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February 04, 2008

Winter Reading

The groundhog has delivered his message---six more weeks of winter---and the Super Bowl--the last original entertainment until the writers' strike is settled (unless you're watching the Jane Austen extravaganza) is done until spring arrives.  So what are you desperate souls doing with your leisure time?

Rejoice!  The Book Tarts and Friends of the Tarts have plunged into the unexplored territory ahead and done the research for you!  We've been reading good books, bad books and great books, and we're here to tell you what to start piling on your night table. New releases, at least one Advance Reader Copy and even a classic or two. Boy books, girl books. No matter what your taste, you'll find something yummy here!        Go to fullsize image

From Harley:  DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris. Long before I read Charlaine, I knew Charlaine and loved Charlaine, but Sookie Stackhouse is in a league of her own and I can't believe it took me so long to get to her. I hadn't read a vampire book since my old Anne Rice days (and I smoked pot during those, so don't ask me about the plots) and who knew I'd fall so hard for Sookie? This is one of those books I started slowing down halfway through, and even rereading parts because I didn't want it to end. Yeah, I know there are several more in the series, but still.

THE WATCHMAN by Robert Crais. Long before I knew Bob Crais, I was in love with Elvis Cole and his sidekick, Joe Pike--although "sidekick" suggests a kind of wacky, Ethel Mertz quality conspicuously lacking in Joe. Joe doesn't laugh. Joe doesn't smile. Joe doesn't take off his shades. But Joe is the penultimate Guy You Want On Your Side and the only thing certain in this story is that no one messing with Joe or anyone Joe likes is going to survive the book. This time it's Elvis who's the sidekick, which he's a very good sport about. It's hard not to envision Paris Hilton in the celebrity-in-distress role, but you have to keep adding 50 points to her IQ.

These books took me 8 (that's eight) months to read, and they are the reason I did not finish Doris Lessing's THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK, for which I will one day be banned from Book Club.

From Elaine Viets: A DOG ABOUT TOWN by J.F. Englert (Dell, paperback $6.99.) This is a hilarious novel featuring Randolph, an overweight but highly sophisticated Labrador, who is much smarter than his master. Don't let your prejudice about talking animals in mysteries get in your way. This is a funny book, set in Manhattan.

From FOT, Ramona Long:  THE LANGUAGE OF GOODBYE by Maribeth Fischer is a provocative and beautifully written novel about the sometimes hurtful choices people must make to find happiness.

MY LATEST GRIEVANCE by Elinor Lipman is the brilliant author's latest brilliant story, set in 1978 about a young woman, born and raised in the dormitory of a small women's college, who enters the same college as a student, in a new dorm that is house-mommied by her father's beguiling ex-wife.

From FOT, Arkansas Cyndi:  I have been on a reading jag for the last couple of weeks.  THE REMAINS OF THE DEAD by Wendy Roberts.--Sadie Novak owns a crime scene cleaning service (cleans up after murders, suicides, etc) . . . and, oh yeah, she can talk to ghosts. The latest ghost swears the police have her murderer wrong. Great debut book.

PLAYING FOR PIZZA by John Grisham.--First Grisham I've read in a while.  Third string quarterback who lost the major game hires on to a professional team in Parma, Italy. I really enjoyed it, once I could make myself ignore sentence structure and being in everyone's thoughts.

I also read Suzanne Brockman's ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT, which is the story of the marriage of two men. It was okay, but I thought she played it safe and, while it was supposed to be a romance, I didn't feel the love!

From Nancy Martin:  Did you read BEL CANTO? I'm still trying, but I haven't finished it yet. But RUN, also by Ann Patchett, is an intimate look at a good Irish Catholic family that adopts two African-American boys who grow up to excel at many endeavors. My poor summary of the concept doesn't express the charm, wit and sweetness of this lyrical novel.

AFTERIMAGE by my good friend Kathleen George, is a police procedural set here in Pittsburgh.  Gritty, yet with great depth of character, this story hooked me early with good prose and kept me reading late at night.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for Spenser.  Robert Parker's new NOW & THEN puts our hero on the trail of more bad guys and using his backlist of sidekicks to help him out.  Yes, I'm sick of Susan.  There's nothing new there.  And I thought the belated re-visiting of their split (which might have happened 15 years ago now, Bob) wasn't well executed. But when you need a fun, tough guy read on a cold night, this one fits the bill. Low body count this time around--maybe a good thing.

