Thursday, December 31, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash - Dec. 31, 2009

cansion - a melding of the term mansion with the phrase "living in a sardine can" it describes a larger than normal apartment in a low rent building. Usually the most sought after units in the buildings.

endextr - The moment when the credits role on the HBO series Dexter (usually a sad moment when you have to wait another week for more)

exedwil - The codecil in a rich man's will dedicated to his former spouses. This usually involves trivial offerings such as toe-jamb, locks of hair or swamp land in Florida. Needless to say these are meant for the ex-wives that had fallen out of favour.

maying - the term to describe any activity done in the month of May.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Some Dream for Fools by Faiza Guene

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Jun 3 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0151014205
ISBN-13: 978-0151014200

From the Publisher;

Ahleme, a young woman living on the outskirts of Paris, is trying to make a life out of the dreams she brought with her from Algeria and the reality she faces every day. Her father lost his job after an accident at his construction site. Her mother was lost to a massacre in Algeria. And her brother, Foued, boils with adolescent energy and teeters dangerously close to choosing a life of crime.

As she wanders the streets of Paris looking for work, Ahleme negotiates the disparities between her dreams and her life, her youth and her responsibilities, the expectations of those back home and the limitations of life in France.

I will admit, I had never heard of Faiza Guene before or her first book, Kiffe, Kiffe Tomorrow, though I'm very glad to have discovered her now!

Some Dream for Fools is an interesting mix of Algerian, French and American cultural and linguistic references (and I'm sure a bit of British was mixed in there too). From mentions of TV programmes to the day to day life dealings in the poorer side of Paris, the melange makes for interesting reading. To help the reader along, there was a useful glossary of the Algerian words used throughout. This made quite a difference in understanding the nuances of what the main character was referring to at times.

There is also an element of universal appeal to the story. Through Ahleme, we see the emotional side of the struggles that low income, working class people must endure to survive. This is a problem no matter where you live. Ms. Guene gives Ahleme's personality a tough as nails exterior while allowing her inner, humourous side to also shine. This gives her the smarts as well as the comic relief that will ensure her survival. Ahleme's insights are all too often on the money.

At times, I wondered if Some Dream for Fools was an autobiographical novel, though it is not advertised as such. Ahleme's experiences feel very real, as though the author has sat in a cafe, making up stories and giving fake names to make herself more interesting. Or, had to line up at 4 o'clock in the morning to have her permits renewed, to allow her to stay in France.

Some Dream for Fools is a witty story with elements of sadness that truly reflect life in all of it's ups and downs, regardless of where you live or how much you earn. It is a short book but very much well worth the read, if different cultures interest you.

Review: The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Ace (TRD) (Nov 3 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0441017649
ISBN-13: 978-0441017645

From the Publisher:

The Dragon Book is an anthology of completely original stories that readers of all ages can appreciate. With never before printed fantasy stories about dragons, everyone can enjoy a selection of tales from today's top writers including New York Times bestsellers Jonathan Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Diana Gabaldon and Tamora Pierce.

Whether portrayed as fire breathing reptilian beasts at war with humanity or as noble creatures capable of speech and mystically bonded to the warriors who ride them, dragons have been found in nearly every culture's mythology. In modern times, they can be found far from their medieval settings in locales as mundane as suburbia or as barren as post-apocalyptic landscapes - and in The Dragon Book, today's greatest fantasists reignite the fire with legendary tales that will consume your imagination.

This was my second foray into short stories this year, well really my second time ever. I would have to say that this time was more successful for me. The topic of the stories I read (and I will admit to not having read all of the stories in the book -yet), held my interest much more readily than my previous attempt, so I feel more well-rounded in my reading experiences.

I have previously shied away from short stories before because I felt there was no meat to the stories, nothing to hold my attention or things would end all too soon. That being said, I find it was partly true here also but only because these stories were so good I wanted more from them, particularly the story by Gregory Maguire. It felt to me like the first chapter in a very intriguing novel. But, alas, it isn't.

The great part of this format is that in times where you are between books or finding your current book is lacking, it is easy to pick up The Dragon Book, find a topic of interest - be it the traditional dragon/fantasy setting or a modern day tale with a CSI style dragon hunter - and feed your need to read something good.

For dragon fans everywhere, this is an excellent book that shakes things up a little, giving the reader a taste of things that may have been, things that might be now or may still be yet to come - all involving firing breathing reptiles.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas/Holiday Contest!

Product Details
Pocket Star, December 2009
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
ISBN-10: 1416589449
ISBN-13: 9781416589440

From the Publisher:


Nothing sucks the romance out of world travel like a boyfriend who may or may not have broken up with you in a hotel room in Brussels. Jane Jameson's sexy sire Gabriel has always been unpredictable, but the seductive, anonymous notes that await him at each stop of their international vacation, coupled with his evasive behavior over the past few months, finally push Jane onto the next flight home to Half Moon Hollow -- alone, upset, and unsure whether Gabriel just ended their relationship without actually telling her.

Now the children's-librarian-turned-vampire is reviving with plenty of Faux Type O, some TLC from her colorful friends and family, and her plans for a Brave New Jane. Step One: Get her newly renovated occult bookstore off the ground. Step Two: Support her best friend, Zeb, and his werewolf bride as they prepare for the impending birth of their baby...or litter. Step Three: Figure out who's been sending her threatening letters, and how her hostile pen pal is tied to Gabriel. Because for this nice girl, surviving a broken heart is suddenly becoming a matter of life and undeath....

I thought my contests had all closed for the year, but I'm squeezing one in through the holidays and to celebrate the New Year!

I had read the second book in Molly Harper's Nice Girls Don't series a couple of months back (you can click here to read the review for Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men) and was very much looking forward to the next book in the series. Lo and behold, there it sat in my mailbox last night, along with.....a contest copy for one of my lovely followers!! Harper fills her books with sardonic wit and pop culture references that make you laugh many times over through the story. So enter, for goodness sake! You won't be disappointed!

My obligatory contest entering rules:

  • You must be a follower to enter
  • +1 for tweeting or blogging about my contest
  • +1 for following me on Twitter (@seolmara)
  • Open to addresses in Canada and the U.S. only
  • Contest runs until Jan. 11, 2010 and the winner will be drawn via

  • I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of the wonderful people I've met this year for their great support of my fledgling blog. I would have been lost without you! Wishing everyone the best for the holidays and the coming New Year! (And, of course, best of luck with my contest!)

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Review: Postscripts from Pemberley by Rebecca Ann Collins

    From the back cover:
    Kate O'Hare is not a typical Victorian woman. Her intelligence, vivacity, and beauty captivate all those around her, including the young and handsome Darcy Gardiner. But she cares more about science than about dresses, and her unusual behavior makes her a fresh and interesting addition to the Pemberley estate.

    Until her association with scientific controversies of the day and dark secrets from her past put her and all her newfound friends in harm's way. Will Kate's involvement in the public world, where many believe a woman doesn't belong, bring scandal to Pemberley? Or will her charm and wit be enough to banish the shadows of her past and hold on to Darcy Gardiner?

