Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Laydown Lowdown

The Olympics are in full swing.  In between cheering on Team USA and your favorite athletes, you may want to check out some of today's new releases.

Romance is quite scandalous today with "All Afternoon with a Scandalous Marquess," by Alexandra Hawkins, and "Almost a Scandal," by Elizabeth Essex.  Other new releases in Romance include "Dark Desire," by Christine Feehan, "The Love Potion," by Sandra Hill, and "Can't Hurry Love," by Molly O'Keefe.

And the torch may be burning brightly in Olympic Stadium but in Science Fiction you can "Carry the Flame," by James Jaros, "Kitty Steals the Show," by Carrie Vaughn, and "Biting Cold," the sixth book in the "Chicagoland" vampires series by Chloe Neill.

Moving to Mystery, you'll see the latest novel by best-selling author Kay Hooper, "Haven," as well as "Whispers Under Ground," by Ben Aaronvitch, "Miss Me When I'm Gone," by Emily Arsenault," and "To the Grave," by Carlene Thompson.

Over in YA, fans of "The Lying Game," will want to look for "Hide and Seek," the latest in Sara Shepard's best-selling series as well as "Destiny," by Gillian Shields, and "Putting Makeup on Dead People," by Jen Violi.

Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Truebie Sundays with Neubie

I don't know about you guys but I thought last week's episode was a little over the top.  If you haven't seen this past weeks episode, I don't know what you're waiting for but if you don't want spoilers than read no further.

Sookie learned, from her fae cousins, that her powers and finite; her microwave fingers could one day be diffused and she'd be 100% human.  Hadley begged her to stay in the land of the fae but she refused and returned to Bon Temps with Jason.

Meanwhile, we learned that Roman did indeed meet the true death and it was revealed that Salome was the one who unearthed Russell.  Nora was her accomplise and the two believed that they were fulfilling Lilith demands the prophecies in their vampyr bible by drinking the blood of Lilith.  They forced the surviving members of the Authority to drink with them.  Bill was reluctant but went along without protest after an Authority member who spoke out was beheaded.  So, they all drink the blood and wouldn't you know it, it doesn't end well. The group goes wild on the streets of New Orleans as if they're high on drugs.  They end up at wedding rehearsal dinner where they feed on and kill all the humans presents.  They're all startled when a naked female figure, presumably the infamous Lilith, emerges from a puddle of blood and begins screaming. 

As if that wasn't enough gore, Lafayette went to visit Jesus' father to try and rid himself of this frightening visions and brujo powers.  I don't know how he expected that visit to go well but I wasn't surprised when Jesus' father tied him up, sewed Lafayette's lips shut and tried to sacrifice him in some bizarre ritual.  Fortunately for Lafayette, Jesus' father's perpetually pregnant lady friend saved the day by killing Jesus' father and seemingly freeing Lafayette.

Back in Shreveport, Tara is heartbroken when her mother visits her at Fangtasia and says she is cutting her out of her life and she is no longer her daughter.  Pam shows a moment of compassion and hugs Tara before ordering her back to pole dancing.  Tara is a much better dancer than bartender.  I'll forgive Alan Ball for not allowing us to see Roma naked if he'd let us see Pam dance.  I doubt that is going to happen though.

Over on the were/shifter front, Sam tries to warn Luna's ex mother in law that her were pack is drinking vampire blood.  She doesn't believe him until she sees their leader trying to get her granddaughter to drink the blood.  She pulls her out of there and presumably leaves the group.   Meanwhile Alcide works hard and trying to assert his power over the pack and rise up as pack master.  His second may soon see first hand just how hard he'll work ;)

Back in Bon Temps, Holly consoles Arlene over Terry's departure by trying to convince her that Terry may be telling the truth.  Terry and his war buddy encounter the smoke demon in the woods and Hoyt has foolishly decided to join the supernatural hate group.  His mother may hate vamps and supes but I doubt she'd support Hoyt joining a hate group.

Other than the continuation of the shifter storyline, this episode had little to do with the novels.   The main arc of this season, the Lilith storyline is never in the books.  Too me, it's way over the top both and the whole bloodbath and the wedding rehearsal seemed gratuitously violent to me.  Also, Lafayette is long dead in the books so this whole brujo storyline never occurs and I find it rather distracting and ludicrous.  Everytime his face turns blue and he grows those horns, I just roll my eyes.  However, it's not as ludicrous as the smoke demon.  I really wish Terry was dealt a better storyline. How about a storyline that actually showed him dealing with his PTSD from the war?  I bet that is scarier and more realistic than any smoke demon.  Also everytime that someone talks about Lilith or the vampyr, I just laugh my butt off because I picture Andrew, the nerd from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and his pals saying vampyr over and over again when they were trying to be cool.

