Thursday, December 31, 2009

Recently Finished (and Recommended)

Intellectual Devotional (Original) by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim

Well, technically I won't be done with this book until tonight, but close enough. I went out of order in reading the Intellectual Devotionals - I recommended the American History one earlier in October. This one had a much wider focus, looking at issues all over the world and from all sorts of areas of study. Religion and music, art and science, history and philosophy, with so many tidbits of information ranging from people to ideas. More interesting than your gradeschool history book and offered up in page-sized bites, it's a smart way to end the day.

Check back tomorrow to see which one I plan on starting for the new year!

Notes from the playlist: "Baby, I Love Your Way" by Peter Frampton

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Recently Finished

Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

The woman of Fever Series fame (starting with Darkfever) started out with pure, delicious romance. Was I in the mood for some romance? At the time, not really. In fact, what really spurred me on was that everyone reading the Fever Series claimed that a character in it (Jericho Barrons) was actually Adam Black from the Highlander Series. This series. And he's not the only potential character crossing over.

I decided I was missing something important.

So I made it my mission to read these books (in order!). Here we have lucious Hawk (nickname) who ends up falling hard for a woman tossed back in time, all thanks to the Fae and their nasty little mindgames. Adrienne's been chucked 500 years into the past, and with her man issues, has to resist Hawk at all costs. But of course, we all know how that's going to end...

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Recommended for Kids (and kids at heart)

I Spy: Christmas by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick


Yes, I'll probably recommend each and every I Spy book that I own because I just love them all so much. The pictures are simply amazing, all the little details from sprigs of holly to miniature reindeer figurines, sparkling baubles to glittering snow. The themes are always so much fun and it's hard not to love the ideas that Jean and Walter have come up with in this book, as well as the others.

My only wish is that they would make more I Spy books like these. Hope your holidays were merry!

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "All Through the Night" by Lifescapes

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Recommended for Cooks, Bakers, and Sugar Lovers

Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O'Connor

Need some goodies for the holidays? These desserts are for the serious sweet tooth only - and Jill isn't joking. These recipes are indeed chewy, scrumptious, finger-licking, sticky sugary messes. It's ridiculous in some respects. The very first recipe is "Heart of Darkness Brownies" and oh yes, they are dark and delicious and dangerous. Dedicated to all things gooey and soft and mouth-watering, you'd better be ready to stock your kitchen with carmels, chocolates, ice cream, milk, eggs, sprinkles, toasted nuts, candy bars, marshmellows (both whole and fluff), sugar (white and brown and dark brown), corn syrups, cinnamon, vanilla, and all manner of exciting morsels that would make Willy Wonka himself proud. What's more, this book is put together in almost a scrapbook-like fashion and, simply put, it looks fantastic. The pictures practically dance off the page with happy, chipper colors and quaint accents.

I adore this book. And I've been marking little stars after each dessert I try, five being the best. And oh my, are those five-star recipes to die for. Many of these will take time, patience, and careful planning, but if you manage to get them right, it's well worth it. If you like cookies, bars, cakes, puddings, and little surprises, then flip through this and indulge.

Notes from the playlist: "Amazing" by Josh Kelley

Friday, December 18, 2009

Recommended for Everyone!

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I honestly cannot believe it took me this long to recommend this series. I suppose it's because practically everyone has already read it. However, if you're one of the few that hasn't, now isn't a bad time to start.

Harry Potter, boy wizard destined to face down the evil Lord Voldemort. Their showdown and everything that leads up to it takes place in our world. Harry and all the wizards and witches he knows live in a separate place from us muggles though. We don't know about all that magical stuff, and they make sure it stays that way. The series starts with Harry at age 10, following him year after year and one adventure after another until book #7, the final installment. Naturally, you should begin with The Sorcerer's Stone. That one is second only to the third book (The Prisoner of Azkaban) in terms of my favorites of the series. Kids - enjoy! Adults - be a kid again and enjoy!

Read the Epinions reviews here!

