Monday, November 30, 2009

Mailbox Monday for 11/30/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

This was a pretty light week for me as all my new arrivals were bought by me this week. I really need to stop doing that but I can't seem to help myself.

We are going to be reading this for the Literature by Women board on Barnes & Noble's Book Clubs site. I really haven't had a chance to read any of her work before so I'm really looking forward to this one.

This is another selection for my Barnes & Noble Book Clubs. This time it's for the SciFi/Fantasy board. I loved his first book, Pandemonium (review). I can't wait to dive into this one.

I've never read A Christmas Carol before and since I have to seasonal challenges going on right now I figured this would be a perfect time to give it a try.

I found this DVD at Target for $3.99 and with my mind on Christmas right now this was a must buy for me.

The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, MD


Blending common sense and modern psychiatry, The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World applies Buddhist traditions to twenty-first-century struggles in a relevant way. The result is a wise approach to dealing with human problems that is both optimistic and realistic, even in the most challenging times.

How can we expect to find happiness and meaning in our lives when the modern world seems such an unhappy place?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has suffered enormously throughout his life, yet he always seems to be smiling and serene. how does he do it? In The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, Dr. Howard Cutler walks readers through the Dalai Lama's philosophy on how to achieve peace of mind and come to terms with life's inherent suffering. Together, the two examine the roots of many of the problems facing the world and show us how we can approach these calamities in a way that alleviates suffering and helps us along in our personal quests to be happy. Through stories, meditations, and in-depth conversations, the Dalai Lama teaches us to identify the cultural influences and ways of thinking that lead to personal unhappiness, thereby making sense of the hardships we face personally as well as the afflictions suffered by others.

Back in my college days I would have loved this book. I would have poured over it's pages and gotten lost in the words. They would have been soaked in my brain and soul to be quoted for years to all my friends until they got sick of me saying them. Now this was when I was devouring books like The Celestine Prophecy and Mutant Message Down Under and could occasionally be found deep in thought taking myself way too seriously.

Now that I'm a little older, OK a little more than a little but not too much, I found myself fading in and out while I was reading it. I wanted to take it seriously and ingest the knowledge being offered by someone who is not only smarter than me but more at peace with themselves than I am. I just couldn't connect with it. I'm not sure if it's that I'm not in the right place in my life, if my mind was preoccupied with work (retail over Thanksgiving weekend), or if I'm just not that interested in the subject matter anymore. Whatever the reason I found myself wanting to enjoy it, but I couldn't.

I would highly encourage everyone to read this book because it may be the right fit for them. I may keep it around for a while and try it out again at a later date.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Murder Never Takes a Holiday by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

Well I finally finished my first book for The Christmas Reading Challenge hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict and The 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge hosted by Nely at All About {n}.

My first book was Murder Never Takes a Holiday by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bains. This was really two books in one as it combined two of the Christmas Murder, She Wrote books. I chose this book because I have always been a fan of the TV show and I felt like reading a quick paced mystery. I loved these two books as separate pieces but having them together was sort of odd. There was a discrepancy between the two books that I'm sure was not intentional but still seemed rather off to me. The first one takes place before the second one but the second feels almost like the first book never took place. Other than that I would highly recommend them to anyone who is a fan of the show, likes a good Christmas murder mystery, or wants to spend a few hours enjoying a wonderful set of characters.

Manhattans & Murder Synopsis

Bestselling mystery writer Jessica Fletcher's new book tour brings her to New York for Christmas. But she learns that Manhattan can be murder when she sees notorious Cabot Cove crook Waldo Morse-now playing a sidewalk Santa. She agrees to meet him the next day, but when Jessica shows up, she instead witnesses a murder. With the police slow on their feet, and the victim's wife fast on the run, Jessica decides to do what she does best, and do whatever it takes to stop a murderer form spoiling the season.

A Little Yuletide Murder Synopsis

When Cabot Cove local Rory Brent is found shot to death on his farm, everyone assumes the culprit is Brent's longtime enemy Jack Walther, the meanest man in town. Jake is crazy as a coot, sour as green apples, and bad tempered as a cat with its tail caught in a screen door. But Jessica Fletcher soon uncovers evidence that makes her believe the sheriff has arrested the wrong person. Snooping into the small town's past for a motive, Jessica is determined to deliver the real killer before Christmas. The trouble is, the next sound she hears this silent night may be a scream-her own.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

DVD Giveaway --- Christmas in Connecticut

When I was at the store the other day I happened to see one of my favorite Christmas movies on sale for $5 and since I already own it I figured why not buy it and give it away to one lucky winner on my blog.

