Her Book Self was on neither Facebook nor Twitter and in that short span of time, I made at least a partial liar out of myself.  Are you ready for this breaking news?

Feel free to click on over to check it out and, of course, I would love for you to "Like" my page.  I would also like for you to love my page, but currently that's not an option so we'll just have to settle for liking at present unless anyone feels the call of poetry...

"Moss is green,
It grows on a log.
I love Her Book Self
It's such a great blog!"

Ummm... maybe not. I'll leave the poetry to others and stick with the book reviews. I'm hoping to use the Facebook page as an auxiliary space and make it interactive with polls and fun stuff as well as using it to share short random thoughts that aren't quite worth a full post.  For now it's pretty bare bones, but stay with me and I'll try to make it something awesome. Special thanks to those who encouraged me to jump on the bandwagon and give Her Book Self a Facebook presence.  If your blog has a Facebook page and I haven't already Liked it, feel free to drop me a line and I'll connect with you over there.  And who, knows, perhaps the wide world of Twitter is next!

BBAW - Blogging

Friday is here and so Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming to a close.  Along with all the great participants in Book Blogger Land, I've written posts about Community and Reading, and now it's time for the third key to the triumvirate of book blogging - Blogging itself.  Today's prompt says,
"The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future."
 And I must say this suggestion makes me giggle a little (and not just for the "you" instead of "that" in the second sentence - I won't be rude and answer proofreading).  I laugh because it's inherently assuming that I know a thing or two about book blogging when in fact, as in most things in my life, I'm more or less making things up as I go along.  You could say I have a "fake it til you make it" attitude in that I threw this blog out there into the netherworld of the internet a year and a half ago and by some freak chance people actually started reading it.  And liking it!  I know!! Even I'm still pretty amazed at that!

But okay.  Let's pretend for a moment that my experiences have taught me something.  (Come on, stop laughing, you really can teach an old blogger new tricks...) I've been dabbling in the blogosphere for almost a decade now, so here's what I guess I would say "works" for Her Book Self:

1. Posting, Posting, Posting.  There's a catch phrase that states the three most important things in real estate are "Location, Location, Location" and I think the most important thing in blogging is posting, posting, posting.  No content, no blog - simple as that. 

2. Reading, Reading, Reading.  I love Top Ten Tuesdays, Wordless Wednesdays, and Sunday Salons as much as the next girl, but I don't think blogs should rely on them too heavily.  Memes are my idea of blog seasoning.  They add some great flavor, but if there's no meat and potatoes (or felafel and pita) underneath pretty soon you realize you're just sitting in front of a plate of salt and pepper.  Quality reviews and commentary are what make blogs substantial and without reading, all the extras can get pretty bland. 

3. Comments, Comments, Comments.  A favorite quote of mine states that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  I touched on this point in my post about community, but communication is a two way street.  If I wasn't willing to visit other blogs, read content, and interact with other bloggers I never would have made Her Book Self public. For anyone wondering why their blog doesn't get more comments just ask yourself how many you've stopped to leave.

And now my favorite question:  What's next?  I don't want to tip my hand, but Her Book Self will be trying some new things in the coming year.  (If you reeeeally want a sneak peek, check out the welcome sidebar on the right.)  For now, it's more of what - I hope - works at present.  Series in September will be continuing next week after another celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day (of course!).  I have a giveaway planned for the end of the month along with participation in a blog tour and a few more author interviews.  I want to thank everyone who visited here for the first time during Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  I've really enjoyed discovering even more great blogs over the past few days and I look forward to making the rounds today and learning from all of you how to make my blog even better!

BBAW: Reading - Tall Story

Book Blogger Appreciation Week continues and where as yesterday's theme was Community, today's prompt is about reading habits; specifically, has book blogging changed your reading habits?

I will be surprised if any book bloggers answer that question with a no.  (And if you're a blogger who feels your habits have not changed at all, leave a note below because I'd love to hear your thoughts!)  From the pressure of completing books and writing reviews in a timely manner to the explosions of my very own Mount TBR - which is now officially a volcano due to the massive amounts of recommendations I've gained from others.  But the change to my reading habits that I love the most comes from discovering books that I would never have heard of before all because of other blogs and their great bloggers.