What do you all think?  Post your comments below, or hit us up on twitter @borderlessbooks.  See ya' a Fangtasia.

Until next week, Neubie the Truebie

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Playing Favorites

About a year ago, we learned our beloved Borders would be closing.  Over five years we shared a lot of laughs, love and met some very interesting customers.  For this week's group post, I polled the BWOBNY crew and asked them to share their favorite customer service moment.

"One was when a very lovely lady bought a book about how to find the right man, and then asked me out for coffee. But probably the most memorable moment was when another woman paid for a book by dumping about 5 dollars worth of pennies out of her bag, and an old soda bottle, right on the counter, along with old soda residue, and a suspicious looking hair."

Jennifer P: "Mine is from [when I was working at] Waldenbooks, there was a little boy who would not let go of his book, so mom picked him up and we scanned him too. It's the little things."  

Jess B: "Mine was the day that a customer yelled at me since Einstein was shelved in science and not psychology and that Einstein was a psychologist. After I explained that physicist's study physics and that psychologist study psychology, she still didn't believe me and walked off."

"A woman walked into the kids room where I was working and whispered to me 'I need help finding a book for my little girl about the changes.' I brought her over to the section and then stayed with her until she had gotten the right book for her. I sat on the floor with her and went through the section book by book. She was appreciative for the effort and thanked me profusely, and even told [my boss] about what a big help I was to her."

Rachel: "... my favorite customer is obviously [Giovanni] because he was always so sweet and genuinely cared about all of us."  

Note: Giovanni aka pastry guy was a  generous customer who always brought us tons of goodies from his bakery and tried to help us clean up the store, even though it was our job.  If you're reading this Giovanni, we miss you and hope you're doing well.


"... when a young girl, maybe 12 or so came up to me and asked for help with her summer reading list because 'you helped me pick a book out last year and it was really good so I trust you to help me find a good one again.' That one actually made me tear up a little."

As for me, I loved helping customers find just the book they were looking for.  One of my favorites was a teenaged girl who came in once a week with her dad.  She reminded me of myself, at that age, as her dad purchased a stack of books for her that she polished off by the following week.  After awhile, she was looking for new suggestions and I was more than happy to recommend my favorite YA titles.  She'd come back the following week and tell me how much she liked them and wanted to know what I was reading this week.  

As you can see, most of our experiences were positive.  Perhaps, next time we'll share some more customer horror stories?  Jess B's was actually pretty tame.   

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review-A Temptation of Angels

For my post this month I decided I would write a short review of my dear friend Michelle Zink's latest release A Temptation of Angels.

The cover of the book is captivating and the content was fabulous!

The book begins with a bang and immediately sucks you into the story of Helen, who within the first chapter is orphaned.  After the first two chapters I was hooked, and if it hadn't been for my brief hospitalization in March I would have finished it in a few days.

We follow Helen as she finds out about her past and most complete a quest to help good over come evil.  I'm not going to give away too much but this book has everything, good vs. evil, action, romance and all are written in great detail which I love!

Michelle continues to suck readers in to a historical world full of great characters and a good story line.  This is the 4th book I have read by her and I can say I enjoy every book she has written.  She writes in a way where it is impossible for me to put down the book!

Hopefully a sequel is in the works because the end made me longing for more.

That's all from me!  See you next month!!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Juniper Berry With Wombly the Wombat

Hey there Down Unders! Today we will be reviewing the book Juniper Berry, which was written by M. P. Kozlowsky and illustrated by Erwin Madrid (who did artwork for some movies like Madagascar 2 and Megamind, and books like The Wide Awake Princess). It was published by Walden Pond Press (an imprint of HarperCollins).

Juniper Berry is a young girl whose parents are rich and famous Move Stars. A new kid moves in next door and the two become unexpected friends. When their parents start acting strangely the two have to work together to find a way to save their parents.
What I liked about it: It was a fun story. It reminded me of Aesop's Fables, where there was a moral and a lesson to learn, but it didn't feel preachy or anything. And I loved, loved, loved the illustrations. I thought the story and the illustrations matched together very nicely.

What Wombly liked about it: It was engaging. Besides, I loved that her name was Juniper Berry, as I am fond of nibbling at juniper berries in my spare time. The characters were fun. But I think what stood out to me the most about this story was that it was memorable.

I agree with Wombly on that. When trying to think of something to blog about today, one of the first books that popped into my mind was Juniper Berry. This book is highly recommended by both Wombly and myself.

