Thursday, April 30, 2009

Continuing the Fantasy Theme

Ok, my Greg Keyes post! 

Now, you'll have to forgive me with this post because The Briar King, book one in the Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series, was originally released in January of 2003. And, to make my memory even worse, I received this as an ARC while I was a bookseller, so I read it even before that. 

As usual in these cases, I must rely on those excellent reviewers over at PW for a synopsis for your guys. Here's what they said:

The author of the bestselling Age of Unreason tetralogy (The Waterborn, etc.) inaugurates the Kingdoms of Throne and Bone quartet with this epic high fantasy. The inhabitants of this splendid and dauntingly complex parallel world, Everon, are mostly descended from folk magically transported from our world. This is not quite the land of Faerie, although the Briar King resembles the old Celtic horned god Cernunnos, while Keyes brings his expertise as a fencing teacher to the swordplay, here called dessrata. The Empire of Crotheny faces war with its arch-rival, the Hanzish, and magical intrigues aimed at preventing the land from having a born queen (as opposed to a king's consort). By book's end, Princess Anne, the daughter of the Crotheny king, is fleeing for her life with Austra, her maid, and Cazio, a young Vitellian nobleman, having earlier experienced the pains of discipline in a convent and the horrors of having her family butchered. With aplomb, the author employs one of the most classic fantasy plots: the heir(ess) with a destiny and a necessarily huge cast of supporters. Keyes mixes cultures, religions, institutions and languages with rare skill. The main theme may emerge with formidable slowness, but patient readers will find the rewards enormously worthwhile.

My fantasy reading prior to this was pretty much nonexistent. I read, a lot, but usually mysteries, thrillers, and horror along with the occasional chick-lit. Keyes converted me for good. The problem was, like any genre, not everything was quite my cup of tea and not everything lived up to Keyes's example. And it would be August of the following year before I would get the second book in this series. What was a girl to do? Browse and ask for recs, that's what. At least as a bookseller I was in a great position to do this, and save it all for later use with customers. 

I was insanely picky, though. Juliet Marillier met my standards and then along came Kim Harrison and my introduction to urban fantasy, something I would have been hooked on even without Keyes. We'll say I got a bit distracted from serious fantasy for a while. Dark fantasy is another one that I particularly enjoy, however, and I think King's Dark Tower books fall smack dab in the middle of this genre. Marion Zimmer Bradley also made the cut back then as did Lois McMaster Bujold who's Spirit Ring remains one of my ultimate favorite books (I read that one before Keyes). Madeline Howard's Hidden Stars also stuck out for me at that time. And of course, you could probably say that it all started with Garth Nix and was spurred on further by my Keyes experience, since Sabriel is quite possibly one of the best fantasy reads in existence, even if it is a teen book.  

I do have to admit that some of the biggies in the genre have never really been quite my taste. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series is one that I am frankly too intimidated to start just yet (but it's in the process of being completed by author Brandon Sanderson). I have tried both Terry Goodkind and George R. R. Martin and not really been quite as enthralled as some of the other authors I mentioned.   

Back to Keyes, though. I'm not sure what is on the horizon for him now, but you'll be happy to know that the entire Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series is out and available in paperback (Born Queen, book 4, was released in mm in Jan). 

The series is as follows:
The Briar King
The Charnel Prince
The Blood Knight
The Born Queen

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Fantasy Rec

So I mentioned Pamela Freeman's Castings trilogy yesterday in my post about Alison Sinclair's Darkborn, but I mistakenly thought I had talked about Freeman's books before -- double mistake because I usually check and link to any previous posts if I have mentioned them before. 

So I'll do it here. Actually, this will be a post about book one of the trilogy, Blood Ties, which was released in '07. Blood Ties was followed Deep Water last fall (on my bedside table) and book three, Full Circle, will be released later this year. Now I know that I've mentioned the fabulous Orbit imprint over at Hachette before, and I highly recommend you check out their site for a list of available titles if you're a fantasy/sci-fi/urban fantasy fan. They have it all, and they have some of the best, including Pamela Freeman.

I received and reviewed Blood Ties when it was first released and thought it was fabulous and intense. Now, I remind you that although I am a big fantasy fan, I've not read as much as I should have. But I think what I have read of the genre has left me with pretty high standards. I especially enjoyed how Freeman has built a wonderful world filled with original characters and an in-depth history. Like many epic fantasy tales, Blood Ties follows multiple characters as they journey towards their conclusion, with alternating chapters in each different perspective. 

Anyway, here's a bit about the book from my review for the BB:

In a world ruled by warlords, where ghosts walk amongst the living, one man is planning an act of revenge that has been generations in the making. Thousands of years ago, Acton and his troops spread throughout what would become the Eleven Domains, raping, plundering, and murdering the original inhabitants. Those who survived took to the road, becoming known from then on as the Travelers. Bramble and Ash both carry Traveler blood within them and though they lead very different lives, their fates are intertwined and their paths will finally intersect in this first book of the Castings Trilogy. This story is primarily theirs - Freeman weaves their tales together, telling their separate histories and the trials that will lead to their involvement in the events to come. Their stories are interspersed with that of Saker, the enchanter who helps to set events into motion, and others that are met along the way. This is Freeman’s first adult title and marks the beginning of what promises to be a fascinating fantasy trilogy that melds together political intrigue and magic. 

Pamela Freeman had previously written both children's and YA titles before the Castings trilogy was released. This is her kid's site and this is the site devoted to the Castings books. Check them out for news, reviews, interviews, and everything else Pamela Freeman. 

