Saturday, December 25, 2010

An Author Name Pronounciation Guide

Posted by Simcha 2:59 PM, under | 3 comments

In a recent blog post, Books on the Nightstand linked to this handy author name pronunciation guide published in McSweeney’s book review section. To my chagrin I discovered that I have been pronouncing Michael Chabon's name incorrectly (it's SHAY-bahn) as well as Ayn Rand's (it's INE). I think this chart is a fantastic idea and that all book publishers should come up with such lists so that readers don't end up butchering some of those hard-to pronounce author names (can you say Paolo Bacigalupi, anyone?)

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of December 26

Posted by Simcha 1:10 PM, under | 8 comments

A Girl's Guide to Vampires
Katie MacAlister
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: December 28 (reissued)

Joy Randall's Top 5 Tips for Vampire Hunters:
Location, location, location. Vampires won't be caught dead (ha!) in places like discos, ten-minute lube shops, or Switzerland. Remember, if you wouldn't be there, neither would a bloodsucker.
Trust your eyes. You know the handsome, annoyingly arrogant, self-assured man in the shadows with long hair and a cleft in his chin? He's your vampire.
No matter how tempting it might be, do not "accidentally" acquire a paper cut on your finger and suggest your vampire kiss it to make it better.
Play it cool. Don't offer to accompany your prince of the night on the talk-show circuit, and whatever you do, don't offer him your heart!
Most of all, remember: being a vampire is nothing to laugh about.

Arcane Circle (Persephone Alcmedi #4)
Linda Robertson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: December 28

After facing down the forces of Fairy in mortal combat, Persephone Alcmedi still must deal with the aftermath. Not only does Seph now possess deadly secrets she must hide from the arcane and mundane world alike, but the dozens of magical creatures who’ve taken up residence behind her cornfield need food and shelter, and there’s still her foster daughter Beverly’s tenth birthday party to plan.

And that’s not all. . . . Seph’s boyfriend Johnny has revealed himself as the wærewolf Domn Lup, and the ruler of the wære world is en route from Romania to make sure Johnny really is the “king” he claims to be. But Johnny’s hiding a dangerous secret: his magic is locked in his mysterious tattoos. He and Seph must find a way for him to reclaim it—fast—despite those who have no intention of letting Johnny gain his full powers. Seph knows that, in the arcane world, strength is always a necessity and power must be constantly proven, but how far is she willing to go to succeed . . . and at what cost?

Caris Roane
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: December 28

Kerrick is a vampire warrior on a mission—to protect powerful mortal Alison Wells as she goes through the rite of ascension, or transformation into a vampire. But along the way, Kerrick gets caught in a feirce, forbidden attraction to the woman he been assigned to watch over. After his beloved wife was murdered by evil blood vampires, Kerrick took vows never to get involved with a woman again, for he knows that he’ll risk her life if he gets too close. But when a powerful army of blood vampires learns about Alison's extraordinary powers, they're determined to take her down. Now Kerrick has no choice but shadow her where ever she goes--even if it means losing his heart for eternity

Bloody Valentine
Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Release Date: December 28

Vampires have powers beyond human comprehension: strength that defies logic, speed that cannot be captured on film, the ability to shapeshift and more. But in matters of the heart, no one, not even the strikingly beautiful and outrageously wealthy Blue Bloods, has total control. In Bloody Valentine, bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz offers readers a new story about the love lives of their favorite vamps - the passion and heartache, the hope and devastation, the lust and longing. Combined with all the glitz, glamour, and mystery fans have come to expect, this is sure to be another huge hit in the Blue Bloods series.

Also, witness the bonding of Jack and Schuyler.