You Can Find Yourself a Copy:
At B&N
At Books-A-Million
An Indie Book Store Near You
Thank You for reading! Check back next week for a review on Mark Haddon's BOOM! (Or Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, if I finish it before next Thursday, since that just cam eout a few Thursdays ago.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Sweet Life

On the heels of the success of the New York Times best-seller, "Sweet Valley Confidential," Francine Pascal continues the story of the legendary, Sweet Valley twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield in the e-serial, "The Sweet Life."  The series of novellas began its release Sunday, July 15, 2012 with Parts 1 and 2 and subsequent installments will be released ever Sunday through August 12, 2012.  So, how is life in the Valley these days?

"The Sweet Life," picks up three years after "Sweet Valley Confidential" left off.  Jessica and Elizabeth are now in their 30's.  Jessica is married to Todd and they have a two-year old son.  Meanwhile Elizabeth is content living with Bruce Patman. Steven Aaron are also living together and raising a little girl that they had via a surrogate. Lila Fowler, aka Mrs. Ken Matthews is a budding reality star of "True Housewives of Sweet Valley."  Life seems pretty sweet from the outside but since this is Sweet Valley, it won't last long.

Todd and Jessica's relationship is on the rocks because Todd feels Jess spends too much time at work and not enough time at home.  However Jess loves her green cosmetics marketing job  Even her flirty, sexy co-worker can't distract her from the work she loves but can she resist the affections of Hollywood's biggest leading man?  Elizabeth soon doubts her trust in Bruce when an intern from his company files attempted rape charges against him.  Bruce claims he barely knew the girl but she claims he forced himself on her.  Elizabeth finds herself in way over her head when she decides to use her investigative journalism skills to help Bruce and ease her doubts.  Lila may be a rising reality star but her manipulations to get there bring out the worst in her and may ultimately cost her the one thing she truly loves, her husband.  Elsewhere is Sweet Valley, Steven and Aaron constantly fight over how to properly raise their daughter Emma.

In Part 2, "Lies and Omissions," Ms. Pascal gets a little help from co-writer, Cara Lockwood.  Todd and Jessica have separated and Jessica has made a potential relationship ending mistake.  As Elizabeth gets closer to Bruce's alleged victim, she starts to wonder if she really should be helping him or if the girl's story is actually true.  Lila continues her battle to be a reality show queen but a reality show starlet wannabe is fighting for the title.  Lila's fight will have to get even dirtier.  Bruce struggles to figure out what exactly happened the night he saw his former intern at the bar before blacking out from what he believed to be food poisoning. Bruce's confusion and anger at his inability to remember lead him to a foolish the choice that makes him appear quite guilty.

As Part 3 opens, Todd is reeling from the news that Jessica has betrayed him and begins to pursue a new relationship. Bruce finds himself in more trouble than ever and discovers that not only does Elizabeth not trust him but she has been working with his accuser.  Lila finally has the upper hand and has won the affections of her reality show co-stars, the viewing public and her husband but how long will it last given the manipulations it took to get her there.  Steven and Aaron's bickering over child rearing tactics is soon the least of their worries when their little princess is kidnapped. 

I love Sweet Valley.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Life is far from dull.  I am disappointed in Jessica though.  Not because she makes a foolish choice with a man at the risk of her marriage but because she ultimately wants to leave her job in an effort to win Todd back.   For once, Jessica has a job that she loves and excels at.  The old Jessica would never, give up on a dream just to please a boy/man.  I still, despite reading about her and Todd's love in "Sweet Valley Confidential" and this serial so far, see what she see's in her sisters ex-boyfriend who she once considered exceedingly dull.  Todd complains Jessica spends too much time at working meanwhile you never hear about him cutting back at The Sweet Valley Tribune where he is a sports reporter.

Lila is a master manipulator and knows how to play the reality TV game.  If only she'd put that much focus in to doing something worthwhile like convincing her best-friend Jessica to keep her job.  Or develop a real relationship with Ken and tell him that she adores him every bit as much as he adores her.

I am also disgusted with Elizabeth.  She has known Bruce Patman almost her whole life and has dated him seriously for three years.  She doubts his story about the attempted rape incident because of another incident when they were both drunk in high school, she wasn't herself and he tried to take advantage of her.  To me, it's quite a leap from being a drunken, horny high school boy to attempting to rape an intern.  Elizabeth has always been very nosy, it's what always made her an excellent investigative journalist.  However, these instincts seem to have kicked into serious overdrive.   Not only is she breaking her journalistic ethics, she's manipulating Bruce's alleged victim worse than the victim ever claimed Bruce victimized her.

2nd book from the L, is a SVH book!
I can't wait for next week!  If you haven't gotten sucked into Sweet Valley yet, there is no better time to start.  The e-novellas are only $1.99 a piece.  If you don't have an e-reader, don't fret, the serial will be compiled into a traditional book format in October and will be available at bookstores everywhere.  So, there is no excuse not to continue to support your local bookstores. 
Check back in 3 weeks for my review of the concluding volumes of this e-serial.  Hopefully there will be more to come after that!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Laydown Lowdown

We've been getting a lot of summer storms lately which is a perfect excuse to curl up with a good book.  Perhaps one of today's new releases will make your list.

