Friday, October 30, 2009

A Southern Gothic Halloween Read

Somehow I thought I would get more read during our two days stuck inside. I think I went a bit stir crazy, though, and found myself frequently doing absolutely nothing -- or eating. Is that instinct? Like I need to store food up for the winter or something?

I can tell you that hibernation would be a great option for me!

Today we ventured out to do some shopping and came home to carve our pumpkin. It turned out pretty cool, if I do say so myself. We bought one of those kits with the carving tools, but we used a picture we found online of the cheshire cat for our pumpkin. It's neat. But I didn't buy any candles, so we rested a big lantern flashlight over the top to get some pics. I'll have to head back to the store to get the right lighting for it tomorrow.

Last night I stayed up finishing Rhodi Hawk's debut, A Twisted Ladder, which I talked about here in preparation for my vacation earlier this month. I didn't get to read it while I was back in Louisiana, so I thought it would be a great one for the week leading up to Halloween (today).

Great read and definitely recommended for any time of the year -- any time when you're in the mood for a creepy Southern read, that is! The book takes place in and around New Orleans and Hawk did a fantastic job of creating the perfect atmosphere for her supernatural story while staying true to the feel of New Orleans itself.

Needless to say with all of the snow and everything else this week, I'm super homesick thanks to this one! Not saying that I have strange otherwordly stuff happening around my home or my hometown or anything, but like I said, she captures the feel of southern Louisiana perfectly.

The story centers around Doctor Madeleine LeBlanc, a woman who has studied schizophrenia all her career thanks to her childhood. Her father suffers from the disorder and often left his children to fend for themselves while he disappeared for days at a time. When Madeleine finally meets her great-grandmother, a woman she didn't even know was still alive, the woman begins telling her of the River Devil that plagues her father. Madeleine, a psychologist who has always depended on her education and has no room for the paranormal in her life, will have to reexamine everything she knows about her father and her own roots as she comes face to face with a River Devil of her own.

Honestly, I've fought with coming up with a synopsis of this book for the past couple of days. There is really a lot going on in this book and to sum it up so shortly does not do it justice. Trust me when I say that this is a great read, one that you don't want to miss out on!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow Days!

Oh the weather here is so nasty and the pets are silly and frisky! I'm freezing after falling in the snow while shoveling. Not sure what the exact measurement of snow over the past couple of days has been, but the drifts are as tall as our dog.

I have a house full of Halloween candy, one Battlestar Galactica disc that I've already watched, two cheesy horror movies that I haven't yet watched, and a stack of books that I want to get through. Oh, and only two more weeks of work left thanks to company downsizing, so that means absolutely no expendable cash. Good stuff.

Overall, it's been a strange few days.

Ah well, just wanted to give you guys an update. I'm reading nothing but horror for the next couple of days and will try and post again later today with a book review (gotta finish the book first).

Hope you all stay warm! And if you live somewhere warm already, well just know that I'm super jealous over here with my cold feet!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Horror Movies For Halloween

I've been searching for new horror movies and have had mixed results lately.

Each year, I like to find a brand spanking new (to me) horror movie for Halloween (and for any Friday the 13ths that roll around). This year, though, I'm having some trouble.

Sure I've watched plenty of horror lately, and I probably could have saved one or two of them for Halloween, so it's partially my own fault. I know of things that are coming out that I want to see (both on DVD and in theaters), but that doesn't help me in time for October 31st.

But I thought I would recommend some DVD releases for you folks, in case you were interested in tracking down your own scary movies for the night. So here goes.

Last year's pick was Shiver, a Spanish film that I am happy to say was indeed a great watch. You can read that post here. Definitely creepy and very well made.

And if you like that one (foreign horror with a kid protag), you should not miss Ghost House Underground's release from last year, The Substitute. I did a post on that one as well, so here's the link.

This year's Ghost House Underground releases included a couple of really good ones. The Children, a British flick about evil kids, and The Thaw, a gross-out eco-horror with some recognizable faces.

If bleak "torture porn" is your thing, I have to recommend Eden Lake, another UK film, this one starring Michael Fassbender (of Hex) and Kelly Reilly (of the latest P&P adaptation). It's a pretty gruesome one, though, so don't say you weren't warned.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are a couple of fun zombie flicks out on DVD that I've seen recently (fun as in Shaun of the Dead vein). Of course Zombieland would make the list, since it was freaking great, but it's not out on DVD. So, we go back to Ghost House Underground for last year's Dance of the Dead in which nerds have to save the day and save their classmates at prom from the living dead. Boy Eats Girl was satisfyingly funny and sarcastic for me as well.

In the slasher category, Cold Prey has to get my vote for best one in recent months. This one comes from Norway and was a pleasant (if a slasher film can be pleasant) surprise.

