Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books Read in 2010


January

Fay Weldon, She May Not Leave (5/5)

February

None

March

Gail Carriger, Soulless (5/5)

April

A.E. Moorat, Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter (5/5)
Steig Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (4/5)
Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver (5/5)

May

Ada Leverson, Birds of Paradise (4/5)
Melissa Marr, Wicked Lovely (5/5)
Katharine McMahon, The Rose of Sebastopol (5/5)

June

Richard Canning, Brief Lives: E.M. Forster (5/5)
Elspeth Marr; Christopher Rush (editor), Aunt Epp's Guide for Life: Miscellaneous Musings of a Victorian Lady (5/5)
S.J. Parris, Heresy (unfinished)

July

Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size (2/5)
Gail Carriger, Changeless (3/5)
Arnaldur Indridason, Hypothermia (5/5)
Mary Robinette Kowal, First Flight (5/5)
Rachel Swirsky, Eros, Philia, Agape (5/5)
Various, Apex Magazine: March 2010 (5/5)
Various, Apex Magazine: May 2010 (4/5)

August

Jane Austen, Persuasion (5/5)
Catherine Delors, For the King (5/5)
Karen Essex, Dracula In Love (3.5/5)
Leanna Renee Hieber, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (unfinished)
Laurie Viera Rigler, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (3/5)

September

Michelle Davidson Argyle, Cinders (4/5)
Melanie Benjamin, Alice I Have Been (5/5)
Jane Eagland, Wildthorn (4/5)
Susan Kaye, For You Alone (5/5)
Susan Kaye, None But You (5/5)
Sena Jeter Naslund, Adam & Eve (2/5)
Cynthia Ozick, Foreign Bodies (4/5)

October

Gail Carriger, Blameless (4.5/5)
Kersten Hamilton, Tyger Tyger (4.5/5)
Otto Penzler, The Best American Noir of the Century (4/5)
Trisha Telep, Kiss Me Deadly (4/5)

November

Thaisa Frank, Heidegger's Glasses (5/5)
William Newton, Mistress of Abha (2/5 - unfinished)
Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (4/5)
Scarlett Thomas, Our Tragic Universe (4/5)

December

Carol K. Carr, India Black (5/5)
Dee DeTarsio, The Scent of Jade (4/5)
Delilah Marvelle, Prelude to a Scandal (4/5)
Priscilla Royal, The Valley of Dry Bones (3/5 - unfinished)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Vacation!

Beginning 12/24 through 1/8, I'm going to be abroad with my in-laws.  Very generously, they invited me along on their family vacation, and I'll be touring Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt via a Mediterranean cruise!  (I know, I'm jealous of myself!)  I suspect I won't be able to get online, even to share photos with friends, so alas, the blog will briefly be on hiatus.  But I'll be back with a bang as I'm part of the TLC Book Tours blog tour of The Metropolis Case -- my review will be posted on the 11th. 

A safe and happy New Year's to all -- I look forward to seeing what your holiday hauls brought and sharing more book-ish love in 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Criminal Plots Reading Challenge

As I'm already committed to the Femme Fatale reading challenge, I figured why not take this one on as well?  It's not exactly the same -- and there are a few sub-challenges to keep things interesting! Plus, the sub-challenges so intrigued my wife, she's going to do the challenge along with me!

Criminal Plots Reading Challenge.

Here are the rules:

Read six books throughout 2011. One book should be read that fits into each of the following categories:
  • A book by a new to you author who's blurbed a book you enjoyed. So check out the cover of a crime fiction book you've enjoyed and see who blurbed that book and is also an author you've never read before. 
  • A book that has been made into a movie. It doesn't have to be a movie you've seen but it can be. The book, however, should be one you haven't read before. 
  • A book with a protagonist opposite your own gender. So if you're female, the protagonist should be male; if you're male the protagonist should be female.
    • A book set outside the country in which you live. 
    • A book that's the first in a new-to-you series.
      •  READ: Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli
    • A book by a 2011 debut author.

      I'm so very, very excited about the possibilities!  I don't really have any firm ideas, although for #5, I'm thinking the first book in Philip Kerr's Bernard Gunther series, March Violets.  Any thoughts on that, or any of the other possibilities?  I would especially love any help with #6!

      Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

      On the surface, the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge seems very simple and easy to achieve, but this year I read pretty voraciously, given work and family obligations.  It'll take some effort to beat my 2010 total (which was 37) but I'm happy to try!

      I'm still going to play it safe, though; I'm aiming for Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books.  I'd love to break 40 books next year.

      Anyone else trying to beat their reading for next year?

      Teaser Tuesday, Dec 21

      Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

      - Grab your current read
      - Open to a random page
      - Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
      - BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
      - Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


      I really ought to just clip out the two sentence requirement because I can't ever, ever, ever share two sentences.

      Anyway, this week's teaser is from The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway.  The cover is really quite striking and being an opera fan, the premise very much excites me.  Also, as it's threatening snow in Boston, this opening scene resonated -- so here's your teaser!  Edited to add: HA, snowing now! 

       It had been snowing for days, but a sallow, expectant glow emanating from the crenellated perimeter of the park told her the storm was nearing an end.  While she did not relish the thought of negotiating a trip downtown, the transformation of the city into a tundra, with squalls of powder and amorphous mounds where there had once been cars, mailboxes, and shrubs, struck her as the perfect accompaniment to the magic, improbable turn the day had taken, now that she was about to make her Isolde debut at the Metropolitan Opera.

