Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (2), July 30-31 to Aug 2

Book Blogger Hop

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop weekend! Each week, the Book Blogger Hop runs from Friday to Monday and is a book blogger block party hosted every week by Jennifer at This is an awesome way to meet new bloggers and discover new books. This week's question is: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE NEW-TO-YOU AUTHOR SO FAR THIS YEAR?

Fortunately for me, I keep track of what I read and was able to go back and pick out those new-to-me authors that really stood out this year. It was not an easy choice but here goes...

My favorite author so far is Sarah Rees Brennan. This is pretty impressive because I have only read her first book, The Demon's Lexicon. I have my own copy of book two, The Demon's Covenant, but have not gotten to it yet. (I have the US covers, the ones on the left.)

I reviewed The Demon's Lexicon in April and actually picked it to be my favorite book read that month. An awesome mix of YA and urban fantasy, The Demon's Lexicon is set in the UK and is about a small family comprised of a pair of brothers and their mother, constantly on the move to keep hidden from a group of magic-using murderers who are determined to capture their mother. Nick and Alan will work their way into your heart and shock you with a surprise ending I didn't see coming. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Sooner or Later by Debbie Macomber

They can't fight forever...

No one in the tiny town of Boothill, Texas, knows the real Shaun Murphy. Heck, most of them don't even know his first name - and that's the way Murphy likes it. But he can't hide from the pretty young postmistress, Letty Madden. Letty's brother is missing, and she knows Murphy's the only one who can help her find him. But Murphy doesn't need her money. So when Letty comes to him, her begging brown eyes as dark as bittersweet chocolate, he makes her a very indecent proposal.

Letty Madden is a woman of grit and faith, a woman with a mission. She'll do anything to get her twin brother back, even if it means giving herself to Murphy. But their rendezvous is far more passionate than they ever expected...and, sooner or later, they'll have to face the fact that they've fallen wildly in love.

I have no idea why, with all the brand new books I have waiting to be read, I picked up this one yesterday. I wanted something comforting to read, something predictable yet fulfilling emotionally that I could read and not think about. I did not get what I was looking for here and I've given it a grade of C-. I'm pretty sure that that is the lowest grade I've given, maybe ever, and with good reason. This book by Debbie Macomber is a stinker.

I have read a few books from Debbie's Cedar Cove series in the past and thought they were about average. Maybe a little above, but not the best I've read. So when I got this one in the mail the other day (no, I didn't pay for it) I thought it might be promising. Um, no. I found the men in this book to be so ridiculously heinous that the only reason I finished it was to see them realize how stupid they were. I found the story to be equally awful.

Exhibit number one: Shaun Murphy. This is one piece of work, people. A complete pig, he considers women only good for one thing and one thing only. He doesn't respect them and when Letty approaches him to ask for help, he flat out tells her no. Repeatedly. Then he starts to think about it and her and how he hasn't gotten lucky in a while and so he comes back with a request in lieu of money - lose your virginity to me and you've got a deal. To be fair, he didn't want to be involved in going to an unstable country to rescue her brother and he figured this was the quickest way to get her out of his hair and to deal with the tiny bit of guilt on his conscience. After all, there was no way this twenty-something virgin was going to put her, ahem, body where her money was, right? Ha! I do love a woman who can call a bluff. And so, when she invited him over for dinner before the big moment, she spiked his food and managed (mostly) to avoid the subject. I was so proud of her. Then they go to "Zarcero," a Latin American country to get back her brother and Murphy spends the first half of the trip barking at her like a dog. By the second half, he realizes he's in love with her. Oh no! Say it's not true Murphy! Jerk.

Exhibit number two: Jack Keller. I believe this jackass gets the next book in this series as his own and I couldn't be any less interested since he may be worse than Murphy. Jack is also a mercenary who works for the same company as Murphy and he got shot in the first book apparently. Now that he has some time off, he figures he'll go visit his good time lady friend, Marcie. Marcie is one of those pretty women who thinks that if she gives men her love and her body they'll love her back. Marcie owns her own beauty shop and used to wait with bated breath for "Johnny" to come to her for their customary sex filled weekend. You see, Jack didn't give her his real name but told her to call him Johnny and doesn't think anything's wrong with flitting in and out of her life whenever he feels like it. When Jack goes to see Marcie, he discovers that she's got a boyfriend now and she's changed her attitude about him and their relationship. 'Ol Jack doesn't like that too much so he decides to come straight, tell the truth, and let their chemistry do all the talking. He even agrees to marry her. What a nice guy! I absolutely loved that Marcie picked the less interesting but forthright Clifford (I kept picturing a big red dog whenever he was there) over the jerk Jack.

The thing about these men is that they're not bad people. They can be honorable, unbelievable as it seems. That leads me to think that either Debbie Macomber missed the mark here and this is an isolated incident of story and characters gone bad, or she actually thought that they would be appealing. You want to hear the really stupid thing about this book? After Letty and Murphy travel to Zarcero they get shot at, Letty is almost raped, they find some abandoned children and travel way out of their way to get them to some family, Murphy gets arrested and beaten, and they still keep fighting their way to her brother and guess what? He dies in his sleep! Talk about getting tackled on the one yard line! That was truly ridiculous. Also ridiculous is that nine readers on B& gave this book four and a half stars (amazon readers gave four).

