BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: The Third Secret by Tara Taylor Quinn

Book Blurb: He did the crime. He’s done the time.

Rick Thomas stole drug-cartel evidence from a government facility. And spent three years in a federal prison.
Attorney Erin Morgan has a rule: never defend the bad guys. But Rick Thomas, quiet and self-assured, doesn’t seem bad. That’s why she agrees to defend him against what he swears is a trumped-up murder charge. She’s ignoring her experience and listening to her instincts instead.

But psychologist and expert witness Kelly Chapman is listening to her instincts, too. And they’re saying that Rick Thomas is lying to Erin. That he’s keeping secrets. That he’s a dangerous man. And that, despite everything, maybe he’s one of the good guys.

My Thoughts: The Third Secret is the third book in Quinn's series, The Chapman Files. Each book is connected by Dr Kelly Chapman, who plays a supporting role in each of the books. Like James Patterson's The Womens Murder Club, each book is numbered and the number figures into the story in some way.

In The Third Secret, Chapman offers advice and support when an acquaintance of hers, Erin Morgan, calls her with self-doubts about her work and the choices she's made in her life. Erin worries that she's taking cases for the wrong reasons, seeking only the win and no longer caring about guilt or innocence. She is a defense attorney in small town Temple, Michigan and she tries to only take cases where she believes that the accused is truly innocent. A recent case where the accused turned out to be both guilty and unapologetic has her questioning herself.

Additionally, Erin worries that her life has become stagnant. Four years ago, her fiance, a firefighter, was killed saving a child from a fire. Since then, she has withdrawn somewhat from the world while becoming more enmeshed with her late fiance's family. An only child whose parents are dead, Erin has found a replacement family, even attending Sunday church services with them.

Rick Thomas has only lived in Temple for a year, supporting himself as as handyman. Before that, though he keeps it quiet, he was a covert special agent for the US Government. He was part of a three man team who answered only to their sergeant, known as Sarge. An op they did several years went wrong and Thomas went to prison. The team he worked for was so secret, so deeply underground, that the government disavowed all knowledge of  them. While working as part of the team, Rick and the other men had aliases although after the team broke up when Rick was sent to jail, they were careful to use their original, real names.

Erin and Rick meet when he is arrested for murdering a local Homeland Security officer. It was never clear to me why a small town that wasn't on any international border, needed such an officer other than as a story device to get Rick arrested. The HS officer's death is a crucial point to the story; Rick is convinced that it has something to do with his past as a government agent and it turns out that he is correct.

Erin and Rick both find themselves attracted to each other right from the moment they meet but they resist it. Rick is concerned with proving his innocence; he also has little experience with women beyond one night stands and paid companions. Erin worries that she's letting her attraction to Rick affect her decision to defend him. She believes that Rick is not telling her everything, withholding vital information. She is of course right.

 Although Rick comes across at times as emotionally stunted, it is more a matter of keeping himself tightly in control. For years he had to watch his step and not show any vulnerabilities, in his former line of work that would have been dangerous. The one area where he allows himself any emotion is when he visits his childhood friend, Steve Miller. Steve was injured when he fell off of a roof, a roof that Rick dared him to climb. The fall left him with the brain of a five year old. Rick has taken responsibility for Steve's care, partly because of a guilty conscience and partly because Steve's father, now dead, could never deal with Steve's condition and would have abandoned him.

Meanwhile, Erin finds herself at odds with her former fiance's parents when she tries to help their teenage daughter with an important decision. She comes to realize that she has used them as a crutch while at the same time realizing that her inclusion into the family was not as deep or as strong as she believed. At times, this subplot felt very soap opera-ish but it did allow us to see Erin's interactions with other people.

Dr. Kelly Chapman makes brief appearances during the book, both professionally as a psychologist and expert witness, and also as Erin's friend. She worries that Rick is lying to Erin and will hurt her. We also see glimpses of Kelly's personal life and her struggles to be a parent to a young teenage girl that she recently gained custody of.

Over the course of the book, Quinn slowly peels away the layers of Rick and Erin's personalities and behavior. She doesn't rush things along, but slowly develops the story and the characters. I really liked that neither Erin nor Rick rush into a relationship or affair but go slowly. There is one moment when they come very close to having sex but Erin pulls back, reminding both herself and Rick that engaging in sex would be unethical since she's his defense attorney.

