Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pretty in Pink Winners!

Well, my pretties, the time has come to draw some names, let the random number generater generate. So, eight prizes... now that's quite a few. Thanks, of course, go out to Dutton, for providing me with books and ornaments. Lauren, obviously, for being awesome, writing this book and going on tour. Murder by the Book in Houston for getting me the signed editions and of course, all of you for entering! Let's get to the winners now, shall we?

1st Prize (2 winners): A Signed 1st Edition of The Mischief of the Mistletoe Signed by Lauren Willig plus a lovely Mischievous Christmas Ornament

Carol T, that most dangerous of Beetroots!
Christy, who shall rename root veggie moniker-less.

2nd Prize (2 winners): A 1st Edition of The Mischief of the Mistletoe plus a lovely Mischievous Christmas Ornament

Kulsuma, who, as a Radish, should watch out for Fraggles.
Gaby, who feels she's less root vegetable, than vine fruit, watermelon!

3rd Prize (4 winners): A lovely Mischievous Christmas Ornament

Melissa, who as a Parsnip, has me to thank for addicting her to these books.
Tina, the succulent Cactus.
DeeClare, the sweet sugar beet!
Huyen, my carroty friend, whose tall and has a very lovely mop o'hair.

Book Review - Lauren Willig's The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
Published by: New American Library
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2009
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Charlotte has been waiting at Girdings for her knight in shining armour to come, just like those glorious murals depicting her ancestors bravely battling their foes on long gone battlefields or the books she consumes copiously. She even has her own dragon with her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. Then on Christmas Eve, out of the snow, Robert returns. Fleeing the family home for India all those years ago, the Duke of Dovedale returns like a knight returning from a long crusade in the Holy Land. Charlotte instantly starts framing her world in her rose tinted way with a happy ending of hunting unicorns with jam tarts and kissing Robert in the sun, never mind it's bleak midwinter and her grandmother has surrounded her with rogues and dimwits in a final attempt to marry her off. The worst of the lot being Francis Medmenham, descendant of the nefarious founder of the Hellfire Club. But why did Robert return? Is he here to court fair maiden? Or does he have darker designs... he has taken to Medmenham rather fast. But of course it is all a misunderstanding wherein Robert is out for revenge but he can't let the fair maiden know of his deceit. Breaking her heart for her own good, Robert sinks deeper into Medmenham's world while Charlotte is bustled off to court to wait on the Queen. But following a startling discovery and evidence that the King is going mad once again, Charlotte takes on her own causes for King and Country. Could it be that Robert's nemesis and the men behind Charlotte's uncovered plot are connected? If only through libraries and boat rides and dark tunnels used for darker purposes Charlotte and Robert could work together and not fret about what if's, might have beens and almost kisses, maybe they could save England.

Oddly enough both times I've read this book I've set it down for sometime and then come back to it. I can't really explain why I do this, but I just do. More than any character Lauren has written I identify with Charlotte, and maybe that's why I set this book down, I know what I'd do, so Charlotte would do the same. While the relatablity is strong, there's too much of a closeness, I find I enjoy characters who are less like me. For example Pen, I am nothing like Pen, but give me more Pen please! The characters are flawed, but they're nobly flawed. For a book with the Hellfire Club there is a noticeable lack of dirtiness. I love Medmenham and wish he had just taken over the book and been lewd and crude and maybe slaughtered a few unicorns. Wow... that went to a dark place. Maybe I just haven't been in the fairy tale frame of mind when I think of spies and can't handle the goody goody and want me some Mary and Vaughn. Snark and evil, that's what this book needed a little bit of to balance the good. Everyone needs balance.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Of Love and Evil by Anne Rice
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: November 30th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 192 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"“I dreamed a dream of angels. I saw them and heard them in a great and endless galactic night. I saw the lights that were these angels, flying here and there, in streaks of irresistible brilliance . . . I felt love around me in this vast and seamless realm of sound and light . . . And something akin to sadness swept me up and mingled my very essence with the voices who sang, because the voices were singing of me . . . ”
Thus begins Anne Rice’s lyrical, haunting new novel, a metaphysical thriller of angels and assassins that once again summons up dark and dangerous worlds set in times past. Anne Rice takes us to other realms, this time to the world of fifteenth-century Rome, a city of domes and rooftop gardens, rising towers and crosses beneath an ever-shifting layer of clouds; familiar hills and tall pines . . . of Michelangelo and Raphael, of the Holy Inquisition and of Leo X, second son of a Medici, holding forth from the papal throne . . . And into this time, into this century, Toby O’Dare, former government assassin, is summoned by the angel Malchiah to solve a terrible crime of poisoning and to search out the truth of a haunting by an earthbound restless spirit—a diabolical dybbuk.