Some of the movies I'm waiting on:
Trick r' Treat, which is out on DVD but apparently so in demand that I can't get my hands on a copy.
Dead Snow another Norwegian flick, this one about zombie nazi soldiers that premiered at Sundance of all places -- not sure what the release date is on it.
Mutants a French film I've seen a trailer for, but can't find a release date on.
Triangle from the creators of Creep and Severance, trailer here.
The Descent 2
And a new Dorian Gray with Colin Firth! Trailer here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Too Hard to Resist

I know this week should be horror reads, but sometimes great new releases take precedence. Actually, I read this one last week so I could get my review in on time for the BB, but today is the official release date and I want you all to run out and buy it, so that's why it gets pride of place amongst end of October horror postings this week. (Yesterday wasn't a horror post either, I know).

You may remember this post from last year in which I talked about LCC and CJ Lyons and her debut, Lifelines. Left Coast Crime, being the one and only con I've attended to date, is still one of my favorite experiences of recent years. And the authors I met there were wonderful people.

Well it's time again for another CJ Lyons release. Each new installment to her series literally blows me away. Her work stands out for me for a number of reasons, the primary one being that she's a great writer. It's as simple as that. She's a great writer. The second reason is that I love medical thrillers. I always have.

Robin Cook and Michael Palmer were the two biggies in the genre when I started reading them in the early 90s. As I buzzed my way through each one, I couldn't help but wish that I were smart enough to enter the medical community and solve some great medical mystery. Alas, I am not. The sciences as pertaining to medicine were never my strong point in school.

One of the great things these authors did (and still do, and this includes Lyons), in addition to creating fabulous intense plots, was to explain things in a way that made me feel as though I understood them. I might never be able to enter an operating room and perform brain surgery, but the medical thriller heavyweights made me think I understood it all -- without making it feel as though I was sitting in a classroom.

Medical thrillers then got a big push with the premiere of ER in 1994. I watched all of two seasons before I felt as though the stories were being rehashed. My interest was briefly renewed in 2000 with reruns, but not for long.

And now we have Grey's Anatomy, which is wonderful. It's still one of my favorite shows on tv. I think there's more variety than on ER. I'm sure others would disagree, but that's how I feel. You get equal parts medical mystery, drama, and personal stories.

Something happened, though, back there before Grey's began airing, where it seemed as though medical thrillers were not as prevalent on the bookshelves as they once were. I'm not sure if no one was writing them or if they just waned in popularity for a while, but my well of new medical thriller reads seemingly dried up. Palmer and Cook are still out there, but I wasn't finding any others for a while.

But now I have CJ Lyons! Her depth of character is one of my favorite things about her Angels of Mercy series and Urgent Care, the latest release, is no exception. Here's a bit about the book for you:

Nora has been hiding a secret from those around her. It's been two years, and she's told almost no one about the terrible assault she managed survived. But when a fellow hospital employee is found, murdered and brutally abused, Nora is sure that she could have prevented it simply by telling her story. Determined to help police solve the murder, she finally comes forward, but with the killer still out there, everyone knows that Nora could still be a target. Meanwhile, Lydia receives some shocking news about her own past, Gina struggles with her family, her career, and her new status as hero, and Amanda must solve a medical mystery that has so far stumped all of her colleagues.

Each new part of the series delves deeper into the characters' lives. I was hooked after reading just a few pages of Lifelines and I am happy to say that Lyons has never let me down since. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Urgent Care officially hits shelves today and I recommend you run out and buy it now. Don't wait! As an added bonus, just in case you still need convincing, CJ has included an excerpt on her website, so you can get a little taste before you buy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Free Offer

Mira is offering Michelle Gagnon's Boneyard as a free download. Not sure how long the promo is going to last, but you should definitely take advantage!

Here's the link.

And the Next Big Thing Is...

I saw this article on Saturday thanks to a link from Nicole Peeler (author of the fabulous Tempest Rising). It's a pretty interesting read in my opinion, because everywhere I look someone is trying to predict what will take the place of vampires as far as top spot on the bestseller lists go.

It's kind of funny, too. I mean, vamps have been around in one form or another for ages now. They're seeing a resurgence thanks in part to Twilight and to other urban fantasy/paranormal romance titles.

Wikipedia's vampire page lists 18th century poetry as the first appearance of vamps in literature. We saw the rise in urban fantasy recently, and the marriage of paranormal aspects with every other existing genre of books I can think of. Of course vamps play a huge part in all of the paranormal subgenres, but so do ghosts, witches, werewolves... Everyone is looking for a being that can captivate audiences but hasn't had the exposure that the vampires have.

I like this because that means more and more people are going back to traditional mythology to breathe new live into beings that some of us maybe aren't familiar with. Nicole Peeler, listed above, has introduced Jane True, a half selkie who discovers there are many many beings living in our world. This was the first time I'd come across selkies in fiction. Super cool.

The newest trend is fallen angels. So far, I've read two books (one adult and one teen) that were about fallen angels, and one horror that included some of their mythology. I also received another teen fallen angel book. I have to admit that I am very captivated by the actual history of fallen angels, separate from the religious perspective. I don't read "Christian" fiction, but as another being whose story is foreign to me, this trend of the fallen angel as the tragic hero is one that appeals to me for sure.

Another one that hit me was the banshee. No one is writing about the banshee and it's such a cool concept for a character. And then I received Rachel Vincent's My Soul To Take, and guess what it's about -- a bean sidhe (or banshee). Vincent had already impressed me as doing something fresh and new when she introduced her Shifters series with Stray.

