Monday, February 28, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

River Marked by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She's never known any others of her kind. Until now.  An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-one that her father's people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help..."

Mercy Thompson book six! Yeah! Just you wait till tomorrow to see how jazzed I am. I'm so jazzed, I'm not even ashamed of using that lame word!

The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Published by: DAW
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 1008 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view — a story unequaled in fantasy literature. Now in THE WISE MAN’S FEAR, Day Two of The Kingkiller Chronicle, an escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King's Road.

All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived...until Kvothe.

In THE WISE MAN’S FEAR, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time."

I met Pat Rothfuss at Wiscon last year. He was really cool and I can't wait to see him again promoting the new Kingkiller book. See George R. R. Martin, books can come out in a timely fashion!

Demon Glass by Rachel Hawkins
Published by: Hyperion
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Acher to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?"
New book in the Hex Hall series which looks like tons of fun.

Green-Eyed Demon by Melissa Marr
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Things to do:

1. Rescue sister.

2. Murder grandmother.

3. Don't upset the voodoo priestess.

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. Her sister has been kidnapped by her grandmother, the Dark Races are on the brink of war, and a mysterious order is manipulating everyone behind the scenes.

Working on information provided by an unlikely ally, Sabina and her trusty sidekicks--a sexy mage named Adam Lazarus and Giguhl, a Mischief demon--head to New Orleans to begin the hunt for her sister. Once there, they must contend with belligerent werewolves, magic-wielding vampires and--perhaps most frightening of all--humans.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won't be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about most, she must save herself from the ghosts of her past."

I've heard this recommended for everyone from fans of Gail Carriger to Patricia Briggs to Charlaine Harris. I really am going to give this series a try!

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"This inventive fantasy from bestseller Fforde (The Eyre Affair) imagines a screwball future in which social castes and protocols are rigidly defined by acuteness of personal color perception. Centuries after the cryptically cataclysmic Something That Happened, a Colortocracy, founded on the inflexible absolutes of the chromatic scale, rules the world. Amiable Eddie Russett, a young Red, is looking forward to marrying a notch up on the palette and settling down to a complacent bourgeois life. But after meeting Jane G-23, a rebellious working-class Grey, and a discredited, invisible historian known as the Apocryphal man, Eddie finds himself questioning the hitherto sacred foundations of the status quo. En route to finding out what turned things topsy-turvy, Eddie navigates a vividly imagined landscape whose every facet is steeped in the author's remarkably detailed color scheme. Sometimes, though, it's hard to see the story for the chromotechnics."

Literally one of my favorite books of 2009! Perhaps one of my favorite books ever. Just so inventive and amazing and British. Just go buy it now, really go now. Need more convincing? I will agree with you though that I'm not too sure about this cover... the guy looks like an elephant, though I can gaurantee, no elephants are in this story!

The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"At the ripe old age of thirty-two, former wild child Isabel "Izzy" Spellman has finally agreed to take over the family business. And the transition won't be a smooth one. First among her priorities as head of Spellman Investigations is to dig up some dirt on the competition, slippery ex-cop Rick Harkey--a task she may enjoy a little too much. Next, faced with a baffling missing-persons case at the home of an aging millionaire, Izzy hires an actor friend, Len, to infiltrate the mansion as an undercover butler--a role he may enjoy a little much. Meanwhile, Izzy is being blackmailed by her mother (photographic evidence of Prom Night 1994) to commit to regular blind dates with promising professionals--an arrangement that doesn't thrill Connor, an Irish bartender on the brink of becoming Ex-boyfriend #12.

At Spellman headquarters, it's business as unusual. Doorknobs and light fixtures are disappearing every day, Mom's been spotted crying in the pantry, and a series of increasingly demanding Spellman Rules (Rule #27: No Speaking Today) can't quite hold the family together. Izzy also has to decipher weekly "phone calls from the edge" from her octogenarian lawyer, Morty, as well as Detective Henry Stone's mysterious interest in rekindling their relationsh...well, whatever it was. Just when it looks like things can't go more haywire, little sister Rae's internship researching pro bono legal cases leads the youngest Spellman to launch a grassroots campaign that could spring an innocent man from jail--or land Rae in it. The Spellmans Strike Again is hands down the most hilarious, thrilling, and moving book in this bestselling, award-nominated series. And it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Isabel Spellman, no matter how much she matures, will never be able to follow Rule #1: Act Normal."

Yet another of the best book of last year. Grab this one because it's going to be a year till be get Trail of the Spellmans... but at least we have Heads You Lose to look forward to.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Addys

If you're a reader of my blog you're pretty sure in the knowledge of my love of books. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm obsessed with them! You know it, I know it, everyone is assured of this fever that grips me, especially workers at local bookstores. This blog is one of the many ways I express my love of the written word. But there are other ways! Oh yes, dear readers. Now, I'm not talking interpretive dance, which I would be awful at, but art, which I am good at. Some of you who've gotten to know me better through this lovely thing called the internet know that this blog is just my little side project, my little bit of fun, while what I really do is Graphic Design. After slogging through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and getting out with a BS in Art and a BA in Theatre, I realized that I didn't actually have any marketable skills, what with not knowing how to work a computer. Hence I went back to school at our wonderful technical college and now I have some wicked skills and some outlets for my bookishness. I don't always make my projects about books, it sometimes just happens, just like you just happen to breath. Books are in my blood and I need to express this, and what better way then through art.