O’Dare soon discovers himself in the midst of dark plots and counterplots surrounded by a darker and more dangerous threat as the veil of ecclesiastical terror closes in around him.

As he embarks on a powerful journey of atonement, O’Dare is reconnected with his own past, with matters light and dark, fierce and tender, with the promise of salvation and with a deeper and richer vision of love."

Glad to see Anne Rice back doing something I might actually want to read.

The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick
Published by: Pyr
Publication Date: November 30th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 300 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The year is 1881. The United States of America ends at the Mississippi River. Beyond lies the Indian nations, where the magic of powerful Medicine Men has halted the advance of the Americans east of the river.

An American government desperate to expand its territory sends Thomas Alva Edison out West to the town of Tombstone, Arizona, on a mission to discover a scientific means of counteracting magic. Hired to protect this great genius, Wyatt Earp and his brothers.

But there are plenty who would like to see the Earps and Edison dead. Riding to their aid are old friends Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. Against them stand the Apache wizard Geronimo and the Clanton gang. Battle lines are drawn, and the Clanton gang, which has its own reasons for wanting Edison dead, sends for Johnny Ringo, the one man who might be Doc Holliday's equal in a gunfight. But what shows up instead is The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo, returned from the dead and come to Tombstone looking for a fight.

Welcome to a West like you've never seen before, where "Bat Masterson" hails from the ranks of the undead, where electric lights shine down on the streets of Tombstone, while horseless stagecoaches carry passengers to and fro, and where death is no obstacle to The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western tale, and the West will never be the same."

This could be really really cool like Firefly, or really really bad like the Will Smith movie Wild Wild West.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lauren Willig Book Talk and Signing

See, no one reminds me, I go into a land of Turkey coma and emerge a week later to finally tell the thrilling tale of Lauren and her signing in Chicago. Thrilling if you like parking spots right in front of libraries and men in knee breeches. It was a mild and windless day... ok, perhaps that's further back than you'd like. After a book buying frenzy at the Michigan Avenue Borders (20% store wide!) and slaking our thirst at Ghirardelli's, my friend and I meandered back towards the gorgeous edifice of the Newbury Library on the quaint Washington Square Park, the less famous of those similarly monikered. We entered the lovely lobby to discover similar Turnip enamoured bookworms, in fact so many Turnip lovers that we had to be moved into a bigger room! One my way towards the facilities I spotted Lauren waiting in line at the information desk and was greeted with a hug and got to act as her unofficial escort while discussing, what else, books, in particular what the longevity of steampunk might be. I reclaimed my seat in the front row and Lauren claimed her seat of honour, which would rarely be used as her years of debate had taught her to ramble around while rambling, though we weren't to worry if she looked like she was making a break for the door, she wasn't leaving. Lauren is a rare species of authors, one who is also a fabulous speaker. Most authors live in their little world of words and have a hard time talking in front of large groups of people. Lauren is the opposite of this. She's just as alive and bubbly as her books. There's an enthusiasm that is infectious about her and the world she has created. It's easy to see Lauren as the creator of such memorable characters as the Pink Carnation, the Purple Gentian and of course, Turnip Fitzhugh. You can almost picture Lauren in Regency garb in the background of the Tullieries watching as Miss Gwen takes on Bonaparte and laughing while swigging pink champagne.

Starting with a reading of the Austen apocrypha, The Mischief of the Mistletoe's lost introduction, Lauren went on to describe all the ways she tried to avoid having Jane Austen in her book. Austen's world is a polar opposite to the one Lauren has created. Austen absolutely did not have young ladies hiding under tables and spies sneaking in through sashed windows. Lauren wanted to stay away from Austen with a ten foot pole and all those who had such firm views on this icon of literature, Regency Mafia anyone? But Turnip, her Regency Bertie Wooster, his story had to be told in Bath, and it had to be 1803, and that just had to be a time when Austen was in Bath and suffering from her dry spell. It just seemed as if Austen was now everywhere, even a vampire if you look in the right places, so Austen would be a part of Turnip's story.

