Book News, Apr. 25th

Bookworms, I have been trying to write this Book News post for WEEKS. Since March, easily. My life has been consumed with school and work, and with just a few weeks left in the term, I’m ready to tear my hair out (which, incidentally, might actually be handy because I don’t have time for a haircut!). Anyway, here’s a much shortened version of the news, some of which is probably really irrelevant at this point.

  •  J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is coming to HBO next week. Here’s the trailer.
  • Remember Clean Reader? No? It was a thing, then it wasn’t. This Digital Reader article explains a bit about why.
  • Romance Writers of America named their nominees for the 2015 RITA and Golden Heart Awards, which honor the best in romance fiction.
  • Speaking of romance, Jezebel published a long-form fascinating article about the history of romance fiction and how Harlequin became the most famous name in romance.
  • While the world will be a sadder place without Terry Pratchett, readers might be heartened to learn his final Discworld novel will be published in September.
  • Any thoughts on the cover for Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman? It feels appropriately old-school to me.
  • Spoiler alert: the Game of Thrones television series will spoil the books. Which, given George R.R. Martin’s writing speed, isn’t really surprising at all. And since the show has already diverged from the books, it can be argued that the spoilers may not matter in the end.
  • Some awesome people were coming up with ideas for Very Realistic YA on Twitter. The ideas are both hilarious and heartbreaking for their utter dullness. Very realistic indeed.
  • The ALA recently released it’s annual list of the top 10 most challenge books. Unsurprising (but still disappointing) is the fact the most of the books challenged feature diverse characters and plots.
  • The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes were announced and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See took home the Fiction prize.
  • Last, but certainly not least, a sad goodbye to Jonathan Crombie, the actor who portrayed Gilbert Blythe in Disney’s Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea movies. The “Anne” books and movies were essential parts of my childhood and it’s sad to see Crombie pass away too soon.

Happy reading (and send me some free time!)

Four Nights with the Duke

Four Nights with the DukeWhen Emilia “Mia” Carrington was 15, a poorly written poem about her unrequited love for Evander Septimus Brody, future Duke of Pindar, fell into the wrong hands. Teased and scorned, Mia swore that she was never marry Vander, even if he was the last man on earth. Years later, however, Mia is desperate to secure her nephew’s future and turning to Vander is her only option. Despite their scandalous and complicated past, Vander surprisingly agrees to Mia’s bold proposal, but only on his terms. When Vander realizes that Mia has no intention of meeting his terms, the battle between childhood enemies becomes a seductive back-and-forth between the Duke and his wife.

Four Nights with the Duke is Eloisa James’ latest novel, continuing the story of characters first introduced in Three Weeks with Lady X and loosely connected to her Desperate Duchesses series. Four Nights takes two seemingly disparate main characters and throws them into a classic and familiar “forced marriage of convenience” plot. The trope is a classic one in romance, especially historical romance, but James makes it feel fresh and new with her own twists – a heroine engaging in blackmail, a hero initially more interested in horses than wives, and one utterly hilarious (and inappropriately drunk) uncle. I personally enjoy these types of novels because there is something supremely satisfying in watching a hero and heroine fight against their circumstances until they finally realize and accept the inevitable: love will conquer all. And because it’s Eloisa James, the journey of getting to that point is the best part.

In a strange way, Four Nights reminded me a lot of many contemporary romance novels. (Bear with me here, because I think this is a good thing).  Much like real life in the 21st century, Mia and Vander’s story is messy and complicated. Vander is still scarred by the choices his parents made, while Mia wrestles with insecurities and that lingering, unpleasant memory starring Vander himself. They both must learn to communication and compromise, as they figure out what they really want. And, without giving too much away, the story thread involving Mia’s first fiancé, demonstrates that sometimes, other people – good people – do get hurt when love is on the line. So, for me, Four Nights really emphasized the universal and timeless nature of romance and love. No matter what century or country you might be in, love can be a mess. But ultimately, it’s worth it. 

While Mia and Vander’s love story is the central focus of the novel, my favorite part was not their relationship, but rather James’ sly (and, in some cases, not-so-sly) nods and odes to all things literary. Four Nights is James’ meta novel, since Mia is a romance novelist herself. The snippets of her work in progress give readers a little bit of insight into a writer’s mind, and into Mia’s internal struggle as she tries to write a fictional happy ending while finding her own.

Aside from Mia’s literary accomplishments, James’ includes a number of other little winks to beloved literary inspirations, from Mia’s nephew Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle in Time), Sir Chuffy’s frequent Twelfth Night references (and his resemble to one Sir Toby Belch) and a shout-out to fellow historical romance novelist Julia Quinn, in the form of Mia’s devotion to a Miss Julia Quiplet’s books. There’s even a passing reference to Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron (and those infamous pigeons!), a fictional book-within-a-book that appears in many of Quinn’s own novels. Oh, the meta-ness! My literary-loving heart keep leaping with joy at each new reference I discovered.

So if you love fun, tongue-in-cheek references to other literary sources, appallingly bad poetry (seriously, it’s bad), novel-writing heroines, and a devastatingly handsome duke groveling and atoning for his errors, then you will certainly want to read Four Nights with the Duke. It’s classic, wonderful, delightful Eloisa James at her best. Now, may we please have a Sir Chuffy prequel? (Please?!?)

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I also bought my own copy, because of course! 

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

A Bollywood Affair

A Bollywood AffairAt the age of four, in a small Indian village, Mili Rathod was married. 20 years later, even though Mili hasn’t seen her husband since that day, her status as a married woman has allowed her a rare freedom – the opportunity to study in America. Mili jumps at the chance for her bit of freedom, all while wondering when (or if) her husband will ever come to find her. Then, one day, someone does find her – Samir Rathod, the younger brother of Mili’s supposed husband and a hot-shot Bollywood direction. Samir tracked Mili down to secure a divorce on his brother’s behalf, but the woman he finds is not at all what he expected. As Mili and Samir are drawn closer together, both will question what matters more: family obligations, or personal happiness?

Sonali Dev’s gorgeously-written debut novel, A Bollywood Affair, is a wonderful, heartfelt and deeply emotional love story. Steeped in contemporary Indian culture (with all its diversity and variety), Dev’s book captures the confusion, hope and struggle found both in a new romance and in those trying to balance family and tradition with a modern world. And even though Mili and Samir’s romance is an integral part of the plot, Dev’s novel extends beyond romance to explore the complicated and complex relationships between parents and children, siblings and the families we make for ourselves.

A Bollywood Affair is bursting with details and descriptions that are bright and vibrant (particularly the chapters featuring a hastily-planned Indian wedding) and the precise commentary on all of the food is sure to leave you hungry – or Googling the nearest and best Indian restaurant. Dev has a way of making everything in her novel feel fresh and new. So while A Bollywood Affair does feature some fairly familiar romance tropes, it never feels that way. Moreover, Dev’s characters easily avoid stereotypes and stock characterization. There are no dastardly villains or Rube Goldberg-style obstacles standing in Mili and Samir’s way – it’s just them, with their own flaws and strengths, their own choices and behaviors and their own beliefs in love winning out in the end.

A Bollywood Affair is exquisite, a carefully planned combination of heart, hope and heat. Even if you don’t think you like romance, I defy you to read Sonali Dev’s debut novel and not enjoy. That’s a bet you’ll lose, I’m sure. And, as an added bonus, A Bollywood Affair is currently duking it out in Round 3 of DABWAHA, so go vote for it!

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

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