Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Maybe This Time

Maybe This Time

Jennifer Crusie
Hardcover, 352 pages
St. Martin’s Press
August 31, 2010

I won an ARC of Maybe This Time from St. Martin’s Press and I’m so glad because it’s not something that I would usually read and I loved it! 

Andie Miller is about to get married again.  But before she does there’s one thing she has to take care of first – return the ten years of alimony checks that she never cashed to her ex husband, North Archer.  But when she finds herself sitting across from him at his office at the family law firm, they’re both in for a big surprise when he makes an unusual proposal and she accepts. 

North recently became the legal guardian of two orphans who live in a monstrous, dilapidated 200 year old home brought over from England (complete with moat).  They’re all alone in the house except for the housekeeper, Mrs. Crumb, who’s been with the house for sixty years, and they refuse to come live with North in Columbus.  After going through a string of nannies, North asks Andie to take one month to care for the children, Alice and Carter.  Get their education up to speed so they can enroll in school, make sure they’re healthy physically and emotionally, and convince them to come to Columbus. 

When Andie arrives at Archer house, she soon finds out that there’s more going on here than kids with behavioral problems and fed up nannies.  Alice and Carter are terrified of leaving the house and Mrs. Crumb insists that the house is haunted.  Andie has her hands full trying to win the kids’ trust, reassuring her distraught fiancé, and dealing with feelings for North that seeing him again has stirred up.  Things really get interesting when the house is flooded with unexpected guests.  North’s brother Sullivan (who Andie calls Southie) arrives with his semi-girlfriend, TV reporter Kelly O’Keefe, who in turn brings a medium and a parapsychologist so she can investigate the haunting (though she has a hidden agenda).  North’s overbearing mother comes to stop Kelly, and Andie’s tarot-reading mother shows up because she couldn’t get her on the phone, and the pair resume their decade long feud.  To top it off, her fiancé also shows up uninvited to save their shaky relationship. 

A storm prevents Andie from kicking everyone out and chaos ensues as she tries to keep everyone in line amidst séances and tantrums.  The final visitor turns out to be North, and Andie couldn’t be more relieved to see him, thinking he’ll be able to help her restore order and finally get the kids away from the house (plus she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him since she arrived).  But things are about to get a lot stranger, and the real danger hasn’t even begun.

Maybe This Time was such an engaging and fun book!  It’s all about second chances, learning from the past, and starting fresh –  not starting over.  Andie won me over immediately and North followed shortly after.  I was glued to the page whether for Andie and Alice’s daily Three O’Clock Bake ritual or murder and mayhem.  The cast of characters is kooky and entertaining – a fabulous mish-mash!  I didn’t want it to end but when it did I was left feeling perfectly satisfied and content.  What else can I say?  I loved it!

This was my first Jennifer Cruise book but I’ll definitely be checking out her other ones!


Vampires and Werewolves and Sidhe, Oh My!

This summer has been a busy one, with lots of travelling – which means a lot of time to read but not much time to talk about it.  I think I’ve let about four books go by without posting a thing about them.  So I thought I’d just mention them briefly because they were all great, though wildly different, and merit a mention.

The first was an Emma Campion galley I won called The King’s Mistress, about Alice Perrers, who became entangled in a web of court intrigue after becoming the mistress of Edward III.  I love this type of historical fiction and I’m not all that familiar with this time period so it was interesting to get a chance to learn more about the Plantagenets and Lancasters while seeing through the eyes of a woman who was vilified for her affair with the king.  The story was engaging and I really enjoyed it, but when the tension began to mount I didn’t experience the delicious fear and constant anxiety that books like The Other Boleyn Girl evoked.  Alice made it plain the many dangers she faced throughout her life but I was more curious about what was going to happen than anxious.  The writing itself was beautiful and Alice was a strong and admirable protagonist.

For a change of pace I turned to an urban fantasy that was featured on the Nook’s weekly Free Fridays promotion – the first in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Darkfever.  It’s about MacKayla Lane, a woman in her early 20s who travels to Dublin, Ireland after the brutal and unsolved murder of her sister.   In the hopes that the local law enforcement will renew their efforts to find the killer if a family member is there in the flesh, Mac settles into the city where her sister’s life was cut short and unwittingly stumbles into a dark and magical world where faeries roam the streets disguised as humans and entire blocks are swallowed from memory.  She finds an unlikely partner in Jericho Barrons, a rich and eccentric book store owner with a few mysteries of his own, who tells her that she is a Sidhe seer – someone who can see the fae.  Not only that, but she can sense magical artifacts and freeze all manner of fae creatures with one touch.  Mac discovers that her sister was also involved with the Sidhe somehow and as she learns more about her abilities and continues the search for her sister’s murderer she becomes all the more bound to Jericho and his quest for an all-important Sidhe artifact that, according to Mac’s sister, is the key to everything.  Darkfever was a fast-paced urban adventure with a fantastic array of exotic and dark faeries – and these are no Tinkerbells, mind you.  I loved the tension and banter between Mac and Jericho.  It was just a lot of fun and great storytelling.  I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

