April 30, 2010

Apology for Being an Asshole

I've felt kind of queasy since posting my first blog entry yesterday. I sound like an asshole in it, and apologize. I won't delete it because part of owning up to being an asshole is leaving the proof behind...otherwise I'd simply be adding another layer of assholeness to being an asshole. And because I really like that Daily Show clip of Jon Stewart on App-Holes, I've embedded it here. Please be patient...it takes a while to buffer.


April 29, 2010

I Don't Buy It

I'm just sitting down to read a book for Amazon Vine, and not to bite the hand, so to speak, but I'm once again annoyed that I can't read the book digitally. Amazon makes and touts its ebook reader and pays God-knows-how-much on postage sending books to Vine reviewers, yet won't combine both programs. Quite frankly the response to my query a month ago was weak at best and lame or nonsensical at worst: "At this point of time, we cannot provide Vine books for Kindle...[because] the Vine program is a newly launched program..."

How old is Vine now? It's gotta be a couple of years old, because I was asked to participate when still the publisher at AAR. So to call it a "new" program, and inferring that its newness is the reason why Vine review ebooks can't be made available to reviewers in the place of print copies is just not good enough.

Here's why it matters, at least to me: I have been trying to convert my print library into a digital one for the past couple of years. My library, in addition to books tbr, also includes books I keep. Some are Desert Isle Keeper reads, others are parts of series, but basically, if I grade a book B- or higher, I want to have a copy.

I review lots and lots of books - for PW and now for Amazon Vine - and currently, when I like a review book well enough that I want to keep it, I'm forced into a difficult position of either buying a digital version of a book I already own and have read, or finding another way to download one. I won't trade or donate an ARC, which means the print copy ends up tossed in the trash, which is a waste.

It's one thing for PW not to provide many digital review copies as they don't make an e-reader, but for Amazon, there's really no excuse and I'm just not buying it.

Aren't I Too Old for This?

Last night Jon Stewart opened The Daily Show with a segment entitled App-Holes, which I found entirely appropriate. Like me, he loves certain Apple things, but like me, he thinks it's kinda bizarro-worldish that Steve Jobs has become the new Bill Gates will Bill Gates has become the greatest philanthropist on the planet. He went so far as to call Steve Jobs "the man," something my daughter did not appreciate.

The segment was laugh-out-loud funny, and well worth watching. But my blog for today isn't specifically about it. Instead, it's about feeling as though I'm too old to be a trend-watcher. Right?

Whether it's an esoteric TV show, a genre (steampunk) of books, or...something, I often find that after I begin to pay attention to something very early on, it's something that catches on, or catches the imagination of others, within a short period. If I were in my 20s or even 30s, I'd better understand it, but I'm in my late 40s, lead a fairly mundane life, am totally not cool, yet it's as strong as ever. Aren't I too old for this?


April 28, 2010

My Life, Such As It Is

Monday was hectic, almost frantic. I needed to finish a book and review it for PW, but my daughter needed some assistance on the job front, and at three in the afternoon I got a call from the bookstore asking if I could work a short shift that night. All of which meant I'd need to be done with everything before leaving at 4:45, which now included a shower and hair-dry along with finishing my review and helping with the resume and online job applications.

Because of where we live in relation to the bookstore, if I'm not on the road by 4:45, it can take up to an hour to drive what otherwise only takes 20 minutes. I'm not a happy traffic driver, so whenever I'm scheduled during the week at six or even seven, I leave home early and bring work to a Starbucks near the store (not the one next door, though - it has only two comfy chairs).

I'd forgotten TPTB planned a store visit Tuesday, which meant the palpable stress affecting store managers crossed over onto those of us working that night. None of us wanted our bosses to look bad, and the store had to be "just so." The night ended later than usual and I did something I'd never done: Shift an entire zone in accordance with B&N guidelines. Since I'd worked Kids, that was my zone to shift, and as it's a quite different zone than the rest of the store, it can be intimidating. Shifting - and I think I'm using the correct term - is assuring that each shelf has a mix of books shelved spine out and those shelved with their fronts showing. There are rules regarding the arrangement of hardcovers, trade-size, and regular paperbacks, as well as a rule about the number of books within a set of face-outs. To make one shelf look right might involve shifting three or four other shelves, so it can be a down-on-your-knees kind of process. Kids needed work, and I've had about ten minutes of shifting training, but with some advice I think I managed well. I went to bed sore and exhausted, but excited because I knew I'd be reading Chaos Bites Tuesday.

The next morning, then, after errands, I settled in for my treat by first downloading the book onto my Kindle and then reading it...in a single sitting. By the time I left for work yesterday afternoon, I'd already finished and decided to write my review a day early. I took my laptop to Starbucks, and because so few people read this blog, decided I could help the author more - which I want to do since I'd like the Phoenix Chronicles to live long and prosper - by posting it at Amazon rather than here.

I finished with about five minutes to spare - you can click here to read my review - then went to work. The atmosphere was far more relaxed last night, and when I realized Chaos Bites was in house, I grabbed it and the three books preceding it in the series, and took them, along with a copy of Sandman Slim, to Cash/Wrap. Within five minutes one of my regular customers came in and I sold her the entire Phoenix Chronicles. A little while later and I'd sold my sixth copy of Sandman Slim since the weekend. I short-listed the first three books in Handeland's series, which we were now out of, explaining in my notes that I can best sell the nine remaining copies of the new book if I sell the series as a set. When I work again on Saturday I'll see if they ordered Any Given Doomsday, Doomsday Can Wait, and Apocalypse Happens in the numbers I requested.

A while ago the store manager called to see if I could work again today, but I'd already committed to taking Rachael to the movies. I generally take any extra shift offered, but feel the need for some fun time with my daughter. I don't even know what she's picked out, but we're leaving at two.


April 27, 2010

Chaos Bites by Lori Handeland

Chaos Bites

Lori Handeland

Grade: B+

Urban Fantasy

Amazon just posted my review of this book, which begins...

It's true...I'm a Phoenix Chronicles fangirl of major proportions. To me it's the biggest urban fantasy buried treasure out there. So rather than reviewing it on my blog that exactly five people read, I'm going to be the first to review it here on Amazon, in the hopes that more people will read it, and then start reading the series...

Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon


April 25, 2010

Blogging Barnes and Noble & Ants in My Pants for Chaos Bites

The first thing I did last night when I got to work was checked to see if Lori Handeland's Chaos Bites had come in. It had not. Next I checked to see if we had Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim. We did...it came in Thursday and was shelved Friday, without any promos, meaning copies were simply shelved in the section. Tonight I must rectify that and will local-store-list it to New in SF/F.

Ten copies of each book been ordered, and for the past two weeks every Jim Butcher customer I waited on got a slip of paper with "Richard Kadrey - Sandman Slim" written on it, accompanied by this verbal pitch: "It's a very dark, sarcastic, and violent urban fantasy novel. This guy gets sent to hell and escapes 11 years later...and he's pretty angry about it. It's awesome."

I grabbed two copies, among other books I thought I'd try to sell, and went up to Cash/Wrap. Jeff, another bookseller, was there, and a few minutes later, as he checked out a customer with Patricia Briggs books, he sort of opened his body language up so I could see what he was doing. I came over with the Kadrey book and my little spiel, and the woman took the book out of my hands, gave it to Jeff, and asked him to ring it up. Before she walked away, she had an entire list of authors and books to try, and I'm guessing she'll try some of them. Hopefully we have another happy customer.

