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Monday, December 27, 2010

Post-Holiday Catch Up




For Christmas, there was only one thing on my list. I was dying to own a Kindle. Despite my attempts, the Kindle became a challenge to order. Because I had Best Buy Rewards and Gift Cards to use up, we went there to order the Kindle in mid-December. Sure, I could have ordered from Amazon, but I had $40 in certificates so it made sense to shop local.

Our Best Buy was sold out, but promised they could get one in by Wednesday, so we went ahead and paid for it. Turns out that was a HORRIBLE mistake. Amazon told area stores (I checked Best Buy here and in neighboring states and Staples in Vermont and neighboring states) that the Kindles were in high demand again this year and they had orders to fill before they could accept additional orders. Shipping delays until after New Year's were guaranteed. I honestly didn't want to wait and opted for the Nook.

Now, I do understand the Nook doesn't have the same storage capacity, though I can add an SD card, so that's not a problem. The Nook also has a much shorter battery-life, but I work on the computer daily, so I don't mind charging it as needed. I've used about a third of the battery right now between my kids playing games on it (comes with Sudoku and Chess), my daughter reading her book one night and downloading books to it and checking everything out. It's better than my laptop, so I won't complain.

What does amaze me is the screen. My teen son compared it to an Etch-a-Sketch. He's right, it does have that quality. Words are crisp on the page. Controls are easy, including the touchscreen that I'd heard others complain about. It doubles as an MP3 player, so that's never a bad thing. Best of all, I took it out into sunlight and didn't have any problem reading outside (though it's downright cold and blizzard-like right now, so I won't do that until summer.) Day three with my Nook and I'm overjoyed.

One thing I really like is how easy it is to use a site most publishers are now using for review copies (NetGalley). It takes seconds to move a book from NetGalley to my Nook. It was easy to figure it out and in a matter of seconds a book is ready for reading. I'm hooked.

I've played with my friend's Kindle and my Nook and honestly they're both great, but the Nook being readily available locally gives it the edge in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Zombie Cupcakes - Zilly Rosen (Cookbook)




Released February 15, 2011

www.andrewsmcmeel.com
www.ivy-group.co.uk

If there's one thing that amuses me, it's a good, emphasis on good, zombie movie. Fido, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and even Norway's Dead Snow all are great representations on zombie movies of today that should become classics. When I learned of a cookbook that was presenting cupcake designs with zombie or Halloween themes, I was highly amused and couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of Zombie Cupcakes.

If you know of the Hello, Cupcake design books, you get the basic premise for Zombie Cupcakes. There are a number of different cupcake designs ranging from falling out eyeball cupcakes to a corpse's hand rising from the grave. Each "recipe" is rated so that you know if it is difficult to make or incredibly easy. A full list of necessary ingredients is given, along with some cake and frosting recipes. Cake recipes include basics like Red Velvet Cake, but also throw in some more unique ones like Honey Cake or Applesauce & Caramel. 

Recipe instructions are easy to follow, so you can rest assured your cupcakes will look like those pictured in the book. Some of the more difficult ones do require a little more talent, such as shaping the a zombie's hand, but the instructions make it seem like even a beginner will be able to turn out something similar, even if it isn't perfect.

Within the recipes, you'll also find some zombie trivia. Take the test and see how you score. I got a perfect score, but then I also admit that there is not likely a zombie movie around that I haven't tried to watch. If it's available with Netflix, I've seen it. From now on, I'll be watching my zombie movies with a zombie-themed treat!

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'll Be Home for Christmas - Julie L. Cannon




Released September 2010

www.summersidepress.com

Maggie Culpepper has given up on God. After her mother dies, Maggie decides there's no way she's going to freely give her heart to someone else only to have God snatch them away and leave loved ones heartbroken. With that, she enlists in the U.S. Navy WAVE program and heads off to serve her country during WWII.

William Dove has loved Maggie for most of his life. He knows she loves him too, so he's shattered when she enlists. One thing is certain, he is determined to change her mind and realize there is a happily ever after.

