Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jubilee Movie Recommendations

You might be asking yourself, what can I watch to get into that Royal frame of mind? Never fear, I watch way too many BBC productions and have a handy little list for you. It's even a little more off beat than you might expect, thinking I'll be all, just go watch Helen Mirren in The Queen... but no! And it's not because I haven't gotten around to watching that movie cause I'm kind of ho hum on the whole Helen Mirren thing, this is more, what I feel the Jubilee is about.

"Victoria and Albert" - Victoria Hamilton and Jonathan Firth
Get the all the haps on the only other Queen to make it 60 years. Very sweet story that I find is a far better dramatization than the newer The Young Victoria. I know, that's sacrilege saying that a non-Julian Fellowes adaptation is better than a Julian Fellowes adaptation, but I felt that the movie just took everything from the miniseries and condensed it down time wise with prettier actors (not dissing Jonathan Firth, the hottie), so we lose a lot of the interest and day to day mundanities and trials and tribulations that make Victoria and Albert amazing. Plus, Victoria being played by a Victoria, how can you miss out on that coolness, not to mention, she knocked it out of the park. Also, a young James Callis pre Battlestar Galactica and even pre Bridget Jones.

"Wallis and Edward" - Stephen Moore Campbell and Joely Richardson
Learn all you could want to know about Wallis and Edward without having to watch anything by Madonna. While I have to say that this love story doesn't interest me in the least, they are two selfish people who ended up befriending Nazis, needless to say, this is the reason that Queen Elizabeth is Queen! If Edward hadn't abdicated, George VI, Elizabeth's dad Bertie, would not have become king and then she would have never been Queen. Also Germany would probably rule us all... but that's beside the point. This is very well acted and stars some of my favorite actors, but still, be prepared for selfish people.

"Bertie and Elizabeth" - James Wilby and Juliet Aubrey
Before The King's Speech, the BBC did this wonderful little story about Bertie and his ascension to the throne. Most notable for me was this was the first time that I liked James Wilby in anything! Not that I disliked him before, he just is really really good an playing asses, Howards End, Gosford Park, I could keep going. Just a sweet little story about what happens when you unexpectedly become king... I'm sure there's probably some cross over with The King's Speech... but the thing is, I still haven't seen that yet... ok, yell at me now... it's Colin Firth and I should know better.

"The Queen's Sister" - Toby Stephens and Lucy Coho
A great in depth look at the wild younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret. This was the first time I was exposed to the wonderful acting of Lucy Coho, who has now been in everything from Upstairs, Downstairs to Torchwood. I mainly watched it for Toby Stephens, that glorious acting son of Maggie Smith, but I found the story so interesting. While Elizabeth was keeping the country together after the death of her father, her sister was the flamboyant one. A troublesome marriage to a photographer who she later divorced, yet introduced her to a Bohemian lifestyle. Drugs, sex, it's got everything that you want to associate with royalty who try to keep their noses clean.

"Doctor Who - The Idiot's Lantern"
Now, you might be wondering why I'm recommending a random episode of Doctor Who from David Tennant's first season... I know, you're thinking I'm just trying to promote my love of Mark Gatiss, and, while yes, this could be true, I have other motives. This episode takes place during Queen Elizabeth's coronation! Sure there's an alien using television to control the world, but really, watch the costumes, the block party, the feeling that permeates this episode. This is what Britain was like when Elizabeth became Queen... I won't comment as to the veracity of their being aliens or not. Oh, and there's bunting!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Diamond Jubilee

This summer the eyes of the world will be on England. Now, I don't mean to be rude, but I couldn't care less about the London Olympics... well, ok, the rumors that the Queen is in a James Bond parody that they filmed for the opening ceremonies is pretty cool, but that's because it's the Queen. That's why I'm excited. THE QUEEN! This weekend marks the main weekend for her Diamond Jubilee. Why it's in June when she was really made Queen in February, and not crowned until June of the following year, meaning 2013 is 60 years from the coronation, is beside the point. This weekend Queen Elizabeth II (or the first if you're in Scotland) will have been on the throne for 60 years!

This is the celebration I have been waiting for. Kate and Will, who cares! There are tons of royals and there will be tons more royal weddings. I'll easily live to see Kate and Will's kids getting married. But will any of us live to see a queen reign for 60 years again? NO! The combination of early coronation with longevity is unheard of. The last time England had a Diamond Jubilee it was Queen Victoria, and before that George III almost made it but was a few months shy. We're talking this event is the biggest event we will see in terms of Royal splendor ever. Except maybe if she holds on for another four years and does a "screw you Victoria, longest reigning monarch ever dance." Four more years! Four more years!

What can we expect? Well, first, we can expect her to be so awesome she bends the laws of space and time to make May's bank holiday weekend in June. She then went one further and has everyone taking a holiday for the coronation itself on the 5th. So four day weekend yo! I myself will be observing this four day weekend, and if anyone stateside denies me, they'll have the Queen to answer to.

So this coming weekend is the "heart" of the Jubilee Celebration with Epsom Derby, the Big Lunch and the Jubilee Pageant. So horse races, lots of block parties and food, but the big one, the Jubilee Pageant has me actually contemplating waking up at 4AM to start watching the live coverage on BBC America... almost... I have a DVR. "After lunch on Sunday, a flotilla of one thousand boats, many adorned with decorations and Union Jacks, will be launched down the Thames as part of the Jubilee Pageant. There will be music, geysers and even a floating belfry. The Queen herself will be on the barge from her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia." Can it get any more pageanty than that? Well, there is the whole concert on Monday, and the lighting of the final beacon, the last in a chain of more than 2000 beacons that are throughout the UK and Commonwealth countries. Then the Thanksgiving service at St. Paul's. The National Portrait Gallery is hosting The Queen: Art and Image, an exhibit that includes paintings and photographs by Lucian Freud, Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibowitz, and many others. One wonders if that Lucian Freud is the one the Queen hated and was bought by Deborah Mitford... I could go on and on about all the splendors. Suffice it to say I will just be sitting around in proper British Regalia, taking it all in, floating on a sea of tea.