I would put Freeman in the category with Greg Keyes's and his Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series -- readers who enjoy one will enjoy the other. As always, I promise to keep you updated as I read the other books in the series. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Fantasy Trilogy

First off, I have to say that there are a ton of new fantasy and urban fantasy releases on the horizon, and I want to read them all!

Last night I wrapped up Alison Sinclair's Darkborn, the first in a trilogy that takes place in a world that has been cursed by magic. For decades, there have been the Darkborn -- those for whom the light means instant death -- and the Lightborn, just the opposite. The two races live mostly separate except in the town of Minhorne where physician Balthasar Hearne shares a wall with his Lightborn friend, Floria White Hand. Their close friendship is exactly what saves Bal when Tercelle Amberley, a woman once involved with Bal's long missing brother, appears on his doorstep about to give birth. Bal's sister is a mage, something the Darkborn society very much looks down upon, but she is there to help attend the birth. She returns to her duties and Tercelle slips Bal a sedative while she plans to leave her newborns out for the sun. Bal saves the children with Floria's help, but when strangers come looking for the children, it is Floria who comes to the rescue. Bal is left for dead and his own daughter is kidnapped as ransom. Meanwhile, Bal's wife, Telmaine, returns home just in time to help heal her husband. Telmaine has been hiding a secret for many years, but her own magical abilities are going to come in handy in this dark time of need. 

Darkborn is a fantasy with action, political intrigue, and magic. In the midst of the story, the turmoil between the two races begins to come to a dangerous head, something I believe will be explored even more in the second installment, Lightborn

Sinclair is the author of a previous Sci-fi trilogy and Throne Prince, written with Lynda Williams. This is her first fantasy novel. Lightborn is due out next year, but you can get a sneak peak of it in the back of Darkborn, which hits shelves on May 5. 

Readers who enjoy fantasy with an intricate and original history will love this book. I would say the most recent fantasy read that I have come across that is similar in style and scope would be Pamela Freeman's Castings Trilogy. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Music Post

Ok, I rarely do music posts at all, but it's mainly because I'm completely bored with regular radio play. I have recently discovered a new station in the Denver area, though, that seems to play my sort of thing. I've also gotten some music recs from my sisters, which brings me to the subject of this post -- my music purchases of late!

I've been very well behaved in not buying any books of late, but I've more than made up for it in music purchases and I thought I would give you the highlights:

My Chemical Romance - my current, absolute favorite additions to my music collection. I've purchased The Black Parade, The Black Parade B-Sides, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and a couple of singles, including their remake of Desolation Row from the Watchmen soundtrack. I love it. It's loud and energetic and emotional and utterly fantabulous. I only wish that there were more video stations on tv these days because MCR have a great collection of them that are really worth watching. 

The Ting Tings - one thing about Apple is that whoever is choosing their commercial music shares a lot of my taste. The Ting Tings self named album is great, sort-of 80's style pop music that you just want to sing and dance along to. 

Silversun Pickups - I just bought this band's latest album, Swoon, which was released just this month. Now, one of their singles from their previous album ("Lazy Eye" from Carnavas) is actually the one that hooked me, but when I heard "Panic Switch" the first single from the new album, I had to have it. 

Does It Offend You, Yeah - I bought You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into after hearing two of this band's songs in different places. First, "We Are Rockstars" is the song that plays in the latest Fast and Furious trailer, and second, "Dawn of the Dead" (really the title is enough to hook me!) was in the movie American Teen, a fantastic documentary and Sundance fave that follows a group of teens in their senior year of high school - well worth the watch, and surprise, surprise, the st also features The Ting Tings and MGMT, amongst others. 

All of these are very different. My Chemical Romance is alternative, The Ting Tings are more pop, Silversun Pickups is also alternative, but not as hard as MCR, and Does it Offend You, Yeah is just Does it Offend You, Yeah. Seriously, they're a little hard to pin down because to me they have something of a unique sound. 

Anyway, each of these is on heavy rotation for me (MCR more so than the others right now). They're with me at the gym, while I'm reading, when I'm trying to fall asleep at night, and when I'm working especially. 

So, just a little snapshot of my playlist. I'm still looking for more stuff. MCR is working on a new album, but the others are fairly new. And since I seem to be on a roll here, hopefully I can find some more to tide me over for the next dry spell. I'm not kidding. The last time I bought this much music it was Damien Rice, Nickel Creek, Jem, Feist, and Jason Mraz, all of whom are on my list to buy new releases but all of whom I discovered around the same time -- such eclectic taste! 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why oh why?

Why is it that the weeks I really try to buckle down and get a lot of reading done are the weeks when I get the least accomplished?

To give you some perspective, I usually try to get at least 3 done a week (done) but lately I've been pushing 5-6 titles a week. Well, last week I got 2 done. This week, I did manage to squeeze out three, but one was actually on my review list for the wrong week so I read ahead on that one. But, I really wanted to get that 5-6 these past two weeks. 

I don't know what the hold up was, I really don't. I haven't been to the gym all that much, sadly. I turned my ankle on Tuesday and that kind of ruined me for Wednesday. Insomnia came calling and I was totally exhausted when I hit the gym on Thursday. And I've eaten crap all weekend so I'm in desperate need of picking it back up this week. Should be a little easier because I've scheduled a meet with a nutritionist to find out exactly how many calories I need to cut to start losing some weight -- I'm one of those who totally sabotages themselves when they don't see immediate results. Plus, food is one of my things, along with books, and movies, and music, food is a comfort thing, a celebration thing, and an occupying thing in times of boredom. And it's kind of a passion thing, too, cause I love to cook. Not good with my lazy college and post-college years metabolism. Blech.