As it turns out, my weird book obsession has paid off. Every year the design community gets together and has a big awards show, it's called the Addys, and it's the closest thing we've got to the Oscars, but sadly no Colin Firth. You submit your work and are judged. You are awarded either a Silver or a Gold medal, there is no 3rd best. There are three tiers to the competition, local, regional and national. The local is today! And I've WON! I've won five times and I am over the moon. The pieces are here before you, and yes, they all have a book theme, as I'm sure you've guessed. The piece above is about the wonders of reading and is a Public Service Announcement that would be targeted to entertainment magazines that would encourage parents to read to their kids versus letting the television do it for them. This would be the first in a series of books that were also made into famous movies... I think after The Wizard of Oz, it might be time to show a little love for Alice in Wonderland.

This piece here is a glamour spread for an annual report. Annual reports are sent out by a company to their investors to show how they've done in the previous fiscal year. There's charts and graphs and what have you. I chose to do mine on Penguin Publishing, surprise, surprise. I also got the comment from my teacher that he would never let me near any of his copies of Charles Dickens because of what I did to mine, aka, the little penguin on the page. But let me ease your fears, I did not deface a book that could have been read. I went to my local bookstore and searched through old penguin books, because it just HAD to be a penguin book. I found an old copy of David Copperfield that was barely held together any longer, the pages were falling out. But falling out pages was just what I needed! So rest assured, I took a book and gave it new life, I did not murder it!

What I am most proud of, though, is my series of Elizabeth Gaskell DVDs. My teacher is a huge movie fan, and a fan of the movies The Criterion Collection releases. For our final project, we had to choose three related movies and make DVD covers for all three, be it director based or theme based. The thing with The Criterion Collection is that they mainly do off beat or foreign films, in other words, something that is not the typical release. I chose the three awesome miniseries that the BBC has done of Elizabeth Gaskell's books, Wives and Daughters, North and South and Cranford, and not just because getting to rewatch them counted as homework, though that was quite nice, but because I hated these DVDs original packaging too. I wanted to harken back to the old style of Masterpiece Theatre posters that had the elegance of the time period as well as many little things that only those who've read the books or watched the miniseries would pick up on. Utilizing Illustrator, I did all the drawings myself in my trusty computer. For this cover, I have Cynthia, as played by the wonderful Keeley Hawes, the queen bee of the narrative... I mean at one time she's juggling four different suitors! The quote on the back says: "No come on, you can’t go trying to match her eyes like a draper." The remainder of the quote is that Cynthia is Roger's lodestone, hence, I have named this illustration, The Lodestone.
 
For my second piece I have Margaret Hale as played by Daniela Denby-Ashe. As you can see, she has just suffered an injury at the hands of the strikers and holds a newspaper, which details, not only the strike, but the threat of Irish workers and the love of the home she left behind. The background is of cotton, because when she first enters Thronton's Marlborough Mills she says: "I believe I have seen hell and it’s white. It’s snow-white." Not only did this piece win an award as part of the DVD set, the illustration of Margaret also won a separate award. And not to slight Cynthia, this is my favorite of the three.

For my final piece I have Cranford depicted as Miss Deborah Jenkyns as played by the wondrous Eileen Atkins. I don't think I captured her as well in the face as the others because you don't immediately think that it's her. Though I do love how it turned out, in particular the lace (which kept crashing my computer), because "this is no occasion for a sport!There’s lace at stake!" This also won an award as a separate illustration.
 
So there you go! A little look into how my mind works. I should say how my bookworm infested mind works. But all in all, it should be a fun night out! My friends also won awards and I have a nifty new dress, think Edwardian Downton meets just the slightest hint of flapper. Because a period-esque dress was a must.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels

First Among Sequels: Thursday Next Novel the 5th by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: January 24th, 2007
Format: Hardcover, 362 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

A lot has changed in the twelve years since we last saw Thursday Next. She now is the star of five books, the first four being very well received due to the sex and violence, while the touchy-feely fifth book is remaindered. But not that her being a star of books matters with the continuing plummet of outland reader rates. The world has changed, why read books when there's reality tv suited for those with short attention spans. The world Thursday knew and loved is gone. Bookstores are more likely to have video games and coffee shops than any books. The new and efficient government has made Spec Ops obsolete as a government entity. So Thursday runs a carpeting business that's a front for her old Spec Ops unit, which is run on proceeds from illegal cheese sales, which in itself is a front for still working at Jurisfiction. None of which she tells her husband, Landen. The years are catching up to Thursday, even book jumping is harder and harder. She has two teenagers, one of which is a sullen boy who should have joined the Chronoguard awhile back to assure the future and the discovery of time travel, but of course, try telling a teenager that the world depends on him actually leaving his bed. Not to mention a big old baddie from the past shows up. Felix8. Aornis Hades might know what's going on, as unlike other members of the Hades family, she's easy to access seeing as she's being detained in an eight minute time loop at a check out lane at T.J. Maxx. Of course, villains rarely agree to help.

