Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Faves, Extended List

It's hard for me to do a best of list considering the fact that I tend to enjoy most everything that I read. Then to narrow the list down to ten is even more difficult. Plus, you add in the fact that I can't possibly read EVERYTHING that comes out, or even everything that I want to read, and you've got a true readers dilemma! 

Just kidding. It's not a terrible spot to be in, having too many good books to read throughout the year. Life could be worse, right? 

So I narrowed the list down to ten, but actually that list is pretty dependent on the mood that I am in when I am doing the narrowing down, if you catch my drift. So here is my extended list of stand-out titles of 2008 (out of the ones I had the chance to read, of course). 

(in no particular order)
1. Ice Trap by Kitty Sewell (debut)
2. Obedience by Will Lavender (debut)
3. City of the Sun by David Levien (debut)
4. The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd (debut)
5. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
6. Rogue by Rachel Vincent
7. Ritual by Mo Hayder
8. Easy Innocence by Libby Fischer Hellman
9. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (debut)
10. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
11. Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (debut)
12. Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall (debut)
13. Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley
14. Duma Key by Stephen King
15. Left to Die by Lisa Jackson
16. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
17. Razor Girl by Marianne Mancusi
18. Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake
19. The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell
20. The Seance by John Harwood
21. Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready
22. Infected by Scott Sigler
23. Calling Mister Lonely Hearts by Laura Benedict
24. The Messenger by Jan Burke


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm Back!

Hi there everyone! I'm back. Thanks to all of you well-wishers, the road trip was fine and spending the holiday with the family was great. I love being able to spend time with my sisters, the Junior Junkies. I just wish that I was closer so that I could see them more. 

The post-op sis is doing great. Helped, in part I'm sure, by the get well gift consisting of My Chemical Romance and the latest Rachel Vincent title. 

Christmas spoils included quite a few cookbooks, I'll have to do some reviewing of those shortly, some Asian cooking stuff so I can make my own magic soup, cozy socks and a new bathrobe to replace the one my cats have wrecked, Fit-flops, a magic bullet, and gift certificates for some of my favorite cooking stores. 

Anyway, I'll be posting my best of 2008 extended list tomorrow and back to regular posts on the first. Hope everyone had a great holiday and stay safe tomorrow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Vacation

Ok, guys. Sorry didn't get any posts ready. My bad. Anyway, I'm heading off on a much needed vacation home for the holidays. Here's hoping it's not totally stressful. In the past 24 hours, the other has gotten temporarily stranded in the Big Apple (and had to pay his own hotel cost, too) and my youngest sister had to have her appendix out. Oh, and today was the parents' anniversary. Sorry to say it was not what they had in mind for their 29th. 

We're supposed to be hitting the road in the am and I am ready to pass out, but still have another 
2 hours before today's delayed flight will arrive (or possibly 3 depending on where you look). Plus I seem to have jacked up my back, probably doing something totally stupid. The thermacare strip isn't doing much in the way of pain relief but the heat is nice!

So again, I apologize for not getting posts ready for while I am gone. See you guys after Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Working Hard or Hardly Working

Based on my appearance here of late it would seem as though I am hardly working. I assure you that is not true, for the most part. I've been desperately trying to get ready for out trip home:

  • An hour and a half oil change that was supposed to take 30 minutes, oh and the snarky receptionist who "helped" me there)
  • A trip to the county clerk's office to take care of registration mess thanks to delayed mail
  • Flight delays out of NYC that have pushed my other a full day behind our schedule. Fortunately the two day delay seems to have been averted
  • Getting kitties and dog ready for surrogate parenting while we are gone
  • Boxing up all of the items I promised I would bring with me for this, that, and the other person
  • And all the while trying to stick to a deadline for work work. 

How do I de-stress? Not with alcohol sadly (or fortunately, however you look at it) since I seem to be allergic. Mostly I take baths, and read, and watch various amusing shows. Since my normal tv is on hiatus at the moment, though, my only real option in the tv arena is in the form of dvd.

So what have I been watching? Well thanks to queue delays on Doctor Who Series 4, I'm finally watching Torchwood. For those who aren't enamored with BBC programming like I am, Torchwood is a spin-off series of Doctor Who (torchwood is an anagram of doctor who). The Torchwood agency is first mentioned in the Queen Victoria/werewolf episode in season 2 of Who. They are an organization that works outside of the police, and now outside of the government as well (see Who episodes 12 and 13 of season 2 and 12 and 13 of season 3 for that progression) that deals specifically with aliens, but also other paranormal stuff. 