Notes from the playlist: "Seeing is Believing" from The Polar Express

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recommended for Writers

Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan

While in the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program, I was in a class where this book was recommended for those looking to better their description. At the time, I was struggling with description and getting it *just right* so I bought this book.

Good recommendation! I now pass it on to you, other writers having trouble with description. Rebecca McClanahan offers up all sorts of good idea to use, as well as several exercises for some practice. She focuses on all the senses, from smell to touch, and points out different ways to get inspired as well. I read through the book, did some of the exercises, and am now much more confident in my description skills. Hooray! So for those needing an extra boost, crack this open, and get to work!

Notes from the playlist: "Forgiven" by Within Temptation

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Currently Reading

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

I remember when this came out. We simply could not keep it in stock. In fact, the publishers ran out of copies and had to bust their asses to print more. I'm not sure how that all happened. Speedy word of mouth, no doubt. After all, how do you not discuss a book with friends when it takes a Jane Austin classic and throws a bunch of zombies into it? Kind of hard to avoid. I know a bunch of us had a good laugh over the idea and kept sneaking peeks into it. So I made one of my many mental post-it notes to read it. Now I am. It's quite interesting really. I've read the original, and this basically is Grahame-Smith taking Jane Austin's story and shoving zombies into it. In some ways it's kind of awkward, but I think I'll get the hang of it at some point. Shelved in the teens section, I don't doubt that teens will indeed get a kick out of this.

Notes from the playlist: "Living Sculptures of Pemberly" by Dario Marianelli

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Currently Reading

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

I've waited over a year to read this. This is the fourth book in the Fever Series which starts with Darkfever. The ongoing saga of MacKayla Lane and her destiny to destroy the darkness that is now coating the world takes a very startling turn in the beginning, thanks to what happened to her in the previous book. Now she's out and about, killing Unseelie and figuring out new ways to take them down. Very exciting, and I am thoroughly looking forward to see what this volume has to offer. I don't doubt that I'll be done in a few days more. (still don't know why this whole series is stuck in the romance section, but I blame the publishers for that, as this is more urban fantasy that, in many ways, borders on horror).

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "Wishing on a Star" by Miriam Stockley (The 10th Kingdom)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Recently Finished (and Recommended)

The Plucker by Brom

I read this in one day. I should have read it long ago, like when I first saw it on the shelves, but naturally I didn't. My reading list is long. Either way, now I've read it, and it was exactly what I thought it would be, and a little more. Brom's illustrations are dark, but lovely, as is the story. It's an illustrated novel, and hard to miss on the bookshelves. If you want a bit of dark fantasy, this is it. A badass Jack-in-the-Box sets out to kill an evil spirit sucking the life out of toys (kind of like Toy Story meets Hell) and hopes to rescue his beloved Snow Angel in the end. Don't read this to kids unless you want to give them nightmares or teach them swear words. Adults only please.

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Recommended for Young Readers

By the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ever since I was young, I've loved the Little House books. I loved the way Laura Ingalls wrote, I loved her descriptions of hay and sugary candy and paper dolls. Of the entire Little House series, this book was my favorite. I still have the original books I bought when I was young, scraping together the money to buy these paperbacks to read over and over. I daresay, I was good to my books because they're still in fantastic shape, with only yellowed edges from age. But Plum Creek is where Laura gets even with Nellie Olsen, she and her family live in a Hobbit-like home, where locusts eat up their crop, and where Laura and her sister splashed through the clear little creek near their house. I always liked to imagine myself as Laura, running free and mussing my dress (even though I wore pants).

A delightful read for children and one that they will revisit throughout their lives - just like so many of us have.

Notes from the playlist: "Half Acre" by Hem

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recommeded for Everyone

2,001 Things to Do Before You Die by Dane Sherwood

Now, I know it sounds slightly morbid, but curiosity piqued and I had to sneak a peek at this book. I bought it not long after. Really, it's quite funny since there are soooo many different things you can mark off. That's all it is; a list of 2,001 things you can do, each with a box beside it for you to check. Some are easy, like baking a massive cookie (which I actually have yet to do) while others are downright impossible - as a woman, I cannot grow a beard, much less shave it off. Still, there are plenty of fun, interesting, and downright bizarre things for you to do or be inspired to try (I really want to try milking a cow).