Crimson Wind
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: December 28


Max knows what trusting the wrong person can cost you. Her former friend Giselle, a powerful witch, enslaved Max years ago, turning her into a Shadowblade—a deadly warrior compelled to fight for Giselle. But there’s more at stake now than Max’s thirst for revenge. The Guardians, overseers of the magical world, have declared war on humanity and on any witches not standing with them. Max and Giselle have come to an uneasy truce in order to protect what’s left of Horngate, their coven’s home. Max would do anything for Horngate—even give herself over to a mysterious otherworldly creature in the nearby mountains in exchange for his help. But first, she intends to save the mortal family she left behind. And Alexander, the Shadowblade warrior who could be her closest ally or her deadliest enemy, is going with her.

On a road trip into the unknown, Max and Alexander face wild magic, desperate enemies, and battles that bruise both body and soul. But the greatest challenge will come from unexpected revelations that test everything Max believes about who she is—and where her loyalties lie. . . .

Dark Waters (Lady of the Lakes #2)
Alex Prentiss
Genre: Paranormal Romance/ Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: December 28



By day, Rachel Matre runs a hip diner in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. By night, she slips naked into the waters of a lake whose spirits speak to her, caress her, and take her to a place of indescribable pleasure.
But now the machinations of a greedy developer have summoned another force from the depths—a strange, beautiful man with a dark agenda. Soon there is a murder by the lake. During the hunt for the killer, Rachel is pulled into a torturous limbo where all she can feel is her raging erotic lust—and never a release. A crime, an ancient curse, and a confluence of thoroughly modern relationships have plunged Rachel into the ultimate mystery: one whose solution will emerge only out of pain, desire, and a passion for the most forbidden truth of all

Earl of Darkness
Alix Rickloff
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: December 28

The magic she tries to hide . . .

Born a lady, but reduced to surviving in the slums of Dublin, Catriona O’Connell has been hired to steal a mysterious book from Aidan Douglas, Earl of Kilronan. But Cat is secretly Other, an age-old mixture of Fey and human—something Aidan recognizes immediately when he surprises the lovely young burglar in his library, about to steal a magical diary.

. . . is the magic he desperately wants.

From the moment Aidan sees her, Cat’s spirited beauty enchants him, but her uncanny abilities are what he truly needs, for Cat can understand the mystical language in the diary he inherited from his murdered father. So Aidan makes an offer: translate the book or be thrown in prison as a thief. And as Cat slowly deciphers each page, she and Aidan are drawn together by passion . . . and into the violence of the Other world that is the Kilronan legacy. Can they defeat those who seek the book, or are their lives in even greater danger than their hearts?

Eternal Prey (Gods of the Night, Bk 3)
Nina Bangs
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: December 28

A magnificent creature, Utah wants vengeance against the bloodsuckers who murdered his brother. Once the beast within him is unleashed, he won’t rest until every vampire is destroyed. But he never expected to encounter a leader of his immortal enemies who was so beautiful, bewitching . . . and mortal.

It is Lia’s destiny and her duty to stop the renegade vampires who are intent on annihilating the human and non-human races alike. But she never dreamed that Utah, once a deadly foe, would now become her ally and protector, or that loving him would be more dangerous than anything she’s ever faced before. For when Utah frees his predator soul, there will be no end to the carnage.

Fallen Angel
Heather Terrell
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: December 28


Ellie was never particularly good at talking to boys—or anyone other than her best friend and fellow outcast, Ruth. Then she met Michael.

Michael is handsome, charming, sweet. And totally into Ellie. It’s no wonder she is instantly drawn to him. But Michael has a secret. And he knows Ellie is hiding something, too. They’ve both discovered they have powers beyond their imagining. Powers that are otherworldly.

Ellie and Michael are determined to uncover what they are, and how they got this way . . . together. But the truth has repercussions neither could have imagined. Soon they find themselves center stage in an ancient conflict that threatens to destroy everything they love. And it is no longer clear whether Ellie and Michael will choose the same side.

In this electrifying novel, Heather Terrell spins a gripping supernatural tale about true love, destiny, and the battle of good versus evil.

Nancy Holzner
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: December 28

A demon is stalking Vicky's dreams-just as several of Deadtown's zombies are viciously attacked and become really dead. And when Vicky realizes she is the only connection between the victims, she suspects that the demon is somehow working through her dreams to become Deadtown's living nightmare.

