Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm Back!

So we made it back, safe and sound. We were lucky not to hit any snow on the way back... until Colorado Springs, that is. All of the sudden, the snow started blasting down and traffic slid to a virtual halt. It sucked. An hour and a half left in our twenty hour drive and we crawled at a pace that got us home about four hours later.

Did I mention it sucked?

Smart Becky cleaned out the fridge before we left, using up things like eggs and bread and other perishables. So now, as you can see from the view from my window above, the roads are covered in more snow than I'm comfortable driving in and we have a lack of anything resembling groceries in the house. Fun. Although, we do now have a ton of boudin and some fabulous steaks. Just not anything to eat with them.

Mike said he didn't want to drive for another week, but if we're going to have any New Year's Eve snacks and our traditional pork, cabbage, and black eyed peas tomorrow, he's going to have to take me to the store later today anyway.

So yes. I'm back. The kitties were a bit miffed, but well taken care of while we were gone. Sadie's glad to be back in her own house, but probably unhappy about the snow as well since she's been cooped up in a car for two days. I'm nursing another cold and already a bit homesick for the Junkies and the rest of my family : (

Christmas haul brought in a few books from my wishlist! New in the TBR:

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
Ancestor by Scott Sigler
Lady Lazarus by Michelle Lang
Dust by Joan Frances Turner
Silencing Sam by Julie Kramer

So New Year's Resolutions... peck away at the TBR stack, stay on top of reviews, and get back to better eating habits and regular yoga.

Have a Happy New Year, folks! Tomorrow it'll be 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Releases 12/26/10

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Indefensible by Pamela Callow

Pretty Little Dead Things by Gary McMahon

The Radleys by Matt Haig

Senseless by Mary Burton

A Royal Likeness by Christine Trent

What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Bloody Valentine by Melissa de la Cruz -- Blue Bloods series

Secrets to the Grave by Tami Hoag

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Love me to Death by Allison Brennan

Tempest's Legacy by Nicole Peeler

New on DVD:
Resident Evil: Afterlife
The American

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
There's Cake in My Future by Kim Gruenenfelder
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Friday, December 24, 2010

NAC Mini Challenge -- Nightlife by Rob Thurman

So Rob Thurman's Nightlife just happens to be my second choice in the for Literary Escapism's current NAC Mini Challenge.

Cal Leandros knows all to well that there are monsters in this world. He is one. Or half, anyway. He and his brother, Niko, call them Grendels, but they are in fact elves. Wicked, monstrous creatures unlike anything you've imagined them to be. And they want Cal for something. They took him once. He escaped, but he can't remember how. He and Niko have been on the lookout for the Grendels ever since, and now it seems they may have returned.

I really enjoyed this first in the series. It was much darker than I'd expected, and I liked the twist with the elves. Thurman's characters are interesting as well, the supporting cast of Robin Goodfellow and Georgina the teenage psychic especially intrigued me. I'm looking forward to learning more of their stories in subsequent books.

I'll keep this short because today is Christmas Eve! I hope everyone has a great holiday and gets to spend lots of time with their loved ones. Relax, eat some great food, and enjoy the day!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Mashups are all the rage these days. Take a famous literary or historical character/person, add a paranormal twist, and you've got the beginnings of a mashup. Thanks to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, they're everywhere, invading every fibre of literature. Every historical figure is fair game. Every piece of our pasts is open to reimagining. It's pure, unadulterated entertainment.

One of the latest landed in my lap just recently (thanks to a Shelf Awareness post). The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor Vampire Slayer as told by Lucy Weston.

So this is a triple play mashup -- it's Queen Elizabeth I, supposedly descended from Morgaine (aka Morgan le Fey, amongst others), born into a line of Slayers (yep, slighly Buffyish). Her nemesis is Mordred, King Arthur's son, who has been waiting for a queen to stand by his side, a worthy opponent whose strength can compete with his own. And then you have the pseudonymous author, Lucy Weston. It's kind of implied that there may be more to the story -- Lucy Weston is not even a true narrator in that she only has an afterword talking about the secret diaries that came into her possession after the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle, but what's Lucy's story?

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor Vampire Slayer is an amusing read. All the major players are there, and I had a hard time not imagining Cate Blanchett's Queen Elizabeth (not helped by the fact that I caught the tale end of Elizabeth: The Golden Age on tv last week). I think it's time for me to read Queen Victoria Demon Hunter by A.E. Moorat next (that one will no doubt be helped along by Doctor Who!) and Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

For more on Lucy Weston and the book, visit www.lucywestonvampire.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Cause You Know You Still Crave Chick Lit

I love chick lit. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I think it's fun and light and just what you need sometimes (same goes with just about any genre for me actually).

