Sunday, November 30, 2008


Congrats to Anita Yancey and Christy Jan, winners of the Christmas Grab Bag sets. Each will get two Christmas themed romance titles. 

The next giveaway won't be until after the New Year. Check back for new recommendations and book blogs in the meantime. 

Christmas Grab Bag Winner

Check back here in a bit for the winner. I think I'm giving away two packs for this one, but I am totally beat and will have to do it after I get some sleep. I'll announce the winners here and e-mail them as well, if I have e-mail contacts. 

Thanks guys and I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! I'll be taking a break on giveaways until the new year after this one. 

New Releases 12/02

Agh, it's December already. Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week include:

King of Swords by Nick Stone - prequel to last year's award-winning thriller Mr. Clarinet

Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry - Cotton Malone uncovers the secret behind his father's death (I'm reading this one right now and it's fantastic)

Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell

Defending Angels by Mary Stanton - new cozy paranormal that earned a starred review from PW

Blood Island by H. Terrell Griffin

New on DVD:
Wanted - yay! I loved this movie! One of the best this year.
Prince Caspian 
Step Brothers
X-Files: I Want to Believe - yeah, and I wanted it to be good

New reviews up at Bookbitch.com:
Hot Blooded by Lisa Jackson
Blind Rage by Terri Persons
Night Shift by Lilith Saintcrow
Succubus Takes Manhattan by Nina Harper
King of Swords by Nick Stone

And the Best of 2008 lists should also be posted soon. I'll put up my long list here later on in December (I still have some new reads that might make the cut for that one). 

For Someone Who's Hard to Shop For

Everyone has someone who is impossible to shop for. I have three - my dad, my brother, and my boyfriend. I don't know why I have such a hard time shopping for them, but I do. Fortunately for me, they all seem to have the same sort of interests and tastes. Sure, they vary on some points, but humor especially is where they are similar. 

Unfortunately, my suggestions in this blog are based on past gifts I've given them so I'm out of luck this year!

When my brother was younger, he really didn't read a whole lot. It was important to my parents that they instill a love of books in all of us, so when he discovered that he liked Terry Pratchett, my mom was willing to do just about anything to find them for him. This was, mind you, before the man really hit it big over here and you could only occasionally find a random title here and there. When I was a sophomore in high school, Good Omens began making the rounds. (Omens was published in 1990, but a mass market edition was re-released in 1996.) This was a collaborative work by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - the first novel-length work from Gaimin, btw - and is a humorous book about the coming apocalypse. It's been on my to read list for quite some time, but my other recommends it to anyone and everyone.  

Pratchett, for those who aren't familiar with him, is a prolific fantasy author from the UK. He writes for both kids and adults and is most famous for his Discworld series. This is what my brother was reading. This is what I eventually turned my boyfriend on to. Gaiman is a bit different. He has a handful of novels (again kids and adults) as well as a slew of short stories in both fantasy and horror collections, and also does graphic novels. He's been called "the most famous author you've never heard of" per an article I read just recently. Most of Gaiman's books have some small connections but are essentially stand-alones.

So, add those to your list: Good Omens, Discworld books (they are connected in world mainly, some twos and threes, but mostly stand alones), and Neil Gaiman. 

Also great, if there is anyone out there who doesn't yet own the collection, are the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide and Dirk Gently books. Notice all these guys are brits? Let's add an American to the mix, too, though, in the form of Christopher Moore. My other loves Lamb (I've yet to read it, bad me) but my fave would have to be Dirty Job thus far. Another new one is Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys (new release last year and now out in pb as of August). 

All of these are perfect for guys (and gals) with a quirky sense of humor. If they can't take a joke, you probably shouldn't bother. Good luck shopping. I hope my recommendations are helping some of you. I still have my other and my brother left to shop for and am at a complete loss. My brother got a Twinkie cookbook and random items I picked up while in NYC for his birthday this year. My other got a gc for snowboarding paraphernalia for his. Now I have to think about Christmas, yikes. Dad's getting fancy olive oil. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Play A Game

So I know everyone is promoting books as gifts (as am I) but one of our friends is a high school art teacher and he was telling us about how all his fellow teachers get together and play board games. You know, the ones with pieces you have to move by yourself instead of with a keypad and a joystick (yeah, I play a lot of video games!). 

Anyway, Monopoly and Scrabble and the basics are probably already in your home, but if you have young adults in your family who are just striking out on their own (like me) you might not think to get them games. If they have a group of friends to get together with, this might just be the perfect thing. 

I'd suggest Trivial Pursuit in its various forms, Totally 80s and Pop Culture are two of my faves. Of course Clue, Monopoly (classic not the new one), Scrabble, and Yahtzee (I love Yahtzee and rarely play) are great ones that everyone should have. 

Of the new games that I have played, Scene-It is a must if you have movie watchers in mind. Again, if they have people to play with. Cramium is apparently a big hit with our friend and his fellow teachers. And surprisingly, a game carried by BN called Apples to Apples. This is a family game, but he said the teachers all had super fun playing it. 

'Course you can go the card route as well. Poker is a big thing right now and my other got a poker set one Christmas that he and his friends take out to play. I love UNO myself. And you can always get a regular old deck of playing cards with some of the various card game books out there. I found an old one with variations on solitaire that's pretty neat and can be played alone. 

Mancala is another one I recommend. You only need two to play and it's kind of hypnotic. The peg game is great for one and can consume hours of time, trust me I know. Handheld Tetris is great as well, if you know someone who is obsessed with it like I am.

Of course most of my recs above are all based on personal preference. There are a ton of new and old board games to choose from. Get someone started on Go or Backgammon (neither of which I actually know how to play). Like I said, there's a whole mess of games to choose from out there. I did find a great site that has a bunch to choose from, and even if you don't want to order online it can give you some ideas. There's even Donkey Kong and John Deere Jenga on here!