Rather than expand on this topic, I want to share a review that I recently wrote for one of my favorite reads of the year so far - a book that I read all because of Enbrethiliel over at Shredded Cheddar.  (And since BBAW is all about really awesome book blogs, pop over and check out her writing - that girl has serious talent and if I were in charge of the BBAW awards Shredded Cheddar would have won a handful!!) I won Tall Story by Candy Gourlay in a contest at Shredded Cheddar spotlighting books about the Philippines - it came highly recommended and lived up to all the high expectations I had for it!

Amandolina (Andi) knows her life is in for a change when she learns that her half-brother Bernardo is moving from the Philippines to live with her and her parents in England. People have always said Bernardo is "tall" but at eight feet he towers over everyone - taller even than Andi's hero Michael Jordan. Andi dreams of sharing her love of basketball with her brother but doesn't expect the culture shock he has to deal with adjusting to a new country.  In his home village of San Andres in the Philippines, Bernardo's height is considered a mark of good fortune. Though he longs to reunite with his family, he fears leaving his superstitious neighbors behind.

Tall Story is a tale of friendship, family, wishes, and curses with a twist of folklore blended into a story of growing up and fitting in. The book is told in alternating chapters by Andi and Bernardo and author Candy Gourlay does a remarkable job giving each character a unique perspective and voice. Though their situations are original they both face awkwardness and adjustments that any young adult can relate to, but the heart of this story is a theme of love and family that will charm readers of any age.

In short, (no pun intended) I read Tall Story because of Enbrethiliel, and because I love to expand my horizons of reading through input from book bloggers.  Whether it's a recommendation about a classic that I missed reading in school or a work about a country, culture, or time period that I could really stand to learn more about, I highly value the insight that other bloggers provide about books I should read.  I think we'd all nod our heads at the statement, "So many books, so little time" so I'm glad to have blogs that help me vet out wonderful choices from among the masses. 

Also, I wanted to include my review here, not only to give new visitors a taste of my style, but because last year during BBAW I raved about my love for the young adult book Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby; and I was thrilled to find that other bloggers cited me for recommending it to them when they loved it as much as I did. Tall Story is one that touched me almost as much as Hurt Go Happy and I would love to see more bloggers embrace it for the wonderful work that it is. 

If you're looking for a great new-to-you book to read, check out Tall Story; and if you're looking for a great new-to-you blog to read check out Shredded Cheddar; and if you have the time be sure to do both!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Community

Somehow Book Blogger Appreciation Week is here - and halfway over - without me doing much to commemorate the event. The theme this year is Cultivating a Community of Bloggers and Readers. Today's prompt says,
"The world of book blogging has grown enormously and sometimes it can be hard to find a place. Share your tips for finding and keeping community in book blogging despite the hectic demands made on your time and the overwhelming number of blogs out there. If you’re struggling with finding a community, share your concerns and explain what you’re looking for–this is the week to connect!"
I suppose I'm not sure how to respond to this one.  I certainly feel like I've found a community within book blogging but I haven't been as involved in that community as others seem to be. Her Book Self isn't currently on Facebook and I haven't yet put time or effort into figuring out Twitter.  But I don't see those as community outlets so much as ways to network.  I know I have a decent number of Google Friend Connect followers and I know I follow way too many blogs than I have time to read.  Yet within the group of all the blogs I follow - and within the group of all those that follow me - I feel there's a bit of an inner circle of those that really read my posts.  They're usually the ones that take the time to leave a thoughtful comment.  And I do the same for them because they're the blogs that make me smile a little when I see them come up in my massive blog roll because I'm actually excited to see their posts. 

I don't have any tricks or tips to contribute here because I don't think there's a how-to guide about finding blogs you like to read.  It's going to be different for each person, but I know when I do find blogs I like, I'm quick to comment and even quicker to follow.  When those bloggers reciprocate - either responding to my comments or commenting on my own blog - I feel a sense of connection.  It's validating to have people care about what I write.  

