What I Am Doing

51S8WH7B02L._SL160_Reading:

Joanna Dobson’s Professor Karen Pelletier mystery series.  I’ve just finished the second book, “The Northbury Papers”, and am about to start the third, “The Raven and the Nightingale”.  I’m loving these books – the academic setting, the American literature element, and last but not least, Karen’s personal life.  There’s a very subtle romance growing, and yes, I totally spoiled myself by reading the blurbs for the next books – now I need to know how everything gets resolved.

 

51JVLxQkvvL._SL160_Waiting (very impatiently) for:

Diana Gabaldon’s “Echo in the Bone”.  The Royal Mail would choose this time to go on strike.  Fingers crossed it arrives next week.

 

510hi1w62FL._SL160_Next up:

In the absence of “Echo in the Bone”, I’m thinking possibly Ellen Crosby’s “The Chardonnay Charade”, the second in her Wine Country series.  I’m on a bit of a mystery kick at the moment.  I read the first book, “The Merlot Murders”, recently and really liked it – there is some angst, most definitely, and Ms Crosby brings the winemaking process to life without ever venturing into info-dumping territory.  Oh, and I probably don’t even need to say it, but yes, there is a potential romance  ;-)  I am so predictable.

Lisa Lutz’s “Curse of the Spellmans”

You know those books by new-to-you authors which make you think “oh, I should really try other books by this author”, but it’s not quite I-need-to-go-and-order-other-books-by-this-author-NOW?  And then you never actually get around to trying their other books.

41W8wZUwIL._SL160_Lisa Lutz is one of these not-so-new-to-me authors.  I came across a mention of her Spellman books that compared them to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series* back in January.  Enough to intrigue me, and when I asked for opinions, Lys recommended it.  Rather serendipitously, I stumbled upon the first book “The Spellman Files” in the library around the same time, enjoyed it, and made a mental note to watch out for the second book when it was released in mass market paperback.  Which I promptly forgot about, oh, a couple of weeks later.

51Jvza-MR7L._SL160_Then this week, I was killing time in a bookstore, and spotted “The Curse of the Spellmans” in mmp (helps that the UK cover (right)` is pretty eye-catching, and IMO, captures the slightly offbeat spirit of the series perfectly).  I went “ah!”, read the first page, and had to buy it.  I mean, when a book starts with this:

Saturday, April 22
1900 hrs

“Hello?”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Who is this?”

“Isabel, and don’t ask me again.”

“Who?”

“Mom, it’s really not funny when you do it.”

“Seriously, who is this?”

“I don’t have time for your games right now.”

“Neither do I,” said Mom, finally dropping the amnesia act.  “I’ll call you in a few days.”

Don’t hang up!!!” I shouted into the receiver.

“Isabel, calm down.”

“Just don’t hang up.”

“Why not?”

“Because… I only get one phone call.”

Heh.  Of course I had to continue reading.

The tagline for the book is the perfect introduction to the Spellman family:

Meet the Spellmans, a family in which eavesdropping is a mandatory skill, locks are meant to be picked and blackmail is the preferred form of negotiation.

To say “Curse of the Spellmans” is crammed with action is an understatement.  I mean, for starters, Izzy is convinced their new next-door neighbour’s involved in something illegal (she just needs to figure out what it is), her younger sister Rae is trying to make up for accidentally running over her new friend Inspector Henry Stone (or as Rae puts it, “almost accidentally manslaughtering my best friend”), both her parents are behaving suspiciously (or more than usual, anyway), and her best friend and sister-in-law Petra is avoiding her.

The book is fast-paced and hilarious, helped along with flashbacks, interview transcripts, and lists scattered throughout.  All the above plotlines (plus others!) came together very satisfyingly in a coherent whole.  The characters, seen though Izzy’s first-person POV, were beautifully sketched out.  I loved Izzy but wanted to shake her at times for being so incredibly single-minded, I adored her younger sister Rae and her mad obsessions, and oh, I have high hopes for Inspector Henry Stone.  The Spellman family may be complete nutters, but they are family.

Ms Lutz really hit her stride in this second Spellman book – it’s comedy with heart.  And it’s safe to say that I’m now ordering the third book “Revenge of the Spellmans”.

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*The comparison to Stephanie Plum is not really fair to either, IMO – they’re very different stories, the only similarity is that both Izzy and Stephanie are female.  And that the plotlines are completely OTT.