It's fun to see all the references to Torchwood and to have met Captain Jack on Who and to now be watching his show. It is much more adult oriented than Who, that's for sure, and it's got some pretty neat storylines. I'm not too far into season one just yet, but last night I watched a fab ep about fairies ("Small Worlds"). "Cyberwoman" will be familiar to Who watchers, as will a certain prized possession of Jack's in "Day One" although what we should surmise about his attachment to it can be left up to the imagination. Overall, it's quite amusing and I'm excited to continue. I could definitely see Gwen as a Doctor companion as well (I like her!). 

There are just two seasons so far on dvd. Season three is set to air and will begin with a story arc that will span the first five eps. Not sure when this season will be airing here in the states, though, so if you want to watch, you'd better start now. 

Ah well, I have to get back to the trip preparation and find something for dinner. I'm  sure my posts will be spotty for the next week, but if I have time I'll get some ready to pre-post before I leave. 

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

At it a while longer

So yesterday I had my paranormal mystery post with some newbies to the trade. Today, though, I'll post some of the guys and gals who have been doing it for a while now. 

I first got into the urban fantasy/paranormal mystery stuff with Kim Harrison's debut, Dead Witch Walking. I love this series because it's so quirky and funny at times. It takes place in the near future after a virus carried by genetically altered tomatoes wipes out a good portion of the human population. After this, the creepy crawlies that have been hidden amongst us come out of the closet. Rachel Morgan works for the supernatural counterpart to the feds and gets fed up with her job. She walks out and opens her own sort of bounty hunting/PI agency with a vamp and a pixie. Her former bosses are none to pleased that she took one of their best agents with her, though, and put a bounty on her head as a result. There are six books to the series now, with seven due out in Feb. 

Course you can't talk about urban fantasy without talking about Laurell K. Hamilton. I have not read her series. I did read the very first book, back when they had the original covers (loved 'em and miss 'em). They have since been repackaged and I believe that as of book 4 or 5 she begins to delve more into the erotic than I prefer. Anyway, Anita Blake (vamps and weres) begins with Guilty Pleasures and is up to book 13 or 14 by now. Merry Gentry (fairies) begins with Kiss of Shadows and is 7 books so far.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are another favorite amongst readers of the genre. You may recall the brief Sci-Fi series that followed this series about a mage (sad to see it go). I've only read book one, but they are kind of the male equivalent to Kim Harrison's Hollows books (Jim's series did start before Kim's was published). Book one is Storm Front in which Harry Dresden is called in to assist in a murder investigation that seems to show evidence of black magic. There are now eleven books in this series. 

Others that have been around a while (but sadly I have not yet read) include Tanya Huff who's Blood Books have spawned the Blood Ties series, Kelly Armstrong's Women of the Underworld (debuted 2004), and Charlain Harris' Southern Vampire series debuted in 2001 (Dead Until Dark has been reprinted with the True Blood cover).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mysteries with a Twist

I love that paranormal is all the craze these days. There are paranormal romances, paranormal mysteries, urban fantasies, you name it, it's a great combination in my book. I could probably post about a dozen different recs blogs on this trend alone! 

Here are just some of the ones that I would suggest stuffing readers' stockings with this holiday season, though!

Rachel Vincent's Shifters series should be on every paranormal mystery fans reading list, without question. Just two books in with book three due out in the Spring and this is by far one of my favorite new authors. Stray made the Booksense (now indiebound) list when it debuted in '07 - this means that independent booksellers around the country voted it one of the best books coming out that month. How freaking cool is that considering it's about werecats? Rogue had a totally killer ending that will leave you waiting with baited breath for Pride when it hits shelves in March, just enough time to catch up! They're cool and edgy and way different from anything else on the market right now in terms of subject. 

Another of my new faves is Jennifer Rardin. Her Jaz Parks series is like Buffy meets Alias in my opinion. There are four books to the series so far with book five hitting shelves Jan 5 (can you say, gift certificate?). Jaz is a fed who works with an elite force of paranormal specialists. Her partner, Vayl, is an uber-mysterious Romanian vamp who puts his powers to good use in hunting down evil supernatural beings. There's gadgets and crazy spy tools on top of wonderfully original beings, some of which could be straight out of a del Toro flick. The books, in order, are Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Another One Bites the Dust, Biting the Bullet, Bitten to Death, and the upcoming One More Bite.