This book may seem a bit hard to get, but you can usually find it in B&N's bargain section.

As of right now (and I've just marked off another square), I've done 207 things. (yes, I just counted them)

Notes from the playlist: "If Today was Your Last Day" by Nickelback

Friday, November 20, 2009

Just Cracked Open

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Though I have to say that I was mightily disappointed with American Gods, I wasn't about to let that stop me in my Neil Gaiman fun quest. So this book was next in the lineup. I've only gotten about 20 or so pages into it, but already I'm having a great time. It reminds me a little of Douglas Adams in terms of how it's written. I was hoping for a good time too, though I think I owe that to Pratchett and his craziness (crazy in a good way, mind you). Here's to hoping for plenty more good times ahead...

**Finished! Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "Hear Me" by Shaun Davey

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recommended for Those with Literary, Romantic, or Jane Austin Interests

Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter

I actually discovered this book through a customer. She was the one who asked me to find it and, lucky her, we had a copy in the store. She said her friend had read it and suggested it. Later on, I looked up some information about it...for myself. After reading the blurb, I decided it was a book I should read. Which I did (several months later). Though admittedly, it's a predictable book, it's still fun. Set in present day New York, the heroine Emily heads off to England for a Jane Austin tour, where she actually meets the dashing Mr. Darcy and learns a thing or two about herself...and men. Oh, and did I mention there's a guy named Spike in this story? Hard to go wrong with a good-looking guy named Spike.

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "Dawn" by Dario Marianelli

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just Finished (and Highly Recommended)

Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent

I'd already read Self-Made Man and in that book Norah Vincent mentions that all her work had led her to a bit of a breakdown. She then visited an institution, and after only 4 days, realized what her next project had to be. It became this book, in which she visits three different mental institutions; public, private, and altnerative medicine, and reveals to readers what she finds. Her discoveries are incredibly engrossing. It was hard to stop reading. She also lends her thoughts and even gives us a very candid look into her own mental health and issues. Though she said she set out to show that the system was broken, she realized many different things, that blame lies with more than one person, and that there are ways to heal - it's just a very difficult path.

Notes from the playlist: "Macedonian Morning" by Bill Whelan

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Currently Reading

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Every day it seemed I'd end up in the fantasy/science fiction section of the store, fixing and adjusting books. Facing out here, reshelving there. I'd always linger around a handful of them, thinking, "I ought to read this." Neil Gaiman's books were some of them.

Finally I got my hands on American Gods and am now in the middle of it. It's a slow, but interesting book. I'm waiting for something major to go down. After all, there's a storm coming. A clash of the gods, old and new. And poor protagonist Shadow is right in the middle of it. He's a regular guy...or at least he's supposed to be. I doubt it. First off, he's named Shadow. C'mon. Second, he keeps having very strange dreams. Third, everyone and their grandma is out to get the guy. I'm pretty sure he's important and will do something awesome in the end. Though I am getting a little impatient, it's more because I want things to move along more because I have other books I need to read and thusfar Shadow's just hiding out in a small, quaint town getting groceries and talking to the townsfolk about mundane things.

I loved Coraline. Waiting for this one to really capture me though.

Notes on the playlist: "Beauty and the Beast" (the Angela Lansbury version)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Recommended for Fantasy and Vampire Lovers

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris


The children have had their turn when it comes to fun and spooky Halloween books, but now it's the adults' turn. Many of you may have already heard of the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) novels by Charlaine Harris, whether it's through the HBO show True Blood or a friend or even a bookseller at your local B&N. If not, and you like fantasy and don't have a problem with vampires (they're not depressed and they're actually fun, I promise!), then you'll enjoy these books. They have their share of humor, horror, romance, the fantastic, and goodies you don't see coming. Charlaine Harris has a vivid imagination and if the idea of a vampire named Bill visiting a bar in Louisiana doesn't make you cock your head in curiosity and smirk a little, then I don't know what will. This ain't Twilight folks, I'll tell you that right now.