Also a Nook Free Friday title, Cry Sanctuary came next.  Also an urban fantasy – werewolves this time – and the first in the Red Rock Pass series by Moira Rogers, this book was another speedy, brain candy type of adventure.  Werewolf packs live in secret all over the country and most are run by greedy alphas who abuse their position and power and terrorize their subordinates to get what they want.  Red Rock is place that provides sanctuary to any wolf who seeks a different way of life.  Abigail Adler escapes an abusive alpha with the help of her close friend, who risks everything to get her out of harm’s way, and the two of them find shelter in Red Rock.  The story follows Abigail and Keith Winston, a Red Rock wolf newly returned from Europe, fighting in the war between werewolves and wizards, who rescues her and her friend while they’re on the run.  As a newly turned werewolf Abby has a lot to learn about her new life and Keith, who is instantly and almost irrationally attracted to her, hopes he will be the one to act as her guide – but it has to be her choice.  Keith was my favorite character in the story, I absolutely loved him.  Part knight, part cowboy, all badass.  And I didn’t hate the hot scenes where Abby gave in to his charms.  Can’t say I blame her really.  Another really fun urban fantasy and I look forward to the next Red Rock book.

After reading Lamb a few months ago I’ve been dying to read another Christopher Moore book.  And of course with my incurable vampire obsession I decided to go with You Suck: A Love Story, which chronicles the new un-life of Tommy Flood after being turned into a vampire by his undead girlfriend Jody.  Tommy’s not exactly thrilled with his new situation and as he struggles to come to terms with being a bloodsucking fiend the pair get themselves in all kinds of shenanigans.  The ancient vampire who sired Jody is after them (you would be too if you were covered in bronze by Tommy’s biker neighbors and turned into a statue) and Tommy’s former Safeway stockboy co-workers have been compelled by a blue hooker (long story) from Vegas to hunt them down.  They decide to accept the dark and brooding (but hopelessly perky) goth Abby Normal to be their minion and run errands for them during the day.  There are whole chapters of Abby’s diary that are absolutely hilarious, and luckily since I’m fluent in angsty-teenage-girl-diary-speak I could understand it all with ease and appreciate it from a former angsty teenage diary author myself.  The book is a laugh-out-loud witty, outrageous, and ridiculously funny window into the mind of a genius wordsmith.  It’s definitely not as emotionally driven as Lamb, although it’s hysterically funny as well, it’s more like a romping adventure.  Unfortunately after I finished it I found out that it’s actually a sequel (Love Bites is the first book).  I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be, based on all the references to events that felt more like I should already be familiar with rather than backstory.  But I’ll just go back and read that one before continuing on with the next book, Bloodsucking Fiends

What are you reading?

2010 LA Times Festival of Books


In April I attended the LA Times Festival of Books for the first time and it was such an amazing experience I thought I’d share the highlights with you.  My cousin (who is co-authoring the fantasy novel I’m currently working on) flew down from Northern California for the event and when we arrived on Saturday morning my first impression was the sheer size of it!  As we made our way across the gorgeous UCLA campus we crossed a sea of booths and passed through throngs of fellow book lovers.  I’ve never seen so many people gathered to talk about reading and writing, and the buzzing atmosphere was contagious.

Over 400 authors were in attendance to do readings, speak at panels, and sign books.  The first panel we went to was called Science & Humanity: From the Past to the Future and it featured Brian Fagan, Michael Shermer, and Richard Wrangham, who discussed their books about human evolution, pre-history, and sociology.  Brian Fagan was my first archaeology professor at UC Santa Barbara and it was largely due to him that I decided to major in anthropology.  All three authors had fascinating things to say and after the panel I bought Fagan’s new book, Cro-Magnon, and we chatted about his days at the university as he signed it.


Then we hit the YA Stage to catch the tail end of Blood, Fangs, and Temptation: Everything Vampire with Heather Brewer, Rachel Caine, Melissa de la Cruz, and Richelle Mead.  I’ve read Vampire Academy and Glass Houses is in my TBR pile so it was interesting to see the authors in the flesh and hear them discuss their books and writing in general.  I’ve been obsessed with vampires since I was a kid so it’s delightful to see that they’ve made a comeback into popular culture. 

We couldn’t stick around to get any of their books signed because we had to book it to our next panel: History Through Fiction’s Lens, with Gabrielle Burton, Thaisa Frank, and Indu Sundaresan.  This was another riveting panel about historical fiction, one of my favorite genres.  The authors were so different, but each brought their own unique perspective to the discussion and it was obvious that they were all equally passionate about their research.  As someone who aspires to write in this genre someday it was assuring to hear Indu say that when writing historical fiction, mistakes are inevitable – you just have to focus on creating a realistic setting to bring your characters, and their stories, to life.  I bought copies of Gabrielle’s Impatient with Desire, about Tamsen Donner of the ill-fated Donner party, and Indu’s The Twentieth Wife, about the Moghul Empire in India.  It was a pleasure meeting them both.

