Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 1/31/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted all this month by Rose City Reader.

I received an ARC of The Survivor by Sean Slater for participating in the Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2011, which is hosted by Carolyn of Book Chick City.

I received a hardcover of Afterlives of the Rich and Famous by Sylvia Browne for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I stopped in the Friends of the Library Book Store and bought a trade paperback of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, a trade paperback of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, and a hardcover of Laced by Carol Higgins Clark.  They were only $1 a piece.  The best part was that they were in almost new condition.

My roommate and his mom went to the flea market and came back with two records for me, both from The Jets.  He got their first album which is self titled and a record single of "Private Number."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Silver Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon


Silverblade and Tadrith, fresh out of their training for the elite policing/military service, The Silver Gryphons, are sent out on their first mission.  The fact that the mission is to man the outpost that is furthest away from the city of White Gryphon is a boon to both of them.  They have been living under the shadow of their famous parents for too long.  Silverblade is the daughter of Amberdrake and Tadrith is one of twin sons fathered by Skandranon, the famous Black Gryphon.

Only a few days out on their mission, not even having reached the outpost, things go horribly wrong.  Something unexplainable pulls them out of the air, crashing into the dense rain forest below.  They must rely on each other, their training, and their wits if they are to survive.  Something is hunting them....

Where the first book in this trilogy is pure fantasy and the second book is more of a murder mystery, the final book is more like the classic tale of survival.  Now, this is a reread for me like the first two were, but once again I started to look at this book a little more broadly.  It is definitely a fantasy book, but it's so much more that that.  This books is the most personal of the three of them, simply because it's main focus is on two individuals throughout most the of the book.  You are able to get to know Silverblade and Tadrith on a such a personal level that it's hard not to get caught up in what's happening to them.

Mercedes Lackey has long been one of my favorite fantasy writers.  She is able to weave so much into her tales that no matter how many times I read them, I've never bored.  Her characters are always interesting and compelling.  Her plots are always interesting without being too convoluted and hard to follow.  But most of all, she is able to tell the story in such a way that a reader is almost, against their will, forced to invest themselves into the story.  By the end of a book, I'm always left feeling that I know these people.  I feel that they are my close, personal friends and that I've just gone through everything they had to face.  It's a wonderful quality in a writer, one that should be cherished when you find it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Love Me To Death by Allison Brennan (Giveaway Included)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Six years ago, Lucy Kincaid was attacked and nearly killed by an online predator. She survived. Her attacker did not. Now Lucy’s goal is to join the FBI and fight cyber-crime, but in the meantime, she’s volunteering with a victim’s rights group, surfing the Web undercover to lure sex offenders into the hands of the law. But when the predators she hunts start turning up as murder victims, the FBI takes a whole new interest in Lucy.

With her future and possibly even her freedom suddenly in jeopardy, Lucy discovers she’s a pawn in someone’s twisted plot to mete out vigilante justice. She joins forces with security expert and daredevil Sean Rogan, and together they track their elusive quarry from anonymous online chat rooms onto the mean streets of Washington, D.C. But someone else is shadowing them: A merciless stalker has his savage eye on Lucy. The only way for her to escape his brutality may be another fight to the death.

When I was first deciding on whether or not I wanted to read/review this book, I really payed attention to the synopsis and it had me hooked.  On that alone, I decided this was a book for me.  What I did not know at the time was that this is considered a "romantic suspense".  I'm still not sure what the hell that means, but if I had seen that in the beginning, I probably would have passed on this one.  I'm really glad that didn't happen.

The problem is that when I see the words "romance", "romantic", or even "love story" used to describe a book or the genre, I prejudge what I'm going to get.  I picture lots of either steamy or tacky sex scenes that are used to fill out a rather pointless and generic plot line.  Now I'm not saying that that picture in my head is fair, it probably isn't.  I'm sure someone will point out a well written romance to me after this, but as a guy, that's what I think of when I hear "romance" used to describe a book.

Quite honestly, I'm not sure why this book needs to be classified as such.  If that's the case, books like The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie would have to be considered "romantic suspense".  Both books have a likable, strong female lead that is capable of keeping a reader interested in what happens to her.  They both link her with a strong, attractive male that she can't help but be attracted to.  They both featuring amazingly complex plots that takes the reader through some amazing rides of thrill and emotion.  Both books draw the reader into the mystery/suspense, they both make it tactile in such a way that you can feel it coming off the page. Simply put, both books are a ton of fun to read.