    Postscripts from Pemberley is the seventh book in The Pemberley Chronicles series written by Rebecca Ann Collins. From the moment I began reading, I could tell that the author has stayed true to much of Austen's original writing style. The feel of the Victorian era remains throughout, though Ms. Collins has some new material to work with.

    The story revolves around the generation of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's grandchildren. The Austen characters also appear at times, and are still a large part of what happens, yet not the principles here.

    What's new to the mix are the storylines involving politics, chiefly the rivalry between Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, as well as Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species, which had just been published and was a very hot topic at the time. I'm not sure that Jane Austen would have gotten away with writing about these in her day, but for Ms. Collins it adds some definite substance to the book, making it about more than just gossip or proper etiquette.

    All these things aside, Rebecca Ann Collins also has some insightful things to say. I'm always envious of the people that can readily pick out quotes from books that are meaningful, yet I read the same material and seem to skip over these. Not so with Postscripts from Pemberley! A few pages into the main story I found this: "Remember only, Dear Jessica, that life is best enjoyed at leisure, without undue haste or desperation, with time for judgment and discrimination as well as enjoyment. We are not all blessed with the capacity of John Keats to drain life's cup to the lees in a single draught." I thought it was a point well made, well phrased, and very much as relevant today as it would have been in the mid-1800's.

    I was immediately engrossed in the story and liked the characters almost as much as Austen's (though I feel no one can touch the original Mr. Darcy). For lover's of Jane Austen or any other historical fiction, this is truly a book well worth reading!

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

    There's something watching over the residents at 66 Star Street in Dublin. What it is...well, that takes a while to figure out. The books starts with this "entity" checking out the residents, trying to figure out who its intended target is. The only problem being that there are so many involved, a little background is needed on all before decisions can be made.

    This is where it gets interesting.

    It seems Marian Keyes is a master of tease. She feeds the reader with morsels of information but just as things start to reveal themselves, she switches to another character and the process starts again. This method continues throughout until the final culmination. She brings these wildly different people together, criss-crossing their lives and experiences beautifully.

    There's also a point to be made within the pages of The Brightest Star in the Sky. It is a relevant, valid point that gives the reader pause to think about the horrifying reality of this particular facet of the story (though to give away any more would spoil part of the book.) She hits upon such delicate topics that are part of our modern lives. But Keyes discusses them with taste and feeling, doing justice to some of the more sad truths we encounter.

    Don't get me wrong, Keyes equally celebrates the joy and silliness in life, too. From calming trips through stationary stores or chemists to the healing aspect of chocolate, we see definite light versus dark elements.

    While the book is over 600 pages long, the "chapters" are broken down to 2-4 page entries which makes it a tantalizing read. It seems easy to read one character's perspective but once their short part ends, you don't want to put the book down. You want to read through to the next section involving said person, only to get caught up in everyone else's story along the way.

    What the entity ends up being, let's just say I was way off! But getting to finally discover its nature was a well read journey for me.

    For more information on Marian Keyes, visit her website at

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    And the winners are...

    The last two contests that were running on my blog closed on Monday. Without any further ado, here are the lucky peeps:
    For the 5 copies of Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, the winners are:

  • Twifan
  • Mel
  • Rebecca
  • Marie
  • Swedish
  • For the 3 copies of Exit Music by Ian Rankin, the winners are:

  • Carol
  • Stacie
  • Ryan

  • Congrats to all! E-mails have been sent to inform everyone. Thanks to all that entered and I'm looking forward to hosting more contests in the New Year!

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    And the winner is...

    I will admit here, I fell asleep at the wheel, so to speak. My contest for And Another Thing.. By Eoin Colfer finished up last week and I forgot to draw!! My apologies go out to all of the entrants. I hopped on the randomizer today and would like to congratulate...
    for winning! I'll be sending an e-mail shortly. Thanks again to all that entered.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    It's Monday! What are you reading? (Dec.7, 2009)

    This weekly meme is hosted by the awesome J. Kaye and can be linked to here.

    This week, I'm going to attempt to finish The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes. I am enjoying it so far though Christmas prep seems to be cutting into my reading time.

    Next up on the list will be The Wrecker by Clive Cussler then Murder in the Magick Club by Byron Lorrier.

    What's on your reading list for this week?

    Review: Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb

    Book: Hardback
    235 x 159mm
    384 pages
    ISBN 9780399155956
    03 Nov 2009
    Adult 18 - AND UP

    From the Publisher:

    When the newly promoted captain of the NYPSD and his wife return a day early from their vacation, they were looking forward to spending time with their bright and vivacious sixteen-year-old daughter who had stayed behind.

    Not even their worst nightmares could have prepared them for the crime scene that awaited them instead. Brutally murdered in her bedroom, Deena’s body showed signs of trauma that horrified even the toughest of cops; including our own Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who was specifically requested by the captain to investigate.

    When the evidence starts to pile up, Dallas and her team think they are about to arrest their perpetrator; little do they know yet that someone has gone to great lengths to tease and taunt them by using a variety of identities. Overconfidence can lead to careless mistakes. But for Dallas, one mistake might be all she needs to bring justice.

    Initially, I had a hard time with this book . The character of Eve Dallas is not one to be warmed up to. She has a hard, tell-it-like-it-is demeanor that made it difficult for me to put myself into her place. As I read on, I realized that this is a result of her own, very interesting, personal history. The subject was also a troubling aspect, as Eve is trying to find the killer of an sweet, innocent 16 year old girl.

    What was interesting is that this book takes place in 2060. There are many elements throughtout that make this different from a murder/suspense type book set in current times. Most of the time, I understood the purpose of the futuristic gadgets mentioned, but there were a few I'm still trying to figure out.

    With all of these factors being taken into consideration, the story and characters grew on me. It's kind of a cross between Criminal Minds and Police Woman. Eve is a strong woman and in the end is able to solve the mystery but not without glitches along the way. And yes, even in 2060, woman are apparently still being questioned about their leadership potential/ability.

    Overall, the story flowed well, though I think that knowing the back story would have aided immensely in many aspects. This being the 29th book in the series, it will be a while before I catch up on it, but from reading Kindred in Death, I will not hesitate to pick up another J.D. Robb book in the future.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Review: Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart

    Teaser quote:

    He lay in the lightly swaying hammock, suspended between wakefulness and sleep, until one of the words being called by the top watch suddenly separated itself from the others, swooped down, and spoke clearly in his ear, "Land!'

    The simple word, so long anticipated, galvanized his spirit and body and propelled him from his berth.

    Across the Endless River tells the story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, son of Sacagawea and her voyageur "husband", at least the author's imagining of his story. Jean Baptiste was born during the trek where Sacagawea aided Lewis and Clark as they crossed the North American continent. As such, Baptiste, as he becomes more commonly referred to, starts his life an illustrious manner.

    But it seems his opportunities don't stop there. From his early boyhood, he is welcomed in to Clark's home to enhance his studies. As her grows older he has the benefit of both worlds, the older, Indian world that his mother was a large part of as well as the newer "English" world.