      Monday, December 20, 2010

      Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge

      I like poetry a lot but don't read nearly as much as I want.  Savvy Verse & Wit is hosting the Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge and as the challenge is to literally read just one volume of poetry, I couldn't say no.

      I might even try for more than one volume of poetry.  Go big or go home, right?

      Here are a few possibilities -- mostly volumes I already one or planned on getting.  Give me your recommendations if you have them!

      Money Shot by Rae Armantrout
      The Book of Repulsive Women by Djuna Barnes (or her Collected Poems, I'm undecided)
      Helen in Egypt by H.D.
      The Lost Lunar Baedeker by Mina Loy
      Medea the Sorceress (The Archaeology of Movies and Books, Vol. 1) by Diane Wakoski

      READ

      Seth Steinzor, To Join the Lost


      In My Mailbox Monday, Dec 20

      Seen both at The Printed Page (hosted in Dec at Let Them Read Books) and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox for December-ish... Another great few weeks -- plenty of reading for my holiday!  Have you ready any of these?  What did you get?

      Won!




      In Dreams Begin by Skyler White, thanks to Candace's Book Blog

      Mr Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange, thanks to Feed Your Reading Habit

      The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman, and The Phantom of Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Murder Mystery by Regina Jeffers; both thanks to VVB32 Reads

      Purchased!




      The City and The City by China Miéville
      Blackout (All Clear #1) by Connie Willis

      For Review!





      Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom by Peg Kingman

      Saturday, December 18, 2010

      British Books Reading Challenge

      I had to sign up for the British Books Challenge by The Bookette because it overlapped so nicely with many of my other reading challenges.  The Georgette Heyer and Victorian ones could help me finish it alone!  (Yes, I'm getting cocky.)

      I'm feeling so good about this one, I'm going big: The Royal Family - Read 12 books by British authors in 2011.

       But I still want your recommendations!  Any British authors I should especially look out for?  I'd love to include some British authors of color if you have any favorites I should pick up!

      Read

      Room by Emma Donoghue
      Ordinary Angels by India Drummond
      The Doll by Daphne du Maurier
      Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
      The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
      Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
      Small Wars by Sadie Jones
      The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
      A Man of Parts by David Lodge
      A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead
      Mr Bishop and the Actress by Janet Mullany
      The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
      Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
      Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
      Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith
      Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods? by Caroline Taggart
      Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson
      The Legacy by Katherine Webb

      Friday, December 17, 2010

      E-book Reading Challenge

      I think I read about half my books on my Sony Reader -- so why not get a little chuffed about it?  Thus, it was a no-brainer signing up for the E-book Reading Challenge by The Ladybug Reads. 

      I'm going to aim for 'Addicted' -- which is reading 12 e-books.  Between NetGalley, my library, and the few e-books I buy, I should easily hit this goal -- maybe even surpass it!

      I especially love my e-reader when it comes to big, hefty tomes, so I might add on a few 'chunksters'.  Any recommendations?

      Read

      A.S. Byatt, Ragnarok
      Sara Blædel, Call Me Princess
      India Drummond, Ordinary Angels
      Susanna Fraser, The Sergeant's Lady
      Kersten Hamilton, In the Forests of the Night
      Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd
      Tara L. Masih, Where The Dog Star Never Glows
      M.J. Rose, The Hypnotist
      Jonathan Santlofer, ed., L.A. Noire
      Mirella Sichirollo Patzer, The Blighted Troth 
      Jennie Shortridge, ed., Hotel Angeline
      Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, Kiss Her Goodbye

      Wednesday, December 15, 2010

      India Black by Carol K. Carr

      Title: India Black
      Author: Carole K. Carr

      Genre: Fiction (Historical / Victoriana)

      Rating: LOVE. Love it so much I wanna marry it.
      Did I finish?: You couldn't get me to stop even if you threatened me!

      One-sentence summary: London madam is wrangled into spying on Russians on behalf of the Empire, with help from street urchin and government agent.

      Why did I get this book?: Historical, sex worker, Victorian. Yum!
      Source: The author.

      Do I like the cover?: Yes. That dress, please.  And the jewelry.  Plus her come-hither/I-kill-you stare.

      First line: My name is India Black.

      Did... I fall in love with India Black after the first page?: YES. The first ten sentences had me hooked.

      Did... I develop a bit of a crush on the heroine and the hero?: YES. This isn't a romance in the slightest but both leads killed me with their hot.

      Am... I going to die waiting for the second book?: YES.  This one is coming out Jan 4th, FYI.

      Review:  There's nothing like being hooked by a book on the first page.  It's kind of exhilarating, really.  All you need do is settle back and greedily read on; and in this case, I guzzled this book like it was orange soda and I was five.

      Despite the heroine being a madam, this isn't a risque book.  Carr opens the novel with India Black shooing away anyone who wants to read "a young woman's schooling in the arts of love" as well as the overly pious and easily shocked.  It was then I realized India and I would get along just smashingly. 

      I love action films and spy thrillers for lots of reasons, but a biggie is that there's usually a strong woman as a companion -- or better, colleague.  Smart, gorgeous, calculating, tough, the woman is as interesting as the spy hero but gets less back story and screentime.  Those women always intrigue me: how did they end up where they did?  What's their deal?