The pace really picks up in the last third of the book when Rick discovers who set him up for murder and also killed his former teammates.Both Erin and Steve find themselves in danger though their shared adventure helps to bring them closer. At one point, Erin vows that if they survive, but Rick doesn't, she will take care of Steve and gain custody of him. I figured out very early on who was responsible for framing Rick but I was completely wrong about the why. Quinn does a nice job of slowly unraveling the facts and making it all believable though there were parts that stretched incredulity at times.

Publisher: Mira
Release Date: November 1st, 2010

Wednesday's Winner

The winner for Wednesday's draw is Kristina Barnes :) As usual, email me with your name, mailing addy, and of course, your book selection.

And, if you haven't won yet, enter again. The giveaway runs through midnight EST of Saturday October 2nd, which is also when Banned Book Week ends.

CafePress was running a tee shirt sale and I treated myself to several, including one that says "I read Banned Books" and then lists a dozen or so titles. I will try to get a pic up in the next day or so.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Winners!

First, my apologies. I completely spaced out yesterday about needing to choose a winner for Monday. **blush** So today, we have two winners, one for Monday  and one for Tusday.

Monday's winner is Kulsuma.

Tusday's winner is Kai@Amaterasureads.

Please send me an email with your mailing address, name and the book that you want.

Thanks everyone, and sorry for the delay.

Remember, if your name wasn't chosen, you can keep entering until the contest is over.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday Giveaway Winner

The winner for Sunday's giveaway in the Celebration of Banned Book Week is The Itzel Library. Please send me your mailing addy, a name for mailing and the book you want. If I don't hear from you in 48 hours I will draw a new winner.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

WINNER! The winner of the giveaway for Saturday 9/25/2010

We have a winner for the first day of my book-a-day Banned Book Week giveaway. The lucky winner is xlacrimax. You have 48 hours to email with your mailing addy and name and the book that you want from the list in the giveaway post. I will order it from Book Depository and they will send it to you.

A couple of notes: there were several people who didn't follow the directions on how to enter. I went ahead and entered them this time but starting today and for the rest of the giveaway, if you don't follow the directions, then you will not be entered.

However, since each day is a different giveaway, you can enter every day if you want. If you win something, you are no longer eligible to enter this giveaway. This giveaway runs through midnight EST of October 2nd, 2010.

Spread the word! Bring your friends along! Fight censorship and possibly win a book. :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Giveaway in Celebration of Banned Book Week

The American Library Association keeps track of books throughout the US that have been banned or challenged from public libraries and schools. The ALA supports freedom of speech and the right to read and battles censorship. Every year they devote a week to celebrating and promoting banned books. They help organize events and encourage libraries and book stores to have events and/or  displays involving banned books. For more information, click here.

This year Banned Book Week is Saturday September 25th through Saturday October 2nd. The ALA has a page just for BBW. My effort to encourage reading in general and support for all books will be to do giveaways. I have chosen books from the ALA's list of banned and challenged books and each day of BBW,  I will giveaway one of those books. A total of eight books will be given away, one for each day of BBW. To enter, just reply to this post.

I will be ordering the Hbooks from Book Depository so as long as you live in a country where they ship, you can enter this giveaway. Each day I will use to pick the previous day's winner and post their name here on my blog. Once the winner's name is announced, they have 48 hours to contact me with their name, mailing address and the book they want. All books are paperback only. You can enter every day but only win once. If the winner fails to contact me within 48 hours, I will choose a new winner. I am not responsible for any books that are lost or damaged in shipping. Email me at baconnorsATgmailDOTcom with your info and put "BBW Giveaway" in the subject line so your email doesn't get deleted as spam.

LIST OF BOOKS FOR GIVEAWAY:  Paperback editions only

Any book from the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Any book from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Any book from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

Any book from the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

Any book from the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison

"Blood and Chocolate" by Annette Curtis Klause

"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson

"The Call of the Wild" by Jack London

"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

"The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier

"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

"The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank

"Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

"Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell

"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

"Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou 

"In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak

"Julie of the Wolves" by Jean Craighead George

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

"My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck

"Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: ABC is for Circus by Patrick Hruby

Book Blurb: ABC IS FOR CIRCUS celebrates the colorful and festive world of the circus through each letter of the alphabet. Young children will enjoy memorizing letters and words like A is for Acrobats, B is for Big Top, and C is for Calliope in this imaginative chunky board book. ABC IS FOR CIRCUS is an awesome addition to our artist-centric line of ABC books and is sure to delight and audience of children and adults alike.