    Through his connections he meets many people, including Duke Paul of Wurttemberg, who is madly collecting as many specimens of his North American experience to take back to Europe with him. He requests Baptiste's company on his return to Europe in exchange for Baptiste's help in cataloguing these samples. Not one to turn such an offer down, Baptiste gladly embarks on a new adventure and he begins a new life among Kings, Princesses and many others of the upper or ruling classes.

    I can't remember what had originally attracted this book to me and when I read the summary again, was not entirely sure I would truly like it. But I truly enjoyed the book from beginning to end. From the contrast of the quickly changing North American landscape, where the Indians are still following the herds yet settlements and cities are ever expanding, threatening this nomadic lifestyle to that of Europe. The lush, vivid imagery of the untamed plains to the glamour and excess of the deeply rooted, refined European nobility, these differences are highlighted many times through Baptiste's ruminations.

    Baptiste's displays a knack, however unintentional, to land himself in fantastic circumstances. He quickly masters new languages, enabling him to assimilate well into other cultures as well as among the different classes of people throughout the story. Though there is some basis of reality, as much can be relied on from historical references, to Baptiste's abilities, Carhart's imagination makes the most of it and weaves a tale brilliantly around these truths.

    I think that was part of the power of this story for me; that there was enough of the real man and his life within the fictitious rendering of his time in Europe. It reminded me of times in school, studying the Indian tribes (though mine would have been about the tribes within Canada as opposed to those featured in this story). This book made me want to research the people involved and learn more about them all.

    It was a bit inconsistent at times with letters from Baptiste to Clark or Duke Paul's journal entries, as they weren't regularly organized but the content within these entries/letters helped maintain the flow and timeline of the story, so for me it was a very minor issue. Overall, it is beautifully, lavishly written and truly transported me to another time and place. From Carhart's telling, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau is definitely someone I wish I could have met.

    Fun historical fact: According to my Google-ing of the history of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, I discovered (from Wikipedia) that he is, in fact, the only infant to ever appear on US currency.
    Click here for the Wiki reference: . That's a pretty prestigious place to hold in history, in my opinion!

    To learn more about Thad Carhart, click her for his website

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Review: Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell

    From the book:

    He sounded amused. "I know the way her mind works.Don't tell me, you're a ravishingly beautiful blonde."

    "Nope." Poppy smiled. "A ravishingly beautiful redhead."

    "Hmm, shock tactics."

    "I'm not one of Claudia's friends either. She only sent me up here because she couldn't think how else to get rid of me." Poppy thought for a moment then added, "And maybe to punish you for not putting in an appearance downstairs."

    Move over Bridget Jones and make room for Poppy Dunbar and her misfit gang!

    Poppy Dunbar, out on the town for her hen night (staggette for us North American folk) meets a man, Tom, that she falls for instantly. They arrange to meet later, both feeling the draw of something powerful and instant. Could it be love at first sight? What about Poppy's fiance...with the wedding being the next day and all? Poppy decides to grab her life and give it a good shake.

    Along the way, she makes new friends, annoys many people, and gets herself into trouble frequently, all while discovering the truth about herself and if there is such a thing was love at first sight.

    I think this might be the first book I've read that has that particularly British feel. There were many phrases that I've heard growing up that came in useful here. Some of the references to famous people weren't as easy to figure out. The Coronation Street ones were understandable enough as well as David Niven and Jason Donovan, but there were some others that I'd never heard of that made the jokes fall slightly flat.

    The book is a little camp, it's funny, and it's very cute! There were times when I could've just wrung one or the other of the characters for their blatant stupidity but it was all in the name of humour. I whipped through this book in a day, not wanting to put it down (it actually says it on the cover and now I believe it!)

    Jill Mansell gives us a rich character in Poppy Dunbar, full of contradictions. She seems intelligent but just sometimes doesn't quite know when to quit. Her disorganized style gets her into more trouble than is necessarily good for one human, to the point where she accidentally buys a painting for her antiques dealer boss, that she affectionately names "Dead Hamster on a Patio" when she bids several hundred pounds over his maximum bid, only to find out she wasn't supposed to be bidding on it at all.

    There are some touching moments included, also, that give it a little balance, emotionally speaking (it can't always be good, right?). Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to fans of Bridget Jones or Sex in the City.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Word Verification Balderdash - Nov. 26 2009

    This is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey through a world of books where you take the verification characters you have to input when commenting on other blogs and make up definitions for them.

    Once again, I've been a bad Balderdashian, having skipped this meme for the last couple of weeks. I finally had to do something about it with all the stickies I had floating around in my purse with these "words" that I thought had great potential. So here goes:

    comoutdri - the newest in the informercial line of products that promises to dry your clothes in just 5 minutes, carries the tag line "Like a microwave for your clothing"

    flogisenin - 14th century Dutch celebration where criminals were publicly flogged while townspeople danced around poles and ate candied popcorn and apples

    referro - a superhero for the 21st century. When all search engines have failed you, you only need to call out to Referro and he'll show up. Then with a few taps on your keyboard, he instantly finds those links you've been frustratingly searching for all day

    mershar - a fantastic, mythical creature that looks much like a mermaid but, when agitated, grows a large fin and a menacing set of teeth. Watch out!

    chelef - a chef that has had all knives remade to accommodate left-handed chopping

    homint - the first in a line of new hygienic products, with the target market being ladies of the evening

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    "Waiting" on Wednesday - Nov. 25, 2009

    This weekly event is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we get to share which upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

    I haven't participated in this meme for quite a while now because there wasn't really anything I was "waiting" for. Everything that I was looking forward to reading was already on my bookshelves waiting for me ;-) But this week I've discovered that one of my favourite authors, Guy Gavriel Kay, has a new novel that will be released on April 6, 2010.
    I first read GGK many years ago, starting with his Fionavar trilogy, which for me had a local aspect as it centres around University of Toronto students that are transported to a different realm. I have loved many of his other novels, though my favourite to date is Tigana. The best word that I can think of to describe Kay's work is epic. I am sure that Under Heaven will prove no different! If you haven't read anything by Guy Gavriel Kay yet, you need to change that soon!!

    From the author's website:

    The world could bring you poison in a jeweled cup, or surprising gifts. Sometimes you didn't know which of them it was...

    For more information on Guy Gavriel Kay, his work and his Under Heaven journal, visit his website here:

    And the winners are...

    So my first contest has come to a close. Thanks to everyone for entering! Without any further ado, here are the winners of The Gate House by Nelson DeMille:

  • Bethie
  • remarker/fcffollower
  • Marjorie
  • M.J. Macie
  • Janet Ruth

  • An email will be sent to all of the winners to gather mailing info. Thanks again for participating!

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays- Nov. 24, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

    Here is how it works:
    Grab your current read
    Open to a random page
    Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    My teaser this week is from Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb:

    MacMasters nodded. Eve thought the cop was beginning to fade. His hands trembled, and even as she watched, the lines at the corners of his eyes seemed to cut deeper.

    (Page 32)

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    2010 YA Reading Challenge book list

    The is the post where I'll be listing my YA book choices and updating my progress. If anyone has suggestions of great titles that I haven't already listed, please feel free to add it in the comment section!