In Too Deep: Book One of the Looking Glass Trilogy (An Arcane Society Novel)
Jayne Ann Krentz
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Release Date: December 28

Scargill Cove is the perfect place for Fallon Jones, confirmed recluse and investigator of the paranormal. It's a hot spot, a convergence point for unusually strong currents of energy, which might explain why the town attracts misfits and drifters like moths to a flame. Now someone else has been drawn to the Cove-Isabella Valdez, on the run from some very dangerous men.

When she starts work as Fallon's assistant, Isabella impresses him by organizing his pathologically chaotic office-and doesn't bat an eye at the psychic aspect of his job. She's a kindred spirit, a sanctuary from a world that considers his talents a form of madness. But after a routine case unearths an antique clock infused with dark energy, Fallon and Isabella are dragged into the secret history of Scargill Cove and forced to fight for their lives, as they unravel a cutthroat conspiracy with roots in the Jones family business . . . and Isabella's family tree.

Killing Rocks (The Bloodhound Files #3)
D.D. Barant
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: December 28

FBI profiler Jace Valchek's ticket home from the twisted parallel universe where she's been called to duty hinges on the capture of series killer Aristotle Stoker - and an alliance with a sorcerer known as Asher. The problem: Asher has joined forces with some of the most dangerous creatures Jace has ever encountered. The solution: There is none, without Asher's help. Jace's goal seems simple enough - to get her man, like always. But just hours after she arrives in Vegas, she's abducted...and she isn't even sure who the real enemy is. Now Jace has to wonder if she's the predator or the prey in a very dangerous game that could change not only her fate, but the world's...Meanwhile, a serial killer is still on the loose. And time has already run out...

My Fair Succubi (Succubus Diaries, #3)
Jill Myles
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Pocket Star
Release Date: December 28


Living as a succubus has a bit of a learning curve, but with sexy fallen angel Noah to scratch her sensual Itch, Jackie Brighton is finally starting to feel ahead of the game. She almost doesn’t miss her gorgeous vampire master Zane—or his sinful, teasing mouth. She’s trying to convince herself of that, anyway.

But Jackie’s past mistakes catch up with her, spinning her life out of control once more. Just as her friend Remy’s inner demon comes out to play, Noah and Jackie are arrested by the angelic Serim Council. When Jackie seizes the chance to escape, she falls right into Zane’s waiting arms. As she’s pulled into a game of cat and mouse between vampires and angels, she finds she must also choose between the two men in her life. Can she decide between Noah and Zane, or will she lose everything she’s ever wanted? Because there’s more at stake than just her heart. . . .

Once in a Full Moon
Ellen Schreiber
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: December 28

Beware of a kiss under the full moon. It will change your life forever.

Celeste Parker is used to hearing scary stories about werewolves—Legend's Run is famous for them. She's used to everything in the small town until Brandon Maddox moves to Legend's Run and Celeste finds herself immediately drawn to the handsome new student. But when, after an unnerving visit with a psychic, she encounters a pack of wolves and gorgeous, enigmatic Brandon, she must discover whether his transformation is more than legend or just a trick of the shadows in the moonlight.

Her best friends may never forgive her if she gives up her perfect boyfriend, Nash, for Brandon, who's from the wrong side of town. But she can't deny her attraction or the strong pull he has on her. Brandon may be Celeste's hero, or he may be the most dangerous creature she could encounter in the woods of Legend's Run.

Psychic predictions, generations-old secrets, a town divided, and the possibility of falling in love with a hot and heroic werewolf are the perfect formula for what happens . . . once in a full moon.

Ruthless Game (GhostWalkers, #9)
Christine Feehan
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Jove
Release Date: December 28

GhostWalker Kane Cannon's mission plunges him into a hot zone more personal than he anticipated: the hiding place of Rose Patterson-hunted fugitive, ex-lover, and a fellow GhostWalker desperate to save the life of her unborn child. Kane's Child.