The author I was most excited to meet was Christopher Rice and I almost missed my opportunity, but by a small twist of luck I managed to not only meet him and get a copy of his new book signed, but he was nice enough to take his picture with us.  We’d missed the panel he was on so we ran over to the area where he was signing only to find it empty.  I was extremely disappointed but I talked to a volunteer and she confirmed that we’d missed the signing, but then someone else asked which author I was looking for and he happened to walk by the tent just then.  The volunteer called him over and he happily offered to sign my program.  When I said that I’d meant to buy his new book for the signing he said he and the other authors on the panel were just about to go buy each other’s books and suggested that we come with them.  I was so grateful and thrilled to meet him because I’ve been a fan since his debut novel A Density of Souls.  He was such a sweetheart!

With Christopher Rice

The rest of the day we wandered up and down the aisles of booths, meeting debut authors and picking up literature on writing associations.  We’d been too busy to eat lunch or drink any water so needless to say, we were exhausted as the day wrapped up and we headed home.

We got there earlier on Sunday to attend our first scheduled panel of the day – Publishing: The Editors Speak Out, with Sarah Crichton, Eli Horowitz, and Jack Shoemaker.  It was wonderful to hear about the publishing industry from these insiders’ perspectives and they each gave great advice and provided some insight into the ups and downs of the business.  The next panel we went to was also about publishing and we picked up some more tips that will surely come in handy when we start shopping our manuscript. 

Dionne loaded down with bookish goodies.

We hit some more booths next and remembered to eat lunch this time, copping a squat on the grass next to the Cooking Stage to watch Anne Byrn, the Cake Mix Doctor, whip up some tasty looking desserts. 

 Then it was back to the YA Stage to see Michael Reisman, Margaret Stohl, Tracy Trivas, and Heather Tomlinson at Making the Magic Happen: Writing Young Adult Fantasy.  This was a particularly interesting panel since it was all about our genre, although our novel is decidedly NOT for young adults.  Each author read a short passage from one of their books and answered questions from the audience.   

After reading Empress Orchid last year I was excited to see Anchee Min’s name on the list of authors attending the festival.  I bought a copy of her new release, Pearl of China, and waited in line for a chance to meet her.  Unfortunately the experience was quite a let down.  Unlike all the other authors we’d met so far, who greeted us with smiles and chatted personably, she didn’t say a word and barely cracked a smile.  Also unlike the other authors who personalized their autographs by including our names and a short message, Min just signed her name.  All this is fine, you never know if she was just having a bad day or if she gets nervous at events like that or who knows what, but it was kind of a turn off.  Hopefully the book will make up for it. 

Soaking up the glorious atmosphere.

Overall, the festival was absolutely thrilling and inspirational and we vowed to make it an annual tradition.  I can’t believe I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade and had never even heard of it before this year!  It was wonderful to see so many fantastic authors up close and personal and get to meet some of them.  I hope to be able to attend the festival as an author as well as a reader sometime in the future.

What bookish events have you been to?

Series Amnesia and Other Thoughts

I don’t have any reviews to post so far this week so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the three books I’m currently reading.

An Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon

This is the 7th book in the Outlander saga and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it after it waited patiently in my TBR pile since Christmas.  I’m almost halfway through it and so far so good.  The beginning was a bit frustrating because I couldn’t remember what happened at the end of the last book and I was struggling to recall who a few characters were (yes, even major characters like Fergus!).  It was quite distracting, to say the least.  In my defense it’s been a couple years since I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes so I was wracking my brain trying to remember why Roger and Brianna weren’t with Claire and Jamie anymore and why they’d left the plantation (or that Roger and Bree now had a daughter).  It kind of makes me wish I’d re-read the last one to refresh my memory, but again I would have encountered the same problem.  Eventually I want to read the whole series because the first two books are by far my favorite so maybe I’ll do that before the next one comes out (because undoubtedly it will take another couple of years to be released and I will have forgotten everything that happens in this book by then).

Once I got over my initial irritation at my lack of memory, I was able to ease into the story and get back in the swing of things on Fraser Ridge.  I found it to be a bit on the slow side in the beginning, although there was some action (involving a certain character that of course had temporarily slipped my mind) that happened right off the bat.  Jamie still somehow manages to be the most charming, witty, badass, sweet, and stubborn man all at the same time.  Claire is..still Claire, quoting 20th century song lyrics and crying out “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!”  But you have to love the pair of them.  The story is told from various points of view and the only character I just can’t seem to connect with is William, Jamie’s bastard son (no really, he’s illegitimate) who’s serving in the British army.  I really want to like him, and it’s not that I don’t, I just find myself skimming rather quickly through his chapters waiting for something to happen.  I’m surprised by how much I’m getting into the parts with Roger and Bree and the bairns, adjusting to life in the 1980’s in Scotland and finding out letter by letter the fate of Claire and Jamie and the rest of the loved ones they left behind when they went through the stones.