Los Angeles-based illustrator Patrick Hruby grew up in a log cabin within an Idaho forest. As a young boy he dreamt of running away to join the circus and become a trapeze artist. Eventually, however, he grew up to study math and physics before attending the renowned Art Center College of Design and pursuing a career as an illustrator. His interest in the geometry of nature is central to his work. Influenced by artists and designers such as Charley Harper, Paul Rand, and Mary Blair, Hruby has gone on to develop his own stunning and modern aesthetic. Hruby's clients include The New York Times Magazine, Playboy Jazz Festival, Varsity Pictures, and Brand New School. CMYK Magazine recently named him one of their Top 100 New Creatives.

My thoughts:  ABC is for Circus has gorgeous artwork: the colors are luminous and the shapes are fluid. Hruby has an exquisite eye for detail. If the book was meant to be an art book, it would succeed wonderfully. Unfortunately, it's designed and marketed as a children's alphabet book.

The target age group is 1-3 year olds,  but developmentally, the book fails to meet their needs. The pictures are overly busy, with too much detail. Some of the pictures are so stylized that the item intended to represent the letter is barely recognizable. Hruby does do a nice job of using both familiar and unfamiliar items but again, some are so stylized that the page fails to adequately represent the letter. The calliope especially is a mess, a gorgeous mess,  but few children will make the connection between the item depicted and the real item if they have seen one. Moreover, it is standard, and developmentally beneficial, to include both the lowercase and uppercase form of each letter but Hruby uses only uppercase. All of the text is uppercase only.

Some children will undoubtedly enjoy the book, it is pleasing to look at but as an alphabet book, it fails.

NOTE: I have taught toddlers for 17 years and am a trained early childhood educator. This review is written from the perspective of an educator.

Publisher: AMMO Books
Release Date: 11/15/2010 

This book was provided by NetGalley as an eARC.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: 1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber

Book Blurb: Dear Reader: 

Guess what? I’m falling in love! With Mack McAfee. 

My baby daughter, Noelle, and I have been living next door to Mack since the spring. I’m still a little wary about our relationship, since I haven’t always made good decisions when it comes to men. My baby’s father, David Rhodes, is testament to that. I’m so worried he might sue for custody. 

In the meantime, the World War II letters I found are a wonderful distraction. Both Mack and I are trying to learn what happened to the soldier who wrote them and the woman he loved. 

Come by sometime for a glass of iced tea and I’ll show you the letters. Plus I’ll tell you the latest about Grace and Olivia, my brother Linc and his wife, Lori (who tied the knot about 5 minutes after they met!), and all our other mutual friends. Oh, and maybe Mack can join us… 

- Mary Jo Wyse
My Thoughts: 

While she's not one of my favorite authors,  I've read some Debbie Macomber book over the years. She has a homey, cozy style which can occasionally become cloying. This book mostly manages to avoid that.  It does have other problems, which I'll get to in a minute.

This book is #10 in her Cedar Cove series. Cedar Cove is a small town on the ocean in Washington State. There's a set cast of characters with one new character introduced in each book. Each book has a central couple but also has multiple secondary couples and plots. Unfortunately, it's reached the point now where there are so many characters, couples, plots and subplots that you need a map and a guidebook to keep track of them all.

The nominal main couple of this book is Mack McAfee and Mary Jo Wyse. However, Macomber abandons them for chapters at a time in order to give page time to all of the other characters. The viewpoint constantly changes, shifting each chapter to a new character, told in third person present. Some people find the constant perspective shift difficult or annoying to read; it's unquestionably hard for an author to pull off. Macomber is mildly successful; again, there's so much jumping around that at times the book is a jumble.

For instance, we see two minor characters, Christie and James, early on in the book then they disappear for almost 200 pages. When they reappeared in the story, I was confused as to who they were. I had to go back and read the character guide at the beginning of the book to refresh my memory. As a result of the constant jumping, the book is overstuffed with characters and plots, it's erratic, and there is no flow to the story. Additionally, ten books in, it reads less like a romance novel and more like a soap opera. 

