Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The best for last

Well, another month has come and gone, and The Bookbabe hasn't been nearly as prolific here as she'd hoped to be. However, it's nice to see that two authors have now commented on reviews I've done - good to get feedback, even better to know there are people reading this! (other than my sis and Indy friend, who snark at me often to get busy!)

I believe some of the best books are now in stores, having hit the shelves yesterday. Or perhaps I should say most-hyped, or long-awaited, or however you want to word it. I know one that I've been anxious to read is on the list! So, without further ado, let's get to it, shall we?

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. Albom returns to his roots, so to speak, in this non-fiction piece. He's asked by a rabbi to deliver the man's eulogy, something Albom isn't completely comfortable with. I know that there are fans out there that will read pretty much anything he writes, and since he's not one to crank them out every year, I have a feeling this will do well. The only work of his I read was "The Five People You Meet in Heaven", and it was OK. My hubby really enjoyed it, but I'd just read "White Apples" by Jonathan Carroll, which I think covers the same theme in a much more interesting way.

Rough Country by John Sandford. Another in the Virgil Flowers series. Can't say much about them except the hubby loves them, along with the other Sandford series. I know there's always a pretty good reserve list when they first hit the library!

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. Heard of "The Time Traveler's Wife"? If you hadn't already read the book, you probably got interested when they did the movie. This is the same author. I wasn't all that interested in TTTW but this one has me curious, as it's about ghosts, much more the sort of thing I would be likely to pick up. Only problem is that I haven't seen any stellar reviews of it - most are along the lines of a C+ or so, saying it's "disappointing". Guess it depends on what you like, huh? Then again, it's always hard to live up to a blockbuster...

Dawnbreaker by Jocelynn Drake. YES! This is the one, people, the one I've been waiting for! It's the third book in her Dark Days series, and I cannot wait to see what direction she takes with the story. I loved the first two books (read reviews on this blog), and I'm just totally stoked about this entry. Even better is that I have learned she's working on the fifth book, which means Mira's story is far from over!

And thus endeth September. I'll try to do better in October, both with the news and with the reviews. Keep on reading!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"The Vampire Shrink" by Lynda Hilburn

Oh Amazon, you have seriously let me down on this one. It showed up in my "recommended for you" list, and it sounded interesting, so I bookmarked it on my Wishlist. Then I waited and waited for either the library to pick it up or my book store friend to find it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the library did pick up a book of hers - book TWO, so I kept waiting. Finally, the book store friend reminded me that some of the items on said Wishlist were well over a year old and could be obtained through the ILL system, which I finally did. I still had to wait almost a month for this to show up, so when it did, I jumped right into it.

Sadly, it was not worth the wait.

On the surface, it's an intriguing idea. Denver psychologist Kismet Knight is a scientist. She believes in quantifiable data, and is sure that her newest client, Midnight, is suffering from the usual mental problems when she shows up in the office in full Goth gear. Kismet is a bit surprised when Midnight begins talking about vampires; Midnight seems to be obsessed with the "master vampire", a man named Devereux. Kismet believes that Midnight is merely a young woman obsessed with an older man, one whom she suspects might be taking advantage of the vulnerable girl.

Much to her surprise, Kismet is visited by Devereux at her office one night. Of course he's drop-dead gorgeous, and the doctor finds herself attracted to him, while believing that he, too, falls under the mental illness umbrella of vampire delusions. However, as they talk, it becomes apparent that he is truly concerned about Midnight and wants to protect her from another vampire on the scene, Bryce. Yep, age old plot - Midnight has been flirting with Bryce in an attempt to make Devereux jealous. Midnight has several friends in the "vampire" community, and Kismet offers to counsel a few of them. She's intrigued by the mass "vampire"hysteria, but she's also looking for material for a new book.

She gets a bit more than she bargained for, though, when Midnight shows up at her office with her friend Emerald in tow. The young girl is obviously very sick, and when another "vampire" patient, Ronald, shows up for his session, Kismet insists they take Emerald to the hospital. According to the ER doctor, she's lost a lot of blood, but they believe they can stabilize her and that she'll be OK. While waiting for this news, Kismet meets FBI profiler Alan Stevens; he's come to investigate Emerald's "illness", and tells Kismet that she may be a victim of a serial killer, one that's responsible for over 30 gruesome deaths. He also tells her to watch out for the vampires, which completely throws her.

Meanwhile, Devereux keeps showing up at her office, and she finds herself starting to wonder if vampires are real. It's obvious that he's a good guy, one way or the other, but bad things are starting to happen. Is Bryce the killer? Or is Devereux putting on a good act? What about the mysterious "Brother Luther" that keeps leaving threatening messages on her machine at home? Could he be the killer? Is Kismet herself in danger?

