Friday, December 31, 2010

Last day to tell me what I'm reading next year!

Today is the last day for my poll to help me decide what series to catch up on next year. So far you all have been really unhelpful in making it a tie between 2-3 of the 4! ;) I guess that just means I picked some good ones! If you haven't told me what to do yet, now's your chance! Yes, smart aleck remarks are okay, as long as they're not too mean! Just check out my side bar and you'll see the choices.

Working on finishing up one more book today I hope, that will bring me to 133 for the year, my best ever! I will post a year end favorites sometime in the next couple of days I hope. I've read and listened to some great ones this year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All You Need is Now - Duran Duran

Quick plug for one of my favorite groups, their new release came out on 12/21, I think it might have been an iTunes only release. I finally got to listen to the whole thing today and really like it!

Here is the video from the title song, All You Need is Now. Notice the high tech foil background! ;) Enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Bite Before Christmas by Heidi Betts

The Bite Before Christmas by Heidi Betts is a collection of 3 novellas, with the tie between them being Angelina Bertolli, a vampire matchmaker. This is my 4th Spirit of Christmas Challenge read. I may try to squeeze one more in before I call it quits for the year, to see if I can't reach that Christmas Tree level!

This was a fun read, I could easily see a series based on cases from Angelina's matchmaking service. I have a few criticisms, but they're all about the cover, front and back. The cover picture is cute, it really is, but who is that guy? He doesn't match anyone in the any of the three stories that I could tell. I think it would have been better if the picture had been of Angelina in a slinky, Christmasy number, since she's the character that loosely ties these three stories together. But otherwise a very cute cover. Now, the blurb on back... someone didn't proofread because two of the stories name different men than are in the actual stories! LOL! Instead of Nick and Sergio, we actually had Sean and Ian. But anyway... on to the stories!

In All I Vant for Christmas, vampire Connor Drake just wants a traditional Christmas with all the trimmings, but his rebellious, teen-age acting siblings won't cooperate. Enter human Jillian, an event planner sent in by Angelina to give Connor the Christmas he dreams of. Not only does she decorate, she gets Liam and Maeve interested and helping. Along the way Connor realizes that he wants Jillian to stay with him, not just for Christmas, but always.

Angelina again takes charge in A Vampire in Her Stocking, when she turns terminally ill Sean (not Nick!) into a vampire and leaves him wrapped up in a bow for her friend Vivian, his secretly vampire assistant who deeply loves him, and is now faced with losing him. Vivian refused to turn Sean herself, believing he would not want that life, and she's afraid that she may be right when at first he seems to reject her. But Angelina is rarely wrong...

Angelina herself is the star of It's a Wonderful Bite, as she's watching the happy couples she's brought together, and then examining her own life with sexy vampire cop Ian (not Sergio!). She loves him deeply, and begins to think that perhaps she'd like to make their commitment more permanent, but Ian just doesn't seem like he'll take the hint without a big push. Angelina has a dream after watching Ian's favorite Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life" for the millionth time, where she and Ian are not only not vampires, but not together, and almost loses Ian forever. No worries though, of course it ends on a high note! ;)

The wreath decorating scene with Connor and his siblings was cute, I think though it's a toss up for me which story I liked the best between It's a Wonderful Bite and A Vampire in Her Stocking. These vampire stories seen a little outside of Heidi's norm but I enjoyed them, and I think her Chicks with Sticks series looks cute, and may have to give it a try.

For more information on the author, please see her website:

Heidi Betts

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hallelujah

I shared this from another facebook friend, but wanted to share it here too. Hallelujah we've made it through the big day! As my husband punnily said "We've Handel-ed another Christmas!" LOL! This is very fun if you haven't seen it, almost as bad as a game of Twister for some of the kids!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!



Here is the group I think the kids were emulating, also very funny. The kids did a great job!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Carry On, Santa...

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope your Holidays are peaceful and filled with love. Please remember our family members who are not able to be home with us right now.

Below is something I heard on the radio today, and then found a wonderful picture collage set to it on you tube. It is a tear jerker, so if you're already feeling fragile and emotional, maybe save it for later. Take it from one who understands, I've cried both times I've heard it today, but I do really like it. There's just one line that gets me every time, if you listen to it, I'm sure you'll know the one! ;)




Here is the poem itself, and some info about it: Merry Christmas, My Friend

Merry Christmas to all... and to all, a good night!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Mrs. Clause Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn

How Mrs. Clause Saved Christmas by Jeff Guinn is my third read for the Spirit of Christmas Challenge. I highly recommend this one if you are looking for a "Meaning of Christmas" read rather just a story set during the holiday.