The questions and answers section of the talk then took off with me asking about something I know we're all interested in. Who does Jane Wooliston, not Austen, end up with? Lauren says she knows, but only if her cunning plans agree to stay on track, which they never seem to want to do. After the first question was asked, more started pouring in. She described her research method as a period of immersion where she doesn't take notes, so that when she sits to write the story the history and the plot mesh together and she does spot research to fill in those details she needs more information on. Pink IX is already finished and it has our first American Heroine... one who might have appeared briefly in The Orchid Affiar is my newest theory, as well as Augutus Wittelby and Miss Gwen as a pirate Queen with the sage advice to plunder before burning. As for The Orchid Affair, we have a French hero for once! And as for a certain parasol wielding matron, it looks like she will get her own book and despite the recent Pink Comic illustrations, she is younger that she was portrayed, so my casting might work better than I thought! The reason for no Colin and Eloise in the newest book was made clear as a concession to the publishers to have a smaller, more giftable book for the holidays where Lauren could do justice to her characters. Also Waterloo was brought up, and no, not the ABBA song. Lauren said at the rate she's going, having barely made it out of 1803, she might have to do a time jump eventually, because otherwise it would take 83 books to get there, not that I'd mind, though my bookshelf might. After all there are so many places to take these characters, Russia, South Africa, Egypt (which I'm keeping my fingers crossed for!) While us readers tend to have our favorite books, Lauren always thinks the newest, the unstarted phantom will be the best, and is the least favorite after she's written it. Though she still has a soft spot for Mary and Vaughn, her bitch prom queen and jaded rogue. Now she's a full time writer she's realized her pace is such that soon her publisher will be surround by Pink manuscripts of which they can quite conceivably make a fort and that she might want to tackle that mystery set at Yale or that 17th century epic one of these days. But she vows to stop writing the Pink books before she gets bored because you see in some of these series you can tell when the author has lost interest and then disappoints the fans. Finally she said that in practicality she didn't get her History degree because it's a bad sign when it's taken you 7 years to cover a timeline of 3. The we got another little reading of Turnip arriving with the Christmas hamper for his little sister.

The signing then commenced! I was ecstatic to get my copy of Mistletoe signed, as well as my ARC of The Orchid Affair and my Pink expurgated 1st, which I forgot to mention to Lauren. So Lauren, if you're reading this, that was my Pink with all the missing sexy sexy bits that someone artfully removed. But more importantly I was excited because I had brought a present for Lauren, seen above on the table surrounded by books, ie, it's rightful home. For awhile now I have done artwork based on the old drawings by the Brothers Brock in my grandmother's turn of the century editions of Jane Austen. My favorite was always the one I did from Mansfield Park entitled: "Not of Facts, Perhaps, But of Feelings." Ironically this was a piece that was very close to being trashed cause it was not cooperating with me. I am so glad I never did that, because I would have always regretted it. Anyway, last year, while sick and revelling in the restorative powers of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily, in the last chapter Lauren used that quote! I was so excited I knew that if I was to ever go to a Lauren signing I just had to give her a print of that piece. Because, let's face it, writers do so much for use. They fill our lives with stories and dreams and what do they get back? Yes, they get the good reviews and the fans, but they also get the bad reviews and the detractors. What physical, tactile proof do they get that they are appreciated? Plus, I love giving presents! See the Lauren themed Pretty in Pink Giveaway! Lauren has given me so much joy and entertainment over the years I felt I needed to thank her for everything. Plus, I got an even better gift in return, she hung my art above her desk, and that just gave me warm fuzzies.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Mischief of the Mistletoe - The Lost Intro

To start her talk I went to Lauren Willig did a dramatic reading from some expurgated text from her newest book. I present it to you here, in full: Lauren's "lost intro" to The Mischief of the Mistletoe, perhaps it will make it into the paperback edition... For it's humor and it's subtle barbing of the Regency Mafia, who I myself have had run ins with (resulting in a strong desire to form the anti JASNA, for those who love the books and don't want to attack non footnoted and historically backed up theories and just want to discuss Colin Firth in wet shirts and men in knee breeches) I salute thee, and laugh copiously.

From the Introduction to the Oxford Addendum to the Cambridge Companion of the Collected Letters of Jane Austen:

“… the Dempsey Collection, as it is called, was for some time denied a place in the Austenian epistolary canon. Due to the destruction of the bulk of Austen’s correspondence after her death, for some time there were believed to be only one hundred and sixty letters extent. The discovery of a cache of correspondence, preserved in an old trunk in an attic in Norfolk, underneath a series of shockingly gaudy waistcoats embroidered in a carnation print, tucked inside an early nineteenth century recipe book concerned entirely with Christmas puddings, was thought for some time by the Fellows of the Royal College of Austen Studies to be nothing more than a malicious act of sabotage on the part of unscrupulous members of the rival Dickens Society, who had turned to thuggery as the inevitable result of immoderate consumption of late Victorian serial fiction. Although the Dickens Society denied the charge, relations between the two groups remained frosty, culminating in the great Tea Incident of 1983, which scandalized Oxbridge and caused a rift of which the reverberations are felt to this day. As footnote clashed against footnote, and members of warring factions refused to pass the port at High Table, the Dempsey Collection was relegated for some time to the academic abyss, discarded as nothing more than Austenian apocrypha.