Read the Epinions review here! (actually, the review includes all 7 Sookie Stackhouse books)

Notes from the playlist: "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recommended for Young Readers Who Love a Scare

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

I read this book long ago when I was young and I still remember and love it. You hated Molly's (the protagonist's) younger stepsister Heather, but when the end came, it was scary and unnerving and you didn't hate her anymore. That's because while Helen seemed like such a good friend, she wanted something in return, and Heather isn't the first...

It's a good ghost story with a ending that won't leave kids freaked out. Everything is resolved and left you with a good feeling. Some kids might be looking for stories with a bit more horror, but this should be good enough for many. If you're looking for some good Halloween books to read, try this one by candlelight and see if you don't get a few shivers.

Notes from the playlist: "Haunted" by Poe

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recommended for Young Readers and Dahl Fans

The Witches by Roald Dahl

It's hard not to love Roald Dahl. I still have this book, the very same book that my sister got years and years ago. It's actually quite amazing how well it's held up, only gently dog-eared though it's been read oodles of times. You'll learn to recognize real witches here; they don't ride brooms or wear pointy hats. Instead, they're just like any other women - except they're bald, have no toes, and they hate children. Read Dahl's tale of how one little boy and his grandmother thwarted the plans of some of the nastiest witches in all of the country!

Notes from the playlist: "I Remember" by Stabbing Westward

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Recommended for Kids (and kids at heart)

I Spy Spooky Night by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick

I loooove I Spy books. I have almost all of them. Well, technically I do have all of them because the Challenger books are essentially rehashes of older books with harder things to find. But I love I Spy books. I love their pictures. I love the intricacy of the shots. The lighting. All the tiny little objects they used to make the photos. Tiny buttons, marbles, paperclips, delicate figurines, shiny balloons, old keys and boxes and books, glimmering paper, pools of water, strewn sand, all sorts of things. I love sitting and searching for something, even knowing I've glossed over it probabaly a thousand times. I love discovering all the hidden toys and pieces and little birds peeking out under leaves and cat paws in paint crossing the pages. Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em, and I'll recommend them until the cows come home.

Naturally, this one takes you through a haunted house and all its unique rooms. Perfect for the coming excitement of that mystical night - Halloween!

Read the Epinions review here!

Notes from the playlist: "Burn It to the Ground" by Nickelback

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recommended for Culture, Human Interest, and Biography Buffs

Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent

I was zoning (read: orgainizing) the biography section in the store one day and came upon this book. A lot of times, that's how we booksellers get sucked into books. Something looks interesting and we pick it up and before we know it, we're adding it to our mental list of "Books I Need To Read." Nevermind that the list is already hundreds of books long (most of which we eventually forget about at some point). But this one I did finally read and found to be thoroughly interesting. Norah Vincent conjures up a convincing man-counterpart (from the walk to the talk to the fake cash and prizes in the pants). From there she goes on a journey, slipping into man-saturated areas of life: bowling alleys, strip joints, door-to-door salesmen, and even a monastary. For over a year and a half she was Ned, experiencing life as a man, even dating women to see what it was like on the other side. Within her writings, she tries not to make too many assumptions, or at least, press her opinions on anyone, but rather does her best to report what she discovers within the world of men.

A real eye-opener and a fascinating read for both men and women, her experience eventually led to a minor breakdown, which led to the inspiration (if one could call it that) for her next book, Voluntary Madness, a book that is, of course, on my mental reading list. Except this one is near the top so it doesn't get lost.

Notes from the playlist: "Bonebreaker" by Infidel Incorportated

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just Cracked Open

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

When I moved to my new home, we got satellite instead of cable, and of course a free package came with it. That meant movie channels. Thus for the first time I got to see Stardust.