It doesn't really sound all that bad, does it? Well, there are several problems with this book, the least of which is the writing itself. Kismet is supposed to be an educated, somewhat sophisticated woman, one who has a scientific, rational mind. But as soon as she meets Devereux, she starts to sound like an infatuated teenager. And it's not just him - the FBI agent, Alan, is also super-cute, not to mention the ER doctor, some guy she met at a conference, and her ex-boyfriend who shows up in town. I mean, really - there are no ugly men in Denver all of a sudden? She also keeps mentioning how it's been two years since she's last had sex (when the smarmy ex dumped her for an astrologist), and now her libido seems to be in overdrive. That's what I kept thinking, that she sounded like a horny teen girl, rather than a mature woman of 30-something. Sigh.

And when it comes down to the actual "romance" of the book, well, it's not very romantic. The author seems to be overly fond of using actual clinical terms for certain body parts, something not normally seen outside of erotica. Now, I'm not a prude, and I don't mind those words, but in this context I found it especially jarring. Here's a pretty good example of what I'm talking about, a scene that gives you the idea but doesn't actually contain the graphic body part language. "Walking to the bathroom reminded me, again, what happened to muscles if you didn't use them. The area between my legs was tender and sore, which was to be expected after considering the size of the object that'd been jammed in there." Yeah, that's how I would describe a romantic morning after, wouldn't you?

What's sad is that there's a small hint of what this book could have been. In one scene, an actual vampire has a session with Kismet. He's come to discuss his problem with blood, namely, that the can't stand the sight of it. He can drink it just fine, as long as he doesn't see it. During the session, they talk about the first time he had a problem with it, and of course, there's a very good underlying reason. That is what I expected from this (with a dash of romance). Think about it - it would have been like the shrink on the "Sopranos", but with vampires. What an original idea! Several books have made mention of how difficult it is for vamps to exist for hundreds of years without going mad, which totally makes sense. How cool it would have been for this book to go in that direction, rather than the multitudes that it did.

Perhaps the author herself says it best on the inside back cover of the book. After mentioning that it's her first full-length fiction piece, she says, " all my stories, it crosses genres. It's an urban fantasy romance w/mystery elements, sex, dark humor, and a contemporary vibe." In other words, it's trying to be all things for all readers. And quite frankly, it just doesn't work. Skip a session with book and find something else to read.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tomorrow, tomorrow!

Wow! Tomorrow, the 22nd, will be a banner day for new titles! I was looking over my list, and there's just a whole lot coming out. Wish I had the money to buy some of them, and wish I was already seeing some of these listed in my library. Patience, grasshopper, patience.

Hothouse Orchid by Stuart Woods. This is the fifth in his Holly Barker series. I don't read this guy, but I can tell you he's pretty popular. The only thing I've heard patrons say that has stuck with me is that he can be a little outrageous when describing his male protagonist's sexual exploits. Since this is his heroine, hopefully there's none of that in here!

Mama Dearest by E. Lynn Harris. Sadly, Harris passed away in July at just 54 years old. He certainly wasn't the first gay black author, but he was the first to make it big writing about life on the "down-low". I've read a few articles that said he really exposed the whole gay black athlete thing, which I'm sure was quite shocking at the time. I don't know if he'll be one of those that they find a "lost" manuscript, but I kinda hope so.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon. OK, I'll admit it - I just don't get the whole time-traveler romance genre. So I haven't read any of these books, even though one of my closest friends swears to me that they're just fabulous. I think I'm put off by the size of them - they're very, very long. Oh well, maybe one of these days....

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I've enjoyed some of her writing, but this is an author I have to be in the mood for. Much more "literary" than most of what I pick up, and for some strange reason, we tend to classify a lot of hers as science fiction. Still haven't figured that out yet!

Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy. This is the last in the author's Underworld USA trilogy, and it's getting some very good critical reviews. Ellroy writes fictional crime dramas that incorporate real-life characters. Perhaps best known for his novel "L.A. Confidential", which was later turned into an award-winning movie. (A really great movie, too, in my opinion!)

Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minda and Big Government by Glenn Beck. I used to catch Beck's show every once in a while when he was still affiliated with CNN. I read his first book, and while I didn't agree with all of it, I did find that we had some common ground. But ever since he defected to Fox News, he's gone crazy. I mean, really - I think he might have had some sort of psychotic break. I might pick this up just to see if his insanity is just to grab TV ratings or if it carries over to his writing also.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence of Evolution by Richard Dawkins. OK, if you've been following the blog, you know that I read Dawkin's book " The God Delusion". And you know that while I agree with him in theory about some things, I was very, very put off by his approach in said title. Hopefully, he will redeem himself by writing about what he believes in, rather than what he doesn't. I'll probably pick it up, but rather than slog through the whole thing, if his tone is still defiant and condescending, I'll return it quickly!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Titles hitting stores 9/15

Hmmm... There's a lot of new stuff this month, but it looks like next week is slim pickin's. Only a couple to tell you about. But 9/22? Get ready, readers, cause that looks like the date to hit the stores/libraries.

"The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. Can he do it again? Can he hit as big as he did with "The Da Vinci Code"? Yeah, probably, but that's just in sales. I have no idea if he can actually write another awesome book (and I say awesome based on the sales figures and the patrons' reviews when they brought it back - I have yet to read it). Expect a strong showing based on the hype, then the backlash if this thing blows.

"Ground Zero" by F. Paul Wilson. YES! Repairman Jack is back! I'm anxious to see where Wilson goes with this, as he's said that Jack won't be around much longer (as a series, I think). He/his publisher are also re-releasing some of the original Adversary Cycle in hardbacks, gearing up for the rewrite of "Nightworld". I can't wait to see how it turns out! But it's a sad thing, too, because as I said, it probably means the end of the Repairman Jack books. And I love Jack, have followed him from the start.

"True Compass: A Memoir" by Edward M. Kennedy. I think this would have done well regardless, but since Senator Kennedy just recently lost his battle with brain cancer? Consider it a smash. People will buy it to keep on their shelves, one of the last things he'll leave behind. I have no idea if they'll actually read it.

"End the Fed" by Ron Paul. Do you remember this guy? He was one of the presidential hopefuls that ran for the Republican party (if memory serves correctly). I read a little bit about him and his views, and I gotta tell ya - he comes off much more Libertarian then Republican. Then again, when was the last time a Libertarian did well? In any election? I might check this out myself.

OK, that's it for now. Stayed tuned, though, as I did a lot of reading over the weekend and plan to get my butt in gear and post some reviews. Gotta run!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Go With Me" by Castle Freeman Jr.

The plot of this little book isn't all that complex. Terrified woman who stood up to the big bully is now truly being threatened by said bully. She goes to the local lawman but he can't do anything. He sends her to some people who can help her, as they are not part of the law. The guy the sheriff tells her to ask for isn't available, so she's sent out with two other guys instead, one a much older man and the other a strapping young hulk of muscle (but not overly bright). She's asked time and time again why she doesn't just leave, and she informs the men that she shouldn't have to. Her ex-boyfriend, a local, ran when the bully went after him, but she's not like that. She just wants this guy to leave her alone, and she'll take the help that's offered, even though she's not too sure about it. But as she will soon find out, "you got to be ready to go all the way through."

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? But in a mere 160 pages, Freeman manages to make all sorts of little social commentaries and creates some very memorable characters. Lillian, our damsel in distress, is quite a pistol according to the men of Whizzer's almost-defunct lumber mill. In fact, several times they mention that Blackway (the bully) might have picked on the wrong woman. The guys that sit around Whizzer's place act almost like a Greek chorus of sorts; they fill in needed background information, give opinions, and generally help set the scenes. Oh, and they drink a lot of beer during the day. Blackway is no stranger to them, either - he used to work for the sheriff. Seems he was into some illegal things and was trying to get Kevin, Lillian's ex-boyfriend, nailed for the activities (yeah, it was pot). Kevin was willing to take the fall, but Lillian was having none of it. Her response was to call the state boys, and thus, Blackway's bullying and terrorizing of her. The man kills her cat!

The majority of the story is Lillian, Nate and Lester looking for Blackway. You learn a little bit about each of these three characters, enough to get a feel for them, but not enough to make you glad you finished the book. I wish I could have spent more time with them. Blackway is really a mystery; you only learn of him pretty much through the eyes of others. As things draw to a head, you have to wonder if Lillian really is willing to "go all the way through". Yes, the phrase pretty much means what you might think - be willing to do whatever it takes to get done what you want done.

I read another one of Freeman's later works, and while I enjoyed it too, I thought this was much better. I'll be keeping my eyes open for another of his short stories about the people of Vermont.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Blood Lite" edited by Kevin J. Anderson

You have to watch out for the back of the book, dear readers. This one actually starts out with a warning. No kidding! "Warning: This anthology contains works of fiction that are gruesome, disturbing, horrifying, and drop dead hilarious!" Sigh. But I have read and do enjoy some of the authors that contributed, so I figured why not. To say they are "drop dead hilarious" is only right on a few counts. Some are a bit humorous, and others? Well, I'm not entirely sure why they've been included. Oh well. Most anthologies are uneven at best, so I shouldn't really be surprised.