I guess this is what I guess for picking up this mess instead of continuing Dark Road to Darjeeling. Don't worry about me - I have learned my lesson. I try not to be a book snob and I seriously dislike ripping books like this but I couldn't just let this one go and not say my piece. I am utterly disappointed.

Review: Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins

First Date a la Maggie

Take one lovelorn diner owner (me)
A generous helping of nosy local groups
A dollop of envy at married sister's perfect life
A splash of divine intervention (my matchmaking priest)

Combine ingredients with one adorable puppy, add a strong but silent lobsterman with a hidden heart of gold...and watch the sparks fly.

I recently read a review for Kristan Higgins's newest book, All I Ever Wanted, over at Book Binge and instantly knew I had found my newest favorite author. So I waltzed over to my local library to see what they had of her backlist and came home with this little gem.

Maggie is quickly becoming a desperate woman. She's in her early thirties and unmarried while her identical twin is married to a kind, handsome doctor and has a daughter. She's in love with her parish priest of all people and can't meet a decent eligible man in her itty bitty coastal Maine town. She owns the only restaurant in town - a diner she inherited from her grandfather - and keeps losing the Best Breakfast in Washington County award to a B&B in the next town. Everyone she knows tries to set her up on blind dates and while she's game, she's doubtful. So when her friends point her towards Malone, a lobsterman who is a mysterious loner and just a little scary, she blows it off and unintentionally insults him. And then, he saves her one night from yet even more humiliation after being stood up by one of Father Tim's blind dates. Hel-lo! Suddenly lobstermen are looking a LOT better.

I laughed and cried with this book - a dog died so sue me. I felt sorry for Maggie but I also felt close to her. Being a social misfit with the opposite sex is no mystery for me but I was proud of her for putting herself out there and for standing up for herself with her family. Pairing her with Malone was an entertaining choice; they are proof that opposites do attract. She's outgoing and social, he's an introvert and says as little as possible. I liked Higgins's style; her characters are realistic and pretty funny.

I started this book when I went to bed one night and ended up staying up to finish it. I am now hunting down the rest of Higgins's books :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: King of Sword and Sky by C. L. Wilson

Returning to the Fading Lands with his Celierian truemate, Rain discovers a dissension among the most powerful members of his own council. As the Eld plot their next deadly strike, Ellysetta struggles to master her powerful magic and discover how to save the tairen, while Rain confronts open challenge to his rule and prepares to lead the Fey army to war.

While I read this series, I picture the faeries as the elves from the Peter Jackson LOTR trilogy and the Fading Lands to be as Rivendell from Fellowship of the Ring, all dreamy and shining. I know it's not technically correct because Rain and Ellysetta are fey, not elves, but as there are no elves in this chapter in the Tairen Soul story, I don't feel too badly.

This is such a well-written series and reminiscent of Tolkien with a world of different lands and peoples full of compelling characters, both good and evil, who are engaged in a millennia-long war. I believe Vadim Maur, the leader of Eld and chief villain in this world, is one of the most heinous foes I have ever read and that includes Voldemort and possibly Sauron. He is horrifying. Vadim Maur is pure evil and he has absolutely no remorse, no conscience, no limits in his penchant for doing whatever is necessary to further his cause and vanquish all Light in their world. Dramatic, right? Well, Wilson's story is definitely dramatic and is equally so on either side of the fence.

Rain is a Tairen Soul, currently the only Tairen Soul in their world. He is the King of the Fading Lands and can change from his human form into a Tairen. Picture, if you will, a big cat that looks like a cross between a lion and bobcat but make it as big as a dragon and add wings and talons and fire and then you'd be close. Rain desperately wants his truemate, Ellysetta, to complete their soul bonding so they can be complete but Ellie is so filled with doubt - of herself, of her abilities, of what will happen - that she can't figure out how. It's weakening Rain, leaving him open to losing himself in madness again, and Ellie needs the truemate bond to protect herself from Maur's magical influence. Rain and Ellie are also battling their own people in an internal power struggle and working to keep the Tairen from dying. Needless to say, Rain and Ellysetta are very busy in book three.

King of Sword and Sky is the third book in the Tairen Soul series and it did lag a bit in places but by two-thirds the way through it picked WAY up and sped to a conclusion that made me instantly pick up book four, Queen of Song and Souls. I enjoyed following Ellysetta on her journey and seeing her coming into her powers (she's still not there yet). One of the best parts of King is finally meeting the Tairen pride. They are in crisis; some unknown force is killing the unborn Tairen babies and some of the adults too. They are a great facet in the group of characters, Steli in particular, the Tairen that adopts Ellie as her Pride-daughter. Mama bears have nothing on Steli.

I enthusiastically recommend this series to anyone who likes paranormal romance. Books one through four are available now; Crown of Crystal Flame, the finale and fifth book, is scheduled to be released on October 26, 2010.