For it's flaws, it's a fun movie, but working in a bookstore I knew that Neil Gaiman was the mastermind behind the book that became the movie (found in both the adult and teen sections, in fact). I've not read as many of Gaiman's novels as I would like (American Gods is next on my list), though I did make a point to own Coraline (the book, not the movie). I wanted to know just how different the book is from the movie. I may not know Giaman well, but I know enough to feel safe to assume that it will be quite different. But in a good way. I expect to have a good time with Gaiman. After all; Coraline? The creator of the movie Mirrormask? Oh yes. A very good time.

Notes from the playlist: "The Myth of Creation" by Ian Bellamy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Recently Finished

Cirque du Freak: Tunnels of Blood and Vampire Mountain by Darren Shan

Darren Shan continues to learn the life of a half-vampire, trailing along as his maker Mr. Crepsley teaches him more and more about what it means to be vampire. He has much still to learn. That includes finding out about the vampaneze - vampires who no longer follow the code of "no killing humans" - and a place called Vampire Mountain where every 12 years the Vampire Princes and Generals get together and talk vampire politics (and much more).

Tunnels of Blood was interesting, the vampaneze weird, but Vampire Mountain wasn't much more than a transitional book - like an entire book used to get from point A to point B. A lot of travel and hanging around. Still, Shan makes sure to keep it as interesting as possible (I liked the wolves in Vampire Mountain), though I was a bit disappointed in the confrontation between Mr. Crepsley and the Princes. After being suggested that it would be a big deal throughout the past few books, it was a bit anticlimactic and I thought their final decision was a bit ridculous (not to mention unfair) and seemed to only serve as a reason to get Darren into perilous situations in the next book, Trials of Death. Ah well, at least it means that the next book ought to be exciting.

Read the Epinions reviews here and here!

Notes from the playlist: "Black Betty" by Ram Jam

Friday, October 2, 2009

Recommended for Fiction Readers and Animal Lovers

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Happy Birthday to Me!

I chose this book to recommend on my birthday because it's one I've read more than any other book. The funny part is that I'm not sure why. I guess it's just because it's a good story. Unique. Interesting characters even if they are rabbits. A different world view.

Watership Down is an epic story of rabbits. Yes, you heard right, rabbits. Hazel is the unlikely hero of the tale, who convinces a group of rabbits to leave their warren after one rabbit, Fiver, speaks of a foreboding prophecy in which everyone in the warren is killed. Hazel and the other rabbits set out on a long journey to find a safe haven where they can begin anew. But the world is large, and there are a lot of enemies in it, sometimes even their own kind.

Hats off to Richard Adams for creating this book. You get to see a rabbit's take on life, all their unique stories and tales of their one rabbit hero, and be amazed at how anxious you can get during a rabbit war. It may sound strange, but give it a try. It's a steady seller, and has been for over 30 years.

Notes from the playlist: "Idle (The Rabbit Song)" by Hem

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recommended for Culture, History, and Trivia Fans

The Intellectual Devotional: American History by David S. Kidder and Noah Oppenheimer

Read from January 1, 2008 to December 31st, 2008, this devotional isn't the typical religious sort. Instead, David Kidder has created a devotional dedicated to American history with categories of science, art, history, music, politics, and more. Each page is a tidbit of information that your history books may or may not have ever mentioned, giving you something to consider each night before bed. What you learn depends upon your current knowledge of American history. Either way, it's a gem for your nightstand.

Now for 2009, I'm going back to the book that started it all - the original Intellectual Devotional.

Notes from the playlist: "Rough and Ready" by Trace Adkins

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Recommended for Young Readers

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

My third favorite of the Little House books (and book #2 of the series), Laura and her family have moved from the woods where things are getting too crowded with people and out into the wide open prairie. Here they will build a new house with real glass windows, where Pa will farm instead of hunt, and where Native Americans roam (and occasionally show up!). Wonderful to read and imagine yourself back during the times of the West when people traveled in covered wagons and ventured out into the wild yonder with everything they owned riding along with them.

Notes from the playlist: "Ukelele de Chocobo" by Nobuo Uematsu

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...