I sold the other copy of Kadrey's book later in the evening. It wasn't my greatest ever hand-sell night ever (though I did well with new memberships), but historical romance readers did hear about the upcoming Mary Balogh release - A Secret Affair - which is my first Desert Isle Keeper in ten months (that link is to my review at Amazon Vine). I also managed to hand-sell a book I'd not even taken up to the counter with me. It was about ten in the evening and a very nice couple came up with several books. Both were clearly serious readers, and as a result of what I saw, I gave them my The Fifth Mountain (Paulo Coelho) talk, which goes something like this:

"You've probably heard about The Alchemist, but this book is much less well-known. It's incredibly beautifully written, very spare...every word counts...and is a fictional re-telling of the prophet Elijah. I don't usually read books like this, but it's amazing. Whenever we have a copy in the store, I try and remember to bring it up with me to hand-sell. You'll love it."

Although I didn't have the book with me, the husband was interested, so I called the Info desk. Jamie, the store manager, actually picked up, and when she brought me the book, the man indicated I should add it to their other purchases. As soon as I handed the bag to him, he removed the book. He had that look in his eye - I knew he planned to start reading Coelho's book immediately, but I cautioned him to wait. If he started tonight, he wouldn't be going to sleep until he'd finished, at some point in the middle of the night. He said it would be a struggle, but promised he wouldn't start it until today.

All that aside, I've got ants in my pants for Chaos Bites. Both it and the Kadrey book share the same sale date (April 27)...so where the hell is it? As I write this I've got to finish a book for a PW review tomorrow, and then there are two Amazon Vine books that arrived a few days ago. But the Kindle version of Handeland's book will be available for download on Tuesday, and it'll get moved to the top of the pile. Honestly, I can't wait.

What makes the Phoenix Chronicles so fantastic is that Handeland goes beyond the usual vampires, werewolves, and the fae. To be sure they exist in the series, but they're not just random monsters. She uses biblical lore and Native American mythology, among other religious and ancient motifs, for an incredibly rich and vibrant world. The excitement and action of great urban fantasy is there, but it's better for the world-building and because of Handeland's romance background. Say what you will about romance authors, but good ones know how to craft three-dimensional characters. Handeland accomplished what L.A. Banks tried to do in her Vampire Huntress series, but she did it oh, so much better. Even the final book in Banks' series, which was chock full of action, bored me in comparison to what Handeland has accomplished so far in her series, particularly in the first and third books. Each left me wanting the next entry immediately.

Here is the PW review I wrote for book one in the series, Any Given Doomsday:

Handeland (Thunder Moon) launches the intriguing Phoenix Chronicles urban fantasy series with a strong story that's only missing one thing: a glossary of the multitude of paranormal creatures tied to biblical lore. Psychic ex-cop Elizabeth Phoenix reluctantly takes the case after her foster mother, Ruthie, is murdered by monsters. Soon she's pointing out demons to her ex-boyfriend Jimmy, a half-vampire battling an army of Nephilim who plan to enslave and destroy humanity. They fight their way from Wisconsin to the southwest, where Jimmy leaves Elizabeth with Sawyer, a powerful Navajo shape-changer who awakens her libido as well as her psychic powers. Elizabeth's wry demeanor and complex relationships with Sawyer and Jimmy share center stage with the dramatic story line. The biblical component, while often confusing, adds dramatic dimension, and the demons' evil plans and vividly described handiwork create immense suspense for the final battle.

I wish now that my review had been even stronger, but at the time I wrote it, I'd not yet become as immersed in urban fantasy as I am today. So I hadn't read all the books now under my belt and didn't know just how much better the Phoenix Chronicles are in comparison to most. Had I written a stronger review, perhaps more readers would have discovered the series.

I tell those I've sold the first three books together that book two - Doomsday Can Wait - isn't quite as strong as books one and three, but it's still a good read. Here's the blurb:

"It took the near annihilation of humanity for Liz Phoenix to understand the true meaning of her premonitions. Liz is one of the sacred few on earth who has the psychic powers to fight the malevolent forces that have tried to wipe out the human race since the beginning of time. She battled these beings once, thwarting Doomsday but losing most of her soldiers in the massacre. Now she must replenish her troops quickly—because the supernatural war isn't over yet.

"As the new leader of the federation, Liz is marked for death by a Navajo witch with a link to her past. To survive, she must rely on her few remaining allies—her mentor, a shaman with too many secrets, as well as ex-lover, Jimmy Sanducci. Bringing Jimmy into the mix is a dangerous move, for Liz's darkest desires are razor-sharp—and her longing for Jimmy is at a fever pitch. But can Liz afford to give into the cravings that burn inside her, with the next shot at Doomsday just around the corner? This time, if evil wins, chaos will reign—and the world as we know it will be lost forever..."

The third book in the series, Apocalypse Happens, is as good, if not slightly better, than book one, and part of the reason why is that Handeland goes balls-to-the-wall in terms of what she's willing to do to propel the series' arc. Not that she does anything simply for dramatic effect - no - yet this is anything but a safe ride. To say more would give spoilers, but what happens near the end of this book is something I might have expected in a much later entry in the series...if at all...because no doubt a sub-set of readers will have a difficult time accepting the outcome. While I was shocked out of my seat, I'm totally in for the remainder of the ride, and can only hope it'll be a lengthy one. That said, there's only one additional title listed (Demons at the Gate) on Handeland's website.

Before ending this blog entry, here's the blurb for book three:

"Elizabeth Phoenix is one of a select few with the power to battle those who have escaped from the darkest level of hell—demons bent on destroying humanity and reclaiming earth once and for all. Liz is determined to stop yet another Doomsday. But this time, it's going to be more difficult than ever because someone she thought was dead isn't dead anymore...and is bound and determined to destroy Liz and everyone she loves in the upcoming Apocalypse.

"Liz has arrived in Los Angeles to ferret out a nest of varcolacs: half human, half dragon creatures who crave the destruction of the sun and moon. But before she can prevent the kind of eclipse that would bring the world to an end, Liz must mine the depths of her own heart. She and her former lover Jimmy Sanducci have some personal demons to battle—and there's always her mentor, the Navajo shaman Sawyer. Is he on their side or isn't he? In the end, the three of them must find a way to fight together...or perish alone."

Again, for all those urban fantasy readers out there, if you've not yet picked up Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles, please do. She can only continue to write them if enough people buy them.

Because this blog entry is so lengthy, and because I have a review to write tomorrow, I won't write here again until Tuesday Wednesday, after I've had a chance to read Chaos Bites (that link is for an excerpt at the author's site).


April 24, 2010

I Just Love This!

So, I know this isn't new, but every time I see it, it cracks me up. What about you?


April 23, 2010

A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh

A Secret Affair

Mary Balogh

Grade: A-

European Historical Romance

Amazon Vine just posted my review of this book, which begins...