Next up for me?  A Jane Smiley novel that somehow slipped through the cracks in my bookcase.  To me, Jane Smiley is the ultimate novelist.  HORSE HEAVEN is superb.  I'm opening GOOD FAITH with great expectations.

From Margie:  Get some ice water for this one, because it is smokin'! J.R. Ward's latest novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood is V's story, LOVER UNBOUND, and it's freaking fantastic. If you're a straight up vanilla fan, take a pass on this one.  It's not hard core, but it's at least a half step over that line. Although you could read this one as a stand-alone, I guarantee that if you do read it, you'll be looking for the others when you're done. For fans of the series -- you'll never believe who his parents are--and wait until you find out who's finally getting some. Oh, yeah. Even if you're not a fan of the vampire stories, you may like these books--they've got all kinds of thrills--the good kind and the bad kind. Plus, a great love story. What more are you looking for? Just saying.

From Rebecca the Bookseller:  I am currently reading the fabulous MURDER MELTS IN YOUR MOUTH--yes, that one, by our own Nancy Martin.  I got my hands on an ARC, and I LOVE it.  Can't really give anything away, but I can tell you that all our favorites are back (including my Mick--sure, I share him with everyone else, but when I'm reading it, he's mine) and they are joined by some fabulous new characters. AND--guess who's back? The Blackbird parents! Yikes. You'll see how some of these apples don't fall far from the tree. Add a healthy does of chocolate, and you are in for another treat!

From William Simon, FOT:  I've been on a Classics kick as of late.  CAT OF MANY TAILS by Ellery Queen:  A hallmark of detective fiction, the first time know that the Amateur Sleuth realizes what he does has a direct effect on other people's lives. Ellery suffers a nervous breakdown as a result.

DARKER THAN AMBER by John D. MacDonald: Beaches and girls, bad guys and good guys, plus MacDonald's trademark way with words.  Any McGee will do on a dark and blustery day, but this is the hallmark of the series.

Still need more suggestions?  Our backbloggers will have some terrific suggestions. 

What are you reading?? Dish!

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The Jane Austen movies on PBS have inspired me to re-read the novels, which are a joy. I am also finishing up the Julia Quinn series about the Bridgerton family, and in the car I'm listening to Alexander McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club. So I seem to be entrenched in the UK at the moment.

I will soon have an ARC of Lisa Scottoline's new book, Lady Killer, which comes out in a couple of weeks - looking forward to that, and seeing Lisa on tour.

I have a bazillion more books piled up next to my bed and in various other places in the house, which I need/want to read. Now, thanks to you lot, I have a few more on the list. Sigh.

I love finding new books to read!

Can't wait for Nancy's book release - today, right? And Michele's Notorious later this month.

I just listened to Lisa's Scottoline's COURTING TROUBLE. I enjoyed it and will look for more of her books.

William: Such a coincidence! I just found my old copy of THE GIRL, The GOLDWATCH, AND EVERYTHING and reread it. The premise stuck with me all these years. I enjoyed reading it again, but I was sad to acknowledge how dated it was.

I grew up in love with Travis McGee. I'll have to reread AMBER to see why it appeals to you...

Hi guys :o) I just finished At The City's Edge by Marcus Sakey...one of the best new thriller writers of the century. I also finished Sara Paretsky's latest, Bleeding Kansas which, despite the fact some bookstores place it in mystery, is a tale of family, small towns, beliefs, and a read heifer. I'm currently reading 1 Dead In Attic, a collection of pieces written after Katrina by New Orleans columnist Chris Rose. Moving, despairing, hopeful, hiliarious and it's in trade.
I just got back from Love Is Murder, so my suitcase is full of new (for me at least) reads, including three from Carolyn Haines (we had a snowball fight in the hotel courtyard...she has a mean arm)and the anticipation of the newest from Lee Child, Kent Krueger and Barry Eisler.
Hi-jack here...in case you didn't know, Barry is coming to RT. If you've never met him, prepare to be bowled over...if you have, you already know what I mean :o) Smart, extremely good-looking and as nice as can be.
OK. Nuff said. And last but not least, I has to recommend Julie Hyzy's new series about White House Chef Olivia Parras. State of the Onion is a fun well-written read...and there are recipes as a bonus.
Now I have to go get my tea and settle into my first official day of "not-being-at-the-bank" :o) Great suggestions on the book front to consider thanks to you all, and I have to do taxes! Yuck!

On Saturday, I picked up Stephen King's latest at the library -- about 150 pages in, and I'm very surprised to be enjoying it so much.

