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Books for New Orleans

Just read this over at another blog. Please donate any and all books to the libraries in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Public Library is asking for any and all hardcover and paperback books for people of all ages in an effort to restock the shelves after Katrina. The staff will assess which titles will be designated for its collections. The rest will be distributed to destitute families or sold for library fundraising.

Please send your books to:
Rica A. Trigs, Public Relations
New Orleans Public Library
219 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112

If you tell the post office that they are for the library in New Orleans, they will give you the library rate which is slightly less than the book rate.

Here's the library's official site: http://nutrias.org/

Dare to Dream

In a couple of my blog entries I bemoaned the fact that Publishers (big or small) don't bother to spend any great amount of website space, time, money or effort to promote new and upcoming authors, some of whom may very well go on to be the Dan Brown's or Nora Roberts' of the future. Instead they prefer to spend money publicizing these already moneymaking authors - an exercise in utter futility or so it seems to me. [Kindly note, I'm not disparaging these authors. I'm a huge fan and their books are on my automatic-buy list - which is kind of the point I'm trying to make.]

In response to my blog entry, an upcoming author revealed some interesting and generally little known facts of publishing.

1) It's all about numbers. An author gets paid only for the books sold new and not used.
--- Bummer! I go to USBs all the time. I've discovered many a new author that way and become their fan. Hopefully, I've partly redeemed myself by buying said newly found author's new books at full-price even though paying 20+ dollars for a single hardback firsthand does make me wince and my wallet shed tears of green!

2) Writers are paid advance royalties against future sales.
--- Which means they get paid a fixed amount in advance at some agreed-upon rate. This is dependent on their book selling "x" number of copies. If the book sells more than "x" copies, well and good - the writer gets some more money. If not - well, there goes the royalty for the next book!

3) Copies returned mean less money for the author.
--- In addition to taking the lion's share of profit from a book's sales, publishers may also "hold" a writer's royalty against returned copies.

And now the final fact which the author says (and I agree) is also the most absurd Catch-22 of publishing -

4) An author's book may sell millions of copies if the publishers properly promoted them, but the publishers won't promote an author unless they sell millions.
--- Like the chicken and the egg. Need I need say more?

I found some more information on this issue at another writer Brenda Hiatt's website at this link - http://www.brendahiatt.com/id2.html