Maybe that's why the reading blahs lately. But the confusing thing is that the books I've been reading have been really good. Ah well. I'm still trying to post everyday (and failing there as well), but I should get better once my reading has picked up a bit. And I'll pull out some more recs from the back of my closet as well. 

So that's what's up with me. Hope all is well with yous guys out there in reader land. I promise I will try to do better here!

New Releases 4/28The Fr

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Frightened Man by Kenneth Cameron - a Jack the Ripper mystery, maybe. 

No Such Creature by Giles Blunt - latest mystery from the author of By The Time You Read This and Forty Words for Sorrow

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff - a debut mystery set in 1905 New York

Dayhunter by Jocelynn Drake - second in the dark days series

The Last Testament by Sam Bourne - second release from the author of 2006's Righteous Men

My Work is Not Yet Done by Thomas Ligotti - corporate horror!

Bad Things by Michael Marshall (aka Michael Marshall Smith) - check this guy out! If you haven't read The Straw Men, you are really missing out. 

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - amazing, dark thriller from the author of Sharp Objects

My Soul To Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir - second in Icelandic mystery series following Last Rituals

Genesis Secret by Tom Knox - an archaeological thriller and debut

Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya - a debut hardboiled thriller

True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson - contemporary romance from the author of Not Another Bad Date

New on DVD:
Bride Wars
The Uninvited
While She Was Out

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Dark Places
The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

Friday, April 24, 2009

What I Just Read

Yesterday I finished reading Jamie Freveletti's debut, Running From the Devil. In the book, Emma Caldridge, a biochemist and ultra-marathoner, is headed to Columbia for work (though you don't find out exactly for what until later) when her plane is hijacked and crashed. Thankfully, Emma is thrown clear of the wreckage and hidden when guerrillas round up the remaining passengers and trek off into the woods. Emma follows, close enough to keep to their path, but far enough behind to remain out of sight. Luckily, Emma is particularly qualified to survive in this situation. She is smart and resourceful and gutsy as hell. But can she stay alive long enough to be rescued? That's the question. And, Emma is hiding a secret that makes her particularly valuable to the forces around her. 

I thought this was a really exciting read. It moved fast and the plot was intriguing. Freveletti has clearly done a lot of research with regards to her subject, and her experience as a runner herself adds a lot to Emma's character. I hated having to put this one down. 

Freveletti's book hits shelves on Tuesday, May 5 and has already been chosen as an Indiebound Notable for next month. Freveletti is also a member of the International Thriller Writers, an organization consisting of some of the best in the thriller biz. Check here for more upcoming titles by ITW authors (trust me, you'll be adding plenty to your TBR lists). 

Alright, I'm going to go lay down and hope my headache goes away. Maybe I'll even watch a flick. 

Later readers. Sorry for the short post.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh, man!

So I literally just finished reading Gillian Flynn's latest, Dark Places, and man was it amazing! Fair warning to you readers, it is super dark. Flynn is not afraid to expose the darkest thoughts of her characters and in a book where devil worshipping plays a big part in the plot, well... yeah, it's dark (as the title would imply)!

Dark Places begins almost 25 years after Libby Day's family was murdered. When Libby was seven, her brother was convicted of murdering her mother and two sisters. Libby was the only survivor and it was she who testified against her own brother. Libby has been living off of funds donated by concerned citizens after the crime. Unfortunately milking her situation isn't really possible at her age. Until she's contacted by a group called the Kill Club. The Club is obsessed with true crime and Libby's family has it's own fan group, most of whom are convinced that Libby's brother is innocent of the crime he is serving a life sentence for. Libby agrees to poke around in the case as long as the Club is willing to front her the cash. As she digs deeper into the mystery, however, even she begins to question her testimony. 

I love it. Maybe that's a little twisted, but this is a great spin on a classic cold case mystery. Libby is not the most likable lead in the beginning, but eventually her brutal honesty grew on me. She understands that she's not a good person, she understands that her motivations are quite selfish, and in spite of that, I found myself rooting for this character who had lost so much. 

I have been anticipating this novel ever since Flynn's spectacular debut, Sharp Objects, and I've got to say, she didn't let me down. Flynn delivered 100%. 

Again, this is a dark and twisted read. I would compare it to Laura Benedict's recent Calling Mister Lonely Hearts as far as murky twisty-ness is concerned, and of course, readers who liked Sharp Objects are going to love this new release just as much (in my opinion). 

Anyways, I'm caught in the black hole of youtube at the moment (watching My Chemical Romance videos and trying to wade through fan produced schtuff for the real thing -- I'm late coming to the game, what can I say?). I sincerely hope I am not the only (i.e. OLDEST) fan to recognize Lukas Haas in the "Welcome to the Black Parade" video -- hrm, reader that I am, the video reminds me a bit of a Stephen King story ("Little Sister of Eluria" specifically) and omg, Gerard Way totally makes me say things like OMG! Ok, done with my groupie stuff. They make a good soundtrack to Flynn's books, though. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

What to do when...

... your favorite author goes teen -- join in the fun!

A bunch of posts in one day, I know, but I did owe you, didn't I?

Anyway, this is a get-ready-for/add to your to buy list post. There are quite a few of my favorite new authors breaking into the teen market this year and I want you all to be prepared! Of course, this isn't a new trend at all, but I do know of quite a few that are due out in the upcoming months. And I know I've come across murmurings of others, but I can't remember where at the moment, so if you know of more, let me know so I can read them and pass them to the Junior Junkies!

First up is the second book in Kelley Armstrong's teen series, The Awakening, due out 4/28. The Darkest Powers trilogy does take place in the same world as Amstrong's adult series, but can obviously be read independent of one another.