Before I get yelled at by the Agatha Christie purists, I'm not saying this book is in that league.  I will still take an Agatha Christie book over this one.  What I am saying though, is that in many ways they are similar and if publishers/authors/readers feel a need to keep insisting on labeling books into very narrow genres, readers will keep miss out on some wonderful reads.  A good mystery, is a good mystery.  Why do we need to break it down into subcategories that by the nature of the "title" will turn off certain readers?  Anyway, that is the end of my soapbox, so I appreciate you reading this far.

My final thought on the book, if you couldn't tell from the above, is that I really enjoyed.  It had everything I look for in a well told mystery.  I'm now going to have to go back and read her books in order, because even though this can read like a stand alone novel, there is information and characters from her previous books.

Now for the fun part, the publisher has very graciously offered an extra copy of the book to one lucky winner.  All you have to do is leave a comment with your email address and you will be entered.  The giveaway will last until 2/11/11 at 11:59 PM, CST.  I will email the winner, who will then have 48 hours to email back or a new winner will be picked.

I would like to thank Lisa at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  If you would like to read other thoughts on this one, please visit the tour page.  On the tour page you will also find links to the author's website, twitter page, and Facebook page.

Challenges:  M&S

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The White Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon


After ten long years the survivors of the magical Cataclysm have rebuilt their lives and a new city, White Gryphon.  Built on a cliff face overlooking a vast ocean, White Gryphon is a stronghold ready to protect it's citizens from any threat. 

When a fleet arrives from the realm of the Black Kings, things are looking a little murky.  The Black Kings control this area and unless the survivors can prove themselves they will once again have to fight a war for their lives.

Skandranon and Amberdrake are forced, once again to protect those they care about.  They agree, along with their families,  to be envoys to the Black Kings in order to try and forge an alliance with them.  That alliance is quickly threatened when a series of noblewomen who opposed the alliance are found slaughtered in their rooms.  All evidence points to one of the envoys and it's up to them to prove their innocence.

I have read this book countless times but for some reason I ended up taking a different approach to it this time.  In the past I've just thought of it as a good second installment in The Mage Wars trilogy, fun fantasy that is a pleasure to read.  This time though I found myself looking at it as more of a murder mystery.  Granted it's not your typical Agatha Christie book, but all the elements of a good mystery are there.  You just have to ignore the more outlandish setting and characters.

As a mystery, it's developed nicely.  One of the villains is set up fairly early but in such a way that it may come as a surprise when he shows up again.  The suspense and danger are palpable in this book and are driving forces behind most of the action.  As the story develops, so does the tension, and it never really lets you go.  It's blended in with the whole fantasy aspect of the book though so it never becomes overwhelming and has at it's core, the fun that Mercedes Lackey brings to all her work.

Challenges: M&S

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Favorite Fictional Character --- Benson DuBois

I'm going to finish this month's theme of 1980s sitcom characters with the title character of the first TV show I remember watching that took place in a political setting.  Benson DuBois as played by Robert Guillaume was one of the funniest characters from the 80s, and I don't think he is as remembered as often as he deserves.

I've always had a fondness for wisecracking, sarcastic characters and Benson ranks up there as one of the best.  He always has a witty comeback and is never shy to express exactly what he's thinking about anyone or anything.  Throughout the series Benson rises from the head of household affairs for the governor's mansion, to state budget director, Lieutenant Governor, to running for Governor himself. 

What I liked most about him though was that behind the rather gruff exterior, he was a good hearted man who only wanted to what was right for those that counted on him.  For a refresher, I watched the "Big Buddy" episode and I was reminded of who Benson was as a human being.  He is a man who uses his sarcasm and wit to display his emotions towards those he cares about.  He has a big heart and will do anything he can to make things right.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Black Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Skandranon Rashkae is everything a gryphon should be.  With gleaming ebony feathers, majestic wingspan, keen magesight, and sharp intelligence, his is the fulfillment of all the Mage of Silence, the human sorcerer called Urtho, intended to achieve when he created these magical beings to be his champions, the defenders of his realm-a verdant plain long coveted by the evil mage Ma'ar.

And now, as Ma'ar is once again preparing to advance on Urtho's Keep, this time with a huge force spearheaded by magical constructs of his own, Skandranon is sent to spy across the enemy lines, cloaked in the protection of Urtho's powerful Spell of Silence.