    My tentative beginning list includes:

    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
    City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
    City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
    City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
    Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
    Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
    The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

    2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

    There are so many YA books on my TBR that this 2010 YA challenge might be a good kick in the pants to start reading them! I'll begin with the Mini challenge in mind but if I can make it to Just My Size, then all the better. Here's the deets:

    1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

    2. There are four levels:

    --The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

    --Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.

    --Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.

    --Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels.

    3. Audio, eBooks, paper all count.

    4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

    5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

    6. To sign up, click here:
    Mr Linky

    My list will be posted/updated at this link:
    YA Reading Challenge Book List

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Contest! Exit Music by Ian Rankin

    From the Publisher:

    It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.

    Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus's investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.

    Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?

    Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, I am happy to offer a copy of this book to 3 lucky winners.

    Here are the rules:

    Contest is open to addresses in Canada and the U.S. No PO boxes please.

  • Please leave an email addy below to enter (so I can contact you if you win)
  • +1 for being a follower here on my blog
  • +1 for following me on Twitter (@seolmara)
  • +1 for tweeting/blogging about this contest

  • Contest ends Dec. 14, 2009

    For more Information on Ian Rankin and his book visit his website here:

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Review: The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter

    Book Description

    Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his wife, his house, maybe his mind. Unless . . .

    In the winning and utterly original novels Citizen Vince and The Zero, Jess Walter ("a ridiculously talented writer"—New York Times) painted an America all his own: a land of real, flawed, and deeply human characters coping with the anxieties of their times. Now, in his warmest, funniest, and best novel yet, Walter offers a story as real as our own lives: a tale of overstretched accounts, misbegotten schemes, and domestic dreams deferred.

    A few years ago, small-time finance journalist Matthew Prior quit his day job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse. When his big idea—and his wife's eBay resale business— ends with a whimper (and a garage full of unwanted figurines), they borrow and borrow, whistling past the graveyard of their uncertain dreams. One morning Matt wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife's online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. Is this really how things were supposed to end up for me, he wonders: staying up all night worried, driving to 7-Eleven in the middle of the night to get milk for his boys, and falling in with two local degenerates after they offer him a hit of high-grade marijuana?

    Or, he thinks, could this be the solution to all my problems?

    Following Matt in his weeklong quest to save his marriage, his sanity, and his dreams, The Financial Lives of the Poets is a hysterical, heartfelt novel about how we can reach the edge of ruin—and how we can begin to make our way back.

    In my opinion:

    This book started off slowly for me. The crazy scenario at that beginning, where the main character goes out to buy milk and ends up getting high, had me scratching my head, wondering WTF? Then it seems this poor guy, Matt, was just repeatedly whining about his bad circumstances and not really doing anything about it, except getting high.

    During my non-reading moments, I kept thinking about the book and I finally figured it out. This schmuck of a former financial writer is just like everyone else out there that has been hit by hard times. When this happens to you, you do tend to go over and over things in your head, wondering where it went wrong. I gave the book some slack after this realization.

    For Matt Prior the beginning of his undoing was his idea, a website offering financial advice, stock quotes, etc, with a literary twist. Matt's a bit of a dreamer, thinking he's somehow better than his co-workers at the newspaper, He finally decides to take his great ideas and go it on his own, with his website, only to back out at the last minute and go crawling back to his old job. Then cut-backs hit and they hit him hard. Not to mention, his wife has become fond of online social networks, reconnecting with an old boyfriend.

    None of this is unusual in today's iffy financial climate, or the online social climate, for that matter. The differences here are the wild ideas that Matt comes up with to try and fix everything (hence the reason I called him a schmuck earlier). There are probably not a lot of people out there that think turning to drug dealing as a viable or successful method of financial recovery.

    As I progressed through the story, I felt the character becoming more believable. He suffers a bit of a meltdown, as anyone would, with all of the pressures involved. There are some weird, funny poems placed in various spots in the book also, that almost give credence to Matt's website idea. Almost. More often than not, they just allow for some comic relief in a tough tale.

    Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, once my left-brain and right-brain were able to reconcile how this man got into his messes in the first place. Jess Walter does a great job with the story and I would recommend The Financial Lives of Poets wholeheartedly!

    Author Bio:
    Jess Walter is the author of five novels, including The Zero, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, and Citizen Vince, winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. He has been a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN USA Literary Prize in both fiction and nonfiction. His books have been New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR best books of the year and have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in Spokane, Washington.

    For more information on Jess Walter, check out his website:

    Tuesday Teaser: Nov. 17, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
    Here is how it works:
    Grab your current read
    Open to a random page
    Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    My teaser quote for this week comes from Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart.

    Paul sounded weary, and it occurred to Baptiste that he wasn't happy about returning home after his North American adventure. Fatigue from the voyage was surely catching up to both of them as they entered the outlying districts to the northwest of the capital. Tired as he was, though, Baptiste could hardly contain the excitement he felt at the prospect of reaching Paris, the place whose name in St. Louis meant a kind of earthly heaven.

    To this I say: God bless the authors who write long sentences where only 3 are needed to complete a paragraph, therefore a whole thought! (Okay the early 1800's language of the book might be catching up to me, lol)

    I hope you emjoyed my teaser;-)

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Cartoons and Inspiration

    I find it amazing the things that can be learned and/or discovered on the big, bad internet. My eyes have truly been opened over the last few months as I've discovered blogs (especially book blogs), the true usefulness of Twitter and other online social networks (I was a big Facebooker before but that was about it) and well, lets just say I'm a big Google/Wiki researcher, lol. The web is great place for connecting with people around the world that you would never normally meet unless you have one heck of a time/distance travelling machine. But what's also cool is discovering things locally that I had never experienced or even heard of, in some cases. Recently, I've been to a reading for the International Festival of Authors and seen Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black for a book signing.

    What I found this week through Twitter, I felt was worth sharing here on my blog. Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a Toronto based artist/writer. In checking out her blog, with her NaNoWriMo notes, etc., I found some very cute cartoons, like this one below:

    Will Write For Chocolate

    After watching Stephenie Meyer on Oprah yesterday and seeing the effect the vamp phenomenon on the world at large, this one rings so true. My seven year old is psyched about going to see New Moon next week (please don't judge my parenting skills based on this, the Twi books are pretty tame ;-)

    Even Debbie's website name speaks to me: . I totally wish I'd thought of that one, though mine would be more like "WillReadForChocolate." Some of her work may have even inspired me to join NaNoWriMo for next year (I found out about it too late and have way too many books to read to have considered it for this year). So, go check out Debbie's site, it's well worth the look.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Contest: And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer

    For all fans of quirky, weird reads, I'm happy to offer a copy of Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing... to one lucky follower!

    Entry rules:

  • You must be a follower to enter
  • Open to all followers, across the universe (it's only fitting, right?)
  • Please leave your e-mail in the comment box so I can notify you if you win
  • +1 if you blog or tweet about this contest
  • +1 if you follower me on Twitter (@seolmara)
  • Contest closes Nov. 30, 2009 and I'll draw the winner using

  • Click HERE to read my review.