If summer sleuthing is up your alley you'll be excited by the new mysteries today such as Tana French's latest, "Broken Harbor," the fourth in the "Dublin Murder Squad" series.  James Patterson's frequent co-author, Peter de Jong has a solo book out today, "Buried on Avenue B."  Other new mysteries include "Judgement Call," by J.A. Jance, "Black List," by Brad Thor, and "Let the Devil Sleep," by John Verdon.

Or, if summer lovin' is your thing, you'll want to check out "Sleepwalker," (now in paperback) by Karen Robards, or "The Golden Leopard," by Lynn Kerstan.

Others may wish to spend their summer in sci-fi with new releases like "Thirteen," the latest "Women of the Underworld," novel by Kelley Armstrong or "Darksiders: The Abomination Vault," by Ari Marnell.

If you're on a summer break, the latest YA novels may be for you.  Kiersten White releases the third novel in her "Paranormalcy" series, "Endlessly," today.  "Cold Fury," by T.M. Goeglein, "I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: The Legacies," by Pittacus Lore, and "Something Strange and Deadly," by Susan Dennard are also available today.

Other new releases in fiction include "Where We Belong," the latest novel by best-selling author Emily Giffin, the paperback release of 11/22/63 by Stephen King and "A Simple Thing," by Kathleen McCleary.  Danielle Steel also has a new, non-romance, novel out today, "Friends Forever."

Will any of these new releases make your reading list?  I'm pretty excited about the new Emily Giffin but for  now, I need to get back to my book-club book.  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.  Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Truebie Sundays with Neubie

The latest episode of True Blood was filled with terrific moments that made me LOL and a moment that totally disappointed me.  If you haven't seen last week's episode and don't want spoilers, than don't read this post until you have.

Eric, Sookie, Bill and Alcide found Russell with the help of Alcide's construction crew member.  Russell made an astounding recovery and lunged for Sookie.  She zapped him back with those microwave fingers of hers and the Authority's army swooped in to haul Russell in.  However, the Authority feared that Sookie and Alcide knew too much about their organization so Bill offered to glamour them into having no knowledge of what just happened.  Of course, we all know Sookie can't be glamoured but she played along and her heart nearly broke as Bill proclaimed that going forward it would be as if they never met and that she belonged with humans in the sun.   Meanwhile, in what was one of my favorite moments, Eric had the task of glamouring Alcide.

Now to all of those on "Team Eric," it is quite clear that once again Eric has manipulated someone to his advantage over his quest for Sookie's affections.  I'd like to hear how y'all can justify Eric's manipulations for her as love?  Apparently Eric isn't confident in himself if he has to glamour Alcide into disliking her.  

When Bill and Eric return to Authority Headquarters they are hailed as heroes and Russell's execution is ordered along with Nora's.  However, as Roman goes over Russell's indiscretions and prepares to stake him, Russell stuns everyone when he grabs hold of the stake and plunges it into Roman's chest.  However, Roman didn't immediately turn to vampire guts as  normal staking victims do.  His face warped as if it was melting as the episode cut to black.

We'll have to see if Roman really met the true death this week.  I would be really upset if he met the true death for many reasons.  Christopher Meloni was hyped to be a contract, full-time player this season.  To see him bow out after 4 episodes seems like false advertising to me.  Also, as this is HBO and True Blood, it is an utter crime if we never get to see Christopher Meloni naked; he has a great butt as Law & Order SVU fans would know.

Elsewhere in Bon Temps, Jason continues to struggle with Hadley's revelation that vampires killed his parents.  Jason goes to see Sookie after she returned from helping Bill and Eric to tell her what he learned from Hadley.  Sookie remembers her horrifying experience in fae land and believes she must rescue her cousin and her nephew.  They return to the field where the club is cloaked and Sookie can hear the music and festivities while Jason can not.  Seemingly this goes along with the books in that Sookie has more fae blood and influence than Jason.  Sookie is able to enter the portal and drag Jason in with her.  She finds Hadley and she introduces her to Claude and his siblings.  Sookie tries to explain to Hadley why she must leave with them but she refuses.  Hadley explains that she is safer there with Hunter than in the real world where vampires will feed on them.   Claude then explains that vampires killed Sookie's parents for a drop of her blood that was in the car.  Sookie can't believe it and this causes her to lash out in anger again with the microwave fingers.  Of course in fae land, almost everyone has microwave fingers and they fight back.  The aftermath remains to be seen this week.

Luna and Sam survived the shooting and her daughter ran to her grandmother where Luna reluctantly agreed to let her stay while she recovers.  Sam fought with Andy for the opportunity to allow him to help find the shifter killer.