Anyway, if you're wondering what to get people on your list, consider a game. But just remember, if you gift it, you must be willing to play it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gift Recommendations

My mom took my little sisters Christmas shopping yesterday and I got to play bookseller via cell phone. As the Junior Junkies came across stuff they were interested in, they had me look it up and tell them if I knew anything about it - they still hate taking total chances on books, especially Christmas gift, and always want a second opinion as to whether they should get it. It was fun for me, though. 

I thought I would take some time to make some recommendations now, based on things that they've really liked. I'll do adult ones as well but thought I would start with some teen choices. 

First up, Wake by Lisa McMann. If you've got teens who love paranormal teen reads, this is one they should definitely not miss. I first heard about Wake on Rachel Vincent's blog (she loved it and I thought even if I didn't have the time for it, my sisters would love it). Here's the link. So, since I haven't read it and my sisters have yet to be coaxed into writing their own reviews, here's the PW review:

The trick to getting hooked on this highly satisfying first novel is to look past its disjointed opening. The initial chapters consist of flashbacks into which are woven a series of repetitive scenes wherein Janie Hannagan is unwillingly sucked into others' dreams and nightmares, and suffers debilitating side effects. But as soon as McMann establishes Janie's strange skill, she throws just the right teen-centric ingredients into the story to propel it forward and grab readers. Tough and strong Janie, now 17, seems totally independent, charting a future that will lead away from her welfare mother's alcoholism. Her turbulent relationship with Cabel, the unwashed stoner boy-turned-handsome, pulsates with sexual tension-problematized by Janie's knowledge of his insistent dreams about killing a man. But then Cabel learns to communicate his desires to Janie through lucid dreaming at just about the same time that Janie finds out that she can influence the dreams she enters. The plot twists keep coming, even if one or two are shopworn, and the writing has a Caroline Cooney-like snap that's hard to resist.

Hopefully I'll have time to read my sisters' copy while I am home for Christmas. We shall see. I knew this one was a winner when my little sister called me begging for the sequel, only to be irritated by being told that it doesn't come out until February (she thinks everything should be released based on her wants and needs - hey, who doesn't). 

More gift recs coming soon! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I'm Reading

So it should be a bit obvious that I'm in a sort of funk lately. Not really sure what's going on with me. I'm not sleeping all that much and when I do I don't really feel rested. I'm playing WAY too much Fallout 3 and am going to have to nip that in the bud right now. I think that's a big part of my problem. I zombie out in front of the xbox and then I feel completely non-productive and lazy. 

I also have not been finishing books. Agh. The last book I finished was early last week and now I have three in progress and it's driving me nuts. I have to finish a book before I start another, but since I'm so moody right now, I'm even having trouble with that. 

To try and help boost myself out of the grey, I began reading a book that's not due out until February. I've been looking forward to it since I read the last in the series, and my sisters are seriously harassing me to finish up with it so they can read it. I promised I would read it and write my review so that they can have it by Christmas. Course they're out of school this week and there's no way I could possibly get it to them, and they want it now.

What is it? The latest in Rachel Vincent's werecat series, Pride. I love, love, love this series. I can't get enough of it. 

*Spoilers if you haven't read Stray or Rogue (and I highly suggest you do so!)

The book begins with Faythe on trial for having accidentally infected her human ex-boyfriend and then killing him. Of course the council doesn't believe that Faythe could have partially shifted and accidentally infected the man. Creating a stray is against the laws of the pride and Faythe must be punished. The council also seems to believe that Faythe killed him, not out of self-defense as she says, but in order to cover up what she'd done. None of it is true, but Faythe's determination to lead an independent life outside of the pride may prove to be her downfall as her worth as a tabby is weighed over a possible death sentence. For better or worse, a bruin busts in in the middle of the proceedings claiming that a pack of strays is roaming around his territory and becoming a nuisance. It also appears that the strays may have killed two missing hikers and a cop on the search team. Faythe is granted a brief repreive and even allowed to help on the hunt, but her freedom still hangs in the balance.

*Spoiler end*

Like I said, I love this series. I'm only partially in after reading until 2:30 this morning. Will keep you guys posted, but I know it's going to be a great ride. If anything can get me out of my mood, it's this book. Now I have to go read so my sisters will stop nagging me. And you should see what all of the fuss is about as well and read this series if you haven't.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A music post

I just unburied myself from beneath a humongous pile of work. This is not to say that I am done with said work, just that I have now gotten it in a manageable pile. Ugh.

Anyway. I did see Twilight on Friday and love, love, loved it. My sisters have yet to see it so I don't have anyone to talk to about it, but I thought it was great. I have it on good authority that Stephenie Meyer's favorite band is Muse. Now, I love Muse. I discovered them when their album Absolution came out in 2004 and loved the song 'Time is Running Out." In fact, I'm not a big drinker and we all used to hang out at this bar on Sunday nights because a friend of ours was working there. I'd bring a roll of quarters (big dork that I am) and put half of it in the juke box and play pool with the rest. Muse was one of my bar bands. 

The link to Twilight, well, I did notice that they slipped in "Super Massive Black Hole" during the baseball scene. Yay! So, if you want to listen to Stephenie Meyer's fave band (you'll see them frequently on her playlists for the books) pick up some Muse. They've certainly been making my morning a bit easier!

I will also say this, Danny Boyle must be a huge fan of Muse as well because their music is usually in his movies as well and I love it! 

So, a short post, and a break from my norm, but I thought I would share my mutual Muse addiction (mutual as in shared with Meyer) with you guys as well. I have passed along the cds to the junior junkies as well so they were already turned onto them. 

I've been pretty unenthused about much of the stuff coming out of the music industry of late, but I am completely and wholly addicted to Muse. The image above, if you were curious, is from their latest, Black Holes and Revelations which features the song "Knights of Cydonia," which Guitar Hero fans will recognize as being the song that's seemingly impossible to play even on easy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Releases 11/25

Some of the new releases hitting shelves this week are:

Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler

Divorced, Desperate, and Dating by Christie Craig

Magic Bullet by Andrew Neiderman - new thriller from author of Devil's Advocate. He's also the ghostwriter for VC Andrews

Succubus Takes Manhattan by Nina Harper - follow-up to Succubus in the City

New releases on DVD:
Fred Claus
A Colbert Christmas

Sorry I've not been on the ball lately. Will try to do better : )

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hot Bond

I'm heading out to see Twilight tonight, but I thought I would post a little something about the new Bond flick, seeing as how I saw that one last Friday and all. 