“After two decades of painstaking scrutiny, including chemical testing, textual analysis, and the consultation of several Magic 8 balls, the scholarly community has tentatively accepted the Dempsey collection as genuine, with some significant reservations. Although the dates of the letters and the identity of the author have, indeed, been authenticated, there are serious doubts as to the veracity of the contents. While Jane Austen writes in her own name, addressing the letters to a supposedly “real” young lady of her acquaintance, the events narrated within them are of such a sensational and fantastical nature as to defy all belief.

“The more serious members of the academic establishment adhere to the theory that Austen was, in fact, engaged in an epistolary novel, a style she employed for both the unfinished Lady Susan and the original draft of Elinor and Marianne, the novel that was to become Sense and Sensibility. There is some argument that the letters comprise a failed early draft of her incomplete novel, The Watsons. As in that work, the Dempsey collection features a heroine returned to the unaffectionate bosom of her family after being disappointed in her hopes of an inheritance from a wealthy aunt, who casts her from the household upon the elderly aunt’s imprudent second marriage to a handsome young captain in the army. Many of the names Austen uses in the Watsons appear in the Dempsey collection, although somewhat altered.

“There, however, all resemblance ends….

“That the letters and their contents were, in fact, the product of a contemporary correspondence conducted with an actual acquaintance in reaction to authentic events is a possibility entertained only by the most radical fringe of Austen scholars. This view is generally discredited…

“What Englishman, one may ask, would answer to the name of Turnip?”

Excerpt reproduced courtesy of the author, Perpetua Fotherington-Smythe, M. Phil., D. Phil, R. Phil, F.R.C.A.S.*, S.o.S.A.S.S.I..**, GAE (MEOAE).***

* Fellow of the Royal College of Austen Studies
** Symposium of the Society of Austen and Similarly Superior Interlocutors
*** Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the Austenian Epistle

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year I have so much to be thankful for, such a bounty of friends and family (and homework, which, let's be honest, could be eliminated) that I've been neglectful of my other family. You my readers! I am just as grateful for all your comments and your friendships. I feel more connected than I have in years with those sitting across from me at the table to those reading my words across the globe. So forgive the lassitude of my posting the last few weeks, know that it's a result of the greatness of love surrounding me which I hope you experience as well, today and everyday. But I do promise to get back to the business of books! Which, lets face it, are friends that never let us down.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Millennium Trilogy Deluxe Box Set by Stieg Larsson
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: November 23rd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Readers all across America are talking about Stieg Larsson’s #1 best-selling trilogy—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest—which has more than 5 million copies in print.

Now, just in time for the holidays: a deluxe, slip-cased set of the three hardcover novels—each unjacketed, bound in full cloth and uniquely stamped, with maps and individual full-color endpapers—as well as On Stieg Larsson, a previously unpublished collection of essays about and correspondence with the author.

The perfect collectible for the Stieg Larsson fan and the ideal gift for those who have yet to meet his heroine, Lisbeth Salander, “one of the most fascinating characters in modern genre fiction”"

Holy swanky box set just in time for Christmas Batman!

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: November 23rd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Martin compresses the wild and crazy end of the millennium and finds in this piercing novel a sardonic morality tale. Lacey Yeager is an ambitious young art dealer who uses everything at her disposal to advance in the world of the high-end art trade in New York City. After cutting her teeth at Sotheby's, she manipulates her way up through Barton Talley's gallery of "Very Expensive Paintings," sleeping with patrons, and dodging and indulging in questionable deals, possible felonies, and general skeeviness until she opens her own gallery in Chelsea. Narrated by Lacey's journalist friend, Daniel Franks, whose droll voice is a remarkable stand-in for Martin's own, the world is ordered and knowable, blindly barreling onward until 9/11. And while Lacey and the art she peddles survive, the wealth and prestige garnered by greed do not. Martin (an art collector himself) is an astute miniaturist as he exposes the sound and fury of the rarified Manhattan art world. If Shopgirl was about the absence of purpose, this book is about the absence of a moral compass, not just in the life of an adventuress but for an entire era."