Terry returned to Bon Temps convinced that the fire/smoke demon/ridiculous plot device will kill him and everyone he loves so he tells Arlene he has to leave her to spare their lives.  Arlene thinks he's gone off his meds which is funny because I think that is what happened to the writers who came up with the storyline and the people in charge of the smoke demon special effects.

On a side note, I was watching Gilmore Girls on SOAPNet just before writing this and I discovered that Lane's bandmate/husband Zach is now Terry Bellefluer on True Blood!  Seriously, dude I loved you so much more when you were playing for Hep Alien.  Tod Lowe is a talented actor so talented that I had no idea in my 500 viewings of Gilmore Girls that he was the same man playing Terry.  He really needs a better storyline than he is getting this season. 

What are your thoughts?  Share them with us because I'm not telepathic like Sookie.  Speak up and I'll see you at Merlotte's.  Order me some fried pickles, please.

Until next week, Neubie the Truebie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who Will Take Home the Gold?

The Olympics are just a week away.  Team USA will be competing against the strongest and best in their respective sports for the honor of winning medals and making their country proud.  None of us booksellers are fierce athletes.  However, we do have a fierce and friendly competition brewing against each other.  Back in January, we shared our 2012 reading goals with you.  I checked in with everyone to see how we're fairing.  Perhaps, someone crafty will make some medals for us. 

Rebecca is certainly in contention to win Gold.  She has currently read 77 books out of her goal of 150. That places her at 51%, according to Good Reads, the site we use to track our reading progress.

Meanwhile Jess B. is right behind Rebecca on the quest for Gold.  She has read 68 books out of her personal goal of 150.

I seem set for Silver.  I've read 48 books out of my goal of 100.

Naomi is also in contention for Silver as she's read 54 books out of her 115 book goal.  Although her seemingly endless energy could propel her to the top. 

Finally Jess P. is working towards Bronze.  She's read 30 books towards her goal of 100.

Alan pledged at the beginning of the year to blog more and didn't have a set reading goal but he has read 16 books so far.

Combined, we've read 277 books so far! Let's go Team BWOBNY!  What about you guys, how are you doing on your reading goals?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Introducing Wombly the Wombat!

I do apologize, my good Down Unders, that I was absent last week. Wombly wasn't feeling very well. Ah! Who is this Wombly creature that I speak of? He is Wombly the Wombat!

Wombly Sitting on Some of His Favorite Down Under Books
Wombly is going to be reading along with me and helping me in my reviewing. He is very pleased to meet you and is feeling a bit on the nervous side, so I thought, in order to calm his fears and to help you get to know him better, we could do an interview.

NaomiRuth: Hello Wombly! And how are you doing today?

Wombly: *womble womble*

NaomiRuth: I'm sorry, Wombly, but you cannot speak Wombat here. No one else speaks Wombat.

Wombly: Oh! So sorry! I am doing very well today, thank you.

NaomiRuth: There's something I have only touched on and haven't really discussed here on the blog. The question of: are Down Under books worth reading? We'll get to that question a little bit later, but first I'd like to ask a different question. Wombly, why do you read Down Under books?

Wombly: As an open-minded Wombat, you see, I try not to discriminate (a word here meaning point and laugh at or raise one's nose up rudely) against any kind of book, regardless of its cover art, or how many pages it has, or what genre it is, or what age group its geared toward. However, being an imperfect Wombat, I am not always open-minded. I do tend to point and laugh at certain genres, and I raise my nose up rudely at adult books at times. It's very rude of me, I assure you. But time and time again I go back to "Kid's Books," or the Down Unders, as you call them.

NaomiRuth: Why do you think that is, Wombly?

Wombly: Because they're good stories. They're interesting. They keep my attention. They're well-written. In addition, there are two other points I would like to make about Down Unders.

NaomiRuth: What is that?

Wombly: There are two kinds of Down Under books. The first kind  shows kids in normal circumstances in normal aspects of life simply being (excuse my usage of caps) ALIVE. And normal. The second kind of a Down Under story shows a young person in extraordinary events in an abnormal life experience. But you know what these two kinds of books have in common? People who are growing up, learning who they are, experiencing things for the first time. I think there is something very psychologically powerful about reading books about these growing up, coming of age, experiences. Whether those experiences are set in the present day, the past, or another world entirely, they all share in the same growing up process. There's that sameness in all stories, of growing and learning and experiencing, that we all can relate to, no matter our age.

NaomiRuth: That's probably true, but we find those same kind of themes in adult books. What makes Down Unders in particular worth reading, for adult readers?