I think, though, what beings are big aside, it's the author's ability to capture readers that really counts. It's the author's ability to turn something that's been done into something that's completely new to the reader. It's not the next big character so much as it's the next big author and how they present their ideas. I've read plenty of vampire books in the past year that struck me as being totally different from everything out there. I've read others that are incredibly similar to others that fellow readers love and adore and I'm not so impressed with. So there's kind of a market for anything right now.

It's a matter of taste and it's a matter of talent. Regardless of what shape a character takes,demon with a soul, vampire who refuses to eat humans, vampire who seduces humans, werewolf, angel, fae, whatever, it's how they're presented that really makes all of the difference.

The market may be inundated with the undead right now, but I don't think vampires will ever truly go out of style. Their popularity may ebb and flow, but if the trend is moving away from them now, they'll come back in a few years and be fresh and new again. That's kind of how everything works in pop culture. The fact that we're seeing more and more beings introduced, though, means that authors are mindful of what readers want. Authors are looking for something new to please their readers. They're not content just to throw a bloodsucker into a story to make it appeal to the current market, they're thoughtfully seeking out something new for their fans.

So I love the trend of new beings in books, and I also love that so many new and talented authors are bursting onto the scene these days. Take advantage of it readers!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Releases 10/27/09

Some of the new titles hitting shelve this week are:

Child of Darkness by Jennifer Armintrout -- second in the Lightworld/Darkworld series

The Gatekeeper by Michelle Gagnon -- technically a Nov 1 release, but you should be able to find it this week

Urgent Care by C.J. Lyons -- third in the Angels of Mercy medical thriller series and it just keeps getting better!

Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler -- first in the Jane True series

Scandal Sheet by Gemma Halliday -- first in the Hollywood Headlines series

Bite Marks by Jennifer Rardin -- latest in the Jaz Parks series

Blood Game by Iris Johansen -- an Eve Duncan thriller

The 13th by John Everson

The Gift by Deb Stover

Queen of Song and Souls by C.J. Wilson -- fourth in the Tairen Soul series

Spinning Forward by Terri DuLong

Temped by P.C. Cast -- latest in the House of Night series

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

True Blue by David Baldacci

Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Maguire

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson -- twelfth in the Wheel of Time series

Angel Time by Anne Rice -- first in the Songs of the Seraphim series

New on DVD:
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Urgent Care
Tempest Rising
Scandal Sheet
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Cool Article -- Not Another Rant

Bloomsbury Review, a book magazine published locally here (in Denver), posted a link to a great article from the BBC about bookshelves.

I thought it was super interesting -- my bookshelves are very close to my heart and one day I'll own a home where I can have even more and display ALL of my books -- and I wanted to share with all of my book friends out there.

What do you think your bookshelf says about you?

I think my bookshelf perfectly illustrates just how much of a junkie I am! And yes, I snoop and peek at other people's shelves when I can. And actually, all of my "literature" is kept on a separate unit in my office so the public shelves are definite proof that I'm into 100% escapism, and most of it on the lighter side.

Bear in mind, this is just one section of my bookshelves (and they're doubled up -- one row in front, one in back). There's also another shelving unit, a smaller one, in my bedroom with my more immediate reading selections (and the bedside table is completely overflowing, too). I would love to have a nice organized, brightly lit "library" like Neil Gaiman's, seen here. Or a room full of snazzy designer shelving units like the ones I fell in love with when I bought my couch. One can dream, right?

Until then, I'll keep stacking and squeezing books in where I can on my industrial utility units. Note the big gap between the top two shelves, room for plenty more stacks : )

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Finally Arriving!

Some of you might remember this post from last summer in which I expressed my extreme excitement that some of my favorite teen reads (LJ Smith's titles from when I was a teen) were making a comeback in snazzy new reprint editions for today's Twilight crazed market.

And I'm sure more than a few of you have done a better job than me at keeping up with the CW's Vampire Diaries series (I've got some serious catching up to do, or I'll have to wait until the DVDs hit next year).

I know my sister told me that there was a new Vampire Diaries installment hitting shelves, but somehow I managed to totally forget. Now, though, I have to snag my OLD copies of the first four titles back from the JJs so that I can refresh my memories and read said new book.

Even more exciting for us old timer LJ Smith fans, the final Night World book that taunted us as teens is finally supposed to be released next year. The "final" book in this series hit in 1998 with teasings of another installment, but here we are over 10 years later and Strange Fate has finally got a release date. Guess today's teens are more of a driving force in the market than my peers and I. I suppose it's better late than never, though, right? Guess I'll have to get those back, too.

My sisters have my whole LJ Smith box with all of her releases from back in my high school days. I believe my Janice Harrell books are in there as well. Man, I wish hers would make a comeback as well!

So now what I really want to see is The Secret Circle made into a really cool movie!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Latest Industry Theory

Many of you have probably heard that Amazon and Wal Mart are involved in an all-out book pricewar right now, lowballing book prices to compete with one another, and driving indies out of their minds considering they can't afford to do the same.