We start off with a pretty good little number, "The Ungrateful Dead" by Kelley Armstrong. Necromancer Jamie Vegas is plagued by ghosts, and boy does she have her hands full in this story. Seems that she is going to be haunted by the spirit of a late-teen guy if she doesn't do what he says. He just won't take "no" for an answer.

There are the usual suspects here: F. Paul Wilson, Charlaine Harris, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Jim Butcher. Most of those stories are pretty good, but reading the Butcher entry was weird, as the action takes place before the last book in the Dresden series. Sort of like working backwards. The Harris story is pretty darn good, too, but I thought the Wilson tale was a bit flat. Could be because he was writing with another author, J. A. Konrath; could just be I didn't care for it. Whatever.

Before you think I'm going to totally dis this work, there is a little jewel in here that totally made the book worthwhile. And I do mean little, as in super-short - the story runs all of three, count 'em, three pages. "Old School" by Mark Onspaugh was exactly what the "warning" promised - drop-dead hilarious. And I love an author that can do a fabulous story in only those three little pages; not a word is wasted, you get a good feel for the characters, and you'll love the twist. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What to watch for next week

OK, there isn't a whole lot coming out next week, so this should be short, sweet, and to the point!

"The Last Song" by Nicholas Sparks. Sigh. Yet another tear-jerker by one of today's hottest writers. And as if the book wasn't bad enough, I guess the movie is already being filmed, and yes, it's supposed to be a vehicle for Miley Cyrus. I just don't have anything good to say about this one, so I'll quit here.

"Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin" by Kathy Griffin. If you haven't caught her show on cable, you're missing out. I don't see it on a regular basis, but it's always funny. She considers herself a "D-List" celebrity, although I'm guessing that's changed a bit by now. I love her talking about her gays, about Gaykin (aka Clay Akin), and just generally anyone else she's snarking about. The woman has had way too much plastic surgery for my taste, but at least she hasn't gotten to the Joan Rivers look yet.

"Dexter by Design" by Jeff Lindsay. YES! Dexter is back!! I have loved this guy from the beginning, but I gotta tell ya - it's not easy to sell people on the idea of a great book written from the perspective of a serial killer. Just kinda throws them off when you tell them that Dexter's a bit dark. But hey - he only kills the bad ones! I'm hoping this one is better than the last entry; in the third book, Dexter loses touch with his "dark passenger" and basically has no idea how to handle his life. It was a bit strange, and overall, a bit dull. I definitely prefer Dexter when his "dark passenger" is with him. I love the dry humor, and the character development is awesome, too. The Showtime series based on these books isn't bad, either.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The NEW "Novel News"!

I promised more news and less reviews, so let's just get down to it, shall we?


"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins. This is the second book of her Hunger Games series, and again, it's considered YA fiction. However, the first book definitely had an adult following as well, so consider this a cross-over a la Twilight. Haven't read Collins myself, but know several who read "Hunger Games" and really enjoyed it. Sadly, I just saw a review for CF in the latest edition of EW, and it was less than stellar. Here's hoping they were just a in a bad mood that day!

"Dark Slayer" by Christine Feehan. Lord, this woman has a following of faithful fans, doesn't she? And this is the umpteenth book in her Carpathian series, although this time the lead character is female (not sure she's done that before). I've tried one full-length book in this series and a novella, and I just don't get the fascination. Oh well, not everything is for everyone, right?

"Homer & Langley" by E. L. Doctorow. One of those authors that looks a bit too high-brow for me. Probably good, but I want entertainment when I read, not serious in-depth drama.

"Walking Dead" by C. E. Murphy. Murphy is going back to her Urban Shaman character, so this is actually Book 4 in the Walker Papers series. This was an up-and-down sort of read, if I remember correctly. I really enjoyed the first book, slogged thru the second, then raced through the third. Hopefully this installment will be a good one.

And on just a fun note, there's a non-fiction book coming out this Friday, 9/4/09, that I saw on Amazon that just looks too cute to miss. It's called "Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong" by Jen Yates. Looks to be the sort of thing that would be good for a laugh and won't take much time to read. Wish we'd get it here at the library, but we're watching every penny here, and this isn't really a good use of the tax-payer money we're funded with. Oh well!

OK, that's it for today. That takes you up to next week's new items, which I hope to get to tomorrow, provided I have the time. Hope you enjoy the "news" - but don't worry, I still have reviews planned for this blog, too!