TBR Challenge Review: Locked and Loaded by HelenKay Dimon

Format: ebook, mass market
Pub Date: August 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
FTC: Purchased myself

Yes, I'm nearly 2 full weeks late posting again. January was the month that turned my home into La Casa de Plague. Everyone was sick. Strep, ear infections, chest colds... I'm determined to get my groove back, though. 

January's theme was category romances.  I'm not much of a category reader anymore. I think I just got out the habit. Or had a few too many stinkers in a row. But having read and loved HelenKay Dimon's story in Holiday Kisses, I decided to try her category romantic suspense book, Locked and Loaded , that has been languishing, unread, on my digital TBR.


Recipe: Caramel Pecan Brownies

Caramel Pecan Brownies
These were originally from a Pillsbury pamphlet cookbook. I have no idea what issue. I've been making these for years, usually when I run out of baking chocolate and only have cocoa on hand.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
12 caramels
1 tablespoon milk

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 8 x 8 inch square pan. Mix sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Spread in the pan as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Heat caramels and milk in saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramels are melted.* drizzle over warm brownies. Cool completely, about 1 hr. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. 16 brownies.

*You can also pop the caramels and milk in the microwave and cook on high for 30 seconds. Stir and heat in 15 second intervals until drizzling consistency.

When is a Bookstore Not a Bookstore?

On a whim, I decided to pop on in to my old Barnes and Noble in Reno, NV. A place where I worked for 3 years right out of college. Where I did just about every job imaginable. And where I discovered the wonders of genre fiction.

This is the place that had over 200,000 books on the shelves during inventory. Two glorious stories of bay after bay of books.

That store is gone. Wiped away to make room for a Nook ereader showroom and a toy store. No, it's still Barnes and Noble. But the space devoted to books is easily half of what it was back in 2003. Or even 2007. Genre fiction is now squished in with fiction and literature. The space that used to house mystery, romance and sci fi is now filled with other topics.

And the history section. Oh the history section made me weep. It really did make me tear up. And it was after snapping this picture that my husband made me leave the store. Because that sadness was quickly changing to anger, and I was going to say something unkind to a store employee soon.

Here is where the history section was. Archaeology, World War II, biographies...all were housed in this part of the upper story. Now, it's nothing but toys from the escalator to the elevator. Fully 1/4 of the upstairs is nothing but toys.

I get having to diversify. I do understand the declining sales problem and narrow profit margins. But this feels like a violation. When books are no longer granted shelf space, why go into a bookstore? The serendipity of discovering a new book to try isn't going to happen if there's a toy section where those books used to be.

One more reason not to go into a brick and mortar store. Stick a fork in me. I'm done.

Seems as if this is part of B&N's CEO William Lynch's master plan to "save" the chain. There was a lovely, adoring article from the New York Times over the weekend all about how "visionary" he is. Blergh. My favorite part of the article is this: BEFORE Mr. Lynch joined Barnes & Noble in 2009, he had never sold a book in his life. Color me unsurprised. B&N has a long tradition of hiring executives with zero bookselling experience. This move to turn the store into ToysRUS seems to be evidence of that. I don't think it's going to work when you're alienating the book buying public.


New Website Spiffiness

In case you missed my celebration on Twitter, here's the big news:

Suzanne Enoch finally updated her website! Yea!


No more autoplay music. Up-to-date book info! Book lists. Coming soon section with titles and release dates. I'm in a happy place after seeing how much more useful this site is.

So far, eagle-eyed people (not me) have only spotted a few minor errors (a few mislabeled foreign editions and the wrong publisher credited for her latest book.) Not bad for such a hefty revamp.

Don't get me wrong. I adore Suzanne Enoch's books. Really. But I get frustrated when authors I adore fail to maintain their websites because I can't direct others there for information.

Now, if we could only get Linda Howard to actually *have* a website, we'd be all set.

Way to go, Suzanne! Here's hoping the new look pays off with hefty sales and some good buzz.

Hump Day Movie: Joy Ride

It's been a long time since I've done a Hump Day movie post. This time, I thought I'd stick close to home.

Here it is: the one and only movie Hubs is in. It's just a few seconds. You don't see his face and he is uncredited. But he is there in the background, driving a truck in BFE Nevada. For which he made an obscene amount of money per hour. No wonder budgets are so high on movies.

His favorite part was the fact that a coworker was also on set driving a truck. But Hubs was the only one to make the finished film. There may have been some immature ribbing about that, too. 

Random fact: the working title of this movie was Squelch. What is a squelch? In this context, it has to do with a CB radio. After asking Hubs to explain it to me 3 different times, I still don't understand exactly what it is. Nothing new there. Which is probably why they changed the name, come to think of it.