Other reviews: (careful - there's spoilers everywhere)

Monday, July 26, 2010

It Feels Like Christmas

I always knew this day would come. I've heard about other people's experiences in this, good and bad, and while I put it off as long as I could, it was inevitable.

I bought a Nook. nook. Whatever.

With the prices on these little buggers drooping like the leaves on my hydrangeas in this hellish heat, my husband had plans on getting me one for my birthday. I'll tell you what pushed that up several months: Deanna Raybourn. More specifically, granted my request to get an ebook ARC of her Dark Road to Darjeeling, the much-anticipated fourth book in her Lady Julia series. There are few series I follow with such devotion and so when I saw another blogger had scored a copy of the book from the fine folks behind netGalley, I was on that ASAP. Seeing my email this morning with some messages from netGalley put me on the phone with the local B&N to check their inventory. (I had to double check this time as I may have ended up on the news otherwise.) I was soon on my way out the door with a somewhat bewildered-looking husband shaking his head behind me.

Officially, this makes me a hypocrite but I don't care. I was informed today that women are allowed to throw hissy-fits from time-to-time with no repercussions so I may be in the clear. There's no guilt here :)

I've been reading Dark Road to Darjeeling this evening on this gadget and with just some formatting issues of the text to work around, I've had no trouble. It's so much more sophisticated than the Sony eReader I used a while back and I love the features.

One plus that I hadn't considered before I bought it was that it slows me down. I can just inhale a book, depending on my anticipation and the writer and the nook requires me to flip the pages with the push of a button or swipe of my finger that probably takes two or three times as long. Dark Road to Darjeeling is 397 pages and I only got to page ninety-three. Last year when I brought Silent in the Moor from the bookstore in the early afternoon, I had it finished before dinnertime. It's a bad way to read and I know I miss stuff so I'm hoping this will help me pace myself.

It's been a good day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Blogger Hop, July 23-26

Book Blogger Hop

Welcome to my first Book Blogger Hop weekend! The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly link hosted by another book blog so that book bloggers everywhere can meet and share their love of books. This week's topic is: TELL US ABOUT THE BOOK YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING!

Well, I have two answers to that one. Last night when I went to bed I felt like reading something that wouldn't take too long so I started but did not finish "Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go" by Caitlin Kittredge, published in the anthology Huntress

Ever since I read Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge, I've pretty much bought every book that has a Jack Winter story in it. Jack reminds me so much of Spike from BTVS minus the fangs and homicidal tendencies that I just can't resist him. I was mildly disappointed that this story didn't have Pete Caldecott in it; I love the interaction and sexual tension between Jack and Pete. This short story is set in 1990, probably before Jack knew Pete and her sister. Jack is in Scotland, playing with his band, The Bastards, when he approached by an American woman who needs his help to kill a demon. Needless to say, she is not what she appears and Jack gets wrapped up in her mission. As I mentioned, I haven't finished yet but I'm enjoying it. 

The full-length book I'm currently reading is C. L. Wilson's King of Sword and Sky, book three in her Tairen Soul series. (Look right for the cover.) I'm on page 156 but I'm not as engrossed with this one as I have been with the first two. Wilson's made this a five book series so I'm thinking it's inevitable that the middle book may drag a bit and I find my mind wandering to other things while I'm reading this one. Let's hope it gets better. This book is on my one book challenge list I signed up for this year and I'd like to finish it sometime soon.

Have a great weekend! Stay cool :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill

Vamps in Chicago!

You'd think headlines like that would have provoked the fine citizens of the Windy City to take up arms against us bloodsucking fiends. Instead, ten months later, we're enjoying a celebrity status reserved for the Hollywood elite—fending off paparazzi only slightly less dangerous than cross and stake-wielding slayers. Don't get me wrong, Joe Public isn't exactly thrilled to be living side-by-side with the undead, but at least they haven't stormed the castle yet.

But all that will change once they learn about the Raves—mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle and drink themselves silly. Most civilized vampires frown on this behavior, putting mere mortals at ease with their policy of asking a person's consent before taking a big gulp of the red stuff. However, that doesn't make good copy for a first time reporter looking to impress his high society family.

So now my "master," the centuries old, yet gorgeously well-preserved Ethan Sullivan, wants me to reconnect with my own upper class family and act as liaison between humans and vampires—and keep the more unsavory aspects of our existence out of the media. But someone doesn't want people and vamps to play nicey-nice—someone with an ancient grudge. (from

As I tweeted this morning, I stayed up until 2 am last night to finish this book. I don't know what I was thinking, starting it after dinner because I knew that once I started it, I would be physically unable to stop until I was done. It was totally worth every yawn I had this morning too.