Sadly, in this economy, what's anyone to do but go with the lowest price they can find. I pre-ordered King's Under the Dome, which is retailing at $35, one can only hope that some of the extra $10 goes to paying for the extra pages in this over 1,000 page tome, and just realized that the price has dropped since my order date from $19.95 to $9.

$9 freaking dollars. But I'm sure some of you are still reeling over the fact that the laydown price is $35.

This is not the first over $25 title released of late -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows $34.99 (784 pages), The Lost Symbol $29.95 (528 pages) -- all HUGE bestsellers in the industry.

In some cases, the price seems to be increasing along with page number, but if you compare two similarly sized titles in similar genres -- the new Barbara Kingsolver is 528 pages and only costs $26.99, a whole $3 less than Dan Brown's latest and the same number of pages -- you see that the page number/cost ration is not necessarily a correct assessment.

Obviously a much more in-depth look would be required in order to make a valid theory, but based on what I've seen (and book prices that used to average $25.95 seem to now average about $26-27 based on the latest releases) it looks as though the industry is looking to the heavyweights to make up their sales numbers from the past year.

Now you should all know by now that I actually have no issue paying for a hardcover book, as long as I still have work to support that habit. And even if my own income slips, I cut other places (from deli meat to bologna) to make up the cost when I can. (I don't drink coffee so saving on the daily latte is not going to help me).

Which is not to say that there aren't options for book junkies out there. The library, for one, if you're budgeting and willing to wait the months it takes to get your grubby hands on a popular new release. Or, Amazon. Which is what I use. The Strand is also a good one for bargain prices and it's technically an indie store.

Sad but true, I'm a total hypocrite. The need for bargain prices and saving bucks is a two-fold issue. One is the fact that none of us can afford it right now. Our society is a retail one and we all want to buy, but with layoffs and the economy "crisis" we have to look for bargains or stop spending. And neither one is good for the economy or the rest of the folks who still have jobs or the possibility that more jobs will open up (not that we should all be working retail as adults anyway! but that's another issue altogether).

But the issue is an older one than that. We're cheap. We want what we want and we want a bargain price for it. Sales, coupons, haggling, these were all taking place before the craptastic economy became what it is now. Honestly, there comes a point where the price is as low as it can go with a profit still being possible. We've all heard how the big box stores claim not to have made any money off the HP releases because of the deep discounts they chose to offer. In fact, it was the other items that they were counting on folks buying while waiting for the midnight releases that they planned on making all of their money on.

And if you do the math, if you know the math, of a $25 retail price on a book, the bookstore only makes a certain percent. They may buy it at 50% cost and then retail it at full price, but the $12.50 is whittled down by shipping costs, by the cost of paying employees, and by every other overhead cost that the store has before they can count it as true profit.

But look at it from the other side. The publisher sells it at 50% cost and of their half they have to pay the author (if they've sold over their advance), they have to pay production costs, they have to pay the author's agent, they have to pay for marketing (and let's hope they've gone this route because marketing is how the word gets out about the book in the first place), and they have to pay for their own employees.

I guess my main issue is why the books are so expensive these days anyway. If the $25.95 book has been the mainstay of the hardcover market for the past 15 years or so, and that's about how long I've been buying hardcovers, then what has happened that all of the sudden they have to increase the costs so much?

Worldwide, production and shipping have increased, that's a given. Employment rates have gone down, but minimum wage has gone up so those two might balance out, I don't know. But again, it does look as though the Dan Browns, Stephen Kings, and JK Rowlings, the stars' if you will, books are increasing in price dramatically over the average.

All I know is this, most people don't read as quickly as I do. $25-$35 for a hardcover book, if compared to the volume of pages in the book itself (and if it's an average sized book on the higher end of the spectrum, that throws it off a bit, but I mean 250 pages at $25 and 1,000 pages at $35) at the average reading speed -- note, I can't find the actual statistics in real studies of how much the average American reads. It's low, like 50% have read less than 1 book a year. So if we're super generous and say that someone reads even 1 book a week, which is less than half of what I read, then that would mean that the reader is getting at least 7 days of entertainment out of their $25-$35. The average movie ticket is $10, for 90-120 minutes of film. So a hardcover book is still a good deal unless you devour like I do.

And us devourers are the ones who are making up for you slackers out there who read less than 1 book a year. Dan Brown's latest is at least 4 years overdue, so I'm guessing that means some of you 1-a-year folks haven't read anything since Da Vinci Code. Shame, shame!

Demand drives costs. I'm guessing that even though we seem to be seeing the opposite here, demand is increasing the cost and the bookstores (who can) are undermining it by discounting back to the average, that if there were more sales of books in general, that the cost of books would average out again thereby creating a marketplace where the indies can once again compete with the big box stores -- which is good for us readers all around. While this pricewar is terrible for indie stores, it is good for us consumers. We want them to want us to shop with them. The problem is that the average indie store falls off the grid with an issue like this and is eventually forced out of business. And the bigger problem is that right now, there's not much to be done about it because every industry is facing the same thing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FTC Update

So an article in today's PW (online ed) says that individual bloggers are not the target of the new FTC policies, that they are instead aimed at advertisers and marketers. Just in case any of you were curious. I'm taking down my sidebar disclaimer, fyi.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Because It's Fun

I love being able to finish a book in one day. You can take it to mean that the book is short, and while that is usually the case (around 300 pages) what it means to me is that the book is so damn good that I can't/don't want to do anything but read it.