A few years back, Lilith Saintcrow quietly made her debut, slipping onto the urban fantasy scene at the upstart. But then something happened, the genre became huge and the Hachette Book Group launched their amazingly wonderful Orbit imprint. The powers that be snatched up Saintcrow's latest Dante Valentine titles and repackaged (new covers) the whole series for newbie fans like me. There are just five books to Dante's adventures (plus at least one short story about a peripheral character) and now Saintcrow is onto new tales with Jill Kismet. These are super fun. The heroines are feisty and have bad tempers, the worlds are super cool, too. Dante lives in a way in the future but strangely like the present world with some futuristic twists. Kismet has some powers that are still not even clear to her. Fun stuff and great character development. 

Another super original series (think Heroes meets X-Men and it's all in Vegas) is Vicki Pettersson's Zodiac series. When I read The Scent of Shadows, I had no idea what kind of ride I was in for. Like Vincent's books, these were a big and welcome surprise for me, reading wise. I never tire of the same old stuff, but I always want something new as well and Pettersson did that for me. I can't gush about these books enough, it's just that it's so super cool. In fact, I find myself watching Heroes and thinking how much better it would be if it were more like Pettersson's stories (sorry, Heroes, I still love you). Scent is followed by Taste of Night and Touch of Twilight.  

And finally, Jocelynn Drake made her Dark Days debut this year with Nightwalker. To tell you too much about this one would be to give away the fantastic surprise that awaits you. There are vamps and that's all I'm going to say (although you can read more in my review in the Bookbitch archives). It's a great twist and a wonderful addition to the urban fantasy world that you should definitely start now. Book 2, Dayhunter, is due out in April. 

Agh, like I said, there are just so many out there. I'll follow up with a couple more paranormal posts, one for romance and one for older titles (Kim Harrison for example) as well as one for some miscellaneous paranormals I've come across lately. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Year's Best

The Year's Best lists are now up at Bookbitch.com. Head over and check them out. I'll be giving you a list of my extended favorites before the end of the year. It was super hard for me to narrow it down to just 10 this year, but it had to be done. 

New Releases 12/16 and 12/23

Slow week in the book world, so I'm combining this week and next!

Hitting shelves this week is the prequel to Perri O'Shaughnessy's long-term series. Show No Fear goes back to Nina Reilly's first case. I love prequels because it gives people like me a chance to jump into a "new" series. 

Next week is only slightly better thanks to some end of the month mass markets that are coming out - they're always available early. So, week of 12/23 watch for:

Need by Carrie Jones - a new teen thriller about a girl who collects phobias

Inevitable Sentences by Tekla Dennison Miller - a thriller from a local Coloradoan

Kiss of a Traitor by Cat Linder - historical romance

6 Seconds by Rick Mofina - on my bedside table as we speak

Judas Kiss by JT Ellison - topping Mofina's on my bedside table! Run, run, run out and get this one!

Talk me Down by Victoria Dahl - contemporary romance 

Black Cathedral by Maynard and Sims - horror!

Risk Factor by Charles Atkins - a thriller in a psych ward

New on DVD:
The Traitor
Mama Mia
The House Bunny
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The Women

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:

Slow week for me, The Reach by Nate Kenyon

Crazy, crazy

So my other is back in the big apple for work again and I am stuck dealing with the deadbeat roomie all alone and getting things ready for the big holiday trip home. Needless to say it's been nuts because I still have work stuff of my very own to finish up as well. Agh!

I'll try to catch up to a few posts today and get on the ball with this week's posts as well. Today, to continue the holiday shopping help (in the book arena, anyway) I've got some psychic detective recommendations!

It's a new trend that I have been snatching up when I find it. Why? Because I never get sick of seeing how someone new will handle the topic. 

Terri Persons tops my list with her two releases, Blind Spot and Blind Rage. In the series, FBI Agent Bernadette Saint Claire has the ability to touch an item that was handled by the killer and see through his eyes. It could be past, or present, or even dreams that she sees, but the goal is to help learn his identity. Oh, and there's a nice little twist on her power at the very end of Spot that was pretty cool as well. I like this series because Bernadette is an investigator first. She tries to keep her ability secret because it often earns her ridicule wherever she goes. 