Not many people know that Steve Martin has one of the best personal art collections in the world. So it will be very interesting to see him tackle the art world again, though I don't think it will ever be as good as his Picasso play!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lauren Willig Book Talk & Signing

So, yesterday I had the awesome and amazing good fortune to go and see Lauren Willig in Chicago at the tail end of her book tour promoting her new book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe (my choice of Christmas present for all I know, except Matt, because she who must not be named is in it, that's Jane Austen to all others). I really want to write about how wonderful and bubbly and fun Lauren was, but it was a long day and I will not do it the justice it deserves. Hopefully I'll get it up later today or by the end of the week, please, make sure I do this, if someone can harass me, that would be great, school and Harry Potter do tend to be a distracting presence this week. Until then, interesting fact of the day, Robert Fulton and his steamboat first sailed the Seine in 1803, not the Mississippi as one might expect!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
Published by: University of California Press
Publication Date: November 16th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 760 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Mark Twain is his own greatest character in this brilliant self-portrait, the first of three volumes collected by the Mark Twain Project on the centenary of the author's death. It is published complete and unexpurgated for the first time. (Twain wanted his more scalding opinions suppressed until long after his death.) Eschewing chronology and organization, Twain simply meanders from observation to anecdote and between past and present. There are gorgeous reminiscences from his youth of landscapes, rural idylls, and Tom Sawyeresque japes; acid-etched profiles of friends and enemies, from his "fiendish" Florentine landlady to the fatuous and "grotesque" Rockefellers; a searing polemic on a 1906 American massacre of Filipino insurgents; a hilarious screed against a hapless editor who dared tweak his prose; and countless tales of the author's own bamboozlement, unto bankruptcy, by publishers, business partners, doctors, miscellaneous moochers; he was even outsmarted by a wild turkey. Laced with Twain's unique blend of humor and vitriol, the haphazard narrative is engrossing, hugely funny, and deeply revealing of its author's mind. His is a world where every piety conceals fraud and every arcadia a trace of violence; he relishes the human comedy and reveres true nobility, yet as he tolls the bell for friends and family--most tenderly in an elegy for his daughter Susy, who died in her early 20s of meningitis--he feels that life is a pointless charade. Twain's memoirs are a pointillist masterpiece from which his vision of America--half paradise, half swindle--emerges with indelible force. 66 photos and line illus."

Well this should be interesting... seeing as it's been held back for so long and is already on best sellers lists. Of course I've been hearing it's kind of stale and boring.

Night Star by Alyson Noel
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: November 16th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
 Night Star
The official patter:
"With 2 million copies of her Immortals series in print, Alyson Noël is one of the hottest paranormal teen authors writing today.  Night Star continues the epic love story that has enchanted readers across the world.  In this installment, Ever and Damen face down bitter rivals, jealous friends and their own worst fears—all in the hope of being together forever.  Night Star is guaranteed to mesmerize fans and leave them breathlessly awaiting the sixth and final book!"

Hmm, now that this series is getting to the end, perhaps it's time for some marathon reading!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review - Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Published by: Riverhead
Publication Date: June 4th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 466 Pages
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★
To Buy
Hundreds Hall has always had a special place in the heart of  Doctor Faraday. Ever since, as a young boy, his mother snuck him into the servants quarters to see where she once worked he has been obsessed, wanting to posses some of the house for himself. Thirty years have passed since that fateful day and when a chance occurrence calls him to the house to look in on an ailing maid he leaps at the opportunity. Betty is now the only full time servant in the once great house, which is falling to ruin around the three remaining family members. The house was once vibrant and full of people and life, but now it is a mouldering pile of the England that was. Mrs. Ayres, Roderick and Caroline, with her dog Gyp, live a secluded life at the hall. Roddy was injured in the war and Caroline spends all her time helping him and the house. But with no money and no hope, the future is bleak. But here's Dr. Faraday, determined to help and make himself invaluable to the family. He agrees to help Roddy just so that he can worm his way into the lives of the Ayres. Soon he himself is a fixture at the house and his presence helps the Ayres open up a little. At a fateful dinner party Gyp attacks a young girl. The attack is totally out of character and costs the dog his life. But this is just the beginning. Soon there are weird burn marks appearing around Roddy's room, eventually culminating in a fire. In a rash moment Roddy confides in the doctor that the house has an infection and he has to keep this malevolent spirit at bay. Dr. Faraday, as a man of science, gets the family to commit Roddy. He can not bring himself to believe that ghosts or even phantasms, spirits broken off from living people, are responsible. With Roddy out of the picture, Dr. Faraday becomes the man of the house. Inveigling his way in till he is invaluable to Mrs. Ayres, but in particular, to Caroline. But weird things start happening again, strange noises, mysterious writing and there are a few incidences with Mrs. Ayres. What really is happening at Hundreds Hall and can Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid, force himself into the world of the gentry through sheer will and persistence?