Also enjoyed The World Without Us, My Lobotomy and Look Me in the Eye... er, I've been on a non-fiction kick lately.

Oh, my God, this is worse than recipes for me. My mouth is watering, and I want to forget about getting the kids ready for school or the manuscript ready for the agent, and just go back to bed and read.

So -- who won the Superbowl anyway?

Come on people we still have lots of partying to do. Forget Super Tuesday, tomorrow is MARDI GRAS. I'm disappointed in you Margie.
My daughter and I are reading Eggs by Jerry Spineli. I'm reading Girl Sleuth, Nancy Drew by Melanie Rehak. You writers should all read this one. And I just picked up Rhys Bowen's Her Royal Spyness.

And I'm reading TOUCHSTONE by Laurie R. King, which is pretty brilliant.

I'd like somebody to 'splain the vampire thing to me. Yes, I've read a few, and I get it. The dangerous man---without a complicated backstory. (Anyone else feeling a similarity to those cell phone books in Japan everyone was talking about last week?) Some are better than others. (I will read anything Charlaine Harris chooses to write--including greeting cards.) But this trend seems to be sticking around a lot longer than I, for one, expected. What's the--uh---attraction?

PS. Thank you, Rebecca, for such a gracious review of MURDER MELTS. (It's going to be released March 6, Janetlynn.) I'd buy you lunch, but I think that's unethical. Maybe buying you dessert only is okay?

Can't comment on the vampires, but I've been plowing through Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I'm on book 4 and still loving it, though the first time I heard the premise (time travel romance) I thought I could never read it. Usually, I need reality. What can I say? She makes it feel completely real, and her hero is so hot.

I did just read Case Histories by Kate Atkinson and have the opposite reaction. I couldn't suspend disbelief enough to appreciate the very fine writing (and it *was* fine -- gorgeous prose and winning characters). It had one of those plots, though, with too many remarkable coincidences. The police miss every lead, and decades later the private eye solves each case simply by charming the right people into confessions. Too farfetched for me, whereas the time travel wasn't.

I'm in the middle of COVER UP by Ms. Michele and I'm loving it. I confess..it's my first Michele and (wow) she's good! :)

The problem I have with Nancy's Blackbird books is that I grab it and read it without stopping...ignoring my writing, my husband, my pets, the laundry, food.... I cannot wait! I'm drooling just thinking about it.

I've been on a mystery kick. In addition to what Nancy mentioned for me, I've read
Stone Cold by David Baldacci
Cremation in Death by JD Robb
The Woods by Harlan Coben
Double Cross by James Paterson
Promise Me by Harlan Coben
And this was over the last 20 days or so.

TBR pile is HUGE. After I finish COVER ME, next up are JA Jance, Maureen Child, and Sandra Brown.

But believe me, I'm just treading water until March 6!

In the last month or so I've read LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER by Stewart O'Nan, a beautifully written story about the last day at a Red Lobster; THE NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahini about a young Indian man saddled with the name Gogol; and I just finished THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER by Tom Perrotta, which was very good although perhaps not as good as his LITTLE CHILDREN. I also read DOWN RIVER by John Hart, and although I hadn't read his first, KING OF LIES, I had high hopes for this but was disappointed with the same old/same old feel of the plot and rather mediocre writing. Out of all of these, LOBSTER was by far the best and I highly recommend it.

About those vampires, Nancy. They can be such useful metaphors for . . . sex without pregancy, for eternal life, for AIDS. The vampire legend renews itself, well, eternally. And if anyone remembers Frank Langella's vampire movie, talk about smokin.'

I just totally can't do the vampire thing. I'm sorry, Charlaine - I've heard nothing but raves about your books, but something about the whole vampires thing just makes me queasy. Even the funny, lighthearted ones give me nightmares.

I guess I'm just one of those who just doesn't "get it".

Omigosh, this is like going into a chocolatier and having carte blanche to take any ten pounds of it home with you! All these wonderful suggestions. So many books, so little time.

I just finished ROCOCO, by Adrianna Trigiani, this morning. It was so good that I had to finish it before I could start my day today. She has a way of making rambling Italian families seem so charming, even though she shows all facets of them, good and bad. This one is a peach, starring interior designer Barthelomeo di Crespi, who yearns to redecorate his church, Our Lady of Fatima, or OLOF. This book also has some great recipes for Italian dishes, by the way.