In conclusion, I feel like standing up and applauding the "Writers" - a bunch of imaginative and hard-working people who actually *dare* to do what readers generally only *dream* that they can do! And after reading these facts of publishing, I feel that writers who depend solely on their writing to pay the bills and put food on the table, deserve the Nobel prize for Hope and Optimism; barring that, directions to Bedlam.

~~~ Afterthought ~~~
No wonder I keep looking for more books by some new author I've discovered in an USB (Used Book Store), only to find no more books by that author are being published. Or perhaps that author is writing under a different pseudonym?! Hmm.... that's subject for blog another day.

Review update - Allison Brennan

As you can see from the nifty little sidebar graphic (of the flipping book covers), I've been reading a lot of interesting tales. Here is my take on some of them:

Let me start with Allison Brennan's "The Kill". This book is the culmination of a trilogy of sorts, the first two books being 'The Prey' and 'The Hunt'. Both were excellent books that catapulted Brennan into the coveted best-seller list. The third is on par with the general course of this series. Not for the faint-hearted, all three books have heroines who're either directly or indirectly victims of various forms of tragedy, violence and abuse at different times of their lives. Strong and yet vulnerable, they become friends while studying to become FBI agents, their painful past being the dominant motivating factor for their choice of careers. Here's my review of all three books.

In 'The Prey', ex-FBI agent turned best-selling author Rowan Smith gets the shock of her life when a real-life killer begins emulating her fictional kills in excruciatingly accurate detail. Tormented with guilt and painful questions, Rowan's life is thrown into further turmoil when her bodyguard falls in love with her, even as she's irresistibly drawn to his older brother. Terror, lust and rage permeate the pages, keeping readers stuck to the pages as they visualize a terrifying drama unfold. Who survives and how it all ends makes for a thrilling read.

In 'The Hunt', former FBI trainee turned search-and-rescue squad member, Miranda Moore relives the agony of her own abduction, rape and torture as her tormentor known only as 'The Bozeman Butcher' is back continuing his foul deeds. As the only surviving victim, Miranda's determination to capture this madman sends her rushing headlong into danger, something that her ex-FBI lover and ex-Sheriff boyfriend together try to prevent even as events surge towards the inevitable do-or-die standoff.

In "The Kill", FBI scientist Olivia St. Martin is guilt-stricken when new DNA tests exonerate the man she'd testified against some thirty-odd years ago as being responsible for her sister's abduction and consequent rape and death. Working above and beyond the call of duty, she teams with a Seattle detective to capture the original rapist who's gone scot-free all these years and who's still very much active. Busy with her crusade, Olivia doesn't suspect that the man she'd had wrongfully convicted for the major part of his life is out for her blood as well.

After reading her books, I went in search of Allison Brennan's site and was surprised to see that in her bio she classifies her books as being 'Romantic Suspense'. It seems a very watered-down way of describing this powerful and emotion-filled trilogy. Her original description - "Stephen King meets Nora Roberts" - seems a much more befitting way of summarizing these stories. Horror, terror and pain are the dominating and motivating factors in the all three books, with determination and strength coming a close second.

The suspense in all three books remains constant, although I felt the romance factor decreased with the each succeeding book. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. In 'The Prey', the powerful love triangle added to the general tension. While in 'The Hunt', there's only a hint of a love triangle. However, the romantic tension between Miranda and one of her ex's is quite fiery and keeps things interesting. But in 'The Kill', the romance came about quite abruptly, didn't seem convincing and wasn't needed at all, in my opinion.

Besides a good mystery, a terrific build-up of tension and an all-prevailing, never-wracking aura of danger, what I really liked about these stories was the way Brennan took readers into the thinking and emotions of not just the protagonists, but the villains as well, some of who turn out to be the products and victims of abuse themselves. While Brennan's penchant for repetitive and detailed descriptions brings the pages to vivid life and hammers in the emotional upheaval, it also causes the plot to sag and the negative emotions to become so overwhelming, that at times it takes an effort to continue reading.

That said, the stories are overall greatly engrossing and unforgettable. Allison Brennan seems all set to follow in the footsteps of popular authors such as Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter and the like.

Promises, Failures and More

I've mentioned on this blog before about the lack of a centralized book listing, both upcoming and already released. Being a voracious reader and reviewer, I feel this lack very keenly. Since there isn't one such place to my knowledge, I'm always scouring the web trying to find a good book and an even greater author. Here's one recent find that looks quite promising :

Touch the Dark
by Karen Chance, Roc, June


Super cover - all dark and mysterious, showing a woman with a pentagram on her back. At least I think it's a pentagram.
I should know, shouldn't I, being an ardent fan of WB's Charmed for more years than I care to remember. But alas, I don't. Could be because I stopped watching it.I couldn't say "draaaaging' fast enough. Same with Smallville.



Synopsis goes something like this :

Cassandra Palmer can see the future and communicate with spirits (A psychic seer - isn't that redundant?) - talents that make her attractive to the dead (wow, they must really be *die-hard* gossips) and the undead (now why would the undead immortals want to know the future? Doesn't it *suck* all the fun out? I'm just saying...). She can handle the spirits but the rest aren't quite as ignorable, particularly a bloodsucking Mafioso (as if they aren't scary enough alive, jeez-a-loo) who's after her with revenge on his expired brains. She has no resort but to request aid from a vampire Senate (do they have undead WMDs too?) with undead senators (and undead interns as well, I presume) who won't help her for nothing (incurable politicians). And then (wait for it...... here it comes.... the romance interest) Cassie finds herself working with one of their most powerful members, a dangerously seductive master vampire - and the price he demands may be more than Cassie is willing to pay. (Ooooh! that sound girly enough?)

Smart quips aside, it does sound interesting and far from run of the mill. If I read it, you'll know it.

-------------*-----------

Now, on to the disappointment part. As I've mentioned before, I'm an ardent Jeffrey Archer fan and have been for years. I was really looking forward to reading "False Impression", his first release in quite some years. I did read it and boy, was I disappointed. First time Archer readers will undoubtedly think I'm crazy. Perhaps I am .... or perhaps I've just been spoilt by the high-standard of writing Archer displayed in classic books such as "Kane and Abel", "Not a Penny More..." etc. His fountain of words seem to have dried up with his prison bout and this book is frankly not worth the 20+ dollars price. Don't get me wrong. The basic ingredients of a thriller are all there - the jet-setting plot, deadly assassins, obscene amounts of money, a beautiful do-gooder, a studly lawman and an utterly villainous villain. And yet, it lacks that certain something that made Archer's previous books shine like a full moon on a dark night. What that indefinable quality is I can't say, but I do know this book doesn't have it.