I'll Be Home for Christmas is a holiday romance that left me with mixed feelings. I adored William's character and really felt he was the most sensible of the lot. Given that, it's got to be obvious that Maggie did little for me. In fact, there were times I wondered how William could tolerate her. She's so angry with most everyone and everything that it's off-putting. She treats William like dirt, yet he sticks by waiting for her to change. Definitely a more patient man that I could ever be. In the end, I honestly felt she wasn't good enough for William and wished he would move on.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Family Affair - Debbie Macomber



Released January 2011

www.debbiemacomber.com

I'll start off by saying this is not a new story. Debbie Macomber's Family Affair was first released in 1994 in Purrfect Love. This is not a long story, expect a total of 99 pages. The novella follows with a few recipes for homemade cat treats. Readers whose cats have sensitivities to grains, like my boys, should note that the recipes all call for whole-wheat flour and/or cornmeal.

In Family Affair, Lacey Lancaster moved to San Francisco after learning her husband was leaving her for another woman. Lacey's kept her heart locked away and doesn't think men are particularly trustworthy. The light of her life is her Abyssinian cat. She's not of fond of her neighbor Jack, a man she is convinced is cheating on his girlfriend.

Jack Walker noticed Lacey the day she moved in and he wishes she'd give him the time of day. One evening while he and his sister are having an argument, Lacy shows up at his door asking them to tone it down. His tomcat escapes and mates with Lacey's cat. This gives him the perfect opportunity to become a part of Lacey's life, even if it is only until the kittens are born.

Soon, the pair find themselves falling head over heels. Does Jack have the skill to show Lacey that not every man is a cheater and that he's hear to stay?

Family Affair is a cute story, though I'm not sure it's good enough to make my permanent library. It's short enough to read in an hour or two, but satisfying enough that the story will stick in the back of your mind.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Twas the Night - Sandra Hill, Trish Jensen & Kate Holmes



Released November 2010

www.bellebooks.com
www.bellbridgebooks.com

'Twas the Night offers a trio of Christmas tales finds its way to Belle Books. Originally published by Leisure/Dorchester in 2001 under the title Here Comes Santa Claus, readers who missed this romance anthology of sorts have the chance to enjoy some fine holiday stories.

The basic premise involves a Christmas wedding in Maine. Sam, Kevin and Stan were foster children at the White Mountain Home for Boys in Snowdon, Maine. Now George, a man who means the world to all three of them, is about to get married, and he wants his "boys" to be his best men on his wedding day.

Each author writes the story from their character's point of view. Alternating chapters are written by one of the three authors--Sandra Hill, Trish Jensen and Kate Holmes).

Things start off with Sandra Hill's Sam Merrick, a Blue Angels pilot, heading to Maine. Unfortunately, a snow storm cancels flights all along the East Coast leaving Sam in an unpleasant mood. George suggests Sam hitch a ride with the Santa Brigade, a group of charitable elderly men and women heading up to Maine via bus. Sam has no intention on riding to Maine with a group of elderly men and women until he learns his childhood crush, Reba Anderson, is the director of the retirement community on the Santa Brigade. Sam would love to rekindle things with Reba, but she's not quite as forgiving.

Trish Jensen shares P.I. Kevin Wilder 's point of view. On his way to Maine, Kevin stopped off in Schenectady, New York, in an attempt to locate Callie Brandt, a woman dodging an arrest warrant. A problem on the tracks has canceled train service. Kevin's only hope of getting to Maine for the wedding is by agreeing to join Sam and everyone on the Santa Brigade. As the biggest troublemaker of the group, Kevin's not thrilled to be joining elderly men and women who always viewed him as a juvenile delinquent--hence his nickname JD. Callie Brandt happens to come across his path right at that moment giving him the perfect opportunity to play dumb and have her escort him to the truck stop where the Santa Brigade is meeting him. With Callie in custody, the bus ride is about to get even more exciting.

Finally, Stan Kijewski's story is shared by Kate Holmes. Stan, quarterback for the San Diego Typhoons, is in Vermont where he's been requested to give Dana Freeman a ride. George saved Dana from a home for girls and she's heading to Maine for his wedding. Dana's nothing like what Stan was expecting from a Vermont woman. Stan's been the object of Dana's fantasy for as long as she can remember.When they learn roads to Maine are closed due to the storm, they have no choice but to join the Santa Brigade.