For those of you who are not familiar with this fantastic movie I will give you the synopsis from the back of the DVD.

In her Smart Housekeeping column, Elizabeth Lane provides festive recipes and homemaking hints. But Elizabeth's got a secret: she needs a recipe to boil water. Elizabeth has no cooking skills, not Connecticut farm, no adoring hubby and no baby-makes-three as depicted in her column. She better get them. Because Elizabeth's boss has invited himself and a recently returned war hero to her home for Christmas.

Laughs, romance, holiday cheer: that's the recipe Barbara Stanwyck and a stellar company of Warner Bros. players follow in this amiable farce that was a huge hit with 1945 audiences and has become a perennial seasonal favorite. Have a very merry Christmas in Connecticut.

This has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, I love Barbara Stanwyck, and I watch it every year. Whoever the lucky winner is will fall in love with it as well.

The contest is easy. Just leave a comment with your favorite Christmas movie and your email address. That's it, no other requirements. The deadline is 12/9/09 at 11:59 pm CST. I will email and post the winner who will then have 48 hours to contact me with their shipping info or a new winner will be chosen.

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with lots of fun, laughter, and food!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Favorite Fictional Character --- Murphy Brown

If you can't tell by now I'm pretty big on the sitcoms that centered around strong women. The next up for me is Murphy Brown as played by the wonderful Candice Bergen. I couldn't find a good picture of her by herself so I used one with the whole cast, which by the way was fantastic.

Now growing up in the 80s and 90s there seemed to be a lot of strong female characters that were the center of the show. Murphy Brown was a investigative journalist who called the shots and took no names. She was independent and had her own voice and didn't feel bad running over the inept producer, Miles.

I think what I loved about her the most and what is still my strongest memory of the show was when she decided to have a baby on her own when the father decided he didn't want to change his lifestyle. Looking back on it now I don't think it would have raised an eyebrow but our then VP, Dan Quayle, decided to attack a fictional character for disrespecting the role of a father. True to form the producers of the show used it and had Murphy do a story on the diversity of the modern family. Not sure Dan Quayle ever lived that down.

I wish more of the new show were like this, but I'm afraid that the era of this type of character is over.

Monday, November 23, 2009

10 Things I Need on Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I decided to list the top 10 things I need for a happy and joyful day.

Whether it's your biological family or the family you have created for yourself, Thanksgiving is a day for togetherness and being thankful for those in your life that love and care for you.

Every year I wake up early enough to put the turkey in the oven and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I am just as fascinated by it now as I was when I was my son's age. He would be mad at me if I even suggested not watching it.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a must watch classic every year. Now this one I probably enjoy more than my son does but I'm convinced he will end up loving it just as much as I do.

I'm not a big turkey person but on this one day (for a week) of the year I willing to roast a turkey and savor every bite of it. After all Thanksgiving would seem naked without turkey.

Forget the pumpkin and pecan pies, give me sweet potato pie any day and I'm quite content with the world.

Whether it's canned, store bought, or homemade, cranberry sauce is my secret addiction over the holidays. I can not get enough of this wonderfully bitter, sweet concoction.

Nap time! After all the cooking and eating you need to take a restful nap so you can enjoy the rest of the day.

I'm not the biggest sports fan in the world. I will normally only watch football if the Denver Broncos are playing but I throw that rule out the window on Thanksgiving. Football is just as important on Thanksgiving as the turkey.
What day off of work is complete without a good dose of reading thrown in? I only have three guaranteed days off a year and this is one of them, so I like nothing better to do than take a few hours (normally later on in the evening), curl up on the couch, and read a fantastic book.

Just before my son goes to bed and I'm relaxed enough to embrace the chaos of putting up a Christmas tree, I put on some Christmas music and get to work. Putting up the tree is on the must do list and watching my son's face once it's all done is my favorite moment of the day.

Mailbox Monday for 11/23/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

This was a light week as I only received 3 books for review and 1 from a blog win. Somehow I managed not to buy any, which is odd.

I received Da Cajn Critter by Pamela D. Lyles from the publicist for review. I've already skimmed through it and I can't wait to try some of the recipes out.

I received The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler from the publicist for review. I never had a chance to read the first one but I'm looking forward to this one.