And of course, cultivating community online can be most difficult in busy seasons.  Right now I've been struggling to keep this blog updated as two family friends were diagnosed with cancer within a week of each other.  These are the times when I feel like giving up this blog altogether because real life seems too demanding.   But at the same time, I love the creative outlet that blogging provides.   Reading keeps me sane and blogging keeps me reading.  So how do I maintain community when I rarely have time for my own blog let alone time to keep tabs on those I enjoy most?  Like good friends that can go years without seeing each other and still fall into intimate friendship, I appreciate comments and posts from bloggers in my community, even in their periods of inconsistency and I can only hope that same grace extends from other bloggers to me. 

Whether you read every post I publish, one a week, one a month, or one a year - I appreciate you taking the time to hear me.

I write for myself, but I hit "Publish Post" for you.

A Plethora of Avonleas (A Weekend to ReCOVER)

It's cover comparison time again!  This time the culprit... I mean the subject is the work by Lucy Maud Montgomery Anne of Avonlea.  You may be wondering why not Anne of Green Gables, but since this is Series in September I thought it would be fun to instead focus on the sequel!

Time to choose your favorite! 

Do you like the modern or the retro?  Anne alone?  Anne and Diana? Anne and Gilbert?   (I have a soft spot in my heart for the miniseries with Megan Follows so I had to include that one.)  Check out more great - or not so great - Anne of Avonlea covers here and be sure to leave your thougts in the comments below!

Changeless (Series in September)

Book: Changeless by Gail Carriger

Series: The Parasol Protectorate

Book Order: Soulless* (1), Changeless* (2), Blameless (3), Heartless (4), Timeless (5)  * indicates a book I have read

Changeless, the second novel in Gail Carriger's steampunk romance series begins with a strange force temporarily wiping out the powers of London's supernaturals.  Amidst the clawless werewolves and fangless vampires, preternatural heroine Alexia is puzzled but determined to discover the source of the event - though some point to her as the problem.  Alexia boards an airship to Scotland accompanied  by her trying sister Felicity, her dear friend with a horrid fashion sense Miss Ivy Hisselpenny, Tunstall the valet turned suitor, and the enigmatic inventor Madame LaFoux.

I loved Soulless for its humor and though perhaps not as laugh out loud funny as the first, Carriger's witty style is equally present in Changeless.  This one is very decidedly a "book two" in that I don't recommend reading it before the first one and it definitely leaves off with a cliffhanger for book three.  Though some of the plot twists were predictable, Changeless is still highly enjoyable and an excellent entry into The Parasol Protectorate series.  

I read this one as an eBook on my Kindle, in which I purchased the first three in the series as a single package.  I was incredibly tempted to delve right into Blameless when I finished this one, but decided that some other series should be mixed into my Series in September reading plan.

I rarely binge read series and prefer to savor them with one book at a time and other works and authors in between.  How about you? Do you read series from start to finish or break them up book at a time?

But what's next???? (Top Ten Tuesday)

In a strange incidence of blogging convergence, this week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday fits in beautifully with my Series in September Feature!  Top Ten Tuesday is a fun list-based meme hosted by one of my favorite blogs The Broke and the Bookish!  Today's theme is Top Ten Sequels I'm Dying to Read.  My list features some that have been out for a while that I've somehow just never gotten around to as well as some new releases and some that are still to come. 

Series in September Meets Top Ten Tuesday: 
Sequels I'm Dying to Read

1 & 2. First Among Sequels and One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
I've read and loved the first several books in Fforde's Thursday Next series, but I didn't manage to catch up with the last two releases.  These two have been on market for a few years and months, respectively, but I have not read either yet.  I think a reread of the entire series is probably in order and it's a matter of me just going as far as my at home bookshelf to revisit my favorite fictional Swindon once more.  

3. Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
This one is a slightly more recent release in Preston and Child's Pendergast saga.  The last book in the series (Fever Dream) left off with a tantalizing cliffhanger and I'm eager to see how it's resolved in this book.  Plus, Pendergast is the type of character that I never get bored with.  Preston and Child could probably publish something along the lines of Agent Pendergast takes a Walk or Pendergast Reads the Phone Book and I would eagerly read the work, because no matter what situation the character is in, you know it will end up thoroughly engaging. 

4. Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
I chose Desert Spear because it's one that I've waited so long to read that I keep forgetting I actually really want to read it.  The work is the sequel to The Warded Man (or The Painted Man) which I read as an ARC a few months before it was published.  It's the book that's made me reluctant to read ARCs that are the first in a series.  As bad as it is to wait a year or so for a book two, it's even harder to wait for book two if book one isn't even on shelves yet!  Needless to say, the first book really was quite impressive, and I am interested to see what Brett did with the second in the series.

5& 6. The Fall and The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Take everything I said about reading book one ARCs from #8 on this list and everything I said about not keeping up with a series in #1 on this list and you have a pretty good idea of where I stand with this trilogy.  I was really impressed with book one (The Strain) but the rest of this series remains on my TBR list.  So many books, so little time!

7. Vanish by Sophie Jordan
I read Jordan's Firelight last year as part of a multi-blogger event called Fall into Fantasy and my biggest gripe about the book was that it didn't turn out to be a complete story.  If my biggest problem with a book is that I wanted it to be longer, you know I'm anxious to read its sequel.  Vanish hits shelves today and though I probably won't get to it immediately, I'm definitely intrigued to continue Jacinda's story. 

8. The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth
Blood Oath was one of the surprise hits of 2010 for me.  I picked it up knowing nothing about the author but loving the premise and really enjoyed the book.  The sequel's been out for a little while now and I keep meaning to pick it up, but one of the things I loved about the first book is that it was a succinct story on its own.  I'm eager to read the second, not because my favorite characters were left in mortal (or immortal) peril, but because I want to know how their stories continue.

9. Neverwinter by R.A. Salvatore
I have a yearly tradition of purchasing the latest Salvatore novel in October.  In hardback.  I'm not sure what I will do this year as my local Borders will not be there for me to excitedly dance into (*sniff, sniff*) but I know I still plan on acquiring this one close to its release date. I used an Amazon giftcard to purchase the last book Gauntlgrym,but part of me wishes I had continued my Borders tradition, especially as it will no longer be a book shopping option.

10. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
I blame bloggers for this one.  I really didn't want to get swept up into Clare's work.  I've been resisting getting pulled into The Mortal Instruments series despite having the first book teasing me from my TBR shelf.  But earlier this year I read Clockwork Angel and despite some misgivings, I find myself eagerly anticipating the release of its sequel.  I'm not sure if this should just fall under the guilty pleasure category but nevertheless, I know I want to read it.  

11. BONUS The Winds of Winter by George R. R. Martin
I'm not sure if it's right to list this one since it isn't even written yet, and not even George knows when we can expect to hope for it, but truly it is my top choice at present for my most anticipated sequel.  For those new to Her Book Self, I spent a large portion of the spring and summer rereading GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire series and the next in the saga can't come soon enough.

So with which books on my list do you agree or disagree?  Does anyone else fall behind on series and find themselves having to reread several books before checking out a favorite author's latest?  Are there series books that you find yourself eager to purchase as soon as they are released?  
As always I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!  And for those that are stopping by Her Book Self for the very first time, thanks for joining me!  Feel free to check out my previous Top Ten Tuesday entries here.  Also, I'll be celebrating sequels (and sequels' sequels) all month long with my Series in September feature and I'd love to have you join the fun!

"Something Different" - Guest Post by J.C. Phelps Part 2 (Indie in Summer)

You know how when you watch a TV series and the last episode left off with a cliffhanger, the new show starts with "Previously on..."?  Well, for those that missed it, click here for  "Previously on Her Book Self". Welcome back, J.C. Phelps!


I finally settled on submitting a scene I have written. It may or may not be used in an upcoming book.

To set the scene: Alex and Will’s relationship has grown stronger and Will has invited her to tour the Naval carrier he will be deployed to. After the tour, the two of them decide to make an evening of it and do some bar hopping.

To begin the night inside my comfort zone we went to the Skylight first. I’d done my fair share of partying in the past but I’d only been to a few select bars.

“I see Anthony is working.” Will pointed out my one and only ex-boyfriend.

“How do you know Anthony?”

“Rick told me all about your history,” Will said.