What follows in the trio of tales as the couples head north and east to reach the Maine wedding on time. Romances between each couple are definitely heated and full of passion. I happened to enjoy Sam and Reba's the best, likely because I felt they had the strongest connection. This doesn't mean the other romances were lacking, but Sam and Reba had a teen romance that's being rekindled throughout the story.


As a side note to part of the storyline, I've lived in Vermont for close to four decades and few roads ever get closed in heavy snow. Even in a blizzard, roads are open to any one adventurous enough to drive them. There may be temporary detours due to accidents or highway and police department warnings to stay home but the interstate and major highways don't close.

If you want a lighthearted contemporary romance, you won't go wrong with 'Twas the Night. It's a great way to relax from stressful holiday preparations or trips to overly crowded stores.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How Sweet It Is - Sophie Gunn (Contemporary Romance)



Released January 2011

www.hatchettebookgroup.com

Lizzie Carpenter understands the struggles single moms face. As a pregnant teen, her boyfriend up and left for Europe without a word. Fourteen years have passed and Lizzie is employed and spends as much time with her daughter as possible. Her home may need repairs but being a loving mom comes first.

When Lizzie and her daughter, Paige, receive a letter from the father Paige has never met, both fly into a state of panic. Lizzie is terrified he'll take her daughter away, Paige is ashamed he'll see the house and think poorly of them. Lizzie meets with her "Enemy Club" former high school enemies who are now friends and makes a wish that a handyman will knock on her door and start making repairs without wanting anything in return.

Enter Tay Giovanni. He's in the small New York town hoping to make amends for tragic situation he played a role in. While trying to work through his guilt, he overhears Lizzie's wish. He has the skill to fix up her house and makes the offer. He'll help her out until it's his time to leave and wants nothing in return.

Lizzie can't believe a man that good looking doesn't want something. However, the more time she spends with him, the more she finds herself falling in love. Can she stand forming a relationship with someone who's made it clear he plans to get out of town when the moment is right?

How Sweet It Is balances the blend of characters and plot extremely well. Many romances tend to focus on one or the other and months after reading it, you may remember a character or the plot but not both. With How Sweet It Is, I definitely think I'll remember Tay in particular. His situation could be that of anyone's and the pain he feels comes through clearly throughout the book.

Sophie Gunn's romance sets the stage for a series of novels. Each member of the Enemy Club has a story to tell. It sounds like Nina's story is next, though quite honestly, I'd love to read Jill's story next. I think of all the women in the Enemy Club, Jill and Lizzie have the best possible link and Jill's story will tie in incredibly well!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Goodnight Tweetheart - Teresa Medeiros




Released December 14, 2010

www.simonandschuster.com
www.teresamedeiros.com

First, let me say that Goodnight Tweetheart is very addicting. I am one of those thousands, maybe millions, that think Twittering is a fad that will eventually disappear. I have no use for Twitter and am somewhat saddened that people feel it's a good thing to share intimate details of your life. Too many sickos in the world for my liking to even think of doing that.

Given that, Goodnight Tweetheart is all about Twittering. After having a successful first novel, an Oprah pick no less, Abby Donovan's discovered that fame can be fleeting. Her publicist urges her to sign up with Twitter and start connecting with her fans through that medium. As a n00b, Abby connects with a college professor who is current on sabbatical. Mark Baynard shows her the ropes and soon a strong connection forms between the two.

While Mark's touring the world, Abby begins to realize she may have met Mr. Right. That is until the truth about who Mark really is comes to light...

I've read many of Teresa Medeiros' historical romance novels over the years. I was intrigued with her entry into contemporary romance/women's fiction. Though the characters are solely chatting through Twitter, they still build a strong romance. 

I admit, I like a book that delivers the unexpected, this time I was surprised, if not possibly shocked. But, I don't plan to give spoilers. All I can say is read Goodnight Tweetheart and then feel free to head to the comment section and share your thoughts on Mark's big secret.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chronicle Books' Friends and Family Sale

Ticket Stub Diary
Friends & Family Holiday Sale Extended!
Enjoy 35% off and FREE ground shipping
on our website for one more week!
Use promo code FRIENDS at checkout
through Dec. 12. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Blackboard Books Giveaway

Congratulations to Meredith from Florida. Her name was drawn from the hat as the winner of the Blackboard Books Boxed Set of Grammar Guides.