Review: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Format: ebook, mass market paperback
Pub Date: 2003
Publisher: Minotaur
Length: 370 pages
FTC: Purchased myself

In an effort to read more mysteries this year, I picked up Julia Spencer-Fleming's much lauded first Clare Ferguson novel, In the Bleak Midwinter. Featuring a female Episcopal priest and a police chief, the novel is a mixture of genres that pushes a few buttons, surprises, and ultimately satisfies. With a few eye rolling episodes excepted (more on that later).

Clare Ferguson is the new priest for Millers Kill, a smaller town in upstate New York. Used to warmer climes, Clare is woefully unprepared for northern winters, and thus is constantly without warm boots, warm jackets, or a suitable car for the snow. Her day to day challenges are placed on the back burner when she finds an abandoned baby on the steps of her church. An event which causes her to cross paths with Russ Van Alstyne, the chief of police.


Quickie Review: In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster by Stephanie Laurens

Format: mass market, ebook
Pub Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins)
FTC: Purchased myself

In preparation for the last in the Cynster sisters trilogy due out the end of this month, I picked up the 2nd book in the series to make sure I didn't miss anything important. I wish I hadn't bothered. If you've read Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue , I can honestly say that there is no reason to read this book. It is a complete rehash of the first book, with a more delicate heroine, a scholarly hero, and villains who are worse than the original group in menace.

After finishing this book, I did what I usually do, and offered it to my mom who is another Stephanie Laurens fan. That same night, I got a text message from her: "Haven't I already read this?" Her confusion was understandable since it is the Exact. Same. Plot. There are some minor characters who are interesting and some Scottish elements I found intriguing. And the ending has some information that ties in with the last book, too.  But otherwise? This book was phoned in.

It's not horribly written, and if you haven't read the first in the series, the repetition will probably not make you grind your teeth as badly, but this is a watered down version of what Stephanie Laurens is capable of, and extremely disappointing. Buy it used, borrow it from a friend, or try to get it from the library. This one is not worth your money.

My Grade: D

The Blurb:

Three heros, three rescues, three weddings.

The pleasure of your company is requested
at the wedding of Miss Eliza Cynster

...but not until she's rescued from a daring abduction by the most unexpected of heros!
Brazenly kidnapped from her sister Heather's engagement ball, Eliza Cynster is spirited north to Edinburgh. Desperate and determined to escape, she seizes upon the first possible champion who happens along - gentleman scholar Jeremy Carling.

Villains and rescues are a far cry from Jeremy's expertise, yet he cannot abandon a damsel in distress. But danger lurks and hurdles abound in their race to escape the mysterious laird, until a final confrontation on a windswept cliff reveals what their future life could hold - if both are bold enough to seize and own the unexpected love they now share.

The Case of the Creeping Crud

Apologies for the radio silence and missing of the very first TBR Challenge post of the year! The kids got me sick. Again. But it seems as if the fever has subsided and my mom has stopped giving me pitying looks as she helps with the kids. So here's hoping there will be a lot more posts coming soon!


Review: Holiday Kisses by Jaci Burton, Shannon Stacey, HelenKay Dimon, and Alison Kent

Format: ebook
Pub Date: December 5, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 103,000 words
FTC: review copy courtesy of the publisher

I read this around Christmas time, but with all of the craziness going on, I didn't get the review up in a timely manner. But for those who read holiday books year round (like me) here's what I thought of the second Carina Press holiday anthology: overall, very good, although as is typical with anthos, there were some I liked more than others.


2011 Reading Challenge Overview

I didn't meet my reading challenge goal of 115 books, but I don't think I did too badly this year. I read 103 books, including novellas and audio books and not including rereads. I also managed to read quite a few authors who were on my List of Shame.  Which resulted in a couple of backlist gloms.

For a reading goal this year, I think I'm going to stay at 115. And I'm going to try to whittle away some more at my LOS. Another goal is to read more mystery. I only read 7 books that are true mysteries.  12 if I count the Sci-Fi caper-ish books of Gail Carriger and the one steampunk mystery by George Mann. That's right around 10% of my reading, which is a little low. I'd like to be more balanced. And maybe sneak a non-fiction title in there, too.

I was able to take a few authors off of the List of Shame this year: Patricia Briggs, Larissa Ione, Gail Carriger, Nalini Singh and Ilona Andrews being the most noticeable ones. Of course, I have a few more authors to ADD to the list, too, including Julia Spencer Fleming.

How did your reading challenges go? Any goals for this year?