What's proper British regalia for me you might ask? You should also be asking for yourself, because, this does require preparation, seeing as you have to get your hands on a corgi. Can't get a real one? A stuffed animal will suffice, though really, you should be prepared, you've had 60 years. For that Royal wave, might I suggest a nice pair of elbow length gloves, white of course. Then some nice pearls to set off the ensemble. A crown of some sort would be nice, but perhaps disrespectful, so go with some sort of interesting hat or fascinator. You are now all ready, get that tea steeping and you are set.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Dreamless by Josephine Angelini
Published by: Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 29th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Can true love be forgotten?

As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.

Josephine Angelini's compelling saga becomes ever more intricate and spellbinding as an unforgettable love triangle emerges and the eternal cycle of revenge intensifies. Eagerly awaited, this sequel to the internationally bestselling Starcrossed delivers a gritty, action-packed love story that exceeds all expectations."

I've been wanting to read this series for awhile, even more since the RT Convention... sigh, there are too many books!

Changeling by Philippa Gregory
Published by: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 29th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life."

I wonder how Gregory's bid to pry her way into the YA market will work... I'm betting on a fail.

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: May 29th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents!!

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats."

Steampunk yeah! This new series was heartily endorsed by my friend John at Murder by the Book.

Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells
Published by: Oribit
Publication Date: May 29th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The epic conclusion to the amazing Sabina Kane urban fantasy series.

Sabina Kane is on the hunt. Her prey: Cain, the father of the vampire race and the one who murdered her family and her friends. Unfortunately, Cain is hunting Sabina, too.

The one man who holds the key to defeating Cain is, of course, Abel. A mage with secrets to spare and, hopefully, the power to match it. Unfortunately, for Sabina, he's in Rome and may not want to be found.

Sabina sets out for Italy with her friends, Giguhl and Adam Lazarus, to track down the only man who can get her the revenge she hungers for. But will he help her or oppose her? And just who is Abel, really? Worst of all, when Sabina figures out the goddess Lilith has a plan for her-she realizes this trip is getting deadlier by the minute. As they say: when in Rome-SURVIVE."

Yeah new Sabina Kane, boo last Sabina Kane.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review - Louise Rennison's Withering Tights

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 288Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Tallulah Casey has gotten into an "elite" school for performing arts for the summer in the Yorkshire Dales, Dother Hall. If she's deemed worthy at the end of her time there she'll be able to stay on as a full time student.  She's soon wondering if she made the right decision. This land of the Brontes is one she doesn't know. Plus, she doesn't know anybody. She's staying with a family who are very outdoorsy, have two young boys and have decorated her room with squirrels. She has the slippers to prove they're a little nutty. Then there's the marauding youths of the village, Cain and his brothers, who also happen to be a band. Luckily Tallulah quickly makes friends with Vaisey, a girl who is also going to Dother Hall but is staying at the local pub, The Blind Pig, till her room is ready, and the pub owners daughter, Ruby. Soon she's in a world of eccentric actors in a crumbling pile of a hall, it does tend to have random leaks and fires, while trying to navigate the fog that is puberty. Why do boys act like they do? And why is Cain always around and Ruby's brother never around enough? If she's unable to secure her place in the school she will never be able to answer these question or stay with her new friends.

It seems to me that Louise Rennison just took the majority of traits possessed in her previous iconic character, Georgia Nicholson, and inverted them. Where Georgia was rather short and well endowed, here we have a gangly girl who's flat chested, and also happens to be related to Georgia. Georgia was confident, Tallulah isn't. Also, of course there are older boys, and a band, as per Georgia's tale, an owl versus a cat, and two annoying young boys versus one little sister. I guess I was just expecting something different or more from Louise's newest venture. This seemed more of the same with a new cast of character transposed to Yorkshire. While I love Louise's style, after ten Georgia Nicholson books it got kind of stale, and I don't feel that this was different enough to add something new to the repertoire. Plus, I thought the writing might mature, with perhaps an older character, instead she went younger, with Tallulah being 14. The diary style is also not helping the plot. While it worked for Georgia, it's not working for Tallulah. She's supposed to have this innate sense of humor while acting, embodying everything from an owl to Heathcliff wannabe Cain with perfection. We don't see this, we just hear that "everyone thought I was wonderful." This makes Tallulah a flat character, much like her chest. Show don't tell! Let us discover for ourselves her innate acting ability, don't just tell us what she was told by others.

I don't mean to be all mean and rag on this book. It was a fun quick read by an author who is very good at capturing the loopy, the loony and the off-putting. I just expected more. More plot, more adventure and less retreading of the same ground. I'm hoping that in the next book this series will take off in a way it hasn't yet. There are so many areas ripe for parody with teenagers and the literature of The Brontes. I just hope that Louise doesn't waste them and have Cain be a pale imitation of Heathcliff and then draw the series out for another decade.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review - Madelyn Alt's A Charmed Death

A Charmed Death: A Bewitching Mystery Book 2 by Madelyn Alt
Published by: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: December 5th 2006
Format: Paperback, 289 Pages
Challenge: Mystery and Suspense 2011
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Maggie is coming to terms with finding out that her small Indiana town has witches and that she's one of them. Before the events of the past few months she has always lived in an insular Midwestern mindset, wherein she's the odd duck out. But meeting Liss, the resident witch, and being brought into her coven and her career, as a worker bee in Liss's store, Enchantments, has changed everything for Maggie. She's having a hard time coming to terms with this new world, but that's not to say it isn't fun while also being scary.

While working the Christmas rush one Saturday, teen queen Amanda enters the shop to buy a Christmas present for her mother to "get her out of the dog house." After dropping a cool $500 in cash, with much to spare, and having an altercation with local goth girl Tara, she walks out of the store and disappears that night, to be found dead near an old railway trestle a few days later. The town goes into morning with churches holding vigils and everyone wondering about the killer in their midst. Maggie, being a bit nosey, and also a bit sweet on the local cop Tom Fielding, she thinks that it's her duty to do what she can "magically" to help speed the investigation along. But it's less magic and more being in the right place at the right time and finding secrets that Amanda had squirreled away. The deeper Maggie investigates, the more secrets she starts to keep, the closer she gets to the killer... the closer she gets to death.