Another one that's been getting rave reviews is George D. Shuman and his Sherry Moore books. 18 Seconds was utterly fantastic. Sherry can touch the dead and see the final 18 seconds of their life/thoughts. Sherry is also blind. 18 was followed by Last Breath and this year's Lost Girls.

Another one that I really like is Stephen Woodwoth's violet series. There are just four books to the series (Through Violet Eyes, With Red Hands, In Golden Blood, and From Black Rooms). The violets are born with violet eyes and have different abilities. Some channel artists and musicians to create new works and others, like Natalie Lindstrom, channel the dead and help authorities find killers. The books are all still available through Amazon. 

And finally, the only one that I have yet to read, Dianne Emley also hit shelves right when Shuman and Persons did. The First Cut is about LAPD cop Nan Vining who can hear the dead after a near-death experience. Looks like they're getting ready for some repackaging as First Cut will finally be released in paperback in December. Book two, Cut to the Quick, appears to be coming out in paperback in January and will be followed by The Deepest Cut in hardcover in February.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Women Do It Just As Well

So the other day I showcased some thriller recommendations for this holiday season, and they were all by men. Today, I'm letting the women shine. I don't think anyone in this day and age would say that there is much of anything out there that women can't do just as well as men. In fact, in this case some of my very favorite thriller authors are women who have no fear at all in going to the deepest and darkest places in writing that I have ever seen. 

Meg Gardiner is a newbie to the US scene is, but has been published for years in her adopted home overseas. She made her stateside debut this year with Dirty Secrets Club and reprints of her original series that began with China Lake. Stephen King raved about her in EW and now you should all find out why.

Another debut (debut debut, not just here) this year that stood out for me was Kitty Sewell's Ice Trap. In the book, a doctor receives a letter from a girl claiming to be his father. Problem is, he can't remember ever having been with the mother in the first place. It's a one-sitting-read, trust me. Look for Kitty's next book in sprin '09.

Of course, my fave in the genre is the incredible Mo Hayder. I have to take every opportunity I can to recommend her books because they are so utterly fantastic. Not for the faint of heart, though. She's extremely graphic, something that has earned her some criticism but also praise in the book world. Devil of Nanking (aka Tokyo) and Pig Island are stand alones. Birdman, Treatment, and Ritual can be read alone or as a series (in that order).

Finally, not a debut author but a new one on my radar is Libby Fischer Hellman. She has an existing series, but debuted a new heroine this year with Easy Innocence, a book that will really open your eyes to the world of today's urban teen (I sincerely hope that most of the country is not living like Hellman's girls). 

So check these out for yourself, if you haven't read them yet, and buy them for your thriller readers. They'll love you for it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Want Free Books For Christmas?

Who doesn't, right? Bleak House is giving away free books this Christmas. There are a couple of catches, though. First, you have to send your requests via e-mail. You can send multiple requests, but only one title per e-mail. Second, the books are on a first come first serve basis and there are limited quantities of the titles. Third, and this is the most important, pass it along when you're done. It's that simple. You get the book for the price of the shipping ($6-8). 

Here's the link with the instructions: http://bleakhousebooks.com/freebooks.htm

A Gift to Share

I love to cook and around Christmas time, I break out my holiday cookie recipes. It's not to say that I can't or won't make these year round, but that I HAVE to make them at Christmas without fail. Each year I make my Hershey Kiss cookies (they're not peanut butter) and then I play around with different cookie recipes that I want to try. A couple of years ago, though, in the midst of a blizzard, I found a new cookie recipe that has been added to my HAVE TO HAVE list. 

They aren't an original (haven't quite figured out how to make original cookie recipes since there's so much dependent on exact measurements!) but they have been modified to my liking. First thing was that the recipe only made about 1 dozen cookies and I like them way too much to only have 12 per batch! Course the number you get out of the recipe is completely dependent on the size of your cookies. I do mine in about 1 1/2 inch balls so I was able to squeeze about 3 dozen out of the recipe as it will appear here. 

Second change I made was that the recipe called for chopped walnuts. I actually pound mine in a mortar and pestle (or you could use a coffee grinder for uniform crumbs) so that they fit better with the sandy texture that I like (the originals are less like a sandy). 