“Do you two make it a habit of talking about my past?” The thought was both flattering and embarrassing.

“No. There’s not much past to talk about. I think we covered it all in one or two conversations.” Will winked. “Let’s go say hi. Rick also told me a few things about Anthony that I bet you don’t even know.” Will raised his eyebrows in a challenge that I left unanswered. I was too engrossed in my thoughts anyway.

As usual, Anthony came right to me. “Wow. I thought you’d moved. I haven’t seen you forever. How long has it been? A year?” He was doing his best to show off his severely lacking biceps by imitating ‘The Thinker’. Actually, they didn’t look half bad but I knew he didn’t know how to use them, so they didn’t count.

“Nope. Didn’t move. Can you get me a coke and…” I turned to get Will’s order but Anthony cut in.

“I’m glad you came to see me. I’m currently between girlfriends,” he waggled his eyebrows at me.

Oh, the ego. I hadn’t even considered Anthony might still be working here when Will and I decided to come to The Skylight. “I’m currently taken.” I didn’t expect what happened next. Will cleared his throat and Anthony noticed him for the first time.

Anthony's normally tanned skin had become pale. “Ssss... Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. Please tell Malone not to… not to…”

Will’s ominous look changed to a grin. “Don’t worry, Anthony. She’s on my arm tonight, not my brother’s. Can you please get the lady her coke and add a beer and two shots of whiskey.”

“On the house.” Anthony quickly filled our order and moved away.

“What was that all about?” I asked as we moved away from the bar.

“Rick told me about a visit he paid to Anthony a while ago. Good to know he hasn’t forgotten.”

“When did -- What did he do?” Will ignored me and led me to a table near the dance floor.

We each had a couple of drinks and made our way to the dance floor twice before we decided it was time to move onto the next bar. By the time we were leaving the third bar on the list I was ready to call it a night. However, Will was still warming up. I didn’t want to ruin his fun, but I told him I had to slow down on the drinking. He complied by ordering me only one shot at bar number four. But, that still was number seven and I was surprised I could even count that high by then. It had been months since I’d had any alcohol and I’d never been able to handle it well anyway.

Bar number five could have been The Rave as far as I was concerned. It was definitely a dance club. The deep tones radiating through my body sent me to places I hadn’t been for a long time.

I closed my eyes. The heady music, the close bodies and the various smells pushed all thoughts from my brain.

Eventually, a very distinctive aroma snuck in on my consciousness and brought me back to reality. I opened my eyes and searched for the source. As I turned around I was met with White, not more than a few inches from me.

“What are you doing here?” Having to yell didn’t help mask the slur in my voice.

White hiked his head toward Will.

I threw an accusatory look at Will.

He shrugged. “I’m out of money and can’t pay for a cab to get us home.”

“I have money. You didn’t have to call him.” I yelled at Will.

“I’m not asking a girl to pay on a date.” I could tell by the look on his face this was unthinkable.

I looked at White for support on this but he just mimicked Will’s previous shrug.

I leaned in to talk in Will’s ear. “I thought you wanted to give the guys something to talk about.” I’d been looking forward to making White wonder if Will and I got along extra well, and now I didn’t know how to go about it without actually doing something drastic.

“Oh, they’ve already started,” he answered.

His voice in my ear gave me chills and made me giggle like a girl. I’m sure the alcohol helped.

“Ready?” I heard White yell from directly behind me.

“Not yet,” Will hollered over the music and gave me a wink.

It didn’t take me long to get lost in the music again. Strangely enough it was even easier to lose myself with White directly behind me. I knew I’d be safe with these two men near me and I was able to relax.

The music finally released its hold long enough for me to realize I’d backed up enough to feel White’s body heat against my back. I don’t know how long I’d been that close to him but I knew how it was affecting me. It was time to go home. I turned my head just enough to get a glimpse of White’s face. He was in bodyguard mode, scanning the entire building. It didn’t take him long to glance down at me with his undecipherable look. I mouthed the words, “Are you ready to go?” He answered with a nod.

I poked Will in the ribs and asked him the same thing in a shout. He also nodded his agreement.