While in the book world Thursday is training both her book counterparts, the leather clad Thursday1-4 and the patchouli loving Thursday5. Neither of which will ever make a good agent. Thursday5 has a sweet heart, but she almost got Thursday killed by the Minotaur. Whereas Thursday1-4 is nothing but bad news, dropping a piano right into the plot of Jane Austen's Emma. Also there are signs that Goliath, the evil mega corporation, is working once again on breaking into books. Traffic between the two worlds is a no no. The crashing together of the two worlds, fiction with reality, could tear the very fabric of the book world apart. And that's just what the current government wants to do. They want to take Pride and Prejudice and make it a reality show. But not just any reality show, one within the book, so once changed, the story will be changed forever and one of the classics will be gone, never to return. Of course, they're not thinking of the bigger picture. What with government stupidity, corporate pigheadedness and death threats on characters within the bookworld, besides Thursday herself, it's a wonder that anything turns out right.

After getting to the final page in this book I have to say I'm glad I waited to read it till I had the next book in hand. The bigger conspiracy working within the bookworld that is targeting Thursday, and other characters, such as Temperance Brennan, making a much needed cameo, is starting to pick up speed and the pieces from all five of the current stories seem to be weaving together to create a larger threat. While the plot was still extremely convoluted and filled with techno babble, the little literary in jokes, not to mention the return of the bookworld, made this a far more enjoyable read than the previous installment. Mrs. Bennet needing to be restrained in a closet, the real reason for the appearance of the piano in Emma, to Bones' cameo in the back story of a P.G. Wodehouse novel were pure delight to my bookworm brain. Also the true meaning of what "T.J. Maxx" stands for is priceless, whereas the real reason for Aornis' imprisonment is heartbreaking.

The one thing I really didn't like though is the person Thursday has become. What with three very different incarnations of her walking about the pages of this book, you realize that yes, you don't want the two written extremes, but you don't really want the real Thursday either. She's a workaholic, she lies to the man she fought tooth and nail to have reactualized, and she does illegal dealings in order to keep this on track, all the while leaving other people to clean up her mess. She has not aged that gracefully, even if she can still kick ass, you have to ask, at what expense? And on a final note, the falling reader rates and the lack of book sales rings sadly true, what with Borders declaring bankruptcy, and while giving the book a poignancy, it brings such a sadness to me. I asked for a little literary escapism, to literal truths.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Madame Tussaud Winner!

Once again, thanks to all you who entered. I would love to lavish you all with copies of this wonderful book. But alas, I can't. Thanks to my magic eight ball that is random.org, the lucky winner is Carol M! Congrats Carol, soon you'll be in the thick of Revolutionary France, sadly not the modern day France that you crave, but you can pretend!

Book Review - Jennifer Lee Carrell's Haunt Me Still


Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Published by: Dutton
Book Provided by Dutton
Publication Date: April 15th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Kate Stanley has been summoned by The Lady of a remote Scottish Castle. Situated at the foot of Dunsinnan Hill of Macbeth notoriety, any theater director given half a chance to visit Dunsinnan Castle would leap at the opportunity to visit and meet it's inhabitants. Lady Nairn has become recluse in her later years and invites are rare. Once the great screen actress Janet Douglas she, like Grace Kelly, fell in love with nobility and gave up her old life for a new one. Though she never did forget her roots. Lady Nairn was famous for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth and her and her husband have spent their life collecting the rarest of the rare in Macbeth memorabilia. Recently her husband died suddenly with the final words: "Dunsinnan must go to Birnam Wood." A reversal of Shakespeare's Macbeth, making it all the more puzzling. Lady Nairn informs Kate of her plan to do a one time only production of Macbeth in Hampton Court utilizing her collection and hoping that Kate would do the honors of directing. Of course any director who knows anything about Shakespeare knows the history of Macbeth is dark and twisted with death and disaster following in it's wake. There are rumors that the scene with the witches as it now exists is not how Shakespeare wrote it. Perhaps what he wrote was not imagined at all, but a real ceremony he witnessed which lead to the curse.

Wherever the truth lies one thing is certain, once Kate accepts the job things start to go rather odd. Despite Lady Nairn's warnings Kate spends the next day up the Hill, alone. Once there Kate falls asleep and sees quite vividly Lady Nairn's granddaughter trussed up with ribbons and quite clearly dead. She also finds a very old dagger in very good condition. Rushing back to the house she stumbles upon the arriving actors, ready for rehearsals, along with her ex, Ben Pearl, who Lady Nairn hired for personal security. But stranger still, she finds Lily alive and well. Nothing is making any sense to Kate and tensions are high at the dinner party. The next morning the first death occurs, followed shortly by a second death, with the victim, Sybilla Fraser, trussed up as Kate thought she saw Lily, along with Lily's disappearance. Lady Nairn believes it to be her ex, Lucas, a cruel and manipulative director who is not above murder behind this. What follows is Kate jumping through the hurtles Lucas has set up in an effort to save Lily but find the true manuscript, the true magic that lies in Macbeth and that has cursed the play for centuries.