As days pass and Skandranon doesn't return, all in Urtho's camp wait anxiously.  But there is one among them fro whom the possible loss of this great bird will be more than just a major military defeat.  Amberdrake - a Healer of body, mind, and spirit whose talents are essential to the army as those of any general - waits on the landing strip with anguish in his heart.  For Amberdrake has come to value the vain, cocksure, and brave Skandranon as his closet friend and comrade, and now he fears that this prince of gryphons will never return.

Once again when it comes time to review a fantasy book I'm resorting back to the publisher's synopsis.  There is just so much going on in this book (and the series) that I'm afraid this review would be so long that everyone reading this would age ten years before they were done.  The synopsis gives a pretty good idea of what happens in the book even though it doesn't even begin to tell you everything. 

The only other plot point I wanted to quickly mention was what comes at the end.  As you could probably guess, major wars between two powerful Adept Mages don't normally end well.  This book is no exception, the cataclysm that occurs at the end of this book sets up the action not only for the next two book in the trilogy but for various books that take place over 2,300 years later.

What I love about this book, and most of her other books, are the characters.  The author is adept at creating believable characters that as a reader, you are so drawn into them that you care about what happens.  Your heart starts beating a little faster when they are in danger, you breathe a sigh of relief when they come out okay, and your heart breaks when something bad happens to them or someone they love.  Skan and Drake (Skandranon and Amberdrake) are surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast.

What sets the author's ability apart though is how beautifully she creates non human characters and makes the reader forget that they don't look like us.  While you are reading about them you forget that Skan, Aubri, and Zhaneel are gryphons, you forget that Gesten is a hertasi (think child size lizard men), you don't see them as anything but human even when their physical differences are as plain as could be.  They aren't merely "talking animals" the way some fantasy authors tend to look at non human characters.  They are intelligent, emotional, and complicated individuals who just happen to not look like the human characters. 

She blends them all, human and non human alike,  into a cohesive group of people that you almost have a vested interest in.  You want them to survive the betrayals and losses that are to come.  You want them to persevere when everything seems to be against them.  But most of all, you want them to survive so you can get to know them even better.

This is a perfect example of what a true fantasy novel should be like and I would highly encourage everyone who has never read her work to start here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 1/24/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted all this month by Rose City Reader.

I can't talk about it but I ended up returning two books that I got for Christmas presents.  I won't mention what they were or who gave them to me but they were books I would never read so I returned them to Borders and got 6 books I would read.  I picked up a paperback of Why Didn't They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie.  I also got 4 paperbacks that are replacements for books I used to own; The Silver Gryphon by Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon, Bearing An Hourglass by Piers Anthony, Strangers by Dean R Koontz, and Watchers by Dean R Koontz.  I've also been missing Torchwood so I picked up a hardcover of Torchwood: Bay of the Dead by Mark Morris.

I received a trade paperback of The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I got the two disc collector's edition of "National Treasure" from the Disney Movie Rewards program.

Friday, January 21, 2011

CSN Review Coming Up: Check Your Local Listings

It was nice to open my email the other day and find a wonderful surprise.  Once again I've been given the opportunity to review one of CSN Stores fantastic products.  My only issue now is deciding what I want.

Aidan has been wanting to redo his room and one of the first things we started looking for were modern rugs, rather than the more old fashioned one that is there now.  So I got on there tonight and found this really cool circular rug that would be perfect because he loves the color blue and foxes are one of his favorite animals.

Of course there are tons of other things that we would need for his new room; sheet sets, new lamps, and we still need a globe.

I haven't quite decided yet but I'll let you guys know what our decision is soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The bomb that devastated Wall Street in 1920 explodes in the opening pages of The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld’s provocative and mesmerizing new novel. War veteran Dr. Stratham Younger and his friend Captain James Littlemore of the New York Police Department are caught on Wall Street on the fateful day of the blast. With them is the beautiful Colette Rousseau, a French radiochemist whom Younger meets while fighting in the world war. A series of inexplicable attacks on Rousseau, a secret buried in her past, and a mysterious trail of evidence lead Young, Littlemore, and Rousseau on a thrilling international and psychological journey-from Paris to Prague, from the Vienna home of Dr. Sigmund Freud to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., and ultimately to the hidden depths of our most savage instincts. As the seemingly disjointed pieces of what Younger and Littlemore learn come together, the two uncover the shocking truth behind the bombing.

I went into this book knowing very little about the events that kicked the action off.  I vaguely remember learning about the bombing of Wall Street in an American History class in college, but I couldn't tell you any of the details.  All I knew then was that it had never been solved and that's all I know about it now after reading this book. 