So here they are:

Cardamon Walnut Sandies

12 cardamom pods
 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon almond extract (actually just shy of a teaspoon)
2/3 cups chopped walnuts, ground fine

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Crush the cardamom pods to remove seeds and discard the husk. In a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, grind the seeds to make a powder. In a medium bowl, mix the butter, confectioners' sugar, and flour until the batter becomes coarse crumbs (not long). Add in the cardamom, almond, and finely ground walnuts and mix briefly to combine. The mixture will still be crumbly and that is ok. Roll the dough into balls of desired size and place 2 inches apart on the greased cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

I love them! They are very heavy on the cardamom, so if you don't like this particular spice you probably won't like the cookies. They have a sandy consistency that's light and really makes you think you're not eating as many as you really are (true confession, I can't handle a lot of sweets but I scarf these down like there is no tomorrow).

I live at high altitude (the lowest HIGH level) and have no trouble with these so if you also live at HA, you shouldn't have to make any adjustments. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

But What About the Thriller Readers?

Don't feel left out, I read a ton of thrillers. The trouble is finding the best grouping for certain readers. I know a lot of people out there are big James Patterson fans (I've not read him for years) and you're always looking for something else to read or something else to get that special someone who's light keeps you up all night. So, for the Patterson (and all thriller fans), here are some recommendations. 

Linwood Barclay is one all thriller fans should try. Barclay has been around for a while, but last year's No Time For Goodbye was the book that attracted the most attention. Twenty-five years ago, Cynthia Bigge's entire family disappeared. Now, on that tragic anniversary, Cynthia is finally appearing in television to talk about that horrible night in hopes that it will finally bring her some closure and answers. Talk about a page-turner! Barclay's latest release, Too Close to Home, is in the same vein and is out in hardcover now. 

Bill Floyd's debut, The Killer's Wife, is an absolute can't miss for any thriller fan out there. Nina Mosely/Leigh Wren has worked hard to get herself and her son far from the overbearing shadow of her husband's heinous crimes. It doesn't matter that she had no idea what her husband was doing or that she was the one who turned him in when she finally did discover his actions. Someone out there believes that she should pay for her husband's actions as well. This stunning and emotional read is a guaranteed up-all-night read. 

David Levien's City of the Sun was one of my favorites for 2008. When Jamie Gabriel disappears on his paper route one morning, his parents are at their wits end trying to figure out what to do. In a last ditch effort, they hire PI Frank Behr. After over a year of no progress, Behr comes in and immediately begins to uncover clues the police have missed. Not sure when Levien will have another one hitting shelves, but you can bet I'll be first in line to buy when it does!

Then there's Brian Freeman. He's only three books into his series, but after his debut, Immoral, he jumped onto my annual must buy list (authors with yearly releases that I MUST have). Immoral was a little different from other books of its kind. The story is essentially broken in half. In the beginning, Lt. Jonathan Stride is investigating the disappearances of two teenage girls in Duluth. It's captivating, to be sure, but then, mid-book, the whole thing jumps ahead and to another locale, Las Vegas. This trick made the book a truly memorable one for me, and my favorite in the series so far (but they're all good). Immoral is followed by Stripped and Stalked. Book four, In the Dark, is due out next spring.

For the Somewhat Literary Minded

I read a lot of fluff. Fluff is great. It's perfect escapism, especially when you need something to take your mind off of the day to day mess around you. Occasionally, though, I do venture into the more serious literary corners of the reading world. And I even like it. Here are a few of my more literary reads (most with some sort of mystery twist, though).

First up is Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. This is a book for true book people. On his tenth birthday, Daniel Sempere's father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He tells his son that he is to pick one book from the cemetery and that he is to be the guardian of that book from here on out. The book Daniel chooses is Julian Carax's Shadow of the Wind. The boy falls in love with the book, but when he seeks out other works by Carax, he discovers that the man is a virtual unknown. Not only that, but what is known about him is shrouded in mystery. As Daniel grows older, he becomes even more determined to learn more about this strange figure. Shadow of the Wind is, and will probably always remain, one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It's dark and gothic and atmospheric and utterly addicting. 

Next up, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This is the tale of two magicians in an age when magic is pretty much gone. It's very Victorian in style and even features footnotes (enough to drive the average reader mad until you discover the little gems found there - Clarke's own fairy tales). I loved this book. Sure, I was very intimidated by the size of this whopper, but it's well worth the read, trust me!