Next is Lili St. Crow's Strange Angels due out May 14. Lili (or Lilith Saintcrow) is the author of the Jill Kismet and Dante Valentine series. Strange Angels is first in the YA series and features a hunter (a la Buffy) and will be followed by Betrayals in November. Saintcrow is one of the busiest ladies in the genre! I kid you not. In addition to these, she does have a new Jill Kismet book due out in August and another in December. 

Next up is Kim Harrison's Once Dead, Twice Shy due out May 26. Madison Avery made her debut in Prom Nights From Hell and her story continues now in her very own series. Yay!

In addition to her bestselling Decker/Lazarus mystery series, Faye Kellerman took some time to pen Prism a story about a parallel universe, due out June 23. 

Harlequin is launching their very own teen line and it kicks off with Rachel Vincent's My Soul To Take, which hits shelves on August 1. This first in the Soul Screamers series is one that's been on my radar for quite some time. Rachel's Shifters books are some of my absolute favorites in the urban fantasy genre and I have no doubt that this teen series will be just as amazing. 

And, following Vincent's teen debut, Gena Showalter's Intertwined will hit shelves on September 1. This book is about a teen who shares his body with four other souls. Showalter is a wildly popular adult paranormal romance author and will be the second in the Harlequin Teen line. 

As a side note, Harlequin's Teen line is only set for two titles this year, but news is that they will release about a dozen titles next year. 

Again, I know there are a ton more coming out and I welcome any additions you can make to my list. I'm reading more teen stuff myself these days and love 'em. They take just a couple of hours and they're perfect for relaxing with. And I know none of us are averse to reading new books by our favorites, even if they are intended for younger eyes -- I think it lets us be kids ourselves for a while. 

Breaking News

I just got my PW alert, and for those of you who don't subscribe, apparently Dan Brown's latest is set to hit shelves in September. It's called The Lost Symbol. The book is a new Robert Langdon tale, so it's a follow-up to Angels & Demons and DV Code

I'll say this for Brown and the publishing company, they all know what the expectation is at this point. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Da Vinci Code before it hit shelves and I thought it was a fabulous story. I couldn't put it down and that's exactly what I look for in a great read. 

So, I guess we'll all see in September if Brown can deliver another hit. 


I'm not quite sure how to start this post. I've tried and rejected a few things already, so I guess this little quip will have to be it. 

This is a tv post, but it's linked to books. See, in January I got hooked on PBS's Masterpiece Classics series when Tess of the D'Urbervilles aired. Tess was followed by Wuthering Heights, a book I have still not managed to read in spite of the fact that I really want to. So I was dying in suspense as far as where the story was going. And it was a great film in my opinion. 

After that was a remake of Sense and Sensibility that I thought was fabulous. And now they're into Dickens. Oliver Twist and David Copperfield (starring a young Daniel Radcliffe) preceded Little Dorrit, the fourth episode of which aired last night. Just one more to go and I really want to know what's going to happen. Course I cheated and read some Cliff's Notes-like info about the book already. And I've had more than one moment's temptation to run out and purchase the book itself so that I can find out without waiting until Sunday. Unfortunately, or sadly, I don't have time. Little Dorrit is an 800+ page monster! For now I'll have to be happy with the movie version. And I must admit, even though I know literature freaks everywhere are rolling their eyes and throwing up their hands in despair, that I think this is a great way to become acquainted with some literary works that you may otherwise never consider reading. 

I mean seriously. I have had the speeches from my English major friends (I was a minor so maybe that's my issue), but I have fought with Dickens ever since Great Expectations was shoved down my throat freshman year in high school. I'm not averse to re-reading this one thanks to some comments by my friends, and Jasper Fforde's rebranding of Miss Havisham, but Dorrit is one that I'd never even heard of (even after 6 years of working in a bookstore) and therefore was never planning on reading. I'm loving it! I'm consumed by the story, which is how it should be with great literature. 

I have my own opinions about literature and all that, and one of those is not only how it is presented to the reader, but also the age at which we're exposed. Great Expectations may not be a bad one for high school freshmen in the grand scheme of things, but I definitely, book lover that I am, was no old enough to appreciate it yet. The curriculum seems to have changed some in the past years because my sisters had to read Tale of Two Cities one I definitely think should not be a freshman title. I mean c'mon. First off if the book in question is presented in an exciting way, you as a reader are going to be more likely to enjoy it. Add to that the fact that anything you discover on your own is much more tempting that something you are forced into and you have a conundrum. Given the percentage of readers out there (we are going strong but could use more forces) the chances of some of us ever tackling what are considered great works (I will not go into this qualification because it does bother me, we'll just say that works that have stood the test of time) are slim in most cases. 

I know I'm an odd one. I never had to read Rebecca, which I consider great literature even though it's modern lit, in school. I read it on my own and fell in love with gothic lit. Jane Eyre was one I read in college and loved equally. I read Les Miserables on my own and thought it was wonderful. Meanwhile, just about every book I had to read in high school was torture for me. 

My newfound appreciation for the Masterpiece movies could be an age issue, sure. But I will say that I read Romeo and Juliet on my own in 9th grade and loved it. I also, at that point, loved Franco Zeffirelli's film, which I saw on my own and prompted me to read the play. Kenneth Branagh helped with my Shakespeare fascination as well. The man singlehandedly (probably not singlehandedly, but it sure seems that way) brought I don't even know how many of the plays to film around that time. Yes, I was watching Much Ado About Nothing at age 14. My point is that I really can't knock film adaptations to begin with. 