Now first let me say that I am not a Bond fan - or at least I wasn't. I've tried to watch some of the Sean Connery ones and while I find the man extremely attractive, the movies just never did it for me. Maybe I was too young and maybe I should try again, but who knows. 

A friend of mine always sees the new Bond flicks with her dad. A nice tradition. When Casino Royale came out on dvd, though, I had invited her over and her one request was that we watch the movie. I moaned and groaned and eventually gave in. And surprise, I loved it! My mom owned the movie and last time I went home I made my little sister sit down and watch it with me as well. And she loved it! And then I bought a copy for myself.

I thought maybe my Bond perception had been wrong all along and tried to watch one of the Pierce Brosnan ones and discovered that no, I was not wrong. I couldn't even watch the whole thing it was so bad.

So, Daniel Craig and the new production/directing team are the reason that I am now a Bond fan. Craig oozes charm and is hot as hell - I'm sure anyone will agree with me - and the new tone of the films is much more serious than in past years. This is what I really like - Craig and the tone. The fact that the hoky, cheesy, sexy spy is gone and this new charismatic and mysterious and serious sexy spy is the new image really works. It is, in a sense, what has been done for the new Batman films. They took out the prior aspects that made the films almost cartoonish and put in the serious action stuff that was lacking. 

So, some people have commented on plot holes in Quantum of Solace, I had no issues. It was fast paced and packed with action, as it should be, and Craig is magnificent to watch (I recommend seeing him on the big screen always) and the Bond girls were cool rather than just eye candy for men. I've heard that Craig is signed on for four more films so we should learn more about this mysterious organization in the future. Also, Dame Judy Dench is awesome and always has been. I love her as Bond's boss!

So, my rambling babbling Bond rant is at an end, but take it from me, a Craig/Bond girl, it's well worth the watch and is on my "To Buy" list!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Computer Woes

Overall, I have to say that I love my computer. I just don't love other peoples' computers or their reliance on them or their tendency to screw things up. Or my tendency to screw them (computers) up. Anyway, I just realized that I hadn't received some stuff that I ordered and it wasn't even showing that I ordered it in the first place. I know I did. I specifically remember ordering. I do not recall (and I think I would) placing something on the wish list rather than ordering. In fact, I recall quite clearly submitting and confirming the order and mailing address. 


Anyway, I tried again. We'll see what happens. 

Other headaches (literal and otherwise) to deal with now and it is freezing cold out. Still trying to squeeze in some 2008 releases for consideration for my best of list, but I also have regular review books to read. Anyway. For my amusement, I cracked open my recently received copy of Nina Haper's Sucubus Takes Manhattan

Harper debuted back in March with the first in this series, Succubus in the City. It's a hilarious urban fantasy series about, Lily, a succubus in the service of Satan. Here's my review from the Bookbitch archives:

Lily and her friends are some of satan’s top minions. Lily lures men through lust and delivers them straight to hell, after sleeping with them of course. Her life has left her longing for true love, though, and she may just have found it in sexy PI Nathan Coleman. Problem is, her cover may be about to be blown. A group of serious religious fundamentalists seems to be gaining some inside information about the ladies and their occupations. Their goal is to eliminate the women by any means. The ladies are tasked to discover the demon mole who’s been doling out clues to the mortals, and deliver him straight to satan herself. Harper’s debut has the perfect blend of romance, mystery, and paranormal elements, making it a fun and light addition to the urban fantasy genre. It’s a hip first installment to another original new series.

And Succubus Takes Manhattan picks up right where In the City leaves off. I won't spoil it for you, because you really should check out the series yourself. It's perfect if you're looking for some fun, light reading. I can tell you that right now, that's exactly what I need!

Succubus in the City is available right now and Succubus Takes Manhattan is set for release next Tuesday. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sorry I've Been Away

So Monday was my boyfriend's birthday and then yesterday I was just being lazy. 

No but really. It's almost time for me to get in my Best of 2008 list for the BB and I'm scrambling to read some of the new releases I haven't had  a chance to get around to yet. Not that my list doesn't have a whole bunch to whittle down already. 

Monday I finished Jack O'Connell's The Resurrectionist. I have to say, I just didn't get it. Not one bit. I'm not even going to attempt to sum up the book here or for a review. I just didn't get it. 

Yesterday I began reading Terri Persons's Blind Rage. Rage is the sequel to Persons's Blind Spot, which I wrote about here. I didn't read as much as I wanted to yesterday thanks to the cleaning cycle on the stove. 

Yep, excuses, excuses. Our stove was in desperate need of a cleaning, but I HATE, LOATHE, and DESPISE the smell of the self-cleaning cycle. I was waiting for a day when I could be somewhere else and avoid the smell altogether, but since I work from home that's a bit difficult. Anyway, nasty smell = headache = hard to read that book that I really wanted to get to. 

There are still a few others that I want to get to before I send in my list on Nov 30. We'll see if I am successful. Like I said, I've already got at least 15 on my list to be narrowed down to 10 so it's really not as if I NEED more, but... So, back to the reading and the working and the real life stuff. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hi, guys

Sorry no post from me today, it was my other's b-day. I took him to lunch and baked him a cake, and played DD for a trip to Dave and Busters. 

See ya'll tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Releases 11/18

Here are some of the books set to hit shelves this week:

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - latest NF from the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, a guaranteed bestseller

Private Patient by PD James - an Adam Dagliesh mystery

Dashing Through the Snow by Mary and Carol Higgins Clark

Cross Country by James Patterson

Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guid to Staying Fat, Lazy, and Stupid by Dennis Leary

New on DVD this week:
Bones Season 3 - finally! I've been watching season 4 without having seen ANY of season 3. 