Finally, there's Elizabeth Kostova's Historian. A book about Dracula that had even the biggest book snob reading about vampires. Four years in the making and well worth all of the hype. It does have a slower pace, but is very gothic in tone, so if your reader enjoys things like Jane Eyre, they should like this one. The book is about three generations searching for the truth behind the legend of Dracula. It begins with a teenage girl who discovers a strange book that begins her on her own search. She soon find that her father and his mentor also began the same journey many years ago. Packed full of fascinating historical facts and vivid imagery, this is a stand-out novel for me and is another one that makes my top 10 list of all-time faves. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Releases 12/09

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week include:

The Suicide Collectors by David Oppegaard - a dark debut that's a fantastic read

Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis - a new UK mystery from a "new" author (his debut is not available here in the states)

Treasure by Iris Johansen

New on DVD:
The Dark Knight
Horton Hears a Who

New reviews up at Bookbitch.com:
Suicide Collectors
Bad Traffic
Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mysteries with a historical twist

Some people like historical fiction and some people don't. Personally, I rather enjoy those mysteries and thrillers that have a historical edge to them. Makes me, a rather bad history student, feel like I am learning something. Now these are not all based around an actual historical event, most are instead set in a time period other than the present with historical fact and research to support accuracy. 

I know I talked about Ariana Franklin's series yesterday, but my first of her books (and the first title under that name - she has written under a different name in the past) was a book called City of Shadows. I was lucky enough to get a manuscript prior to printing and loved it. I was raving about it to customers preparing them for the release for months. It's a mystery/thriller based around actual events and the woman, Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Anastasia. A fabulous book that I highly recommend. Loved the twist at the end even if I did see it coming.

Another absolute favorite from recent years is Deanna Raybourn's series (trilogy I believe) which began with Silent in the Grave, in which our heroine Julia Grey investigates the death of her husband with the help of the mysterious Nicolas Brisbane. Their story continues in Silent in the Sanctuary and the upcoming Silent on the Moor. These will appeal to readers who also like a bit of romance in their mysteries (who doesn't?) and are set in Victorian times. Super fast, super fun reads that are not to be missed by any mystery fan. For more on Grave go here

Similar to Raybourn is Tasha Alexander. Her debut Victorian mystery, And Only To Deceive is also about a widow investigating her husband's death. Emily Ashton didn't really have time to get to know her husband before he died and tries to learn more about her late partner by studying his love of antiquities. Of course this lands her in a heap of trouble as there was more to Mr. Ashton's hobby than she could have expected. Don't be fooled, these don't exactly fit in the cozy category. 

And off to a different time period, there is the recently released Nox Dormienda, a "Roman Noir" and the first in a new series to feature Arcturus, the governor's doctor. He's a sort of Roman PI. This was a super fast and interesting mystery. Kelli Stanley has a second installment waiting in the wings and I can't wait to read it. You can read more about Nox Dormienda here.

Similarly, Jeri Westerson also made her debut this year with Veil of Lies, a "medieval noir" featuring a tracker (PI) and ex-knight. This one is sitting on my bedside table for me to read this week. Westerson was at LCC (as were Stanley and Alexander) and spoke about how fascinated she was by her chosen time period and how much research she devoted to her debut. 

Any and all of these reads are great for mystery fans looking for something new (everyone is looking for something new, eh?). I'd recommend any one of them to a reader, but you might want to consider the time in which they take place per the reader's tastes. Franklin's is a contemporary historical, Raybourn and Alexander are both Victorian, Stanley's title takes place in 1st century AD, and Westerson's title is set in the fourteenth century. 

Happy reading and buy more books!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Forensics are all the rage

Ever since CSI hit the screen back in 2000, forensics have become the biggest thing to his crime drama in ages. We've moved pas the grizzled detective who stands on his own and doest things a little less than by the books. PIs are still cool, in books anyway, but forensics is where it's at. 

Patricia Cornwell is probably the most well known author in this subject. I've read most of hers and love the early ones, but am not alone in having been very disappointed in her later books. She's still a guaranteed bestseller, though, and new readers are discovering her everyday. As I said, the early ones are amazing and well worth the read. Post Mortem is the first and was really unlike anything else I had read at that point. It is followed by: Body of Evidence, All That Remains, and Cruel and Unusual. To see more, visit her site here.  