Here's what I wrote last July about the first Chicagoland Vampires book, Some Girls Bite:
Some Girls Bite rocked. This is related to one of the post ideas I've been working on, but when I started thinking about it I couldn't figure out what my point would have been, so I've dropped the idea. Some Girls Bite wasn't just a good vampire book, it was a good read period. I loved Merit, our protagonist, her friends, her love interest, everything. The only thing to complain about it that the next one doesn't come out until October. The ironic thing about this book is...Merit doesn't bite :)
Prompted by Jane, I picked up Friday Night Bites yesterday to get ready for Twice Bitten, the third book in Neill's series, which is on it's sweet way to me as I, um, speak. Friday Night Bites picks up right after Some Girls Bite ends, as Merit is preparing to move into the Cadogan house so she can be a better Sentinel, the official house warrior. Unfortunately, this puts Merit into closer proximity to Ethan, the head of Cadogan and her boss, and she's afraid that she won't be strong enough to keep Ethan at arm's length. Merit is also still kinda dating the head of the Navarre house, Morgan, having been manipulated into it by both Morgan and Ethan in the first book and she hasn't forgiven either of them.

Not long after Merit moves in, she gets orders to help her house gain an entree into Chicago society through her family's social connections. This is something that Merit definitely doesn't want to do for more than one reason; first, it will require her to deal with her father and all his political and social aspirations and he is certainly not beneath using his newly vampired daughter to get what he wants and second, it would mean lots of time spent with Ethan, most likely without any of the vampire hierarchy to keep them apart.

Merit's also having trouble with her vampire self. This was an integral part of the plot and I loved it. It brought some issues about Merit to light that I had wondered about and I'm glad they were (somewhat) resolved. These issues were affecting her training with Catcher and ultimately her friendship with Mallory, her BFF, but especially her strange relationship with Ethan. Merit's vampire wants some bad things bad and is keeping Merit in a constant fight for her sense of self and her humanity, something she is desperately trying to hold on to, while also doing her job and dealing with Ethan. By the end of Some Girls Bite, I pretty much loathed Ethan. A master manipulator, Ethan both wants Merit for himself and the House but also still thinks of her as a means to an end - an alliance with Navarre through her relationship with Morgan. Some inside information wouldn't be bad either. The houses don't get along, reminding me of Gryffindor and Slytherin from Harry Potter. Neither one is wholly good or evil on their own but their differences come from their attitudes and actions.

I have to say, the cast of characters Chloe Neill has set up here is fantastic. Merit is trying to straddle a very narrow line between the vampire world and the human one and it gives Neill the opportunity to introduce all sorts of folks. Witches with blue hair, sorcerers, geeky shifters, and more quirky vampires than you can shake a stick at. The sheer volume of the snark is just awesome and I laughed out loud several times. I found myself (again) emotionally invested in what happened to Merit, outraged when she was outraged, choked up when she was choked up, well, you get the idea. I would put the appeal and level of writing of Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series on par with Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series. Yes, it's that good.

Where did my copy come from: Jane

Other reviews:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: The Search by Nora Roberts

Number-one New York Times-bestselling author Nora Roberts presents a novel set in the Pacific Northwest, where an island provides sanctuary, the lush forests seduce the unwary, and a man and a woman find in each other the strength to carry on.

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life - a quaint house on an island off Seattle's coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare.

Several years ago, she was the only survivor of a serial killer - a madman who stalked and abducted young women, strangled them, and left them buried with a red scarf on their bodies. As authorities were closing in on the Red Scarf Killer, he shot and killed Fiona's cop fiance and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. Yet all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He's the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon's house, and he's at his wit's end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can't handle. Simon is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he's a rugged and intensely private artist, known for creating exquisite furniture. Simon never wanted a puppy, and he most definitely doesn't want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to laws of attraction.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws and as Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona's life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands...

I started reading Nora Roberts's books a good eight or nine years ago. I had a crappy job that had a rotating schedule and I spent the equivalent of one week a month working the night shift, seven p.m. to seven a.m. Books saved my sanity then (and still do) and I couldn't have gotten through those nights without them. They were good times for me and books, those four years on the night shift. I discovered Nora, Sandra Brown, Janet Evanovich, and Tom Clancy among others but these are the ones that stick out in my mind. Now, I've never read a bad Nora Roberts book but I'm beginning to wonder if she's finally worn out her muse. Last year her new summer release, Black Hills, was a DNF for me. Talk about shocked! I figured that, okay, it was bound to happen since she's only written a million books or something and wrote it off as a fluke but The Search didn't blow me away and now I'm worried.

I'm not sure what to say about this book. I think I liked it since I liked it enough to actually finish it. I know that I flip-flopped between being caught up in the story and wondering what the hell Fiona and Simon were doing together. Most of the time, Simon was bitching to himself and to Fiona that he couldn't figure out why he liked her so much. Even stranger was Fiona appreciating him for it! Here's a bit from pages 187-88:

     She took a treat from Simon, rewarded the dog when he reached the top. "You just need to give him a little help figuring out how to walk down, keep his footing. Walk. That's it. Good balance. Good, good job." She rewarded him again at the bottom. "You do it with him so...What?" she demanded when she looked up to find him staring at her.
     "You're not beautiful."
     "There you go again, Mr. Romance."
     "You're not, but you grab hold. I haven't figured out why."
     "Let me know when you do. Take him up and down."
     "And I'm doing this because?"
     "He's learning how to navigate unstable footing. It gives him confidence, enhances his agility. And he likes it."
     She stepped back, watched the two of them play the game a few times. Not beautiful, she thought. The observation, and the fact that he just said it, should've been a flick to the ego - even though it was perfectly true. So why had it amused her, at least for the few seconds between that and his next comment?
     You grab hold. That made her heart flutter.
     The man incited the oddest reactions in her.