Nearly a decade ago I finally "got" traditional Regency Romances, and fell in love with Mary Balogh. Not her single title historicals, but trad Regencies such as The Ideal Wife, The Obedient Bride, The Plumed Bonnet, and The Temporary Wife. Before "getting" trads, I'd tried one of her early single title historicals - it left a bad taste in my mouth. While I have bought the earlier entries in her Huxtable series because a good friend called them great examples of Regencies in Disguise, I've not yet read any of them. After being enthralled by A Secret Affair, I'll be moving them closer to the top of my massive TBR pile...

Click here to read the rest of my review for Amazon

Yes, It Looks Cool, But... (and B&N and Nook News)

Yesterday my daughter made the largest purchase of her 18-year-old life and bought a Mac Pro. With her college discount she saved a bit of money on it, got a free printer, and iWork, which provides a word processor, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint-like program (more on that later). I kicked in and bought her three years of Apple Care. She also paid to have the contents of her pc laptop moved onto her new laptop, and not long after we came home, they called to say it was ready to pick up. She now has Garage Band, giving her (I believe) the ability to record her own music - hey, she's a guitar player - the microphone and camera, and whatever other cool things Apple adds on that don't generally come pre-loaded onto a pc laptop.

While she worked with the sales staff, I had plenty of time to wander over to the iPads, which are clearly the focal points of the store. Huge posters adorn every bare bit of vertical real estate and probably half a dozen were there to play with. So play I did. And by the time I left, I was bewildered and more than a little angry.

First things first. The iPad is gorgeous to look at and looking at it makes you want to pick it up. The virtual keypad, though, is for shit - yes, that's my professional opinion - and though everyone says it's easy to simply plug in a keyboard, my question at that point is...what's the point? If you do, you've basically created a desktop computer. Okay, so it's gorgeous but not functional on its own for typing. What about the apps? Well, here's my second issue: The three programs that make up iWork sell for $79 when used on a Mac but just $9.99 each when purchased from the App Store for the iPad. In other words, buy an iPad and you pay $50 less than you pay for those same "apps" on a computer with a real keyboard. The only way my brain can wrap around it is this: They charge you less because, when combined with the for-shit virtual keypad, you get less functionality out of the word processor and spreadsheet programs.

Steve Jobs is a genius when it comes to making you want things you never even knew you wanted...let alone needed. In the end, though, other than my beloved iPod, I find his products over-priced and unnecessary. Given that there were no more Genius Bar appointments available for the day by noon, and I'm guessing the products aren't as idiot-proof as advertised. And aren't all of us idiots at times when it comes to technology? On the other hand, I have a very happy child right now and know that Mac owners are practically cult-like in their devotion to Apple. Still, until the money tree out back blooms big time, I'll be holding on to this unreasonable Apple negativity.

I've talked about this before, but I'll do it again. The basic iPad model, at $499 for 16GB, is Wifi only, which means it's not going to connect everywhere. Add a 3G connection (and those iPads haven't yet been released) and you'll be spending another $130 plus a monthly contract (presumably with AT&T). At the end of a year, you will have spent $750...add another $70 for the keyboard dock, and you're at more than $800. And this, folks, is what Apple is calling the new "low end" computer.

And, not to beat a dead horse, but last night at work I double-checked some e-books at B&N.com and discovered that other than books sold by Random House and under the Harlequin umbrella, the cost of digital paperbacks has, as I feared, indeed increased as a result of Mr. Jobs and what I view as his collusion with publishers. Readers can continue to buy the digital version of a new paperback for roughly 20% less than the print copy if published by Random House or Harlequin, but all other publishers went with the so-called agency model and now, their digital copies sell for the same price as print copies (more, actually, if you buy from B&N.com or use your membership in stores). Those prices went up at Amazon and B&N for Kindle and Nook as a direct result of the iPad, and while there have been a plethora of stories about the change in hardcover pricing, nobody is writing about the increase in paperback pricing.

As for Barnes & Noble and Nook, walk into any store now and there is a large Nook counter right inside the front door. That fact, and that Best Buy will also be selling Nook, and I am not alone among B&N booksellers in feeling as though a huge clock just started ticking down on our jobs. The new head of B&N is an internet/tech guy, and a Nook Lite (no 3G) and Nook 2 are on their way. The Nook is the new mission for booksellers, and while I know brick and mortar bookstores will never completely disappear, things will change.

I became a bookseller because I love books and love talking to customers about them. I sell the membership cards with zeal because they can save customers real money (~$5 for each adult hardcover that isn't a bestseller) and because I like to do my job well. Until the pricing issue I discussed at length above, I've been a strong proponent of electronic reading for several years now and enjoy extolling the virtues of having a mobile, hand-held personal library, but I'd rather talk to customers about books than feel pressured into selling something that may eliminate my job at some point down the road.

Gee...I got through this entire blog entry without mentioning the AAR plagiarism mess. Well, almost.


April 20, 2010

Oh, the Mendacity!

The more I look into the theft of intellectual property perpetrated by the "Queen of Romance" at - not KristieJ's - Ramblings on Romance, the more pissed off I get. After posting once to AAR's News blog, then emailing the "Queen" "Bimbo" herself, I posted my email on the AAR News blog. And then I investigated a bit further and discovered she pretty much "borrowed" the sensuality ratings system I set up over a decade ago...and called it her "personal" system (hers and AAR's). And then, just for fun, I searched and found a review she "borrowed" from me as well.

I then attached side-by-side comparisons of both the ratings and the review to Blythe and Lynn in an email...the review, btw, is for Marjorie Liu's The Wild Road (hers and mine). By doing so TPTB at AAR now have proof of her ethical lapse in case it is needed - ie, if she tries to weezle-shit out of it. I thought about posting the proof here as well, but it's not my place to do so. And yet, if anyone cares to see them, I guess I can always email the two comparison pages.

I think it's time to go do something physical as I need to blow off the steam that's pouring from the top of my head.

P.S. Lynn emailed me back and I read her original blog entry more closely...the "personal" ratings system used by the Bimbo of Romance was referenced in Lynn's blogging. Indeed, the Bimbo subsequently went back and retroactively credited AAR. What remains unfortunate is that the reviews she also "borrowed" feature AAR's grades...and the same AAR sensuality ratings. Gee, it's almost as though she basically lifted them and changed a few words to avoid getting caught. Say it ain't so!



The first thing I asked Rachael to do when she came home late last week was put together a "need" list and a "wish" list for the summer. We started on the "need" list Friday, with a trip to the DMV, passport photo stop, and visit to a local post office to get her passport renewed. Five hours later and we were home. I worked Friday night and Saturday night, so we didn't get back to the list until Sunday, when we took a trip to Target for some clothes, a new wallet and bag, and the writing of thank you cards for graduation money toward the Mac fund. Yesterday we started out with a "lame" visit to Starbucks (who knew I've been lame for the past two years in bringing a computer or book and working?) that turned out not to be lame after all, what with the possible job offer that came within the first five minutes.

Sidebar - Second interview at the bookstore should occur at the very end of the month, first interview at Starbucks should occur later this week or next, and we-don't-yet-know-if-it's-sketchy possible interview at a CPA office might occur if it's deemed unsketchy.

Then it was off to Chase to cash out the custodial savings account I'd set up for Rachael when she was a baby, then to a BofA (there's plenty of BofA branches in Conway...we didn't find a Chase branch) to set up a college checking/savings account with online banking for all the money and checks. She's already requested a tutoring session, but after having read, watched, and listened to Dave Ramsey this past semester, we think she's got a solid financial base. If not, she talks a good game.