Next up is Kathy Reichs. I liken her to early Cornwell, and have been a fan since around 2000 - when I ran out of Cornwell to read. I really enjoy this series. Tempe is brilliant and the early books switch off between Canada and the US, which gives them a great and original atmospheric element that I really like. Where Kay Scarpetta is an ME, Reichs's Tempe Brennan is a forensic anthropologist (a bit different from her tv counterpart, but I love the show as well). At eleven books thus far, Reichs has claimed her spot as a favored in the mystery genre. The series begins with (Deja Dead, Death du Jour, Deadly Decisions, and Fatal Voyage). For a complete list of Reichs's titles, visit her site and hit "my books." 

Now, many mystery fans have already read both of the above series. I do have a couple you may not have heard of, however.

First up is Lori Andrews. Her Alex Blake series began with Sequence and was followed by Silent Assassin and this year's Immunity. Blake is a doctor working for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Her work is focused on mapping the genomes of various deadly viruses in hopes of creating cures, but the head of the institute has different ideas about how they can best use her expertise. She ends up getting pulled into the hunt for a serial killer in book one and that's just the beginning of her involvement in some truly exciting adventures. I love this series because, as with Reichs, Andrews's science is accurate thanks to her expertise in genetics and law. Check out her website here.  

Another newbie to the subject who's work I really enjoy is Simon Beckett. He's only got two books in his David Hunter series under his belt thus far, but Chemistry of Death and Written in Bone have pushed the man onto my absolute must read list. Hunter is also an anthropologist and the series is based in the UK. And here's a link to Beckett's site where you can learn more. I highly recommend that you run out and buy Chemistry, though, as I think you'll fall in love with it like I did. 

Finally, Ariana Franklin has a truly original series based around forensics that takes place during medieval times and features a female doctor from Italy. The series began with Mistress of the Art of Death and continues in The Serpent's Tale and the upcoming Grave Goods

And sure, there are a ton of others out there. Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli and Isles series is a great one and Jefferson Bass (Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson) have a series based around the body farm that's just three book in so far. Any and all of these ware great for anyone who loves a good forensic mystery.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Looking for Adventure

I know a lot of people have been searching for the "next Da Vinci Code." It's always great to find a new author and a new book that you enjoy, but trying to find something comparable when you're still in the mood for said book can be difficult if you don't know where to look. I tend to be a spur of the moment binge buyer and have probably purchased about 75% of the DVC wannabes that have since been released. Digging through that stack to find some great adventure novels can be daunting. Rather than cull through the wannabes, here are some other adventure novels you might enjoy (most having nothing to do at all with the holy grail!). I also thought that with Angels & Demons set for theatrical release in the coming year, and Christmas gift season upon us, that this would be a good time to make some action packed adventure recs. 

First up is Steve Berry's Charlemagne Pursuit (or pretty much any Steve Berry for that matter). Charlemagne is due out in hardcover tomorrow and I've got about 100 pages left to read of mine. I love it. It's been keeping me up way past my bedtime these past couple of nights (work has interfered with my CP reading!). Cotton Malone makes his fourth appearance in this new release (first showed up in Templar Legacy). I think this is my favorite Berry thus far. It has to do with a sort of Atlantis type lost society and expeditions to Antarctica - one that led to Malone's father's death - in search of said society. Super fun!

I would also recommend early Matt Reilly. I loved Ice Station, Temple, and Contest. They were about a possible space ship discovery in the Arctic, a meteorite that had the power to be used in a massively powerful weapon, and an intergalactic gladiator event, respectively. Again, fun, fast, and blockbuster movie quality reads. These are my faves, but he's got many more. 

You can't miss James Rollins. Most recently, his books have tied into the Six Sigma group, but earlier releases are complete stand alones (they're all great). My favorite will probably always be my very first, Deep Fathom, another ancient civilization read. Ice Hunt is another that really impressed me and deals with yet another icy expedition. Noticing some themes here with me?

And finally, there's Jack du Brul. My first was actually the third or possibly fourth book starring geologist Philip Mercer (I can't remember exactly). At that point they could really be read in any order, though. Pandora's Curse dealt with the search for a Nazi treasure. I've yet to finish reading all of these, but they do start with Vulcan's Forge

So, if you're looking for something exciting and easy to get lost in, these are the books for you. They're especially good for guys who don't read much - they aren't complicated and there's enough action to keep them interested if they generally have trouble getting into a big read.