BBAW Blogger Interview: Leontine

BBAW_Celebrate_BooksAs part of BBAW 09, you could sign up to do interview swaps with another blogger, where you would be randomly paired up with another book blogger and find out more about them.  I loved the idea, and was partnered with Leontine of Leontine’s Book Realm – tagline: A Guide into the Mind and Life of a 21st Century Book Addict.  I can so identify.

We brainstormed some questions, and Leontine’s answers are below – so if you’re curious about what a Beefcake Preview Night entails or what’s sitting on Leontine’s nightstand (yes, I’m incurably nosy), read on!  And my answers to the same questions are at Leontine’s blog.

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This is Book Bloggers Appreciation Week – so let’s start with the blog-type stuff:

Why did you start your blog?
Because I wanted a place where I could explore my book lovin’ side. Where I could place my reviews and write whatever triggered me to write about. I like the fact my creative side was challenged, that I could create my own vibe and over this past year, my blog has really come in to its own and tells you much about me as a reader and book lover 🙂

What do you focus on?
On my blog, Leontine’s Book Realm, I focus mostly on my reviews and anything related to me as a book addict. I also have a Beefcake Preview Club night where I do a character interview from an upcoming book. I also have a cover and series discoveries and interviews.

What do you enjoy most… and least about blogging?
I really love the fact to just be active with my book passion. To allow my blog to showcase my various interests in what I enjoy so much about the book world. I am aiming for a blend of reviews, interviews, columns and what I discover as a reader.

Do you have any features on your blog?
Like I already mentioned, I have a Beefcake Preview Club night where I have a character interview, the crew is ready with a cocktail for the ladies, where we can talk about everything but mostly the character interview, and for my followers, I have a giveaway.

If I discover a series, I do a feature of Series Discovery. Basically it is a post where I tell what triggered my intrigue for this series and series info.

I also have a Cover Discovery, I am always in the mood to talk covers. What I love, what turns me off and what turns me on. This is the post I do this in.

What kind of sneaked up is the Monthly Book Tip interview. I always have a monthly book I expose in my sidebar and a few month ago I asked if the author was up for a short interview…in the following months it has become a monthly feature on my Book Realm.

Who was your first commenter?
My very good friend and fellow booklover; Pearl from Pearl’s World Of Books was the very first to comment on my blogpost – What has been in 2008 and what is to come in 2009.

What is your favorite blogpost?
My review of Anne Bishop. Though I had already heard much about her Black Jewels series, I always wonder if an author can live up to the hype. Because, what works for someone else doesn’t not always necessarily have to work for me. Still, the synopsis intrigued the daylights out of me. When I read the first book, Daughter Of The Blood, and I wrote my review, I knew I had a winner of a trilogy turned series on my hand. My review is one of those reviews that flowed from my fingers in my awe for this author’s skill and creation of world and characters.

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Moving on to the good stuff… the books!

What do you usually read? Favourite authors / genre etc
I read mostly in the Paranormal/Fantasy genre with Suspense, Erotica and Historical as a side dish. Some of my favorite authors include: CL Wilson, Anne Bishop, Karen Marie Moning, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Kathryne Kennedy but also; Anna Campbell, Chris Owen, Shayla Black, Lauren Dane and Shannon McKenna are a few I absolutely love to read.

Have your reading / buying habits changed since you’ve started blogging?
Oh yes, most definitely yes!!! My Urban Fantasy shelf has been growing rapidly and The Book Depository Store and I have created a very intimate relationship 😉

Who provides you with good recommendations?
I have my *partners in crime* Pearl, Marissa and my sister Natascha. But also Cecile, VampFanGirl, Donna, Mandi, Blodeuedd, Amy and too many more to write up who provide me with sound advice. I have put my CC to a stretch thanks to these incredible gals *grin*

Which authors are on your keeper shelf?
There are so many! Jennifer Donnelly – Anne Bishop – Sherrilyn Kenyon – JR Ward – Nalini Singh – Elizabeth Vaughan – Rona Sharon – Shannon McKenna – Kresley Cole – Lisa Valdez – Anna Campbell and I could go on typing for a bit.

Do you have a latest discovery you talk about at any given moment?
Lauren Dane – Laid Bare, I just loved her Erotica Romance. It is raw, emotional, passionate, real, intense and she grabbed me from the prologue with characters that just had me at hello.

What is your favorite moment to read?
Early in the morning or in the afternoon. I can read at practically any hour of the day but mornings and between 2-5PM are the times I read the most.