This book is the product of the ingenious imagination of the author (I will now have to read his other book) as he comes up with his own unique solution to that horrific event.  The bombing opens the book but the characters are what drives this story through the entire series of events that takes the characters from New York to Vienna and back.  From start to end this was a whirlwind of action: kidnappings, car chases, Nazi encounters, and glow in the dark women.  I promise it's not as cheesy as it sounds, it all makes sense in the story.

I'm pretty sure I can't tell you anything about this book without spoiling too much of the plot but I do want to mention that the author does a a pretty seamless job of mixing the historical and the fiction.  The book takes real figures and events from history and blends them into a thrilling mixture of mystery and romance.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  To read other opinions of this one please visit the tour page.

Challenges: M&S, A-Z,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Favorite Fictional Character --- Thelma Harper

I'm strongly thinking about making the 1980s Sitcom theme last for two months simply because there are so many characters that I love that I won't have time to bring up.  I'm not going to do that though and since I only have two more of these to do for this month, I though I would bring up my favorite matriarch to grace a TV screen in that decade.  I would like to introduce you to Thelma Harper the star of "Mama's Family".

First of all I just have to say, look at that picture.  How can you not smile seeing Vicki Lawrence dressed up as Mama Harper?  Just look at the expression on her face, it's brilliant and her performance never failed to brighten up my day.

Thelma Harper was the head of a rather dysfunctional family that included her grown children, grown grandchildren, and various other relatives.  A lot of them would end up living with her at various times and Thelma's relationship with them though contentious and quarrelsome at times, was still loving.  Even when they would shout, yell and fight, you could tell they were only doing it because they loved each other but didn't know how to express it any other way. 

Thelma was a headstrong woman who not only wouldn't back down, I'm not really sure she could back down.  It's wasn't in her DNA to do that.  She was sure of what she knew and what she believed and nothing would deter her from that.  She has one of the smartest mouths and quickest tempers on TV and I never failed to laugh out loud when Mama would really get going.  She even lost out on some money left to her buy her sister because she couldn't control that temper for two weeks.

Mama Thelma Harper will go down as one of the feistiest, grouchiest, sharp tongued characters in the history of TV who also happened to be one of the funniest and loving.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Synopsis From Back Cover:

At New York's JFK Airport an arriving Boeing 777 taxiing along a runway suddenly stops dead.  All the shades have been drawn, all communication channels have mysteriously gone quiet.  Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid response team investigating biological threats, boards the darkened plane...and what he finds makes his blood run cold.

A terrifying contagion has come to the unsuspecting city, and unstoppable plague that will spread like an all-consuming wildfire-lethal, merciless, hungry...vampiric.

And in a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem an aged Holocaust survivor knows that the war he has been dreading his entire life is finally here...

I don't even remember the last modern vampire book I read where the vampires were the actual bad guys.  I'm a fan of Anne Rice and a few other books were the vampires are the heroes but I think Edward & Bella have ruined that whole concept for me, at least for a while.  So needless to say it was a nice treat for me to read a book that cast vampires as the blood thirsty killers they are supposed to be.  The fangs are back in the monster and I hope they are here to stay.

In the hands of Guillermo Del Toro, whose movies "The Orphanage" and "Pan's Labyrinth" are two of my all time favorites, The Strain, read like a fast pace movie that kept me on the edge of my seat and my heart beating just a little more rapidly than normal.  The action never seemed to slow down and even the smallest detail made sense and was necessary to move the story forward. 

Even with the thrilling action and a driving pace a story isn't good unless it's peopled by main characters that you can become vested in.  I want to care whether or not these people survive the coming apocalypse, and for the most part I do.  I want to know what happens to them next.  I will stop short of wishing I was on the ground with them, in a rapidly dying city where more and more of their fellow citizens are becoming blood thirsty, mindless monsters.  I like them, but I wouldn't want to share their fight or looming fate.

My only slight disappointment with the book, and it's slight, is that other than the mythology and lore behind what is happening on the ground, there is really nothing "vampiric" about the story.  You could easily turn the vampires in zombies or some other monster that is transformed by a toxin or virus.  The background was set up nicely for the upcoming civil war between vampires, with the entire human race caught in the middle.  I just wish there was more pure vampire in the novel, not something that could be changed out with a slightly modified version of a running, hungry citizen of London during "28 Days Later".