Soul Hunt (Evie Scelan, #3)
Margaret Ronald
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Eos
Release Date: December 28

The hunter has become the hunted . . .

Without even realizing what she was doing, Genevieve Scelan has made a bad bargain. The Red Sox fanatic and supernatural tracker known as "Hound" for her extraordinary power of scent wishes she could leave magic behind now that she’s eradicated the evil cabal that oppressed Boston’s undercurrent for centuries. But now her talent’s fading, the local adepts’ squabbles are turning ugly, and worse, she’s just discovered that she owes a very large debt to someone . . . or some thing. And in the undercurrent, debts are taken very seriously.

Evie has until midwinter to pay up . . . or else. So when she gets a job that might save her—even if she’s breaking all her own rules to take it—she can’t pass it up. Now, with danger at her back and uncertain allies beside her, she’ll trace the very bones of Boston itself to protect both the city and the people she loves.

The Lost Saint (Dark Divine, #2)
Bree Despain
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release Date: December 28

The non-stop sequel to The Dark Divine delivers an even hotter romance and more thrilling action than Bree Despain's first novel. Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She gave her soul to the wolf to save him and lost her beloved mother. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven. Desparate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot - a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel begins to crumble. Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace becomes prideful in her new abilities - not realizing that an old enemy has returned and deadly trap is about to be sprung. Readers, raveous for more Grace and Daniel, will be itching to sink their teeth into The Lost Saint.

Vampire Crush
A.M. Robinson
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: December 28

I swear, my life was always totally normal.

Normal house, normal family, normal school. My looks are average, I don't have any superpowers, no one's showing up to tell me I'm a princess—you get the picture. But when my junior year started, something not normal happened. There were new kids at school . . . new kids with a wardrobe straight out of a 19th-century romance


I swear, my life was always totally normal.

Normal house, normal family, normal school. My looks are average, I don't have any superpowers, no one's showing up to tell me I'm a princess—you get the picture. But when my junior year started, something not normal happened. There were new kids at school . . . new kids with a wardrobe straight out of a 19th-century romance novel, and an inexplicable desire to stay at school until sundown.

And on top of that, James Hallowell showed up. James, who stole my sandwiches in fourth grade and teased me mercilessly through middle school. James, who now seems to have the power to make my heart race any time he comes near.

But something weird is going on. Because James rarely goes out during the day. And he seems stronger than your typical guy. And he knows the new kids, all of whom seem to be harboring some kind of deep secret. . . .

Walking the Tree
Kaaron Warren
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: December 28

Little knowing how they came to be here, small communities live around the coast line. The Tree provides them shelter, kindling, medicine – and a place of legends, for there are ghosts within the trees who snatch children and the dying.

Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?

Another astonishingly imaginative novel from the acclaimed author of Slights.

Zoo City
Lauren Beukes
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: December 28 (USA)

Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty online 419 scam habit – and a talent for finding lost things. But when her latest client, a little old lady, turns up dead and the cops confiscate her lastpaycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job: missing persons

Tempest’s Legacy (Jane True, Bk 3)
Nicole Peeler
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: December 29

After a peaceful hiatus at home in Rockabill, Jane True thinks that her worst problem is that she still throws like a girl - at least while throwing fireballs. Her peace of mind ends, however, when Anyan arrives one night with terrible news . . . news that will rock Jane's world to its very core.After demanding to help investigate a series of gruesome attacks on females -- supernatural, halfling, and human -- Jane quickly finds herself forced to confront her darkest nightmares as well as her deepest desires.And she's not sure which she finds more frightening.

Ghost Country
Patrick Lee
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: December 28

For decades, inexplicable technology has passed into our world through the top secret anomaly called the Breach.

The latest device can punch a hole into the future . . .

What Paige Campbell saw when she opened a door into seventy years from now scared the hell out of her. She and her Tangent colleagues brought their terrible discovery to the President—and were met with a hail of automatic gunfire after leaving the White House. Only Paige survived.