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And to finish it off, some more personal questions…

1. What was the highlight of your week?
I had a ROOB gang meeting last night (9-13-2009). We had good food, good conversations and a hilarious movie: The Hangover to watch. 12 hours went by in the blink of an eye.

2. Last movie you watched?
Well, that one is easy, The Hangover. I thought it was going to be a b-comedy but I had a lot of good old fashioned laugh-out-loud moments, it was well worth the time and money 😉

3. Your dream date would be…?
After a dazzling night of wine and dining and a musical we fly away to a somewhat secluded place. Starry night, candles everywhere and a hot tub….

4. What is your favorite season?
Fall and winter are in the run, but I think the fall would win with its stormy weather and leaves in all the colors falling from the trees.

5. Your favorite vacation spot?
I loved going to Ireland, the rich culture, the legends, the history and the very kind people I have met all added to a fabulous experience and one I’d like to repeat one day.

6. Boxers or briefs with your hottie next door?
Briefs, I so don’t like boxers, or at least those loose fitting ones with all the wacky prints, they just don’t do it for me.

7. Bad boy or knight in shining armor?
I am such a bad boy kind-a-woman. The one that gives me the most chills and thrills at the moment is Daemon from the Black Jewel trilogy.

8. What’s your favorite food?
Pasta, carb hell but with various veggies, or sauce and my taste buds are in heaven 🙂

9. Current favorite TV series?
SUPERNATURAL, I just love Dean and Sam Winchester and the cases they solve in search for their father…and that is just the beginning.

10. What’s on your nightstand?
CD’s with my favorite music, my notepad and my current book; Geoffrey Knight’s Fanthom’s Five; Cross Of Sins.

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Thank you very much Leontine for joining in the fun – I now have more blogs and authors to check out!

BBAW Starts Today

BBAW_Celebrate_BooksToday marks the beginning of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, an annual celebration of book blogging, with this year’s theme being “Celebrate Books”.

Unless you’ve been under a rock or something, you’re probably aware of the controversy around the BBAW awards.  IMO, awards are a fun way of recognising the work and effort that people put into their blog, and therefore a logical part of BBAW, but really, they’re the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Because the cake (and yes, I am totally stretching this metaphor) is the fact we have a wonderful community of book bloggers (as well as commenters and lurkers!) that makes blogging enjoyable, rewarding, and ever so satisfying.

So yay for BBAW and a big thank you to Amy and her army of volunteers for organising this!

This week, I’m looking forward to discovering many new blogs, starting off with the list of blogs shortlisted for the various BBAW awards.  There’s also a list of suggested blogging topics for the week – I’m not doing all, but I am doing the blogger interview tomorrow, which I thought was a fantastic idea.

And finally, for a most excellent link to start off BBAW, Carolyn – sorry, I mean Little CJ and Miss Doreen – at The Thrillionth Page has a hilarious post up about the blogs shortlisted for the Most Humorous Blog award… and why they should have been on that shortlist, dammit.

Books for September

September is an excellent month for new releases – books I want:

51JVLxQkvvL._SL160_Diana Gabaldon‘s “An Echo in the Bone” (umm… I’m going to say historical fantasy): I can’t believe that we are finally getting the next book in Ms Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  It’s been way too long since the last one (and no, I’m not doing a re-read of the previous books – that would probably take me all year).  I signed up for the special offer Orion, her UK publishers, are running, i.e. pre-order the UK hardcover to be released January 2010, and they’ll send you a free trade paperback version when it is released in the US on 22 September.  I mean, it’s a win-win offer.

Back cover blurb:

Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

Out Sept 22 (excerpts here)

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513-xN5-tVL._SL160_Sharon Lee & Steve Miller‘s “Fledgling” (SF): I’m a big fan of their Liaden books, and I bought and read this on the day it came out (if you read ebooks,  the e-version is only $6 on Baen’s Webscription site).  You may recall “Fledgling” was first released as as a web serial, with the authors trying a “storyteller’s bowl” type experiment, and publishing their rough draft as they wrote. Baen then bought the novel, which was fantastic news, especially for us fans dying for another Liaden installment.

I really enjoyed “Fledgling” and I think they’ve missed a trick by not marketing this book to the YA audience as well.  Theo Waitley is an engaging character; in fact, if she wasn’t so easy to like, I’d be tempted to call her a Mary-Sue.  But Theo is likeable, and it was satisfying to see her grow into herself, the world-building is strong and intriguing, and I admit it, I loved finally being able to find out what Jen Sar a.k.a. Daav had been doing in his long self-imposed exile.