Other than that little quibble, I'm eagerly waiting my opportunity to read the next book in the series to find out what happens to not only Eph and those he has gathered around him but to the entire world as well.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 1/17/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted all this month by Rose City Reader.

On two different trips to Barnes & Noble I picked up a paperback of The Scourge of God by S.M. Stirling and a hardcover of The Gathering of Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (off the bargain table baby!).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen


In this third installment of the adventures of Lady Georgiana, Georgie, she finds herself in quite a pickle.  With the Summer being horrid to deal with in London, her house cleaning business has taken a turn for the worst with her clients out in the country.  Thinking she would hire herself out as a dinner companion, Georgie finds herself the subject of a "prostitution" scandal when her first and only client assumes the worst.

To avoid publicity, she is shipped back home to Scotland and set on the trail of someone who seems to be trying to kill the Prince of Wales.  Throw in the oh so common Mrs. Simpson and this is one stay in the country that may be her last.

All I can say anymore, is that I love this series.  Part of my brain is telling me not too, that the mystery isn't complicated enough.  It's telling me that I need more of a challenge in my reading.  The rest of my brain though can't get enough.  There is something that absolutely charms me about Georgie, even when she is being horribly naive.  She is such a fresh breath of air in the mystery world and I'm infatuated with her.

She never really seems to look for trouble, it just finds her.  This installment has plenty of it for her to deal with.  She almost dies mountain climbing, finds herself in a terrible jam in a airplane, and that's not talking about the falling commode that takes out someone else.  As silly as all of that sounds, it's completely believable in the world that Georgie inhabits.

The regular cast of supporting characters is here as well.  Her brother Binky and his penny pinching wife (though she is almost likable in this one), her best friend the clothing designer, her common grandfather, her gold digging actress of a mother, and the Queen herself appears every now and then.  What I really like is that while the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson have been in all three books, we are really getting to see more of them and I must say, I really don't like Mrs. Simpson.  I can't see what the Prince saw in her.  Georgie's relationship with Darcy is starting to pick up and by the end of the book, I had hope for them.

Overall, this is a great cozy mystery with lots of engaging characters, danger, intrigue, fun packaged into a light mystery that everyone should be able to enjoy.

Challenges:  A-Z, M&S

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Jane Wilkinson was once America's darling of the stage.  Today she is better known as the unfaithful wife of eccentric Lord Edgware.  Unfortunately, her confidential admission to Hercule Poirot that she'd do anything to escape her miserable marriage couldn't have come at a worse time: the very day before her husband is found stabbed to death.  Lucky for Lady Jane she has an alibi as impeccable as her taste in lovers.  But is she truly innocent-or is she giving the performance of a lifetime?  The outcome of Act III is up to her newest fan, the brilliant Belgian sleuth, sitting front row center...

This is not my favorite of the Agatha Christie books I've read so far, but that doesn't mean what it would when a different author is being talked about.  I will take her "average" book, of which this is one, over most author's "great" books.  No matter what, Agatha Christie shines at creating a complex, story driven mystery that hooks you in and never really lets you go.

What I have a problem with in this book, is what I generally have with any book that Hercule Poirot is the star of.  He just gets on my nerves a little bit.  He's quirky, egotistical, and pompous.  For the most part I'm okay with that because he is a brilliant mind who is worthy of that egotism.  Sometimes though I just want to throttle him and tell him to shut up.  Luckily, Hastings was in this books and he, at least for me, humanizes Poirot a bit.

As for the mystery itself.  I was able to figure this one out early on, but it still kept my attention and let me get lost in the case.  Christie is brilliant at creating a series of events and situations that by the end of the book come together in a way that makes sense.  She never pulls a solution out of thin air and gives the reader all the clues they need to figure it out before the detective does.  This was a solid book and one worth reading.

Challenges:  A-Z, M&S, FF, VM

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Aidan Is Turning 8 Today!

My wonderfully brilliant son, Aidan, is turning 8 today and I wanted to let him know how much I love him and truly appreciate every moment I'm with him.  He is the best thing to ever happen to me and I thank God for him everyday.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to watch him grow up and look forward to many, many, many more years.  Happy Birthday Kiddo!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Favorite Fictional Character --- Judge Harry T Stone

To continue on with my journey through 1980s sitcoms, I though I would briefly talk about one of the funniest characters I had ever seen.  I of course am talking about Judge Harry T. Stone of "Night Court"

Judge Harold "Harry" T Stone presided over the night shift in a Manhattan courtroom.  Along with a group of other, equally funny characters, Judge Stone presided over what ended up being a enjoyable chaotic mess of petty criminals and over the top cases.