I can still remember buying Bridget Jones Diary in hardcover, newly released, just after the now defunct mag Jane ran a raving review. I think it may have been my first hardcover purchase -- I didn't even have a driver's license yet, but my friend did. She brought me to the bookstore and then, when I finished reading the laugh-out-loud hilarious adventures of Bridget, I passed the book onto that very same friend, who went on to read it at her private school where other teens starting picking it up, subsequently getting the book banned at the catholic high. Yep. Fun days!

And chick lit is still out there, sometimes hiding under the more ambiguous tag of women's lit and other subgenre marketing labels that anyone thinks may appeal to a wide range of readers.

Anywho, I kicked off my weekend with a new to me chick-lit read, Kim Gruenenfelder's There's Cake In My Future. In the book, three thirty-something friends are all hoping for love, success, and happiness. Nicole, about to be married and looking for a new job, Seema, in love with her best friend but afraid to make a move, and Melissa, dating her boyfriend for six years and still no ring, have a plan. Nicole arranges for a cake pull at her wedding shower and rigs the cake so that they each will pull the charm that will bring them exactly what they wish for. But when the charms somehow get switched, everything goes awry.

Super cute read. I really mean that. I was laughing out loud all night! I loved the characters, I loved the hijinks, and I especially loved Gruenenfelder's sense of humor. A little snarky, a little sarcastic, things I've thought myself but never said aloud!

Cake pulls, if you're curious (I'd never heard of them) are apparently a Victorian tradition. Here's a neat website I found with some info. Seeing as how I'm pretty superstitious, I found Gruenenfelder's latest to be especially hilarious. I guess it's a good thing I'd never heard of the cake pull before my own shower. Hm...

Definitely recommended. Gruenenfelder has two other titles under her belt, A Total Waste of Makeup and Misery Loves Cabernet, books I intend to check out after the holiday season.

Many, many thanks to Rachel for sending this one along. I absolutely loved it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest

And my final Charleston trip read from my recent visit was Cherie Priest's fabulous follow up to the amazing Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom.

Though it's a completely different state, I figured Civil War ghosts was an appropriate reading subject while in South Carolina. Plus, I've decided Cherie Priest writes five star plane reads. I'm not kidding. This is the third of her books that I've taken on a trip and the third time I've been completely transported from the distractions and discomforts of airports and planes by her prose. (That was a pretty lyrical sentence coming from me!)

In the second Eden Moore book, the Chickamauga battlefield has its share of ghost stories, but they've grown more frequent and bizarre of late. A pair of famous ghost hunters has come to town to investigate and Eden decides to check it out herself. It seems the ghosts have a message, but getting it across is proving quite difficult, and then very real gunshots begin to ring out once again on the battlefield.

So fun! Priest turns historical fact into fiction by twisting the real story to fit her plot, a tactic that works in making her stories come alive for readers like me (and believe it or not, some of the really weird stuff is untouched local legend -- Green Eyes, for example). She is truly one of my favorite authors.

I know, I know, I'm going all fangirl! I can't help it. Priest has a couple of distinctions in my recent read list: Four and Twenty was the first book to literally freak me out in recent years and Boneshaker was (I believe) my first official steampunk read.

So yeah, if you still have yet to add Priest to your "Must Read" list, you're seriously missing out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best of 2010

Favorites are up over at Bookbitch.com! I have to say, 2010 (and it's not quite over just yet) has been a great reading year. It was so tough to narrow the list -- so far I've read 137 books in 2010 (vs 169 in 2009) -- I ended up with 15 instead of 10 titles, and could easily have added more.

My list is pretty zombie and apocalypse heavy this year as well. Not surprising since it's been a good year for the apocalypse!

You can see just how different our reading tastes are over there as well. None of the titles are duplicated. In the four years I've been contributing reviews to the site, I think there's usually a little bit of overlap, but not so this year.

So check it out and add to your own TBR lists. I know I am! Oh, and if you're curious, my list is purely in order of books read, not in order of preference.

Also, this year is the first time I've joined one of the many, many online challenges. Jackie at Literary Escapism hosts an annual New Author Challenge, and you can sign up for 15, 25, or 50 new to you authors. I signed up for just 15 and easily reached the goal. In fact, I'm at 41 right now (and these are just the new to me authors that I posted on my blog. My list is probably much longer than that in actuality.) It's been fun to track them, though, and to see what everyone else is reading.

