Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Literate Housewife

This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week and I had the chance to swap interviews with the amazing Jennifer over at the literate housewife. She has an amazing little site. Not only does she read a little bit of everything but her reviews are quite thoughtful and more than just a quick blurb. If she isnt already on your radar, she should be.



THE BASICS:
Name: Jennifer
Blog Name: The Literate Housewife Review
Blog URL: http://literatehousewife.com
Country: USA

This is your back bio blurb. In 50 words or less describe yourself.
I am a 30-something wife and mother of two. By day I am a Senior Business Systems Analyst. By lunch break and evening, I am the Literate Housewife. I do my best to keep a tidy home for the insatiably literate.

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THE BIBLIOPHILE:
What inspired you to start a blog? Especially about books?
At the end of 2006, I decided to make a resolution that had nothing to do with my family or my career. Since my youngest daughter was born, I had been very depressed and the only thing that kept me sane were my 2am readings in my rocking chair. That gave me the inspiration to attempt to read 52 books in 2007. This blog began in January of '07 as a way for me to keep track of those books.

Have you always been an avid reader?
Yes, I've always loved to read. I used to spend my weekends and summers reading anything I could get my hands on.

What is it that you love the most about reading?
What I love the most is the way reading engages my mind and spirit at the same time. It also gives me the freedom to travel anywhere at any time. It is relaxing and adventurous to me at the same time.

What are some of your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are Margaret Mitchell, Philippa Gregory, Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, and Stieg Larsson most recently.

If you could only read 5 books for the next decade, which five books would they be and why?
What a nightmare! It's only for a decade though. Phew! I would choose Gone with the Wind, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Old Man and the Sea, U2 by U2 (eye candy), and War and Peace because I've never read it and it would take a good part of that decade to finish it. LOL!

What is your favorite genre to read? Why? What do you love most and least about that genre?
My favorite genre is Historical Fiction. I fell in love with it after reading The Other Boleyn Girl. Ever since them I've been fascinated by Tudor England. Recently I've been branching out to other countries and time periods. I love it because it encourages me to dig deeper into history so I learn a lot while while reading some great fiction.

If you become any character from a book or inhabit a particular literary world, who or where would you be?
This is a really tough question. Most of the characters in Tudor fiction are in way too much danger for me to actually want to become them. I've always loved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Even though they were poor, they had such a loving family and it was such an interesting time in our country's history. I think I would choose that world.

What are your reading habits? Do you read one book at a time or do you read several? Any particular time of day? Any particular genre?
I read every spare moment I get. The most egregious place I read is at long stop lights - hey, I get a good paragraph or two in before the light changes and I never read while driving. I have a book in my purse and an audio in progress at all times. I get the most solid reading in while my daughters are watching Noggin or after they are in bed. I usually have a book in print and a book on audio going. If I'm having trouble getting into one or the other, I might have three. Historical Fiction and Gothic are my favorites, but I'll read just about anything so long as it isn't overly political, fantasy, or science fiction.

Speaking of reading habits, how big is your TBR pile? Do you keep adding to it?
My TBR is huge, but I can't give you an exact number. They are written down on scraps of paper and put into a little folder thingy in my purse. I've always been meaning to organize what I don't have already. Thankfully since I started entering all of my books with LibraryThing, I have a decent grasp of what I own that I want or need to read. I have roughly 190 books waiting to be read. That decade with only 5 books would kill me! LOL!

THE BLOGGER:
Since you have begun your blog what has been your favorite book you’ve read?
My favorite book since the beginning of 2007 is The Other Boleyn Girl. It was just the right book at the right time. That's not to say that I haven't read other incredible books. I just keep going back to that book because it was so defining for me and for my blog.

Do you read other book blogs? If so do you have any favorites?
I read a lot of other book blogs. My Google Reader is my salvation in that respect. It's the only way I really can keep up with as many as I do. In a way I'm a little anxious about BBAW because it's going to make my Google Reader explode.

What do you love most and least about being a book blogger?
What I love most about being a book blogger is the connections I've made with other book lovers all over the world. I live in a small, rural community. Without my book blog, I'm rather limited in bookish conversation.

What I least like about being a book blogger is the struggle to maintain a balance between my life and my blog. It's difficult and I don't always feel successful. My goal for next year is to get better at that.

What advice would you give to other avid readers who want to launch their own book blog?
Just do it! If you love books, engaging in bookish conversation, and have a desire to start a blog, you're half way there. Don't be afraid to ask advise of your favorite book bloggers. Just be patient when you're getting started. It takes some time to build rapport. If you enjoy what you do and are true to yourself, you'll do great.