I read a review on Amazon today about this book and learned that there isn’t really an ending so I’m sure I’ll be thoroughly annoyed when I finish the last page, but it’s still Outlander and I adore this series.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore

I’m only about 100 pages in so far but from the very first page (truthfully, from the author’s bio prior to the first page) I became a fan.  This is my first Moore experience and I know it’s early but I have a feeling I’m going to become a devout follower of the man’s work after this.  Just the extended title alone was enough to leave me guffawing like an idiot (The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.  Seriously?  How can you not crack up at that?).  Not only is the narrative and dialogue witty and hilarious, but the subject matter really intrigues me.  I’m sure a lot of people would be offended by it, but it really is fascinating.  Think about childhood for a second, and how hard it can be.  Now imagine you’re the son of God.  Yikes, right?  Luckily Josh (from Joshua from Yeshua) has his good pal Levi (aka Biff) to watch his back (not to mention do all his sinning for him) while he tries to figure out his destiny and how to fulfill it.  And then there’s Raziel, the dim-witted angel who resurrected Biff 2,000 years after his death to force him to write his own Gospel by orders of the big man himself, who spends all hours of the day watching day-time dramas and believing they’re real (despite Biff’s best efforts to assure him that they’re the equivalent of a Greek drama) and that Soap Opera Digest must have been written by a prophet. 

I’m going to have some serious fun with this one.

Brighid’s Quest, by P.C. Cast 

I requested this one from NetGalley after the gorgeous cover caught my eye and I recognized the author’s name, having just read Marked (the first House of Night novel).  I hadn’t gotten very far when I noticed that there was an awful lot of back-story summing up and I thought to myself she probably should have written a book about these events if she was planning on mentioning them so often.  Then I found out that, in fact, she did.  It’s called Elphame’s Choice and it came out in September of last year.  Oops. 

The good news is, because of all the reminders of what happened in that book (and I’m not usually a fan of re-capping previous books in a series but it was just fine in this case, and I wish Diana Gabaldon would make use of it a little more) I’m up to speed with who all the characters are and the basic premise of the world and story.  I haven’t gotten very far yet but so far I’m getting reeled in and can’t wait to find out what happens next.  This is my first experience with a centaur as the main character, and I love the winged race of New Fomorians – a hybrid of humans and demons.  Hopefully I’ll make some good progress on this on over the weekend and have a review for you sometime next week.

Have you read any of these?  What’s your strategy on reading a new book in a series?  Re-read the previous book or just go for it and hope you don’t develop series amnesia?

BTT: Illustrious

Illustrious March 11, 2010

btt button

How do you feel about illustrations in your books? Graphs? Photos? Sketches?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

For me, it depends on what I’m reading.  I’m not crazy about illustrations when it comes to fiction.  Maps are pretty standard at the beginning of fantasy books and I always appreciate genealogy charts that I can refer to when reading historical fiction (especially when dealing with monarchies), but other than that, I don’t really feel the need for visual aids (especially charts and graphs, bleh!).  Having said that, if it’s something that’s pertinent to the story (like a symbol that a character discovers in an ancient text or something), then by all means, sketch away.

Non-fiction, however, is a different story and I would expect not only illustrations but photographs as well – especially in travel or cook books. 

I think illustrations are best left to children’s books or graphic novels.

What do you think?

Book Review: Under the Dome


Under the Dome

Stephen King 
Hardcover, 1088 pages
Simon & Schuster
November 10, 2009


I finally finished it!  I conquered the beast and came out the other side of this monstrous text a little wiser and very much appreciative of fresh air and the open road.  I don’t know what it is about Stephen King, but the man really makes me think.  I know that seems strange when he’s considered the master of horror, but it’s true. 

As far as a synopsis goes, I think short and sweet will fit the bill here…

Chester’s Mill is just an average small town on the American East Coast with average, small town people trying to live their lives.  They play catch with their kids, have neighbors over for barbecues, buy groceries from the local market, and live and breathe in the same free air as the rest of us.  Until a strange phenomenon settles over the town’s borders – a dome-shaped barrier that stretches high into the atmosphere and miles under ground – sealing the Mill’s residents inside with no way to escape.  With no electricity and cut off from the outside world, life under the dome becomes a terrifying nightmare as resources become scarce, air quality deteriorates, and the local government (already a festering hotbed of corruption) abuses its power left and right using the misguided excuse of ” it’s for the good of the town.”

The story shot off like a cannon in the beginning with endless, gory descriptions of the chaos that ensued when the dome appeared – a plane crash, multiple car pile-ups, dead birds and severed limbs littering the ground like confetti.  We’re introduced to some principal characters, like Dale Barbara, aka Barbie, ex-soldier turned short order cook at the Sweetbriar Rose, Julia Shumway, owner of the local newspaper and proud Republican, and Big Jim Rennie, Second Selectman (read puppet master over the First Selectman and entire city council) and used car salesman/drug kingpin. 