Because we have a whole summer ahead of us and I have a life, such as it is, we are only doing a few things each day. Our last stop yesterday was the Verizon store to reactivate my old Envy (a great texting phone) for her. Neither my husband nor I had realized it, but the air card for my laptop was long overdue for an upgrade, and now I have a cool USB modem that only cost me $30 (it retailed for $250-ish) and is faster and more powerful than my old card.

Next I told Beau, the salesman, how very much my husband hates his Blackberry Storm...it's a wall-banger for him for sure. I find mine can be a pain in the ass as well, but have managed to do some phenomenal things on it, including writing and editing reviews for PW. That wowed the salesman as most people, I don't think, get desperate enough to make that kind of thing work on a device that really was not meant for such intense use.

Long story short - by the time we left the store an hour and a half later, we had two possible deals on the table, and an appointment at 7:30 in the evening for Beau to meet with us and perhaps walk out with two Android phones, one for free.

After buying my Storm, I vowed never again buy a first generation anything. The Storm II he showed me yesterday was an improvement over my Storm, but it's still a "click" screen as opposed to a touch screen. The Droids are as close to an iPhone as I'm liable to get, and though the best of both worlds would have led to two of the phones that have both a touch screen and a pull out actual (not virtual/touch screen) qwerty keypad, even I could not wangle that deal.

Sidebar - For some reason I seem to enjoy working on cell phone "deals." I've done them for us three times now, and for a b-i-l, niece, and nephew as well. I don't like dickering for anything else because I don't exactly have a poker face, but where the Verizon store is concerned, I'm your girl.

The end result is that we walked with deals for a Milestone by Motorala for the DH and the HTC Eris for me.

The final price for his phone matches the online current sale price, and with an actual keyboard in addition to a true touch screen and great camera (I will say the Storm's camera was terrific), he will no longer call his phone a piece of shit while wanting to hurl it, full force, against the wall. That was my ultimate goal; I was going to be happy regardless. Had he not liked the Droid, the other option was for him to get a Blackberry Curve and I'd get a free Storm II, but since he chose the Milestone, I got a free Eris, and as soon as I can figure out how to use it, I'll be cool. And even an eensy-teensy bit happier when a Kindle for Droid app is released. (Yes, I have actually read a book on my Storm, and it wasn't bad. More than that, I liked being able to buy Kindle books with my Storm because I always have it on me whereas I don't generally tote around my Kindle on a daily basis.) We also saved the activation fees for both phones and the USB modem...those charges tend to add up if you're not careful.

Before we left, I asked Beau - who'd come back to the store after a pre-wedding dance lesson to do the deal - to write down the name of the system apps he likes best. No, even though Rachael thought the "steamed up shower door" app was cool, I was more interested in things like a soft boot app and other tools than anything else. He showed me some on his Milestone, including a barcode app that looks promising, wrote them down, and we said adieu.

For somebody who once thought cell phones were ridiculous, who then vowed to never use a smartphone, I've come a long way since the car phone (an actual car phone!) I had in the early 90s. Today I'll be devoting time to learning how to use the damn thing. But I love the widget idea and how it all ties together with other Google products. I've already created a Twitter widget and set up Facebook to tie into my contacts. Now if I could just figure out how to send my husband my work schedule (it was a breeze on Storm)...

April 19, 2010

Reviews and Editing

I got the bright idea last night to try and capture as many of the reviews I wrote for PW as possible for posterity on a stand-alone page adjunct to this blog. As interesting as it was to revisit my reading, it was more interesting to read the actual reviews themselves because for the most part, once a PW reviewer sends in a review to his/her editor, unless there are questions, that's the last he/she sees of the review until it's edited and subsequently published. I can't speak for other reviewers, but until about a year ago, I rarely read the finalized review. My bad? Probably.

At AAR during my stewardship, I had a different policy; I don't know if it remains in place or if in the past 18 months it's been revised. My policy was that a reviewer sent in a review to their first-line editor, who edited the review, emailed a copy of the edited version to the reviewer, and after the edited review was entered into the reviews database, it went through a second level of editing. As a general rule the review remained as originally edited, but if I had questions or a big red flag popped up upon my reading, I contacted the reviewer and first-line editor and we hashed it out. 99 times out of a hundred, if I felt there was a discrepancy between review and grade, I'd hear, "You know, I really wasn't sure if this was a B- or a C+," and either the review or grade was changed appropriately. If the issue wasn't grade-oriented, it was generally a macro, "big picture" kind of thing that I was attuned to as publisher.

That give and take doesn't exist at PW, unless, of course, the editor asks a question, in which case clarification is given. Since the editors are so good, I've rarely had a problem, but upon occasion either my original review must not have been worded strongly enough or the editor also read the book and tried to combine reviews, resulting in a final review that didn't reflect my opinion. That happened a few years ago, but I wasn't even aware of it until a blogger compared some written commentary at AAR with my PW review last year.

It got ugly. The author got involved. Other bloggers got involved. My integrity and that of the magazine got called into play. My instinct was to protect the magazine, so I limited myself to two - I think - fairly short comments on the initial blog and tried not to read any more about it.

I'm reminded of that right now not only because of this adjunct review page, but also because of a review error being rectified right now. I sent in a review to one of my editors several weeks ago and when I read the final version at Amazon, there was a factual error. I immediately contacted my editor, who made the appropriate changes, and sent it through whatever processes are necessary to update the review. The error involved something that, content-wise, is difficult at best, so seeing the correction has remained in the forefront of my brain ever since. I'm always anal about "making things right," but I get more anal when I'm not able to fix them at a snap of my fingers, when others are responsible.

For me writing works best as a collaborative process; when my writing is edited or when I edit another's writing. As in life, sometimes it gets messy and mistakes are made but the end result of a strong relationship between writer and editor is better work. I'm lucky that the two individuals who currently edit my reviews are such good writers and editors. Apropos of nothing, I recently googled them both and was surprised by what I read about each of them. I needn't say more than that in comparison my own life is small and mundane indeed. Frankly, that's fine with me.


April 17, 2010

Crush on You by Christie Ridgway

Crush on You

Christie Ridgway

Grade: B-

Contemporary Romance

When Christie Ridgway tweeted recent about having her upcoming release reviewed, I sent her a private message and volunteered myself. I'm glad I did.

First, some background: This Perfect Kiss, which was published in 2001, came thisclose to being a DIK read for me. I just looked back at my PW review for the book, as well as what I wrote at AAR. The book featured not only one terrific romance, but a strong secondary romance as well, and I found the emotional intensity of both couples incredibly appealing. What stood out most for me, though, was the hero, about whom I wrote: "But it is Rory who truly comes alive in this story - his constant erotic thoughts seem utterly male and, most of all, the history that shapes his behavior is strongly echoed by many of the secondary characters."

I believe This Perfect Kiss was Ridgway's second single title. Wish You Were Here was her first, and I enjoyed it as well, enough that after having read it, I wrote an At the Back Fence segment about characters with disabilities (its hero is blind through much of the book). I had less luck with a series title I read of hers, In Love with Her Boss, nonetheless, while I've not read her in some time, I have continued, albeit sporadically, to buy her single title contemporaries for years. In particular I like that they don't have suspense sub-plots; they are romances through and through, and Crush on You is no exception.