The Masterpiece movies have a lot going for them. They are really well made for one. The production and casting are fantastic. They all have some fairly recognizable leads in them. Case in point, Little Dorrit is the one currently airing and Freema Agyeman (Martha from Dr. Who) has a part. Matthew Macfadyen plays Mr. Clennam, the male lead and love interest of Little Dorrit. Andy Serkis (Gollum/Smeagle) plays one of the baddies, and Eve Myles (Gwen from Torchwood) even has a role. 

And another thing is the fact that they air on PBS. They are available to watch for free on a channel that EVERYONE gets! Plus, you can watch them online for a period of time around when they air, and they're all on DVD. I've got my rental queue packed with 'em right now (Mike's gonna love that). 

So I guess my point is that if you are like me and you have this profound sense of guilt that I think most readers feel as far as "classics" are concerned, and you find you have free time on Sunday's to watch some great movies, check out Masterpiece Theatre. I would have to say that I am more likely to seek out a Dickens tale in the near future than I was before becoming enthralled with Little Dorrit. They're fun to watch and they may just prompt you into squeezing in time for some of these works that have stood the test of time -- though I would still encourage you to read the ones you want to read rather than the ones that are forced at you. I personally lean towards gothic and Victorian lit, but that's just me. Or they may just provide you with a few hours of great entertainment. Either way, I think it's a win/win situation. 

And, check out the PBS shop for your own copies of the DVDs and books. They're not really all that pricey when you consider many of them are upwards of 2 hours (meaning multiple discs). 

And if you're thinking shame on me for watching rather than reading some of these, at least I've got some exposure to it and am enjoying it in some form. I have no guilt over my Sunday night date with PBS. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Releases 4/22

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Follow Me by Joanna Scott

Deadlock by Iris Johansen -- romantic suspense -- she's been busy, busy. Iris and son, Roy, teamed up on last year's Silent Thunder and have a new one, Storm Cycle, due out in July

First Family by David Baldacci

Shadows Still Remain by Peter De Jonge -- another author from the James Patterson school of writing. De Jonge co-wrote The Beach House and Beach Road

Loitering With Intent by Stuart Woods -- a Stone Barrington novel

New on DVD:
The Burrowers
Top Gear Season 10 -- if you don't get BBCA or have just never watched this show, you need to! I've gotten another female friend hooked on it -- no one would ever believe that a car show would be on my must watch list, but these guys are hilarious!

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
A Twist of Orchids by Michelle Wan
Sex, Murder and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis

Friday, April 17, 2009


Ok, I know I actually owe you two blogs at this point (because I'm trying to keep up and not get lazy like last week). So this is the first of them. It's snowy and nasty out and my insomnia has proven to be a great addition to my work day (meaning if I can't sleep I can just get up earlier and work -- love how that works, don't you?).

I am currently finishing up the final third of Mike Carey's first Felix Castor title, The Devil You Know and like most books that are not brand spanking new, I can't believe I've waited this long to begin this one. 

The Devil You Know hit shelves in the UK in April 2006 (according to Amazon, but this is a PB listing so it could be that a hardcover came out prior to that date). Carey is a Brit, so it took a bit longer to hit shelves here in the States, but he made his hardcover debut here in July of the following year. And, book junkie that I am, I was not hiding under a rock -- I was aware of the release, but a bit skeptical. I mean I'm not (horror of horrors) a fan of The Exorcist and the cover art kind of implies something along those lines. However, the arc says this "...Mike Carey, who now makes his fiction debut with a brilliant, blackly comic story of ghosts, ghouls, and the silly bugger who hunts them." Much more my style.

So, if you have Exorcist issues like me, think more Constantine when you read this blog and you'll get something of a better idea. And no, my problem with the movie based on Blatty is not the creep factor. 

Anyway, that out of the way, because I would hate for anyone to pass on this one like I initially did -- in my rambling defense, I did buy the book shortly after first coming across it, I just neglected to start it this long (shame, shame). But, book the third is hitting shelves here this summer and I thought it was about time for me to jump in. 

In The Devil You Know, Felix Castor has been on sabbatical from the exorcism biz after an incident with a friend that left him (friend not Felix) sharing space with the demon Asmodeus. But, Felix is a bit broke and needs some cash to pay the rent, which prompts him to accept a gig exorcising a ghost currently haunting an archive in London. Asmodeus/Rafi warns Felix not to take the job, but beggars can't really be choosers, and Felix is a bit curious. Now, it should be said that Castor and pals live in a time when ghosts, zombies, and weres are, for reasons not totally explained, appearing quite frequently in the world. In fact, there are some who are even crying for spectral rights and such, which would severely impede Felix's job of banishing them from our world, not something he chooses to devote much thought to. But when the ghost in the archive saves him, he begins to believe that she warrants a little more investigation as far as identifying her and her reasons for haunting the archive in the first place. Felix's job is not made easy, however, because no one really counted on his looking into the matter. Plus, someone has a hit out on our dark hero and he's not sure who or what is behind it. 

I really like this book. It's a traditional detective mystery wrapped in an urban fantasy setting and it works brilliantly paired with Carey's particular style. Not surprisingly, The Devil You Know earned a starred review in PW

Devil is followed by Vicious Circle and the upcoming Dead Men's Boots. In the UK, book four, Thicker Than Water, has just been released and The Naming of the Beasts (book 5) is due out in September. You can check out more on this series and Carey's other work here

If you enjoy darker, grittier mysteries, you are sure to love this series, even if you aren't necessarily a big fan of the urban fantasy movement (again, think Constantine). Similar series include Simon R. Green's Nightside series and Jim Butcher's Dresden series. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Funny Stuff

As promised, I did finish Kyra Davis' Sex, Murder and a Double Latte and am now going to proceed with telling you how fab it is. : )

So, if you've read yesterday's post, then you know that I'm having sleep issues again. Not new for me, but I usually get more than I did that night. I was up at 6am working away and catching up on Heroes, not good but it did get my work day out of the way with plenty of time to spare. Just no energy to take advantage of it.