    Review: And Another Eoin Colfer

    And Another Thing... represents the sixth part of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Eoin Colfer, as allowed by the estate of Douglas Adams, takes on the task of continuing the story where Adams left off. From all references that I've read regarding Douglas Adams, it would seem these are some pretty big shoes to fill.

    Let me start off with my disclaimer: I've read many books recently that advised me if I liked whichever author I was reading, then I would love Douglas Adams. These recommendations came at around the same time that I noticed Colfer's addition to the collection would soon be released. Much to my chagrin, I received both the H2G2 collection and the new book in the same week. This didn't leave me enough time to get the whole original series read to be able to review on a complete author to author comparison. Also, I've been collecting the Artemis Fowl series but only have two of the seven so far, so making a story versus story comparison isn't feasible yet, either. Putting all of the reasons aside, I will do my best with this review.

    I think Eoin Colfer does an admirable job of maintaining the original feel of H2G2. I'm sure there are differences in some minor aspects, stylistically speaking, to the story telling as every author does things with their own unique touch. Overall, though, I think both authors have/had an innate talent with the ironic humour that has maintained the success of the series and made it so memorable after all these years.

    What would be new to the series are the little digs about such things as computer equipment malfunctions similar to a popular current platform I won't name ("It didn't take much to freeze him. You should have waited for version 2.0") or references to reality TV ("This last was the subject of a reality show broadcast in the Sirius Tau system call Last Behemoth Standing'). These are all relatively new phenomena that Adams himself hadn't the opportunity to poke some fun at, but, again, I'm sure he would have. In fact, nothing is sacred, from Norse Gods to inter-species marriage, Colfer gives us history and life lessons with a twist. He demonstrates the possible future of religion as a God-for-hire type set-up, used to maintain order, by hierarchy, as new planets are discovered and inhabited.

    Douglas Adams had admitted that his fifth book didn't sit well with him as a fitting ending but his untimely death did not allow for his own continuation. It takes a brave man to take on a project such as this and Eoin Colfer has received criticism for attempting it, but really, anyone other than the original author would attract the same. In the end, Colfer created a fun book to read, with lots of nonsensical situations arising, making you unsure of what's real or what may be only be a construct created life. Meanwhile, poor Arthur Dent continues his struggle to find a decent cup of tea and the age old question of "Rich Tea or Digestive", which is the better accompaniment?

    I fully intend to get through the whole H2G2 in the near future and take it all in context but even if this book is read as a stand-alone novel, it is quirky fun and well worth the effort.

    If you want to check it out for yourself, click HERE for my contest!!

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Author Article by Thad Carhart

    Imagining the Past in Paris

    By Thad Carhart,
    Author of Across the Endless River

    To walk in Paris is to walk through multiple layers of the past, more than 900 years of built history that awaits any stroller. Having lived here for twenty years, I've seen the city change with new roads and bridges, new museums, new rows of apartments. And yet the deep respect that Parisians have developed for what they call their patrimoine, their inheritance, ensures that old buildings are regularly restored and preserved, integrated into the flux of daily life. The look of the city changes subtly, as it has throughout history.

    The biggest transformation in modern times was simply the cleaning of the stone edifices of central Paris, initiated in the 1960's by de Gaulle's Minister of Culture, André Malraux. No change could have been more surprising, or more deeply satisfying. When I was a very young boy living in Paris, I was convinced that all of the buildings were made from the same stone, black as night and so softened by centuries of wood and coal dust that the surface was a felt-like matte whose edges looked as if they would soon crumble. This was the "atmospheric" Paris of all those voluptuous black-and-white photos (what blacks and grays there were on every side), the ponderous Paris of Buffet prints and countless tourist posters.

    Then the government started to clean the major monuments one by one -- Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre -- and the transformation was shocking, almost troubling in its strange newness. The buildings of Paris weren't black after all, but very nearly . . . white! It took almost two decades of careful cleaning and restoration, but Paris emerged from the process the albino twin of its former self. To appreciate the contrast, buy a vintage postcard aerial view, dating from 1970 or earlier, at one of the bouquiniste stalls along the banks of the Seine, then compare it with the present-day aerial shot: the era of dirt and grime looks like a photographic negative of the light and airy Paris that current tourists will recognize as the "real" Paris.

    Walking, however, reveals just one facet of the landscape. Recently, in researching a historical novel, I needed to imagine Paris as it would have appeared in the 1820s. The first stop for any such endeavor is the splendid Musée Carnavalet, the Museum of the City of Paris, whose collection documents in elaborate and fascinating detail every step of the city's past. As I consulted paintings, prints, and manuscripts, many of the differences were obvious: in 1825 the Champs-Elysées was already a broad, fashionable avenue, but the Arc de Triomphe did not yet grace its rise; the Eiffel Tower wouldn't appear until 1889; and, of course, Beaubourg, the Pyramid of the Louvre, and the Grande Arche, all sturdy Paris fixtures today, would only appear within the last four decades.

    Another clear difference was the absence of cars, though factoring them out mentally also involved imagining the presence of horses . . . lots of horses. As I examined the numberless paintings at Carnavalet, I thought a lot about the look, the sound, and the smell of tens of thousands of horses plying the streets of Paris close to 200 years ago. Merely disposing of their manure -- and Paris was very well organized in this department -- was a Herculean task daily. And, just as in our day, when playboys often drive Porsches and tradesmen more likely use vans, the paintings reveal fancy thoroughbreds ridden solo by dandies, sturdy draft horses pulling huge wagons, and bony nags hitched to battered carts.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise that comes with seeking the past in the Paris landscape, especially after examining the documentary record, it to realize how little the scale of buildings has changed over the centuries. With two exceptions on the Left Bank (the Tour Montparnasse and the university's Tour Jussieu), no high-rises spoil the illusion in the center of Paris that the modern age has yet arrived. Individual facades, a modern infrastructure, and hordes of cars all tell a different story, but the look and feel of many quartiers -- the Marais and the Latin Quarter are simply the best known examples -- would feel appropriate to a Parisian of the early nineteenth century. This tenuous, heady relationship to the past is often seductive, and yet it can also feel weighty, old-fashioned, and artificial. How long it can prevail in the face of change is anybody's guess.

    ©2009 Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River

    Author Bio

    Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River, is a dual citizen of of the United States and Ireland. He lives in Paris with his wife, the photographer Simo Neri, and their two children.

    For more information please visit

    Review and Contest: Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

    I had the pleasure of reading Dear John by Nicholas Sparks when it first published in 2006. The story of John and Savannah has stayed with me as much as Sparks' first two novels (and probably his most popular) The Notebook and Message in a Bottle.

    John joined the military straight out of high school and has just returned home for a much needed leave. Savannah is in town, working with Habitat for Humanity. By John's gallant rescue of Savannah's purse (that's a big deal for a woman, right?) their worlds collide as they fall in love. Of course, John must return to Germany to finish out his time with the army.

    The two continue the love affair through mail, phone calls and visits, when time allows, but it seems even the distance is only making their bond stronger. Then September 11th, 2001 arrives and changes their fates as John reenlists, extending his time away from Savannah and putting everything they've hoped for to the test.