Always a good thing!

Yesterday was just such a day. I finished up reading a teen book that I'll post later and then I moved on to Gemma Halliday's latest, Scandal Sheet.

Halliday is the author of the High Heels Mysteries series. Scandal Sheet, however, is first in her new Hollywood Headlines series. So now's the time to jump on board, eh?

Now I'm a big fan of the Killer Fiction blog and Halliday is just one of the funny ladies who posts there. I told you a while back about Christie Craig's Gotcha! and mentioned the fact that at that time I owned at least one book by each of the contributors to the blog (Christie Craig, Gemma Halliday, Leslie Langtry, Tracy Madison, and Kathy Bacus). You can imagine how pleased I was, then, to receive an early copy of Scandal Sheet.

And it totally lived up to every expectation. And I finished it in one afternoon, because it was that addictively readable!

Tina Bender, gossip columnist for the L.A. Informer, is great at what she does. And what she does is dig up dirt on Hollywood's biggest and brightest. But someone has been less than pleased with Tina's column of late, enough so that they've decided the best way to get their name out of the paper is to off Tina! Her boss, Felix, brings in Cal (hired muscle) to keep an eye on Tina until the whole thing can be cleared up, but now way is Tina going to sit back and wait for things to blow over. She's going to unmask her stalker and expose them before they can get their hands on her. But when the phone calls become physical threats and someone is killed, Tina realizes this job is one that might require a bit more than she'd counted on.

Scandal Sheet is set for release next week (which means you should be able to find it by this weekend at most stores). It's super fun, definitely hits all the edge-of-your-seat buttons, and is right up the Janet E. alley. In other words, I highly recommend you check it out. In the meantime, I'm going to track down the rest of the High Heels series to tide me over until Tina returns.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Releases 10/20/09

Some of the new titles set to hit shelves this week include:

The Evolution of Shadows by Jason Quinn Malott

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

The Museum of Innocence by Ohran Pamuk

Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction by Kurt Vonnegut

New on DVD:
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

New Reviews at Bookbitch.com:
According to Jane by Marilyn Brant
Twisted by Andrea Kane
Audrey's Door by Sarah Langan
The Ninth Circle by Alex Bell

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I've Been Lazy

I wanted to get the FTC disclaimer I talked about the other day posted on the site just in case and I've been putting off doing it. Which also means that I've been putting off blogging. It's there now, as you can see. Really wish that I didn't have to worry about whether or not it's necessary, but there it is.

I wanted to share a couple of things with you today, not true book reviews, although those are coming, but some cookbooks that I'm really looking forward to.

If any of you cook like I do, and even if you don't but you enjoy food as much as I do, then I think you'll appreciate these two cookbooks as much as I do. I don't have them yet, but they are on my (not want) NEED list.

Yes, they are necessary to my happiness and general existence! Not really, although given what is available online and the tips I've gotten from both of these folks recently and through the years, I think they're going to be fantastic additions to my cookbook collection. And as the girl who gets the irresistible urge to bake whilst sniffing the first hint of snow in the air (yes, we had snow last weekend and I was missing some key ingredients for the cookies I wanted to make), you can see why cookbooks are always on my Christmas Wish List.

First up is the brand, spanking new Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals. Mr. Oliver's previous cookbooks, Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life, is still on my Must Buy list, but I do have two of his other books in my collection. He's amazing. I've been in love with this guy since I first saw him as The Naked Chef on one of the morning shows. He cracks me up, and even better, he explains the process in making things that even I have never attempted out of fear of failure. I am happy to say that thanks to his instruction, I was able to finally successfully make my first omelet without turning it into scrambled eggs. This thanks to his magazine, which can occasionally be found at Borders.

I think the title of Food Revolution says it all. And anything that provides useful instructions for yummy recipes that are in my budget is a good thing these days.

Jamie Oliver's website is a treasure trove of recipes and tips, too. Check it out at www.jamieoliver.com and see for yourself.

The other cookbook that I'm super excited about is hitting shelves on October 27. It is Ree Drummond's debut, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl. Drummond runs The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog, another fantastic resource for the home cook. I received a notification about the release of this book and have tried snagging a copy for review, but have been unsuccessful thus far. Ah well, Ree has a ton of recipes online that you can try, and she posts pictures every step of the way (and I love pictures!). I made her "Brisket, Baby" last week while I was home visiting the folks. We had leftovers galore and ate this amazing dish in just about every way you can imagine (sandwiches and just plain roast-style being the most popular in our house). It's time consuming, but I have to say that I never would have attempted brisket without Ree's super easy instructions. I'm guessing I'll be utilizing her Thanksgiving page a lot this upcoming holiday!

So there you have it, two of this foodie's wishlist cookbooks for the fall season.