This book is a wonderful "what if" delving into not only the magic and mysticism, as well as the curse, that surrounds Macbeth, but all that surrounds Shakespeare as well. How else, besides magic, can you explain his rocketing to fame? From historical facts about riots in New York to more fantastical ideas surrounding John Dee and his occultism, anyone from a theater buff to a history buff should devour this book. Being at one time involved in the theatre myself, it's a compelling look into the history and development of the theatre as well as into the superstitious mentality of those artistic types who are drawn to the stage. Also the artifacts and theatrical detritus that Lady Nairn has collected over the years is fascinating in and of itself. The description of the beetle gown worn by Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth and as painted by John Singer Sargeant lead me to search out the picture to marvel at that which is true in the book.

I loved this book. It's only flaw was at times with all the running too and fro it felt a bit too "Da Vinci Code" for me. But once at the too or fro, the dialogue took it far away from any such comparison. But my favorite aspect was the relationship of Lady Nairn to Lucas. She was his muse. Their relationship has more than a hint of the Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock about it. With both actresses marrying and ending their careers and the directors never being quite the same again. Only I would liken Lucas's actions more to the sadistic qualities of the John Huston camp and his connections to Man Ray and the Black Dahlia murder, than I would to Hitchcock. But the vast influences on this book from stage and screen only lead it to be more multi layered and complex, making it a satisfying read, especially to those in the know. I would also like to thank Dutton for sending me this book, I would never have picked it up and I would have missed out on a wonderful book.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
 "The Summer King is missing; the Dark Court is bleeding; and a stranger walks the streets of Huntsdale, his presence signifying the deaths of powerful fey.

Aislinn tends to the Summer Court, searching for her absent king and yearning for Seth. Torn between his new queen and his old love, Keenan works from afar to strengthen his court against the coming war. Donia longs for fiery passion even as she coolly readies the Winter Court for battle. And Seth, sworn brother of the Dark King and heir to the High Queen, is about to make a mistake that could cost his life.

Love, despair, and betrayal ignite the Faery Courts, and in the final conflict, some will win . . . and some will lose everything.

The thrilling conclusion to Melissa Marr's New York Times bestselling Wicked Lovely series will leave readers breathless."

Conclusion to series! Yeah! Not saying I want it to end, but it's nice having colsure.

Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C.Beaton
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager's fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney. The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn't believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete's body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it's up to Hamish to discover who's responsible for the dirty deed--and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes."

This one's for my mom. Hamish's number 1 fan! (Discounting the crappy tv show of course).

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
Published by: Balzer and Bray
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.

Thanks to the efforts of Miss Penelope Lumley, their plucky governess, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia are much more like children than wolf pups now. They are accustomed to wearing clothes. They hardly ever howl at the moon. And for the most part, they resist the urge to chase squirrels up trees.

Despite Penelope's civilizing influence, the Incorrigibles still managed to ruin Lady Constance's Christmas ball, nearly destroying the grand house. So while Ashton Place is being restored, Penelope, the Ashtons, and the children take up residence in London. Penelope is thrilled, as London offers so many opportunities to further the education of her unique students. But the city presents challenges, too, in the form of the palace guards' bearskin hats, which drive the children wild—not to mention the abundance of pigeons the Incorrigibles love to hunt. As they explore London, however, they discover more about themselves as clues about the children's—and Penelope's—mysterious past crop up in the most unexpected ways. . . ."

Come on, they were raised by wolves!

Serpent's Storm by Amber Benson
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Calliope just wants to make it big in the Big Apple like any other working girl. But Callie is also Death's Daughter, no matter how much she tries to stay out of the family business. And now her older sister has made a deal with the Devil himself to engage in a hostile takeover of both Death Inc. and Heaven-once they get Callie out of the way. "
What can't the awesome Amber Benson do? Really?

The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Peters regales thriller fans with the fifth tale about spunky Amelia Peabody, her ardent spouse Emerson and their small son Walter, "Ramses," a genius who sorely tries his parents. In the new story, the family is home in England from their archeological dig in Egypt and deep in another mystery. Determined Victorian feminist Peabody refuses to be intimidated by a phenomenon reported at the British Museum, where a sem priest is supposedly working a curse in revenge for the desecration of an ancient mummy. The priest's supernatural figure is momentarily glimpsed at the exhibit, before a murderer strikes. Disobeying Emerson, of course, Peabody lays her life on the line and unmasks the decidedly human villain. There are several intriguing new characters in this mystery, including nasty types who persecute Ramses, creating unexpectedly tender moments between mother and child. But the spotlight shines brightest on Peabody and Emerson, a couple evenly matched as hot-blooded lovers and professional partners. This is one of grandmaster Peters/Michaels best. "

I hate when early books in a series are out of print. Thankfully this one is back in print... after I took forever and finally found it at a used bookstore...

Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Published by: Plume
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2011
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Kate Stanley's fame as a director with an expertise in "occult Shakespeare" catapults her - and Ben Pearl, her partner in crime-solving - into a new production of Macbeth, showcasing a fabled collection of objects relating both to the play and the historical Scottish king for whom it is named." "The Bard's witch-haunted play is famously cursed, its reputation for malevolence so strong that many actors refuse to quote or even name the play aloud. And as rehearsals begin at the foot of Scotland's Dunsinnan Hill, it doesn't take long for the curse to stir. Strange references to the boy actor who first played Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's day and died in the role. A trench atop Dunsinnan Hill is found filled with blood shortly after some of the actors go missing. And a mysterious tarot card leads Kate into the woods, where she finds a local woman dead in circumstances that suggest not just ritual murder, but ancient pagan sacrifice." With Kate marked as both suspect and future victim, she and Ben find themselves in a desperate race to discover a dangerous version of Macbeth said to contain actual rituals of witchcraft and forbidden knowledge. However much Kate would like to dismiss such rituals as superstition, someone else appears willing to kill for them - and for the cursed manuscript said to be Shakespeare's darkest secret."

One of my most fun finds of last year (thanks Dutton!). A must read!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review - Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten

Something Rotten: Thursday Next Novel the 4th by Jasper Fforde
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: August 5th, 2004
Format: Hardcover, 389 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

After two years of hunting the Minotaur, two years of being without Landen but with his son, two years away from Swindon and the real world, Thursday Next decides it's time to go home. But as a parting gift from the fictional world she has been policing, she gets to watch Hamlet in the real world or "Outland" as the fictional tend to call it. Which isn't really the safest place for him, seeing as the fictional Yorrick Kaine has miraculously risen to the post of Chancellor and is planing a takeover of Britain by stirring up anti-Danish sentiment. But at least Hamlet fits right in at Thursday's mom's, where she has set up a home for the wayward and time lost, from that tart, Emma Hamilton to Bismack, where they all agree on one thing. Mrs, Next's Battenburg cake is awesome.
 
No longer working for Jurisfiction, Thursday has one goal, get Landen reactualized. It really was rude of Goliath to take him away by killing him before he had had a chance to grow up. Ironically enough, that which she thought would be hardest, might be the easiest, as Goliath is now going from corporate greed into a faith based company and are willing to right the wrongs of their past. Thursday's life though could never be that easy. What with St. Zvlkx, the oddly accurate prophet returning to his flock, the fate of the world resting of his prediction as to whether the Swindon Mallets will win the super hood croquet match. Because if they don't, well... the world will literally end. Also Thursday is being stalked by a sniper with a hit on her who happens to be married to her friend Spike, and also an officially licensed stalker. Once she enlists herself to lead the Mallets to victory as well as working her job back in Spec Ops, all bets are off, or on... kind of like her husband's reactualization, that seems to come and go. If the world would just be nice and not end perhaps she could spend a little time with her family for the first time in a long time.
 
The most convoluted and hard to follow book in the series lacks the charm of the previous installments by moving the action out of the books and into the real world. Mired and bogged down with politics and prophecies, there is no flow, there is no sustenance in this book, there is no plot. Sure there's Thursday's goal of getting Landen back and ousting Kaine and stopping the world from ending, but throw in Danish book burnings, tons of techno babble and Neanderthals on all sides and you just end up confused and hoping for some through line, something to gel, some cohesion. But, alas, it isn't to be. Just when I thought there might be some semblance of logical illogic, we end up at the River Styx... This kind of novel that finds the humor in the illogical, that is, in essence, sheer nonsense, is a risky balancing act. No modern author, in my mind, has perfected this as well as Terry Pratchett, mixing fantasy and science fiction with anachronisms in the most skillful of ways. Lewis Carroll was another. To make sense out of nonsense takes a genius. Just look at all the books out there who have failed to do this. Jasper Fforde is usually among the success stories. He is able to balance the zany world of book zealots and inside bookworm humor with this futuristic yet 80s society. This time he just tipped the scales a bit too far in one direction and it came out not the best. I think his first book in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair, was the anchoring of this series. Since then there have been ideas and concepts that happen in the bookworld that I feel don't jive. But usually Fforde is able to cover up these plot failings with humor and bravado... but this time the techno babble and politicians left me flat. So once more into the breach! The next book could be the game changer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review - Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
Published by: Crown
ARC Provided by the author
Publication Date: February 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Marie Grosholtz has one goal in life, and that's to make the Salon de Cire, that she runs with her uncle Philippe Curtis, as successful as possible. If she or Philippe were allowed entrance into the Academie Francaise, well, that would be the pinnacle of success. Modeling the famous personages of the day in wax, Marie prides herself on capturing not only the person she is immortalizing, but the fashions and sensibilities of the day, no matter how fast they change. But Marie feels that in order to be a true success she needs the Royal stamp of approval. She wants the King and Queen to look upon their likenesses and smile. Plus it couldn't hurt ticket sales any. After appealing to the Queen's dressmaker, Rose Bertin, for over a year on behalf of the Salon, Marie finally realizes that perhaps she should be appealing to Rose's vanity. Once Marie agrees to immortalize Rose in wax, suddenly the Salon is in a flurry of activity as they prepare for the royal viewing. But what goes on in the public rooms is nothing to what goes on in the weekly salons held behind closed doors. Revolutionaries, inventors and thinkers, from the Charles brothers, Jacques and the lovestruck Henri, from Marat to Camille, Robespierre to the King's own cousin, the Duc d'Orleans, talk about the day when the monarchy will fall. It's not that Marie and her family really support the revolutionary cause, but their job demands that they are abreast of the voice of the people. Plus, if they didn't meet in their salon, they'd only meet somewhere else... so what can it hurt?