So we're in the home stretch of the year, with just under two weeks to go before 2011 hits us. Here's to a fabulous new reading year next year! I'm going tackle the TBR and see what I can knock out before New Year's!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Releases 12/21/10

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor Vampire Slayer by Lucy Weston

There's Cake in My Future by Kim Gruenenfelder

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston

New on DVD:
Easy A
The Horde
Soul Kitchen

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor Vampire Slayer
Damaged by Pamela Callow
Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pre Pub Book Buzz -- Nocturne by Syrie James

Syrie James has been busy, busy this year! Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker is fresh off the presses (well, fresh this summer) and now her latest, Nocturne, is set to hit shelves in just a couple of weeks (Jan 4 to be exact).

Here's some info from the press release:

For [Syrie] James, story and character are the two most important elements in a novel. She says: “Without a great story, you’ve got nothing to hold onto or remember. And no matter the genre, I think the main characters must go through some kind of learning curve and come out on the other side transformed.”

In NOCTURNE James tells the story of Nicole Whitcomb, a young woman whose car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blizzard, and who is snowbound for days with a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger, Michael Tyler. As Nicole spends more time with Michael, she can’t shake the feeling that he is hiding something from her—and as the romantic and sexual tension between them builds, Nicole soon learns the terrifying truth: that Michael is a vampire who’s torn between his love for her and his desire for her blood.

James captures the dilemma of the vampire in a compelling and devastating way in NOCTURNE. Even though Michael is a good man who has already spent an eternity struggling to repress the evil inside him, he cannot trust himself with Nicole, the one woman he yearns for more than anything in the world. For Nicole, there is nowhere to run but the blizzard raging outside, and yet Michael is the only one who can save her life.

Of our fascination with vampires, James recently wrote in a Huffington Post piece: “In an age with such rapid technological advances, it’s only through our dreams and nightmares that we can experience the thrill of fear and awe again. And vampires have everything we want. They’re good-looking, powerful, dangerous, immortal, eternally youthful, and not bound by any laws or morality except their conscience, if they have one. In a culture that’s youth and sex obsessed, what could be better than to be young and beautiful and able to indulge one’s dark desires and sexual urges without penalty ... forever?”

In NOCTURNE, James tells a beautiful and haunting tale about forbidden love, about second chances, about the hope for redemption—and about how incredible joy can be inextricably linked to infinite sadness…

I don't know about you, but with all this winter weather, I'm thinking this is going to be the perfect steamy read! I have to heartily thank Elena with Wunderkind for sending this one my way. Remember, mark your calendar for Jan 4! This would be a great one for those of you I know will have gift cards burning holes in your pockets!

Friday, December 17, 2010

And Travel Book Number Three

Ah yes, book three. I finished Strout's book on Tuesday, Medeiros's book on Thursday (didn't read much on Wed since I was waiting for Top Chef to come on in Eastern time zone -- lots of channel surfing for a few hours there).

Pamela Callow's Damaged lasted me Friday through one flight on Sunday. I have to admit, it was a little tough to get into. I think I was just so tired by that point in the trip. Callow's debut introduces lawyer Kate Lange, who is returning in book two, Indefensible, later this month.

Kate Lange is on probation with her new firm. The position comes with a temporary period in which she must prove her value to the company if she wants to keep her job, kind of a tough prospect when one boss seems to hate her and the files coming her way don't extend past family court. One case in particular catches her attention though, a grandmother seeking custody of her granddaughter. Catch is, the girl's mom is a high powered judge and there's no evidence of any negligence that would warrant a custody dispute. When the girl turns up dead, however, Kate has to wonder if she could have done more.

My one complaint with this book, bearing in mind that I wasn't able to give it my all, was that there seemed to be so many elements. As a first in a series, introducing a character with a well rounded background, I think Damaged was pretty good. But I also think the series is going to get better as Callow is able to give readers more of Lange's history. The medical aspect of the case was really interesting, especially when I learned that it was based on an actual trial, but I think it could have been worked in a little more smoothly.

Overall a good debut, but as I said, a series I expect will get better with each new entry.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Looking for a fun read this holiday season?

My second travel read this past week was Teresa Medeiros's latest, Goodnight Tweetheart. Now first off, it's not a holiday book, but I'm going to highly recommend it for the season : )

I'm familiar with Medeiros thanks to her massive romance backlist, but have to admit that I've not read her before now. Goodnight Tweetheart is being blurbed as You've Got Mail meets Sleepless in Seattle, and in a way it's an appropriate comparison.