    Throughout the story, Sparks tackles many issues, like how the average American views those in the military, the viability of long distance relationships, and the complicated dynamics between parents and children, as well as many others, that show life is never simple. The richness of the love story is fueled by the strength of the characters, their background stories and how they relate to each other. It shows us that as much as we can live a happy, peaceful existence for a time, outside forces are always there, threatening our dreams and what we hold dearest.

    But other messages are evident, also. When we hope for a certain outcome, it's how we deal with the realities that define our character; that regardless of how or for how long we love someone, the fact that we loved at all is much more important, in the end. Nicholas Sparks takes you through such a wide range of emotions, you are left with the lingering effects long after the book has been closed. I have held a slight grudge towards Nicholas Sparks (for three years, in fact) for the twists this particular book takes, though I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. It is a true testament to Sparks' talent that he can reveal the many facets of human emotion through his writing while having the ability to draw those emotions out of the reader in the process. The details of this story have and will remain with me for years to come.

    Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is being re-released on Dec. 7, 2009 with the movie tie-in cover (as shown at the top of this post). The film version hits the big screens on Feb. 5, 2010 and looks awesome! (See the youtube link below to watch the trailer)

    To celebrate, I'm very happy to offer up a copy of Dear John (graciously provided by Miriam from Hachette Book Group) to 5 lucky winners here on my blog! The contest runs from now until Dec. 14th, 2009. Winners will be selected using and will be notified by e-mail. Here are the rules for entry:

    -Contest is open to residents in Canada and the U.S. only. No PO Boxes please.
    -Leave your e-mail address in the comment section (so I can reach if/when you win :-)
    -+1 for being a follower on my blog
    -+1 for following on Twitter (@seolmara)
    -+1 for blogging and/or tweeting about this contest

    Remember to check out the movie trailer and the OpenBook links below for a taste of what's to come and Good Luck to all!

    Dear John movie trailer on

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Teaser Tuesday - Nov. 3, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
    Here is how it works:
    Grab your current read
    Open to a random page
    Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    My teaser this week comes from The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walters and can be found on page 119:

    Earl was there to get the county to waive environmental cleanup for a cluster of houses he wanted to put on the site of an old railroad depot. Somehow, Earl got it in his mind that I was on his side in this dispute, because while my stories described him accurately as a voracious fat-ass developer trying to get around reasonable environmental laws, in the profile I called him "bombastic" and Earl took this as a compliment.

    So, I'll admit I had to look up the definition of bombastic after reading this teaser. I had only ever heard the word once before, in a song by Shaggy...which turned out to be "Boombastic". Either way, the meaning was far less interesting than I was hoping but, overall, I am enjoying the book. Hope you enjoyed the teaser :-)

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Review: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

    Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
    Published by Little, Brown and Company
    Release date: October 13, 2009

    From the Publisher:

    LAPD Detective Harry Bosch is off the chain in the fastest, fiercest, and highest-stakes case of his life.

    Fortune Liquors is a small shop in a tough South L.A. neighborhood, a store Bosch has known for years. The murder of John Li, the store's owner, hits Bosch hard, and he promises Li's family that he'll find the killer.

    The world Bosch steps into next is unknown territory. He brings in a detective from the Asian Gang Unit for help with translation--not just of languages but also of the cultural norms and expectations that guided Li's life. He uncovers a link to a Hong Kong triad, a lethal and far-reaching crime ring that follows many immigrants to their new lives in the U.S.

    And instantly his world explodes. The one good thing in Bosch's life, the person he holds most dear, is taken from him and Bosch travels to Hong Kong in an all-or-nothing bid to regain what he's lost. In a place known as Nine Dragons, as the city's Hungry Ghosts festival burns around him, Bosch puts aside everything he knows and risks everything he has in a desperate bid to outmatch the triad's ferocity.

    I've read a few of the Harry Bosch books in the past and enjoyed them. While my previous experience with Michael Connelly's work had piqued my interest enough to continuing reading the series, I must admit that none has kept my attention in quite the way Nine Dragons did. I didn't want to put it down! It ended up being one of those books I finished in a day. For me, this is a huge compliment to the author's skill in combining the people, themes, and ambiance with the writing that binds these elements.

    I had always thought of the Harry Bosch character as somewhat one dimensional, where he's all about the police work and his personal life gets a minor, passing mention. Nine Dragons changed that for me, throwing his personal life into the forefront as he attempts a daring rescue while trying to find out who's responsible for the murder that set it all off. I felt this added more substance to Bosch, making his work all the more urgent because of the personal connection therefore making the reading more urgent for me. I love a fast paced book that grabs me and refuses to let go!

    There were a few elements that didn't sit well with me. Some of the scenarios Bosch finds himself in at times felt a bit surreal, like Schwarzenegger taking on all the bad guys single-handed, but I could definitely picture this book as a big screen production. Harry does find himself relying on others a bit more than he likes but is able to come to terms with this. I was a bit disturbed that Bosch seemed to have a bit of a racial prejudice but this is explained and I felt throughout it does get dealt with well. But, again, the flow of the book far outweighed these small negative aspects.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what happens from here. If you enjoy an action-filled, seat-of-your-pants mystery, then you'll like it too!

    For more information on Michael Connelly, checl out his website: or you can become a fan on Facebook at

    Contest: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

    #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast.

    When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer--Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore -- a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.

    Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, I am pleased to offer The Gate House by Nelson DeMille to 5 lucky winners. I will also be posting a review for this book soon.

    To enter the contest, here are the rules:

    -Eligible to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. No P.O. boxes, please.

    -Leave your email addy below, so I am able to contact you if you're one of the luck winners;-)

    -+1 if you blog or tweet about this contest (please leave a link)

    -+1 for each friend you recommend to enter (remind them to leave your name in their entry)

    Contest ends Nov. 23. Winners will be selected using and will be notified by email.

    This is my first contest, so I hope everyone out there is as excited as I am! Good luck to all!

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Review: What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

    What the Dog Saw is a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's favourite columns that have been previously published in the New Yorker, where he is a staff writer. I recently read Outliers, also by Gladwell, and enjoyed his theories so much that when I saw this book, I knew it was a must read. How this book differs from Outliers is that it does not have a central theme, no singular point that is trying to be proven by the author and further reinforced with an abundance of research on the one subject. What the Dog Saw represents Gladwell's unusual way of looking at things and providing in depth answers to his questions of who or why, etc.

    Gladwell poses questions, like why there are many varieties of mustard but Heinz ketchup is a huge front runner in the tomato sauce market. Or he'll take a topic, like Ronco, and discuss the background of Ron Popeil's heritage, talking about how his company became what it is today. He tears down criminal profiling, to analyze why it is still not an exact science, though TV and movies may lead us to believe otherwise. (Incidentally, this was the article I wanted to read the most, so I read them out of order.) His subjects are things that you might not have wondered before or perhaps even been interested in but when he's brings it up, you think, "Yeah, why is that?" Then he finds the answers, making them relevant and interesting to the reader.