Tropic Thunder
Priceless - starring Audrey Tautou
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Zombie Diaries

New reviews up at Bookbitch.com:
The Wild Road by Marjorie Liu
The Face by Angela Hunt

Yep, it was a slow reading week for me - thanks to a stressful work week. And today was the first time in weeks that I got 8 hours of sleep - yahoo!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On a quest

You might recall that a few weeks ago, during my Halloween Horror Reading Marathon, I read Dan Simmons's 1985 debut, Song of Kali. It was amazing and like all amazing books in a genre has ruined me for horror for a bit. I'll get over it. In the meantime, though, I decided that I need to find a copy of Simmons Stoker winning Carrion Comfort, which, surprisingly, is now out of print. Boo. 

There was a beat up copy at our local used bookstore last time I was there, but since I am so picky about the quality of my books, I passed on it thinking I could find it elsewhere. Not so, stupid, Becky. I called a couple of other used bookstores in the area (minus the one who's owner is supposed to be a total ass) and no one had it in stock. I tried the first bookstore again and they didn't even have it in stock anymore. 

Finally, out of desperation and with no idea what I am getting, I ordered it online. And now I wait. I'm quite sure, though, after reading The Terror and Song of Kali, that it will be worth it. And in the meantime, I now have Lovedeath, Summer of Night, and Children of Night as well as the upcoming monstrosity that is Drood to tide me over. 

And since I do not have said book as of yet, here is the PW review from way back in 1989 if you are curious as to why I am searching for it so:

The second novel by World Fantasy Award-winner Simmons ( The Song of Kali ) is a 636-page epic that draws on a variety of genres--horror, science fiction, political thriller, Hollywood roman a clef. It centers around a small number of "mind vampires" who can subjugate other people to their wills, read their minds, experience through their senses. The immensely powerful vampires use others, often bloodily, and often in frivolous "games" (hunting human prey, chess games with human pieces, and so on). Opposing them are Saul Laski, a psychologist and concentration-camp survivor, who is devoted to tracking down the Nazi vampire von Borchert; Natalie Preston, whose father inadvertently and fatally crossed the path of a pawn of the ancient, dotty vampire Melanie Fuller; Sheriff Bobby Joe Gentry, dragged in while investigating the multiple murders that marked the departure of Melanie Fuller from Charleston; and a host of other normals and vampires whose lives impinge on those of the principals. While he could profitably have trimmed the novel by a third, Simmons has produced, overall, a compelling thriller.

And the latest winner is...

Darbyscloset! Congrats, Darby. 

Darby chose the Women's Fiction pack from the remaining grab bags available. 

This next drawing is a little different. I have some Christmas/holiday themed romances here to give away and that will be the Nov 30 package up for grabs. Leave a comment here to enter and make sure to leave me an e-mail to get ahold of you by (or if you have your blogspot set up so that I can e-mail you that way, that works, too). 

After Nov 30, I'm going to take a break until the New Year. The remaining grab bags will go back in the pot along with whatever new ones I come up with. 

So, congrats again to Darby and good luck to everyone else! Get your names in for the Holiday grab bag (2-3 books at this point and a possibility of not one, but two winners this go around).

Friday, November 14, 2008

And sleep eludes me still

So it is now 7:06 am and I have been up for over an hour in spite of the sleeping pills that I took at 1am. It has snowed overnight, something I am none too pleased about, although it does give me an excuse to make some hot chocolate with vanilla mint sugar or one of my many new tea purchases. My cat is sleeping behind me, probably soaking in the space heater as much as I am (the other is sleeping in my spot on the bed - lucky her!). 

I so do not want to be awake at this moment. I would have been happier sleeping until at least 9 - I do have some catching up to do and it would be well appreciated to sleep the night through, oh powers that be. 

I started reading Hot Blooded by Lisa Jackson. This is the first of her New Orleans books and I wanted to go back to the beginning after enjoying Lost Souls so much. Reading order according to her website, if you are interested, is as follows:

Hot Blooded
Cold Blooded
The Night Before
Absolute Fear
Lost Souls
Malice (forthcoming)

In Hot Blooded, a serial killer is stalking hookers in the Big Easy. His method is specific but his message has yet to be teased out by detectives. Meanwhile, celebrity radio talk show host Dr. Samantha Leeds returns from a trip to Mexico to find a threatening message on her machine and a mangled photo of herself in the mail. She begins to think that someone may be watching her home and following her around town. The police investigate, but so far have determined that it is a prank. Threatening calls to her show and more "messages" follow but Sam still can't figure out what this person wants from her. She becomes suspicious of everyone, including the hot new neighbor who has a hidden agenda of his own. Rick Bentz happens to be in on both the serial case and Sam's harassment case and suspects that there might be a link, but he's on shaky ground with the department already. Will they unravel the mystery before it's too late?

Relentlessly paced and absorbing, Hot Blooded will definitely make you a fan if you aren't already. Jackson's a new discovery for me - yes, I'd already heard of her but had not read her before - and has a ton of backlist for me to catch up on, and I love her treatment of my home state. I can't wait to finish so that I can move on to the next one. I want to be totally caught up by the time Malice is released - Bentz has some demons that are hinted at and I am dying to know!

And, here's a link to my other Jackson post about her latest new series that started with Left to Die which would be a perfect read for our first snow here in CO!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Little Top Chef Talk

So last night marked the return of my favorite competitive cooking reality show. Yep, Top Chef is back. I hate watching people go home during the first few episodes. I mean, we don't really know who they are and they haven't really had a chance to show the judges what they're capable of. It's kind of sad. 

So last night I cooked Paprika Chicken and settled down for my show. The 17 contestants arrived and were immediately taken to a quick-fire challenge in three parts. We were given little snippet interviews with just some of the contestants, which is always another bothersome issue in trying to remember which of the contestants I actually like right off the bat. 

The first part of the quick-fire was to peel 15 apples with a paring knife. The first nine to complete the challenge were safe to move on to the elimination challenger and the first of those nine would have immunity for the elimination. Next, the remaining 8 contestants had to cut said apples in a brunoise - little even square bits. Four would be safe. 