Wombly: Adult books do, of course, tap into the experiences of growing up and learning. But there is something different about younger individuals growing up. It can remind adults of their younger selves, or their children. It helps adults keep a younger perspective. Besides, where do you think the story of Peter Pan stemmed from? There will always be adults who aren't quite ready to grow up, and these Down Under stories are just as useful to them as they are to younger readers. (I apologize for the usage of the word 'useful.' That's a dreadful boring word.)

NaomiRuth: But what about the quality of the work? Aren't older books written better? Like the classics. Those are all aimed at older readers.

Wombly: Snubmuffins! Written better, my foot. What would better be? How would that even be defined? The Classics and adult books are written just as well as those geared for Down Unders. (Who determined what was going to be a Classic anyway? Probably some old men in grey wigs from England and Massachusetts like seventy years ago.) Oftentimes Down Under books have better quality of writing. Down Unders can be a hard crowd to satisfy, book-wise. They are smart readers, who will not suffer being talked down to. The writing must hold their attention, paint a vivid enough scene that they can see but not too descriptive, so that they can still use their imagination to play around with it. These Down Under books have gotten snubbed one too many times, in my opinion.

NaomiRuth: I think it's safe to say then, that Down Under books are worth reading?

Wombly: Of course they are. And they always will be.

Wombly Reading a Down Under Book
Well! There you have it. Down Under books are most definitely worth reading. Have a wonderful week my Down Unders!

Wombly on Top of the World

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Under Appreciated Authors: Alyxandra Harvey

 There are a bunch of authors that I absolutely adore that most people don't really seem to know much about. So I thought I would take a couple of posts to share some of my favorites with you!

Two years ago NaomiRuth and I went to Polaris, a sci-fi/fantasy convention in Toronto, for the first time. One of the panels we attended was about what's next for YA and one of the panel members was Alyxandra Harvey. I enjoyed the panel and decided to check out her books. Harvey is a great writer and she keeps getting better with each book!

You can learn more about Alyxandra Harvey HERE and check out her book trailers on her site as well!

She is probably best known for her vampire series The Drake Chronicles. The tag line from her website is "Note to self: Killing vamps is infinitely easier than dating them." And if you think vampires are over and done, think again. It's not so much that Harvey puts a new spin on vampire lore (though she does that to some extent), it's the way she builds her characters.

If you've read my reviews on this blog, then you know that it almost always comes down to characters for me. If I like the characters I will put up with almost anything else in the book. Fortunately with Harvey I don't have to put up with anything. I get to enjoy it all!

I think Harvey's greatest strength is her ability to write believable, strong, unique female main characters. Every single one of her heroines is distinctly drawn. They have the best quirks and sometimes dangerous flaws. Their sense of humor is always very present and often sarcastic (my favorite!). And all of them are brave and forceful in their own ways while still being girls. A hard balance to find, but in my opinion she does it every time.

The Drake Chronicles follow a family of vampires. In this world the Drake family is one of the only vampire families to actually have children that are born and these children go through the transformation to vampire in their teen years. The first book,which is listed both as Hearts at Stake and My Love Lies Bleeding (I prefer the first!) alternates between the perspectives of Solange, the only girl in the Drake family, and Lucy her very human best friend. If it wasn't enough that Solange is about to become a bloodthirsty vampire, she also meets Kieran Black who just happens to be part of an anti-vampire league out for revenge against her family. Meanwhile Lucy finds herself drawn a little too much time around Solange's brother Nicholas. Because that's a good idea.

In the following books, Blood Feud and Bleeding Hearts, though we stay with the Drake family, we get to see the perspectives of other Drake brothers (all of whom are fantastically adorable in completely different ways) as well as the perspectives of other characters we meet along the way. The fourth book, Blood Moon (which I haven't had a chance to read yet) returns to Lucy, Solange, and Nicholas and I am super excited about that!

Harvey nails the alternating perspectives in the Drake Chronicles books and continues with that style in Stolen Away, which leaves vampires behind and delves into the world of the Fae. Though this story wasn't as compelling to me, I adored Eloise and Jo (Harvey also writes fantastic BFF relationships) and their journey is what kept me riveted to the pages.

But my favorite of her books thus far is definitely Haunting Violet. A paranormal period novel, Haunting Violet is about a teenage girl whose mother pretends to be a medium in 1872 London. Violet is fed up with her mother's charlatan act and the way she is roped into helping, but when she starts seeing ghosts herself it's more than a little unsettling. Part paranormal mystery, part coming of age, part boy-next-door love story Haunting Violet is a fabulous read.

Harvey also has a collection of poetry called Briar Rose and an upcoming book called Hex. Woot!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Laydown Lowdown

First up, I erroneously reported that this weeks latest Romance novels came out last week.  I'm sorry if I created any confusion amongst the romantics.  "A Most Naked Solution," by Anna Randol and "Somebody Like You," by Candis Terry are available today, for real this time!