    The way he describes scenarios or begins the telling of his non-fiction tales draws the reader in. For example, "Murray Barr was a bear of a man, an ex-Marine, six feet tall and heavyset, and when he fell down - which he did nearly every day - it could take two or three grown men to pick him up. He had straight black hair and olive skin. On the street, they called him Smokey. He was missing most of his teeth. He had a wonderful smile. People loved Murray." Gladwell weaves his words brilliantly, drawing you in as though caught in a spider web. You just want to read on and discover more about Murray or who/whatever topic is next.

    What I found lacking, though it's barely worth mentioning, was that the articles did not list the original publication dates. For a seasoned inquiring mind like my own (that frequently goes off on Google tangents, researching as much as possible), this would have been a nice addition, to see if any details from his original articles had changed or updated. Again, this is a very small point and may be moot if these are listed in the final published copy (my review is based on an ARC.)

    Malcolm Gladwell's unique perspective on things makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. His style is dazzling and I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys good writing. It is very much well worth the read.

    Book Excerpt: Angel Time by Anne Rice

    I have been a total fail over the last few days in regards to anything blog related. But, today, I'm back with a bang. I'm very stoked to offer up an excerpt from Anne Rice's new book, Angel Time. This marks her return to fiction and I know I, for one, gladly welcome her back! The book was released in hardcover on October 27, 2009. There are also some video links at the bottom of this post. So, read on and enjoy!

    Angel Time by Anne Rice


    There were omens from the beginning.

    First off, I didn't want to do a job at the Mission Inn. Anywhere in the country, I would have been willing, but not the Mission Inn. And in the bridal suite, that very room, my room. Bad luck and beyond, I thought to myself.

    Of course my boss, The Right Man, had no way of knowing when he gave me this assignment that the Mission Inn was where I went when I didn't want to be Lucky the Fox, when I didn't want to be his assassin.

    The Mission Inn was part of that very small world in which I wore no disguise. I was simply me when I went there, six foot four, short blond hair, gray eyes—a person who looked like so many other people that he didn't look like any special person at all. I didn't even bother to wear braces to disguise my voice when I went there. I didn't even bother with the de rigueur sunglasses that shielded my identity in every other place, except the apartment and neighborhood where I lived.

    I was just who I am when I went there, though who I am was nobody except the man who wore all those elaborate disguises when he did what he was told to do by The Right Man.

    So the Mission Inn was mine, cipher that I was, and so was the bridal suite, called the Amistad Suite, under the dome. And now I was being told to systematically pollute it. Not for anyone else but myself, of course. I would never have done anything to harm the Mission Inn.

    A giant confection and confabulation of a building in Riverside, California, it was where I often took refuge, an extravagant and engulfing place sprawling over two city blocks, and where I could pretend, for a day or two or three, that I wasn't wanted by the FBI, Interpol, or The Right Man, a place where I could lose myself and my conscience. Europe had long ago become unsafe for me, due to the increased security at every checkpoint, and the fact that the law enforcement agencies that dreamed of trapping me had decided I was behind every single unsolved murder they had on the books.

    If I wanted the atmosphere I'd loved so much in Siena or Assisi, or Vienna or Prague and all the other places I could no longer visit, I sought out the Mission Inn. It couldn't be all those places, no. Yet it gave me a unique haven and sent me back out into my sterile world a renewed spirit.

    It wasn't the only place where I wasn't anybody at all, but it was the best place, and the place to which I went the most.

    The Mission Inn was not far from where I "lived," if one could call it that. And I went there on impulse generally, and at any time that they could give me my suite. I liked the other rooms all right, especially the Inn keeper's Suite, but I was patient in waiting for the Amistad. And sometimes they called me on one of the many special cell phones I carried, to let me know the suite could be mine.

    Sometimes I stayed as long as a week in the Mission Inn. I'd bring my lute with me, and maybe play it a little. And I always had a stack of books to read, almost always history, books on medieval times or the Dark Ages, or the Renaissance, or Ancient Rome. I'd read for hours in the Amistad, feeling uncommonly safe and secure.

    There were special places I went from the Inn.

    Often, undisguised, I drove over to nearby Costa Mesa to hear the Pacific Symphony. I liked it, the contrast, moving from the stucco arches and rusted bells of the Inn to the immense Plexiglas miracle of the Segerstrom Concert Hall, with the pretty Cafe Rouge on the first floor.

    Behind those high clear undulating windows, the restaurant appeared to float in space. I felt, when I dined in it, that I was indeed floating in space, and in time, detached from all things ugly and evil, and sweetly alone.

    I had just recently heard Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in that concert hall. Loved it. Loved the pounding madness of it. It had brought back a memory of the very first time I'd ever heard it, ten years before—on the night when I'd met The Right Man. It had made me think of my own life, and all that had happened since then, as I'd drifted through the world waiting for those cell phone calls that always meant somebody was marked, and I had to get him.

    I never killed women, but that's not to say that I hadn't before I became The Right Man's vassal or serf, or knight, depending on how one chose to view it. He called me his knight. I thought of it in far more sinister terms, and nothing during these ten years had ever accustomed me to my function.

    Often I even drove from the Mission Inn to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, south and closer to the coast, another secret place, where I felt unknown and sometimes even happy.

    Now the Mission of San Juan Capistrano is a real mission. The Mission Inn is not. The Mission Inn is a tribute to the architecture and heritage of the Missions. But San Juan Capistrano is the real thing.

    At Capistrano, I roamed the immense square garden, the open cloisters, and visited the narrow dim Serra Chapel—the oldest consecrated Catholic chapel in the state of California.

    I loved the chapel. I loved that it was the only known sanctuary on the whole coast in which Blessed Junípero Serra, the great Franciscan, had actually said Mass. He might have said Mass in many another Mission chapel. In fact surely he had. But this was the only one about which everyone was certain.

    There had been times in the past when I'd driven north to visit the Mission at Carmel, and look into the little cell there that they'd re-created and ascribed to Junípero Serra, and meditated on the simplicity of it: the chair, the narrow bed, the cross on the wall. All a saint needed.

    And then there was San Juan Bautista, too, with its refectory and museum—and all the other Missions that had been so painstakingly restored.

    I'd wanted to be a priest for a while when I was a boy, a Dominican, in fact, and the Dominicans and the Franciscans of the California missions were mixed in my mind because they were both mendicant orders. I respected them equally, and there was a part of me that belonged to that old dream.

    I still read history books about the Franciscans and the Dominicans. I had an old biography of Thomas Aquinas saved from my school days, full of old notes. Reading history always soothed me. Reading history let me sink into ages safely gone by. Same with the Missions. They were islands not of our time.

    It was the Serra Chapel in San Juan Capistrano that I visited most often.

    I went there not to remember the devotion I'd known as a boy. That was gone forever. Fact was, I simply wanted the blueprint of the paths that I'd traveled in those early years. Maybe I just wanted to walk the sacred ground, walk through places of pilgrimage and sanctity because I couldn't actually think about them too much.

    I liked the beamed ceiling of the Serra Chapel, and its darkly painted walls. I felt calm in the quality of gloom inside it, the glimmer of the gold retablo at the far end of it—the golden framework that was behind the altar and fitted with statues and saints.