I'm a little more rested today thanks to an Ambien and hopefully I can drum up some energy to get me through the day. I must gym today because I broke down and had Chinese last night - yummy and deceptively not healthy. Tonight, stuffed peppers, salad, and a horror movie.

Anyway, even exhaustion could not tear me away from the first Sophie Katz mystery. Released in 2006, this debut introduces the fabulous and sassy Sophie Katz, mystery author extraordinaire.

In Sex, Murder and a Double Latte, Sophie is shocked to find that a Hollywood producer interested in making a film based on her screenplay has committed suicide. Strangely, the suicide is a scene right out of one of the man's own movies. But there's a note, everyone cries. Sophie is not so easily deterred, though. Then, the same day that she hears about this death, another one catches her eye. A rap artist in NY who is gunned down exactly in the way it's portrayed in a music video. Now Sophie knows it can't be a coincidence, but convincing everyone else is difficult even when she starts to experience scenes from her own books. Scared but determined to unravel the mystery, Sophie admits that everyone around her, including the new hunk in her life, could be the killer.

This San Francisco based series is silly and fun, great stuff for readers looking to wile away the day with an easy and entertaining read. There are currently three in the series with book four due out in June (see yesterday's post).

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Running on Empty

Why oh why does insomnia love me so much? I happen to love sleep, always have, but unfortunately, it doesn't love me back these days in spite of medicated help. 

So after bedding down at midnight, falling asleep over a new book, I found myself wide awake and working at 6am. Good news is that my work day is pretty much finished. Bad news is that I don't have the energy to take advantage of it. Stupid sleep. 

It's kind of gloomy and yucky out and I'm debating heading out to see Sunshine Cleaning at some point this afternoon (don't know if I should considering the popcorn may beckon and I'm trying so hard to behave). 

In the meantime, I am spending my day being thoroughly amused by Kyra Davis's debut, Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte. Davis's fourth title in her hilarious Sophie Katz mystery series is due out in June and I was lucky enough to snag a copy, but good reader that I am, I can't just jump in at the end. I had ordered a copy of Sex (sounds so dirty that way) but apparently the store ran out before my order was processed (hate that). Fortunately, and luckily for me, Kyra Davis was sweet enough to send me a copy. So, I'm doing my fervent duty to get everyone out there in reader land (oh boy, I can tell I'm going to look back on this post after a few hours of sleep and wonder what the heck I was thinking) to run out and buy the books as well. 

I've already bought a copy of book two, Passion, Betrayal, and Killer Highlights, and have plenty of time between now and June 1 to gobble up that one and book 3, Obsession, Deceit, and Really Dark Chocolate and still keep all of you posted so that you can catch up with me before Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss (Sophie Katz book 4) hits shelves. 

And guess what readers?! Not only are you gonna love sassy Sophie, but Kyra is running a Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss contest that begins with the book's release on June 1! Check out Kyra Davis's website for details on how to enter to win fabulous prizes, including a trip to Sophie's San Francisco! Contest begins at midnight June 1 and runs through August, so you have plenty of time, and I'll be sure to remind you all closer to the release as well. 

And, as usual with any book that I enjoy, I will keep you guys posted about the series and have an official Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte post tomorrow (since I know I'm going to finish reading it this afternoon!). Bye for now, Sophie and Mr. Katz are calling!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Catch-Up Post

It's been almost exactly a year since I posted a blog about Michelle Wan's latest, A Twist of Orchids. Now, at the time, my post was devoted to the fact that although Wan's first two titles are available here in the states, this latest title is only available in Canada at the moment, but it appears the paperback should be available in the states this June (look for it and buy the other two in the meantime). She's said to be working on a fourth title as well. Check out here site, here, for more.

Anywho. Sometimes even when I am really looking forward to a book, it gets shifted through the TBR pile until, well, until much, much later than I intend. And that's what's happened to A Twist of Orchids. In the midst of a slump, though, it was kind of nice to have Wan's title waiting for me. And if you're at all apprehensive about starting these thanks to the strange distribution/printing, trust me it's well worth it just to read the first two. 

To catch you up, and since I did post a brief little something about Wan's debut, Deadly Slipper, in my previous post, I decided that today would be a good time (late but better than never) to post some info on Wan's second book, Orchid Shroud

Let me stress again just how much I truly enjoy this series. Yes, it would seem that a series set around orchid enthusiasm might be more cozy than the majority of the titles I usually comment on, but such an assumption would be a mistake. Which is not to say that if you are fond of cozies that you would not like this series. Quite the opposite actually. I think it's a nice bridge between the cozy mystery and the non-cozy. And, the orchid theme is not as cute as it would seem either. In fact, apparently orchidologists can be quite, erm, well Susan Orlean's Orchid Thief wasn't a massive hit for nothing. Neither is the orchid theme as prevalent as you might think. It's an underlying theme throughout the series, but as my info on Orchid Shroud will attest, Wan is quite adept as weaving other sorts of mysteries. 

So back to Michelle Wan, and here is my review of Orchid Shroud, the second book in Mara and Julien's series, from the BB archives:

Mara, Julien, and the entire cast return in this follow up to last summer’s Deadly Slipper. While renovating the de Bonford estate, two workers discover the desiccated remains of a baby boy hidden in the wall. In an attempt to protect the family name from subsequent media fallout, Christophe de Bonford enlists Mara’s help to find out who the child is and clear the de Bonford name. Meanwhile, animals and villagers are being savagely attacked by what is described as a giant beast. On the outset, Wan presents the beauty and tranquility of the Dordogne region. As she draws readers in, however, she scratches away at this façade to reveal the darkness that lurks in the corners of this sleepy French region. 