Macomber does a good job of creating likable, yet fallible characters.  They feel real and the situations she puts them in are fairly realistic, despite the overall soap opera feel to the book. I liked Mary Jo and could relate to her, but Mack was harder for me. When the book begins, Mack has already (in prior books) lied several times to Mary Jo and he does it again. Now, lying is not unusual in real life, but it gave me a bad impression of him that never quite went away. Naturally, Mary Jo has trust issues resulting from her relationship with her daughter's father. You see where this is going, right? They eventually work out the trust issue but then Mary Jo believes that Mack, who proposes several times in this book and did at least once prior to this book, only wants to marry her so he can be a daddy to baby Noelle. Frankly, I believed it myself at times. I was actually more intrigued by Linc and Lori's story and hope that they get their

Overall, this book was ok but had potential to be so much more. Unless you are a devoted fan of this series or her books, don't bother with this one.
Publisher: Mira

This book was provided by NetGalley as an eARC.This review originally appeared at  Book Lovers Inc.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Banned Book Week: #SpeakLoudly and a giveaway.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read, and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free, open access to information while drawing attention to the harm censorship causes by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Earlier today, a professor, Dr. Wesley Scroggins, spoke out in favor of banning a YA novel, Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's a summary of the book:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

According to Dr. Scroggins,  Speak is "filthy and immoral" and, because of it's two rape scenes, it is "soft pornography". The book's author, Anderson,  had this to say, and I completely agree:  "The fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying."

Then there's the debate about whether sex belongs in a book and is a book porn if it contains sex. Seleste deLaney did an interesting blog post on that a few weeks ago.

To read more of Dr. Scroggins babble, go here To read Ms. Halse Anderson's response, go here. Author Jackie Kessler has a strong, eloquent post on this topic also.

I don't believe in banning books or, with a few exceptions, censoring them. I don't like every book, news article or blog post that I've read, but that's no reason to ban them. If I like it, I spread the world. If I don't, I either ignore it, or do something about it. Today, I'm doing the latter. Spread the word, support Speak and every other book that has been banned at one time or another.

I'm also going to do what another blogger, The Pirate's Bounty, suggested and donate copies of Speak to my town library and the school library. In addition, I will do a giveaway, starting now and running through October 2nd, the end of Banned Book Week. Reply to this post stating what banned book you read, and if you liked it or not. At the end of the giveaway, I will use to choose 2 winners. Each winner will receive a copy of Speak  and any book from the ALA's list of banned and challenged books, up to a cost of $10US.

Please! Spread the word; don't let the narrow-minded ignorant peoples of the world win this battle.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review: Of Course I Try by Seleste deLaney

     Book Blurb: Love is a wonderful thing. Unless you don't get a choice in the matters of your own heart.

Jocelyn has loved Max since the day she met him. Even when he scares her enough to leave, she can't resist going back. No matter how many times she tries to break free from him, she ends up in his arms and bed again. Not this time. Jocelyn needs to be free and Max isn't going to stop her from walking away -- no matter how hard he tries.

     My Thoughts: I heard a lot of buzz about this story before it was released and again afterwards. It was all over Twitter and a discussion board that both the author and I are on. I knew I wanted to read it and I wasn't disappointed. The first paragraph draws you right in:

"When I came to his house tonight, I'd come to say goodbye. I remember that, even as his hands cup my breasts, squeezing them tenderly and rolling my nipples between his fingers. By the time Max lowers his head and sucks one tightened bud into his mouth, I can't recall why I wanted to leave."

deLaney  knows how to write the erotic details but she doesn't skimp on the story or the characters. The story flows, never slowing down but moving along briskly. We see Jocelyn and Max at different points in the relationship and are given hints as to why Jocleyn wants to end things with Max. The ending completely took me by surprise, I never saw it coming. 

My only real complaint, one that I've seen in other reviews, is that the story was too short. I'd have liked a little more detail and background but the story form limits that. One piece of good news, deLaney is working on another story involving Jocelyn though currently there aren't any details.

Overall, I give "Of Course I Try" 4 out of 5 stars. 

Publisher: Decadent Publishing Company, LLC

Format: ebook

This book was purchased with the reviewers own funds. This review first appeared at Book Lovers Inc.

PEDIGREE® Adoption Drive through September 19th

Thanks to Shiloh Walker for bringing attention to this and encouraging bloggers to post about it.

PEDIGREE Pet Food is sponsoring a drive this weekend to encourage people to adopt a dog.For every blog post about this, with a link back to PEDIGREE, they will donate a 20 pound bag of food to a shelter.

I've never owned a dog, I'm a cat person, but I'm all for giving animals a loving home. Every cat I've owned came from a shelter or a friend or co-worker. Take 5 minutes and blog about this, give a dog food and a home. Make sure your post includes a link back to the sponsor's site.

Thanks! :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 Things About my Invisible Illnesses

So, there are several different events and occasions happening this week. One, as mentioned in yesterday's post, is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. The subject for today's BBAW post was to swap places with another blogger and also interview each other. Since I wasn't on the ball and joined BBAW very late, this post is instead related to the weeks other commemoration: Invisible Chronic Illness Week. 