I won Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish edited by Shana Liebman from Carol at Carol's Notebook.

I also received a spiral bound copy of Samson's Walls by Jud Nirenberg from the publicist for review.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Award Time

I am horribly late one getting one of these posted so I apologize for not passing them on earlier. So with no further ado here are two of them, two more will follow later.

I received the Splash Award from Melissa at My World. She is a fantastic blogger and I always learn something new when I head over to her blog. Please stop by and say hi to her.

The Splash Award is given to those blogs you find alluring, bewitching, impressive and inspiring.

I would like to pass this on to the following blogs:

Laurel at Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow

Stephanie at Misfit Salon

Staci at Life in the Thumb

Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books

Michelle at Red Headed Book Child

I recieved the Great Look Award from Michelle at The True Book Addict. She is a fantastic blogger and I want to stronly encourage everyone to head on over to say hi.

I would like to pass this along to the following bloggers:

Jennifer at Rundpinne

Jaime at Revenge of the Book Worms

Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner

Carol at Carol's Notebook

Bella at A Bibliophile's Bookshelf

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Silent Gift by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley

The decade of the thirties was a time of enormous uncertainty - for the world, for America, and in particular for one lonely, struggling mother and her disabled son. Their story is one of unyielding love and incredible sacrifices in the face of circumstances beyond belief.

But then The Gift appears...where has it come from, and why? How can a young boy who can not communicate provide comfort and direction to seekers who learn of his special ability? Whatever the source, its presence brings a single shaft of light and hope to Mary and her beloved son, Jack.... Will it be enough?

I've been sitting here for about 10 minutes now trying to decide how and what I want to say about this book. I had received an email from the publicist asking me if I wanted to review the book and I have been hesitant about excepting them since I had a really, really bad experience a few months ago. I went ahead and accepted anyway and now I'm sitting hear unsure of what I want to say about it. I just keep looking at the cover and find myself riveted by the simpleness yet overwhelming power of the image.

The coauthors are both screenwriters and the book read more like a movie than a book. I was able to visualise every little description in my head which isn't always the case with most books. The opening sequence is breathtaking. The authors describe the frantic nature of trying to get your wife to the hospital before she gives birth. The horror of losing control of the car and ending up in a body of water and the frantic effort to save your wife and unborn child. The scene ends with the wife giving birth in the water and holding her new baby up. It was brilliantly written and I'm still in awe thinking of it.

Based on the cover and the description of the book you would assume that Jack would be the central character, at least that was what I was expecting. However the story centers around Mary and her desire to build a better life for her son who is both deaf and mute. It starts when Mary leaves her emotionally detached husband and runs away with her son, which by the way is another beautifully written sequence.

The rest of the book details how Mary gains and loses on her overall goal and the role that "The Gift" plays in her plans. How she uses the gift of sight that God gave and how it is twisted by other's to serve their needs which causes Mary to lose control for a period of time. Mary tells everyone that Jack can see the future and gives it by writing, with numbers, the location of a Bible verse that applies to a particular person. Now I was able to figure out the twist pretty much in the beginning of the book when Mary leaves her husband but it's done so beautifully that I forgave the authors for not hiding it a little better.

My only issue with the book is that is focused on Mary so much that Jack was little more than a storytelling device. He was a brilliant storytelling device but in the end I was not able to really feel as much for Jack as I was able to for Mary. I think it was a combination of the fact he is both deaf and mute so remains just a little distant to the reader and the fact that he is kept in the shadows for a large portion of the book.

Overall I found this to be a heartwarming story of redemption and faith in the face of adversity. That the love of family and God will see you through hard times is at the core of this book and I'm really hoping they go ahead and write the screenplay for it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

PastWorld by Ian Beck

Pastworld is the greatest theme park ever devised. It's London - the real London - transformed into a living, breathing re-creation of the Victorian Era.

To Eve, a lifelong resident of Pastworld, horse-drawn carriages and gas lamps are modern technology. Eve doesn't even know she's living in a simulation - until she is forced to flee the only home she's ever know and to confront the truth about her city and herself.

To Caleb, a tourist visiting Pastworld, the theme park is the perfect antidote to the stifling conformity and regulation of 2048. The gritty wildness of the past is thrilling - until he finds himself at the scene of a murder, holding the knife, and suddenly becomes a fugitive from an antiquated justice system.

And in the midst of it all, in the thick London fog, a dark and deadly figure prowls, claiming victim after victim. He's the Fantom, a creature both of the past and of the future in whose dark purposed Caleb and Eve will find their destinies combined.