I originally picked up this series because it looked like a fun little bit of fluff. And that's what it is, fun fluff. What really captured me in this installment was the overtones of Twin Peaks brought from the West Coast and placed in Indiana. Because really, that tragedy could be any small town anywhere, and this goes to show that. When Madelyn Alt started describing the location of Amanda's body, I instantly saw Ronette Pulaski walking along those tracks having escaped the killer with the strains of music in the air.

This feeling carries nicely through the book, making it feel like a slightly modern version of Twin Peaks. What could Laura Palmer get up to with a digital camera? Moving beyond the world of Agent Cooper, there where times when I felt there was a very overly religiosity about the book. Being a Midwestern small town, I guess I can forgive a bit of it, but after awhile it grates on you when Maggie is for the 50th time wondering how this new world she's been exposed to fits into the typical Christian mentality. She has to move beyond doubt and just realize that she belongs in this new world she's discovered, why else would she have these gifts? Also, just a weird aside, but, why would a Ouija board freak her out and then the divining method that Liss shows her, which is just a classier version of a Ouija board be A OK!?! Ah well, people do have flaws, and I guess these are Maggie's. At least the ending threw a slight curve ball so that the perp I had fingered was only a slight red herring. I will definitely be picking up the next installment.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for Murder by Catronia McPhearson
Published by: Minotaur
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Aristocratic and delightfully witty amateur sleuth Dandy Gilver was greeted with boisterous cheers from readers and reviewers alike in Catriona McPherson’s previous outing, Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, which The Boston Globe named one of the best crime novels of 2011. In this new book in this charming and funny series, Dandy is caught between two feuding families who run rival department stores.

Dandy’s services are needed when the heiress to one of the stores goes missing. As Dandy starts to unravel long-hidden family secrets, she begins to discover disturbing connections, and it's not long before danger abounds."
The last book in this series was lauded with almost every award you can imagine, the newest should be just as good, one hopes.

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade—the dangerous device Jasper stole from him…for the life of the girl Jasper loves. One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.

From the rough streets of lower Manhattan to elegant Fifth Avenue, the motley crew of teens with supernatural abilities is on Jasper's elusive trail. And they're about to discover how far they'll go for friendship.

More than ever, Finley Jayne will rely on powerful English duke Griffin King to balance her dark magic with her good side. Yet Griffin is at war with himself over his secret attraction to Finley…and will risk his life and reputation to save her. Sam, more machine than man, finds his moody heart tested by Irish lass Emily—whose own special abilities are no match for the darkness she discovers on the streets.

Now, to help those she's come to care for so deeply, Finley Jayne must infiltrate a criminal gang. Only problem is, she might like the dark side a little too much…."

Oh, can't wait for Steampunk Summer!

The Enchantress by Michael Scott
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 528 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The two that are one must become the one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it.

San Francisco:
Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel have one day left to live, and one job left to do. They must defend San Francisco. The monsters gathered on Alcatraz Island have been released and are heading toward the city. If they are not stopped, they will destroy everyone and everything in their path.

But even with the help of two of the greatest warriors from history and myth, will the Sorceress and the legendary Alchemyst be able to defend the city? Or is it the beginning of the end of the human race?

Danu Talis:
Sophie and Josh Newman traveled ten thousand years into the past to Danu Talis when they followed Dr. John Dee and Virginia Dare. And it’s on this legendary island that the battle for the world begins and ends.

Scathach, Prometheus, Palamedes, Shakespeare, Saint-Germain, and Joan of Arc are also on the island. And no one is sure what—or who—the twins will be fighting for.

Today the battle for Danu Talis will be won or lost.
But will the twins of legend stand together?
Or will they stand apart—
one to save the world and one to destroy it?"

More Flamel, and San Francisco!

Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published by: Egmont USA
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In the eye of a storm stands Bryn, the alpha of the Cedar Ridge werewolf pack. She is young. Female. Human. Physically weaker than any werewolf, she could never survive a battle with another alpha, the strongest, fiercest, and canniest of his pack.

Yet she cannot refuse a summons from the werewolf Senate. A rogue werewolf is attacking humans. The risk of exposure threatens to destroy pack life, and the center of the crisis is Cedar Ridge territory—her own lands.

Bryn has no choice but to attend the meeting, a gathering of the most powerful werewolves on the continent. The subject is the rogue wolf, but Bryn knows the other packs want what she has. Her territory. Her females. Her pack.

They want her death.

Werewolf law prevents the other alphas from making a direct attack. It also prevents her former alpha, the mysterious and powerful Callum, from coming to her aid. But it doesn’t prevent Bryn from knowing what she wants. To keep her lands. To protect her pack.

To survive."

Jennifer Lynn Barnes was so nice when I met her at the RT Convention, so go out an buy her book!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review - Elizabeth Peter's The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog, Amelia Peabody Book 7 by Elizabeth Peters
Published by: Grand Central
Publication Date: 1992
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
Challenge: Valley of the Kings, Mystery and Suspense 2011
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
The Peabody Emersons are having a heck of a time hiding Nefret's origins. It's not just that coming out of the desert with a girl is odd, it's the fact that they have to concoct and stick to a story about missionaries in order to protect the valley wherein she spent her entire life and ancient Egypt still exists to this day. There are many who would desire this knowledge in order to plunder the valley... and many who might see holes in their story if closely examined. While Nefret and Ramses stay back in England, Ramses having developed an "attachment" to Nefret, for the first time in years Emerson and Amelia will have an excavation all to themselves. Soon their plan is thwarted with many unusual happenings and the kidnapping of Emerson. Amelia would lay down her life to save her husband and it is not long till he is returned to her. But returned damaged and broken... he has amnesia and no longer knows who she is.

Advised by a queer little doctor, Amelia does not force herself or her affections on Emerson and they go to where they first met, because Emerson thinks he is still on that dig. Hoping against hope that he will remember while trying to maintain a dig is one thing. Hoping that the enemy, whomever it might be will not attack again is another thing entirely. Amelia must keep Emerson alive or there is no hope at all. Perhaps the master criminal is involved... only one of genius and cunning could have such diabolical and nefarious plans.