The final four in the quick-fire had to each make something with the apples. Two of the ladies cooked - one had scallops and one pork chops. The other two made salads. Now, I'm not one to knock a good salad and they did only have 20 minutes in which to make their dish, but 1. I've seen the judges criticize people for not actually cooking on Top Chef before, and 2. you're trying to convince them to let you stay and your best showcase of your talent is a salad?!

The two salad folk were actually classmates, by the way, and the young lady was sent home. 

Then came the actual elimination. Each contestant had to draw a knife that listed a specific area of the Big Apple famous for a certain kind of food. There were two chefs per region, and like last year's showdown with classic dishes, the two with the same region were pitted against each other. The top dish of each pair would give that contestant a running for the winning spot of the challenge and the bottom dish would put them in the category of those under consideration of being sent home. 

Surprisingly, one of the top spots went to the non-classically trained Hawaiian who accidentally made a great Indian dish. The other two were Stefan, one of the only names I know thus far, who won the quick-fire and had immunity anyway (winner of the elimination as well) and the New Yorker who picked Little Italy. 

So, we've now got 15 contestants left and both Boulder chefs are still in the running. 

Now, if you're curious and can remember who everyone is, here's a Where are They Now post from Grub Street. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Still Trucking Along

So yesterday I began reading Lilith Saintcrow's first Jill Kismet title, Night Shift. I wasn't on the ball at all, though, so I only got a third of the way through. Bad, Becky! I was doing so well reading a book a day. Ah well, I'll finish it today I'm sure. 

I'm not quite sure why I waited to read this one. I did buy it as soon as it came out and was super excited about it, but I think a combination of my total adoration for her Dante Valentine series coupled with not enough time in the world to read everything I want to get my hands on played a big part in this sitting on my bedside table for so long. 

But wait, you must be saying, if I liked the Danny Valentine books so much, how could I possibly wait to read more from Saintcrow? Well, because I was not sure if Jill would fill Danny's shoes for me. I know, I know, it was just enough apprehension to make me wait a bit longer. Plus, I'm not really one of those binge readers who has to read everything in the same genre all the time. In fact, I have to switch it up rather often so I don't burn out on a certain type of book. So Jill just had to wait a bit. 

I'm loving it, btw. Jill is every bit as strong as Danny and has her own special talents and issues. Waiting to see who will fill Japh's shoes - Jill's gotta have a love interest!

Anway, Jill is a hunter. Her job is to help the police with any "unnatural" cases, mostly dealing with the hellbreed - demons and all. In the beginning of Night Shift, Jill is called in on a case where five policemen, all responding to the same call, were found torn to pieces. A sixth is left in critical condition. No one knows what has happened, but Jill can smell hellbreed all over it. Then a couple of weres who work for the FBI show up and tell Jill they've got a rogue on the loose. Apparently, after speaking with her hellbreed connection, one of theirs has been working with the were for reasons unknown. All Jill knows is that the two of them are wreaking havoc in her town and it's her job to stop them. 

See, totally living up to expectations. Urban fantasy at it's best. Not sure about the timeline on the books. The Dante Valentine series was WAY in the future but the world still resembled our own for the most part. I'm going to link to Saintcrow's website, but as of this morning it wasn't loading for some reason. I'll let you guys have the option of trying, though, if you want to learn more. Check her out here

And don't forget, tonight's TOP CHEF!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hello everyone!

Greetings from the should be in bed hour. Just a quick reminder, you have until midnight MST Friday to get your name in for the latest grab bag giveaway. Packages left to choose from are:

Sportsmen (2 contemporary romances with a sort-of sports theme)
Adventure (2 books)
Women's fiction (2 books) 
Hot Men (2 books)

Leave a comment here to enter and check back on Saturday the 15th to see if you've won (click the link to enter). The winner will be notified via e-mail as well if you've left me that option or if you have one registered with blogspot (and set to receive). 

Also, starting Saturday I will begin the last grab bag giveaway entry of 2008. I'll be giving away a pack of holiday romances to one lucky winner. 

So get your name in for this contest and remember to come back on Saturday to enter for your chance to win a pack of brand spanking new 2008 holiday romance titles courtesy of me. 

Good luck everyone!

Book 3 and the mountain of books is no smaller!

Yesterday I read Angela Hunt's The Face. No, it hasn't been on my bedside table all that long. In fact, the book was just released Nov 1. I was feeling guilty that I hadn't read it yet, though, and realized that reading only paranormal mysteries this week would probably burn me out. So I have to mix it up a bit and just grabbed. 

The Face is an interesting read for many reasons. First off, Angela Hunt is actually a prolific Christian author, something I knew going in but was only a little worried about. Mira picked up this title, however, so I figured it had to be either more along the thriller lines or the romance lines, and from the synopsis I knew it had to be thriller. The book does have a bit of a message to it. Ok, more than a bit, but it's not obnoxious or anything. Think of it more as a moral message rather than a biblical one. Plus the book got a pretty good review from PW before its release. 

The book deals with quite a few different elements and Hunt has obviously managed to juggle them like a pro. On the one end you have the medical aspects - Treacher Collins syndrome, facial implants, reconstructive surgeries... On the other, you have the CIA as a whole. And finally, there's the technical aspects. Sarah is a computer expert working on programs that require quite a bit of work for a layman to understand. Fortunately, Hunt has done all the work for us in that regard as she lays out the details in a way that even the most technically impaired person can understand with ease. 

Can you tell I'm not a Christian reader? I actually have no problem reading books with "messages," books that make you think about moral issues. My problem comes from, however, the fact that I don't want religion shoved down my throat (and I mean not one iota of offense to readers who DO read religious fiction, here). Readers like me,  trust me that you don't have to worry here. 

In The Face, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Sims has lived her entire life locked away at a covert CIA facility in Spain. Born with a life-threatening case of Treacher Collins syndrome, the CIA picked up the tab for surgeries that would allow her to see, hear, and basically survive on her own. The result is a face that has been patched together and is difficult for even her coworkers to look at. 