Through a bit of web research I learned that the three sisters whose stories will be told in the Baci sisters trilogy were introduced in 2009's Double the Heat anthology. Crush on You is first in the trilogy, and due to be released in late May/early June. The sisters, who inherited Tanti Baci, their family's failing winery, are on a mission to save it by turning it into a destination wedding locale. Part owners in the winery are the Bennett brothers, who own the winery next door. There's been a feud between the families for years, although ten years earlier the eldest sister and eldest Bennett brother were madly in love. Their story is sure to come, but this story features the romance between Alessandra Baci and Penn Bennett.

Alessandra is known as the Nun of Napa; right before she was set to marry her high school sweetheart, he died, and for five years she's borne the burden of being his "almost wife" for the town, and particularly his mother, whose inability to get over the loss of her son she transfers to her son's fiance. Penn Bennett, presumably modeled on Ty Pennington from TV's Extreme Makeover Home Edition, is the illegitimate Bennett brother, visiting Napa to get over a painful love affair. She thinks he's a handsome heel while he believes she's a spoiled flirt. Both could not be more wrong.

Because the Bennett brothers have a stake in Tanti Baci, Penn agrees to use his carpentry skills to prepare the winery for its wedding destination launch under the condition that Alessandra helps. Being in close quarters aggravates their sexual tension, but as they get to know each other - the burden she has on her shoulders, that he's not a conceited phony do-gooder - they share some kisses, some foreplay, and eventually a heated bout of love-making. Penn is frustrated by her inability to fully feel her passion (it's not easy not being the Nun of Napa, after all), but they continue to get closer, even after his ex-girlfriend appears on the scene and Alessandra mistakenly believes he still carries a torch for her.

Meanwhile, Alessandra's best friend Clare, her dead fiance's sister, is preparing to marry a successful man her mother strongly approves of at Tanti Baci. Her mother does not approve of her long-lived friendship with Gil, which is indeed unfortunate in that each is secretly in love with the other. This secondary relationship perfectly incorporates into the main story line. To say more would give spoilers.

Indeed, to reveal any more of the plot would spoil things for readers. Better to focus on the characters, who are well-crafted. The story reads easily, and while Alessandra's "issues" provide pathos and are understandable, her inability to get over herself and her pre-conceived notions about Penn annoyed me. Her single-minded goal about the winery's success, also understandable, makes her a not-so-nice person at times, which I actually appreciated. Quite frankly there's nothing so boring as a perfect heroine. Penn, on the other hand, is entirely drool-worthy, so much so that another of the book's flaws was a lack of word count devoted to the couple as a couple. Ridgway shows them falling in love, but I wanted to see them in love - openly - before the book wrapped up.

My grade for the book may seem low. I've detailed some of my problems with Crush on You, but the main reason for the minus attached to my B grade is that the book, as good as it is, isn't quite substantive enough to sustain a straight B. It is what it is, and that's fine, but wanted a bit more. Even so, I'll be back at Tanti Baci for book two.


April 16, 2010

Favorite Opening Line Meme

Just last week a beautiful high school student and her mom came to me to buy a copy of Moby Dick. I mentioned that according to American Book Review, the opening line of Melville's book is considered the best opening line from a novel. I said that my own personal favorite opening line was from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which landed on the same list at number two. The girl smiled, blushed madly, and said she was working on a scene for a one-act play competition based on it, her favorite novel.

Favourite Opening Line Meme

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

There, in one line, is the essence of Jane Austen. The writing is crisp, witty, and that you "get" such a strong sense of voice from such a few words points to her skill.

My second favorite opening line was written by Margaret Mitchell: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." It's a favorite line because not only is it a striking bit of prose, but it's so memorable. I've kept it in my mind since first reading Gone with the Wind in the fifth grade.

I like to do things in threes, so here's the opening that sits in third place on my list. Talk about threes...it's not actually the first line from Christopher Moore's Lamb, it's the third:"The first time I saw the man who would save the world he was sitting near the central well in Nazareth with a lizard hanging out of his mouth."

Thanks to Gail Carriger for tweeting about this meme, created on the never evil blog, which ends as follows:

I'd like you, nay I DEMAND you, to pimp this post everywhere and anywhere. After all the more favourite first lines we get the merrier! How fun would it be to run into a comment quoting a line you thought you were the only one to love? And wouldn't it be great if some of these opening lines inspire people to check out the book out of curiosity? So please help the cause.


April 15, 2010

Jared by Sarah McCarty


Sarah McCarty

Grade: B-

Urban Fantasy Romance

I've been out of town this week, and the one book I finished was one I sold the night before leaving to one of "my" customers...Sarah McCarty's Jared. It's the second in her Shadow Wranglers series (following Caleb), which features a family of nearly 300-year-old vampire ranchers.

Although it's not connected to one of the author's lesser-known books - The Conception, which was supposed to have been the first in The Others series that never came to fruition, possibly because she moved from Ellora's Cave to Berkley and Harlequin in the interim - I can't help but wonder whether the idea for her Shadow Wranglers grew out of the EC-published book. Both, after all, feature vampire brothers battling formidable foes who will stop at nothing to achieve their evil goals - including horrendous scientific experimentation - and seemingly innocuous or weak heroines who turn out to have unique biologies that render them the perfect mate, and, as you might suspect, are the only women able to turn their battle-hardened vampires into loving husbands.

I think in the past few years I've read just about everything Sarah McCarty has written. At AAR you can find my review of Sam's Creed, her response to winning an award in AAR's annual reader poll for Caine's Reckoning, and some commentary about Running Wild at both AAR and my old blog. She's not an author I would have read five years ago, but now she's an auto-buy for me, even though her books have an over-the-top quality and can be incredibly kinky. The kink is toned way down in Caleb and Jared; probably the most kinky of all her books is Mac's Law. It's a book so kinky and focused on a single sex act that I'm not sure why I like it, but I've long moved beyond questioning what draws me to particular kinks.

Anyway, it turns out that it's not just kink that draws me to McCarty; while I noted before writing this that AAR rated Caleb as "burning," my sensuality rating for Jared is "hot." A strong hot, to be sure, and explicit, but as far as erotic romance goes, it's nowhere near burning.

Let me get specific about Jared. Jared Johnson rescues Raisa, a delicately beautiful vampire from the enemy: Sanctuary vampires who plan to create a master race of vampires and to kill Renegades like the Johnson brothers before taking on humanity. Both characters came from a different time; Jared may be one tough dude, but he has an almost courtly manner when it comes to caring for Raisa, who has somehow survived as a vampire for almost three hundred years even though drinking blood makes her violently ill. Raisa's on her own mission, though, and while Jared would take her under his protection, she is as honorable as he is and plans to carry out her task whatever the personal cost.

Along the road to his ranch they must spend some time with one of the few werewolf packs who won't tear a vampire to shreds, and it is while under their protection that Jared learns about Raisa's blood allergy...and that his is the only blood she can drink. More complications ensue once they make it back to his ranch, complications involving two of his three brothers. To say more would give spoilers, and while I guessed one of them, the other came entirely out of left field for me, so kudos to McCarthy for that.

McCarthy's books are perfect for those who like to read about killing machines who are forced to deal with emotion and embrace their humanity as a result of falling in love. Which is why I put up with her sometimes ridiculous love scenes - we won't get into the book featuring a chapter-long sex scene performed on horseback - and the other flaws that crop up in her writing.