Just in time for the holidays comes a second contest. Want to win? All you have to do is post a comment about your thoughts on these books, and I'll be choosing one winner from the posts. (Winner must have an address within the United States. Winner will be chosen Christmas Eve, so all entries must be received by noon EST on December 24th.)

Blackboard Books Boxed Set: 
 
i before e (except after c), My Grammar and I . . . Or Should That Be Me?,
and 
I Used to Know That

 
By Caroline Taggart, J.A. Wines, and Judy Parkinson
Published by Readers Digest
October 2010
$35.00 US
978-1606522202

The first three titles in the Blackboard Books series are now available in an attractive box set! Test your knowledge on all subjects, from English Lit to Western Civ, from Grammar to Idioms, from Physics to Math and so much more. Inside you'll find:

i before e (except after c):
old-school ways to remember stuff In this clever-and often hilarious-collection, you'll find engaging mnemonics, arranged in easy to find categories that include geography, time and the calendar, numbers, and astronomy. Perfect for students of all ages!

My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right
Avoid grammatical minefields with this entertaining refresher course for anyone who has ever been stumped by spelling confusion, dangling modifiers, split infinitives, or for those who have no idea what these things even are.

I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School 
Take a trip down memory lane with this light-hearted and informative reminder of the many things we learned in school that have been forgotten over time, from Shakespeare and diphthongs to quotients, phalanges, and protons. After all, as Stantayana reminds us, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Author Bio

Judy Parkinson,
 author of i before e (except after c): old-school ways to remember stuff,  is a graduate of Bristol University. She is a producer of documentaries, music videos, and commercials, and won a Clio award for a Greenpeace ad. Parkinson has published four books. She lives in London.

J. A. Wines, author of My Grammar and I...Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right, is a graduate of Oxford University and the author of several books on grammar and trivia.

Caroline Taggart is the author of the best- selling I Used to Know That, The Classics, and An Apple a Day and coauthor of My Grammar and I . . . Or Should That Be Me? She is also the editor of Writer's Market UK & Ireland, a guide for aspiring writers. She has worked in publishing for more than thirty years, the last twenty in nonfiction.

For more information please visit http://www.rdtradepublishing.com/book_display.php?isbn13=9781606522202 and follow the book Facebook

Love Finds You: Under the Mistletoe - Irene Brand & Anita Higman




Released September 2010

www.summersidepress.com
www.anitahigman.com
www.irenebrand.com

Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe is another entry into the Love Finds You collection of gentle romances. They are Christian novels to an extent given the scripture and Christian references, but I think anyone looking for a heartwarming story will adore the romances.

Irene Brand's entry, An Appalachian Christmas, shares the story of Julia Mayfield. She has no experience caring for children, but that doesn't stop her parents from sending Julia on a trip with her toddler nephew in tow. Julia's sister died during childbirth and the father of the baby died in WWII. Julia's heading to Mistletoe, Kentucky to introduce her nephew to his paternal grandparents. In Mistletoe, things don't go as planned when the boy's grandparents refuse to see him. She's taken in by David Armstrong's grandmother hoping they might come around. David Armstrong is hiding a secret that he can't reveal to Julia, but he's falling in love with her just the same. Meanwhile, she's falling for David, but can she really give up everything to stay in Mistletoe?

Once Upon a Christmas Eve is Anita Higman's offering. Holly Goodnight's mother abandoned her as an infant. Now that Holly's store has been named Best Christmas Store in America, she's caught the attention of a novelist who wants to turn her childhood tale into a heartwarming story the public will love. As she spends more time with Van Keaton, Holy begins to wonder if she's found Mr. Right at long last. Her best friend since childhood, Owen Quigley isn't as pleased and needs to figure out how to reveal his true feelings before it's too late.