I don't think I can adequately state how disappointed I was in this book. I was looking forward to a spooky post war period piece the likes that Wilkie Collins or Charles Dickens might have written. With comparisons to The Turn of the Screw I was hoping for at least a modicum of eeriness. But instead I had hundreds of pages with an unlikable narrator and one or two minor "supernatural experiences" that weren't in the least bit scary. Plus there was NO PLOT and NO RESOLUTION. Now, I know The Turn of the Screw has an ambiguous ending, but at least something happened! One of two things can be inferred, she's insane or evil was present. Here, sure, we do have a bit of a body count by the end, but there is no hint as to how this happened. They're just dead and Dr. Faraday goes on in his little world of Hundreds worship. First I want to tackle the "haunting aspect" of this book. There is a gentle dog who attacks an annoying little girl who drinks at her young age and is herself repugnant. There are mysterious burns and a fire in an overstressed and chain smoking mans room. A few weird sounds lead to writing on the wall which is easily explained away. There are a few other things, but that would ruin the "surprise" if you were somehow lured into picking up this stupid book. Now, none of these events were scary. I have personally experienced things scarier than these mundane events that could be explained away by the remoteness of the family and how cut off they are from the world resulting in a high strung state of mind. So, right there, I fail the book for not living up to even a shred of the spookiness I was told about. But the main problem is Dr. Faraday. He is pompous, obsessed, forceful and just the littlest bit creepy. One inference you could make is that he is what is wrong with Hundreds Hall, because things start to go bad once he's on the scene. His veneration for this house and the world he could never have been a part of except for some fluke of timing verges on the psychotic. Plus, his obsession with becoming the Halls caretaker, be it inhabitants or brick and mortar, is just, again, psychotic. His insistence that he and Caroline become a couple, even telling people of their engagement, which we've never had confirmation of from her own mouth. Their first romantic encounter is nearly date rape and each subsequent encounter seems more and more like an abusive relationship. He bullies her into what he wants, and once she stands up for herself, bad things happen. I don't think I would hate this book as much as I did if it wasn't for the fact I feel so let down. The writing wasn't bad, the house, you can picture it perfectly, it's just the narrator and the non existent plot gave me a disgruntled and dissatisfied feeling that no one should have after reading a book, especially one read for entertainment. Plus, Dr. Faraday made me feel like I needed a long shower.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review - Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Series

Scott Pilgrim Volumes 1-6 by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Published by: Oni Press
Publication Date: August 18th, 2004 - July 20th, 2010
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★ (averaged)
To Buy Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little LifeTo Buy Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim Versus The World
To Buy Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim and The Infinite Sadness
To Buy Vol 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It TogetherTo Buy Vol 5: Scott Pilgrim vs The UniverseTo Buy Vol 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour
Scott Pilgrim is finally moving on, if dating a High School student could be considered moving on for a 23 year old. Though nothing is really happening with Knives asside from riding the bus, and that's just fine by Scott. Scott goes through life wallowing in his past and not wanting to think of the future. He mooches off his gay roommate Wallace, known as the one with the money between the two of them, with all his spare time being devoted to his band, Sex Bob-omb. Then one night he dreams of a girl on Rollerblades only to find that she does exist. Scott now has a reason to live, the mysterious Ramona Flowers. As luck would have it she seems genuinely interested in dating Scott, he fails to mention Knives. The only problem is that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to be allowed the honor of her boyfriend. The League of Ramona's Evil Ex-Boyfriends must be defeated and one by one they slowly are till nothing stands in Scott's way but his own personal baggage and an angry Knives. From an ex who is the rock star Envy, to all the women in his past, Scott easily has enough baggage to equal Ramona's. Everything must be overcome to win and is Scott up for the challenge?