Simon incited the oddest reactions in me too. Sometimes I liked him, other times I didn't. Witnessing him being cranky and antisocial, I kept wondering why she would want him. I'm not sure that in real life, the sex would be worth the high maintenance man who doesn't want you to get too comfortable in his big, messy house. Maybe it's just that men that blunt and bossy tend to tick me off, even if it's misplaced worry and/or love. It finally came down to the realization that they matched. Simon pushed Fiona when she needed it and even bullied her sometimes. Obviously, the whole "tough love" idea really worked for him. Fiona, on the other hand, drew Simon out of his house and his workshop and got him to get over himself and accept that he loved her. BTW, I really want to see the sink he made out of that stump.

It wasn't just the issues between Fiona and Simon that bothered me - I wasn't too terribly affected by the villain. When it came down to the final showdown, he wasn't very scary. Yes, he was murderous and evil but he liked to talk to his victims a little too much and he came off as a whiny younger brother, sick of being suck in big brother's shadow. I agree with the reviewer from the link below about how the final third of The Search turned into a "typical suspense novel." This book went dogs, dogs, dogs, Fiona & Simon, dogs, and then Silence of the Lambs without the face eating but with lots of FBI. And it wasn't all that suspenseful.

I did like all the animal training info I learned. I've informed my husband that if one would use the guidelines and training rules Fiona uses in this book, then we are indeed bad pet owners :) Jaws, Newman, Bogart, and Peck, a.k.a. the dogs, were definitely the highlights of The Search. I'm thinking that I should probably run out and grab the newest J. D. Robb book, just so I can remember why I read Nora Roberts.

Where my copy came from: public library

Other reviews:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Thomas Sniegoski short story in the Mean Streets anthology

Every now and then, when I'm not feeling like picking out a full-length book to work through, I pick up an anthology. This time I found myself reading Thomas E. Sniegoski's "Noah's Orphans," a visit to his Remy Chandler series in the anthology Mean Streets. I enjoyed it so much that this morning I spent the better part of an hour checking out Sniegoski and wondering how in the world I managed to miss his books.

Remy Chandler is an angel. Remiel, a Seraphim, has left Heaven; the wars up there left him disenfranchised with his brethren and so he ascended to Earth and now lives as Remy Chandler, a Boston PI who is now mourning the loss of his beloved wife to cancer. Remy and his dog, Marlowe, are approached by another angel, Sariel, who asks for Remy/Remiel's help in solving Noah's murder on an abandoned oil rig. Remy tries to resist but Sariel decides that he's not taking No for an answer and so Remy gets involved, discovering something that shocks him.

Sniegoski has so far written three Remy Chandler books: A Kiss Before the Apocalypse, Dancing on the Head of a Pin, and Where Angels Fear to Tread. "Noah's Orphans" was a nice glimpse into Remy's life and we get to meet some of his friends, angelic or otherwise. I liked Francis in particular. The story was interesting and made me curious to see what else Remy has been up to. He's different than any other descended angel I've seen in quite a while and comes off as being quite human. And I loved his dog.

Looking at B& this morning I found that A Kiss Before the Apocalypse is on clearance for $1.99 so get on over there and discover a new author today.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Apologies to The Passage...It's Not You, It's Me

So I tried to read The Passage. I had no idea it is the first of three (?) books, spanning over a hundred years. Fifty two pages and I'm calling it quits. It's not the book since I did like what I read, just that I wasn't ready to make that much of a commitment right now :) Especially since I have like a gazillion other books just waiting to be read; The Search by Nora Roberts is at the top of that list but for tonight, I'm going to reread something I read a few years ago.

Fables by Bill Willingham is making the rounds on the 'net lately. I was extremely impressed with the first three volumes of this extraordinary series but unfortunately, the remainder of the volumes we currently have ended up in my TBR pile. I don't feel like reading anything heavy tonight and revisiting Fables sounds just perfect.

What Kind of Reader Are You? (part 5)

In this installment, I would like to discuss adaptations. Specifically, books adapted into/for movies or television with a focus on more contemporary material. I could go on forever and ever on this subject with just Jane Austen's books alone so let's stick with books written after I was born.

How rare is the perfect (or even decent) adaptation? For me, it's close to a line I once heard somewhere, "It's like being struck by lightning while living in a house you won from Ed McMahon." Thank you Blanche :) So it's not entirely impossible but highly unlikely.

I am a stickler for accuracy. I am picky beyond rationality. I am, well, you get the picture.

Here's the deal: for those random books that I can recollect that I've read sometime in my thirty-odd years, I could care less but for books that I've read and reread and loved? Ha! Are they really expecting me to be able to enjoy it? Really? Can any other mortal individual replicate what's in my head? (To answer the question that's probably running through your mind: yes, I am a control freak. However, I'm not a borderline personality disorder with OCD tendencies so I can back off. I'll just tell the voices that now isn't a good time.)