I have a stack of non-fiction on deck, but I'm going to get Harley's newest before I pick up any of the ones I have now. I read her first book because I was a diehard "Mary" fan, but now I'm a Wollie Shelley fan! Nancy's new book sounds wonderful, as well. I've not been reading mysteries lately, so it must be time to get back to some good juicy ones. Thanks for all the suggestions.

Oh, and on a recent trip I listened to Annie Proulx's CLOSE RANGE collection of stories, which I believe includes the Breakback Mountain story. But another tale, about an old man who is traveling back to his family ranch in Wyoming for his brother's funeral, is so powerful that I could not stop listening to it. I had just gotten home from a 200-mile car trip, but stayed out in the garage for another 10 minutes to hear the end of it, it was that spellbinding.

As for the vampire thing, my youngest daughter has been reading Katie Macalister's books since her first one, and I've gotten bitten by that bug, as well. But I only like the ones that are written tongue in cheek, rather than the dark ones. Anne Rice never appealed to me at all.

Just finished "Mirador" the third in a series by Sarah Monette. All three are wonderful. It was haunting, it keeps rolling around in my mind, which is the sign of a great read for me.

Naomi Novick's Temeraire series, fun.

Jim Butcher keeps getting funnier.

Rochelle Krich.

Kim Harrison.

I'm heavily influenced by Charlaine Harris' Books & Blog post. I have never been disappointed by one of her recommendations.

I can't explain the vampire thing, but in my case, I assume it was watching one too many DARK SHADOWS episodes during some critical summer in childhood, and I was forever hooked. I wrote a term paper on Bram Stoker during my junior year in high school. Yes, and seeing Frank Langella on Broadway was nice, but that came later.

There's probably some archetypal collective unconscious Jungian thing -- the ultimate Shadow: blood, magic, darkness, controlled violence, seduction, immortality, power, sex without responsibility, no diapers to change afterwards, and the guys dress in tuxedo-like clothes.

DARK SHADOWS was a mainstay; between Angelique (Lara Parker) and Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), I was in serious trouble..:)

Not to mention vampires and zombies and werewolves. To this day, I STILL have a lot of the old Paperback Library novels in the series.

I've just finished gobbling up Margaret Maron's last two [out of order -- Winter's Child slipped past me, but now I have caught up]. I adore Maron's writing.

I am in the beginning chapters of The World Without Us. Very well done, if not quite the gluttonous indulgence of two Maron books in two days.

DARK SHADOWS! You can get them on DVD now, and they are good.

Definitely too many great suggestions -- oh, wait, you can never have too many great book suggestions! I finally got around to "discovering" Lee Child and just finished a wonderful tear through all of the Jack Reacher novels. He's the only leading-man-written-by-a-man I've managed to tolerate in quite a while. Love that guy.

I've also been on a bit of a romance novel binge. On recommendations by the fine ladies at "Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels", I just finished Lois McMaster Bujold's "The Sharing Knife" duology, which was pretty darned good. I'd have liked to see her do a little more explaining about the magic; I appreciate the "give the readers just enough to keep them puzzling it out for themselves" approach, but I was in a lazy mood and wanted more. I also greatly enjoyed Joanna Bourne's "The Spymaster's Lady", featuring a great pair of spies during the Napoleonic wars.

I'm about to re-read Touchstone (I was lucky enough to win an ARC and need to read the finished product).

Pity I have to work for a living . . . :)

Besides the Pullman series (a bit of my long review is below*), I've enjoyed Inkheart, Mew for Murder, and some Flat Stanley books (because of my Flat Sheila visitor from Utah) . . .and many more.

Just as I was finishing The Amber Spyglass , the following quote came from Wordsmith. It sums up my favorite of the radical concepts of the His Dark Matter series.
From: Wordsmith
If your morals make you dreary, depend on it, they are wrong. -Robert Louis
Stevenson, novelist, essayist, and poet (1850-1894)
First, the movie that started me on this journey with the much-forwarded boycott plea: I enjoyed The Golden Compass and will try to avoid spoliers here. Lyra is a wonderful character, wonderfully acted — it’s believable that others would want to help her, with or without prophesies. Visually and technically, the movie was a treat, and the armored bears!! I’d love to meet one, ride on one, and if I ever needed a champion in a battle . . .
What I liked best, though, was the repeated advice, “Tell stories, tell true stories.” Yes! So I’m back to my original position, read/watch and decide for oneself. (Remembering now a story I heard someone once tell of swans who would drink the milk from a pail and leave the water with which it was diluted— take what is nourishing to you, and leave the rest).