I'm going to add an "If You Like..." recommendation here...if you like McCarty's vampires or werewolves, you might like Lora Leigh's Breeds. I'm nearly finished with Lion's Heat and find Jonas Wyatt cut from the same cloth as the Johnson brothers, although he's an extremely difficult character. Still, it's amazing what love will do to a killing machine...


April 11, 2010

Bluebonnets from the Highway

Dallas may be one of the most unattractive locales going, but every springtime there are patches of loveliness as a result of the wildflower planting begun by Lady Bird Johnson.

As I drove around yesterday I saw them from the highway and invite you to take a little journey in your mind. Imagine driving on an ugly interstate or frontage road, with gas fumes, big rigs, and annoying traffic, then glancing out your car window and seeing these amazing, ephemeral beds of blue:

We leave tomorrow for our daughter's high school graduation and when we return Thursday night, I'm hoping the beds of blue haven't yet faded away until next spring. If they're still there, I honestly can't think of a better homecoming to signal a fresh, new start.


April 10, 2010

Blogging Barnes and Noble

I'd originally planned to call this blog Blogging Barnes & Noble, but then decided that would be too limiting. Instead, I'll just use that title for certain entries...beginning with this one, as last night was a pretty unusual evening at the bookstore.

First of all, I sold my first Nook...finally. It's incredibly rare that I work anywhere besides cashiering or Kids, but my first hour last night, from seven to eight, was Info, where the exciting event occurred. Actually, I didn't sell it so much as convince the customer she'd made the right choice in coming in to buy it, but a sale is a sale. Then, while still working Info, I saw a woman carrying Red-Headed Stepchild and The Mage in Black, both by local author Jaye Wells. I'd noticed the latter title at work earlier in the week and actually went so far as writing it down and researching it for my TBB list.

After chatting with the customer for a few minutes and discovering she was interested in the nephilim after having read about them in another book, I asked if she might be interested in some recommendations. I knew we had all three books in Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles, which feature quite heavily the nephilim, so I suggested she look at them, then told her I couldn't wait for the fourth book to be released later in the month. I guess she decided we were sympatico, because I also sold her Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur, and Soulless and Changless - both by Gail Carriger. And to tie it all together, I told her that later in the month she might want to consider Sandman Slim, also featuring the nephilim.

Later, after about an hour and a half cashiering, and suggesting Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series and Dorothy Sayers Peter Wimsey series to a reader who likes historical mysteries (those recommendations come courtesy of LinnieGayl and Ellen, btw), and Laura Bennett's Didn't I Feed You Yesterday and Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, both of which I reviewed positively for Amazon Vine and both of which we're featuring for Mother's Day to a couple of customers who didn't bite, I went back to start recovering sections three - YA, nature, pets, science, business, computers, and humor (we have tremendously large business and computer sections) - and five. Five is comprised of just about all non-fiction outside of family and child care, including cooking, relationships, medical, travel, self-help, and psychology/psychiatry.

Recovering the store involves straightening out the shelves, re-organizing, and re-shelving books that belong elsewhere. Part of the task is also keeping the Info desk within eye-sight. A young man, a social studies teacher, wanted to know where we shelved Camus, and if I had any recommendations other than The Stranger. To be honest, I didn't, but after we looked at the selection available, I asked if he might like a recommendation. He said he loved recommendations, so I took him to Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, which I describe as "the only Pulitzer prize-winning novel I ever stayed up all night to read," followed by, "my daughter recommended this to me and after having read it I told her she'd gone up ten points in my estimation."

That always gets people interested, but the clientele of our particular store doesn't lend itself to this type of content. I figured the customer, a young male social studies teacher, would be open-minded enough to enjoy a book featuring an intersexed narrator, as well as the themes surrounding immigrants, race, and social unrest. He looked at the book and decided to buy it. Later, when he came to me at Info to see if we had another book in stock, I suggested that if he indeed enjoys Middlesex, he might consider giving Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children a shot. I told him I'd actually not read it, but that my daughter recommended it to me specifically because I loved Eugenides' book. It wasn't the content, but the format of the books she found similar.

Other than selling the Nook, nothing so far was all that unique. I bombed out more often than I succeeded in recommending reads, but was pleased overall in that generally I don't sell seven add-ons (or convince another employee who's listening in to pick up any of my add-ons for herself - Pat bought the Carriger duo), but all of the above are simply part of my sharing the love of books with other readers. No, what made last night different was the young girl wandering around the bookstore with a purse and a book for something like three hours...and another small girl holding an empty pink pet carrier.

Eventually, after clearing it with the managers (because I was the only parent/employee handy), I went and asked the little girl if she could give me her parents' phone number because I worried about her being by herself. She did, I called, and suggested to her mom as gently as possible our concern at the girls' being alone for so long so late into the evening (a quarter to ten by then), then took her to the front of the store where I sat her down and said one of us would stay with her until her dad came to pick her up. My manager took over from there and had the much tougher conversation with the dad about this not being acceptable in the future, but by then I was back in Kids, asking the very small child about the pet that was supposed to be inm the little pink carrier she held because I could see it was empty and worried about an animal on the loose. No, the animal was not loose...her guinea pig was inside her sleeve. I asked if I could see her pet, took it from her and pet it briefly, then had her put it back in its carrier "so that it didn't get loose and get scared by somebody." Come to think of it, where were her parents?

The evening ended at 11:15; a rarity because on weekends we generally aren't finished with recovery until at least 11:30 - often it's nearly midnight when we leave. But before-hand, I mentioned how needy I'd been feeling about never having a "kudos" card on the bulletin board. Alison, another bookseller, took pity on me, said, "You sold a Nook," wrote up a card for me, and stuck it on the board. Thanks, Alison!


April 9, 2010

Prices...They Have A Changed

Although via Gail Carriger's publisher I have a (now cherished) manuscript version of Changeless, yesterday I bought and downloaded for my Kindle the digital version. I did so knowing that I paid the exact same amount as somebody who walks into a bookstore and walks out with a print copy. And, had I walked into the B&N where I have a membership (forgetting my employee discount), I would have paid less than I paid for my digital copy. I'm not at all happy about it, but I support the authors I adore, plain and simple.

For weeks now, if not longer, I've been bitching about how Steve Jobs has mucked up the digital playing field. I've noted that when iTunes was born, he forced the music industry into the 21st century but that when it came to iBooks, because of Kindle competition, he did not. I moaned about how the agency model would only truly be reasonable to consumers if release formats were staggered but prices didn't rise. I complained when this did not happen, when I noticed delayed releases of new print hardcovers into digital format also included increased prices. And I wondered what would happen to paperback-only releases.

And now I know...I think. In checking my Kindle purchases for the last several months, I noticed that I generally paid 20% less for my digital copy than I would have for a print copy. Instead of paying $7.99 for a paperback-only release, I most often paid $6.37, although occasionally - very occasionally - $6.99.