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So there you have it the Literate Housewife aka Jennifer. She's a great woman who knows what she likes and isn't afraid to speak her mind. I have her bookmarked. Do you?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bone Crossed

Bone Crossed
Written by: Patricia Briggs
Hardcover: 309 pages
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Language: English
February 2009, $24.95
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy

Welcome to Patricia Briggs's world, a place where "witches, vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters live beside ordinary people" (Booklist). It takes a very unusual woman to call it home—and there's no one quite like Mercy Thompson.

By day, Mercy is a car mechanic in the sprawling Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington. By night, she explores her preternatural side. As a shapeshifter with some unique talents, Mercy has often found herself having to maintain a tenuous harmony between the human and the not so human. This time she may get more than she bargained for.

Marsilia, the local Vampire Queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan—and she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack (and her close relationship with its sexy Alpha), it won't be Mercy's blood Marsilia is after.

It'll be her friends'.


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I will begin this review by stating, I can’t really review Bone Crossed without giving away the previous three books. So beware there will be spoilers as much as I will try not to give the entire plot away. You have been warned. And if you haven’t read the first three books, why the hell not?

Bone Crossed begins where Iron Kissed left off. Mercy is still reeling over the events from the last book, events that have left her vulnerable and just a little bit broken. But our Mercy is a survivor. Determined not to become a victim she tries to get on with her life, despite everyone hovering around her expecting her to break at any moment. She finally accepts Adam as her mate, though not everyone is ecstatic with this idea because Mercy is not a werewolf, but a walker. Of course Mercy doesn’t have a whole lot of time to tell the lot to stuff it when Stefan, Mercy’s Scooby Doo loving vampire friend, crashes into her living room half dead. It seems that Marsilia, the vampire queen knows that Mercy killed Andre, a member of her seethe and she is really not happy about it.

With crossed bones on the door of her garage, it is clear that Marsilia wants to send a message. Mercy is a traitor to the vampires and fair game to any sort of nasty. Though Adam’s Pack is sworn to protect her, Mercy isn’t willing to put them in the crosshairs. So she heads to Spokane, when an all too convenient college friend named Amber turns up with a haunted house problem. Of course it is far more complicated than that. Once again Mercy finds herself at the center of trouble and is forced to rely on herself, friends and a fellow prisoner if she wants to make it out alive.

Things I loved: We begin book four of the Mercy Thompson series with Mercy still reeling over the events from Iron Kissed. It’s hard to put things past you when everyone asks you how you are doing, but no one really wants to hear the truth of ‘No, I’m not okay’. Just because she is a walker doesn’t mean that Mercy is immune to those events. It is going to take a very long time to get over and deal with what was done to her. She still has panic attacks, is squeamish, has flashbacks when she least expects or wants them. This is where Briggs could have magically made it all disappear, but she didn’t. And while there are some rough spots where I think Patricia stumbled with Mercy’s rape (like when you are feeling extremely vulnerable and scared and scarred you go to a city that isn’t home, to deal with a ghost problem of someone you not only haven’t seen for years, but whom you don’t really trust especially when it leads her to be tied up, beaten, and thrown into a cage…cause that’s not going to be a trigger at all. But I digress, minor gripe), she dealt with it well. It didn’t go away. It wasn’t forgotten and for that I like Briggs just a little bit more.

*Yeah Vampires. I love how varied the menu is with these books. Sometimes we have werewolves, sometimes vampires and sometimes the fey. While they are all intertwined one species or the other tends to take center stage. I was ready to have werewolves again because I really do adore Stefan. More than that, the appearance of Marsilia and Stefan means continuity. Yeah! Finally we see that actions in previous books, most notably Blood Bound do have consequences.

* One thing I absolutely love about this series is the characters. Mercy is one of my favorite characters. She is strong, but yet knows she has vulnerabilities. There is no boring angst, no whining, no moping. She makes her decisions based on what will keep her or those she cares about safe. But she makes mistakes. Sometimes she doesn’t always see the glaring neon sign that says bad idea, or maybe she does and thinks it will somehow work out. And she is vulnerable. She doesn’t always accept those vulnerabilities or even like to admit that there are some things that she cannot take on by herself. Either way I can relate to her. I like her and we have seen her grow into a fascinating and truly likable character.

* Whoo hoo on the return of the enigmatic little staff/walking stick. And kudos to the Oakman who was just plain cool.

* I enjoyed the foreshadowing and revelations we were treated with in this installment which of course makes me giddy for the next book. The plot itself wasn’t too shabby. While I would adore a clever thriller/mystery instead of another big bad making Mercy his/her play thing, I was pleased with the story overall.