For some reason I found this book more than a little confusing. I should note though, that I was sick and on a lot of antibiotics at the time. But as one of my friends said: "Honey, you must be sick. These plots are never hard to follow. It's part of their charm. The Peabodys go to Egypt, Ramses, David or Nefret (or all three) get into trouble, Emerson gets mad, crime solved, happy ending. Their very predictability keep me coming back." There is such a charm in the predictability of a happy ending coupled with the height of Egyptology. Though this one left me a little flat, not just because of the kidnapping, but more because of the soap opera tragedy of Emerson having amnesia and then another soap opera trope that I won't mention because it is strictly under the "spoilers" section. For the longest time I was debating back and forth as to whether Emerson really had amnesia or not, which I'm sure Peters did on purpose. For such a loving and stalwart relationship, it's really the first time since the beginning where Amelia gets to be uncertain in Emerson's love for her. I think Peters must have taken glee in shaking the unshakable, because only a complete erasure of Amelia from Emerson's memory could take away his feelings for her, and I'm sure Peters gets enough letters asking why there is no conflict (in their relationship) between them instead of Amelia just gloating about how lucky she is to have such a virile and sexy husband, even if they are couched in the terms of the day. Which, I will admit, sometimes get a bit much.

Also, it seems to me that Peters must be tired with her formulae a bit because she's starting to shake it up a little. In the previous installment, The Last Camel Died at Noon, she tried, and in my mind, failed, to do a more Rider Haggard adventure book. In this installment, because of a great deal of the characters being back in England, we have the introduction of an epistolary novel on top of the normal day to day story. While I enjoyed the letters, Ramses being hilariously Ramses in all of them, and while they added to the plot, the letters seemed to break up the plot and make it chunky. Almost as if there was a lull and then "Breaking News: This in from England!" For a seamless narrative and plot this did not do the book any favors. Worst of all though was the shoehorning in of their tragedies into the myth of "The Snake, The Crocodile and the Dog." Amelia seemed convinced that they where being sent three trials, but where and how? There's a kidnapping, a few attacks and a possibly rapid dog. Now, I see how you can derive the dog, but how are the others a snake or a crocodile? I don't think this was a lapse in my fevered brain patterns, but a failing on Peters part.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review - Donna Tartt's The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tratt
Published by: Vintatge
Publication Date: 1992
Format: Paperback, 559 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy
Richard arrives at Hampen College in New England because it's the only school that will take him in and give him some money. It's an eccentric little school and Richard doesn't quite know what he will study. Having studied Greek back in California, he is drawn to this elite circle that has formed around Julian, a professor who holds his classes in his office as a kind of salon, wherein he shall be your sole educator, in the vein of true classicism. Once Richard finally finagles his way in, he becomes a part of this eccentric circle consisting of Henry, the nominal leader, Francis, the literary closet gay, Bunny, the rather dimwitted leach, and Charles and Camilla, the down at heels twins. They are his life entire. Every moment is spent with them or thinking of them. Yet there are secrets. One secret will tear them apart from within. Because, what if, in the pursuit of knowledge, to experience all the Greeks did, a ceremony was performed. A ceremony that had unintended consequences. A ceremony that will fracture the group. A ceremony that was evil and will leave evil in it's wake.

This book reaches the lofty position of one of the worst books I've read in a long time, not just because of the glacial pacing and the unlikable characters, but because of two majorly flaws. There is a disconnect in the book between what it is and what it wants to be. This dislocation gives the book a jarring feeling, like trying to force a square peg in a round hole. The book felt so not of it's time. There is a timelessness to it that feels routed in the early half of the 20th century. You feel like you could be at a small sequestered college surrounded by autumnal foliage and the cast of Brideshead Revisited would wander around the corner. But a coke addict with a boom box is what you usually get. This book is shockingly in the 80s. It doesn't feel like the 80s. The little quiet and queer Greek scholars feel of another time. Which I guess might have been Donna Tartt's purpose... but if it was, it failed. Every time something "80s" happened it felt like an anachronism. A splash of cold water in the face that made me think for the 100th time, why am I still reading this book.

The disconnect isn't just a temporal one, but one of character. Bunny has purposely conflicting descriptions. He is young, very clothes conscious, is a skinflint, so your mind starts to build this very wane, dapper man, who might be slightly effeminate. A Sebastian Flyte of the 80s if you would. For chapters you have this image, and it builds, and gains force, this is who Bunny is. With a name like Bunny, how could you not get this image. Yet then Tartt contradicts this all with, no, he's a good old boy who's a homophobe that is very muscularly built with a fondness for sports. Say what!?! The name Bunny was ironic? You let me believe this image for hundreds of pages to then throw in a curve and make this character no longer work for me. People are built of contradictions, this is true. Yet why go out of the way to obviously create all these Brideshead references, with Venice and Bunny and what have you, only to go, fooled you. Rule one of writing, you don't alienate your reader. They'll get snarky, they'll write crap reviews, and they will never buy your books again, and what will you do without an income?

The second problem I had was with the issue they had of what to do with Bunny. Kill him, move on, the end, I just cut your book by 400 pages Donna. Because that is the evil that comes of their ceremony, Bunny becomes a blackmailer. These people don't have morals, we've already seen that. Incest, it's ok, in fact, it's kind of sexy. Being bisexual with friends occasionally, that's fine too. Heavy drug use, alcohol abuse, Bacchanalia's, murder, they've done it all. Yet they hesitate to kill the one person who they loath, who is blackmailing them, and who was never much of a friend. Uh... where did the sudden morals come from? Perhaps because Donna Tartt was being paid by the word and the longer she could stretch out this anguish, this pointless debate about the inevitable, the more healthy her check at the end.

I didn't know what to expect going into this book. I had heard so many things about it. I had some sort of vague idea that this was going to be an intriguing mystery about some horrific crime, something "beyond the boundaries of normal morality". Instead I got 500 plus pages of whiny eccentric Greek scholars dithering about the inevitable and revelling in debauchery in such a boring way, it didn't feel debauched. The only mystery this book offered was of it's laudatory nature. Please, why? I agree with another review I read, I resent the time I spent on this book. Next please?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey
Published by: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 15th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever."

Ok, so, right now I'm more than a little addicted to Marie Antoinette... so this is easily a must read for me.