I re-tweeted myself when I noted that increased competition most often leads to reduced prices for consumers, but that with the release of the iPad and creation of iBooks, we've seen the opposite. I love my Kindle, love having a thousand books at my disposal in a package that is the size of a paperback yet weighs even less. I love being able to download in the middle of the night, at an airport, or after reading a review while waiting in a doctor's office. But let's face it...a digital copy, as great as it is, is not the same as a print copy. No trees were killed in the making of it, no ink used, no machines or human beings paid to secure a print run. And I can't lend a digital copy to a friend...it's even illegal for me to reformat a book so I can read it without Kindle software. And yet now I'm being asked to pay exactly the same price as I would for a print copy.

Essentially both the publisher and the consumer reap the benefit of convenience as far as digital books are concerned. They don't have to pay any printing costs and I am able to access books 24/7, and save space in my house at the same time. They continue to reap the benefit. They still have no printing costs to pay, but now they want us to pay 20% more for - nothing. The price of creating digital copies did not increase overnight. "That does not compute, Will Robinson." My little brain simply cannot grasp the logic of a 20% price increase when no additional costs have been incurred.

I think what publishers fail to consider is this: Not all of us are that "buys one or two books a year" reader. Genre readers tend to read a lot...I know I do...and to spend a lot of money to feed our habits. This month alone, even with all the reviewing I do, I bought several urban fantasies and romance novels. But now I'll be thinking twice about those Kindle purchases and will most likely buy one, probably two, fewer books a month to make up the difference. And I'll do it grudgingly, knowing that I'm being over-charged, but in the hopes that the inequity is rectified soon.

Hard-core readers need to read and we've been left entirely out of the equation. That's right - those of us who shore up the publishing industry are being screwed by it. It sucks. We are paying the price for publishers who don't understand our loyalty, or that their business has changed, as evidenced by the statistic in my last entry, that e-book sales grew at a rate of more than 175% last year. Somehow I knew this was going to happen. Damn.

P.S. I believe I've shot my wad on this topic and don't plan to write about it again...unless something changes in a big way.

P.P.S. And so I don't leave you entire with a bad taste in your month, let me share a link to a video trailer for Soulless that Gail Carriger mentioned; click here and enjoy.


April 7, 2010

The Ethicist Agrees

Last week a reader sent in an interesting question to the NYT Ethicist, Randy Cohen. Until just now Cohen's background was a mystery to me; now I know that he answered ethical questions from listeners to NPR's All Things Considered for several years...and now you do as well.

Anyway, the reader asked whether or not it was "okay" that after having bought the print version of a book, he then found a pirated version online and downloaded it to his e-reader. The Ethicist responded: "An illegal download is — to use an ugly word — illegal. But in this case, it is not unethical. Author and publisher are entitled to be paid for their work, and by purchasing the hardcover, you did so," comparing the action to "buying a CD, then copying it to your iPod."

In his response to the reader, he shares the view of his friend, the publisher of Grand Central Publishing, which is that anyone downloading pirated material has stolen intellectual property and is a thief. But Cohen takes issue with the publisher's point, arguing that "it is a curious sort of theft that involves actually paying for a book."

The Ethicist's view has long been my own - I just don't see why I should have to pay for a book two times. I realize many consider this a rather sketchy position. Frankly, I feel better knowing somebody who thinks about ethical questions daily came to the same conclusion.

Finally, and apropos of nothing, really, yesterday it was reported that in 2009 e-book sales grew at the astonishing rate of 176% while overall book sales were flat at best.


Not Working 9 to 5

I ruined my feet during my first holiday season at Barnes and Noble; working eight hour shifts six days a week for six weeks in a row was just too much for my middle-aged feet. It took months of physical therapy and $400 orthotics to reach a point where they didn't swell, throb, or otherwise annoy on a constant basis. About seven months after starting PT, I was told I really shouldn't work full shifts anymore, or multiple days in a row; that half shifts were really all my feet could handle, and two or three days in a row, max. Since late last summer, I've cut back dramatically; most shifts are about five hours, and other than a couple of weeks where I worked five days in a row, and one or two days that I worked for six and a half hours, I've been able to keep my feet in check. I can handle a five and a half hour shift, but do better on a straight half-shift of four hours.

Unfortunately, the bookstore prefers to schedule people for full shifts, so I've worked less than I want to because there just aren't all that many half shifts available. Last night, though, was the perfect shift for me, even if I didn't leave until 10:30. I started at 7:00 in the evening and worked three hours as cashier, then helped recovery the store for the next day. I sold seven new/renewal memberships, did some hand-selling (and interested many of those who came in last night to buy Jim Butcher's new hardcover in the upcoming paperback release later this month of Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim), and all in all came home in good shape, even after dusting, which puts all of our allergies into over-drive.

When I got home I turned to my husband and said, "You know, I'd work this mini-shift every night if they'd let me." He suggested I let them know, and I plan to, although I've kinda mentioned it before. I don't think it was taken seriously.

I'm sure a lot of booksellers would love to just come in for a few hours and obviously we can't all be accommodated, but I'm not sure all would volunteer to close the store each night because it means giving up family and "going out" time. I work again Friday night - 7 - 11:30 - and I'll mention it to one of the managers. I realize seven shifts is pretty piggie, but five would be great...even four would be fine. We'll see if it's do-able.


April 5, 2010

The Church

Over the past several years all of us have gotten used to reports of child sexual abuse at the hands of priests within the Catholic Church. We've read about stories of cover-ups, lawsuits filed years later, and of monies awarded that required the sale of Church property. And for years the rest of the world sort of hung back, sure that the abuse was simply a "U.S. problem." We've shaken our heads, gotten angry, then forgot about it until the next cycle.

And then...and then reports began to surface about similar abuse throughout Europe. As reports began to multiply, the Church began to lash back at the media reporting the abuse. Last week things came to a head when a spokesman at the Vatican compared all the negative reporting to the persecution endured by Jews during the Holocaust.

As a student of organizational behavior, this tone deafness didn't surprise me. As organizations age, they become insular and concerned with protecting the status quo. Even though the Catholic Church is a religious organization, it is also close to two thousand years old. Then too, one gets the sneaking suspicion that for some in the hierarchy, this sort of abuse is undoubtedly built in; it's happened for so long that it may not be considered sex...or abuse, but something boys experience as they grow up. About that last I have no proof, but it seems a reasonable proposition, so I'm stating it.

The reason I'm writing about this today? Another in a series of articles, this one about a priest who'd served in an American diocese, been accused of sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl, who'd returned to his native India where he's effectually been given sanctuary against the charges. What struck me about this particular article was a set of comments made by the area's bishop. Though the Vatican has known about the accusations for at least three years, the bishop's response is simple: "We cannot simply throw out the priest...he says he is innocent. What else can we do?" Not "Whether the priest is innocent or guilty, we believe in the rule of law and have sent him back to face the charges against him."

The Vatican's fall-back position seems to be that nothing in Church directives prevents bishops from heeding local authorities, but because the Pope hasn't issued any guidelines requiring them to do so, they can use that lack as a loophole, throw up their hands, and declare, "What can we do?"

Nowhere in this are the thousands of abused children taken into account, just protection of the priests and their higher-ups. Now that this corruption has reached the highest levels - the Pope himself - and is not simply an American problem, the shit is really hitting the fan. And yet all we've heard is more of the same shifting of blame onto the media. One report I read yesterday blamed the "New York Jewish lobby" (aka The New York Times) for smearing the Pope.