Things I didn't love so much: Recognizing her own vulnerability as well as that of those she cares for she decides to finally accept Adam as her mate. It is not a light decision and I think it something that I hope Briggs will deal with as the series continues. While she is obviously attracted to Adam and in her own way loves the man, she feels pressured and no one should feel pressured to spend the rest of their lives with someone. Mercy has always been her own woman, the lone coyote, the woman who doesn’t enjoy being a damsel in distress. But what happened with Tim shook her to the core. For the first time I feel like Mercy became the damsel in distress. And yet she is loyal to the Pack, loyal to those she cares for and she knows the longer she doesn’t make a decision the more vulnerable the Pack is as a whole. While I was happy with the decision (I do have my soft spot for Samuel. I would take him any day) overall, I cannot help but be a little troubled. I want Mercy to choose Adam because she loves him, because despite all her worries she knows that he is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, that for once two loners can find comfort in each other’s arms. Both characters don’t trust easily, not do they like to lean on anyone for support because in doing so that makes them vulnerable and that is a scary place to be. I guess I just want my happily ever after for them because yes I am a big mushy romantic at heart.

*Speaking of Mercy and Adam, after all of that buildup and exquisitely crafted teaser scenes of sexual innuendo, all we get is Adam “getting down to business”. Where is the passion between the two characters, or the feeling. It seemed more of a ‘let’s get this over with’ instead of something that fans have been looking forward to for four books. And while yes I realize that Mercy is vulnerable, that she wants to push past things and probably moving faster than she should, there should have been more. The scenes between Mercy and Stefan had more passion. And yes I was disappointed. I didn’t expect some Laurell K Hamilton smut fest because Briggs has never strayed that way in my opinion, but I did want there to be something. When Mercy and Adam had their would they or wont they moment after some clever sparring a couple of books ago that held more oompf than what we got. We got all sort of tease and then a cop out. For once they fell flat.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. While admittedly the hard cover is all pretty, me and that lil OCD bibliophile is just a shade annoyed because she likes having either all paperbacks or all hardcovers because they look purty on my shelves. But despite my quirk it is worth the read and the buy if you are a Mercy fan.

Part of: Mercy Thompson series.
Moon Called: Book One
Blood Bound: Book Two
Iron Kissed: Book Three

Also Recommended: The rest of the series if you haven’t read them. The Alpha and Omega series also by Patricia Briggs. The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Written by: Mary Roach
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WW Norton & Co
Language: English
October 2006, $13.99
Genre: Non-Fiction/Humor

The best-selling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers now trains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul. What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

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I first read Mary Roach’s Stiff a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I loved her writing style. It was humorous, it was honest and yet at the same time I learned something. I was thoroughly entertained and so when I saw Spook on sale, I had to pick it up.

I wasn’t as hooked on "Spook" as I was "Stiff". It was still an engaging read, but there was something missing for me. Maybe it was because I wanted Mary to find something in all of her research, that the Ghost Hunters watching, I want to believe inner Smirking was disappointed that Casper isn’t looking over my shoulder or hiding all of my socks. It isn’t that Mary isn’t hopeful because she is. As much as she is firmly rooted in the rational scientific aspect of it all, I think there is part of her that wants to be proven wrong, that there really is something outside of death.

Things I loved: I like that faith isn’t really brought up in this. The book is really about if science as a whole tackles and measures the ghosties, the soul and reincarnation well or if at all. Can science bring any new truths to the table? Mary keeps her impartial attitude for the most part though admittedly the few subjects she did tackle it seemed like she chose a few subjects that you knew were a bit iffy going in.

*I did laugh, don’t get me wrong. The chapter where she enrolls in Medium school is probably one of the best. Or possibly the chapter after that where she tries telecommunicating with the dead. It is those chapters where I get her quirky sense of humor, that I can relate to her and genuinely laughed out loud.

Things I didn't love so much: The historical bits aka the first few chapters were a bit dull and tended to drag on. Not exactly the way to start a book as I picked up a few times and admittedly did the skimming thing a bit just to get through them. It just wasn’t as interesting for me as some of the latter chapters.