I am using the format that another blogger chose for her post on the subject.


1. The illnesses I live with are: 

Allergies, environmental - diagnosed 1984, reconfirmed 2006

Allergies, food - diagnosed 2002

Allergic eczema - diagnosed 2008

Ankylosing Spondylitis - diagnosed 1993

Asthma - initial diagnosis 1992, initial occurrences began in mid 80's

Depression - diagnosed 1985
Hypothyroidism -  diagnosed 1995

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: (refer to 1.)
3. But I had symptoms since: (refer to 1.)
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: accepting my limitations and asking for help. I still struggle with both of those; I've never been good at admitting weakness and will often go out of my way to deny it. As you can imagine, that's not a helpful technique. 

5. Most people assume: Oh, where to start? ** eye roll**  1) I don't look or sound ill or "off" so I must be healthy, 2) since I look healthy, I must be lazy, or a slacker, or (insert noun or adjective of choice) or I would ....more often. Again, insert activity of choice -  take out the trash, exercise more, etc.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: getting motivated. I'm not a morning person anyway so if I'm stiff, in pain, congested, coughing, short of breath, what have you, motivation is even harder to come by. 

7. My favorite medical TV show is: a tie between M*A*S*H and House.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: another tie, this time between my nebulizer and my computer. The neb cuz I need it to breathe; the computer because I can still "talk" with friends and acquaintances, pursue certain hobbies, and even do mundane tasks such as paying bills. Those are all very important when I am not well; there have been days and weeks when the computer was all that kept me sane.

9. The hardest part about nights are: sometimes falling asleep, sometimes staying asleep. Pain and breathing problems interfere with sleep as do the drugs I take to deal with them.

10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins: On a healthy day,  20-30  plus 2 inhalers, a nasal spray, and 2 prescription skin creams. When I have a flare of any variety, add 6-10 more pills per day, and/or an extra inhaler and/or the nebulizer.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: haven't really tried any.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: probably something more visible though if I had a choice, I'd prefer none at all.

13. Regarding working and career: Oy. The allergies and asthma have had the biggest, and worst, impact on my work. I look normal so often coworkers forget or just don't believe that the limitations exist and are real. I have to fight for my rights to safe working conditions and to be out absent when necessary. 

14. People would be surprised to know: Hmmm, not sure. Maybe that I just want to be normal, that I don't like being ill so often and needing special accommodations. I just want to live a normal life.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: The limitations, especially socially. My food allergies and my severe asthma really limit where I can go, what I can do, even what items friends and family have in their own homes when I come over. It's one thing to stay home by choice because I'm an introvert but being forced to stay home, to stay away from stores, restaurants, public gatherings, etc. is HUGELY depressing for me. Hmmm, maybe that's what would most surprise people about me.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Safely travel on airplane AND safely be in a public gathering with people I'd never met who were willing ot accommodate my health conditions.
17. The commercials about my illness: Well, the ones for depression can be pretty depressing; the allergy and asthma ones tend to exclude people like myself who have the extreme forms.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: I miss eating a whole lot of foods, I miss being able to go where I want and when, and I miss participating in walk-a-thons.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: See above

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: online discussion boards and book reviews.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: do a walk-a-thon then go out for Indian food and have apple pie for dessert. 

22. My illness has taught  is teaching me: to ask for help, to accept help, and to be creative about what I can do.

23. One thing people say that gets under my skin is: "Oh, I thought just a little bit of spice would be ok for you!" AAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

24. But I love it when people: 1) offer to help without expecting anything in return and,  2) ask me how I am because they really want to know and they care about me.

25. My favorite motto, quote that gets me through tough times is: I don't have one.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Don't just sit back and accept it; see doctors, talk to them but also do your own research and ask questions. Look for help, accept help, be creative with solutions to your problems. Don't give up.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: people's reactions, especially my own family. I've been amazed at who has stood by me and who has failed me. 

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: surprise me with assistance and recently, I received a most unexpected gift by an unexpected person.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Invisible is not good enough; all invisible illnesses, common and rare, need to become visible. 

 30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: encouraged that you took the time to read and to think about the topic.

Monday, September 13, 2010

BBAW: First Treasure

     So, if you haven't noticed yet, this week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  It's a chance to celebrate the various book blogs and to discover new ones. So far, I've added about 4 or 5 new ones to my reading list (thank heavens for Google reader! :D)

      Anyway, as part of the celebration, there's a theme and a suggested blog topic for each day of the week. This year's theme is "For those you new to BBAW, what was the first book blog you discovered?" Since I'm new to BBAW, that is my topic today.