I picked up this series because of the movie coming up, I can't resist an Edgar Wright film, but I also can't resist reading the source material. I'm surprised I hadn't actually heard more of the comics before now seeing as they are pretty tailor made for my generation of geeky gamers. I will proclaim ignorance of their existence, mainly because I don't troll the manga sized comics, so it's not really my fault... though I might have to troll that section of the bookstore more often. I totally enjoyed the comics, even though they were very uneven. Initially I didn't know if I would like them because the whole Scott dating a highschooler seemed kind of icky, but I was able to get past that. I also enjoyed the surreal elements of it with power ups and extra lives and sword skills being a part of everyday life, just like a Zelda game. I think where it failed was in the repetitive nature that having seven villains, all of which are some variant on the dating Ramona theme. You can't make each fight one up the last and not get into absurdity. Of course, just to make it more "interesting," one of the exes is a girl half-ninja while another is a set of twins who have robots. There's funny and then there's straining credulity. And yes, I know that sounds absurd when you're killing someone who drops coins, but killer robots and lesbian half-ninjas, while funny, can wear on you a bit. But my main problem was with the ending. The final battle seemed rushed and just pointless. What was Gideon up to? There were cyrogenically frozen women who rejected him and he apparently wanted Ramona to join their ranks. But why!?! That's what I was left with at the end. After three awesome comics and three middling comics I was left with why. You shouldn't be left with why at the end of a series. I need closure and I didn't get it! Plus, that whole bit with Ramona being a slave to Gideon, eh... ew and weird. I'm sad the comics are over because I genuinely loved the characters, once I was able to figure out who was who, they all kind of look similar so the character cheat sheets starting in volume two are very handy. But mainly I'm sad they're over because I didn't get a satisfactory ending... who knows, maybe the movie will deliver? Thankfully it's now out on DVD...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Wait for Me by Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: November 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Deborah Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire, is the youngest of the famously witty brood that includes the writers Jessica and Nancy, who wrote when Deborah was born, “How disgusting of the poor darling to go and be a girl.” Deborah’s effervescent memoir, Wait for Me!, chronicles her remarkable life, from an eccentric but happy childhood in the Oxfordshire countryside, to tea with Adolf Hitler and her controversially political sister Unity in 1937, to her marriage to the second son of the Duke of Devonshire. Her life would change utterly with his unexpected inheritance of the title and vast estates after the wartime death of his brother, who had married Kick Kennedy, the beloved sister of John F. Kennedy. Her friendship with that family would last through triumph and tragedy. Wait for Me!, with its intense warmth and charm, is a unique portrait of an age, and an unprecedented look at the rhythms of life inside one of the great aristocratic families of England. It is irresistible reading, and will join the shelf of Mitford classics to delight readers for years to come."

I can't get enough Mitfords, luckily for me in Debo's 90th year there's been a ton of new stuff!

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Published by: Atria
Publication Date: November 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WW II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling"

Everything about this book screams me!

Factotum by D.M. Cornish
Published by: Putnam
Publication Date: November 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 700 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Rossamond Bookchild stands accused of not truly being a human at all, but of being a monster. Even the protection of Europe, the Branden Rose—the most feared and renowned monster-hunter in all the Half-Continent—might not be enough to save him. Powerful forces move against them both, intent on capturing Rossamond—whose existence some believe may hold the secret to perpetual youth."

My friend Jess's most anticipated book of the year. Shame they had to go and destroy the great graphic covers they had going for them and make them all photoesque steampunk.

The Painted Boy by Charles De Lint
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: November 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family's restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan—part human, part dragon, like his grandmother—he is on a quest even he does not understand. His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal clans, perfumed by delicious food, and set to the beat of Malo Malo, a barrio rock band whose female lead guitarist captures Jay's heart. He must face a series of dangerous, otherworldly—and very human—challenges to become the man, and dragon, he is meant to be. This is Charles de Lint at his best!"

I'm always at the bookstore when there's a new Charles De Lint hitting the shelves!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book Review - Armistead Maupin's Michael Tolliver Lives

Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin
Published by: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: June 12th, 2007
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy
Michael Tolliver has survived. Almost 20 years since he found out he was HIV Positive, he has outlived many who thought they would be burying him. Thack is long gone, but now he has the much younger Ben, who loves Michael not just for his "daddy" status, but for who he is. Anna is still around, though the house on Barbary Lane has been sold. Brian still runs the nursery, having bought Michael out when he decided to do free lance gardening and landscaping. No one has much contact with Mary Ann since her desertion, but her daughter is working in media in the spirit of her mother, though as a sex blogger, versus a television host. These people are Michael's "logical" family, compared to his "biological" family back in Florida which is preparing itself for the death of the matriarch. A strange thing is happening to Michael, in a time when he didn't think he'd see tomorrow, he is now watching those he loves die. From Mona to his mother, the grief others would bear for him is now his own. But with the grief there is a joy. The joy of each day, the joy in finding Ben, the joy in finding some sort of acceptance from his mother, the joy in reconnecting with his brother. When you live in a world where once all was lost, finding these little joys, and sometimes the bigger joys of a threesome, mean everything.