The two stories in Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe are incredibly satisfying. They're the perfect length for between holiday errands or cookie baking. As is true of Christian romances, you won't find the sex, but that doesn't make the chemistry any less apparent. Both sets of characters have an obvious attraction that warms the reader's heart with each turn of the page.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kill the Dead - Richard Kadrey




Released October 2010

www.richardkadrey.com
www.eosbooks.com

Kill the Dead, the follow-up to Sandman Slim, brings readers into another glimpse of James Stark's, aka Sandman Slim, life. For those who, like me, are new to the story, James Stark came from the depths of Hell to seek vengeance for his girlfriend's death and rid the world of some evil in the process. He won't rest until he's found the man who put him in Hell.

Stark receives an unusual request this time around. Lucifer's coming up from Hell to oversee a biopic of his life. He's in his human form and needs protection. He wants Stark as a body guard, and it's not in Stark's best interest to say no. Things get hairy when a massive amount of undead known as "drifters" hit the area. Someone's released them and Stark needs to find out who and why. Stark's definitely got his hands full, but a Czech porn star/movie star in Lucifer's film is ready to help out and kick butt. With a helper, maybe things will be a little easier for Stark...

The opening line says it all... "Imagine shoving a cattle prod up a rhino's ass, shouting "April Fool!", and hoping the rhino thinks it's funny. That's about how much fun it is hunting a vampire." I read that line and promptly burst into laughter. Richard Kadrey never eases up on the wit. Sure, this may be a horror/suspense entry, but it's hilarious.

As a fan of zombie movies, I would love to see this book come to the big screen. It has the potential of becoming a favorite like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. The humor, nail-biting action and engaging characters all help draw the reader in.

I missed the original book in the Sandman Slim novels, so I did struggle to keep track of some characters. I had to keep a chart to keep them straight as I started the novel. Soon, I had them figured out and all was good. If you want a change of pace, I highly recommend picking up Kill the Dead and enjoying every second!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Long Road Home - Mary Alice Monroe



Released November 2010

www.MIRABooks.com

Originally published in 1995 by HarperCollins, Mary Alice Monroe's The Long Road Home is back. I have to admit, I was eager to read this romance. It's set in Vermont and I often find that authors who don't live or spend plenty of time here rely on untrue stereotypes that end up painting an inaccurate picture of the residents and towns. Given that, I was ready to see what Mary Alice Monroe had to say.

Relatively speaking, Monroe does a great job. Some aspects such as Vermonter's not being a "chatty group" are not necessarily true of all areas. The hick accent (yeh-up) is another thing that is not very common that tends to be heard mainly in Northeast Kingdom regions and only with the older Vermonters, particularly those who grew up on farms. I know many of today's farmers and they have no discernable accents and are generally grammatically correct in speech and writing.

Like many states and counties, different regions present a different way of life and types of people. The area this book seems to be set in the mountains a short distance from Rutland. Rutland has a reputation for drug and gang crime so people are a little more suspicious of new faces from my understanding. Given that, I think the author does capture their wariness pretty well.

On a dismal, rainy day, Michael MacKenzie walks into banker Charles Walker Blair's office in Blair Bank, announces Charles ruined his life, puts a gun to his head and kills himself. Charles has never figured out why Michael blamed him or what his bank had supposedly done.

Nora MacKenzie remembers her husband's last words to her--"Don't trust anyone." For the past year, the estate has been tied up in an investigation to unravel his complicated business dealings. The estate is supposed to be settled, but at the lawyer's office, Nora learns they need more time but the end result won't change. Nora is bankrupt. Her only hope at paying off creditors is to auction everything she owns. She negotiates possession of a sheep farm in Vermont despite the lawyer's persistence that the farm is unfinished and worthless. Packing up anything the lawyers will allow, including a mysterious notebook she finds hidden, Nora heads off to Vermont.

In Vermont, Nora learns there's a man living on the farm. She doesn't know anything about the mysterious C.W. (Charles Walker) other than she's told by neighbors that he's reliable. C.W. can't understand why Michael MacKenzie's widow has shown up. When she asks him to help her unravel her financial situation, he agrees. The thing is she has no idea that he was there when her husband died and he wants to keep that a secret.

The Long Road Home covers the relationship that develops between Nora and C.W. as the mystery regarding Michael's missing wealth is unraveled. It's a strong romance with a dash of mystery that many readers will enjoy. I know I laughed and shed a tear making this a highly-recommended romance. This is Mary Alice Monroe's debut novel, so fans of her current work will enjoy the glimpse into her earliest writing.