Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

Agh! This has been such a slow reading month. Add to that the fact that it was another NAC Mini-Challenge month over at Literary Escapism and I feel even further behind!

This will have to be short and sweet because my computer is having some disc drive problems. I'm taking it in very shortly and not sure how long I'll be without, but I wanted to get this up in time for the end of the contest.

I actually won Jennifer Estep's Spider's Bite from Jackie over at Literary Escapism. Estep, author of Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and Jinx, kicked off her new Elemental Assassins series with Spider's Bite in February. Book two, Web of Lies, was released in June and Venom, book three, is due out in September. This should leave readers nice and hanging until April when the series continues with Tangled Threads : )

Spider's Bite introduces Gin Blanco, a stone elemental with some ice abilities as well. Gin is an assassin for hire and is one of the best. Known as the Spider, she's evaded cops, fellow elementals, and other assassins, until now. A big job, big enough to retire on, comes Gin's way, but it's a bit of a rush: a same day assignment that seems easy enough, with a huge payout. But things go wrong when another assassin shows up revealing that the plan is to frame Gin for the job and leave her body behind for authorities. They've underestimated the Spider, though, and now she has to find out who has it in for her.

Good stuff! I'm always up for a new urban fantasy with a twist. The elementals are something I've not seen much of (Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series would be a little comparable in terms of subject). And though Estep does incorporate other beings (vamps -- and dwarves -- but, oh, more vamps!) it doesn't, for me anyway, make the series any less of a stand out in terms of being different than the others out there.

I know, I know. Ten authors can handle the same subject ten different ways and I'll applaud each of them for making their book stand out from the rest. I have to admit to being a little overwhelmed by the bloodsuckers out there right now, so it's refreshing for me (and gets a mention every time) when I come across a new series that doesn't have them as the main focus. I once complained that a zombie book had vamps and Mike made fun of me by saying, "Hey, why are there vampires in my zombie soup?" I thought it was amusing and true.

(Oh, excuse any typos and ramblings. I usually employ the delete key more, but have run out of time!)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Becky is a Yoga Nerd

I've been doing yoga. Yes. I know. Seems unlikely, right? But I guess for folks like me, it can really come in handy if you can get the whole self-awareness and meditation thing down. I haven't yet, but hopefully I'm learning.

I joined for the exercise benefits as well as the idea that it might help with some of the stress I've been under lately. And this is why I decided to try Core Power Yoga. Well, that and the fact that the studio is so conveniently located that even I find it hard to talk myself out of going.

I started with a free trial period (if you're curious, most studios do offer some sort of new student discounts or free trials). Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with Core Power, they offer heated yoga classes -- not Bikram, which thanks to Pollack I've learned more about as well. Heated yoga burns twice as many calories as regular yoga, I discovered. And depending on which class you go to (each class is different) and which teacher you have (because they each have their own styles) you get a wide variety of yoga. So far I've really had great experiences at this studio. (I'm kind of addicted to the Saturday morning sculpt class. I'm not kidding. I'd go every day if I could.) I've been taking a variety of classes and only repeated teachers a few times (just because I've been playing with different time slots and different classes to see exactly what works best for me). Last week alone, I attended five different classes. For someone who has to force themselves to go to the gym, this is pretty big.

So it was kind of coincidental that I received a copy of Neal Pollack's Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude when I did. The book hit shelves on August 10, right about the same time I was starting classes.

Pollack, a comic writer who apparently went through a little bit of a literary bad boy phase a few years ago, came to yoga after an article called him doughy. And he became obsessed. From beginner classes at a 24-Hour Fitness to a now certified teacher himself, Pollack presents a hilarious look at his journey through the different kinds of yoga. Laugh out loud stuff, complete with a look at the ridiculous, the strange, and the fascinating aspects of yoga and the folks involved. As a newbie myself, I found this book seriously unputdownable. I'd find myself nodding along in his early days having to admit that I'm experiencing many of the same things myself.

I'm a new yoga dork. It's all I've been telling people about and it's become something that I have started scheduling the rest of my day around! Given Pollack's same growing obsession in his early days, I have to wonder what they're pumping into the studios! Kidding, I think it's a testament to the fact that yoga has an undeniable appeal and seemingly (hopefully) great results for the mind and the body.

I don't think I can really convey just how enormously amusing this book is, though. And guess what, you don't have to like yoga to enjoy Stretch. In fact, if you hate yoga, you might even find it more entertaining.

Sure, I can relate to the addictive nature of the classes and Pollack's section on farting in yoga class (I had to read this and a few other parts aloud to Mike!). Not that I've done what Pollack did, but I can't imagine it not being a total nightmarish fear for most students just starting -- I know it's been one of mine! Fortunately, I've not been to any classes with truly self-obsessed or strange yogis, nor have I seen any of the real yoga culture outside of the classes I've attended. We're talking music festivals, crazy retreats, styles I can't even begin to imagine (though I'm sure they're hiding in the Boulder area). I've no doubt, however, that anyone who picks this book up will have a difficult time not dissolving into uncontrollable laughter as they read about Pollack's experiences, whether they've been there themselves or not. No doubt at all. And maybe you'll be tempted to try a class, or not. Either way, this is a fantastic book.