Abby Donovan reached the ultimate in publishing success when her book was chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick. Since then it's been downhill. A massive bout of writer's block has caused delay after delay with her new book and her latest signing is a disaster on all counts. When her publicist suggests Twitter as another way to get out there and excite readers, Abby is leery. A newbie to the site, she strikes up an unlikely friendship with a traveling professor. Soon she has to admit that she may be falling for the guy. But how well can you really get to know a person without ever meeting?

Goodnight Tweetheart is a cute and light read. Perfect for the bouncy flight from Atlanta to Charleston and the exhausted first night in the hotel. It was nice to get my mind off how tired I was and read something that didn't require that much effort on my part. And the use of tweets as most of the storyline made it zip along! I'd say just about a perfect read if you have to deal with holiday (or anytime) stress. And a nice contemporary introduction for readers new to Medeiros like me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Aztec Mystery

As a book junkie, you know that I'm always on the lookout for new authors to try. Last month, I stumbled upon Aliette de Bodard. Her debut, Servant of the Underworld, was released October 26 and the sequel, Harbinger of the Storm, is due out Jan 25.

de Bodard is just one of the authors picked up by the still very young Angry Robot press, a company that's been releasing some fantastic genre fiction in both the UK and here in the States. I found this press release describing her fateful meet with the Angry Robot folks. Fancy that luck!

In Servant of the Underworld, first in the Obsidian and Blood series, Acatl, a high priest of the dead, is asked to intervene in a missing persons investigation. The suspect is his brother and the victim his rumored mistress. The scene itself is covered in blood, but there is no body. As Acatl digs deeper, using magic as well as his keen observation skills, he becomes convinced that the woman is still alive, but can he find her soon enough to prevent his brother's conviction and death?

Servant begins as any normal detective book -- but in an ancient Aztec setting. Fantasy elements become stronger as the plot moves forward, making it truly a unique blend of genres. de Bodard's research into Aztec beliefs and culture seems to be on-point as well. It's a really fascinating book and I can't wait to read the next installment. A completely original tale, an excellent debut, and another win for Angry Robot in my book. I definitely recommend seeking out a copy if you're a fan of fantasy and/or historical mysteries.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NAC Mini Challenge -- Dead to Me by Anton Strout

Whew. I'm home. Some of you may have read that I was traveling (hence the serious lack of posts -- I always say I'm going to prepare better and get preposts ready and I never do. Bad, Becky!)

I was in the lovely Charleston last week spending some time at the office and bumming around town with my coworkers -- who were all fabulous hosts, by the way. I had a super fun time. And like all trips, I spent the night before leaving trying to decide what to bring along to read in my down time.

I settled on just five books for this trip. It was agonizing, but almost perfect considering I made it halfway through book four on the plane ride home.

One of the books I brought along with me was Anton Strout's Dead to Me, first in the Simon Canderous series, and my first pick for Jackie's current mini challenge over at Literary Escapism.

Simon Canderous has the ability to see pieces of other people's lives just by touching something they owned. He'd been using the gift strictly for personal gain until he almost got thrown in the slammer for it. Now he's honing his skills working for the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. He and his partner are dragged into an investigation after meeting a dead woman who seems very much alive. Sure it's fairly common for the dead to not quite realize their time is up, but this woman is special.

Simon's a fun character. He's young, a bit headstrong, but also a bit naive as well. And I love the DEA. Imagine Warehouse 13, X-Files, and Buffy all in one paperback package and you get some idea what to expect.

Strout was my day one read, he got me through 2+ hours in the airport and through my flight to Atlanta. Good stuff!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Temporary Radio Silence

Terribly sorry, folks. I didn't prep and prepost for this week. Lots of work stuff going on! I'll be posting again next week, I promise!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Releases 12/07/10

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Don Bruns

Death and the Running Patterer by Robin Adair

The Princess of Nowhere by Lorenzo Borghese

Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern (reissue)

Low Country by Eric L. Haney

The Final Reckoning by Sam Bourne

Right Hand Magic by Nancy A. Collins

The Diver by Alfred Neven DuMont

The Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland

Nights of the Red Moon by Milton T. Burton

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead -- Vampire Academy book 6

Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier -- Sevenwaters book 5

New on DVD:
Shrek Forever After

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Death and the Running Patterer
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the Dark of Dreams by Marjorie M. Liu