Renee Carey was fifteen when her beloved older brother died - just two days after losing his wife and baby girl. Or so she thought. Just after her mother's death, Renee receives notice of a storage facility that her mother had been renting. While cleaning it out, Renee discovers a letter that suggests that her niece did not die in childbirth after all, but that she was taken in by a member of the CIA. She applies and eventually gets clearance to meet her long lost niece and is determined to help her to live a normal life and to give her the love and family support she's missed out on all these years. 

Sarah agrees to undergo a very experimental facial implant, but the project that she's been working on, and the case that has consumed her fellow workers at the facility has reached a level of dangerous proportions. Sarah herself, unknown to much of the outside world, may even become a target. 

So, thriller, yes. Story about acceptance and love, yes. Good read? Definitely. It was fast and basically all consuming. I read it in just a matter of hours and really enjoyed it. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

TBR Stack Reading Marathon

Wow, I didn't realize how much that Stephen King cover messes with your eyes!

So, I'm sort of staying true to my attempt to chip away at the massive stack of books I've been hoarding. I did buy three more this weekend, though. Oops. 

Yesterday I read my very first Dirk & Steele book. My sister is in love with this series by Marjorie Liu. I gave her her first one and have bought her all the others since. When I expressed an interest in reading some of them myself, before sending them to her, I was immediately shot down. My orders were to send them to her so that she could read them first and then she would have our mom ship them back to me, and then I could ship them back after I was done. Not very cost effective, eh? Some say I should grow a pair and stick up to my sister. She is only 14 after all. I didn't know how quickly I would get to the books anyway so figured it would be just mean to make her wait that long for them. I'll have my shot at them next time I go home to visit. 

Anywho. I did get the latest one after said sister told me that you don't have to read the series in order. They're about a paranormal detective agency and each book is about a different couple. Some people reappear in other books, but essentially they can kind of be read as stand alones in any order. 

In The Wild Road, a woman wakes up in a smokey room with no memories. There is a not simply stating, "Run," pinned to her jacket and there are three dead bodies on the floor. She does run and ends up bumping into Lannes Hannelore, a man with a secret. Lannes is one of the last remaining gargoyles and he can't tell anyone out of fear that it will endanger himself and others of his kind. Lannes survived a horrific event and has closed himself off to everyone ever since. Now, however, he finds himself compelled to help this woman in spite of warnings from everyone else. 

Wild Road is a steamy read with a great paranormal twist. The fairy-tale quality of this read definitely makes me want to steal the others from little sis asap. Until then, though, I'll have to keep pecking away books I own (and try not to buy anymore! - aside from the new Jeffery Deaver and Stephen King, that is). 

So, if you've been curious about Marjorie Liu's series but afraid to start in the wrong place, your fears can be set aside. It seems there is no wrong place to start at all as long as you start somewhere!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Releases 11/11

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery Deaver - now, I thought he said he would not be doing anymore standalones? Not that I'm complaining 'cause I love all of his stuff!

Just After Sunset by Stephen King - new short story collection from one of the best authors out there!

The Paris Enigma by Pablo de Santis

New on DVD:
Hellboy II
Mister Foe

New reviews up at Bookbitch.com:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron
Blackbird, Farewell by Robert Greer
Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I'm finally reading...

So last week was my Halloween Horror Reading Marathon. These next two weeks will be a marathon of another kind, the paring down of the massive TBR pile. Yep, I find my review stack has shrunk a bit (sniff) and I'll be reading some of my backstock : )

I'm starting with some books that I feel I need to read for a second reason, and that is so that I can consider them for the big box o' books I'll be sending on to the junior junkies shortly. So I'll be reading a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal stuff this week and then will probably change to something else next week. 

First in my pile of "Man it's sad that I haven't read that yet" books is Charlaine Harris's Dead Until Dark, first in the Sookie Stackhouse series. 

Yeah, yeah, vampires in Louisiana, I should have been reading this one since it popped up on shelves in 2001. As best I can tell, there are now 8 books in the series and multiple connected stories in various collections. You can look at the list on Harris's own website here

Unfortunately for my procrastinating and broke self, (a comment in two parts here) I've put off reading this series until after the show has debuted on HBO and I don't have HBO. What I have is a kind person who has recorded some eps for me to watch in the meantime until it comes out on DVD (c'mon OnDemand poc! I would totally pay $1 to "rent" eps on tv). So I have seen some of the show and have a bit of a preconceived notion about the books as far as characters and what may happen. Fortunately I'm finding that the show differs a bit so I'm still pretty surprised, and since I haven't even seen all the eps that have aired yet, I'll continue to be so. 

And since I did a post on the series just before HBO premiered it, you can read more about my general Sookie knowledge here

Hoping to get lots and lots read this weekend (how many times have I said that one before, right?) and I'll keep ya'll posted on my progress. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

To be continued...

Every now and then, there is talk amongst readers about whether they prefer series books or stand-alones. I think it's pretty much a non-issue as far as we readers are concerned, just a matter of curiosity. Throughout the years, I have heard some odd opinions about things readers do and don't like (a preference for whether a book is written in 1st or 3rd person - doesn't bother me and baffles the hell out of me when it bothers others, but... ) but this hasn't really been one of them. 

So why is it the topic of my discussion today, then? Well, because there are a few things about the series/non series issue that I wanted to point out. Just little interesting tidbits and a "new" trend that's resulting.

First off, did you know that, at least in the mystery genre, series books seem to sell better? It seems that publishers and readers want more in regards to getting to know characters and continuing their adventures alongside them. I mean, it's great either way. Can you imagine Janet E. Stephanie Plum appearing in just one book? No! She's too vibrant a character and she's surrounded by too many others that we want to know about. 

But what's happening as a result is that some authors are being "asked" (maybe leaned on a bit more than that word would imply) to turn stand alones into series. The way some are getting around this, and the new trend that's been popping up, is linking characters. The books aren't true series, but a peripheral character in one book may become the main character in the next. 

I recently finished reading Bill Cameron's latest, Chasing Smoke. In Smoke, a detective called Skin Kadash is on leave from the pd while he undergoes cancer treatments and is called in to help on his former partner's current case. 