Areogrammes by Tania James
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: May 15th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 190 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the highly acclaimed author of Atlas of Unknowns (“Dazzling . . . One of the most exciting debut novels since Zadie Smith’s White Teeth”—San Francisco Chronicle; “An astonishment of a debut”—Junot Díaz), a bravura collection of short stories set in locales as varied as London, Sierra Leone, and the American Midwest that captures the yearning and dislocation of young men and women around the world.
In “Lion and Panther in London,” a turn-of-the-century Indian wrestler arrives in London desperate to prove himself champion of the world, only to find the city mysteriously absent of challengers. In “Light & Luminous,” a gifted dance instructor falls victim to her own vanity when a student competition allows her a final encore. In “The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor,” a young man obsessively studies his father’s handwriting in hopes of making sense of his death. And in the marvelous “What to Do with Henry,” a white woman from Ohio takes in the illegitimate child her husband left behind in Sierra Leone, as well as an orphaned chimpanzee who comes to anchor this strange new family.
With exuberance and compassion, Tania James once again draws us into the lives of damaged, driven, and beautifully complicated characters who quietly strive for human connection."

This book is complete cover lust, plain and simple. I hope the insides do it justice.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Published by: Hyperion Book CH
Publication Date: May 15th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know— about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget."

Chills up and down my spin, can't wait!

Markets of Paris by Dixon Long and Majorie Williams
Published by: Little Bookroom
Publication Date: May 15th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 200 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The food scene in Paris has changed dramatically since 2006, when Markets of Paris was first published. Yes, the same markets are held in the same locales as always—literally, for centuries—but many have undergone a remarkable transformation led by a young generation of purveyors focused, even more than their predecessors, on local and organic (“bio”) produce. Markets of Paris, 2nd Edition revisits and updates the entire market scene in Paris, with 12 new entries and 10 new sidebars, including Virtual Markets and Market Streets, Markets Open on Sunday, Artisan Bakers, Getting Along in the Food Markets, Brocante Fairs, and more. One of them, Cooking in Paris, gives information about lessons and workshops offered in home kitchens, bakeries, restaurants, and even wine stores.

Updates focus on the most interesting vendors and most unique and enticing offerings to be found at each locale, including prepared food that can be eaten on the spot. In keeping with growing interest in knowing where food comes from, the authors include profiles and photos of farmers and other artisanal suppliers behind the best food stalls.

One of the biggest changes in the Paris market scene in recent years has been the spike of interest in organic, reflected in the popularity of the Raspail organic market. At one time a fringe offshoot of the regular Raspail market, this Sunday market has fully come into its own. It attracts a large and loyal clientele; of three organic markets in the city, it’s certainly the largest and most widely known. Often it’s referred to as “Le Marché Bio,” and many claim it’s the crème de la crème of all Paris’s markets.

Restaurant listings have been updated, too, with 15 new additions that have been chosen because of their new-generation chefs’ approach to fresh ingredients or their proximity to featured markets. A new section titled If You Have Limited Time directs the visitor to the most interesting markets near his or her accommodations. Another section, Practical Suggestions, addresses common questions such where to get local currency, which map of Paris is the best and most convenient, and business hours for different kinds of shops, stalls, and restaurants. Finally, the book has been reorganized by arrondissement to be more user friendly, and it has a brand-new look with all new photos and a refreshed, modernized design."

Full circle with Paris this week! I want to go to there!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review - Neil Gaiman's Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Published by: Subterranean Press
Publication Date: August 4th, 2002
Format: Hardcover, 151 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)
Coraline Jones is bored. It's the summer holidays and she is now trapped indoors by the unseasonal damp and rain. Her parents are both too preoccupied to see to her entertainment. Her father suggests she explore their new home. Once a grand house, the Jones' have half of the second floor. There is even a door that goes into the other half of the house. A door that is very firmly bricked up until it's not. When Coraline goes through this door she finds a mirror world of garish colors and eccentric people made odder by this "otherness." Everyone in the house has an "other." Everyone but Coraline. Her Other Mother has been waiting for her to come. Her eyes made of buttons hungrily awaiting the arrival of her daughter. She is solicitous, and loving, and would never desert Coraline for work. Coraline quickly realizes that this is not a place she wishes to stay. Yet her Other Mother has plans for Coraline's permanent residence in her world. If Coraline won't stay, she'll make her stay.

I first read Coraline what feels like years ago... oh wait, that's because it was. The simplicity of the tale and the evil of the Other Mother captured me in a way that good storytelling does. After the movie I was almost resistant to re-read it. The movie took the simplicity of the book and made it muddled and colorful and Disney. And above all else, NOT BRITISH. Sure, they tried to appease me with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, but too little too late. The visuals might have been wonderful, but it lacked the impact of the book. Aside from moving the story to the West Coast of the United States, the movie felt obliged, in typical movie fashion, to add a little sidekick for Coraline with Wybie. All these superfluous visuals and characters took away from the core story and made it more about spectacle. When I picked up the book again, all these negative feelings about the film kept barging in on my reading. At first I couldn't separate the two and it made me resent to film. Like how, sometimes, now when you're reading Harry Potter you can't help but picture Daniel Radcliffe, the film was tainting my reading.

Thankfully the book's storytelling was able to overcome my reservations. Neil Gaiman has a way with his "children's" stories that leaves a mark that I never felt with his "adult" books. The way the Other Mother's world is made and how it starts to unravel. The sheer horror of something as simple as a button. The way in which a typical narrative device of trying to trick the villain into playing a game is reinvented with the child's realization that the adult will cheat. This feeling of something older and more evil that the Other Mother is a part of coupled with her previous victims, makes this a quick and satisfying read. Far more satisfying than the movie. Last but not least, there's an awesome cat, that right there would sell the book even if it lacked everything else.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Bibliophilic Spree

1) Steampunk Sourcebook - Because I really wanted some Steampunk clipart from Dover to make my "Steampunk Summer" logo... and I did (nods head to the side so you'll look at the lovely new logo). Bought at

2)* Wild by Cheryl Strayed - I have a book club! FINALLY! And one that meets in person. It's been a long held dream and is finally coming true! YEAH! This is our first selection. While, it doesn't really look like a book I would normally pick up (not really a non-fiction reader, and it's about a hiker's "personal journey"), I am excited to have book people to talk to. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

* Means it's already been read

3) Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris - Because I'm a weird weird person and need my Sookie books in hardcover and paperback... because paperbacks are easier to read and all my hardcovers and signed 1sts, so once I read them, they have their own sacred space on the shelf. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

4)* Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal - Because I've been DESPERATE to read this book since I read the first book in the series earlier this year. DESPERATE I TELL YOU (like checking ebay and amazon and to see if there was any chance they had copies that where shipping early desperate.) Bought at Barnes and Noble.