Shroud is a winning combination of history, mythology, and orchidology. I'm about a third of the way through Twist now and this time it looks like the sleepy Dordogne is facing some nasty drug dealers as well. See, not just orchids! Although, Julien's search for the illusive and rare orchid he viewed in Mara's sister's film is a great running story and the development of both Mara and Julien as individuals and as a couple keep me coming back for more. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Releases 4/14

Hey there! Been taking a much needed hiatus from the computer, but I'm back. 

Some of the new releases hitting shelves this week are:

Liars Anonymous by Louise Ure - a stand-alone mystery/thriller from one of the best new voices in the genre

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz - inside the college admission world (fiction of course)

A False Dawn by Tom Lowe - a great mystery debut

Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield - historical fiction about female gladiators

The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman - historical fiction about 13th century Whales

New on DVD:
The Reader
The Spirit

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
A False Dawn
The Hunted  by Wayne Barcomb
Malice by Lisa Jackson
A Taste of Magic by Tracy Madison

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Sorry I've been mia guys. I had a good reason, I promise. I didn't prepare posts early and I was busy with edits on the new cookbook. See, good reason. 

Anyway, all done with that bit and now I have to start putting together the next one. I'm not feeling so hot this morning, though, and am not at all sure why, so I'm going to keep this short for now. 

I've been in a reading rut with all this stressing about work this week and am in desperate need of some nice, fun, escapism. We'll see what I end up with. Usually when this happens I start and stop a few before settling on one. : (

I will tell you that this book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, has been on my radar ever since I first read about the trend - yes, there will be more revamped/undead classics coming soon and I want them ALL. PP&Z is out now and here's the product description from Amazon:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Can she vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.

Apparently there are more of this type in the works, but I can't find the article I read about it a few weeks back. Anywho. I'm going to lay down and maybe later I'll venture back, if I'm feeling better. And I'll be looking for Grahame-Smith's book as soon as I have a chance, 'cause it sounds super fun. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I won a Zombie Chicken Award from Vickie over at Vixen's Daily Reads

Now for the explanation of this prestigious Zombie Chicken Award which means:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all..."

So to avoid the wrath of the Zombie Chickens I do award this accolade to the following bloggers 

Tez at Tez Says, my favorite down under blogger and a great place for reading recs and news
Jen at Jenn's Bookshelf, a fellow BB reviewer who has great taste
Lori at Pure Imagination, one of my new go to places
Cheryl at Cheryl's Book Nook, cause no one reads faster!
Lori at Lori's Reading Corner, cause she's the BookPimp!

New Releases 4/7

Some of the titles hitting shelves this week are:

Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson - latest in the Goldy Schultz series

Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

Cursed by Carol Higgins Clark - #12 in the Regan Reilly series

The Song is You by Arthur Phillips

New on DVD:
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Tale of Despereaux
Yes Man

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert
Kisses and Lies by Lauren Henderson

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Black and Blue

Not really, it just feels like it. Yep. I had my second session with the trainer and am debating about getting my butt over to the gym today. I had yesterday to recover and am able to walk down the stairs without pain again : )

He says no more stationary bike for me, though, because it doesn't work me out all that much (well that's the idea, I can feel productive and still read a book at the gym!). So now the funny sight is seeing me trying to read on the elliptical. I'm convinced it can be done, but right now it involves lots of tipping over on my part. Course that could be because my legs wanted to give out after the workout, too.

Ah well. I guess I can't be too lazy today. I already had some fast food and half a coke (big no nos for me right now), so I'll have to make up for it and head over there. Book I'm taking with me today, The Hunted by Wayne Barcomb. I've only just started so I'll have to keep you posted. But, I did promise a teen mystery post.

Last year I was asked to review Lauren Henderson's teen mystery debut, Kiss Me, Kill Me, a story in which a teenager girl's first kiss ends in death. Here's my review from the BB archives:

Every girl knows how hard it is to be a teenager. Scarlett Wakefield is one the very unlucky ones. When Scarlett is invited to attend a party thrown by one of the most popular girls at St. Tabby’s private school, she is elated. Her crush, Dan McAndrew will be there. Her two friends are understandably angry at being ditched, but Scarlett can always deal with that later. After all, this could finally be her chance with Dan. Everything is going fantastically well. She and Dan are talking, and then, magically, kissing, but something is wrong with Dan. Dan is dead and it seems like Scarlett must be cursed with the kiss of death. Shamed out of St. Tabby’s, Scarlett is whisked away by her grandmother to attend Wakefield Hall Collegiate. Wakefield Hall is a far cry from St. Tabby’s and being the headmistress’s granddaughter isn’t helping. At least no one knows about Scarlett’s killer past. There is even a boy at Wakefield, the gardener’s hot grandson. Scarlett can’t shake the horrifying memory of Dan’s death, however, or the guilty thought that it was all her fault and she vows to find out the truth at any cost. This is Henderson’s first young adult title and the start of what promises to be a great teen mystery series. It’s fun for adults as well. Henderson is no newbie to the mystery trade. She is the author of seven precious adult tart noir mysteries.

Scarlett exists in a very posh London and although she definitely has the means to be part of this exclusive world, she is very much a down to Earth, regular teen who is motivated more by friendship and love than money. Her discoveries in Kiss Me, Kill Me send her deeper into the investigation into Dan's death and in Kisses and Lies, she even wrangles an invite to Dan's own home estate in Scotland.