Cameron was part of 2007's Killer Year. His debut, Lost Dog, was released as part of the Killer Year group and was nominated for a Rocky (best mystery set in the LCC region) and a Spotted Owl (Friends of Mystery) award. Although I snatched up a copy of Lost Dog at LCC this year, it's been waiting patiently in my massive TBR pile! Anyway, Bill guest-posted over at Laura Benedict's blog last month and talked about his new release. He also mentioned that Skin was a side character in Lost Dog

Other authors who do this are, of course, Lisa Gardner and Iris Johansen. They tend to bring back main characters more than once, but if you've noticed, each seemingly stand alone usually has some connection to a core set of characters. Bill calls them related stand alones. 

I love this idea. One of my issues with series (if you can call it an issue) is starting in the middle. Or, more specifically, when you come across an author you've never heard of and you either don't know it's a series or you can't find the first one to start with. Many authors write in such a way that you can start pretty much anywhere and not feel completely lost. When I was 17, I started reading Faye Kellerman. Not knowing which to start with at that point, though, I began with book 3, Milk and Honey. Fortunately, I was intrigued without feeling like I was missing out on something and was able to continue the series in this hodge-podge manner (book 1 was actually out of print at the time). 

I wish more bookstores would take this into consideration when stocking titles, but unfortunately the big boxes don't. If a series is very established, you're less likely to find all of the books in stock. If there are just a few books out, you can probably still find book 1. Case in point, my sister has been reading the Dirk and Steele books by Marjorie Liu (she says I'll have to borrow them AFTER she's done even though I'm the one buying them). I had the latest for her and have been working backwards trying to get her the whole series. After trips to multiple stores and finally special ordering some, I've succeeded. Good luck finding them all on one trip to the same store, though! 

And, with reprints and new covers, it's not always so easy to decipher the print order anymore. A book could have come out in 1990 and show 2006 on the loc page thanks to a recent reprint by a new publisher. 

My recommendation. Try it all anyway! But I love Bill's idea. I think it leaves more room for new readers to discover him. Not to say that I want my Janet E. or Sue Grafton's to change - although you can probably find all of their books in the store and figure out what order they're in : )

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On the fence

I am on the fence about what to post today. Do I post a review of Crichton, an homage to all his great books that I loved? Nah. You can find info on him pretty much everywhere right now. Do I post about the book I was going to post about before I heard about Crichton? Decided not to simply because I'm a bit miffed about my real work at the moment and so am having a hard time being excited about stuff in general (and thanks to the 100 people or so that I called last week, 95% of which missed their freaking deadlines!). 

So, I finally made up my mind and decided to do a sort-of cop out post today. Normally I like to post about things I've read. Things I can make a solid recommendation for because I have first hand knowledge that it's good. Today, I'm going to post about an upcoming title that's being touted as "in the style of Michael Crichton." This way I get to do a Crichton post without doing a Crichton post and it is a book that I am excited to read. 

This January, Penguin is releasing Daemon a debut novel by Danial Suarez, a computer tech expert. Here's the PW review for you:

Originally self-published, Suarez's riveting debut would be a perfect gift for a favorite computer geek or anyone who appreciates thrills, chills and cyber suspense. Gaming genius Matthew Sobol, the 34-year-old head of CyberStorm Entertainment, has just died of brain cancer, but death doesn't stop him from initiating an all-out Internet war against humanity. When the authorities investigate Sobol's mansion in Thousand Oaks, Calif., they find themselves under attack from his empty house, aided by an unmanned Hummer that tears into the cops with staggering ferocity. Sobol's weapon is a daemon, a kind of computer process that not only has taken over many of the world's computer systems but also enlists the help of superintelligent human henchmen willing to carry out his diabolical plan. Complicated jargon abounds, but most complexities are reasonably explained. A final twist that runs counter to expectations will leave readers anxiously awaiting the promised sequel.

Suarez's novel is sitting on my TBR shelf, waiting expectantly for me to read it. I got it a bit by accident and seriously hope it lives up to the expectations. I'll definitely keep you guys posted on it. In the meantime, it's off to decide how best to nag the 95 people yet again. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What the heck is going on these days?

So last week saw the passing of both Tony Hillerman and Elaine Flinn.

Hillerman passed on October 26 and Flinn just the day before. Hillerman, author of the Leaphorn and Chee series (amongst others), was 83. Flinn was the author of the Molly Doyle series. 

Then, October 31, Pulitzer winner Studs Terkel passed away. He was 96.

Now, today I find out that Michael Crichton, 66, passed away yesterday. 

The world will be a sadder place without them all. 

Something Fun

You may recall that I recently attended the Neil Gaiman reading hosted by the Boulder Bookstore as part of their recent anniversary celebration. While there, Gaiman presented clips of the upcoming film based on his children's book Coraline

I attended a movie this weekend that shall remain nameless because it stunk to high heaven. The highlight of the movie, though, was the official teaser trailer for Coraline. I'm currently (although by the time this is posted will be finished with) reading Gaiman's Neverwhere and thought it would be fun to go ahead and post the teaser for you guys to enjoy as well. 

Remember, too, that you can get sneak peaks of Gaiman's novels at Harpercollins.com. Here's the link to Gaiman's page there. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reading taste and the word boring

So, I wanted to post something today about the word "boring" in terms of books. First let me preface by saying that everyone has different taste and considers different things to be entertaining. I get that. I also get that there are some legitimately BORING books out there, I am in no way saying that everything ever written is worth reading. 

So, that being said, let's get on with BORING. I took a film history course in college and I seem to recall my professor talking about his distaste in hearing people describe movies as being boring. If I remember correctly, it was in regards to "classics" versus modern films. At the time I hadn't given it all that much thought, and frequently used the word myself. It, and he, got me thinking and I, in turn, adopted his view in this matter.  

Today, I have transferred this growing irritation with the word to books. It bothers me to no end to hear someone call a book boring. I think because, in terms of the books I've heard it used on, it's more of a testament to the quality of the READER rather than the quality of the book itself. 