This is the story of Mrs. Claus, Layla, and how she met her husband Nicholas as the desire to bestow gifts on poor families brought them together. They are joined by other famous companions, but this is more quick backstory. The real focus is on England in the 1600's when the Puritans are rising to power and having difficulties with King Charles I. The Puritans felt that celebrating Christmas was actually sinful, as the December 25th actually corresponds with a pagan holiday, and that people used it as an excuse for bad behaviour, that it was actually offensive to God. There was a lot of interesting history presented here that I was not aware of, and will be interested to find out more about. Mrs. Claus feels called to stay in England during the troubles and try to save the holiday that was the only highlight for many of the people during the year.

The main theme of the story is gift-giving. Not the lavish presents we often bestow on our family and yes, let's face it, ourselves, but the kind of giving that embodies the true spirit of Christmas, food and clothing for those in need, and yes, maybe a toy or some candy. The kind of giving that comes from the desire to make someone else's life just a little bit easier and happier. I practiced my own version of this during my reading of the book, as I donated a batch of toys to Toys for Tots yesterday, embarrassingly getting quite emotional as I handed them over to the retired marines manning the bins. I had a lot of fun shopping for these gifts with my Mom and my husband, (who wouldn't, I mean, toys, come on!) as I imagined a child opening them on Christmas Day. And Mom, if you're reading this post, no I really don't need a blue Barbie horse of my own, I promise! ;)

It's a wonderful yet poignant feeling to freely give gifts to someone in need, especially because we never know when the tables might be turned and we're the ones in need of help. I was amazed to find out how many people are at poverty level in my own county, I honestly had no idea as we're joked about being rather affluent in this area. So if you feel the need to make a difference, there are many opportunities. You can contact places like Harvesters, and the Salvation Army, or look for some local charities in your area, we have several here, they are constantly in need of volunteers and funds, and many make it easy to donate to them even through online websites. It may feel "too easy" to just make an online donation, but trust me, these places have become masters at stretching a dollar, so anything you can give will help them. I hope someday to step up my own "giving" into some volunteer time as well, but until I'm ready for that kind of commitment, I'll continue donate here and there as I buy my groceries, and buy toys at Christmas, little things here and there. Because if everyone is doing little things, they add up to big things!

I did not really see any official website for Jeff Guinn as an author, but here is a link to an article where he is talking about the Christmas Chronicles, of which the Mrs. Claus book is a part: Jeff Guinn Interview

ETA: I stand corrected, I did not think at first this site was for the correct Jeff Guinn, but it does appear to be, as he does mention a book about Bonnie and Clyde in the interview, so here is the Official Jeff Guinn Publisher Page.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Candy Cane Murder by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine and Leslie Meier

I decided to go with a mystery Anthology for my second Spirit of Christmas Challenge read. All three of these stories are about established series characters.

Joanne Fluke is the headliner with her bakery owning character Hannah Swensen in Candy Cane Murder. Hannah must solve the murder of department store owner Wayne Bergstrom who is playing Santa Claus. Many people had reason to dislike Wayne, but Hannah solves the case with help from both of her male friends, Norm and Mike. This story is sprinkled with a lot of cookie recipes that sounded absolutely delicious! I did actually figure out who the killer was in this one, much earlier than I normally do, so I was kind of proud of myself!

In The Dangers of Candy Canes by Laura Levine, ad writer Jaine Austen is called in by one of her clients who owns a roofing company, when one of his customers falls to his death from the roof while decorating for Christmas. Jaine discovers many suspects and some unsuspected relationships, all while telling some whopping lies of her own. It almost backfires on her however, as she nearly becomes a victim herself! Jaine's foray as an LA Girlfriend in this one is also funny, a little bit of charity almost gone wrong! I was surprised by the killer in this one!

Candy Canes of Christmas Past by Leslie Meier has her character Lucy Stone remembering a particularly difficult Christmas in her life, before her second child is born and during the renovation of a house that is taking every cent she and Bill had. It seems like anything that can go wrong for her in the house does, but she also discovers what a caring town they have moved to. The mystery in this one is a historical murder, the mother of the town's librarian Miss Tilley. It was never clear if Mrs. Tilley's death was an accident, her daughter has always suspected the worst, and Lucy is able to help her solve the crime. I admit I didn't figure this one out either!

Again I'm having a hard time deciding which story was my favorite, but I think I have to go with Candy Canes of Christmas Past by Leslie Meier. This is the first Lucy Stone character mystery I have read, I was already familiar with of the other characters.

For more information on these authors, check out their websites:

Laura Levine
Leslie Meier
Joanne Fluke

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hot for the Holidays by Leigh, Knight, Bast and James

Hot for the Holidays is an anthology of Christmas themed paranormal romances from some of the best known names in the industry, Lora Leigh, Angela Knight, Anya Bast and Allyson James. These are hot, explicit stories, so be prepared! This is my first read for the Christmas Spirit Challenge, and it was a snow melter for sure!