Harry Stone was a young, fun loving Judge who would never allow the tone of his courtroom to get too serious.  He was always there with a joke or a magic trick, since he was an amateur magician.  At the same time he acted as the moral compass of the show and never let a real crime go unpunished.  He would actually at times be quite serious and almost take on a lecturing tone with certain defendants.

What I really appreciated about him, other than his moral funniness was his love for the 40s.   He not only loved he movies but the clothing as well.  Both of which I can completely relate to.  His Mel Torme fascination though, that I'm not so sure about.  With or without his questionable taste in music, Judge Stone was a fun loving character that always did the right thing but was still able to enjoy himself.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 1/10/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted all this month by Rose City Reader.

Really small "mailbox" this week.  I purchased the DVD of *batteries not included from Wal-Mart for $5.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

GLBT Challenge 2011

I'm signing up for the GLBT Challenge 2011 which is being hosted once again by Amanda of The Zen Leaf. This challenge means a lot to me personally so I'm really looking forward to participating again this year.

The guidelines are a little different this year so I'll let Amanda tell you the basics:

The basic idea of this challenge is to read books about GLBT topics and/or by GLBT authors.

The challenge runs year-round as usual, but instead of requiring a certain number of books, this year I'm handling this challenge in a more do-it-yourself sort of fashion. You set your own goal. It doesn't matter if that goal is 1 book, 10 books, a percentage of your books, or to read from various age groups/genres. Your goal is completely up to you. Design this the way you want. Make it work for you. The important thing here is simply to get us reading GLBT lit.

You don't need to choose your books right away, and they can change at any time. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.

In January, I will put up a review linky. Those links help serve as a reference for others. They are also how I will track participants for the end of year prize drawing. For each book you review and link up, the greater your chance will be at winning. At the end of 2011, I will use to select one participant - from the review linky - to win a book of their choice (up to $20) from the Book Depository.

Well I'm not setting a number goal on this one because I don't want any extra pressure on myself but I'm almost positive I'll be reading at least 12 books.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Femme Fatale Reading Challenge 2011

I promise this is my last mystery related challenge that I'm signing up for this year.  I don't feel too bad though because all they challenges allow cross pollination, so it shouldn't be too hard.  The Femme Fatale Reading Challenge 2011 is being hosted by Whitney of She Is Too Fond Of Books .

Here is how Whitney describes the challenge plus gives the rules:

"A femme fatale, translating to "Deadly Woman" in french, is an alluring, seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire. Often this leads them into compromising, dangerous and deadly situations."

"Typically, Femme Fatales are portrayed as the villains but occasionally become the heroine by the end of the tale. A Femme Fatale, tortures her lover teasing him with her affections driving him into obsession, making irrational decisions."

~ Wikipedia


Between January 1 - December 31, 2011 read and/or watch as many femme fatale related items as you wish (see levels below)

Cross-overs to other challenges are fine

It is not required to make a list beforehand

You don't need a blog to join

Please sign up in the comments


Enchantress -- 3 femme fatale items
Jezebel -- 6 femme fatale items
Dragon Lady -- 12 femme fatale items

Since this challenges allows movies to count I'm signing up for the Dragon Lady level.  I'm already gleeful about the Barbara Stanwyck movies I get to watch now.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

I guess this year is going to be the year of the Mystery for me.  I keep seeing these great mystery challenges and I feel compelled to sign up for them.  Something tells me this one, 2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, is going to be a lot of fun for me.  It's being hosted by Bev of My Reader's Block, which is a new blog to me so I'm looking forward to getting to know her blog as well.

Here are the rules in Bev's own words:

*All books must have been written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.

*Some suggested authors include: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, Earl Derr Biggers, Georgette Heyer, Edmund Crispin, Cyril Hare, Ellery Queen, Elizabeth Daly, Cyril Hare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh, S. S. Van Dine, Philip MacDonald, Rex Stout, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Josephine Bell, Josephine Tey, Frances & Richard Lockridge, Michael Innes and Stuart Palmer. (Please remember that some of these authors published after 1960 as well--so keep an eye on the original copyright date.)

*You are welcome to count these books towards any other challenges as well.

*Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Sign up any time between now and November 30, 2011.

*I would love to see reviews of your challenge books, but it is not necessary to participate. If you do not have a blog, post to the comments what your challenge level will be and then post again when you have completed your challenge (include a list of books read).