There’s a sequel, “Saltation”, which is still online, but I expect it to be taken down pretty soon as the book will be published in Spring 2010.

Back cover blurb:

Theo Waitley has lived all her young life on Delgado, a Safe World that is home to one of the galaxy’s premier institutions of higher learning. Both Theo’s mother, Kamele, and Kamele’s onagrata Jen Sar Kiladi, are professors at the university, and they all live comfortably together, just like they have for all of Theo’s life, in Jen Sar’s house at the outskirts of town.

Suddenly, though, Theo’s life changes. Kamele leaves Jen Sar and moves herself and Theo back into faculty housing, which is not what Theo is used to. Once settled back inside the Wall, Kamele becomes embroiled in faculty politics, and is appointed sub-chair of her department. Meanwhile, Theo, who has a notation in her file indicating that she is “physically challenged” has a series of misadventures, including pulling her best friend down on the belt-ride to class, and hurting a team mate during a scavage game.

With notes piling up in her file, Theo only wants to go “home,” to the house in the suburbs, and have everything just like it used to be.

Then, Kamele uncovers evidence of possible dishonest scholarship inside of her department. In order to clear the department, she and a team of senior professors must go off-world to perform a forensic document search. Theo hopes this will mean that she’ll be left in the care of the man she calls “Father,” Professor Kiladi, and is horrified to learn that Kamele means to bring Theo with her!

Out now (excerpt here)

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51E1Bao9cL._SL160_“Must Love Hellhounds” (urban fantasy) is an anthology with Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Nalini Singh. How perfect is that?

Blurb:

Follow paranormal bodyguards Clovache and Batanya into Lucifer’s realm, where they encounter his fearsome four-legged pets, in Charlaine Harris’s “The Britlingens Go to Hell”.  Seek out a traitor in the midst of a guild of non- lethal vampire trackers, one that intends to eradicate the entire species of bloodsuckers, in Nalini Singh’s “Angels’ Judgment”.  Find out why the giant three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades has left the underworld for the real world-and whose scent he’s following-in Ilona Andrews’s “Magic Mourns”.  Embark on a perilous search for the kidnapped niece of a powerful vampire alongside her blind- and damn sexy-companion and a hellhound in Meljean Brook’s “Blind Spot”.

Out now (excerpts here and here for Meljean Brook’s and Nalini Singh’s contributions respectively)

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Also out Sept 29 is the first in Ilona Andrews‘ new series, “On the Edge” (paranormal romance, I think).  Their Kate Daniels series is right up there with Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books as my favourite UF series, so I’m very excited about this one. 

Lisa Kleypas‘s “Tempt Me at Twilight” (historical romance), the third book in her Hathaway sisters series, is out Sept 22.  She is one of the few historical (and contemporary!) authors on my auto-buy list.

And finally Ann Aguirre‘s “Doubleblind” (urban fantasy) is out Sept 29.  I’ve enjoyed the first two Jax books and am looking forward to the third.

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Being Nitpicky

I’ve been travelling a bit lately, so I may be suffering from jetlag.  And general grumpiness.  So this is a sort of rant-y post.  Just a small one.

I was reading a new-to-me author today.  It’s a cosy mystery (as an aside, I am always looking for new authors in this subgenre, so please rec away) and so I had high hopes as it had been recommended somewhere (not entirely sure where, I just know it ended up on my wishlist a few months ago).

Unfortunately, I put it down after the first couple of chapters.  Why?  Because little things kept on jumping out at me, and ultimately stopped me from getting into the story.

Let me explain.

This book is the type that starts with a girl, let’s call her A, being murdered in the prologue.  The first chapter then had A’s employer musing about how reliable A is, what a treasure A is, etc., etc., on her way to work, and then reaching her shop and finding A hadn’t opened up the shop as previously agreed.  Instead of getting worried (hello, you’ve just explained exactly how fantastic and dependable A is), the owner immediately has an annoyed “WTF, how dare she not keep her word, I’m going to kill her”-type reaction.  Inconsistent.

And then the owner discovers A at the bottom of a staircase with her head at an awkward angle.  Reaction?  Not a “Oh, no, A has slipped and fallen!”, instead, a “Oh no, someone’s beaten me to killing her!”, and leaping instantly to the conclusion she’s been murdered.  Maybe it was just awkward phrasing – I haven’t continued to the next chapter yet, but using the word “kill” at this point seems to be jumping the gun a bit.