*Roach could have taken her book in a very different direction and waxed poetically on every spiritual path and while I would have applauded her widely for such a task and been very interested, her books have been about the scientific approach to things, not philosophy. But as I said there was something missing in this volume of scientific humor. It seems like she spent more time debunking everything than really going in to discover all that the ideas of death and the afterlife could offer. Yet, at the same time, she tells us going in that she is skeptic and that she is just looking for proof. However, for me there was an underlying tone that almost said ‘I don’t want there to be proof’. Maybe that is just my Mulder self talking again.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. While not a bad book, I just wasn’t as entertained as I was with Stiff. I am hoping and thinking Bonk will be better.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: “Stiff” and “Bonk” also by Mary Roach. Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark"

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Killer Tease

Killer Tease
Written by: Danny Hogan
Paperback: 113 pages
Publisher: Pulp Press
Language: English
January 2009, $8.00
Genre: Fiction/Pulp
ARC

“Smiling, winking, pouting, hinting, allowing a quick peek – she was more titillating than a thousand dead-eyed cover girls who would show their all for cash and a taste of the highlife. She danced, punters watched. They didn’t touch. She had to perform –Burlesque was her reason to be.”

Eloise Murphy was a pure thoroughbred of the old school. It had taken her years of work to pay her dues; and she had paid them the old-fashioned way. Her ink was proof. She had fought tooth and nail for what she had. No-one was going to take away what she had earned, no matter what low-life, foul, under-hand schemes they threw at her.

Set in and around Kemp Town and the seafront pubs and clubs of Brighton, Killer Tease is a mean tale of getting up after being kicked to the ground.


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A few years ago McSweeney’s put out an issue edited by Michael Chabon that was a collection of pulp fiction stories by authors like Stephen King, Dave Eggers and Nick Hornby. I loved it. The original pulp novels were printed on cheap wood pulp rather than slickness of more expensive magazines. And while authors like Raymond Chandler and Robert Heinlein wrote for pulps, they are mostly known for their cover art, and the exploitative stories that were within. It’s a great little genre. Usually they are gritty, unapologetic and a hell of a lot of fun just like their settings which are usually violent, crime ridden and just a little bit seedy. So when I got Killer Tease in the post and looked at the cover I was pleased as punch. Looking like a cheap dime novel with the faux distressed cover as if I’d found it in sitting among the penny dreadfuls at the local used boostore, it has our heroine looking tough and gritty with taglines of “Burlesque was her life but, in the seedy underbelly of Brighton, it might be the death of her.

Eloise Murphy is a burlesque dancer and though she may not bare it all she will crush your jaw if you manhandle her once she is off the stage. Likewise to the lap dancing cheap thrills upstarts who try to tell her she is a has been. Eloise is not a nice girl. She’s right out of Grindhouse exploitation film of the 60’s and 70’s, the girl with the razorblade smile who is too tough as nails for her to be sexy or glamorous. She’s had a hard life and has the scars both on the inside and outside to prove it.

After smashing a tumbler into a client who is trying to roofie her, Murphy finds herself out of a job and away from her beloved stage. Things only go from bad to worse when she finds a new gig from a wealthy club owner, especially when she is blackmailed into accepting the job when she realizes that there is something off about the whole thing. This is more than a burlesque job, when she gets on stage she discovers that it was all a ruse and every audience member is someone who saw her temper a time or two. They’re here to inflict pain and a lot of it. That is what they paid for after all.

Bruised and battered, Eloise goes for vengeance. Hell hath no fury is an understatement and what is left is a violent bloody romp that would make Tarantino proud.

Things I loved: You don’t like Eloise and yet you cannot help but root for her at the end. She is a mean, unappealing character and wears that title proudly just as her writer writes her unapologetically. But there is something endearing about her as much as you wouldn’t want to be on the same side of the street with her. She has attitude. She doesn’t take shit for anyone and despite that hardness you can’t help but admire her for not giving up, for not being the damsel in distress. Granted she becomes a berserker in a corset with a hatchet, but…you dig her. I want her to win and I want the bad guys to pay in really horrible ways. Maybe that is the horror fan in me.

Things I didn't love so much: The ending is a bit rushed and could have been stretched out a bit considering that the first half of the book is pure setup to the last bloody and brutal finale. It’s a quick read, but almost too much so. I wanted the holes to be filled in a bit more to make it truly wonderful just as I wanted character motivations to be a bit more clear. There is history between characters but I wasn’t quite sure what it was and I think it would have helped with the story.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you are a fan of the pulp genre. Borrow if it is something you are not sure you will like. For me the pulp novels I usually like are Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe more than a Kill Bill sort of thing. But I wasn’t disappointed. There was nothing that said the book was going to be anything other than what it promised. In the end it just isn’t quite the thing I read frequently.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: The above mentioned McSweeney’s, The Vengeful Virgin by Gil Brewer and Money Shot by Christa Faust.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.