The only vampire book I've read (many years ago) was INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, and although good, not something I've wanted to pick up again in other books. However, at my mom's insistance, I started watching Moonlight on Friday nights. Talk about a smokin' vampire!

Are these vampire books you're all talking about traditional vamps, or vamps with a modern spin?

Just read Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life.
If you need some good laughs and a way to make your 20's look tame, this is the book.

Oh, my yes, Moonlight is hot.

Katie MacAlister and Katie Maxwell both write modern vampire books.

I also want to second the recommendation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. It's amazing, and they are big, thick books packed with action (great for traveling). They get shelved in the romance section, but they are also epics with a smattering of science fiction thrown in for fun.

I finished Robert B. Parker, Stone Cold in the Jesse Stone series. Ah yes, nice to take Tom Selleck to bed on a cold winter night LOL
Halfway thru Vahala Rising, trying to catch up on Clive Cussler.
I haven't read much of the vampire stuff but you've got me wondering Elaine, how does AIDS tainted blood affect them?

Ahh. Cussler's another one. I never miss a book!

Just finished newcomer, Dana Fredsti's The Peruvian Pigeon and the latest from Blaize Clement, Even Catsitters Get the Blues. Both good reads!


Today is dark and overcast. Perfect for DARK SHADOWS music. Although, the book I'm working on has taken a decidedly Goth tone all of a sudden....:)

I love to see what everyone's reading! In the past month I've read:

Have Your Cake & Kill Him Too- Nancy Martin (OMG, the phone booth scene! Now I know what everyone raved about here at TLC! Sizzled!)

T is for Trespass-Sue Grafton (her darkest book)

Garlic & Sapphires-Ruth Reichl (food critic tales)

A Hoe Lot of Trouble- Heather Webber (funny 1st in her gardening series)

Dirty Blonde- Lisa Scottoline (kinky legal thriller; & ooh, Laura in Pa, I'm envious!)

Now & Then-Robt. B. Parker (I'm with Nancy, sick of the Susan thing & totally w/Rita, prefer the Jesse Stone series--will share Tom as Jesse in the TV shows!) :)

Take Big Bites: Adventures Around the World
and Across the Table- Linda Ellerbee (loved her on TV as a journalist, love her non-fiction books)

Biggie & The Fricasseed Fat Man-Nancy Bell (Texas regional cozy)

Dating is Murder-Harley Jane Kozak (what can I say, I love Wollie & can't wait to read the next!)

Tonight I'll finish The Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Susan McBride (former TLC Tart) and also probably finish Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite.(1st in the food lit/mystery series set in New Orleans, my old hometown)Then I'll begin A Killer Collection--JB Stanley's 1st in the antiques/collectibles series. And my TBR piles runneth over!

BTW, Karen, I've heard nothing but good things about Lobster, so that's on my list, too! Glad to hear you liked it. (I read Karen's Sacred Cows in Nov. & it was terrific!)

Hey Nancy, I read Bel Canto and LOVED 90% of it. Then came the end and I felt so angry and let down.....

Here's a few books I like:

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Fancy Stolen Casket - Fran Rizer (the debut of Callie Parrish, a mortuary cosmetologist)

Norway to Hide - Maddy Hunter (another offbeat & funny trip with the Iowa seniors)

Accessory to Murder - Elaine Viets (the third in the delightful Josie Marcus, mystery shopper series)
Everything else by Ms. Elaine

Tombs of Endearment - Casey Daniels (cemetery tour guide Pepper Martin helps solve a rock star ghost's murder)

Grave Apparel - Ellen Byerrum (I love anything funny about DC, particularly Lacey Smithsonian)

Lye in Wait - Cricket McRae (debut mystery featuring boutique soapmaker Sophie Mae Reynolds)

The PMS Murders - Laura Levine (all of Laura's books are laugh-out-loud funny)

Anything written by Nancy Martin (& Double Ditto about the steamy phone booth scene in Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too - woo woo!)

I'm just starting Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak (sorry it's taken so long to start your series, Harley) & am loving it!!

My reading queue has books by both Sarah and Michele. (I'm reading as fast as I can to get to yours too!)

As you can tell, I'm a sucker for comedic cosies, so keep 'em coming TLC divas! :-)

Hello, I'm JF Englert's book publicist. Since I know the blog was such a fan of A DOG ABOUT TOWN, I'm happy to send you a copy of the next book in the series, A DOG AMONG DIPLOMATS. Please send me your mailing address and I'll put a copy in the mail for you.


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