Now I don't want to offend anyone, I merely want readers to consider this when saying a book is boring. Why exactly do you find it boring? Most often, when I hear people say this, it's because they feel the book is moving too slowly. It's okay to dislike a book for whatever reason, but I wish that more people would express these reasons rather than throwing it into the catch-all boring category. 

I think this is a direct result of the current trend for fast and immediate video-game-like stimulation. It's sad to think that readers no longer have time for character and plot development in the books that they read. They want constant action and edge-of-your-seat, three page chapters. Too much description loses their attention too quickly and the book is labeled "boring." 

I read my fair share of fluff - quick reads that require no more thought than turning the next page. Simple entertainment for the sake of letting me forget what is going on around me for a few hours. But, I don't want everything I read to be of a lesser quality simply because I can finish it quickly. 

I fear that the number of ADD readers out there who call the quality stuff boring may soon get their way. I don't want publishers to believe that this is the kind of book that the public desires. I don't think, in the end, that readers would be all that happy with the types of books they would have to choose from either. So far, this doesn't seem to be the case, but I ask you as a reader to begin to look at what you read and enjoy, and what you don't, and ponder what exactly it is you dislike about a book. Reconsider that book that you gave up on because you simply didn't have the time for it. You might find, in the end, that it's a much more rewarding read than you expected. 

I guess it goes back to leaving your comfort zone every once in a while, specifically in terms of trying something a little heftier out for size. Now don't run out and buy some critically acclaimed piece of heavy literature that looks impressive on your bookshelf, but if you find that you don't have the time or inclination to read, say Stephen King, or The Historian, try again. It might take a few books before you get the hang of it, but I think it's worth it in the end to have the occasional not so simplistic read on your list. And try to scrap the word boring from your vocabulary, unless it's in terms of watching the stock ticker on tv (not so boring these days, either, is it)!

Alright, off my high horse. 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dan Simmons and Song of Kali

So I literally just finished reading Dan Simmons' Song of Kali and it was fantastic. I do own Ilium and Olympus, but I've discovered that I'm just not much of a science-fiction reader. I've tried, but I haven't yet been able to expand into the genre. I'm sure I will eventually, and those books will be waiting for me when that day comes. Until then, I have all of Simmons' mystery and horror to get me through.

My first Simmons experience was with The Terror (winner of the IHG award for best novel this year!) a horror tale wrapped around the actual story of the failed northwest passage expedition of 1845. It's a doorstopper of a book, but well worth the read. I especially liked the combo horror and historical read.

Song of Kali was a recent purchase I made looking for more horror reads for October. The book itself comes with little in the way of a synopsis, but I had come across a mention of it elsewhere (couldn't possibly tell you where at this point) that caused me to give it a little more attention. It was great. I've been on a hunt for more 70s-80s horror and this one falls smack dab in the middle of that category. Published in 1985, the book has been back in print since the early 90s. It won the World Fantasy Award after its release and marked the beginning of a big winning streak for Simmons - his following title, Carrion Comfort won the Stoker after it's release in 1989 and then Hyperion won the Hugo in '89 as well.

You can read more about Simmons' wins here.

In Song of Kali, poet Bobby Luczak is sent to Calcutta in search of a poet who has been missing and presumed dead for eight years. Reports suggest that not only may the man still be alive, but that there are unpublished works to be found as well. Bobby's wife and infant daughter accompany him on his trip, but Calcutta is by no means tops on the list of family destinations in the 1970s. Luczak begins to suspect that the reports may be part of a scam, but the truth is far more disturbing.

Warning to today's horror fans, Song of Kali is slower to start than say, Richard Laymon. Sticking it through is incredibly rewarding, though, and I highly recommend the read. Unsettling at best, this book will stick with you long after you put it down.

Up next for Simmons is Drood, another doorstopper due out in Feb.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Releases 11/04

Some of the titles hitting shelves this week are:

Divine Justice by David Baldacci

Swallowing Darkness by Laurel K. Hamilton - latest in the Meredith Gentry series

Salvation in Death by JD Robb - #27 in the series

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland - first in the Phoenix Chronicles

New On DVD:
Get Smart
Primeval: Season One (BBC and very worth the watch!)

New reviews up at Bookbitch.com this week:
The Memorist by MJ Rose
The Rats by James Herbert
Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry
Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A guilty pleasure

I can waste hours on the lolcats site. It's no secret that my cats are like my kids. Yep, I am a big cat dork. Join the club, it's a happy place. Thought I'd share this one in particular with you, though. You'll have to hit the link 'cause the post doesn't post correctly here - it cuts off the text and I am too lazy to figure out why right now. Blame it on popcorn lube overload. I feel sick...

Final book in the Halloween Horror Reading Marathon and a Movie Review

So, I started reading the fifth and final book in my Halloween horror binge last night. It is Song of Kali by Dan Simmons. The book won the World Fantasy Award in 1985 when it was released. I'm not too far in so I'll post about it later next week. 

Last night we had a good bit of trick 'r treaters at the house. My other and his friend went out so I was alone watching horror movies and handing out candy. I watched Cold Creek Manor, House of Wax, and then took a break for The Soup before cracking open my 2008 Halloween horror buy (yes, I have to buy a new horror movie each year on to watch on Halloween). This year's purchase was Shiver (Eskalofrio), a Spanish movie directed by Isidro Ortiz. One of the producers, Alvaro Augustin, also produced such films as Transsiberian, The Orphanage, and Pan's Labyrinth

In Shiver, Junio Valverde plays Santi (also plays Santi in Devil's Backbone) a kid who suffers from an allergy to sunlight that forces his mother to move to a small village in northern Spain. The village sits in the mountains and gets significantly less sunlight than the place they were living, so Santi is able to go out during the day and be a normal kid. When a classmate sees something in the woods, Santi and two other kids end up trekking into the woods to find it. One boy ends up dead and Santi is the suspect. DNA testing reveals that he was not the one to kill the boy, but then another man is killed and Santi happens to be nearby yet again. But this time Santi gets a good look at the killer and no one believes him.

I thought this was a great horror flick. It's suspenseful and the acting is great. There's also a nice little twist at the end that could be considered somewhat predictable, but worked for me.