I have never been a big YA fan until fairly recently so I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of YA books I've either won or bent sent for review so I was a little hesitant to read this book. I figured I would hang onto it for a while then read it sometime in the future. However, after reading the first 5 pages I was pretty hooked.

I recently discovered "steam punk" books about a year ago but this is the first time I've ran across a YA book in the genre. Now some may say it's not really "steam punk" because it doesn't take place in Victorian England. Since this takes place in a setting that is for all purposes Victorian England and it involved genetic engineering, robotics, and modern science, I think it qualifies.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It plays around with the whole concept of family in quite a different way. What make a family and the relationships between family members are equally explored throughout this book in such a way that it makes you think about what the future has in store for the human race. The character development was strong and stayed front and center for most of the book. The character of Eve is a fascinating one to me for she seemed to grow as a character but still managed to stay two dimensional to me. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not but it somehow works with the story.

My only qualm about the book was the character of The Fantom, the new Jack the Ripper. I felt that there was so much more to explore with this character that was simply ignored in the book. I wish we could have had a little bit more of him and his development.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a solid YA, "steam punk", of SciFi novel.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash

Word Verification Balderdash is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are commenting on other people's blogs. Then you play Balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with an authentic sounding definition for it. Do this for a week then post your best ones on Thursday.

Here are mine for the week: (sorry only 4 this week and the Rolly Polly reference is an inside joke to my BN friends)

Takcom: Generic advertising term used to describe profitable but tacky commercials. These include ads for condoms, tampons, ED pills, and feminine hygiene products.

Salpiz: The newest pizza craze crossing the nation. It is composed of a then whole wheat crust, pineapple pesto, fresh salmon, capers, and truffle oil. It is all topped with Gorgonzola cheese and is quite yummy. It was the creation of Respol, the premier chef of the Rolly Pollys.

Qartie: The newest robotic creation from the mind of the mad genius scientist Dr. Hayka Ventenskap. Qartie is a household robotic named for his size. He is only a quarter tall as the shortest person in the household. He does menial chores like cleaning out drains, dusting under baseboards, and bleaching tile grout.

Vacinia: Minor Greek goddess of vaccines and medicines. She is the daughter of Aphrodite and Helios. She was often depicted as a young woman carrying tinctures and powders and had temples and/or shrines in every healing center throughout the Greek empire.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Favorite Fictional Character --- Captain Jack Harkness

This weeks pick for my favorite fictional character is the magnificent Captain Jack Harkness from the BBC show Torchwood.

For those of you who are not familiar with the show, Torchwood is a spin off of Dr Who and takes place in Cardiff. Torchwood is a organization that deals with supernatural and alien mischief so that the rest of us can have a normal life. The job is dangerous and team members are habitually killed off. Thankfully not Captain Jack though.

What can you say about Captain Jack that isn't obvious from the picture. He's gorgeous, bisexual, dashing, witty, sarcastic, dangerous, and can't die. He literally can't die. He was blown into pieces in the third season and his body regenerated. Even he is not quite clear why he can't die, though you can tell at times that he wishes he could.

He is a pretty complicated character that has changed over three seasons. His real name isn't even Jack Harkness, that is still a secret he is keeping to himself. We do know that he is from the future and his family was killed by aliens when he was a boy. He won't hesitate to kill human or alien if they pose a threat and the whole time he will smile and utter a witty remark. Throughout the seasons he has become more human as far as his interactions with those around him. We've seen him care about his teammates, fall in love, and then lose everything. He is the Hero of myth made more human with a ton of flaws. He is Coyote and Loki made human.

For those who have never seen this show I strongly urge you to devour every episode and get caught up with the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Daemons Are Forever by Simon R. Green

Bond. Shaman Bond. Actually, the name's Drood, Eddie Drodd. For centuries, the Droods have been fighting the monsters in the shadows so that the rest of you lot can go about your ever day lives. These days, I'm the head of the family.

Because I'm the head of the family, it's fallen to me to deal with a bit of a mess left over from World War II. Seems that back then the Droods made a pact with a bunch of demons known as the Loathy Ones to fight some really nasty buggers called up by the Nazis. Once the war was over, we couldn't get rid of them. Now they're calling their masters to invade and destroy our world...and we Droods are the last, best hope of stopping them.

I'd say that the world is in a major lot of trouble.