*No matter what level you choose, please try at least two different vintage authors.

*The best part? A prize for everyone who completes their challenge. Once you declare your challenge are locked in for that number of books. But you may change your list of books at any time. Let me know when you have met your challenge goal and I will send you a list of prizes (books) to choose from. Of course, the earlier you finish, the longer the list of books will be.

*Please post about the challenge on your blog (feel free to grab the image) with your declared challenge level.

*Please enter your name/blog name and the link to your challenge post in the linky below.

Challenge Levels:

In a Murderous Mood: 4-6 Books
Get a Clue: 7-9 Books
Hot on the Trail: 10-12 Books
Capture the Criminal: 13-15 Books
Take 'Em to Trial: 16+ Books


The Golden Age Girls*: Read 5-7 books from female authors from the vintage years
Cherchez Le Homme: Read 5-7 books from male authors from the vintage years

Well I'm going for the Take 'Em to Trial level and I'll be interested in seeing how well I do with it.  I'm already thinking Agatha Christie, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Arthur Conan Doyle to start off with.  I'm going to be really interested in seeing what other author's I'm able to stumble across.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Favorite Fictional Character --- Alf

To make it easier on myself and the few others who read these posts I'm going to break every month into a theme.  Simply put, every character during a particular month will have something in common.  For the month of January I'm going to be reintroducing (maybe introducing) some great characters from 80s sitcoms.

I can't think of 80s TV without thinking of one of the best aliens to ever grace the silver screen.  Gordon Shumway, better know as Alf to the rest of us, crash landed on Earth when he followed a radio signal.  Thankfully for him, and us, he crashed into the garage of a middle class family in the burbs that takes him in and hides him away from the government who are intent on studying him.

Throughout the 4 season run Alf is annoying, cynical, gets into way too much trouble,.  He is continuously bored, doesn't understand Earth culture at all, and tends to get depressed when he thinks about home because since it blew up, he thinks he's the last remaining survivor of Melmac.  All that drama allowed Alf to be so cleverly funny that even when he was misbehaving, you couldn't help but love him.  At least I couldn't, especially when he was eating (which was all the time) or when he was trying to eat the family cat (every time he wasn't eating something else.

Eventually all good things come to an end, and Alf is captured by the government and held for 7 long years before he is freed by someone on the inside.  Throughout it all though Alf remained one of those characters that despite all his flaws, entertained me and allowed me to fall in love with him.

The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway

This is going to be a synopsis free review because at the end of this typing bonanza I'm going to give you a spoiler laden, brief synopsis of some of the action. 

This was a book that as soon as it was offered to me, I got a little giddy.  The description sounded like something I would love to get lost in:

From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, Gallaway imparts the sweeping tale of an unlikely quartet, bound together by the strange and spectacular history of Richard Wagner’s masterpiece opera Tristan and Isolde.

When my regular (and rather cute) UPS guy delivered the book to me I will admit to feeling a great sense of anticipation for what I was about to discover.  I couldn't wait for the moment I would crack the page and discover these characters that are about to have their lives intertwined by one of the best pieces of music ever composed.  I was expecting something grand and epic, a story of four people whose stories would captivate me and sweep me away into their lives.  Instead I was treated to four rather dull characters that while I could tolerate three of them, the fourth was just boring for me.  Now, I'm going to say right now that my feelings for these characters are subjective and I can totally understand why someone else would love them from the get go.

The story, if you couldn't tell already, revolves around four main characters.  Martin is a 40 something gay lawyer living in New York City.  He doesn't really seem to be doing anything with his life and I think like a lot of people has found himself living in a rut.  To be honest, other than the fact that he was overweight and would be considered a "bear" in gay slang, I really don't remember all that much about him.  If found his sections of the book to be the dullest and I found myself having to force myself away from skimming the pages. 

Maria, as she is first introduced to us in the 80s, is a tall girl who is called Morticia by her classmates, not in a nice way.  The only interesting thing about her, other than her sulkiness and normal teen angst, is that fact she has a naturally beautiful operatic voice that is just waiting to be discovered.

We are introduced to Anna as she is about to come into the height of her fame as an opera singer.  She has finally been given a chance to shine and she takes it by the horns.  She is one of two characters that I actually got to like during the course of the book, which follows parts of her life from the 70s through 2002.  Of all the characters she is the one that seems to change the most during her life and the one that ties Martin and Maria together.