      Reading India Black is a bit like having a Victorian Bond Girl be the star of our film.  She's used as bait and saves the day, is wined and dined and kidnapped and locked up; she kicks butt and gets abused in equal part.  There's a company man, French, who is enigmatic and dreamy.  A ruffian sidekick.  Intrigue iced with witty comebacks and droll retorts.  There are even chase scenes and fight scenes and a hint of naughtiness just to keep things fresh -- and addictive-ly readable.  I am so looking forward to the next India Black book; I anticipate being a vocal Carol K. Carr fangirl.

      See my previous Teaser Tuesday for a little taste of India Black!

      Monday, December 13, 2010

      Top 10 of 2010

      This was a good book reading year -- I more than doubled my pace from last year.  I disliked a few reads -- mostly non-fiction -- and found myself challenged by much of what I read (lots of unlikable characters!).

      My top ten is a mixed bag of some new releases and old ones, historical novels, lit fic, and genre.  Eight of the ten are set in the past (historical or alternate, but the past nonetheless), while two are set in the present.  Two of the ten are young adult novels.  Three are paranormal: two with werewolves and one with goblins.  One self-published!  All ten were written by women (unsurprising since only seven of the books I read this year were written by men!).

      Creating this list has reminded me that I'm thinking about changing my rating system.  I used to rate things out of 10, but that seemed rather huge, so I dropped it to out of five, but as a result, I rate things high.  I find that when I dislike a book, it usually says something about me.  Rarely can I discern something specific about the book to warrant a low rating (although I did for a few).  If you're curious, here are all the books I read in 2010.

      Here are the top ten for 2010.  These are the standout books this year that I can't stop talking about or recommending to anyone who makes the mistake of asking for a good book to read.  Tell me about your top 10 and what you think of mine if you've read any of them!


      Michelle Davidson Argyle, Cinders (4/5)

      I love fairy tale retellings so I was already primed to like this book.  What pushed it into Top Ten territory was the delicious sadness to it.  Like original fairy tales, there's some blood and murder and heart ache and hard lessons, and Argyle shows all without being horror movie grotesque or worse, cheesy.  It's a princess story for anyone who has bristled at the sanitized way fairy tales have been presented, all true love and Prince Charming. 



      Carol K. Carr, India Black (5/5)

      This snappy, sexy, funny historical novel is the reason I love adventure novels and historicals.  There's intrigue, politics, lots and lots of wry asides and witty one-liners, corsets, implied sex, and spyish flirting.  Honestly, I loved the heroes and villains alike; everyone was so well-written and fully articulated!  This book comes out in Jan, 2011 so I felt especially tickled to have a sneak peek -- and I am so very, very, very excited for the next India Black book.  I anticipate being a hardcore Carol K. Carr fangirl in the future. 

      Gail Carriger, Soulless (5/5)

      Steampunk, supernatural, Victoriana -- this book has it all.  Carriger is so flippin' clever I can't even take it; the dialogue in her books is some of the best I've read.  I enjoyed her world-building: it was engrossing without being overwhelming.  Readers seem to be really split between loving Connall or hating him; I'm firmly in the 'loving' category.  After Shiver, this just sealed the deal on my new-found werewolf love.


      Catherine Delors, For the King (5/5)

      I'm a sucker for anything set during the French Revolution, but Delors' novel was a fun departure from the usual novels I read featuring a high-born heroine trying to keep her head.  Despite the cover, the focus of the story is Roch Miquel, police inspector, and his CSI-ish investigation of an assignation attempt.  I have to confess I prefer to follow a heroine than a hero, but Roch was endearing and kept my interest (and garnered my sympathies).  He reminded me a bit of a younger brother trying to prove his worth, and that got me in the end.
      Thaisa Frank, Heidegger's Glasses (5/5)

      At risk of sounding glib, this is the Holocaust novel for those who might shy away from something so heavy.  This is a bittersweet and sad novel but it's punctuated by moments of real humanity.  Frank's writing is just gorgeous -- lyrical and dreamy -- without being overly ornate or complicated.  Even though she features a philosopher -- Heidegger -- one needn't be a philosophy major to understand the themes she explores.   

      Kersten Hamilton, Tyger Tyger (4.5/5)

      One of only two YA novels that made it onto my top ten.  This made my top ten because the heroine, Teagan, might be one of the best heroines I've read.  Not only is she consistent, but I found her to be vibrant and real.  She was able to be afraid without turning into a shivering flower, and she was a spitfire without being stereotypically "feisty".  Hamilton gave the reader plenty of evidence as to Teagan's resilience and courage.  Plus, I just adored the precociously brilliant little brother.  I'm in agony waiting for the second book!


      Susan Kaye, None But You (5/5)

      Jane Austen is hot right now so there's an ocean of spin-offs and retellings to swim through, but this book (the first of three) really grabbed my attention because it's from one of the lesser seen Austen novels, Persuasion, and because it follows Wentworth rather than Anne.  Kaye filled out scenes from Austen's novel beautifully and I felt like Kaye's Wentworth was Austen's Wentworth.  I was so engaged I didn't even notice where Austen's plot ended and Kaye's began.

      Katharine McMahon, The Rose of Sebastopol (5/5)

      This immensely satisfying historical novel took me utterly by surprise.  I knew nothing about it when I picked it up, but I was sucked in from the first sentence.  Both female characters could have gone into caricature route -- one demure and loyal, the other feisty and wild -- but McMahon made them real, flawed, human.  She even breathed life into Florence Nightingale, revealing a more historically accurate portrait of the woman.  And the romance -- oh, I still yearn!  I couldn't read this book fast enough but I hated being finished with it! 

      Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver (5/5)

      I picked this up mostly because I kept seeing it on GoodReads, usually as the most wanted book of 2010 or something like that.  I'm so thrilled I did -- it kicked off my renewed interest in paranormal and YA fiction, and made me feel that childish joy of reading for the pleasure of the story.  Plus, my wife can now tease me for crushing on a boy!  (Seriously, Sam is dreamy.)




      Fay Weldon, She May Not Leave (5/5)

      Perhaps the most traumatic book of 2010.  I read this back in January and I still talk about it to just about anyone who will listen.  Relationships, infidelity, deception, and parenting: a toxic but delicious cocktail.  If I recall correctly, other reviewers were cool on it, but the twist really gut-punched me.  A very visceral read.  Just looking at the cover again makes me feel sort of ill and anxious.

      Sunday, December 12, 2010

      Random Magic Blog Tour - Elf Yourself!

      There are no elves in Random Magic. Let's just get that out of the way right now. However, there is a great deal of drollery, hilarity and fun.

      So only imagine the joy unconfined that rang out when someone came up with a winter widget where you can stick your face onto a dancing elf and then show it to everybody who puts up with you, saying, 'Look at me! I'm an elf!'

      So, in the spirit of spending a few minutes doing something genial, funny, wintry and not at all serious, quite welcome to fire up the maniacal glee and Elf Yourself.

      Because why?

      Well, because why not?






      Video clip above: Sample Elf Yourself video. The good news: This could be you!  The bad news: This could be you! Or worse -- it could be me! (In this case, my wife, in triplicate!!)

      Dancing in pajamas is optional, but if you do, can all pretend not to notice...

      On the other hand, for anyone who gets a kick out of having an appreciative audience -- sure, let’s have your Elf Yourself! Feel free to leave a quick hello and link in the comments section. Now, on with the show…

      What would you like to do? Reader's choice:
      (Free MP3 of this mash-up)

      Another video to check out: Cute Random Magic book trailer
      Check out the book:  Share some Random Magic with me
      or....
      Take me away from this all this rompishness, I'm a serious person: Official Very Serious Tour Schedule

      Saturday, December 11, 2010

      Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge

      Shocking confession: I've never read any Georgette Heyer!  I've been a historical fiction nut for forever and a day, but somehow I never hit upon any Heyer.  Until now, thanks to the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge by All Things Historical.  I'm considering the following three, but of course, welcome opinions, advice, and suggestions!

      April Lady
      Fredericka
      The Spanish Bride

      Also recommended: Black Sheep and Arabella

      Friday, December 10, 2010

      Random Magic Book Tour begins with Musical Blog Hop!

      The Random Magic book blog tour -- Winterlong -- begins today!  See the blogs below for holiday music relating to Random Magic.

      Random Magic Tour: Winterlong
      Dec. 10-23, 2010

      About: Random Magic

      Win something wonderful: Tour prizes
      Random Magic (Gift-wrapped, first edition)
      Fairy tale mini-dolls (Madame Alexander series, complete set)

      Magical Covers art event: Prize pack
      Beautiful art journal
      This Book Belongs To bookplates set
      2011 ARC (pre-pub.) YA winter-themed novel

      Dec. 10
      Winterlong: Musical Blog Hop
      Come sit by the fire and enjoy some lovely winter tunes…

      #1 of 10: Spellbound by Books
      Themes (song and book): Buoyancy - Good Cheer

      #2 of 10: Geeky Blogger
      Themes (song and book): Reflection - Spirituality

      #3 of 10: Ecstatic Reviews
      Themes (song and book): Fortitude - Quirkiness

      #4 of 10: Elbit Blog
      Themes (song and book): Tenderness - Devotion

      #5 of 10: The Reading Lassie
      Themes (song and book): Magic - Mystery

      #6 of 10: A Reader’s Adventure
      Theme (song and book): Celebration - Humor

      #7 of 10: vvb32 Reads
      Themes (song and book): Love - Geniality

      #8 of 10: About Happy Books
      Themes (song and book): Comedy - Creativity

      #9 of 10: The True Book Addict
      Themes (song and book): Hope - Light

      #10 of 10: The Fluidity of Time
      Themes (song and book): Art - Beauty - Inspiration

      (Blog Hop Summary – via vvb32)

      Notes: Songs on the blog hop are nice songs for winter, and they also reflect themes found in Random Magic.

      Bonus: Free winter song for every stop on the hop, feel free to visit all blogs to find them all.

      Book Podcasts

      Those who are savvier than I might already be familiar with all of these podcasts, but with my new (longer) commute, I've started experimenting with bookish and literary podcasts.  Here are a few that I'm enjoying; I'd love to hear your thoughts about these and any favorites I haven't discovered yet!

      What's Old is New is a newer podcast, but they already have the oomph of a great format -- revisiting classics -- with engaging hosts -- Jen of Devourer of Books and Nicole of Linus's Blanket -- and amazing guests.  Their debut podcast looked at Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and featured the engaging Joanne Rendell.  The feel of this podcast is a better-than-most book discussion group, which only makes me wish it were a real-life book discussion group so I could join and bask in the awesomeness.  I'm really excited about future podcasts with these two!

      The Moth podcast comes from some of the performances that happen on the Moth Mainstage.  Essentially, they're 20-40 minute monologues from a variety of storytellers, and the whole series is made of double awesome.  The original premise of The Moth came from a writer's desire to recreate the ambiance of sitting on a porch telling stories with his friends, and that sense really comes across in each podcast -- if you had friends as interesting and funny and articulate as the Moth storytellers.