    I loved the red sanctuary light burning to the left of the tabernacle. Sometimes I knelt right up there before the altar on one of the prie-dieux obviously intended for a bride and a groom.

    Of course the golden retablo, or reredos, as it's often called, hadn't been there in the days of the early Franciscans. It had come later, during the restoration, but the chapel itself seemed to me to be very real. The Blessed Sacrament was in it. And the
    Blessed Sacrament, no matter what I believed, meant "real."

    How can I explain this?

    I always knelt in the semidarkness for a very long time, and I'd always light a candle before I left, though for whom or what I couldn't have said. Maybe I whispered, "This is in memory of you, Jacob, and you, Emily." But it wasn't a prayer. I didn't believe in prayer any more than I believed in actual memory. I craved rituals and monuments, and maps of meaning. I craved history in book and building and paint—and I believed in danger, and I believed in killing people whenever and wherever I was instructed to do it by my boss, whom in my heart of hearts I called simply The Right Man.

    Last time I'd been to the Mission—scarcely a month ago— I'd spent an unusually long time walking about the enormous garden.

    Never have I seen so many kinds of flowers in one place. There were modern roses, exquisitely shaped, and older ones, open like camellias, there were trumpet flower vines, and morning glory, lantana, and the biggest bushes of blue plum - bago that I'd ever seen in my life. There were sunflowers and orange trees, and daisies, and you could walk right through the heart of this on any of the many broad and comfortable newly paved paths.

    I'd taken my time in the enclosing cloisters, loving the ancient and uneven stone floors. I'd enjoyed looking out at the world from under the arches. Round arches had always filled me with a sense of peace. Round arches defined the Mission, and round arches defined the Mission Inn.

    It gave me special pleasure at Capistrano that the layout of the Mission was an ancient monastic design to be found in monasteries all over the world, and that Thomas Aquinas, my saintly hero when I was a boy, had probably spent many an hour roaming just such a square with its arches and its neatly laid out paths, and its inevitable flowers.

    Throughout history monks had laid out this plan again and again as if the very bricks and mortar could somehow stave off an evil world, and keep them and the books they wrote safe forever.

    I stood for a long time in the hulking shell of the great ruined church of Capistrano.

    An earthquake in 1812 had destroyed it, and what remained was a high gaping and roofless sanctuary of empty niches and daunting size. I'd stared at the random chunks of brick and cement wall scattered here and there, as if they had some meaning for me, some meaning, like the music of The Rite of Spring, something to do with my own wretched wreck of a life.

    I was a man shaken by an earthquake, a man paralyzed by dissonance. I knew that much. I thought about that all the time, though I tried to detach it from any continuity. I tried to accept what seemed my fate. But if you don't believe in fate, well, that is not easy.

    On my most recent visit, I'd been talking to God in the Serra Chapel, and telling Him how much I hated Him that He didn't exist.
    I'd told Him how vicious it was, the illusion that He existed, how unfair it was to do that to mortal men, and especially to children, and how I detested Him for it.

    I know, I know, this doesn't make sense. I did a lot of things that didn't make sense. Being an assassin and nothing else didn't make sense. And that was probably why I was circling these same places more and more often, free of my many disguises.

    I knew I read history books all the time as though I believed a God had acted in history more than once to save us from ourselves, but I didn't believe this at all, and my mind was full of random facts about many an age and many a famous personage. Why would a killer do that?

    One can't be a killer every moment of one's life. Some humanity is going to show itself now and then, some hunger for normality, no matter what you do. And so I had my history books, and the visits to these few places that took me to the times of which I read with such numb enthusiasm, filling my mind with narrative so that it wouldn't be empty and turn in on itself.

    And I had to shake my fist at God for the meaninglessness of it all. And to me, it felt good. He didn't really exist, but I could have Him that way, in anger, and I'd liked those moments of conversation with the illusions that had once meant so much, and now only inspired rage.

    Maybe when you're brought up Catholic, you hold to rituals all your life. You live in a theater of the mind because you can't get out of it. You're gripped all your life by a span of two thousand years because you grew up being conscious of belonging to that span.

    Most Americans think the world was created the day they were born, but Catholics take it back to Bethlehem and beyond, and so do Jews, even the most secular of them, remembering the Exodus, and the promises to Abraham before that. Never ever did I look at the nighttime stars or the sands of a beach without thinking of God's promises to Abraham about his progeny, and no matter what else I did or didn't believe, Abraham was the father of the tribe to which I still belonged through no fault or virtue of my own.

    I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.

    So that's how we go on acting dramas in our theater of the mind even when we don't believe anymore in the audience or the director or the play.

    I'd laughed thinking about that, as I'd meditated in the Serra Chapel, laughed out loud like a crazy man as I knelt there, murmuring in the sweet and delicious gloom and shaking my head.

    What had maddened me on that last visit was that it was just past ten years to the day that I'd been working for The Right Man.

    The Right Man had remembered the anniversary, talking about anniversaries for the first time ever and presenting me with a huge monetary gift that had already been wired to the bank account in Switzerland through which I most often received my money.

    He'd said to me over the phone the evening before, "If I knew anything about you, Lucky, I'd give you something more than cold cash. All I know is you like to play the lute, and when you were a kid you played it all the time. They told me that, about your playing. If you hadn't loved the lute so much, maybe we never would have met. Realize how long it's been since I've seen you? And I always hope you're going to drop in, and bring your precious lute with you. When you do that, I'll get you to play for me, Lucky. Hell, Lucky, I don't even know where you really live."

    Now that was something he brought up all the time, that he didn't know where I lived, because I think he feared, in his heart of hearts, that I didn't trust him, that my work had slowly eroded the love for him which I felt.

    But I did trust him. And I did love him. I didn't love anyone in the world but him. I just didn't want anyone to know where I lived.

    No place I lived was home, and I changed where I lived often. Nothing traveled with me from home to home, except my lute, and all my books. And of course my few clothes.

    In this age of cell phones and the Internet, it was so easy to be untraceable. And so easy to be reached by an intimate voice in a perfect teletronic silence.

    "Look, you can reach me anytime, day or night," I'd reminded him. "Doesn't matter where I live. Doesn't matter to me, so why should it matter to you? And someday, maybe I'll send you a recording of me playing the lute. You'll be surprised. I'm still good at it."

    He'd chuckled. Okay with him, as long as I always answered the phone.

    "Have I ever let you down?" I'd asked.

    "No, and I'll never let you down either," he'd replied. "Just wish I could see you more often. Hell, you could be in Paris right now, or Amsterdam."

    "I'm not," I'd answered. "You know that. The checkpoints are too hot. I'm in the States as I've been since Nine-Eleven. I'm closer than you think, and I'll come see you one of these days, just not right now, and maybe I'll take you to dinner. We'll sit in a restaurant like human beings. But these days, I'm not up to the meeting. I like being alone."

    There had been no assignment on that anniversary, so I was able to stay in the Mission Inn, and I'd driven over to San Juan Capistrano the following morning.

    Excerpted from Angel Time by Anne Rice Copyright © 2009 by Anne Rice. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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