Fearing a terrifying personal destiny revealed to him from the other side of the Breach, Travis Chase abandoned Tangent . . . and Paige Campbell. Now he must rescue her—because Paige knows tomorrow’s world is desolate and dead, a ghost country scattered with the bones of billions. And Doomsday will dawn in just four short months . . . unless they can find the answers buried in the ruins to come.

But once they cross the nightmare border into Ghost Country, they might never find their way back . . .

Star Wars: Red Harvest
Joe Schreiber
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: December 28

The era of the Old Republic is a dark and dangerous time, as Jedi Knights valiantly battle the Sith Lords and their ruthless armies. But the Sith have disturbing plans—and none more so than the fulfillment of Darth Scabrous’s fanatical dream, which is about to become nightmarish reality.

Unlike those other Jedi sidelined to the Agricultural Corps—young Jedi whose abilities have not proved up to snuff—Hestizo Trace possesses one extraordinary Force talent: a gift with plants. Suddenly her quiet existence among greenhouse and garden specimens is violently destroyed by the arrival of an emissary from Darth Scabrous. For the rare black orchid that she has nurtured and bonded with is the final ingredient in an ancient Sith formula that promises to grant Darth Scabrous his greatest desire.

But at the heart of the formula is a never-before-seen virus that’s worse than fatal—it doesn’t just kill, it transforms. Now the rotting, ravenous dead are rising, driven by a bloodthirsty hunger for all things living—and commanded by a Sith Master with an insatiable lust for power and the ultimate prize: immortality . . . no matter the cost.

Venus Guy Trap
Shannon Mckelden
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: December 28

Haydee Miller is on the brink of panic. When she was sixteen, she swore that she’d be married by her thirty-third birthday. It’s part of Haydee’s grand Plan, which saved her sanity when her mother died and her father was too overcome by grief to remember he had a teenage daughter. The Plan has guided Haydee for half her life and never failed her. Until now.
With her birthday looming and no Prince Charming in sight, Haydee is surprised to discover that her bookstore’s newest employee is the gorgeous Goddess of Love, Venus herself.
Venus is certain that Haydee’s One True Love is the darkly handsome Derek, a world-renowned photographer who has returned to his hometown to settle down. The only problem? Derek and Haydee fell in love ten years ago—before he abandoned her without a word of farewell, leaving her with a broken heart and a secret she has never revealed.
Somehow Venus must heal this damaged woman and reunite her with her True Love. It won’t be easy. Every man in town, married or not, is pursuing Venus, even when she makes herself over into the ugliest woman on earth. Are her goddess powers malfunctioning? Can she make a Love Match without them?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me Edited by Kate Kate Bernheimer

Posted by Simcha 7:21 PM, under | 4 comments

Talk about an attention grabbing title! I’m enjoying telling people about this book just so that I can have the opportunity pronounce the titillating title, and watch the reactions of my friends. But no, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me is not about cannibalism. Or at least, not all of it. But since the theme of this short-story collection is fairy tales, you can expect to encounter some pretty gruesome stories in the style of the original Grimm tales, along with stories of adventure, magic and romance.

This anthology is edited by Kate Bernheimer whose life-long passion for fairy tales has led her to publish several fairy tale themed books as well as to establish an on-line publication devoted exclusively to the publication of fairy tales. The idea for My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me began with Bernheimer’s desire to prove that fairy tales are an essential part of contemporary literature. To that end she gathered together forty different writers from various cultures and backgrounds and asked them each to write a story using a fairy tale as the starting point. The result is a diverse collection of stories written in all manner of styles and tones, followed by an explanation by the story’s author as to why they decided to focus on the particular fairy tale that they chose.

While some of the fairy tales used were familiar to me quite a few of them were ones I’d never heard of before, and I enjoyed becoming acquainted with these new stories. Often, after reading one of the stories, I would head to the Internet to read more about the original fairy tale that the story was based on. Though, I must admit, the stories that I enjoyed the most were ones based on fairy tales that I was already well-acquainted with because I was more able to appreciate the ways in which the author played around with the original story and its themes.