      Podcastle is paranormal and fantasy short stories written by established and up-and-coming writers, read by fantastic voice actors.  They're creepy and chilling and funny and very, very entertaining.

      The New Yorker Fiction podcasts are a double-whammy of bookishness.  Authors -- like this month's Jennifer Egan -- pick a story previously published in the New Yorker and discuss it briefly before reading it.  I like listening to this podcast because authors aren't always the best at reading things but so far, I haven't come across a truly awful reading.  Awkward, yes, but it's kind of endearing; and hearing them explain why they chose the story they did makes up for it.

      On my to-listen-to list is Underground Lit Society and Books on the Nightstand; I've downloaded the most recent episodes but haven't had a chance to listen to them yet.  Any others I should add to my list?

      Edited to add: The Guardian fiction podcast (which is new to me) just revealed upcoming episodes of authors-reading-other-authors and it looks good!  Philip Pullman doing Chekhov, Margaret Drabble doing Katherine Mansfield, Jeanette Winterson doing Italo Calvino, Ali Smith doing Grace Paley, the list goes on and on.  Delish!

      Thursday, December 9, 2010

      Valley of Dry Bones by Priscilla Royal

      Title: Valley of Dry Bones (Medieval Mystery #7)
      Author: Priscilla Royal

      Genre: Fiction (Historical / Mystery)

      Love/Hate?: Like-ish.
      Rating: 3/5
      Did I finish?: I didn't.  In the end I just couldn't fully get into the story.
      One-sentence summary: Medieval murder-mystery set at country convent.

      Why did I get this book?: Medieval! Mystery! Prioress!
      Source: NetGalley

      Do I like the cover?: Yes, although finding a good-sized image of it online was remarkably difficult!  It wasn't posted on the author's website nor the publisher's!

      First line from the book: The late afternoon heat settled heavily on Prioress Eleanor.

      Review: On Royal, Sharon Kay Penman says: "Anyone who hasn't read Priscilla Royal's mysteries yet is in for a treat."  I like treats and I hadn't read any of her books, so I decided to dig in one rainy afternoon.  I had no problem getting into the novel at first even though I hadn't read the previous six books.  The pace was slow but that felt appropriate given that life then was a little slower.  Each chapter loosely followed a single character and so a good part of the book is devoted to simply setting the stage.

      Even though this isn't a book laden with historical detail, I still felt a strong medieval flavor to the story.  Small details about monastic life or courtly behavior appear in the narrative as well as references to real historic events.  But one doesn't have to be familiar with medieval English history to enjoy the story; every historical reference is explained for the reader to understand the significance.

      I made the mistake of reading the publisher's letter included with the review copy, which gave away a few plot elements I would have preferred to discover myself.  Perhaps they were revealed in the sixth book but it felt a little anticlimactic.

      In the end, the slow pace of the story just couldn't keep my interest and as I didn't have a relationship with any of the characters from the previous books, I had a hard time keeping everyone straight.  I might go back and start the series and eventually return to this book because I did enjoy it for a while.  But I realized it's been two weeks since I've come back to this one so I think it's time to move on.

      Wednesday, December 8, 2010

      Interview with Dee DeTarsio

      I'm thrilled to offer an interview with Dee DeTarsio, author of The Scent of Jade, which I just reviewed (hint: loved it!).  Ms. DeTarsio is as funny in her novels as she is here so get yourself a copy of The Scent of Jade stat!

      Where did the idea for The Scent of Jade come from?

      My husband, who has earned his title of beditor, once complained that ‘women sure do think a lot.’ That’s right, we do. Live and learn, hombres. The Scent of Jade grew out of his observation and into a hybrid chick-lit action/adventure novel.

      If you were stranded in a jungle, would you have a purse with you? If so, what would be in it?

      If I was stranded in a jungle, I’m pretty sure I’d have my “Praha” bag I bought off a street vendor in Venice. (Please don’t judge--I now carry it only as penance. You’d have wanted to see me sweat it out through customs. If it is any consolation, the handle is ready to fall off, bless its crooked little seams.)

      In that bag, I would have Bear Grylls’ cell phone number.

      I’d also have my kindle, which would be magically connected to Whispernet, allowing me to provide clues. (I could download The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and Rescue, Anita Shreve’s new novel.)

      Stashed deep down, I would have a handwritten love note from my husband (while I adore the sentiment, I’ve long since erased the memory of his gift, which I’m pretty sure was the iron).

      I’d have my neti pot (this piece-o-crap knockoff is pretty big).

      It goes without saying there will be kleenex and granola bars. Kleenex, because I inherited that gene from my grandmother, and, granola bars, which are a little something-something I added to that just-in-case chromosome. You’re welcome, kids.

      You write for television -- why did you start writing novels? How is the process similar or different?

      I started writing novels several years ago because I wanted to recycle all those notes I couldn’t stop scribbling. I have three other novels and I am just finishing up a fourth.

      Writing for television is writing for tell a vision. Producers are the authors of suspense: amping up the conflict and drama. Storytelling a vision invites the audience, through whatever medium, to stay tuned for the good stuff...coming up.

      Are you a reality TV junkie like Julie?

      I don’t watch much TV at all--only when I’m in the kitchen, family room, living room, bedroom, or on the treadmill. It’s not like there’s a TV in the bathroom or anything. (Have you ever priced getting cable in through all that plumbing? Oof.)