After the initial whirlwind of tragedy and adrenalin, things seemed to slow down quite a bit.  I was bombarded with so many new characters back to back that by the time I returned to them later on in the story I’d completely forgotten who they were.  I think this might have been partially my fault.  This baby is a mammoth, with the crushing power of a crocodile’s gaping maw, so I didn’t take (lug) it anywhere and pretty much only read a chapter or two a night before going to sleep (which at times was a huge mistake).  And at just under 1,000 pages it was slow going.  If I had just buckled down and devoted some entire afternoons to reading it, the entire middle section of the book would have flowed much more smoothly and I would have remembered what everyone had been doing when I was last with them.

As usual, I loved the writing style.  The characters were compelling and true to life, and at times it was as if King was pulling me along to watch the events unfold like the ghostly spirits in A Christmas Carol… 

Another night is falling on the little town of Chester’s Mill; another night under the dome.  But there is no rest for us; we have two meetings to attend, and we also ought to check up on Horace the Corgi before we sleep.


Look, now.  Look and see.  Eight hundred people are crammed against the Dome, their heads tilted up and their eyes wide, watching as their inevitable end rushes toward them.

Once I got past the half-way point, the story picked up again and King began focusing on fewer characters so I could really get invested in them and see through their eyes as the really nasty stuff started going down.  Except for the chapters about Big Jim Rennie and his son Junior.  I loathed turning the page and finding out that I’d have to look through their eyes and hear their thoughts again.  They were both just so sleazy and reprehensible to me, I actually felt dirty and violated after reading their chapters.  Barbie was my favorite and I was surprised to find that I really liked Phil Bushey (aka Chef), even though he was a nut job addict who left his wife and son to take up residence in the Mill’s Christian radio station building (WCIK, owned by Big Jim of course) to cook meth, and lots of it.

I’m absolutely fascinated by this type of story, where some catastrophic event causes society as we know it to break down and we see the true colors of humanity as people struggle to survive.  Will they band together or will it be every man for himself?  Will they retain a sense of individual morality or will mob mentality take over?  Riots, looting, rape, and murder were par for the course after just a few days under the dome.  And the fact that no one knew what the dome was or how it got there (Terrorists?  A government experiment?) made it even more terrifying, especially after the military’s several failed attempts to break through it with massive weapons.

Even though Dome isn’t a classic King horror novel, it still managed to seriously freak me out by touching on one of my biggest irrational fears, something that almost all of my stress dreams are about – the sky, particularly at night.  For some reason I have recurring nightmares about something just being wrong with the sky – stars disappearing or moving, Earth spiraling out of orbit, the sun exploding, or the horizon catching on fire.  This story really touched a nerve, especially when a meteor shower looked like pink stars falling from the sky through the dirty surface of the dome or when children began having seizures and prophesying about the sun being gone. 

But most of all, it made me take a long, hard look at humanity and wonder what I would do and how I would react to some of the situations in the story.  Even with all the pain and damage the people of Chester’s Mill inflicted on each other (and as Julia Shumway pointed out, the dome might have been the catalyst, but they had no one to blame but themselves for the destruction that ensued), I was still left with a sense of hope, however small it may be. 

And looking back I can understand why King chose to delve into the lives of so many minor characters in the beginning of the story.  When the pot finally boiled over and all hell broke loose in the Mill, it was that much more personal, that much more real.  It wasn’t just a crowd of anonymous bystanders meeting their demise.  These people had thoughts and emotions.  They had names.  They had lives.  And I could imagine myself standing as one of them, waiting for the end and being utterly powerless to stop it. 

This book is definitely a heavy investment of time but to me, it was worth it.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my favorite Stephen King novel, but it was a hell of a ride and I’m glad I went on it.

Have you been Under the Dome?  What did you think of the book?


Jacqueline Carey’s new book Naamah’s Curse is scheduled to be released this June.  It’s the second in her Moirin trilogy and I’m so excited to get my hands on it (and check out the gorgeous cover)!  If you’re interested, head over to The Signed Page to pre-order a signed copy.






Patrick Rothfuss, author of Name of the Wind, just announced some upcoming appearances (sadly, none of them in my neck of the woods) on his website along with some recent blog updates on the progress of his eagerly awaited follow-up to his debut novel.  The bad news is that there’s still no sign of a publication date and the manuscript is not quite ready to hit the press.  The good news (and I’ll take what I can get!) is that it is one step closer and rest assured he’s working on it and would like us all to get off his back about the subject.  Check out the pics of the latest, and quite sizable, draft of The Wise Man’s Fear which feature his uber adorable baby. 


Maria V. Snyder’s new YA book, Inside Out, comes out next month and you can read the first chapter at her website.  Also, be sure to stop by at the end of the month for an Author Q&A post where Maria answers questions about her multiple award-winning fantasy series and passes on advice to aspiring writers.