I sat in the back of White’s black Mustang, though the seat was extremely uncomfortable. I figured I’d be left out of the conversation on the way home if I did and they didn’t let me down. I’d definitely had too much to drink and didn’t need to emphasize that fact with my slurred speech.

Will generously helped me navigate my way out of the vehicle once we’d parked in the garage of White and Associates. I held my own quite well after I got to my feet and Will and White let me lead the way into the lobby where I was greeted by all of my partners. Green and Black wore disapproving looks, but Red, Blue and especially Brown all smiled broadly.

“Pay up,” Will said to Brown as he stumbled up to him with his hand out.

“I want proof first. So, Ms. Grey. Did you have a good time tonight?”

I gave him a tight-lipped smile and muttered, “Mmm hmm.”

Suddenly, he took a swing at me. I had him on the floor instantly and just as quickly I lost my balance and found myself on top of him. Brown lifted me easily as he rose from the floor and set me upright.

“Okay. Here you go.” He laughed as he pulled out a wad of cash.

Money was being exchanged between everyone and I had no idea what was going on.

White was the only one not handing out or receiving cash. I gave him a questioning look. “What’s going on?”

“Will bet the guys he could take you out and get you drunk.”

“What?” White gave me his evil grin, the one that tied me in knots.

I stammered, “I didn’t mean to get drunk.” It took me being drunk, but I realized I preferred to be one of the guys instead of the girl in the company. I wondered why it had taken a prank like this to make me recognize that.

“I’ll take you home,” White offered but was instantly swarmed by the rest of the men with Brown up front.

“Oh no you don’t! You, Black and Blue are the only guys that have been around her when her tongue has been loosened by spirits. The rest of us want to get to know our partner like we know each other.” Brown grabbed my arm.

“No, no, no. I think White’s right and I should go home.” I tried to free myself as Brown towed me toward the elevator. I looked back at White for help but he was lost in the sea of men following us.

Everyone piled into the elevator and I felt a little claustrophobic. The feeling came mostly from everyone poking fun at me rather than the closeness of the bodies. As soon as the doors opened I pushed my way out to a floor I’d never been on before.

“Where are we?” I asked as Red pushed past me.

“Welcome to my abode.” He opened up the door and showcased the interior with a flourish of his arm.

I walked in and was overwhelmed with the feel of it.

“Now this is exactly what I thought White’s apartment would look like.” The black and red accents made me think of Gigi’s, the strip joint that Colin had me working at before the Dimitri hit. The apartment screamed bachelor on the hunt.

Black let out a chuckle as he followed me inside.

All of the partners’ apartments were the same floor plan but we each had a room that we used for our personal touch. White’s housed C.I.C. Mine was still used for storage. Black’s housed plants and all kinds of non-bachelor items, and Red’s was set up as a game room. He had a bar in one corner, a pool table, a dart board, and those tall tables that only seated a couple of people. However, he did have a couple of larger tables that would allow us all to sit together.

Blue stepped behind the bar and started lining up shot glasses like a pro. There was one for everyone but I didn’t get a chance to object until he brought over my usual shot of whiskey with a coke back.

“I can’t drink this,” I said as I pushed the shot away.

“Gonna be sick?” Brown mocked me with an exaggerated pout.

“Not yet, but I might soon,” I countered, weakly.

“Oh, come on. You’re home now. Who cares if you get sick. Just as long as you make it to the bathroom,” Red added.

“I promise to hold your hair,” Brown teased.
For more of J.C.'s writing check out The Alexis Stanton ChroniclesColor Me Grey (book one) is my current favorite KinDEAL (at present it's free from Amazon).

"Something Different" - Guest Post by J.C. Phelps Part 1 (Indie in Summer)

Though September is here, I'm holding onto the last dregs of summer for as long as possible so my Indie in Summer feature of spotlighting independent authors isn't quite done.  Joining me for a two-part guest post on this lovely labor day weekend is J.C. Phelps author of the Alexis Stanton Chronicles (Color Me Grey, Shades of Grey, and Reflections of Grey)!

I want to start this post with a big thank you to Lisa for allowing me to post here. Her Book Self is a blog that I have followed for quite a long time and this is a great honor.