And for those of you interested, Pollack is touring with his book as we speak. He's set for a Denver appearance next month and I definitely plan on attending.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Releases 8/31/10

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen -- first in the Living With the Dead series

The Ascent by Ronald Malfi

Getting Sassy by DC Brod

Amos Walker: The Complete Story Collection by Loren Estleman

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Sixty-One Nails: Courts of the Feyre Book 1 by Mike Shevdon

Murder on the Bride's Side by Tracy Kiely -- second in the Elizabeth Parker series

Danse Macabre by Gerald Elias -- second in the Daniel Jacobus series

Love Bites by Adrienne Barbeau

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

Born to Bite by Lynsay Sands

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

New on DVD:
Red Riding trilogy

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Married With Zombies
The Ascent
With Friends Like These by Sally Koslow
Pretty Little Things by Jilliane Hoffman

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pre Pub Book Buzz -- Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen

You must all know I'm prepared for the zombie invasion, right? I mean, I've been reading up on plenty of material just in case. Armed with Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later as well as the genius of George Romero and the slew of recent book releases in the budding zombie genre, I think I've got it in the bag.

And now Jesse Petersen has entered the fray with her advice on how to keep the romance, and your relationship, alive in the event of a zombie infestation!

Technically, I think you can find this in bookstores now, but Petersen's hilarious debut, Married With Zombies, is officially due out September 1. Did I mention it's another Orbit release? Love those guys!

I have to say that not only was I thoroughly amused and entertained by this first in the Living With the Dead series, but it was kind of a lifesaver, too. I found myself in a bit of a predicament just one day before starting this one where I was stuck in the doctor's office waiting room and a finished book. Agh! Hate when that happens. To prevent this, I didn't even crack the spine on Married With Zombies until the following afternoon when I was sitting in my dentist's office waiting room. Fortunately they didn't keep me waiting too long because I found I'd gobbled up the first fifty pages in just under half an hour (I was early).

Sarah and David are having some problems in their marriage. Because of this, they have a standing weekly appointment with their couples' counselor, a time and fund suck if ever there was one considering both of them have independently searched for divorce attorneys online. But this week is a little different. When they find their therapist eating her other clients, the troubled couple find themselves forced to work together to try and survive, and escape!

Honestly, there was no way that I wasn't going to love this book! It's totally in the Shaun of the Dead vein and I love, love, love the end. I can't wait until January when book two, Flip This Zombie, is set for release. Twisted humor, gory zombie action, and totally laugh out loud zombie related couples' advice make this one of the funniest and most original debuts I've read so far this year (and I must mention that I've followed up reading this one with yet another contender for funniest read of the year, so when you see that phrase again next week, it's the honest to God truth, not a lack of original thought on my part even if my brain is admittedly a bit frazzled of late).

Married With Zombies is pure fun and I can't recommend it highly enough to dark humor and zombie lovin' readers!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Couple Who Reads Together...

I think I'm a bad influence on my fiance. Here's the conversation just now:

Me: What are you doing?
Mike: Reading.
Me: I thought you were working.
Mike: I am, but I have to finish this. I'm almost done.

For the record, he's almost done reading Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's The Relic.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Undying Heart by Zoe Archer

So Literary Escapism is hosting another NAC Mini-Challenge this month, and though my reading has taken a temporary dive thanks to the wedding craziness, I had intended to participate. I even set aside some qualifying titles to do so. This weekend, I took my first crack at it with Half Past Dead, a book that is actually two novellas by two different authors: Zoe Archer's "The Undying Heart" and Bianca D'Arc's "Simon Says."

Zoe Archer's half is the qualifying one for the contest, so I figured it would be okay to do a devoted post to her half of the book.

First let me say that I love zombies. Love them. But I've heard it said that zombies will never take vampires' spots in the romance category. And I have to say I agree. See, you can have a romance with zombies, but zombie romance is kind of icky -- even if they're treated the way Archer does.

That said, you probably all know that I lean more towards the paranormal than the romance anyway, so I'm not the best "objective" reader here.

It's 1858 and Cassandra Fielding has taken a position as a member of the Blades of the Rose, a group that protects magic from those who would use it for terrible gain. When she is reunited with Samuel Reed, a childhood friend of her brother's, the reunion, though welcome, is bittersweet. Cassandra and her family received news that everyone in her brother's company was killed in action. Everyone including Sam. The news was no mistake. Sam is dead and has been brought back to serve the whims of an evil man, one the Blades have had their eye on for some time. With Cassandra and Sam both vowing justice and vengeance against their target, it makes sense that they would pool their efforts and work together.

I really enjoyed the action and the setting in this tale. The zombie sex, not so much. (Hope I'm not spoiling anything for you out there, but it is a romance title, there are two main characters, 2+2 does generally equal 4.)