I guess I’m frustrated because these appear to be the sort of inconsistencies an editor or critique partner should have pointed out for fixing.  However, I’m not sure if I’d have noticed these, say, a couple of years ago.  Or I would have just put it down as a so-so book without thinking about why or what didn’t work for me.  And I certainly wouldn’t have thought that it needed more editing.

I thought about this a bit more and you know what?  I think it’s due to blogging.  I’m no writer, but I follow a lot of authors’ blogs (who me, lurk?), and surprise, surprise, they talk about writing.  Being on the other side of the fence, I find it fascinating to read about the behind-the-scenes stuff, and how much time and effort goes into crafting and polishing that finished book that lands in my hands.  I especially love Ilona Andrews posts where she dissects and reconstructs paragraphs.  I mean, I read the original paragraph, and I usually think “eh” and then she pulls it apart and sort of fits it together again, and I think “wow”.  Well, usually  😉

What I do take away from her posts (and other similar ones) is that the smallest thing can completely throw a scene off, whether it’s the character knowing something s/he shouldn’t know or reacting inconsistently or jarring POV shifts.  And as a result, I find myself being a lot more critical when reading nowadays.

So.  Rant over.  I may go back and skim the book to see if it improves.

Thoughts?  Have you found yourself becoming a pickier reader as a result of reading writers’ blogs?

Around the Web

A couple of quickies – new author sites and updates:

Juliet Marillier has relaunched her website.  I’m finding it slightly graphics-heavy, but it looks good.  There’s a RSS feed for news updates which is always useful.  She talks about her website redesign on Writers Unboxed – it’s pretty interesting stuff.

Mercedes Lackey has a Facebook page (and okay, a Twitter account too).  Better still, she says she plans to update her website – about time, I say.  I’ve just had a quick look and I’m seeing 2009 releases listed, though the welcome message is still dated July 2002.

Her Facebook site also has the following piece of news:

Completed the Fairy Godmother piece. Turned it in. Next up a new Young Adult dark fantasy/western ("Deadwood" style) series proposal. Also Tor says they want some Diana Tregarde and Jenny Talldeer. We’re going to do a threesome of novellas. (What is the collective noun there?) Apparently they were listening after all 😉

Yay on the novellas news – I loved the Diana Tregarde books.  And the YA dark fantasy/western sounds very intriguing.

New Amelia Peabody!

Not exactly breaking news, but Elizabeth Peters’ website is announcing a new Amelia Peabody book “River in the Sky” to be released April 2010.

After some frantic Googling, here’s a blurb courtesy of Simpleng Kaligayahan:

Still banned from exploring the Valley of the Kings, Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson and his intrepid amateur sleuth wife Amelia are spending a peaceful summer at their home in England. One day, the Emersons are visited by two men: Major John Morley and the Reverend Plato Pangopolous. The former wants to mount an expedition to the Holy Land; the latter is a Greek cleric on the lunatic fringe of Biblical scholarship. These two men have arrived for the same purpose: they both want Radcliffe and Amelia’s help on a daring mission to locate the fabled Ark of the Covenant!

I could not be more excited.  So… the new Megan Whalen Turner in March, a new Peabody in April, and a new Vorkosigan book in November. 

Happy days.

ETA:  Another blurb, this time with a date, courtesy of Constable & Robinson:

1910. Having brought Egypt firmly under her thumb, Amelia Peabody turns her attention to a harder challenge: Palestine, a province of the crumbling, corrupt Ottoman Empire and the Holy Land of three religions. Hearing that Morley, an English adventurer, has raised money to mount an expedition to search for the vanished treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem, Emerson and Amelia are persuaded to go after him in order to prevent a catastrophically inept excavation and the possibility of armed protest by the infuriated members of all three religions who view the Dome of the Rock as sacred. The War Office is concerned about increasing German influence in Palestine and insists that Morley is secretly working for German intelligence. Emerson doesn’t believe it, but could he be mistaken?

In the meantime, their son Ramses has been working on a dig at Samaria, north of Jerusalem, where he encounters an unusual party of travellers. One is a female German archaeologist, and the other a mysterious man of unknown nationality and unknown past. Ramses’s insatiable curiosity leads him to a startling discovery about the pair. He must now pass the information on to his parents in Jerusalem – but only if he can get there alive…

So, if the date is correct on this one, the new book is set between the events of “The Ape who Guards the Balance” and “The Falcon at the Portal”.  I was hoping for one following the events of “Tomb of the Golden Bird”, but I will very happily settle for this!