The 2010 LA Times Festival of Books will be held at the UCLA campus on the weekend of April 24-25.  I’ve never attended but I’m hoping I can make it and meet some fellow SoCal bloggers!  Free tickets are needed for the indoor panels and sessions and they’ll be available starting April 19th.  More info should be out this month so I’ll be sure to post any updates I can find.  Is anyone planning on going?


That’s it for now, hope everyone has a great week!

New Releases: February 2010

So I was perusing the New Releases section of on my lunch break the other day and came across a few interesting titles (some of which I’ve also noticed on recent editions of Shelf Awareness) that I thought I’d share with you.  

Sadly, my TBR queue is so large and unmanageable as it is I probably won’t be doing more than adding these to my overly extensive Wish List, but hey, a girl can dream, right? 

Heresy by S. J. Parris


Masterfully blending true events with fiction, this blockbuster historical thriller delivers a page-turning murder mystery set on the sixteenth-century Oxford University campus.

Giordano Bruno was a monk, poet, scientist, and magician on the run from the Roman Inquisition on charges of heresy for his belief that the Earth orbits the sun and that the universe is infinite. This alone could have got him burned at the stake, but he was also a student of occult philosophies and magic.

In S. J. Parris’s gripping novel, Bruno’s pursuit of this rare knowledge brings him to London, where he is unexpectedly recruited by Queen Elizabeth I and is sent undercover to Oxford University on the pretext of a royal visitation. Officially Bruno is to take part in a debate on the Copernican theory of the universe; unofficially, he is to find out whatever he can about a Catholic plot to overthrow the queen. 


The Infinities by John Banville


In his first novel since the Booker Prize–winning The Sea, John Banville gives us a dazzling new book that chronicles both a human family and a rather unholy gathering of immortals.

On a languid midsummer’s day, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their stepmother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; Petra’s “young man”–perhaps more interested in the father than the daughter–who has arrived for an untimely visit.

And around the Godley family hover the mischievous gods: among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam’s wife, and Hermes, our narrator: “We too are petty and vindictive,” he tells us, “just like you, when we are put to it.” As old Adam’s days on earth start… 


The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak


An American housewife is transformed by an intriguing manuscript about the Sufi mystic poet Rumi

In this lyrical, exuberant follow-up to her 2007 novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, acclaimed Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalizing parallel narratives- one contemporary and the other set in the thirteenth century, when Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the whirling dervish known as Shams of Tabriz-that together incarnate the poet’s timeless message of love.

Ella Rubenstein is forty years old and unhappily married when she takes a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read and report on Sweet Blasphemy, a novel written by a man named Aziz Zahara. Ella is mesmerized by his tale of Shams’s search for Rumi and the dervish’s role in transforming the successful but unhappy cleric into a committed mystic, passionate poet, and advocate of love. She is also taken with Shams’s lessons, or rules, that offer insight into an ancient philosophy based on the unity of all people and religions, and the presence of love in each and every one of us. As she reads on, she realizes that Rumi’s story mir­rors her own and that Zahara-like Shams-has come to set her free. 


Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins


Mark Jenkins’s engrossing history draws on the latest science, anthropological and archaeological research to explore the origins of vampire stories, providing gripping historic and folkloric context for the concept of immortal beings who defy death by feeding on the lifeblood of others. From the earliest whispers of eternal evil in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, vampire tales flourished through the centuries and around the globe, fueled by superstition, sexual mystery, fear of disease and death, and the nagging anxiety that demons lurk everywhere.

In Vampire Forensics, Mark Jenkins probes vampire legend to tease out the historical truths enshrined in the tales of terror: sherds of Persian pottery depicting blood-sucking demons; the amazing recent discovery by National Geographic archaeologist Matteo Borrini of a 16th-century Venetian grave of a plague victim and suspected vampire; and the Transylvanian castle of “Vlad the Impaler,” whose bloodthirsty cruelty remains unsurpassed.

Jenkins navigates centuries of lore and legend, adding new chapters to the chronicle and weaving an irresistibly seductive blend of superstition, psychology, and science sure to engross everyone from Anne Rice’s countless readers to serious students of archaeology and mythology. 


A Dark Matter by Peter Straub


The incomparable master of horror and suspense returns with a powerful, brilliantly terrifying novel that redefines the genre in original and unexpected ways.

The charismatic and cunning Spenser Mallon is a campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes. After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body—and the shattered souls of all who were present.

Years later, one man attempts to understand what happened to his wife and to his friends by writing a book about this horrible night, and it’s through this process that they begin to examine the unspeakable events that have bound them in ways they cannot fathom, but that have haunted every one of them through their lives. As each of the old friends tries to come to grips with the darkness of the past, they find themselves face-to-face with the evil triggered so many years earlier. Unfolding through the individual stories of the fated group’s members, A Dark Matter is an electric, chilling, and unpredictable novel that will satisfy Peter Straub’s many ardent fans, and win him legions more.