So says the voice of Eddie Drood the new head of the wildly dysfunctional family that is supposed to save humanity from those who aren't human. The book takes place shortly after the first one, The Man With the Golden Torc (review), ended.

Eddie is confronted by a family struggling to regain it's footing now that they are without their protections and facing a identity crisis. This is compounded by the fact that the outside world is starting to get a sense that the Droods are not in the best of shape so they start testing the waters. To keep the outside from finding out Eddie decides they need to send a message and wipe out The Loathy Ones, which they were responsible for bringing into our dimension to begin with. In the process of scoping the demons out, they discover something even worse is coming. The Loathy Ones are only the shadows of greater beings, The Hungry Gods, who are trying to enter our world and devourer it.

With the help of a odd mix of people; Molly Metcalf the Witch of the Wild Woods and his girlfriend, his cousin Harry Drood who has a axe to grind since Eddie killed his father, Harry's half brother Roger Morningstar who happens to be half demon and Harry's lover, Mr. Stab, Subway Sue, and various other family members including two different Uncle Jacobs, the Uncle Jacob we met in the last book as a ghost and the Uncle Jacob from the past before he died.

I loved this book even more than the first one. The characters keep getting cooler and the writing is even better. Anyone who is a fan of urban fantasy needs to start this series and they will find themselves laughing and on the edge of your seat at the same time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

GLBT Reading Challenge 2010

The third challenge I've joined in the last two days is the GLBT Reading Challenge hosted by Amanda of The Zen Leaf. I had seen this years challenge but didn't notice it until it would have been to late for me to get very far into it, so when I saw Amanda was doing it again for next year I jumped on board.

The basic idea is to read books (fiction or Non) about GLBT topics or by GLBT authors.

The challenge runs all year and has three different levels of participation.
  • Lambda Level: Read 4 books
  • Pink Triangle Level: Read 8 books
  • Rainbow Level: Read 12 or more books

You don't need to pick your books now and if you do, you can change them at anytime. Overlapping with other challenges is quite OK.

In January there will be a post to link reviews to. The links will serve as a reference point for others and will be the way PRIZES are awarded. There will be PRIZES!

Now since I'm anything but a underachiever I will be going for the Rainbow level and already have some of the books in mind but since they can change I don't think I will list them now.

2009 Holiday Reading Challenge

Well to go along with my Christmas Reading Challenge I figured I would join the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge hosted by Nely at All About {n}. You can never read too many holiday themed books and since both challenges are about the same thing I figured I could stack the deck and know two challenges out at the same time.

1. Challenge will start Nov. 21st and will end Dec. 31st

2. You can read anywhere from 1-5 book but are more than welcome to read as many as you want.

3. Book must be holiday related with Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, etc. being the most appropriate.

4. Books can be of any genre including YA but children's books will not pass muster on this one either. Re-reads are understandable since a lot of us read the same Christmas books every year.

5. To sign up-leave a link with Mr. Linky. There will be further links for review posts and challenge updates.

6. There will be presents for lucky boys and girls!

Once again since I have no clue what I'll be reading yet I will skip listing books that I'm considering.

Christmas Reading Challenge

I actually signed up for this challenge a while ago but I since I just singed up for two more I thought I better get them posted soon. That and since this one starts in a little more than a week I need to get started on it. The Christmas Reading Challenge is sponsored by my friend Michelle at The True Book Addict.

The rules are pretty straightforward:

1. The challenge runs from Thanksgiving of this year, Nov. 26th to New Year's Eve, Dec. 31st.

2. Read a minimum of 1-3 book but the sky is the limit.

3. They must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, or books of Christmas themed short stories. YA books are acceptable but not children's books.

4. Be sure to link your review posts with Mr. Linky and leave a comment after you do so.

I'm not sure what books I'll be reading yet so that's why I'm not posting a list. That and I never stick with lists.

Mailbox Monday for 11/16/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I thought I would try something different this time and include pictures since I find pictures to be very pretty.

I recieved The Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley from Zia at My Life In Not So Many Words.

I bought The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay in hardcover from the Friends of the Library Bookstore for $.50. It's in great conidstion and now I just need to try to find the first two books in hardcover to match.

I bought Murder Never Takes a Holiday by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain from Barnes & Noble. It includes two books, Manhattans & Murder and A Little Yueletide Murder. I bought it mainly because I love the Jessica Fletcher books, I love Christmas themed books, I love mysteries, and I needed another book for the Christmas Reading Challenge hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict.