5) A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont - It's like Lost in Austen but with Jane Eyre! Bought at Barnes and Noble.

Now comes the section of books I thought was going to be insanely long because I went to the RT Convention! It's a room, the size of a football field filled with authors and books, how could I get out of there without dropping a serious amount of cash... oddly enough because I had brought so many books (last unofficial count, some 60+ where signed) I only bought five! I know! I'm as shocked as you are... only five! Also, of those, I only really remember picking up four of them, more deatils to come below. In fact, I almost spent more on t-shirts that on books... I could pass up the t-shirt with Jane Austen wearing the David Bowie Aladin Sane lightning bolt or a cute one with birds.

6) The Selection by Kiera Cass - This was a major coup! The RT Convention was two weeks before the drop date of this book, so I didn't think there was a chance of getting it. My friend Marie and I desperately wanted to get this book, so the first thing we did after we where released into the room was run the whole length of the ballroom, with luggage, to YA Alley... it SO paid off. Kiera Cass was there with only ten copies of her new book. Only ten! There where hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in this room, and Marie and I where two of the ten. Sqwee! Hunger Games meets beauty pageant, with some serious cover lust. Bought at Romantic Times Convention.

7) White Witch by Trish Milburn - This was a book I didn't have a copy of and couldn't find a copy of before the convention so I was so happy that the author had the book I was looking for, seeing as sometimes the authors peoples send an odd assortment of their books, like only later books, not earlier books, or sometimes even only one book. Bought at Romantic Times Convention.

8) Definitely Not Mr. Dary by Karen Doornebos - I had been recommended this book by my friend Jess and as it turned out, my friend Marie wanted to pick up a copy to, so this was a must stop author. Not only was I uber excited to get a mint signed copy, but Karen was so nice! Turns out she went to the UW-Madison just like me! We talked for awhile about the ever increasing expansion of the UW and I told her about all the new buildings and plans for the future. So nice! Can't wait to read this book, espcially because she's working on the sequel! Bought at Romantic Times Convention.

9) The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong - This is the book I don't remember picking up. It was the last five minutes of the convention and I was trying to hit about twenty authors at once (in the last 15 minutes I met Kelley Armstrong, Stephanie Perkins, saw Rosemary Clement-Moore out of the corner of my eye, Rachel Caine, Leanna Renee Hieber, Mari Mancusi, Melissa Marr, Richelle Mead, Saundra Mitchell, Alyson Noel, Carrie Ryan, Ilona Andrews, J.A. Konrath, who was drunk, Kimberly Derting, and Bree Despain, if I am correct, that means, I saw a new author a minute!) So I was getting my books signed by Kelley Armstrong and my friend Marie was trying to make Melissa Marr not run off, so as soon as Kelley was done, I grabbed my books and ran to Marr... not realizing I grabbed a copy of The Gathering at the same time. Funnily enough, I had wanted to buy a copy but thought I hadn't... sometimes being a little spacing pays off! Bought at Romantic Times Convention.

10) Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber - I was hoping she'd have some of her adult series, but no, in fact she had only this one book left, so I had the honor of being the official last person to get a book from her! Bought at Romantic Times Convention.

11) City of Ravens by Boria Sax - It has an awesome cover and ever since I read the first book by Deanna Raybourn, I have been interested in the history of The Tower of London's ravens and this book looks to cure that need in me. Bought at Frugal Muse.

12) Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers - Because I needed a hardcover of one of the best books I read last year! I have the wonderful ARC that Robin sent me and I devoured, but I always need the "final" book as it where, and this was in mint condition and calling to me. Might have to re-read it soon.... Bought at Barnes and Noble.

13) Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore - It's about impressionists and Van Gogh. That's all I needed to buy this book... the pretty color pictures and a goregous map of Paris as the endpapers made it a even greater need. Bought at Barnes and Noble.

14) The Unseen Guest (The Incorigible Children of Ashton Place Book 3) by Maryrose Wood - Newest installment in this series, plus, she was doing a signing in Houston at my favorite bookstore, so signed copy, woot woot! Bought at Murder by the Book.

15) Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, aka The Blogess - Signed copy! Yeah! I was sad to see that the Midwest was getting no love from The Blogess on her book tour, but luckily, my favorite bookstore pulled through for me. Bought at Murder by the Book.

16-19)   Tales of the Jazz Age, This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Because I had to have the complete set! When I was at Barnes and Noble picking up Sacre Bleu, I finally saw these books in person and realized that I had to have them. Goregous deco designs and foils. Adore! Bought at and

20) The Diary of a Dr. Who Addict by Paul Magrs - Because Paul was having a sale of all his extra author copies and I couldn't miss the chance to pick up a few of his books I needed, plus get them signed to boot! Bought from Paul Magrs.
21) Aisles by Paul Magrs - Ditto.

22) Twelve Stories by Paul Magrs - Ditto ditto.

23) The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman - So many of my blogger friends have be raving about this book, and then I found it new half price at Frugal Muse. FATE I SAY! Bought at Frugal Muse.

24) The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones - This has been on my "to-get" list for some time. Birthday party at a rural estate in ruins, yes please! Bought at Barnes and Noble.
Note on the bookstores: - because sometimes, more often that not, your local Barnes and Noble didn't stock that ONE book you where looking for, and having prime means everything shows up so fast!

Barnes and Noble - the last big chain in the Midwest that everyone knows and loves or loathes accordingly.

RT Convetion - The Romantic Times Convention is the biggest book convention of romance authors. They hold it in different locations every year, but often in Chicago. It's very pricey to go, and for years I'd been hoping they'd open up their authors signing to everyone, and apparrently last year was the first time. For $5 I had so much author access, the three house zoomed by. As always, I think seeing Lauren Willig was a major highlight.