After the Royal visit Marie's life and the success of the Salon de Cire change forever. Marie is invited to sculpt luminaries and lunatics such as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Sade. But more importantly, she is invited to Versailles to work with Louis the Sixteenth's sister, the Princess Elisabeth. She is to help Elisabeth learn to sculpt the human form so that she may create religious effigies. Despite working with a devoutly religious woman who rarely goes out, Marie forms a friendship with the Princess and does occasionally get a glimpse of court life, the life her brothers guard as part of the King's own men. But in Paris people are starving and the public opinion against the King and Marie Antoinette is shifting. The time may come when Marie Grosholtz will have to remove their likenesses from the Salon. Much hope is given to the meeting of The Estates-General, wherein the people will make their voices heard, no matter if the King and the Church object. But whatever concessions the monarchy is willing to make, there seems to be nothing that will quench the thirst for revenge. Soon the people are out of hand and the Bastille falls. Paris changes by the minute and hour, not by the day. Rallies in cafes and scathing articles in newspapers fuel the terror that has begun. Straddling the world of the court she has come to know and the Salon which captures the pulse of a nation, Marie is the ultimate politician just hoping for her own survival. Only soon a rosette in the tricolours will not be enough. Soon she must prepare the death masks of those recently beheaded. Soon she must decide if she can continue in this life she has had thrust upon her, or if there is some point that will make her say no. Some point which will put her head in the guillotine.

Madame Tussaud, Marie Grosholtz that was, is an institution to this day. With wax museums the world over, she has become a lucrative tourist attraction. But what became a venue for people to goggle over celebrities was once a venue for political change. To the people in revolutionary France, the wax works that Marie sculpted were the closest they'd ever get to the King or Queen. While Marie would insist that she was just giving the people what they wanted, her brother was more accurate in stating that what she did, what she showed, mattered. Art is a medium for change. She captured these luminaries and distilled them down into a caught moment. She moved with the times, she transformed and updated. She was able to show the world as it was, ever changing and not staying still in the days of unrest. Whether or not she fueled the revolution, she documented it. She was able to ride the wave of public opinion and stay in touch with both worlds, the rarefied nobility and the common man. Her art and connections let her be more, see more.

The only real problem I had with this novel is that it's too short. The ending sneaks up on you and it's over. I would willingly have read a Margaret George length opus of this quality from Moran. After experiencing the first year of the revolution in detail, to then only be given glimpses of the succeeding years is almost painful. I fell for Marie, this fiercely talented pragmatic artist without the posturing. She thought of art as a business and how things could be changed and improved, versus long diatribes about the proper use of Azure Blue. The one thing I have detested about novels, historic or otherwise, is that they never capture what an artist really is. They become caricatures. People who have their heads in the clouds, have no money concerns and are always somewhat tortured. As an artist myself, I want to find these writers and harm them. Not Michelle! She perfectly captured the analytical mind of an artist that I myself hope I am. She thought about the good of her art, her salon. She had set goals and she had an astounding memory for faces and fashion. And what a world of people she lived in. Michelle brings to life everyone from Marat to Marie Antoinette in a human and compassionate light. What were once figures in history become living breathing people you care about. If the goal of a historical novel is to make history alive again, then Michelle has succeeded immensely.

*You could win this book on my blog if you enter before the giveaway ends on February 22nd!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tuesday Tomorrow

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
Published by: Crown
Publication Date: February 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.

Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.

As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse √Člisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and caf√©s across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom."

Wonderful new book from Michelle Moran. Don't believe me? Enter to win a signed edition here on my blog!

Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree by Nancy Atherton
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: February 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Cozy lovers' favorite otherworldly detective cracks a classic country-house case.

In Atherton's sixteenth mystery, Lori Shepherd returns from Down Under to her normal life in the village of Finch. But Lori's normal quickly becomes anything but.

Her debonair father-in-law has moved to town and is renovating Fairworth House, a grand estate nearby. William Sr. expects a quiet, small-town life, but among the spinsters vying for his attention, shifty servants, and the discovery of a mysterious painting of a family tree in Fairworth's attic, he discovers that life in Finch is anything but quiet. On top of it all, Lori and William are embroiled in a case of deception and false identity by one of Finch's own. It's nothing the plucky Lori can't handle, but once things get truly peculiar at Fairworth-moving furniture, strange sounds, and mysterious visitors-she calls on Aunt Dimity for her otherworldly guidance and uncovers the shadowy past beneath the estate's magnificent surface.