Archer's got undeniable talent in weaving entertaining tales and in character and world building, my preference just tends to run towards the more horrific zombie stories. I'd put it high on my list of recommends for originality if you happen to be one of the mass amounts of paranormal romance fans out there that goes for the steamy.

New Releases 8/24/10

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Juliet by Anne Fortier

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (third in the Hunger Games trilogy)

Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs -- Tempe Brennan #13

Bad Boy by Peter Robinson -- Inspector Alan Banks #19

New on DVD:
The Back Up Plan
Dorian Gray
Survival of the Dead

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two Pre-Pub Updates

So I realize you already have the synopsis on the pre pub books, but I thought I'd update you guys on my thoughts on a couple of the recent ones that I've read. I know, follow up is a good idea and should be pretty automatic. Shame on me.

On June 26, I featured the hugely buzzed about Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, a book about a woman who is kidnapped and held captive for a year. The big twist is that from the beginning of the book, the reader knows that she's escaped. The ordeal is told through therapy sessions and plays out as the character's recollections.

This one is not for sensitive readers. It's brutal and shocking, and Stevens does an amazing job! 100% worthy of all of the praise and buzz. If you are a fan of dark thrillers, you should definitely check it out. And this is definitely one that I thought I'd figured out and turned out to be completely wrong on.

My second update is Rebecca James's Beautiful Malice, which I featured on the July 3 pre-pub post. Now this one is being described in some circles as a teen thriller (yes, I've come across THOSE reviews). If you happen to have seen it described as such, ignore it. Sure, the book is actually a pretty appropriate read for the teen set, but it's most definitely an adult book in my opinion. I really enjoyed this book. It's suspenseful, if a bit predictable. All in all, though, if you're looking for an intense and quick read, this is definitely one you should check out.

The book plays out essentially in three timelines. Present day, Katherine Patterson recalls the events that have led to where she is today. The events in question begin as she starts a new school, under a new name, to try and get past a tragic accident that occurred in her recent past. Confused? You shouldn't be. As I said, it was a little easy to figure out, but watching the character unravel all of the pieces and make her own connections was just as enjoyable as if I had been in the dark the entire time. James is one to watch.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Regularly Scheduled Programming

So I'm trying to get back into the "normal" swing of things, though I have to admit it's going to be a little weird for me until all the wedding stuff is over. I've been making huge progress with the planning (better be since the date is starting to loom dead ahead). We're doing cake tasting and catering tasting this week. I feel like I must be forgetting something, but obviously can't for the life of me figure out what it could be.

To top it off, it's created a sort of reading slump. I have a stack of abandoned titles on my bedside table (along with TBRs) that I swear I'm going to get back to at some point in the near future. My slumps are almost always due to mood and other outside forces, as is the case this time: By the time I can collapse with my book at night and try to get my brain to calm down, I'm literally passing out. I've been falling asleep with my books, too bad I can't absorb them through sleep osmosis (yes, I know that's water -- can't think of an alternate term right now, though) or something, only to be snapped out of it to turn of the lamp and drop the tomes sans bookmark and poke around for my place the next day when I start it all over again. Bad reading habits to get into!

Amazingly, though, a few books have slid by to finishing point. And I have some titles I've been meaning to post on since before the crazy wedding planning began.

My very first post family visit read last week was a super great one to start off with, I must admit.

Helen Grant's debut, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was originally released in the UK as a teen mystery, though it's being packaged as an adult novel here in the States. Personally it's great either way in my opinion. A wonderful mix of folklore and thrilling mystery, the story centers around a ten-year-old girl and her determination to solve a local missing kid case. Pia thought life was pretty ho hum until her grandmother spontaneously combusted at a family holiday dinner. Now Pia's the talk of town and the subject of some mean school kid taunting. When fellow student Katharina Linden disappears, Pia is convinced that unnatural forces may be behind it. Together with her friend Stefan, she welcomes the distraction and sets out to solve the case. As more children go missing, however, Pia's parents become increasingly worried and the townspeople start to take matters into their own hands.

I love Grant's style. Pia is a charming and smart lead, but she is a ten-year-old. The reader sees things, including the adults around her, through those eyes, which makes the book all that much more captivating. A real gem of a book and a fantastic mystery!

Grant's second teen release, The Glass Demon, is just out in the UK. No word yet on a US release.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Releases 8/17/10

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Dark Echo by F.G. Cottam

Book of Days by Emily Fox Gordon

Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

The Last Lie by Stephen White

New on DVD:
Me and Orson Welles
The Last Song
Furry Vengeance

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Releases 8/3/10

Some of the new titles out this week are:

Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson

Slicker by Lucy Jackson

The Book of Nathan by Curt Weeden and and Richard Marek

An Ordinary Decent Criminal by Michael van Rooy

The Garden of Betrayal by Lee Vance

The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel

Mothers and Other Liars by Amy Bourret

Venom by Joan Brady

On Location by Elizabeth Sims

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance by Sara Poole

Moscow Sting by Alex Dryden

In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw (trade paperback)

New On DVD:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The Ghost Writer