Vampire's Ball by Angela Knight is set in her Mageverse world, where Kat Danilo learns of her magical and historical Arthurian heritage and is shepherded into her Maja powers by Ridge Champion, a vampire. She is course tested right away, before she really knows what she's capable of or how to wield any of her new found power, when she must help take down a rogue werewolf.

In A Little Night Magic by Allyson James, Jamison Kee returns to protect his love Naomi and her daughter Julie from the Changers he that are following him. Naomi is still hurt and angry by his apparent abandonment a couple of years before, but quickly comes around when she learns his story. As expected the Changers do come after them, and they get a little bit of help from above in the form of the Native American god Coyote.

Anya Bast takes us to the Fae court of the Seelie in Sweet Enchantment where Dark Fae Ronan is set to be executed for a treasonous act, and former love Bella makes a last desperate attempt to save his life by offering to marry him. He refuses, but is given hope by her offer, which tells him she does still care for him, feelings he believed he had destroyed in her. He is determined to make things right so that they can be together on their own terms, their love unmarred by a forced bargain.

A Christmas Kiss by Lora Leigh takes place in the Wolf Breed compound of Haven. Jessica is being held in the compound under guard, for her own protection and to prove her trustworthiness. She had betrayed the Breeds while under the influence of a drug that her father had given her, but she also helped to save the mates of several Alphas. Hawke knows that Jessica is his mate, but he controls himself carefully around her until her innocence can be proven, and she is welcomed into the Pack without reservations.

This is a nice paranormal collection to read during the holidays, excitement, sizzling scenes, and holiday miracles. I have a hard time choosing a favorite, but I think I would have to say A Little Night Magic by Allyson James.

For information, visit these links:

Anya Bast
Allyson James
Angela Knight
Lora Leigh

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas Decorations

It's that time of year again. That time we all have aspirations of being the most awesomely decorated house on the block... okay well, not really, but we do feel a little "deer" pressure when our neighbors start decorating, and in order not to be a humbug, we feel the need to put some decorations out too!

I have a rocky track record with outside decorations. My mother bought me some lovely grapevine, light up deer (in order not to feel deer pressure, one must actually have some deer to put out), very classy. Their heads move, the doe moves her head up and down, the buck moves his from side to side, slowly, as gracefully as a motorized light up deer can, and I've had them for several years now, they were my first outside decorations.

A few years ago, some of the neighborhood kids apparently decided that my deer were not already animated enough, and decided to rearrange them for me... enough said. Everyone pretty much thought it was funny but me. I was pretty unhappy and it caused me to not put them out the next year, mostly because I didn't want unknown people tampering with my things and breaking them! so there was bump in the road number 1, everyone else still finds it pretty funny, except me!

So I got over my fear of the deer being rearranged and tried it again, luckily with no mishaps, and we even added some critters and an igloo in the back this time, very cute, a polar bear and a seal, they also move, the seal turns his head and flips his tail, the polar bear moves his head. The igloo didn't move, it just sat there looking homey and cute. Until I decided it was time to bring them in, during which I discovered just how homey the igloo had become. As I went to pull the little spikes out, a big rabbit exploded out of it and took off across the street! Now this was funny, or so I thought, until I realized what had happened. The igloo was no longer attached to it's plug. I guess the rabbit had decided that he wanted to get back to basics and having an igloo with electricity was too posh!

My husband made a valiant attempt to resurrect the igloo this past weekend armed with wire strippers and a soldering iron, but to no avail, too many wires had been chewed through too close to where connections had to be made. And so we had to bid the igloo farewell. We're trying spiral trees this time, much less welcome shelter to a bunny we hope. I just think it needs a little more though. Maybe more trees, a penguin or two, I don't know. I did see a really cute lit up giraffe in a Santa hat and coat that I had to point out to a friend, but I just don't think it would go with the whole winter forest/arctic theme I've got going.

Anyway, below is our contribution to lighting up the season. I'm sure anyone who's decorated outdoors has many funny yet frustrating stories to tell!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Christmas Lights!

We found an excellent website that lists Christmas light displays in our county, and so tonight we traveled one of the several maps they had which included the display shown below. It's very different from your normal display, and I was really impressed, though I'm thinking that I may have to take sunglasses the next time we look at it, it was BRIGHT, but very cool! Enjoy!



There are more videos and information about it at their website The Ultimate Tree, have a look!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Best Urban Fantasy Cover Art



Click on the picture and go vote for your favorite in each category, it's fun to look at all the covers, and you could even win a prize! Paranormal/Urban Fantasy covers are just so fun and pretty!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Straight No Chaser - 12 Days of Christmas

We caught part of this on the radio the other night, as I needed a Christmas music fix, and decided we had to look up the group. They are a fun men's acapella group, and this song is great! The last part is my favorite, but the whole thing is wonderful! Enjoy!

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