Meanwhile, there must be a crime spree because there are dozens of new mysteries available today.  Some of the highlights include "A City of Broken Glass," by Rebecca Cantrell, "A Fountain Filled With Blood," by Julia Spence Flemming, "Creole Belle," by best-selling author James Lee Burke, and "Fire Season," by John Loomis.

Best-selling author Orson Scott Card teams up with Aaron Johnston to pen a prequel to Card's "Enders Game," series, "Earth Unaware."  Other new releases in Sci-Fi/Fantasy include "Queen's Hunt," by Beth Bernobich, "Ripper," by David L. Goleon, and "The Coldest War," by Ian Tregillis.

Over in Young Adult, you'll find "Spark," the 2nd novel in the "Sky Chasers" series by Amy Kathleen Ryan and "A World Away," by Nancy Grossman.

I normally don't report on e-books but I feel that "The Sweet Life," is worthy of an exception.  "The Sweet Life," is a six-part e-serial that is set three years after "Sweet Valley Confidential."  The infamous characters are now in their 30's and find their lives a lot more complicated than they used to be.  Parts 1 and 2 were released this past Sunday and subsequent installments will be released every Sunday through August 12.  Look for my review later this week.

Other new releases in fiction include "Shine, Shine, Shine," by Lydia Netzer and "When In Doubt, Add Butter," which surprisingly is not a Paula Deen cookbook but a novel by Beth Harbison.

Keep cool and Happy Reading Everyone!  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Truebie Sundays with Neubie

If you know me, you know I'm no fan of Alcide or weres in general.  Any man who can justify being with someone like Debbie Pelt isn't someone worth my time.  Needless to say, I laughed my butt off when a drunken Sookie threw up on his boots last week just when they were about to get busy.  The moment got even more awkward for Sook when Bill and Eric showed up to rook her into helping them track down Russell.  Surprisingly, Sookie didn't need much convincing.  She helped by using her gift to unlock the mind of a member of Alcide's contracting crew who unknowingly had some knowledge of who/what may have unearthed Russell.  The group discovered Russell and humans who seemed strung up like human cattle for Russell in the midst of an abandoned asylum.  A horror cliche, yes, but still downright creepy and gross.  Just when the gang needed all the manpower they had, Alcide shifted to were form and ran off.  Do you understand why I hate weres? In addition to their poor character assessment skills, they bail just when you need them the most.

Meanwhile, Pam gave Tara a bartender job at Fangtasia.  Someone should've told Pam that Tara was the one who told Sookie how to make the awful Amaretto, Apricot Schnapps, and Grenadine combo.  Pam soon questions her choice and not just because Tara has poor drink mixing skills.  Tara tries to feed off a human in full public view.  Before you could blink, Pam swooped in, held Tara by the throat and gave her a stern talking too that was terrifying yet sexy in a way that only Pam get away with.  Jessica later showed up and tried to counsel Tara on being a new vampire.  Only Tara could think that being Pam's progeny is a bad thing.  She never seems to appreciate the good things in her life, I don't understand Tara at all.

Back to a plot lifted from the books, Sam is concerned that his friends may have been killed simply because they're shifters.  He goes to visit his ex-girlfriend Luna who has her hands full daughter who has just come into her shifting powers. However, just after warning her, he is shot in the leg and Luna is shot several times on her own lawn by a group of mask wearing hicks in a pick-up.  Luna's daughter, the cutest little pup ever runs to get help.  Sam has terrible luck with his girlfriends, I really hope Luna is all right but I don't even know if a shifter could survive wounds like the ones she seemed to sustain.

Then in a plot so far removed from the books that it's a complete, WTF, Terry and his war buddy finally made it to the home of their other former soldier.  Apparently their squadron killed some innocents during the war and one of the innocent women who was barely alive, used her last breath to summon some kind of fire demon that has been tormenting them.  The demon came out in this giant, ridiculous smoke cloud and killed Terry and his war buddy's friend.

In the book, "Dead as a Doornail," Sookie's house is set on fire by supernatural forces.  I hope the house somehow doesn't get in the way of this fire demon because Gran's house has endured enough damage already throughout the seasons.

Well, we've got about a half hour until this week's new episode begins.  What do you guys think of this season?  Anything you'd like to see less of? More of?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Your Turn

Normally on Saturdays, we have a group post.  We give our opinions and answers on a group related question.  This week, we'd like to hear from you!  We want you to ask us a question and we'll answer them in a future group post.  So ask us anything book related and check back to see if we answer your question.  Just leave your questions in the comments section below.  We promise our comments section will not give you spam.  So, don't be shy, ask away!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Basso for Hire has Gone to the Dogs

I'm sort of between books right now, and not ready to review them yet.  So what I've decided to do is try to stir up some more interest in a story that has been one of my favorites for decades.