The fourth character Lucien, a young man who wants nothing more to take to the stage and perform like his mother did before she passed away.  Now he is growing up in Nineteenth century Europe so he is around for when Tristan and Isolde is performed for the first time, he's actually in it.  He is the other character that I really enjoyed, well except for the ending (but that's an entirely different issue altogether).  We get to experience his growth into a great singer and his falling in love or the first time.  He is the only character that I felt had any real emotion come off the page, especially when his lover commits suicide after the opera house he was building was slated for demolition.

So now that I've sort of introduced you to the characters, let me tell you my biggest problem with this book.  If you don't want to read any spoilers, please stop reading now, because I'm about to tell you a lot of what happens in the book.  The way their lives were tied together took too much of a leap of faith for me.  You see when Lucien goes back home to Paris after his lover's suicide his father, who has been working on a elixir to extend life, dies as a result of an experiment, Lucien drinks the elixir and then continues to live his life to present day. 

In the 70s he met Anna, slept with her, got her pregnant, and faked his own death.  Anna then gave up her children (fraternal twins) for adoption and never thought much of them until she judges Maria in a singing competition.  From there Anna just assumes that it's her daughter but never tells her.  Instead she ushers her into Julliard (after the adoptive parents die in a house fire during the audition) and supports her career over the next decade and a half. 

Sometime during this time, Maria meets Martin and they sleep together.  Who cares that Martin is gay, he just couldn't help himself and it happened.  I forgot to mention that around the same time that Maria's adoptive family died in the house fire, Martin's adoptive parents died in a car accident.  Years later Martin and Maria meet again through a mutual friend, Leo (who just happens to be Lucien).  Anna is on her way to meet up with them when she spots Martin and realizes that he is her son.  She dies and Leo (Lucien) tells them the truth about himself.  The End. (Plus End Of Major Spoilers)

Other than the fact that this story is beautifully written and that the author truly does have a lyrical quality that I found captivating to read, I just couldn't buy the story.  The whole elixir of life aspect just confused the story more than it needed.  I know the author wanted to tie all these characters together by blood, but couldn't Lucien have been related to them some other way.  I'm not going to even get into the whole accidental incest thing because I've seen it done in ways that were more necessary to the book than this one was.  I just didn't get the point of it.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I just found this story to be a little too messy for me.  I plan on reading the author's next book though because his writing style kept me reading despite how I felt about the story itself.  I almost feel as if I should apologize for not liking the book as much as I wanted to.  I'm not sure I've ever felt that way about another book before.  I guess it's because I really did like the way the author wrote the book.

I want to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read this book and I would encourage everyone to visit the tour page and read other reviews on this one.  I'm sure I'm going to be in the minority on this one so please take the time to find out what others though of it.

I would also encourage you to visit Matthew Gallaway's web site as well as his blog.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A-Z Mystery Author Challenge 2011

Most of you already know that I'm a huge mystery fan so when Michelle of Red Headed Book Child decided to start her own mystery challenge for 2011, how could I say no.  So this is my official sign up post for the A-Z Mystery Author Challenge.

Here are the rules in Michelle's own words:

Challenge runs from January 1 - December 31, 2011. Sign up ends February 1, 2011.

Read A-I, J-P or Q-Z. You choose. The letter group you choose must be the last name of the author. (i.e= S for John Sandford).

Mystery genre can include Cozy, Suspense, Thriller, or Noir. All Adult novels please.

Leave a comment if you would like to sign up. I am getting rid of Mr. Linky.

Write a post about this challenge and which group/s you pick. You can list the authors you choose or do it as you go.

When you post your reviews, mention this challenge and link back to this sign up post.

Sign up for my Giveaway! You must be a follower, reside in the U.S and post about this challenge. I would appreciate it if you would sign up but it is not a requirement. I would like the help in spreading the word.

Winner will be announced January 11, 2011.

I'm actually going to go for the whole alphabet on this one.  I have a few authors already figured out, including the one for Z, so I'm really looking forward to this challenge.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mailbox Monday for 1/3/11

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page and is being hosted all this month by Rose City Reader.

I received a trade paperback of The Alchemy of Chance by Peter S. Brooks from the publisher for review.

From Barnes & Noble I bought two paperbacks on my last trip, The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan and Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie.

I bought the hardcover of Odd and the Frost Giants from Wal-Mart for $3.

I bought a excellent condition hardcover of A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan from the Friends of the Library Book Store for only $1.