For example, and I apologize to those readers who love the show I'm about to bring up and please know that I respect everybody's right to watch whatever the hell they want so please don't drop me from your following list, I can't watch True Blood.

I've seen the promos on HBO and heard about all the shocking stuff they do on that show and it almost hurts when I see what they've done with Sookie and company. To be fair, I haven't sat down and actually watched an episode and that reminds me of my grandma saying to me as a child, "How do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it?" Well, this is like me and brussels sprouts; just looking at those nasty little cabbage lookalikes made me know in my bones that I wasn't going to like them. (I was right.) Where did all the gratuitous sex come from? And look at the covers above. I find it hard to believe that these two series are even related.

It's not just what they've done with the plotlines but with some of the casting. I don't like Anna Paquin as Sookie. I didn't like her as Rogue in X-Men either for that matter. Bill doesn't look right and neither does Sam. Sorry! Even though Charlaine Harris has given the show her stamp of approval, and that is usually good enough for me, I am too much of a Sookie purist to accept Alan Ball's adaptation. Except for Joe Manganiello and Ryan Kwanten as Alcide and Jason, respectively. They're fine. Yeah they are :)

Now, one book-to-tv adaptation I did like was Bones. Emily Deschanel's Temperance Brennan  is absolutely nothing like Tempe from the Kathy Reichs's series. The locales are all different and with the exception of Tempe herself, none of the characters from the books made it to the  tv show but they both work well. Kathy Reichs has been an key player in the development of Bones and worked as a producer for a majority of episodes. Charlaine Harris is listed as a "writer" for all existing episodes of True Blood on but it's really just for her novels as inspiration.

Other shows/movies I'm planning on staying away from are HBO's The Game of Thrones, based on the book with the same title from George R. R. Martin's series The Song of Ice and Fire. Based on the teaser trailer they've released, it appears that visually, the show is spot on so I may bend a bit and try it out.

Also on this list are any version ever done of Stephen King's The Talisman or any of his Gunslinger set, and the upcoming movie version of One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. I still get a chill up my spine when I think of Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum. Just. EW.

My husband is practically dancing with glee over the previews of AMC's The Walking Dead. Check out that link because I'm not putting those nasty pictures here. He's been collecting the trade paperbacks of Robert Kirkman's comic for a few years now and is such a big fan of his. The show starts in October and don't ask me if I'll be watching. Zombies are so not my thing.

BUT! There are some good ones out there, adaptations that more than acceptable. Bridget Jones's Diary, Mike Mignola's Hellboy and BPRD books, and Harry Potter are all fab. I think Daniel Radcliffe's face was in J. K. Rowling's head as she wrote and Renee Zellweger nailed Bridget, accent and all. Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy, little ponytail and all.

To summarize, I generally don't like it when my favorite books are made into television programs or movies because they never compare to what I've already imagined. If I do happen to see a movie or show and then read the book then I'm okay but I seem to have this need to rip adaptations to shreds. Call it a gift :)

So, what kind of reader are you when it comes to seeing your favorite books made into tv or movies? Can you watch peacefully and accept the differences or do they make you want to rip your hair out? Share share share! Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Detour if You Please

Dinnertime has recently become my least favorite time of day. Wanna guess why? Here's the reason: I can't think of anything to cook for dinner.

I do actually like to cook. (I do not like the cleaning up part after.) I love cookbooks. As I've mentioned before, I need a recipe for most things if I want them to end up edible.

As with just about everything else, when in doubt, I turn to the internet. There has got to be someone out there who will tell me how to cook something I will want to eat. This is a daily thing with me and as a result I've become somewhat obsessed with food blogs. What's not to like what with all the lovely pictures of delicious treats? Desserts have always been my favorite part of a meal and I have the waistline to prove it. Trust me, I would eat cake for dinner everyday if I could. When I get a new cookbook, I first flip to the desserts section. Always.

So I've added another blogroll to the sidebar that are strictly food blogs/websites. Suggestions are definitely welcome here if there's a truly awesome foodie site that I don't have listed. Happy eating!

Review: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

When Sarah Byrnes was three years old, her condition became synonymous with her surname. Her face and hands were badly burned in a mysterious accident, and her father refused to allow reconstructive surgery. She developed a suit of cold, stainless steel armor to defend herself against the taunts of a world insensitive to her pain. You enter into Sarah Byrnes's world on her terms, or you don't enter.

Enter Eric Calhoune--Moby to his friends. Eric passed through his early years on a steady diet of Oreos and Twinkies and root beer floats, and he sports the girth to prove it. Because of their "terminal uglies," he and Sarah Byrnes have become true masters in the art of underhanded revenge directed at anyone who dares to offend their sensibilities.