Most of the writers here seem to glorify in the grim macabre of the original fairy tales, rather than their softer and more romantic retellings, and the stories in this collection reflect that. Death, Murder, rape, incest and cannibalism are common themes in this story collection and fans of the original Brother Grimm and Hans Christina Anderson stories will likely appreciate this. As for me, I’ve always preferred the more romanticized versions of these stories and my favorites in this collection were the ones with the least blood and gore. I also preferred the stories which were narrated in a more traditional manner s
ince I could enjoy reading them for entertainment or I could choose to examine them more carefully on a deeper level, if I was in the mood.

One of my favorite fairy tales is that of the brothers turned into swans and of their sister who must make them shirts out of nettles to turn them back into humans. A few of the authors chose this fairy tale to base their own stories on and I particularly enjoyed Halfway People by Karen Joy Fowler, which tells the story of a lonely woman who falls in-love with the last brother, the one tragically left with a swan’s wing.

In The Color Master by Aimee Bender, a group of designers famed for their ability of making clothing in the colors of natural elements, must create for the king’s daughter a dress in the color of the moon, which is followed by an order for a dress in the exact shade of the sky. The narrator of the story is struggling with the challenges of each assignment and their own insecurity about their ability to select the right colors for each dress, or to add the emotions needed to get the princess away from her incestuous father.

The romantic in me loved Francesca Lia Block’s Psyche’s Dark Night which follows the story of Psych and Cupid who meet at an online match-making website but whose tenuous relationship is disrupted by the personal issues that each of them is hounded by.

Neil Gaiman’s contribution, Orange, is narrated in a very unique style which tells the story of a young and spoiled girl who inadvertently uses some of the Day-Glo her mother had invented, mistaking it for self-tanning lotion, with dramatic results. Her sister tells of the events that followed, through the answers of a questionnaire.

These four stories were my favorite in the collection though there were others that I enjoyed as well. Admittedly, there were probably more stories of the shock and awe variety that didn’t appeal to me at all, and several that I couldn’t bring myself to finish. But even in these instances I was still interested in reading the author’s blurb at the end of each story which described what the chosen fairy tale meant to them and why they selected it. In some instances I actually enjoyed reading these even more than the stories themselves.

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me is a book that will appeal in particular to lovers of the original fairy tales, full of gleeful horror and gore, as well as to those who enjoy examining the tales for the themes and messages under the surface. But there is enough variety here that no matter what your fairy tale preferences are, you are sure to find something in the collection that you will enjoy.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things I Love as Much As Books

Posted by Simcha 6:22 AM, under | 5 comments

Things I Love as Much As Books


I didn't know it until now but this is the one thing that I need to make my life complete.
(Minus the little girl. I already have one of those)

According to the Neiman Marcus catalog, the life-size gingerbread house includes giant cookies, lollipops, gummies, mints, gumdrops, and a candy-encrusted roof along with a lollipop tree inside. (Did you see that? A lollipop tree!! )

And anyone can own this delectable house for the low price of $15,000


....well, it's probably not kosher anyways.

Magic at Target from Rants from Mommyland

Posted by Simcha 6:11 AM, under | 1 comment

One of my new favorite blogs, Rants from Mommyland, has a really wonderful post up today about magical moments at Target, and which I highly recommend that you take a minute to read.

    I have a thing for Target. Besides the fact that they have bulk sizes of Sharpies and kid gloves and scarves for ONE DOLLAR - which is awesome because then I don't lose my ever lovin' mind when one of the IHPs lose one forty-five minutes after they put them on - it's also becoming increasingly clear that magical things happen in Target.

    Last week I was in Lansing, Michigan. [Editor's Note: Dear Michigan, Thank you for welcoming me to your state by stringing together the coldest. days. in. the. history. of. ever. I think I actually forgot how to breathe when I walked outside. My lungs are still thawing. - Kate] Well, I was in Lansing for about a half hour, but you had a Target and I was in a hurry and, apparently, incapable of traveling without forgetting something important which necessitates an unscheduled stop.