Monday, October 12, 2009

FTC Post

Ok, many of you are book folk so you probably have noticed links to the new FTC guidelines regarding bloggers. I honestly don't know if book bloggers are targeted. My understanding is that the new rules would apply to bloggers receiving compensation to review products and who may be reviewing said products falsely -- promising results from the product that are not typical.

To my mind, this would mean diet pills, workout machines, and anything else that would result in some sort of "results."

For those of you who don't know yet, book reviewers receive free copies of books from publishers in the hopes that the reviewers will review them. And now some book bloggers do as well. (And booksellers and librarians receive them in hopes that they will read the books and tell their customers all about the great new title that they must read.)

Because the book world is and always has been driven by word of mouth, this has been a good deal. I do receive some of my books free. I review for Bookbitch.com, however, and any book that I receive for free is for the purpose of reviewing on that site. I would love to be one of those book bloggers who receives free books to post reviews on their BLOG but mine doesn't have the readership that some of the others do.

Bookbitch does have the readership, however, so I receive books as one of the reviewers. I am under no obligation to review, positively, negatively, or otherwise, the titles that I receive. I feel a personal/professional obligation to read and review any and all books that I have the time for. It's simple, I want to keep reviewing and I want publishers to send me books, so I try to do my best to reciprocate by reviewing the books -- this gets the books readers' attention.

Whether I give it a positive or negative review doesn't matter. I'm not compensated in any way. Publishers won't call me up and complain about a bad review. Each review is my own personal opinion.

That said, I use this blog as an outlet to get the word out about books that I enjoy. I was able to do this as a bookseller, but I'm not a bookseller anymore. Back to the word of mouth thing. If there are a dozen books being released a week, that means that there are oodles of things for readers to choose from. In my experience as a bookseller, I saw plenty of people who headed for old favorites without browsing, or who were afraid to try something they were unfamiliar with. Word of mouth works and I am passionate about books.

I hope that anyone reading my blog realizes that if I say a book is good, it is my opinion. You are within your rights to dislike it. But that's the fun about reading something new. You try it, you don't like it, you move on. Or, you try it, you love it, you look for more by that author and add them to you "must buy" lists. It's that simple.

So, in order to cover my butt, I will add a disclaimer to the sidebar of my blog. And I guess I'll start indicating which books I've received and which books I've purchased. It won't be obnoxious, but it will be there.

And know this, every book posted on my blog has a positive review. I do not use my blog for reviews per se, those can all be found at www.bookbitch.com, I use my blog to make recommendations to readers. Again I reiterate, I am not compensated for my reviews -- I receive no money for reviews posted either here or on the bookbitch site. Any links, notifications, or advertisements that I post here are solely for your pleasure. They might be things I find interesting, things I think you will find interesting, or things that I think will give you more info (if you want it), but it's all up to my whim and fancy.

For more info on the FTC guidelines, here's a link to a fantastic post on bostonbibliophile.com.

The Weekend Is Over

Why does my weekend always feel so short? Oh, I know. Because I never get everything done! The weekend is for doing the things you can't do or don't have time to do during the week, and for relaxing, and for playing. And there's simply not enough time to do it all.

Our weekend was gloomy, cold, and snowy for the most part, which left me feeling totally drained. Normally I love this kind of weather because it's great for staying in your pjs and reading and napping all day, bit I always have a nagging sense that I should be using my time more wisely.

And this week I was extra bad because when I wasn't glued to my book, I was glued to the tv (or the computer watching tv).

I watched some movies from my queue and caught up on tv shows like Project Runway and CSI. Yes, sad but true, I am very much hooked to my tv. Even I recognize that I get much more read during the off season, but let's face it, I read a ton during the tv season as well. I do know I could have gotten more read if I hadn't decided to try my hand at the new Stargate spin-off, though.

Yep, I'm a geek. I'm not smart enough to actually READ most sci-fi (a lot goes over my head, sadly), but I can certainly watch the heck out of it.

Stargate the movie was fantastic. I remember seeing it at the theater with my mom when it came out. We weren't sure what it was because we hadn't seen or heard anything about it, but we were going to see something and it was the only thing under R (I wasn't driving age at that point). Fortunately for both of us, it turned out to be a fantastic flick (we stumbled into The Fifth Element the same way and it paid off, too).

When the first Stargate spin-off hit the airwaves, I was not one who tuned in. I'm not even sure if I knew it was on and by the time I saw it playing on Sci-Fi channel (SyFy) it was way too far along for me to jump in. So then, when Atlantis started, I really had no interest.

I can say pretty much the same thing for the new show, Stargate Universe (SG-U) except for the fact that it was playing while I was home last week: mom turned it on and left the room and I haven't been home enough to figure out all the new tv remotes over there (yes, I feel old) so I couldn't turn it off.

I was surprised to find that I was pretty interested in it. Curious, I tracked down the full episodes available thus far online and had myself a little mini-marathon today (and added SG-1) to the rental queue after finding episodes on Hulu.

Universe, if you're curious kind of stands alone as a series. You don't have to have seen any of the others, or even the movie if I'm totally honest. Frankly, it's pretty cool so far (no, I'm not totally unbiased considering my fondness for the film, but as I said, I've never seen the other shows at this point so I wasn't a guaranteed tuned-in fan).