When Eric turns out for the high school swimming team, he begins to shed layers of extra poundage. Fearing the loss of the one friendship he treasures, he gorges to "stay fat for Sarah Byrnes," who discovers his motive and threatens to beat him more senseless than she thinks he already is. Then the truth of Sarah Byrnes's horrific past finally catches up with her. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a darkly funny, suspenseful novel about friendship, fear, and making the best of a bad situation. Once again Chris Crutcher slaps us in the face with compelling questions that demand dignified answers. (from

I had never heard of Chris Crutcher until last Friday when I read the Retro Friday Review meme over at Angieville. What a book! I am constantly surprised by YA fiction and how adult it can be and I shouldn't because I do know better. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes deals with issues such as child and spousal abuse, intolerance, religion, teenage pregnancy, and abortion. The most surprising aspect of this book to me though was the humor; for a YA novel that is heavy on close-to-home social issues, the narration is quite funny without losing any of his earnestness (?) and dignity. Eric is a total smart ass and I loved it. I found myself last night reading passages out loud to my husband who was trying to watch TV but was patient enough to pause the dvr and listen, and then laugh out loud with me. Read this paragraph from page 52, where Eric is talking about Crispy Pork Rinds, an underground newspaper he and Sarah Byrnes wrote, printed, and distributed in their high school:

Anyway, Sarah Byrnes and I had decided to lay off [bully Dale Thornton] for a while - at least until our wounds healed - and concentrate on an expose about [Vice-Principal Mautz]'s two-headed son, the outcome of his clandestine sexual foray with a group of particularly brutal aliens one night several years back when he was wigged out on cocaine. According to our meticulously researched story, whenever Mautz came up short on new ways to treat kids astonishingly, he consulted with Huey-Dewey (one name for each head), whom he kept locked in an earth cellar behind his house.

When I read that review last week, I got a feeling that I would want my own copy of it. I tried to get one from a Borders in Annapolis but they were out last weekend so I hied my heinie over to my local library Monday morning because I couldn't wait. I've now got my own coming to me in the mail and I'm sure this is a book I will reread in the future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world - no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew - a reclusive, real-life gentle giant - she realizes that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson's cakes - which is a good thing, because Julia can't seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town's sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar...Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she's hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

It's only fitting that Sarah Addison Allen writes books about magic; her books are magic in and of themselves. Time to be honest here: I didn't love this one as much as The Sugar Queen but I certainly did enjoy the experience. Redemption. Closure. Family. First loves. The unexplained. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is about all of these things.

Emily goes to live in her mother's hometown, the hometown she never spoke of and didn't think to prepare Emily for but should have. Now that her mother is gone and all her other options have disappeared, Emily goes to live with her grandfather, a total stranger obsessed with their clothes dryer. Imagine going to an unfamiliar town only to find that the mother you loved and worshiped is Public Enemy Number One for what seems to be a good reason. It becomes Emily's mission in Mullaby to redeem her family's name and help heal the scars from an old but not dead scandal. Julia has returned to Mullaby after her father's death only to find that he was in debt crawling up to his eyeballs. Julia doesn't want to live in Mullaby; her heart was broken years ago first by her father and then by most beautiful boy in town and now that she's all grown up, the beautiful boy wants another shot and she's too scared to give it to him. She's promised herself that as soon as she's paid off her father's debt she'll return to her life in Baltimore and open the bakery she's always dreamed of and the last thing Julia wants is to get attached to anyplace or anyone in Mullaby.

Remember that saying about a thing not always being a sum of its parts? (Er, or something along those lines.) That's kind of how I see this book. I love that Allen adds magic to her stories; that magic brings the element of the unexplainable, that feeling that the magic means that something is meant to be. Here, Julia and her cakes are beautiful and sad and yet so right. Sawyer and his "sweet sense" was just awesome (I wonder if I suffer from that - sweets are definitely my favorite). Emily and her fascinations with her wallpaper (I definitely wouldn't want my bedroom walls to change with my mood) and the light in her backyard fit too. But I thought some of the remaining bits of magic were pretty weird. It became like the opposite of something from Twilight (no, I'm not going to explain that one if you haven't read this book). It felt a little too unbelievable, almost sci-fi-ish and yet it works. The thing with Julia and her cakes was more in sync with I think Allen had in mind. It certainly would have been at home in The Sugar Queen, had it fit into the storyline :)

So, I definitely really really liked this book, even if I didn't love everything in it. One thing I did love was watching the relationship blossom between Emily and Win, a bow-tie-wearing teenage member of the family that Emily's mother hurt the most. It had a Romeo and Juliet feel to it and I had to keep reminding myself that they're only seventeen. Here's one of my favorite passages, from page 211-12:

     He watched her from across the room, backlit against the windows. He was moving before he was even aware of what he was doing. He stopped directly behind her, mere inches away. Awareness immediately radiated from her like electricity.
     A full minute passed before he said, "You're suddenly quiet."
     He watched her swallow. "I don't understand how you do this to me."
     He leaned in slightly. Her hair smelled like something flowery, like the fading scent of lilacs. "Do what?"
     "Your touch."
     "I'm not touching you, Emily."
     She turned around. "That's just it. It feels like you are. How do you do that? It's like you have something surrounding you, something I can't see, that reaches out. It doesn't make sense."
     That startled him. She felt it. No one had ever felt it before.
     She waited for him to say something, to explain or deny it, neither of which he could do. He took a step past her, closer to the window. "Your family once owned all of this," he said.
     She hesitated before deciding to accept the change of subject. "All of what?"
     "All of Piney Woods Lake. Years ago, that's how the Shelbys made their money, by selling it off, parcel by parcel." He pointed to the trees in the distance. "All that wooded acreage on the other side of the lake still belongs to your grandfather. That's millions of dollars of potential development. It drives my father crazy. He wants your grandfather to sell him some of it."
     "Because this is our home. For years and years, we thought this was the only place we could live."
     "Is it?"
     He turned to face her. "Do you really want to know?" My weakness.
     "Yes. Yes, of course I do."
     This was it. There was no going back after he told her...