Though I run a blog of my own, I mostly post about other authors and their books. I love letting my readers know how diverse and great the writing world has become. But when I’m not posting about other authors I’ll post something more personal such as pictures of my garden, books I’ve recently read or want to read, and every once in a while I post recipes I’ve recently tried.

Since you can find all that at my blog I decided I needed something different for this post. I could write a post about my writing process. A lot of authors might be interested in something like that and maybe even some readers. Let me tell you, my writing process, if I were a hermit living in a cave, would be nothing to talk about. However, with three kids…

Just let me give you an example the things I go through after the writing bug has passed and I rejoin the real world.
The other day I finally had an idea and started to type it up on the computer. I wasn’t involved in my writing for very long before I had to pull myself away and yell at the three-year-old to get out of the kitchen. She loves to get into everything, including the cleaning supplies. I can’t have that!

Later, after I’d made sure she remained in my sights for the majority of the day, I made a journey into the kitchen for coffee or something else equally mundane. I about fell on my butt.

In the course of the couple of minutes she had spent in the kitchen earlier that day, the three-year-old had managed to get butter out of the refrigerator and spread it all over the floor in front of the refrigerator AND she had washed the floor in front of the sink with nothing but dish soap. Butter AND dish soap on linoleum creates a slippery situation.

These are the kinds of things I must deal with whenever I stick my head into my computer for more than just a few seconds. Even though I could write an entire book on the antics of my three-year-old and how she affects my writing process, I decided I didn’t want that to be the main topic of my post. So what should I write about, I wondered.

The next thing on my list was talking about my self-published status and why I chose that route. Again, this would be something that could be interesting to other authors, but the general reader really just doesn’t care that I didn’t submit to agents or publishers because I have no patience and I’m afraid of deadlines. The general reader doesn’t care about the business of writing and how I think it’s best to have your books out there, gathering readers and making money rather than sitting in the drawer gathering dust. So, cross that off the list and move onto…

What are some of the questions people have asked me after reading my books?

Well, the most frequently asked questions are, “Are you going to write another book? When is it coming out?”

The answers to these questions are as elusive to me as they are to the reader. Let me just say I am working on a fourth book. But because of my writing process and my fear of deadlines I have no idea if I can ever finish it or give a release date until it is complete.

So, I finally settled on submitting a scene I have written. It may or may not be used in an upcoming book.


Stay tuned tomorrow for the scene that J.C. Phelps wrote for us!

Reflections of Grey (Series in September) (Indie in Summer)

It's September 1st!!  Which along with shocking statements of "Where oh where did the summer go??" means it's time for Series in September to return!  This is a feature I started last year where I devote the month to making progress through series that I'm currently reading as well as embarking on fun new-to-me works that are "Book One" in their sagas.  Today's pick is a bit of a crossover from my Indie in Summer feature and stay tuned for upcoming posts from the book's fabulous author!

Book: Reflections of Grey by J.C. Phelps

Series: The Alexis Stanton Chronicles

Book Order: Color Me Grey* (1), Shades of Grey* (2), Reflections of Grey* (3)
*indicates a book I have read

The action and intrigue of The Alexis Stanton Chronicles continues in book three Reflections of Grey. Alex Stanton, also known as Ms. Grey extends her training with White & Associates and takes on the challenge of an undercover job. Despite her misgivings about getting involved with Rick "Mr. White" Malone, Alex finds her resolve about their relationship tested. Things only get more complicated when Alex's work brings her across the path of another Malone, Rick's equally handsome brother.

Reflections of Grey carries the same high-energy, character driven action of the books that preceded it (Color Me Grey, Shades of Grey). J.C. Phelps continues to grow and develop her heroine with each new book in the series. Three books strong, there remains plenty more of Alex's story to be told and readers can only hope that Phelps has future works in store for the series.

The longer a series is, the harder time I have writing reviews for the books in it.   It's not that I don't love the books as much as the early ones in the series, but I tend to get really worried about including spoilers in my reviews!  Hopefully this teaser of a review conveys how much I enjoy the series, without giving away any plot points of the earlier books to readers who may be curious about the third!

Stay tuned this week and weekend as J.C. Phelps returns to Her Book Self with a fun guest post and a preview of her future work!