      Have you lived in CA a long time? Would you want to live anywhere else in the world?

      Since I grew up in Ennui, Ohio, I LOVE everything about California. (Except winter.)

      [Ms DeTarsio included a photo of a chilled southern California windshield to help illustrate her point! :)]

      What do you do when you’re not writing (and when your kids give you time off ;))?

      When I’m not writing, I’d like to say I’m busy speaking and cooking fluent Italian, teaching yoga class and volunteering for the Peace Corps, but none of that would be true.

      Read any good books recently?

      I just finished Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King--which includes four brilliantly-written-as-always short (ha ha) stories--PLUS his genius Afterword that explains how he got his ideas. It resonates with the concept that while literary fiction extolls extraordinary people in ordinary life, he is more interested in ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

      Five stars for Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. (The cheesy side of me can’t wait for Angelina Jolie in the movie role--and I can’t help but think it would be awesome if Philippa Gregory would take a whack, using Stacy Schiff’s research.)

      Loved The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato--Luciana Vetra is one of my new, all-time favorite characters--and it was so cool to see the painting the story was based on, La Primavera, when we were in Florence.

      I could go on, but I think I hear Audra tapping her foot. I would never re-watch a movie, but I always enjoy revisiting old friends; anything by Marian Keyes, Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, all of Harry Potter, David Sedaris...

      Any advice for aspiring writers?

      Read for pleasure. Reread for what you missed the first time around. Remember the stories and styles that spark your passion.

      About Dee DeTarsio
      Dee DeTarsio is a television writer living in southern California. After growing up in Ennui, Ohio, and graduating from Ohio State University she vowed ‘never to be cold again’ (in a tantrum more worthy of Suellen than Scarlett) and ended up in Tucson, Arizona, producing the news for the CBS affiliate, oddly enough called KOLD-TV. She moved to San Diego where she worked in the SeaWorld entertainment department as a Producer/Writer, (Penguins are mean!) and then became a Producer/Writer with NBC for a live, comedy/variety show.

      After working for Children’s Hospital, she totally sold out and became the Marketing Director of a cosmetic dermatology group where she got free Botox. Her husband is a Director of Photography and travels around the world while she stays behind as the indentured servant of their two children. Though her father was never famous and her mother never beat her (that hard!) she suspects one of her sisters is a vampire.  Learn more at her website and blog.  Check out the book trailer too!

      *** *** ***
      My thanks to Ms. DeTarsio for taking the time to answer my questions!  I'm thrilled to say she's offering a Kindle copy of The Scent of Jade to one lucky winner!  As a result, this giveaway is available internationally!  Just leave your email address for a chance to win!  (No Kindle needed to read the copy; the software can be downloaded and e-book read on computer or smart phone!) Contest closes at 9pm Pacific US on Dec 12th and I'll announce the winner on Mon, Dec 13!

      Tuesday, December 7, 2010

      Femme Fatale Reading Challenge

      The Femme Fatale Reading Challenge by Whitney at She Is Too Fond of Books had me, basically, at hello.

      My goal is to be a Dragon Lady -- 12 femme fatale items.  Since films count as well as books, I'm pretty sure I'll blow this challenge away.  (Look at me, talking big!)

      Some ideas so far...

      Megan Abbott, Bury Me Deep
      Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
      Raymond Chandler, The Lady in the Lake
      Stephanie Dray, Lily of the Nile
      Christa Faust, Money Shot
      F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited and Other Stories
      D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
      Neil Miller, Banned in Boston: The Watch and Ward Society's Crusade against Books, Burlesque, and the Social Evil 
      Charlotte Mosley, The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters
      Douglas Perry, The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago
      Liane de Pougy, My Blue Notebooks: The Intimate Journal of Paris's Most Beautiful and Notorious Courtesan
      Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, Kiss Her Goodbye


      READ

      Jonathan Santlofer, ed., L.A. Noire
      Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, Kiss Her Goodbye


      I have no idea what films I'll end up watching -- it'll be fun picking ones my wife and I haven't seen yet.  So if you have any recommendations -- bookish or film-ish -- let me know!

      Monday, December 6, 2010

      The Scent of Jade by Dee DeTarsio

      Title: The Scent of Jade
      Author: Dee DeTarsio

      Genre: Fiction (Chick-Lit / Thriller)

      Rating: Enthusiastic like!
      Did I finish?: Couldn't stop myself!
      One-sentence summary: American gets lost in Costa Rican jungle with sacred artifact and broken heart.

      Why did I get this book?: The tagline: Romancing the Stone meets Survivor. I couldn't resist!
      Source: The author.

      Do I like the cover?: Yes, especially since it resembles what I suspect the locale looked like.

      First line: If I could swap my moral compass out for a real one, instead of trying to rely on guidance from the stars, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

      Did... I look forward to reading this book?: YES.  This last week was super grim, work-wise, and I couldn't wait for my commute home to hide out with our heroine.

      Did... I embarrass myself on the subway?: YES.  Laugh, chortle, chuckle, snicker, giggle - I did it all and I couldn't stop myself, even if I garnered a few bemused looks from other passengers.

      Did... I thoroughly love the Reader's Guide?: YES.  Short, but very fun.

      Review: This breezy but thoroughly entertaining novel was the perfect escape for me this last week.  Boston was gray and super cold; work was long and draining.  But each night I couldn't wait for my twenty-minute escape to Costa Rica with Julie Fraser, the sarcastic heroine of this novel.  I certainly didn't envy her situation, but DeTarsio plays out her plight with humor, action, and a hint of sexiness.