Coming of the Storm (Contact: The Battle for America Series #1) by W. Michael Gear, Kathleen O’Neal Gear


From New York Times bestselling novelists W. Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear comes a landmark new series portraying the devastating clash of cultures that followed the European invasion of early America. Dramatic, authentic, and deeply moving, this first book in the Contact series tells the story of the blood-drenched years that followed Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto’s landing in “La Florida” in 1539 — as seen entirely through the eyes of two courageous Native Americans. Black Shell, an exiled Chickasaw trader, is fascinated by the pale, bearded newcomers who call themselves “Kristianos,” and not even the wise counsel of Pearl Hand, the extraordinary and beautiful woman who has consented to be his mate, can dissuade him. It will unfortunately take a first-hand lesson in the Kristianos’ unfathomable brutality for Black Shell to fully comprehend the dangers that these invaders pose to his people’s way of life.While his first instinct is to run away with Pearl Hand, somewhere the Kristianos cannot find them, Black Shell has been called to a greater destiny by the Spirit Being known as Horned Serpent. With Pearl Hand by his side, Black Shell must find a way to unite the disparate tribes and settlements of his native land and overcome the merciless armies of de Soto, which will stop at nothing to attain wealth and power. 

For years readers have urged the Gears to bring the clash of Native American and European cultures to life as only they can. Now, with Coming of the Storm, the Gears unleash their expansive breadth of knowledge and stunning writing talents to dispel the myths and falsehoods surrounding Hernando de Soto, as they paint avivid portrait of the heroic men and women who fought a terrifying, militarily superior power for their survival — and in so doing defined the character of a nation. 



Today while at Barnes and Noble (to finally buy a Nook, hooray!) I came across these and immediately added them to my wish list:

Black Hills by Dan Simmons 


When Paha Sapa, a young Sioux warrior, “counts coup” on General George Armstrong Custer as Custer lies dying on the battlefield at the Little Bighorn, the legendary general’s ghost enters him – and his voice will speak to him for the rest of his event-filled life.

Seamlessly weaving together the stories of Paha Sapa, Custer, and the American West, Dan Simmons depicts a tumultuous time in the history of both Native and white Americans. Haunted by Custer’s ghost, and also by his ability to see into the memories and futures of legendary men like Sioux war-chief Crazy Horse, Paha Sapa’s long life is driven by a dramatic vision he experienced as a boy in his people’s sacred Black Hills. In August of 1936, a dynamite worker on the massive Mount Rushmore project, Paha Sapa plans to silence his ghost forever and reclaim his people’s legacy-on the very day FDR comes to Mount Rushmore to dedicate the Jefferson face.

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens : How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford


A magnificently researched history of the ruling women of the Mongol Empire, revealing their struggle to hang on their patrimony and to preserve their nation.Jack Weatherford tells the gripping story, lost ot history until now, of the female heirs of the Mongol Empire. He beings with the six daughters of Genghis Kahn and the traces their royal families through 250 years of upheaval as the empire tore itself apart, pitting brother against sister and son against mother.

Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans by Brian M. Fagan 


The name “Cro-Magnon” inspires images of a snowbound world, mammoth hunting, and eerily alluring cave paintings. Who were these ancient people? In a word, they were us—the first anatomically modern humans.

Bestselling author Brian Fagan brings these early humans out of the deep freeze with his trademark mix of erudition, cutting-edge science, and vivid storytelling. Cro-Magnon reveals human society in its infancy, facing enormous environmental challenges—including a rival species of humans, the Neanderthals.

For ten millennia, Cro-Magnons lived side by side with Neanderthals, an encounter that Fagan fills with drama. Using their superior intellects and tools, these ingenious problem solvers survived harsh conditions that eventually extinguished their Neanderthal cousins.

Cro-Magnon captures the indomitable adaptability that has made Homo sapiens an unmatched success as a species. Living on a frozen continent with only the most basic tools, Ice Age humans survived and thrived.

*I’m extra excited about this last one because the author was my first archaeology professor at UC Santa Barbara and he was just fantastic!*


Have you picked up any of these beauties?  Excited for any other new releases? 


Time for some updates!

Wow, December was absolutely crazy!  I went from San Diego to Las Vegas to Northern California back to San Diego to Texas and just got back from Cozumel yesterday.  Let me catch my breath!  Whew! 

Apologies for the lack of posts of late, but I have managed to squeeze in some reading time during all of my travels.  I just read The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt and Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris.  I’m halfway through Vampire Academy, almost done with The Twisted Citadel and slowly making my way through Under the Dome.  Stay tuned for reviews of those.

Christmas brought me a bounty of new, delicious books to consume (thanks Mom & Dad!):

  1. Under the Dome – Stephen King
  2. An Echo in the Bone – Diana Gabaldon
  3. The Heretic Queen – Michelle Moran
  4. Cleopatra’s Daughter – Michelle Moran
  5. The White Queen – Philippa Gregory
  6. Angel Time – Anne Rice
  7. The Source – James Michener
  8. The Last Days of the Romanovs – Helen Rappaport
  9. Blood and Ice – Robert Masello
  10. Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead
  11. Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires Book 1) – Cynthia Holloway & Rachel Caine
  12. Marked (House of Night Book 1) – P. C. Cast
  13. Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier
  14. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See
  15. Dracula the Un-Dead – Dacre Stoker
  16. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

It’s going to be a struggle to figure out which ones to read first! 