     The first book blog I read was the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site. OMG. If you haven't read it yet, you really need to. It's written by two women, Sarah and Candy, who are sharp, smart, and funny as hell. They review romances of all types and subgenres, conduct interviews, have giveaways, and are current on all the book world news and gossip, regardless of whether it's romance related. They are pretty much one stop shopping for readers. You can even ask for their help in tracking down books that you read a long time ago and now want to read but you can't remember the title or author's name. Recently, over the summer, they started a monthly live book club chat. Awesome blog, awesome ladies, even if their spam filter traps me every darn time I try to reply.

     Now, I didn't discover the Bitches all by my lonesome. Oh my no. My friendly, online bookpusher introduced me to them and to Dear Author also. The pusher in question, Has, went on to form a book news and review blog, The Bookpushers,  along with several other bookpushing ladies. They review romances, fantasies and sci-fi's and also keep up on book news.

     It was actually Has of the Bookpushers who encouraged my interest in reviewing, offered support and practical advice, and helped me hook up with The Book Lovers Inc. blog, where I am now a review intern. 

     Also helpful to me and an awesome, wonderfully eclectic blog, is The Falcata Times. My first online book review was written for there and I've since done several more. I've also discovered new authors (thanks dros!)

     So, what was YOUR first book blog?

Friday, September 10, 2010

BlogFest 2010 is HERE! Enter to Win a KINDLE from BBB! Spread the Word!

BBB is participating in a huge blogfest. It's a chance to win a ton of great prizes from over 250 bloggers around the globe! Who knows, you may find a bunch of great new blogs to check out. There are lots of new book blogs (like this one!), but other kinds of blogs too. So spend some time checking them out and bookmark the ones you want to come back to. For more details, and to enter the giveaway, go here,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ebooks and free books

Changes To The E-Book Buying Landscape | RT Book Reviews

If you read ebooks and/or are a fan of Samhain ebooks, check out this article at RT Book Reviews about upcoming changes. I haven't bought much from Samhain but I am sorry to see the loss of other publishers from their online book store. IMO, losing access to the books they sell can only be bad for the readers.

ACE ROC Fall Preview and Giveaway

Over at the Dear Author blog, Jane has teamed up with ACE to giveaway books from their fall line. Some of the awesome choices include the new On the Edge book, Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews, and the much anticipated release of the revised "Masques" by Patricia Briggs, whom I've had the pleasure of meeting. Go here to check it out.

Review: Moon Sworn by Keri Arthur

Book Blurb:  Some nights never end.

Some desires never die. . . .

She ventures where no one else dares—into realms of peril and pleasure. But will this next journey be her last?

Shape-shifting werewolf and vampire Riley Jenson is through with death–causing it, solving it, surviving it. Her soul mate, Kye Murphy, is dead–and at Riley’s own hands. Not even the seductive embrace of her vampire lover, Quinn, can fully ease her mind, for she has begun questioning everything that makes her Riley–including her job at the Directorate.

Now, the ritualistically slain bodies of ex-cons have started turning up. Reluctantly, Riley takes the case, but something even worse is waiting in the wings. For a vicious enemy from her past is determined to strip Riley of everything that gives her life any meaning: her lover, her brother–and even her own identity. Can Riley survive this ultimate assault? All she knows is, she must fight one last time to find answers, before everything goes dark forever…

Review: This is the 9th, and last, book in the Riley Jenson Guardian series. It ties up many, if not most, of the plot lines introduced in prior books. I didn't go back and re-read the previous 8 books so I may have overlooked something. If you haven't read the previous books, skip this review and pick up the first book, Full Moon Rising.

When Arthur first started this series it felt like a romance/erotica novel stuffed into paranormal clothes. During the series, Arthur eased up on the sex, if not the romantic subplots, and fleshed out the paranormal aspects. The series ultimately is a blend of romance, mystery and paranormal fantasy.

In this book Riley is dealing with the death of her soul mate, and it's consequences. In an interesting twist, which I really liked, Riley and her soul mate didn't even like each other. Despite their mutual antipathy they were drawn to each other and Kye's death leaves Riley a mass of conflicting emotions. She returns to work while still grieving and coping but the case she's on stirs up some ongoing desires and she's not functioning at her finest.