How can they have so many spin-offs, you might ask? Well, in the film you might remember that it took James Spader's character to figure out the 7th symbol to open the stargate. SG-1 takes place a year later. In Stargate Atlantis, if I'm to understand the synopsis, they discover that entering an 8th symbol will take them to another galaxy. So, in Stargate Universe, Robert Carlyle plays Dr. Nicholas Rush a scientist who is trying to figure out how and where entering a 9th symbol will take them.

David Blue (who I recognized from Ugly Betty) plays Eli Wallace, a smart gamer who solves a puzzle in an online game that just so happens to be Rush's attempt at getting help figuring out the 9th symbol. Wallace is beamed onto a ship where the project is taking place. Unfortunately, everyone on board soon finds themselves under attack. Rush, in his egotistical wisdom (so far he's egotistical) decides that rather than opening the stargate and sending everyone back to Earth, he should try out his newfound 9th symbol. Everyone jumps through, only to find themselves on an abandoned ship that's billions of light years away from Earth, and falling apart.

Trust me, it's cool. I was very easily hooked.

Check out the link if you don't believe me. Watch the first ep. And if you do believe me, just remember, I'm looking for something to fill the Doctor Who hole until "Waters of Mars" premieres in November : )

I'm reveling in my geekdom right now. Forgive me if you don't share in the enthusiasm. I would totally understand. TV on DVD is addicting and after so many BBC shows, the Sci-Fi effects don't really bother me anymore. And thank God the powers that be at most networks have decided to post full episodes online. I'll be tuning in to SyFy on Friday nights now since I've had a chance to get into the show.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Releases 10/13/09

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week include:

Dracula the Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt -- Dacre Stoker IS related to Bram

The Midnight Guardian: A Millennial Novel by Sarah Jane Stratford

Gratitude by Joseph Kertes

Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals by Jamie Oliver

And Another Thing... (Hitchhiker's Guide Series #6) by Eoin Colfer

New on DVD:
The Proposal
Drag Me to Hell
Land of the Lost
The Objective (from the co-director of The Blair Witch Project)
Left Bank (I've been looking forward to this one since it was advertised OnDemand, not sure if it will live up to expectations, but we'll see)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And Still Tired

As you all have read, I attended my 10 year high school reunion this weekend. It was kid of a surreal experience overall. Out of a class of 400, I think only about a quarter (and that's being generous) actually showed up. Sadly, not very many of them were my fellow band folk (shame, shame, all of you!).

My school was not one of those that knocked the band either. Or if it was, I was oblivious. Needless to say, I'm unclear as to why so many people (many of whom still live in my hometown) elected not to go to the reunion.

And to the idiot announcer at the football games and the folks responsible for giving him a mic, I say ugh! He actually announced that the class of '80 was there for their reunion (which they were) three times and actually said, aloud, "I haven't heard if there are any other classes in attendance tonight." REALLY??!! Just one of many flubs of the evening. He sounded like the vice principle from my high school days, which makes me wonder if he's melted into the PA system and they've been unable to figure out how to detach him or turn him off.

I'm totally beat. Yeah, still not recovered. Got in at 4 yesterday and haven't really shut off since then. First there was the matter of unpacking, then we had dinner out as thanks to our friends who fed the pets while we were gone and made sure the house was still standing for our return. Today I had work and house stuff. It's been almost nonstop and I could still use about 48 hours of sleep.

And I didn't get much read. Never do. I am the one who plans to catch up on my reading when I'm knocked down with some ailment and then ends up disappointed in myself when I'm too out of it to finish any books (a bout of mono in 9th grade didn't even teach me my lesson and I only managed 1 book that month!).

I did get to hang with the Junior Junkies who did get some reading done this week. One finished a Jeaniene Frost during my visit, while the other read half of Gail Carriger's Soulless. Sadly, I forgot to tell her that Jocelynn Drake's third book is out and sis had the honor of test driving us to the bookstore to spend one of her first paychecks, too. No worries, she made a purchase, the second book in Kim Harrison's Hollows series. And I got the other one to begin reading her first Stephen King!

All around a fabulous visit home, if I do say so myself.

There were some downsides: I missed my kitties and there never seems enough time to do all of the visits to all of the people I want to see, or the visits all seem sadly short. That's the major suckage about living so far away. Someone needs to invent a teleportation system and I mean quick.

Ah, well. Enough ranting for now. I think the new caulk on the tub is dry enough for me to defrost in the tub now (we got very light snow today and even that's too much for me to handle), so I'm going to jump back into Sarah Langan's Audrey's Door (super fantastic read thus far -- more about why I didn't finish this one on the plane another time) before I pass out with the help of my Ambien.

I'm Back!

Hello, everyone! I'm back and catching up on work (work work and housework). No groceries to speak of here and gloomy yucky weather that makes me want to go back to bed.


Ok, lots to do. I'll have some postings later about the reunion and what I've been reading.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Proper Urban Fantasy

If you're a fan of urban fantasy, you can't miss Gail Carriger's debut, Soulless. This is book one in her Parasol Protectorate series (trilogy?) and it's fabulous!