Nancy Atherton's titles continue to delight fans who eagerly anticipate each new book. Her latest will draw cheers and bring new readers to this charming series. "
Ok, I'll admit I've never read these book yet. But the cover art is to die for and people swear by them!

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: February 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"First there are nightmares.

Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.

When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.

Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember."

Sounds fun in that typical YA Sci-Fi way.

The Strange Case of Edward Gorey by Alexander Theroux
Published by: Fantagraphics Books
Publication Date: February 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 168 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"An intimate, revealing look into the life and art of an American original. Originally released as a slim paperback 10 years ago (now out of print and fetching collector's prices), this in-depth illustrated monograph on the late, great Edward Gorey returns as a thoroughly rewritten, expanded and redesigned hardcover. Drawing from a multitude of reference and his own personal relationship to Gorey, literary heavyweight Alexander Theroux has accomplished an amazing feat of illuminating the real Edward Gorey with ambiguity, wit, fervor and reverence, combined with honest and clear-eyed appraisals of his work. No Gorey fan can be without it. Black-and-white illustrations and photographs throughout."

A "new" biography on one of my favorite artist's. YEAH!

True Blood Volume One by Alan Ball
Published by: IDW
Publication Date: February 15th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 160 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Blood and sex mix on a hot rainy night at Merlotte's, when Sookie and her friends are trapped by a vengeful spirit who feeds on shame. People die and dirty secrets are revealed as Sookie, Bill, Eric, Sam, Tara, Jason, and Lafayette and are all coerced to dig deep and tell painful memories from their past - those things we all have locked within us that we never tell another living soul! Bon Temps, Louisiana has never been stranger, or more twisted, in a story co-plotted by True Blood series creator Alan Ball, with a script by David Tischman (Bite Club) and Mariah Huehner, and lush art by David Messina."

Ok, so good artists... I'm just going to say I'm SICK of the trend of making ALL sci-fi series into comics now. Really!?! Do we need another? NO!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review - Carola Dunn's The Winter Garden Mystery

The Winter Garden Mystery (Daisy Dalrymple Book 2) by Carola Dunn
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: 1995
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
Challenge: Thriller and Suspense
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Wherever Daisy goes death is sure to follow. This time she's off to Cheshire and Occles Hall, which thanks to her old school chum, Bobbie Parslow, she has been able to wrangle an invite. Bobbie's mother, Lady Valeria, is notoriously bad tempered and also very protective of her unnaturally good looking son, Sebastian. In fact, the first thing that Daisy hears upon arriving in the picture postcard perfect village of Occleswich is the raging feud between Lady Valeria and Stan Moss, the local car mechanic. Stan wants to put in a gas station, and Lady Valeria will not hear of it blighting her perfect town. Stan has had a rough time of it of late, his daughter Grace, who worked up at the Hall as a parlor maid and took care of him in her spare time, ran off with a travelling salesman a few months back. Daisy instantly loves the hall and sees the picture possibilities for her article and is grateful to Bobbie and her father, Sir Reginald. The Tudor facade hides much turmoil and secrets though. Sir Reginald has an obsession with his Dairy so is rarely seen by anyone. Sebastian's famed good looks did nothing to prepare Daisy for the Adonis that is brought before her. Then there's the family's secretary, Ben Goodman, who was injured in the war and who Sebastian is very protective of. But what lies in the family tree is not important to Daisy who is there to capture the house, not the inhabitants, for her article. Daisy is lucky enough to get a tour of the grounds and the famed winter garden, in blooms though it is not quite spring. Owen Morgan, the assistant gardener and jilted boyfriend of Grace, is showing Daisy the wonders of blossoms in winter when Daisy notices a disturbance in the flowerbed. A disturbance which happens to be Grace Moss. She didn't run off with that travelling salesman after all.

It's not long before the local coppers decide that Owen Morgan is their man. They claim that the Welshman lost his temper when Daisy declared she was pregnant and in love with Sebastian and he hide her among the flowers. But Daisy knows this is wrong. She was there when Owen found Grace, and the conclusion the cops have reached couldn't be farther than the truth. Daisy starts to dig and soon finds out all manner of secrets the family was concealing, none of which really have a bearing on the case. Fearing for her safety and sensing she is once more in over her head, her old friend Phillip Petrie comes with the cavalry of Inspector Fletcher, there to get to the bottom of things and fix the mess the local police have made of this case. But when Bobbie disappears and the locals start to close ranks, it looks like the answer might never be found and that Daisy might be excommunicated from Occles Hall without her article finished. But which is worse? Not finding the killer or looser her job?