      If we're considering The Scent of Jade's pop cultural lineage (parents being Romancing the Stone and Survivor) I would have to add Sex and the City as the inappropriate aunt.  This novel is a bit like watching a romantic action movie with a sarcastic best friend -- when things get a little too improbable, the heroine Julie says just the right thing to make me howl.  In fact, what I appreciated the most about this story was the realistic way DeTarsio portrayed Julie.  She wasn't perfect; she wasn't insta-Action Heroine.  She was the same woman in Costa Rica as she was at home and she simply had to pull herself together to survive.  Some moments she fell apart; some moments she rocked her best Angelina Jolie.  It gave me hope that should I find myself in a similar situation, I might not necessarily die in the first fifteen minutes!

      *** *** ***

      Check back on Wednesday for an interview with the author, Dee DeTarsio, and a chance to win an e-book copy of The Scent of Jade!

      Sunday, December 5, 2010

      Victorian Literature Reading Challenge

      Even though I initially thought books set in the Victorian-era would count (they don't), I'm still going to take a stab at the Victorian Literature Reading Challenge. I haven't figured out what books I'm going to read (yet) but in the meantime, I'm taking recommendations!

      My goal is 4 books -- Sense and Sensibility.

      Edited to add...

      Possibilities


      Read

      Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

      Random Magic Book Tour Schedule

      I'm thrilled to be a part of the Random Magic book blog tour!  See below for schedule featuring book reviews and many chances to win great prizes!

      Random Magic Tour: Winterlong
      Dec. 10-23, 2010

      About: Random Magic

      Win something wonderful: Tour prizes
      Random Magic (Gift-wrapped, first edition)
      Fairy tale mini-dolls (Madame Alexander series, complete set)

      Magical Covers art event: Prize pack
      Beautiful art journal
      This Book Belongs To bookplates set
      2011 ARC (pre-pub.) YA winter-themed novel


      Tour organization: Lyrika Publicis
      Tour prize coordinator: @LaFemmeReaders
      Contact the tour: @RandomMagicTour


      Dec. 10
      Winterlong: Musical Blog Hop
      Come sit by the fire and enjoy some lovely winter tunes…

      #1 of 10: Spellbound by Books
      @Meeka_21
      Themes (song and book): Buoyancy - Good Cheer

      #2 of 10: Geeky Blogger
      @thehistorychic
      Themes (song and book): Reflection - Spirituality

      #3 of 10: Ecstatic Reviews
      @EcstaticReviews
      Themes (song and book): Fortitude - Quirkiness

      #4 of 10: Elbit Blog
      @MeriGreenleaf
      Themes (song and book): Tenderness - Devotion

      #5 of 10: The Reading Lassie
      @ReadingLassie
      Themes (song and book): Magic - Mystery

      #6 of 10: A Reader’s Adventure
      @ReaderAdventure
      Theme (song and book): Celebration - Humor

      #7 of 10: vvb32 Reads
      @vvb32reads
      Themes (song and book): Love - Geniality

      #8 of 10: About Happy Books
      @abouthappybooks
      Themes (song and book): Comedy - Creativity

      #9 of 10: The True Book Addict
      @truebookaddict
      Themes (song and book): Hope - Light

      #10 of 10: The Fluidity of Time
      Twitter: n/a
      Themes (song and book): Art - Beauty - Inspiration

      (Blog Hop Summary – via vvb32)

      Notes: Songs on the blog hop are nice songs for winter, and they also reflect themes found in Random Magic.

      Bonus: Free winter song for every stop on the hop, feel free to visit all blogs to find them all.

      Dec. 11
      La Femme Readers
      Twitter: @lafemmereaders
      Magical Covers: Reimagining the cover of Random Magic

      Welcome and prizes info
      Voting: Dec. 18 - Winner revealed: Dec. 20

      Dec. 12
      My Love Affair With Books
      Twitter: @Misha_1989
      Review Feat.: ‘Winter Dancers’

      and – just for fun!

      Unabridged Chick
      Twitter: @unabridgedchick
      Feat.: Elf Yourself (winter widget)

      Dec. 13
      Oodles of Books
      Twitter: @oodlesofbooks
      Review

      and

      Books, Sweets and other Treats
      Twitter: @lindsiking
      Feat.: ‘Winter Drinks’

      Dec. 14
      Stories and Sweeties
      Twitter: @storiesweeties
      Review feat.: ‘Sweets for the Sweet’

      Dec. 15
      vvb32 Reads
      Twitter: @vvb32reads
      Feat.: ‘Dandy Fellows’
      Related event: Dandies and Delectables (Dec. 10-23)

      Dec. 16
      Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
      Twitter: @blodeuedd83
      Review

      and

      Chick Loves Lit
      Twitter: @shanynlee
      Review
      Feat.: ‘The Secrets of Random Magic


      Dec. 17
      This Miss Loves To Read
      Twitter: @MissIrenne
      Review
      Feat. ‘Fairy Tale Top 10: Random Magic

      Dec. 18
      Booklover - Book Chicks
      Twitter: @LexieVmp666
      Review
      Feat.: Video review of Random Magic
      More: The Booklover - Book Chicks video channel

      and

      La Femme Readers
      Twitter: @lafemmereaders
      Magical Covers: Reimagining the cover of Random Magic
      Voting on cover entries
      Winning cover revealed on Dec. 20