One wonders where it will all end now that the scandal has gone global. The circle the wagons mentality, the tone deaf attitude continues to grow. If Jesus threw out the money lenders, what do you suppose he would do here?


April 4, 2010

Working Under the Influence

Last night was my first shift in about two weeks, and a test of how well I'm feeling after being sick with whatever all week. While 90% of my respiritory symptoms have abated, that "cotton in the head" feeling remains as strong as it did last Monday.

The night started out strong; I hand-sold from my register a copy of Lisa Kleypas' Then Came You almost immediately to a woman who'd never read the author's earlier work. I noticed that of the 48 copies of Changeless, ten had already been sold. Though I did sell two more, we lost two double sales to customers who would have tried Changeless if they could also have bought Soulless. Needles to say, I short-listed several additional copies of Soulless.

As for recommendations, I made one couple pretty happy (I'm not quite sure what it was they bought that tipped me off) when I mentioned the up-coming reissue of a few of Mary Alice Monroe's best. As I talked to them about her, the husband realized his wife had loved The Beach House (sweet, right?), so when I handed them a slip of paper with Sweetgrass, Swimming Lessons, and Time Is a River hand-written on it, I knew I'd made a future sale. I also know that the next time another couple returns, they will take a strong look at Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job and Lamb (another hand-written slip of paper)...it's not a huge leap from Spencer Quinn's Dog Gone It to Moore's absurdist humor. I hope my Sandman Slim recommendation (the mass market release for Richard Kadrey's book comes out late this month) does the same magic for the guy who bought some Jim Butcher...he seemed intrigued and appreciative with his hand-written slip of paper.

I've gotten into the habit of trying to recommend something to as many customers as possible based on what they buy. For most of them this is a novel experience, but for me it's very natural. I talk to just about everyone who checks out at my station unless a line requires I move it along. My philosophy is that this type of personalized customer service is what brings people back to the store. I don't know if this is true, but it feels right. I do know that I have some "returning" customers who actually carry my lists around with them...checking titles/authors off as they read them, and adding/buying based on new recommendations. On the other hand, none of the notes from customers lauding particular booksellers that are pinned to the break room bulletin board are for me.

Not at all great on the selling of memberships, though; just one new one and one renewal in 3.5 hours spent cashiering. At the start of the month, that's pretty dismal (if you buy a membership early in the month, it's like getting an extra month for free, which can be a strong selling point). But the biggest "cotton in the head" moment came when I attempted to wrap a book for a customer to give as a gift. We had some pretty paper not on the big roll attached to the wall like toilet paper so I decided to use it. Unfortunately, I mis-measured not once but twice (horribly embarrassing). Certainly my least stellar moment of the evening, although that I was sent back to re-work several shelves during nightly store recovery was another suckie event because, hey, it's not exactly rocket science.

I noticed that we have not received our ten copies of Chaos Bites, which I would dearly love to sell like mad. Alas, we have precisely one copy each of books 1 - 3 in Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles, so it's going to be very tough going to move these because this series remains a total buried treasure. With such strong sales so far for Changeless at the bookstore, I feel as though the pressure is off me to sell it like a maniac, so my investment has totally shifted to Handeland's urban fantasy series. For the first and only time since leaving AAR I wish I still had access to its thousands of readers in order to extoll the series' virtues. Why, exactly, I'm not sure, but it's almost become an obsession for me to see this series take off at the level of Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson books.

Luckily I have more hours this next week than the 5.5 I had for the week just ended, but shifts are still in short supply. If I were to judge by iPad-mania, the recession must have been rescinded, but considering how hard it is to sell memberships these days, I guess not.

We'll see how it goes Tuesday evening. With any luck, there won't be any cotton in my head.

Finally, it's very odd to blog knowing that barely anybody reads this. Regardless, I'm going to keep at it...at least for a while.


April 3, 2010

Jeremy Northam

I read in Entertainment Weekly last night that Jeremy Northam will be appearing in Miami Medical, a new television show. EW wasn't terribly impressed, but other reviewers make it sound promising. All I could think of, though, when I read Northam's name, is that I love him; the version of Emma he appears in with Gwyneth Paltrow is my favorite. I adored The Winslow Boy; anyone interested in sexual tension without so much as a kiss should watch the smoldering between Northam and Rebecca Pidgeon. That both he and Clive Owen appeared in Gosford Park should almost have been illegal...almost. I think he does for me what Colin Firth does for most Janeites (Colin Firth, btw, does absolutely nothing for me), and I have trouble seeing him in contemporary settings, which is probably why The Net did nothing for me while The Ideal Husband did.

Years ago I tucked away a magazine, an issue of the long-defunct Jane, I think, that featured Northam in bed, tossle-haired and sleepily sexy. Let me share it with you here...

And now, it's time to get ready for work tonight. It's my first shift in something like two weeks, and I'm ever-so thankful that the virus I suffered with during the week has mostly abated as of today.


April 2, 2010

Christopher Moore...in Case You Missed It

Major fan-girl here for absurdist fiction author Christopher Moore. A Dirty Job is my favorite, even though it's tough to convince somebody that hilarity ensues after a man's wife dies in childbirth. Next in my love-fest with the author are Bloodsucking Fiends, which was my introduction to Moore - thanks Mary! - and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, followed by You Suck and Fluke: I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings. Although for my friend Gail last year's Fool supplanted A Dirty Job, I feel as though I need to re-read King Lear to do it justice, and simply haven't had the time. I do plan to read the brand-spanking-new Bite Me, though - which follows Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck in a series - as soon as possible. While the second book wasn't as fantabulous as the first, the excerpt for the third looks hilarious.

Lamb, btw, is the perfect book for any friend with a great sense of humor, whether or not they read a lot of fiction. I suggested it for my husband, who reads a lot of dry crap for his law practice and so doesn't do a lot of recreational reading, and now he's convinced "this guy writes like me."

Anyway, before I digress further...Christopher Moore wrote a short piece for the Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago. If you blinked, you probably missed OMFG, Horatio, in which he writes about language. If you like Moore, surely one of the reasons you do is that he's a master wordsmith, something I got into when I interviewed him a few years ago. I hope he writes more for HuffPo in the future; OMFG is a good start.


April 1, 2010

April Book Buys

Of the ten books on my wish list, four were available digitally. Looking at AAR's list of releases for April, though, reminded me of one other book I wanted, which supplanted one of those four (Bulls Island). Here then are my ebook downloads for April.

I also downloaded a digital copy of Metrophage, Richard Kadrey's first book. It, like Butcher Bird is available for free...just go to Kadrey's site. I don't know anything, really, about these books, but was such a fan of Sandman Slim that I thought I'd grab 'em while I could. Meanwhile, Kill the Dead, the Sandman sequel is set to be released later this year...I think in October.

I'm most anxious for a copy of Chaos Bites, but the two earlier books in Handeland's series were delayed digitally, so I may give in and buy the print release to read as soon as this special review project for PW is complete.

As for the others, well, I do have Changeless in manuscript form. An unacceptable version, to be sure, which at some point I'll need to rectify, but at least I've already read it.

And now I'm off to finish reviewing the second special project book (read it yesterday)...three to go with the clock running out.


A Gift

I had this on my old blog, but thought I'd share it again. I am short on time because of this special review project. And as I've been sick all week, I need a bit of a pick me up and thought you could use one too. Enjoy!