A Flintstones Christmas Carol on DVD was a must have when I saw it Target for $5.50. This is one of those Christmas classics that I DVR every year when the Boomerang Channel plays it. Now that I own it, I won't have to do that anymore.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Agatha Christie Challenge --- And Then There Were None

First there were ten-a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island of the coast of Devon. Their host, and eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal-and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

This has always been my favorite Agatha Christie mystery for as long as I can remember and this time was no exception. It has everything a mystery should have, a complex plot that is almost impossible to figure out until the end, characters that you can never decided if you like them or not, and a brilliant concept that is expertly executed.

The only other thing I want to say about the book, other than it's brilliant, it that despite myself I found myself rooting for two of the characters, Lombard and Vera. I want them to have a happy ending regardless of what actually happens in the book.

I know this one is not in publishing order and it will be the only one I read out of order. It really doesn't matter because it is a stand alone novel that features none of the reoccurring characters. We read it for the Barnes & Noble Bookclub Literature by Women and it was nice to hear what others thought of the book.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dying For Mercy by Mary Jane Clark

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

When death shatters the serenity of the exclusive moneyed enclave of Tuxedo Park, New York, Eliza Blake, cohost of the country's premier morning television show KEY to America, is on the scene. While attending a lavish gala at her friends' newly renovated estate, Pentimento, Eliza's host is found dead-a grotesque suicide that is the first act in a macabre and intricately conceived plan to expose the sins of the past involving some of the town's most revered citizens.

Determined to find out the truth, Eliza and her KEY News colleagues-producer Annabell Murphy, cameraman B.J. D'Elia, and psychiatrist Margo Gonzalez-discover that Pentimento holds the key. Nestled in the park's sprawling architectural masterpieces, picturesque gardeners' cottages, and lush, rolling landscapes, the glorious mansion is actually a giant "puzzle house," filled with ingenious clues hidden it its fireplaces, fountains, and frescoes that lead them from one suspicious locale to another-and, one by one, to the victims of a fiendish killer.

As Pentimento gives up its secrets, it becomes clear that no amount of wealth or privilege will keep the residents of Tuxedo Park safe. But just when Eliza unearths one final surprise, she comes face-to-face with a murderer who believes that some puzzles should never be solved.

This was my very first book that I won off a blog once I started blogging and entering giveaways and for that reason alone it will always hold a special place in my heart. I am a humongous fan of mystery novels never strayed to far from Agatha Christie, the Jessica Fletcher books, and a few other favorite authors. So when I received this book I was excited to read it.

What I did not know at the time was that it is part of a series and that there are quite a few books that take place before this one, so some of the references flew right over my head. On the good side though, I didn't have to necessarily do the one thing I think a reader needs to do in order to enjoy a long running series that doesn't star a police or professional detective, which is to suspend the disbelief that this many horrible things can happen to and around one character all the time. When you jump into the middle of a series you don't really know all the past stuff so there is nothing to there to jumble your mind.
The book actually opens with a unknown male committing the most horrific act of suicide I have ever read in my life. I'm not sure it would even be physically possible for one person to do this to himself without passing out from the pain. That being said, self inflicting yourself with stigmata is definitely going to get you attention. The rest of the book deals with Eliza trying to figure out why he did it and what all the clues he left behind point to.

Overall I liked the book and it kept me engaged enough that I'm thinking about going back and reading the first book in the series to see how it all started. The character of Eliza is dynamic enough to make me what to read more about her and her daughter who apparently was kidnapped in a previous book.

I did have a few issues with the book, though they tend to be minor. First, I have always felt that the success of The Da Vinci Code has created a need in a lot of authors to write a book that contains a secret code, normally using religious symbolism, in order to drive the plot. Some authors do it well, some horribly, this one was neither. It didn't feel well thought out but I still makes sense within the storyline. My second issue was the motivation behind the suicide. If you really feel that badly about a past crime, would you really kill yourself in such a manner? Why not just tell the truth? The outcome would have been the same either way. The people responsible for the crime would still be held responsible, the loved one you are trying to expose for new crimes wouldn't have been able to do anymore horrible acts, and less people would have died. Like I said they are minor issues though and didn't detract from the story.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash

Word Verification Balderdash is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are commenting on other people's blogs. Then you play Balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with an authentic sounding definition for it. Do this for a week then post your best ones on Thursday.