    I was in the office supply aisle -- which, coincidentally, led to the bulk Sharpie discovery -- and overheard this: "OK. Stop dancing around. What's on the next card?"

    And I was like, "Whoa. Is there a dance contest happening in Target? Because I'm so ready to tap-off."
Read the rest here

Monday, December 20, 2010

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Posted by Simcha 5:33 PM, under ,, | 6 comments

A friend had been insisting for months that I must read The House of the Scorpion, which I had never even heard of before nor had I read anything by its author, Nancy Farmer. And so when I spied it at my favorite second-hand bookshop last week I decided to give the book a try and see if it is as good as my friend insisted. But even had it not already been so highly recommended to me, the blurb on the book's back cover would probably have enticed me enough on its own.

Matt Alacran was not born: He was harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium- a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster- except for El Patron. El Patron loved Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patron’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape fro the Alazran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect.

Until the age of 6 Matt’s world is limited to the confines of the small cottage he shares with Celia, the only mother he has ever known. When Celia leaves for work each day at the Big House she remind Matt to stay hidden and to not go near the windows, where he might be seen. But everything changes the day that some children wander near the cottage, the first that Matt has ever seen, and in his eagerness to meet them Matt gets noticed. Suddenly Matt’s world is turned upside-down when he is taken away from Celia and introduced to the frightening and harsh world which Celia has taken-care to protect him from.

Everything that Matt has assumed about himself is soon challenged when he discovers that he is not actually a little boy but a clone of the powerful drug lord, El Patron. While clones are commonly created for the harvesting of their organs, by law they are required to be mentally incapacitated upon birth. But El Patron is above the law and so Matt had been created in his image, to the disgust of his family. Even those who had at first befriended Matt are quick to despise him when they learn the truth about his origins, all except soft-hearted Maria. But even Maria isn’t quite convinced that Matt isn’t in the same category as her beloved poodle, and so the only one in whose love Matt really trusts is El Patron.

But as El Patron’s health begins to deteriorate Matt is forced to consider that the patriarch’s favor towards him might have its limits and that his place within the Alacran household is not as firm as he had assumed. In a country where trespassers are turned into mindless drones and hospitals are full of crazed and shackled clones, Matt’s chance for survival is becoming increasingly slim.

The House of the Scorpion is a compelling and at times frightening coming-of-age story about a boy in search of love and acceptance from a society that despises him. Farmer has built a futuristic world in which some of today’s issues, such as drug trafficking, cloning and illegal immigration are resolved in an extreme and horrifying manner, and are viewed through Matt’s guiles eyes, as he slowly gains an understanding of Opium and the man whom he so full-heartedly idolizes.

This is a powerful book that I think most readers of dystopic fiction will enjoy, as well as those who are new to the genre. I do think that young adult readers will find it slightly more satisfying than adults just because of the way some of the character development fell a bit short of what I had hoped for, but which I don’t think would be noticed by younger readers.

The end was also less-than satisfying, lacking the drive and intensity of the earlier parts of the book and tying the story up a little too neatly. While it was nice to finally read a dystopic book with a hopeful ending it was just a little too pat the way certain characters appeared just when they were needed and the way events fell into place to make the perfect happy ending. And while I’m all for happy endings, something about the way this one came together just didn’t sit right with me. But, once again, I don’t think this is an issue that would bother most young adult readers and I personally didn’t let it color my enjoyment of the rest of the book.

I think The House of the Scorpion is a wonderful book that can make for some interesting discussions and which I would highly recommend to both adult and YA readers.

Sample Chapter of Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

While I've been pretty disappointed with Charlaine Harris's last two Sookie Stackhouse books I guess I still haven't given up on the series since I immediately rushed over to her site when I read that she had put up the first chapter of Dead Reckoning.

To read it for yourself follow this link

It starts off rather slow but gets a bit more interesting towards the end. I have my fingers crossed that this book will be an improvement over the last two, otherwise I'll probably be parting ways with Sookie Stackhouse.


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