Taking a drastic break from the style of the previous novels in the Tales of the City series, here we don't get vignettes on the characters lives, but we follow Michael in a first person narrative and learn about what has happened to the characters through his revelations and reminiscences. While I applaud Maupin for taking such a risk in diverging from his set tone, I don't think it really works. The reason the Tales of the City books captured me was their humorous take on life flitting from one character to the other and how they all somehow were intertwined in the greater scheme of things. Through triumph and tragedy, we followed that motley crew. Now we have a kind of, this is your life, where Michael goes, "hey, remember Mona, she's dead." It's like little call outs to the past with terse summaries and no development. Instead we find ourselves in a world of aging gay men, where Michael has lucked out and got himself a young'un, but they're perfectly willing to have a very graphic three way. The Mouse of the past, who was scared of the disease he carried, seems now cavalier about sex because apparently everyone assumes everyone is positive. This just seemed a little too tawdry to me, and considering the level it takes to make me squeamish, yeah, this wasn't really expected. But every once in awhile there was a glimpse of the pervious books. With Anna picking out a cat at animal control, because the humane society animals seemed to have it too good. Or in my favorite part, Michael's GPS system which he's named Carlotta, after the mad Carlotta in Vertigo. This being because one time, for no particular reason she said "There is no fifth destination." This non sequitur has now become a phrase of choice in the Tolliver household, and this phrase gives me hope for the next book, Mary Ann in Autumn... because as much as some aspects of this book annoyed me, I need to know what happens to these beloved characters.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"A hilarious and touching new installment of Armistead Maupin's beloved Tales of the City series

Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, a gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband.

Mary Ann finds temporary refuge in the couple's backyard cottage, where, at the unnerving age of fifty-seven, she licks her wounds and takes stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of Facebook and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with life, only to confront fresh terrors when her checkered past comes back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined. After the intimate first-person narrative of Maupin's last novel, Michael Tolliver Lives, Mary Ann in Autumn marks the author's return to the multicharacter plotlines and darkly comic themes of his earlier work. Among those caught in Mary Ann's orbit are her estranged daughter, Shawna, a popular sex blogger; Jake Greenleaf, Michael's transgendered gardening assistant; socialite DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the indefatigable Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann's former landlady at 28 Barbary Lane. More than three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin's legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent, and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion, and mordant wit."

A new Tales of the City Novel! I've been waiting all year for this, so sorry if I'm gone for a few days, MUST READ NOW!

Virals by Kathy Riechs
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot-if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends- they're a pack. They are Virals."

A YA book that's a spin off of Bones! Count me doubly sold.

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The gods have broken free after centuries of slavery, and the world holds its breath, fearing their vengeance. The saga of mortals and immortals continues in THE BROKEN KINGDOMS. In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a homeless man who glows like a living sun to her strange sight. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. Oree's peculiar guest is at the heart of it, his presence putting her in mortal danger — but is it him the killers want, or Oree? And is the earthly power of the Arameri king their ultimate goal, or have they set their sights on the Lord of Night himself?"

The first book in N.K. Jemison's Inheritance trilogy was all the rage this year at WisCon. She was also a really great speaker and nice at the signing, making it another must buy for me! Though naming it the Inheritance Trilogy, when there's already one out there... not the wisest idea Orbit!

Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Published by: Putnam
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pagasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But its different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

New York Times bestselling Robin McKinley weaves an unforgettable tale of unbreakable friendship, mythical creatures and courtly drama destined to become a classic."

I'm so a child of the 80s when I see a book about a Pegasus and must own it! Serendipity Classics, you taught me well!

Wolfsbane by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Shapeshifting mercenary Aralorn leads a dangerous existence. Now she must return home for her noble father, the Lyon of Lambshold, has passed away. But when Aralorn and her companion Wolf arrive, they find he's not dead, but ensorcelled by the ae'Magi, using him as a conduit to destroy Aralorn and Wolf. She must overcome this mysterious mist or fall to the blackest of magic. "

Yeah new Briggs book! Yeah!

Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
 To Buy
The official patter:
"Lightning-struck sleuth Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver take a break from looking for the dead to visit the two little girls they both think of as family. But as they travel to Texas, memories of their horrible childhood resurface. Family secrets ensnare them both, as Tolliver learns his father is out of jail and Harper finally discovers what happened to her missing sister Cameron so many years before. And what she finds will change her world forever."

I just love this series, and even if this is the end, it was a damn satisfying ending.

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