Here are mine for the week:

Portake: A wonderful new hybrid mushroom that has all the flavor of a shitake but the size and meatiness of a portabella. They make great sandwich filler and are great grilled.

Actmon: After monsters came out of the closet in 1993 and the world realized that all the creatures that go bump in the night really were bumping in the night, movie directors quickly seized on the great opportunity presented to them. Why pay humongous amounts of money for special effects and makeup when you have the real thing available to you. So the first career paths that the monsters had available to them was as Actmons.

Greepy: Slang adjective used to describe the those whose greed has so warped their personalities so much that they creep others out. Donald Trump being one of the first people to be called by this name.

Kilden: The abandoned bear den that was used by Yogi and Smokey after they went on their carnivorous man eating killing spree. It took rangers 2 weeks to track them down and put an end to their rabid lives. Kilden was first used by the Washington Post and quickly caught on in the rest of the country.

Spacula: Horrible, and I mean horrible, 1983 horror movie that set the story of Dracula in outer space. It sent the Count into exile on the planet of Mars where he was forced to fight off vampire hunters from Venus. Dracula was played by Keith Carridine, Eric Roberts played the chief vampire hunter, and Tracy Lords (in her first mainstream role) played Vixenia, the Count's love interest.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Favorite Fictional Characters --- Mary Poppins

Now who would not want Mary Poppins as their nanny? She sings, turns pictures to life, and can take anything she wants out of her bad. She is perfect.

All I can remember from the first time I watched the movie as a kid was a sense of wonder and awe. She was everything I was lacking in my own childhood. She was caring but stern, fun but kept you on task, and always knew what to say to make everything all better.

I've never read the 8 books she stars in so my only reference is the movie. I've always meant to read the books but for some reason I always find myself doing something else. How can you not love this character though? How can you not want to jump through that chalk drawing and ride the carousel? Of course I may pass on the whole jumping through chimneys bit.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday Swap

I finally got myself signed up since this sounds like such a great idea. What could be more fun that playing Secret Santa to a fellow book blogger? The registration deadline is November 12th so hurry up and join the fun. Here is the LINK to sign up.

Mailbox Monday for 11/9/2009

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

First up are all the books I won from other bloggers and got in the mail last week:

Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey from Stephanie at Misfit Salon. I'm really excited about this one. What could be better than a YA book about a young orphan working for a doctor that specializes in monsters?

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell from Jaime at Revenge of the Book Nerds. This book has had some great reviews some I'm looking forward to getting a chance to read it.

PastWorld by Ian Beck from Krista at Life or Something Like It... I have already started and almost finished this YA book and I have to agree with Krista that it is wonderful. Imagine Victorian England as a theme park with a very real element of danger from a genetically engineered Jack the Ripper character.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold from Kim at My Eclectic Reads. I'm not that familiar with this book other than the reviews I've read of it, but just the dust jacket description makes it sound wonderful.

I also received two books from BBAW contests:

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock. I received this from Tundra Books, though I'm not sure what contest it was from. It looks really good though, it's a YA book about Sherlock Holmes as a boy getting his 1st case.

Bear-ly There by Rebekah Raye. I received this one from Tilbury House Publishers and I won it from the BBAW Favorite Picture Book giveaway. I have not had a chance to read this picture book yet but it seems to be about a young boy who tries to get a bear to go back into the woods before something bad happens to it. I'm really looking forward to reading this with my son.

I did manage to buy one book over last week:

Daemons Are Forever by Simon R. Green. This was the follow up to The Man With the Golden Torc and I loved it just as much (review to come later).

My roommate's mother gave me a whole sack of paperbacks she found in her building and for the most part they were romance novels, which aren't my favorite. However there were 4 of them I thought I could at least try to read.

A Is For Alibi by Sue Grafton. I have never read any of the Kinsey Millhone novels before so I'm sort of looking forward to this one. At least it's the first in the series.

The last 3 are Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods, and Valley of Silence. They compose The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts. I'm sure they are more romance than anything else but at least they have a lot of supernatural characters (from what I could tell from the back covers), so I figured I could at least give them a try.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Man With the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

Synopsis From Dusk Jacket:

All those things you heard about as a kid? The boogeyman under the bed? The creature in the closet? The ghost in They're for real, people.