Also, very exciting, I received my first ARC in the mail when I was in Mexico!  It’s called Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff.  Some of his writing credits include The Wonder Years, Major Dad, and Disney’s Tarzan.  This is his debut novel.

Happy New Year to everyone!  2010 is going to be a fantastic year.

Another successful trip to the bookstore.

Just got back from another jaunt to Borders, $100 poorer and nine books richer.  I absolutely love roaming the various shelves, contemplating the new and exotic people and places waiting for me behind all those intriguing covers. And I always leave feeling refreshed and full of inspiration, excited to curl up and lose myself in the pages.

Today I picked up books from the World and U.S. history sections, as well as from the literature, fantasy and horror sections. I like my trips to the bookstore to be well-rounded and I usually buy titles that will satisfy my love of multiple genres.

I balanced a cup of hazelnut coffee in one hand and the stack of books in the other and plopped my finds onto the counter, where I was welcomed with a shocked expression and an “uh…okay” from the checkout girl. I just smiled and acknowledged my reading-addiction problem, saying that I always overdo it when I go book shopping.  She laughed when I said my husband was going to kill me (he’ll probably just roll his eyes) and replied, “Well, at least you got triple reward points!’  Indeed checkout girl, indeed.

Take a look at today’s buys:

sugar queenThe Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen

 I recently finished Sarah Addison Allen’s first novel, Garden Spells, which I found heartwarming, uplifting, and magical so I was excited to see that her next title was available.  If it’s anything like her debut I’m in for a literary treat.


twocitiesA Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

A book I’m currently reading – Drood, by Dan Simmons – piqued my interest in this literary master of classic tales.  Somehow I got through both high school and college without experiencing his works (besides getting halfway through David Copperfield my junior year in high school before being distracted by the latest Anne Rice release).  I intend to remedy that immediately.

hiddenhistoryAmerica’s Hidden History, Kenneth C. Davis

I’m trying to mix in more non-fiction titles and I came across this New York Times Bestseller and thought it looked interesting.  Recently, Tony Horwitz’ A Voyage Long and Strange opened my eyes to how much I really didn’t know about the history of my own country, and I’m eager to learn more and discard the misconceptions on the subject that my brain is undoubtedly clogged with.

14531453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, Roger Crowley

Along those same lines I picked up this non-fic title about the siege of the great center of the Western world by the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II.  This is a time in history that interests me greatly but I know little about, aside from a class on medieval studies in college (which was fascinating, by the way).  Let’s hope it will shed some light on the subject and give my brain some much needed learning.

zenZen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury

This is a collection of eleven essays from one of the most noteworthy writers of our time.  Chapter titles include, “How to Keep and Feed a Muse,” “Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451,” and “Just this Side of Byzantium: Dandelion Wine.”  I recently decided to try and resurrect my love of writing and I figured if anyone could give me pointers, Mr. Bradbury could.

citadelThe Twisted Citadel, Sara Douglass

This is the second volume in the Darkglass Mountain series, which takes place in the same realm as her Wayfarer Redemption series.  In the first book, The Serpent Bride, Douglass brings back beloved characters such as Axis and his father Stardrifter as well as introduces a myriad of new characters that are just as complex and real.  Like all the Sara Douglass books I’ve read so far, I loved the first Darkglass Mountain book and I’m itching to continue the epic tale and see what unfolds in the world of Tencendor.

doornaildeadDead as a Doornail and Definitely Dead, Charlaine Harris

These are the 5th and 6th volumes of The Sookie Stackhouse Novels, which the HBO series True Blood is based on.  I was surprisingly late to get on the Sookie bandwagon, considering my affinity for vampiric fiction, but the truth is I didn’t even know about these books until True Blood came out.  I was intrigued by the concept of the show so I decided to try out the first title, Dead Until Dark.  After a truly fun and exciting adventure in Bon Temps, Louisiana, I’ve been going back for more to see what happens to Sookie, Bill, Eric and the rest of the cast of living and undead characters.

wwzWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks

This was a recent recommendation from my cousin and fellow bookophile.  It’s a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller about the haunting accounts of survivors of the horrific worldwide zombie apocalypse, known as World War Z.  I admit I’m a little tentative, only because I’m not a fan of zombies (I find them dull and repulsive at the same time), but I was assured that it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  And while I may not be thrilled about the prospect of mindless cannibal corpses, I’m always fascinated with stories of global disasters and the survival of humankind through the breakdown of society, a la Stephen King’s The Stand. 

That’s all for this edition of Book Buys. 

What did you pick off the shelf?