Frugal Muse - local Madison, Wisconsin chain with two stores in town which sells both old and new books at wonderful prices (at a really steep discount for new books too) and is easily my favorite bookstore.

Murder by the Book - the best bookstore in the world! They're in Houston, Texas and have tons of amazing events and for every book you buy they'll let you send in three books to get signed. Love you all!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 544 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"This title is fifth in the international bestselling paranormal thriller series "The Mortal Instruments". This is the follow-up to the international number one bestseller "City of Fallen Angels". "The Mortal Instruments" series has over one million books in print. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for six months straight. The books have been translated into 19 languages and have also appeared on bestseller lists in Germany, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Film rights optioned, with Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower cast as leads Clary and Jace."

Bet you the fan girls have been shitting themseleves waiting for this, well her you all go!

A Hero for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Before the end of The Search for WondLa, Eva Nine had never seen another human, but after a human boy named Hailey rescues her along with her companions, she couldn’t be happier. Eva thinks she has everything she’s ever dreamed of, especially when Hailey brings her and her friends to the colony of New Attica, where humans of all shapes and sizes live in apparent peace and harmony.

But all is not idyllic in New Attica, and Eva Nine soon realizes that something sinister is going on—and if she doesn’t stop it, it could mean the end of everything and everyone on planet Orbona. Three illustrations trigger a 3-D Augmented Reality flying game that mimics action in the novel.

Featuring an abundance of lavish two-color illustrations and spot art throughout and introducing a host of remarkable characters that reinforce the importance of friendship, A Hero for WondLa has all the hallmarks of a classic book—of the future."

Now this is far more my type of book! Though I think the cover on this one was made a little too Disney-esque compared to the first one with it's wonderous cover.

Snobs by Julian Fellowes
Published by: St. Martin's Griffen
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The English, of all classes as it happens, are addicted to exclusivity. Leave three Englishmen in a room and they will invent a rule that prevents a fourth joining them."

The best comedies of manners are often deceptively simple, seamlessly blending social critique with character and story. In his superbly observed first novel, Julian Fellowes, creator of the Masterpiece sensation Downton Abbey and winner of an Academy Award for his original screenplay of Gosford Park, brings us an insider's look at a contemporary England that is still not as classless as is popularly supposed.

Edith Lavery, an English blonde with large eyes and nice manners, is the daughter of a moderately successful accountant and his social-climbing wife. While visiting his parents' stately home as a paying guest, Edith meets Charles, the Earl Broughton, and heir to the Marquess of Uckfield, who runs the family estates in East Sussex and Norfolk. To the gossip columns he is one of the most eligible young aristocrats around.

When he proposes. Edith accepts. But is she really in love with Charles? Or with his title, his position, and all that goes with it?"
One inescapable part of life at Broughton Hall is Charles's mother, the shrewd Lady Uckfield, known to her friends as "Googie" and described by the narrator---an actor who moves comfortably among the upper classes while chronicling their foibles---"as the most socially expert individual I have ever known at all well. She combined a watchmaker's eye for detail with a madam's knowledge of the world." Lady Uckfield is convinced that Edith is more interested in becoming a countess than in being a good wife to her son. And when a television company, complete with a gorgeous leading man, descends on Broughton Hall to film a period drama, "Googie's" worst fears seem fully justified.

In this wickedly astute portrait of the intersecting worlds of aristocrats and actors, Julian Fellowes establishes himself as an irresistible storyteller and a deliciously witty chronicler of modern manners."

A re-release of Julian Fellowes book with a very familiar cover... now what does it remind me of... oh yes, the opening credits of Downton Abbey!

Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes
Published by: St. Martin's Griffen
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the creator of the Emmy Award-winning Downton Abbey...

“Damian Baxter was a friend of mine at Cambridge. We met around the time when I was doing the Season at the end of the Sixties. I introduced him to some of the girls. They took him up, and we ran about together in London for a while….”
Nearly forty years later, the narrator hates Damian Baxter and would gladly forget their disastrous last encounter. But if it is pleasant to hear from an old friend, it is more interesting to hear from an old enemy, and so he accepts an invitation from the rich and dying Damian, who begs him to track down the past girlfriend whose anonymous letter claimed he had fathered a child during that ruinous debutante season.

The search takes the narrator back to the extraordinary world of swinging London, where aristocratic parents schemed to find suitable matches for their daughters while someone was putting hash in the brownies at a ball at Madame Tussaud’s. It was a time when everything seemed to be changing—and it was, but not always quite as expected. "

More Julian to tide you over till there's more Downton... sigh, I need more Downton...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review - Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Companion

The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 480 Pages
Challenge: Vampire Challenge, Horror and Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★
To Buy
If this book proved one thing to me it's that, while I consider myself a Sookie fan, I'm truly a dilettante. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Sookie, truly. I enjoy the books, they are fun, do I need a Sookie Encyclopedia? Perhaps a pared down one because the general plot lines and characters are getting unwieldy and out of control. Do a need more than three hundred pages of this? Hell no. While I agree it is fun to have reference books to your favorite authors, these really aren't meant to be read cover to cover but only picked up on occasion for a query here or there. Consisting of some fun elements, like a map of the town (which seems to have too little distance between some locations like Sookie's and Merlotte's) and correspondence snarkiness that takes place during the books between Eric and Bill, it also contains questions and answers with Charlaine and Alan Ball that are deathly dull and a recipe section. Now that's what I find odd. Recipes! Now, I can see that with all the mention of food in the books that a recipe book for the series is a good idea... but... do a separate darn book don't put it in a book that I don't want anywhere near food or a kitchen, especially when the foods use a lot of deep fryers. The mere thought makes my blood boil and the risk to any book, even if it's one I'm not overly wild about. No books near anything that has heat or flames or grease people, jeez.