How can you resist reading it now that I've given you a taste? I still have to read Garden Spells even though I know have my own copy but I fully expect to go 3 for 3 with Sarah Addison Allen.

Other reviews:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson


Lisbeth Salander - the heart of Larsson's two previous novels - lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She's fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she'll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge - against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.
Finally, it's over and I'm a little relieved. I didn't like this one as much as the first two but I am glad that I read it and that the story was wrapped up for me. I really was afraid that there would be unanswered questions left hanging. I also wondered if some brave soul would try and continue the adventures of Lisbeth and Mikael as Larsson had planned. I don't believe that's the case.

Obviously, I had a few issues with Hornet's Nest. There was too many boring patches sprinkled about in Hornet's Nest; all the Swedish governmental history I encountered here has already left my brain as I have practically no retention for uninteresting bits. Some of it was actually relevant to the plot but it didn't do anything for me. I also didn't like the title. Yes, I know it's extremely picky of me but it implies that Lisbeth is the one who keeps causing the trouble when in fact Lisbeth is the real victim of this series.

Lisbeth finally gets to grow up by the end of Hornet's Nest. I really appreciated that. The circumstances of Lisbeth's childhood and treatment by the state kept her from being an adult in the eyes of other people and in her own.

On the whole, I did enjoy reading this one. Some twisty plots and resolution made it a satisfactory end to the Millennium series. Earlier today I watched the Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was pleasantly surprised with it. I'm not sure though if anyone not familiar with the book would have been able to follow everything and they had to edit tons of stuff out to manage to fit it into a reasonable movie length (it was still two and a half hours long). The actors picked to play Lisbeth and Mikael were both good and well-suited for their roles. So far, there has been Swedish movies made of the first two books and there is even a television program called Millennium airing in Sweden. Daniel Craig has been picked to play Mikael in the US version that is to be directed by David Fincher with a release date in 2012.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our Most Anticipated Books for July

Jane's pick:

The book I'm looking forward to the most this month is Twice Bitten, the third book in the Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neill. Merit, the heroine in this series, rocks. She's smart, loyal, sassy and can kick butt when she needs to. There were plenty of laugh out loud moments in the first two books in this series and I'm looking forward to seeing what Merit is up to next. If you haven't read anything by Chloe Neill yet you might want to give this series a try!

Shapeshifters from across the country are convening in the Windy City, and as a gesture of peace, Master Vampire Ethan Sullivan has offered their leader a very special bodyguard: Merit, Chicago's newest vampire. Merit is supposed to protect the Alpha, Gabriel Keene-and to spy for the vamps while she's at it. Oh, and luckily Ethan's offering some steamy, one-on-one combat training sessions to help her prepare for the mission.
Unfortunately, someone is gunning for Gabriel, and Merit soon finds herself in the line of fire. She'll need all the help she can get to track down the would-be assassin, but everywhere she turns, there are rising tensions between supernaturals-not least between her and a certain green-eyed, centuries-old master vampire.

Jen's pick:

Boy, this is a toughie. On one hand, there's Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, the sequel to that awesome YA pararom Shiver. Everybody who read it has been eagerly awaiting Linger since they finished the Shiver in 2009. Grace and Sam, I have missed you. 

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.
At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love - the light and the dark, the warm and the cold - in a way you will never forget.

On the other is As Lie the Dead by Kelly Meding, a crossover pararom/urban fantasy that picks up where the first book, Three Days to Dead, ended. If you like a kickass heroine mixed with just about any supernatural bugaboo you can imagine and a decent pinch of romance (but not too much) then Kelly Meding's series is for you.

Evangeline Stone, a rogue bounty hunter, never asked for a world divided between darkness and light . . .

. . . or the power to die and live again in someone else’s borrowed body. After a murder plot meant to take her out leaves an entire race of shapeshifters nearly extinct, Evy is gnawed by guilt. So when one of the few survivors of the slaughter enlists her aid, she feels duty-bound to help—even though protecting a frail, pregnant shifter is the last thing Evy needs, especially with the world going to hell around her.

Amid weres, Halfies, gremlins, vamps—and increasingly outgunned humans—a war for supremacy is brewing. With shifters demanding justice, her superiors desperate to control her, and an assassin on her trail, Evy discovers a horrifying conspiracy. And she may be the only person in the world who can stop it—unless, of course, her own side gets her first.

I pick them both :) Happy reading!