While Riley is in the midst of her investigation, which is intriguing (I loved the scene with Riley as a sea gull in the hooker's room, I laughed out loud), she is taken by an old personal enemy. This part of the book was mixed; certain aspects didn't feel realistic while others were spot on. I did feel her anguish and the resolution was neatly done. This section dragged on a bit and at times I wondered if we would ever get back to the investigation. Still, it reveals more of Riley, specifically what matters to her, and deals with some ongoing plot points. As a result of what happens during Riley's disappearance, (and also the result of ongoing subplots) Riley makes some major life changes and the book ends on a happy note.

There were some unexpected twists and others I saw coming a mile away, but overall the book was good. Arthur's writing improved in the course of writing this series and her growth shows in this book. Her pacing, her characterization and her plotting are stronger and more organic instead of deus ex machina. All in all, a good ending to the series but open-ended enough that Arthur could revisit Riley if she chose. Actually, there is a spin-off involving Rissa. I believe the new series will be called Dark Angel.

I own this book.

Publisher: Dell

Format Read: Paperback

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Book Blurb:     The survivors of the Great Wars that devastated our world must face unimaginable challenges in this first of two novels set in the prehistory of Shannara!

    The Genesis of Shannara trilogy-Armageddon’s Children, The Elves of Cintra, and The Gypsy Morph-charted the fall of our own world into the hands of once-men and demons...and the escape of a few humans, Elves, and others into a remote mountain valley walled in by impenetrable magic. For five-hundred years the survivors have lived peacefully, learning to co-exist and to build a new world with the limited resources and skills available to them. Now the magic that kept them safe for so many centuries is wearing down.  Frightening creatures are penetrating the barriers and wreaking havoc on the valley within. It is time for the four peoples to stand together and create  the new world of Shannara.

Review:    This book occurs before, well before, the events of the first published Shannara book, The Sword of Shannara. Our world, the Earth, has been devastated and there were only a few survivors. Some of those survivors live in a valley separated from the rest of the world by barriers made of magic. Outside of the valley are other survivors, who have mutated over the years. There’s been no contact between the two groups and many of the human survivors in the valley are unwilling to believe that there even coudl be survivors. The human man who led the survivors to the valley five hundred years ago has been transformed over time into a messiah and a religious figure. Naturally, it’s conservative group and a core belief is that Hawk, the man who, in their opinion, saved the human race, will return. One of the main characters, Aislinne, sums it up well: “Child, child. I mean five centuries of traditions and beliefs that have become a bedrock of faith for far too many of our people. You cannot challenge something so deeply ingrained without arousing strong sentiment. Look now. How much do you know of the history of the Children of the Hawk?”

You might think that Brooks looks at religion and cults and how both grow and change and affect the culture they spring from. Fantasy allows an author the chance to explore, question and reflect issues that can be difficult to do in mainstream fiction. Using epic fantasy to do so while telling an engaging story would have been a worthwhile. effort. Sadly, Brooks chooses to stay with his tried and true formula. While the religion does play a part in the storyline, it drives certain actions, it’s not a key part of the story. The characters - Sider Ament ( the titular bearer of the Black Staff), Panterra Qu, Prue Liss, Aislinne - are moderately interesting but could be any character from any Shannara novel, just with a different name. 

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I enjoyed the first Shannara trilogy and most of the following books. I never read the Genesis trilogy nor the Word and Void series, both of which are set in time prior to this book. Still, I expected to enjoy it. Instead, it felt like a re-tread. We’ve seen all the characters before - in The Sword of Shannara, in The Driud of Shannara, in The Lord of the Rings, in any of the Pern novels by Anne McCffrey. If you have read any of those, you have read this one. What should have been an interesting glimpse into Shannara’s history and the development of it’s magical culture is instead a moderately interesting rewrite of earlier Shannara books. 

Unless you are a hardcore Brooks or Shannara fan, don’t bother with this book.  

This ARC was received from the publisher for review.

Publisher:  Del Rey

Format Read:  ARC

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: "B is for Bufflehead" by Steve Hutchcraft

 “B is for Bufflehead”  photographs and text by Steve Hutchcraft.

         Book blurb: Take a flight through the ABC's with a flock of fun feathered friends.  Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Blue-footed Boobies, loons, cuckoos, and many other fascinating birds introduce little ones to the alphabet. Eye-catching and humorous photographs combine with fun facts to entertain and educate inquisitive young minds about the wonderful world of birds.

     Review: “B is for Bufflehead” is an entertaining look at birds. The author, who also took the photographs, manages to write text that doesn't talk down to it's readers while being appropriate for a wide range of young readers. The photographs are colorful and engaging, and the page artwork is color-keyed to each picture. So, if the predominant color in the photo is blue, then the page background is a  matching shade.