Believe me, I know. I'm Eddie Drood. And if it weren't for me and my family, all he things that go bump in the night would be mucking the world up, big-time. For ages, the Droods have been protecting humanity. We're the ones who hold back the nightmares, lock the doors, bar the gates, throw away the keys, and put righteous boot to monster arse on a nightly basis. And you poor sods don't even know we exist.

Usually, I'm proud to be a Drood. right now, though, I'm not so sure.

It seems that one of my nearest and dearest has convinced the rest of the family that I've gone off the deep end, and that humanity needs to be protected from me. So I"m on the run, using every trick in the book, magical and otherwise, hoping I live long enough to prove my innocence. My chances? Not bad, I'd say.

After all, the Droods are determined and deadly sort-and I'm one of them.

I've heard some wonderful things about this author, normally about his Deathstalker and Nightside series, so when I saw this on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble, I had to get it. I am so glad I did.
This book had to be one of the funnest I've read in a long time. The character of Eddie Drood is what James Bond could have been had he been set in a urban fantasy world full of demons, monsters, aliens, and elves. The family even has a Q like character called the Armourer, who comes up with some of the coolest gadgets. Cars that not only have machine guns but can drive through other dimensions, snow globes that can unleash world destroying blizzards, and a stick that can break any bond simply by hitting something with it. Of course that's only the tip of the iceberg.

The whole premise of the book is that Eddie is sort of a black sheep of the family who is suddenly recalled back to the homestead for some unknown reason. The relationships are rather strained and he is more than happy to accept and be on his way. However once he leaves the manor he is attacked by all sorts of bad guys. Elves (who are evil in this series), demons who have taken the shape of cars, UFOs, and the ghosts of cars wrecks are amongst the many villains who try to take him out. He destroys all of them and gets away. Once he realizes he's been set up by the family matriarch (his grandmother) he sets out to find out what's going on.

Along the way of self discovery he meets up with some old friends and enemies including a sex cult bent on world domination, a psychic vampire named Subway Sue, Mr. Stab (think Jack the Ripper who can't die), the Blue Fairy (gay half Elf hooked on drugs), and Molly the Witch of the Wild Woods (the love interest of the book). Most of them have tried to kill him at one time or another but he needs them to discover the truth about his family. Once he discovers the truth all hell breaks loose and nothing is sacred anymore.
I loved this book and I loved the next in the series which I've already read (review forthcoming). I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a lot of humour with their supernatural action.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Winners of Dark Times by Dakota Banks

It's time to announce the winners of two signed copies of Dark Times by Dakota Banks. The winners will have 48 hours to email me their mailing address so I can get the information passed along to Dakota. If the winners are not able to send me the information in time a new winner(s) will be drawn. I will be emailing them both tonight.

Using two winners were drawn.

With no further ado I give you:

Krista & Carolsnotebook

Congrats to the winners!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash

Word Verification Balderdash is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Here is what you do. You write down all the word verifications you come across as you are posting comments on other people's blogs. You then play Balderdash with them. Now for those of you who don't know how to play, you take a made up word and come up with an authentic sounding definition for it. Do this for a week and then post your best ones on Thursday.

Here are mine for the week:

Nubchub: That small nub of fat that you can never get rid of no matter how much dieting and exercise you do. It normally ways any where from 2 to 5 pounds and can be found residing around the waistband, thighs, or jowls. The only way to get rid of nubchub is liposuction.

Muggimp: Mischievous spirit that has adapted to the human infestation by disguising itself as a mugger. It can be found in most major cities and it lives to wreak havoc amongst the humans it despises. It will pick a victim, mug him/her, and as a final blow it will curse the victim to be colorblind the rest of their lives. The only way a Muggimp can be identified by what it really is by the eyes, one is silver the other is violet in color.

Pveda: Russian goat cheese. Has a very pungent flavor and is often times combined with onions and garlic while it is being formed into blocks. In Russia the cheese is mainly used for fondues and by the wealthy on grapefruit. In the US the cheese is mainly used to play practical jokes on unsuspecting dinner guests.

Roptic: Robotic eyes that were designed by the Cthullu Corporation and are used to replace a human eye that is damaged beyond surgical repair. They are still in the experimental stage and have been know to cause some serious complications. Four dimensional depth perception, a green glow emanating from the eye even when closed, and tears of oil are just a few of the more strange ones. They should be, barring any other problems, made available to the general public within the next few years.

Twinder: The scientific term for the made up language most twins develop during adolescence. No two sets of twins use the same Twinder but they all have syntax similarities and often develop the language around the age of 5.