      Dec. 19
      The Fluidity of Time
      Twitter: n/a
      Review
      Feat.: ‘Subtle Magic: A discussion of Random Magic themes’

      and

      Mundie Moms
      Twitter: @MundieMoms
      Twitter: @katiebmundiemom
      Review (book chat format)

      Dec. 20
      Makeshift Bookmark
      Twitter: @makeshiftjen
      Review
      Feat.: ‘Casting Random Magic’ (gallery)

      and

      La Femme Readers
      Twitter: @lafemmereaders
      Magical Covers: Reimagining Random Magic
      Finale: Cover winner revealed

      Dec. 21
      The Bushwick Book Club (Seattle chapter)
      Twitter: n/a
      Feat.: Songs inspired by Random Magic (audio/video)
      Details: Video performances, two different singer-songwriters.
      More: The Bushwick Book Club (Seattle) video channel

      Dec. 22
      Girls in the Stacks
      Twitter: @girlsinthestack
      Feat.: Bookshelf Theater: Random Magic (video)
      Details: Video performance, cute scene from the book.
      More: The Girls in the Stacks video channel

      Dec. 23
      Winter Reading Circle: Tales for a Winter Night
      Find some nice and cozy – or dark and spooky – reads perfect for wintertime, on this fun blog hop.

      #1 of 6: What Book Is That?
      Twitter: @heynocupcake

      #2 of 6: Willowdust Reviews – Tina’s Book Reviews
      Twitter: @BooksatTinas

      #3 of 6: Diary of a Bookworm
      Twitter: n/a

      #4 of 6: A Reader’s Adventure
      Twitter: @ReaderAdventure

      #5 of 6: vvb32 Reads
      Twitter: @vvb32reads

      #6 of 6 La Femme Readers
      Twitter: @lafemmereaders

      Completing the reading circle -- and the Winterlong tour. Thank you for coming along with us, and happy reading!

      Saturday, December 4, 2010

      South Asian Reading Challenge

      I'm really excited for the South Asian Reading Challenge -- one of my goals  is to read more authors of color in 2011 and this is a great opportunity to do so!

      My goal is: South Asian Wanderer - 3 books UPDATE: South Asian Explorer - 5 books! Some books that immediately came to mind (mostly because I own them already) are below; if you've any opinions on them or recommendations, let me know!

      Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee
      Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
      Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
      The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
      The Marriage Bureau For Rich People by Farahad Zama

      Read

      A Different Sky by Meira Chand
      Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
      The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
      The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb
      The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
      The Luminist by David Rocklin

      Thursday, December 2, 2010

      The Heroines Bookshelf Reading Challenge

      The Heroine's Bookshelf Reading Challenge is inspired by the book of the same name; the challenge is to read some of the books referenced in The Heroine's Bookshelf.  As rereads aren't allowed, I have to be a little more creative!  ('Sister' books are allowed -- presumably, other books by the featured authors.)  I'm hoping to do three for this challenge!


      So far, I think I might try...
      Participating?  Read The Heroine's Bookshelf and have some thoughts you'd like to share?  Any recommendations?

        Wednesday, December 1, 2010

        Prelude to a Scandal by Delilah Marvelle

        Title: Prelude to a Scandal
        Author: Delilah Marvelle

        Genre: Fiction (Historical/Romance)

        Love/Hate?: Like -- a strong like.
        Rating: 4/5
        Did I finish?: Yes!

        One-sentence summary: Naturalist's daughter marries for love but finds husband is more of a handful than anticipated.

        Why did I get this book?: The set-up intrigued me!
        Source: NetGalley

        Do I like the cover?: Yes -- has a romance novel-y feel without being overly lurid.

        First line from book: Lady Justine Fedora Palmer knew all too well that her dear, dear father, the sixth Earl of Marwood, had always been an intelligent and upstanding, moral citizen.

        Did... I laugh a lot?: YES.  In a good way.  A great way.  This book is snappy and funny, perfect weekend reading.

        Am... I totally over the predatory lesbian preying on married straight women?: YES.  It seemed especially out of left field in this book.

        Did... I find the sex sexy?: YES, although there wasn't a ton but what occurred was in character and actually rather plot-necessary!

        Review: As I said in my last Teaser Tuesday, this is an unusual pick for me -- I'm not a regular romance novel reader.  But I was really intrigued by the premise -- sexual addiction! -- and I wanted to see how it would shake out.   There was the fantasy element I was looking for (becoming a duchess! dreamy hot hubby!) but at the same time, everyone wasn't sort of preternaturally perfect or charming or whatever.  I rather liked our heroine, Justine -- she was feisty and fiery and all that but considering her upbringing, it felt real and grounded.

        Overall, I wasn't disappointed; my big quibble was that the otherwise reasonable heroine allowed herself to get separated from her otherwise lovely husband on a rather flimsy premise.  Marvelle's writing style is straight-forward and very funny and I'm looking forward to the second book in the Scandal series -- this time, she refashions Cinderella with the hero as the penniless romantic.

        ETA: Despite my quip above about the predatory lesbian, I wanted to add I actually found this book to be remarkably queer-friendly.  Refreshingly so.  And the sapphic twist actually made sense in the context of the character -- I just wish it had been developed a little more.  The book's overarching theme of sexual obsession makes the sapphic twist quite appropriate and intriguing -- historically homosexuality has been seen as a kind of obsession -- but it's also not a huge part of the plot.  I don't want to overemphasize it at the expense of the rest of the story.  But I also wanted to be fair about my gripe since I went there.