The main reason to buy this book though is not the minutiae of every character that was ever mentioned or ever had a line, or even the book summaries which by the final book are so long and incoherent, you can see how this series is getting the better of it's author, the reason is the short story. Well... it's really more of a novella. I originally thought when we first had mention of Sam's little brother's wedding that it might be a full book, heck, it would be more plot than some of the more recent installments. But instead we got a little novella, which showed more about Sam, resolved some issues with Quinn and Sarah Newlin, and felt more like Sookie than a lot of the short stories do. It was a quick little story that once again made me wish that Sookie ends up with an actual human like Sam. But like all the short stories it just seems like a way for us to spend more money on this ever greedy franchise. These books are fun quick reads and that's all. This Companion seems to be giving the series more weight than it rightfully has. A "companion book" indicates something of note, something worthy of further discussion and research, and I don't know if Sookie and her vampires are that... but perhaps I'm wrong and all those people who watch True Blood and actually liked it past the second season will disagree.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Review - Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse Book 11) by Charlaine Harris
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Challenge: Vampire Challenge, Horror and Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Something has to be done about Victor. He is no longer acting as emissary to the King of Nevada, he is acting like the King of Louisiana. He is doing everything he can to undermine Eric and Sookie. He's even created rival bars aimed at Eric and Sookie's respective clientele, for Fangtasia he's created Vampire's Kiss, for Merlotte's he's created Vic's Redneck Roadhouse. All because of a petty little vampire with a Napoleon complex life has become very hard for Sookie. Of course the drop in patrons at Merlotte's could be because of any number of things besides "Vic's" wet t-shirt competitions and beer pong tournaments. Merlotte's troubles could be because of the continuing hostilities to shifters, the firebombing, the brawls, any number of horrors. Sookie is no longer going to take this lying down. They want war, they'll get war. There will be a mighty reckoning for the once perky blond waitress. By the time Sookie is done she will have put Victor Madden behind her, as well as all her baggage left over from Debbie Pelt's murder and the vengeance her step-sister Sandra has wrought her. If there's a trail of bodies, so be it. At the end will Sookie be left with anything? Could she even loose Eric? Also, those fairies are massing at the strip club and it can't be just because they're lonely.

The newest installment of the ever expanding and unwieldy world of Sookie Stackhouse was a fun romp in vengeance and tying up loose ends. And what better way to get ride of the pesky problems then by making corpses of them. As seen in the previous book, Sookie has now seen too much and been hurt once too often to be as naive, sweet and forgiving as she used to be. She will not politely ask the unwanted naked werewolf in her bed to leave, she will forcibly eject him from her house. She will no longer let a "blood bond" with Eric control her emotions, she will be the master of them. Victor is a problem, bye bye Victor. I liked that this book was very much a cleaning of Sookie's house.

Not only did she clean the cobwebs out of her attic and get a nice new room and some cash from selling her antiques, she cleaned up her life. She got ride of all those problems that kept piling up. Sure, what she did will have repercussions and new consequences. But they'll be new and shiny horrors, not Sandra Pelt seven books later still causing her problems. Really, I know Debbi was her sister, but Debbi was scum, how many books is Sandra going to be dragged out for? Well not anymore (hehe). But notice, to spoiler freaks, she been dealt with, and that can have a wide variety of implications, her cousin was bespelled to leave Sookie alone after all. Overall I think we're reaching the end of this series' feasibility. There is no plot anymore, there are, thankfully, less loose ends, and if Charlaine does end at book thirteen, which hopefully she will, I will still have fun, happy memories of a series that I really liked, despite it being uneven. Carry this on much longer... it could get ugly. It still might get ugly, but in a good way if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review - Charlaine Harris' Deadlocked

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: May 1st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Sookie's life is a bit of a mixed bag at the moment. Her job is wonderful, better than ever. Sure Merlotte's is still in a slump, but since she helped Sam with a loan he now views her as a partner. Sookie loves the new responsibilities and the new decisions, like lockers for the staff! Yet then there's Eric. Eric and his fiance... when Sookie is already technically his wife! Why do vampires have to be so complicated? Then to add to the problem, the King comes to visit inquiring after the man they all plotted to murder. Keeping secrets from a powerful vampire is dangerous, but what happens next could cause even more trouble. There's a dead girl in front of Eric's house, one Sookie just happened to catch him snacking on. She knew Eric had to get his sustenance from somewhere, but the way he did it so cruelly and callously in front of Sookie makes all her senses tingle. This wasn't right.

Sookie has got to prove Eric's innocence, even if their relationship doesn't survive this, Eric is not responsible for this death, others yes, just not this one. There is a way out for Sookie, a magical, oh so easy way... the cluviel dor. The fairy magic that Sookie found tucked away in her attic. It has basically made her fairy catnip, yet the one wish it contains could solve all the problems of her and Eric. The thing is, does Eric know she has it and is trying to force her hand? As she tries to solve the murder she realizes that everything that is happening to her, vampire, fairy and werewolf might all tie into the cluviel dor. If you had one wish, what would you use it on?

I know there are many people out there who didn't like this book because not much happened, and you know what, I liked that. Being the penultimate book, this seemed to be Charlaine clearing the decks and getting Sookie back to her human roots. I loved that! Sookie's world has become so convoluted and she's ended up so entwined with all the Sups that it was nice to take a step back, see her as she was before and could be again. Some reviewers have been bandying about the deus ex machina way that Charlaine handy got rid of Jannalynn and established the deeper bond between Sookie and Sam. So what? It's her world and I loved that she just wiped Jannalynn out of existence and just with the flick of the pen got rid of all the fairies. As for those Eric shippers out there... you KNEW that she was never going to end up with Eric. Sookie, in a logical world, in my logical world, gets a life. Not an undead vampire forever life, but sun and daylight and love and children. She gets everything she deserves and a man that loves her unreservedly. All that she could only get from Sam, in my mind, Alcide, with his pack and troubled past could never give this to her. Eric in the end loves power and money more than her could ever love a human.

There where also tons of just little human moments I loved. Sookie waiting for the birth of Tara's twins. Sookie going all Gollum over her cluviel dor. Sookie having a birthday! If she where to be reborn, a birthday would lose it's significance. Just going to the library and picking up a book or swinging by the Dairy Queen to have a blizzard. It's the little mundane things that made this book magical to me. I really can't wait for the final book and hope that all that I wish for Sookie comes true... if the direction that Charlaine took for this book stays true, then I think Sookie is going to get the happily ever after I wish for her. After all these years of reading her exploits, she deserves it... and yes, I know she's fictional, but is she really to you or me?

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