There's something fun and infectious about Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries. They're the quick little mystery fix that you need on a cold winter's day to while away the hours. I am drawn to them because they do have an Agatha Christie feel to them, and most Christie novels, even if I haven't read them, have been adapted to death so that the killers and plots are second nature to us bibliophiles. Therefore it's like fresh new Christie, but a period feel with a modern sensibility. Also I felt that unlike the first installment, the cast of characters was not so unwieldy, and that you grasped the basic suspect pool fairly fast. Also, how much fun is it that we actually get to have the inquest in this one? That staple of British mysteries was sadly lacking in the first book. On a final note I'd like to say, how cool is Daisy's job. Sure she's "tarnishing" the family name by working for a living. But getting to travel to all these great houses, which Carola Dunn brings such life and reality to, makes me just wish for more time to pick up the next book and then the next.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review - Alan Bradley's A Red Herring Without Mustard

A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia de Luce Mystery 3) by Alan Bradley
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: February 8th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Flavia de Luce really has a bad habit of being at the center of whatever catastrophe is currently gripping Bishop's Lacey. For example, the fire that is currently engulfing the fortune telling tent at the local fete... well, she may or may not be responsible depending on who you ask, so please don't ask. But while the pillar of black smoke rises, Flavia sees that all of Bishop's Lacey is there, even Brookie Harewood, that most mysterious of nefarious men whose income is questionable was berating his lackey Colin. Brookie himself was an enigma, given that his mother was the famous artist, Vanetta Harewood, who made her fortune painting the horse and hounds set and had nothing to do with her disreputable son. Falvia decides it's best to hare out of there before fingers start pointing in her direction as the arsonist, so she offers to help the old gypsy whom she offended with the destruction of her tent. Flavia offers up an area of the family estate, Buckshaw, known as The Palings for the gypsy woman to make camp. On a lovely bend in the river where a nonconformist religion called The Hobbler's used to perform Baptisims. Despite Flavia's generous offer, the gypsy is a little hesitant. It turns out years ago, when her husband was still alive, Flavia's mother, Harriet, used to let them use the land till Flavia's own father drove them off. But that's not nearly as important as the rumors that the gypsies were responsible for the disappearance of the local Bull's baby. Once she has the gyspy all set up, along with a dire warning or two, Flavia heads back to the crumbling family pile, where if something doesn't happen soon they'll no longer be the tenants of, what with the lack of funds. But until that time Flavia can hid in her lab and dream of all the experiments and poisons she could use on her sisters, who happen to be waiting for her at the door with a well placed sack over the head and a little cellar interogation.

Following her harrowing escape from her evil sisters and a little rest, Flavia is wide awake in the middle of the night to find Brookie Harewood standing in their living room eying the brass fire dogs that are a family treasure. After a little incoherent rambling and a warning about the Grey Lady of Buckshaw, Brookie nonchalantly leaves out the door and Flavia begins to wonder what it's all about, but then she begins to worry about the gypsy. Flavia finds the gypsy beaten and clinging to life in The Palings. Thanks to Flavia's quick thinking she saves her life, but now has an attempted murder on her hands. Though she hates to admit it, a little thrill runs through her at the prospect. But soon Brookie ends up dead, hung from the grand fountain at Buckshaw, and Flavia, against the polices pleas to let them do their job, is soon questioning suspects and gliding through the countryside astride her trusty bike Gladys, because a murder is far better than an attempted murder any day. But with acquaintances like the suspicious antiques dealers, the Pettibones, and Edward Sampson, the local junk man, there are a lot of people who might have wanted Brookie dead. But what's even stranger, despite the fire dogs that Brookie showed an unnatural interest in, fire dogs that are still firmly in front of Buckshaw's fire, she has seen them in three other locations. With nefarious activity underfoot in Bishop's Lacey, a long lost painting of her dead mother coming to light, and a crumbling estate that may yet yield new secrets, Flavia is once again in the center of the hurricane. Let's hope she can survive.

With many plot threads dangling all about like the web of the spider that graces the book's cover, it's not surprising that at times I got frustrated with my pint sized friend. Because while I was able to unravel parts of the mystery fairly swiftly, Flavia, with less worldly ways, sometimes took a dash long time to get to the point. Not nearly as gripping as the second, and so far, my favorite book in the series, I felt a little sense of disappointment in reading this latest installment. It felt too spread out and all over the place, like a giant jumble that was purposefully made to create suspense and make us unaware of the killer in our midst. A few too many red herrings that did nothing to elevate the story, but just bogged it down in morass is my analysis. The lure for me in this installment is Buckshaw and the secrets the house itself offers up. So with Falvia dashing about the countryside and rushing hither and yon, I just wanted her to get home and deal with the secrets therein. There were many a new character and Flavia's insular little world seems to be expanding. But it's the smallness of her world that I love. This little community with a lot of secrets. Her family and her house are far more interesting than a gypsy and some feral people living in a ditch who lost their child. While everything does tie together nicely at the end, I think we could have done without the gypsy and the Bull's whose story resolution is a little too similar to the previous book, but with a little "other" thrown in, and concentrated more on the mysterious Brookie and his gang. Maybe just dealing with the evil in their midst versus having outsiders for once would be nice. But then again, outsiders always make good suspects, and the Bulls weren't so much outsiders as outcasts. I'll keep loving Flavia, but hopefully next time she'll be at her best.

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