Imagine if vampires, werewolves, and ghosts were part of everyday society. This is exactly what Carriger has done. Her book takes place in Victorian London, but it's a London that's been influenced in every way by the paranormal beings that are a part of it. It's a smattering of Steampunk with a little bit of romance and a mystery all blended together to make a great read!

Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster at 26 and a woman with a secret. She's a preternatural and is able to nullify other paranormals' powers with her touch. But as a proper lady in a proper society family, it is most important that this news does not make itself known to the general public.

When Alexia is attacked by a vampire and accidentally kills him, she becomes involved in a mystery she can't help but try to solve on her own. But doing so under the constraints of societal norms, which dictate what a proper woman should and should not do, least of which is become entangled in a murder and worse, could prove to be a bit of a challenge for anyone of lesser skills than Alexia.

Soulless is fun and funny, not to mention wholly original in my humble opinion.

For extra fun, check out Orbit's Victorian Dress-Up Doll created to go with the book.

Well, by now the reunion activities are at an end. I'll have to let you all know how it goes when I return, but I'm really looking forward to catching up with some of my old high school buddies. And, one of them who won't be at the reunion, has just had her first kid so I'll be visiting the new mom and baby as well. Fun! Hope you all had a great weekend and got some reading done. I'll be hanging with the JJs for a couple more days and will post when I get back.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Releases 10/6/09

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week include:

A Touch of Dead: The Complete Stories by Charlaine Harris -- the Sookie Stackhouse stories collected in one volume

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett -- a Discworld book

When You Went Away by Michael Baron

The Professional by Robert B. Parker -- latest in the Spenser series

Quatrain by Sharon Shinn

New on DVD:
Trick r' Treat
Seventh Moon
The Thaw
The Children
Year One
My Life in Ruins

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Feeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough
Spoon by Robert Greer

Friday, October 2, 2009

Murder at Longbourn

I'm going to make it short today, I'm actually trying to prepost for when I'm gone so I'm cheating a bit.

Tracy Kiely's delightful Austen inspired mystery debuted last month and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought you might as well. It's a cozy and the first in a new series. The heroine is, of course, a huge Austen fan, especially P&P. References are made throughout the book to Austen and her work and even folks who have not read the originals will catch them (if you have any exposure to Austen, you'll catch them).

Here's some more about the book itself:

Elizabeth Parker is a big Jane Austen fan. As is her aunt, the proud owner of the Longbourn B&B, named for the Bennett residence in P&P. Elizabeth was all set to spend her New Year’s Eve alone after a break-up with her cheating boyfriend, until her aunt invites her to her own shindig. The festivities were to include a murder mystery dinner and, as promised in the invite, “screams in the dark.” But when the lights came back on, a real murder was discovered and Elizabeth’s beloved aunt the unfortunate prime suspect. Now Elizabeth must unravel the mystery in order to save her aunt from being accused.

I found Elizabeth utterly charming and loved the fact that this could be considered Traditional British/Cozy with a contemporary twist. A light read for Austen fans and mystery lovers alike.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Austen Inspired

I am ashamed to say that at this point in the game I have yet to actually read any Jane Austen. I've seen most of the adaptations -- don't fuss at me! I never elected to watch the films rather than read the books, I just happened to catch the films on tv and watch them, and then rent them, and then buy the books that have been sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting for me.

I've also read some books inspired by Austen, a trend that seems to be really hot right now. Again. Obviously Austen has been responsible for quite a few brilliant ideas, Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, and the whole chick-lit phenomenon.

Just the other night I was looking for something to watch and came across the UK mini-series Lost in Austen, a film about a P&P obsessed girl who finds herself launched into the story, where she proceeds to make a total mess of things. It stars Jemima Rooper (of Hex) as Amanda Price. It's a cute film that did well enough they are now adapting it for the big screen. Fun stuff. Still, I know, not a substitution for the real thing, and one of these days I'll read and become totally obsessed with Austen's actual written words. I'm Darcy obsessed as it is. I think he kind of ruins women for men. He's lovely. He's the perfect man in a lot of ways. And he's totally imaginary, which makes it even better. You see a new sort of Darcy in Lost in Austen, but he's still good old reliable Darcy in the end.

So yeah, I'm totally loving the Austen inspired trend of late. I don't have any details on the feature film, but Lost in Austen is available on DVD and I recommend checking it out. I also recommend the latest version of Sense & Sensibility, if you haven't seen it. It aired on Masterpiece Classics this year and I thought it was just wonderful. Next year they're doing Emma and I can't wait.

Off the Austen track, if you didn't see the adaptation of Dickens's Little Dorritt, you absolutely must rent it. Maybe one day I'll get around to trying to read this one, much later than I'll get to Austen, though, because it's kind of a whopper. In the meantime, the mini-series won 7 Emmies this year. It was by far my favorite in the Masterpiece Classic series probably because I'd never had any exposure to the tale before.

So see, adaptations can be ok. Believe me, I'm aware of how approachable Austen is, though, so there's really no excuse.