I am going to presume that pretty much everyone reading this is familiar with the story of Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson (as in, "I can't believe they did that to Old Yeller), either through the book or the Disney movie.  Yeller was a dog named after both the color of his fur, and his distinctive, baying yell of a bark.

I love dogs.  A lot.  I've read a LOT of dog stories, and this one is my favorite.  In fact, it's one of my all time favorite books, period, even considering the gut wrenching, tear jerking climax ("Hey, Travis.  Whatcha doin' with that gun?"). 

But the book I want to bring your attention to today is another dog story, "Savage Sam," also by Fred Gipson, published in 1962.  Sam is the son of Old Yeller, and his mother is a Blue Tick hound named Miss Prissy.

We first see Sam as a puppy at the very end of Old Yeller.  He is very much his sire's pup, because he gets caught stealing food.

The story of Savage Sam begins perhaps a year after that of Old Yeller.  I'm not precisely sure, and I don't have the book with me.  The book is told in first person from the viewpoint of 15 year old Travis Coates.  He lives on his family's small farm in the Texas Hill Country in the 1870s with his parents and younger brother, Arliss (usually referred to as "Little Arliss").  Arliss is about 11, and he and Sam are constant companions and thick as thieves.

Life in the Texas Hill Country at that time was not easy.  In addition to the hardships inherent in farming, there were very real dangers for white settlers from Native American tribes of Apache and Comanche.  Travis, Arliss, and Lisbeth get captured by a band of Apache warriors, and face a harrowing ordeal as their prisoners.  At one point, when the Apache are involved in a skirmish with US Cavalry, Travis manages to escape.  Shortly afterward he meets Sam, who has been tracking the children for days.  Travis and Sam continue to pursue the kidnappers, and are later joined by an organized search party led my Travis's father.

I first read "Savage Sam" when I was about 10 years old, and have read it many times since reaching adulthood (physically, if not otherwise).  It's not as well known as Old Yeller, but it's just as good.  Gipson's prose reads so naturally, and having grown up in Central Texas (although NOT in the 1870s), every time I do read it, I can vividly picture the surroundings as he describes them.

I found out today, looking through Wikipedia, that Gipson got the inspiration for the story of Savage Sam from the real life story of Herman Lehmann, who was kidnapped by the Apache as a boy, and lived with them, and later the Comanche, for nearly nine years.  Reading an article about Lehmann's story, I recognized a number of the events depicted in Savage Sam.

I've looked for Savage Sam in bookstores several times, and have run across it a couple of times in "Independent Reader" sections.  I encourage you to look for it, both to read for yourself, and to share with the young uns, particularly if you know a boy who likes...
  • Dogs
  • Westerns (it's NOT really a western, but trust me on this)
  • "Cowboys and Indians"
  • Adventure
I can't wait to read it again.

Hope you enjoy.  And by the way, if you've never read Old Yeller either, why are you sitting here reading this?  You need to go out and get it and read it!

Basso for Hire

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blood and Guts - How Our Body Works

I am on a David Macaulay kick. I enjoy his humor as he presents essential information on how our bodies work. His book, The Way We Work, is co-authored by Richard Walker. I used this book with my son this past year as his anatomy class for high school. The material is simple enough for upper elementary, yet able to be used(with some supplementation) for high school students.

According to GeekDad, "Macaulay spent 6 years laboring on this book, four of them just learning anatomy through means that included attending operations and dissecting corpses."(quoted from Home Biology) This is a writer who is serious about his research! And it shows in his presentation of the material. The text is engaging and draws you in while teaching you anatomy in an interesting fashion.

The Way We Work contains 7 chapters on the different systems of the body. He begins with the cell as that is the building block of our bodies. He continues on through the respiratory and circulatory, the alimentary, the nervous, the immune, the excretory, and the reproductive systems. Each chapter begins with an introduction intended to lead you on a journey through each bodily system. The illustrations are accurate, yet not too graphic(as in the reproductive section). All are tastefully done. The information is given in short doses - two page spreads - so it is easier for use with younger students. 

Did you know that the way our bodies exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide is energy efficient?  It is economical because no energy is used. This two page spread from the book explains the process.(image copied from Home Biology) Chapter 2 is all about the respiratory system where Macaulay uses illustrations like roller coasters, swimming pools and dancing skeletons to keep your interest. 

So whether you home school or have a child or grandchild who is interested in how our body works, go straight to your local brick and mortar book store to get a hold of this book. Or maybe you always wondered how a cell is like a tent, or how the spinal cord relays messages to and from our brain, then get a copy for yourself. You will enjoy it and maybe learn something new.

See you next month.