    The layout allows for a range of abilities and ages. The first portion is your typical alphabet book layout of a picture, some text, and and the letter plus a word that it starts with. These pages are simple enough to engage and hold the younger readers while the second portion  has a section containing an identification game, and additional facts about the birds in the book which older readers will find interesting.

    The artwork in this book is very well done and one of the books strong points. Another strength is the subjects of the pictures themselves. Each letter is represented by at least two different species of birds and many of the birds will be new to the readers. Hutchcraft mixes familiar and unfamiliar birds, making sure that each one has something unusual or interesting about it. In his own words, “The showcased birds have a mix of fun names, fascinating personalities, and unique behaviors.”

    The alphabet portion of the book, however, is weak. Hutchcraft is so focused on the birds that connecting them to the alphabet is only given cursory attention. The focus letter of each page is only highlighted once and only in it's uppercase form. Despite this, it does work as an alphabet book and it definitely works as an introduction to birds.

 Publisher: PhotoHutch Press

  Age Range: pre-school through third grade

This book was received as a free galley from NetGalley.

Review: Whiplash by Catherine Coulter

Book Blurb: Yale professor Dr. Edward Kender’s father is undergoing chemotherapy when the supply of a critical accompanying drug suddenly runs out. Unwilling to accept the drug company’s disingenuous excuse of production line problems, Dr. Kender hires private investigator Erin Pulask to prove there is something more sinister going on at Schiffer Engel’s manufacturing facility in Indiana.

Pulaski uncovers a bombshell – Schiffer Engel’s intentional shortage is bringing in a windfall profit in excess of two billion dollars.

When a top Schiffer Engel employee shows up viciously murdered behind the U.S. headquarters, Sherlock and Savich are called in to lend a hand. The murder of a foreign national on federal land can only mean the German drug company has a secret of epic proportions.

Review: The intro had me going "OMG, shoot me now". The book centers around a drug company and it's handling of a chemo drug for patients. Coulter apparently feels strongly about drug companies as she shoves down our throats and hammers us on the head with the topic of how drug companies behave and misbehave. Luckily, she quickly moves into the story and eases up on the preaching.

     Once she shifts gears, the book becomes tried and true FBI formula. As usual, we see Savich and Sherlock, the married FBI agents and meet a new agent, Bowie Richards, and a female PI, Erin Pulaski who also doubles as a dance teacher. Erin has Bowie's daughter Georgie in her dance class and unexpectedly finds herself caring for Georgie when her nanny has to have surgery.

     Erin is working on a case for an old family friend whose father's chemo drug has been rationed. The factories that produce the drug have encountered "unexpected" production problems and now it's in short supply. As a result, oncologists and their patients either have to stop treatment or switch to a more expensive drug made by a rival company. For reasons that are never explained, once you switch chemo drugs, you can't switch back to the cheaper drug. That's part of what drives the story but absolutely no reason is offered by Coulter as to why if you switch from drug A to drug B, you can't switch back to drug A. I don't know enough about medicine, drugs or cancer to to know if this has any factual basis but the story would have been better served if Coulter had offered some explanation. Instead, the whole story rests on this flimsy basis.

     Erin's case crashes into the FBI when a German citizen is found murdered on public land very near the corporate offices of the drug company, which Erin broke into. Naturally, the FBI agent in charge of the case is Georgie's father, Bowie. As Erin cares for Georgie, she uses the opportunity to question Bowie about the case and where it's heading. Erin was spotted leaving the grounds at about the same time the murder occurred and she's scared that she'll be arrested for the murder.

Sparks fly between Erin and Bowie but their relationship moves slowly. Coulter takes her time and lets them get to know each other instead of jumping immediately into bed. I liked Erin and Bowie as a couple, they felt believable and better drawn than some other couples in the series.

     There's also a secondary plot, completely unrelated to the main story, involving a US Senator who believes that he is being visited by his dead wife's ghost. Actually , the Senator is torn between believing that it's real and worried that someone is trying to drive him mad. Then people around him start having accidents, even dying. Savich is asked by his boss to discretely look into the situation. 

     Other than the initial emphasis on the drug issue, the book offers nothing new. If you like her FBI books or you are looking for the familiar and comfortable, you'll probably like this book. It's enjoyable read and even had some twists that I didn't see coming.

     This review is also posted at: goodreads

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

This book was borrowed from my local library.