Henderson does a great job, in my opinion, of capturing the teen voice. I thought these were light, fun mysteries for teens, but a teenager's perspective is always best in these cases. One of the Junior Junkies snatched up Kiss Me, Kill Me as soon as I passed it along and while she refuses to write reviews for me (which would be sufficient payment in my mind for all the books I buy her), she was chomping at the bit, anxious for Kisses and Lies to hit shelves. I think that's as good as I'll get in the way of a thumb's up review from my actual teen acquaintances at this point. And considering that the JJs have begun the foray into the adult book world, the fact that Henderson appeals to this sister is a big plus for the author in my book. It means that she's perfect for teen readers, even those with a bit more mature taste. Suffice to say, if you're an adult mystery fan and want to ease your teen into the genre, this new series would be a great way to do it.

Next up on my teen horizon is another teen mystery/thriller, Bliss by Lauren Myracle and there are a ton of great ones coming out, too, so once I get my grubby hands on them, I'll let you know which ones to be on the lookout for.

Friday, April 3, 2009

An Update

Last week I showcased some of the upcoming books that I've been super excited about. The first was Natasha Mostert's Keeper of Light and Dust (or Keeper in the UK), which you can read here. Well I finished reading it day before yesterday and thought I should give you all an update on how fantastic it was. 

Since there is a description in the previous post, I'll just give you a short rundown on the synopsis. 

Mia Lockheart is a Keeper, responsible for protecting and healing warriors. Her particular warriors are actually martial arts fighters. When one dies mysteriously, Mia suspects that there is something very sinister at work. Meanwhile, her closest friend, Nick Duffy, a fighter himself, is also struck by how strange the death is. As he snoops around, he finds five other deaths in recent years that are similar. All were healthy men who died just days after going into the ring, with no injuries that could be connected to the death. Both Nick and Mia are drawing closer and closer to the man who calls himself Dragonfly, a thief of the light who has set his sights on both of them as his next victims. 

I love that Mostert connects all these different ideas to make what is such a unique tale. Eastern philosophy, Chi, martial arts, recent scientific discoveries, and even the vampire mythology play a part in this story and it works brilliantly -- part thriller, part supernatural, and even a little romance! 

Ok, super busy today, but I'll post again tomorrow. I've also just finished up reading a book I bought for my sister, so if you're looking for a great teen mystery to get your reader started, I'll post something on that shortly. And, I've started reading Lisa Jackson's latest, Malice, which I've been on pins and needles for since the last pages of Lost Souls!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A New Release Must Read

You all know that I generally enjoy everything that I read. It's true. I tend to pick well as far as my taste goes. Earlier this week, though, I finished up one that is definitely going on my best of list for 2009. 

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk, is a dark and chilling debut about absolute love and unforgiving hate. It begins with a gruesome discovery in a small Irish town. In an unassuming home in a quiet neighborhood, three women are found dead. One was beaten to death before collapsing downstairs. The other two were poisoned, starved, and even stabbed before succumbing. The two younger women were the third woman's own nieces. Chains and padlocks are discovered upstairs. Every door features locks on the outside only. Locks that match keys worn around the dead aunt's neck. What on Earth could have cause this woman to torture her own flesh and blood and what happened on their last day? Everyone is clueless until one young post office employee discovers a dead letter bearing the name of one of the murdered women. Inside he finds a journal that chronicles the events leading up to their final showdown. 

Although Darling Jim is much darker, readers who enjoyed Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale are sure to find Moerk's US debut just as gripping. 

I know I'm a book junkie, but Moerk has been elevated from my "Check This Author Out" list to my "Absolutely Must Have" list from here on out. The former being authors I'm curious about thanks to buzz and reviews and the latter being the result of the brilliance that is Darling Jim. Moerk is now joining the ranks of Harlan Coben and Mo Hayder (and many other amazing authors) for me. 

My point is that you do not want to miss out on this book. If you're a fan of modern gothic and suspense, then this is one book you need to spring for now. You won't regret it.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tell Everyone!

Today (March 31) was the release date for Tell No One (Ne le dis à Personne) on dvd. Yay! I didn't have a chance to catch this one in theaters when it was in Denver, so this was my first chance to see it. And I've been waiting for what seems like ages!

Good thing it lived up to expectations then, huh? 

Guillaume Canet directed and did a fantastic job. It's been eight years since I read the book. Eight years since I discovered (along with a ton of other fans) Harlan Coben. I found out recently that my seemingly non-reading roommate once skipped class in high school to read this book. I made my grandmother and numerous customers read it when I worked at the bookstore and the response was always the same, Tell No One is a book you can't put down. 

All of Harlan Coben's books are like that to tell you the truth. Watch him here on the Today show and you'll see that's what he's aiming for -- and you succeed every time in my opinion, Mr. Coben. 

So, Tell No One, the film, is pretty darn on point with the book. If my memory is right, there is some shifting as far as when certain things take place, but I thought it set a nice tone for the film. The pacing is a bit slower, building up the story to the point that even if you've read the book, you're still on the edge of your seat when the final revelation occurs.

François Cluzet and Marie-Josée Croze star as Alex and Margot Beck. Kristin Scott Thomas is fab (and totally French) as Hélène, Alex's sister's partner. Watch close and you can't miss Coben's own cameo in the film!

And as an added bonus, rumor has it that Coben's Myron Bolitar series has been optioned by FOX and a pilot is in the works. And there are also murmurings that Coben himself may be working on a show for TNT. IMDB currently has Deal Breaker, the first in the Bolitar series, listed as in development and slated for 2011 (we'll see about that).