-------------*-----------

Now on to the 'More' Part. Of my book picks and Penguin Putnam picks, so far I've received the Jennifer Colt books and a couple of others for review. Smashing good reads, both the Colt books. Reviews coming up later.

I never got the Patricia Briggs book for review despite repeated requests to her publisher - very disappointing. I mean, first Penguin Putnam don't
even give this book a decent synopsis on their website and now they don't send out review copies. How do they expect lesser-known authors to hit the best-seller lists unless they themselves aren't willing to publicize a bit and tell readers about them in the first place? Don't they know, newbie authors are stars in the making?

Unsung Books

Two things happened yesterday, apart from the whole blog template saga you can read about below. I heard from author Lynn Michaels (see previous post) and read about an interesting "unsung" award in a yahoo group I belong to. The reason I mention these two apparently different things in the same breath is because of what they share - namely the "unsung" part.

As I've mentioned before, I particularly liked Lynn's "Mother of the Bride" which I thought was a rollicking good read with some surprising elements. (Want to know what? Like I'll read and tell! GO read the book.) I felt it was way better than some highly-publicized chick-lit books released at around the same time. Imagine my surprise when I talked to my friends, ardent romance fans since long before I got hooked, and they'd never even heard of her. Same with some other reviewer colleagues of mine. Even I myself had never heard of her when I picked up MOTB. It was pure chance that I did, but I'm glad of it. I went back and picked up "Honeymoon Suite" as well and even that was a winner.

That set me wondering - in today's age of publicity and hype, how many more such wonderful authors slip through the cracks all because no one trumpets about them? How many more "UNSUNG" books, bookworms like me miss out on, each and every day? (I believe I'm channeling Carrie Bradshaw here)

I thought I knew about them all. After all, I'm on countless author and publisher mailing lists, get book news from publicists and agents all the time, etc. But no single place tells me about all the books and genres I'm interested in, upcoming and otherwise. Amazon is a good place, but I don't want to and don't have time to click link after link after link just to find out who the publisher is or even the release date! Just a simple table would be great but as I said, no such central place - at least not to my knowledge.

Getting back to the original 'unsung' issue which started this rant - in one of the countless YGs I belong to, author Cyndi Redding mentioned that she's decided to create an 'Unsung Book Award' - a personal award for books that have captured her attention and forced her to cut other priorities short so that she can continue to read. She was talking about ebooks, but it sounds like quite an interesting concept overall. I know there are industry awards galore, books feted in this conference or that and countless bestseller lists. Frankly, not many of those make my personal bestseller list. But which ones would YOU personally like to recommend?

Off the top of my head and not including the ones above, these made my short list -

1) Harry Potter books, the latter ones especially. [The darker, the more intense, the better.]

2) Da Vinci Code ['nuf said]

3) Crichton's Prey [frightening concept that hints darkly of things to come]

4) Books in Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series [to read them is to get hooked]

5) The Sano Ichiro series books by Laura Joh Rowland [Japanese historical mystery series]

6) P.G. Wodehouse books [penultimate British comedy]

7) R.K. Narayan books [Indian author with his own inimitable style]

8) The initial Stephanie Plum series books [The recent ones seem to be barely coasting along on the hype built by the original books in the series. But that's issue for blog another day]

I'll add more as and when I remember them.

---- Addendum -----

In reply to an email I sent asking her permission to blog about her award idea, Cyndi Redding not only graciously consented, but also informed me -"I'm probably going to be making this whole idea into a yahoo loop! That way readers can share some of their favorites with me and with each other! I'm looking at April as a start up date, and will post more about how to sign up later. I've already contacted the first recipient and she's delighted to accept."

Wonderful news, Cyndi!

Long Time, No Update

As one can see, I've been busy. No, not busy writing blog entries - nope, I'm notoriously lazy in this aspect. But rather with blog tweaking! It may be boasting (well, it is) but I tweaked and tweaked so much and so well that my blog template didn't resemble anything of the original. But just as I was satisfied with the end result than I came to realize my blog was being plagued by the mother of all code errors - aka, it looked different (vastly different) in different browsers, particularly in Internet Explorer.

I gave up IE about a year ago and switched to Mozilla's Firefox. I love FF, although it too has its quirks. But nothing as bad as IE. Because of my browser switchover, I had no idea that on IE my blog looked like crap - entries were haphazard, sidebar disappeared altogether, images were wonky etc. It looked perfect and worked perfect in Firefox, but not in IE. (Bill Gates, r u reading this? If not, somebody please let him know!) Since most people are still IE users, I decided to tweak my template some more to make it readworthy in both browsers.

So, for the two weeks I've been trying to do this and failing in either one or the other browser. Finally I had enough and today I decided to switch templates altogether. This one looked okay in both browsers. But then I had to import the changes I'd made, particularly to the sidebar. No way was I going to give up all those hours of research (aka plagiarism - can it be called that if the codes are being offered freely?) and painstaking tweaking and leave those adorable little gimmicky things behind. And that's what I've been doing all day today. Time well spent, eh?

I think it looks okay now. To readers it may not look like I did much, but believe me, I've sweated bullets over the coding of this blog, particularly since I'm no Html expert (I meant Ajax ... oops Ruby... or whatever!). I'm particularly proud of the flipping book covers in the sidebar, under the heading "Currently Reading", something I'd been attempting a long time and failing. Again, it may seem simple but trust me, it isn't. In my case, the flipping book covers are thanks to a nifty little Java Script I found here. My heartfelt thanks to the coders and all their hard work and even more importantly, for offering it freely!

On a sidenote - in the middle of all this hard work and other stuff going on in my life, I did manage to squeeze in reading some books and also managed to send in their reviews . More on that later. Right now, I'm off to a late, late, laaate lunch. More like, linner (lunch+dinner)! As my spouse is wont to say, until later - Ciao!

A New Author

Today I discovered a new author's website. More than her books, it was the eye-catching website that made quite an impression on me. The lady who is almost bubbling over her deep-cut gown, the rake in the background, a dagger pinning a wanted notice and the dark broody atmosphere hint heavily of love, lust and peril in a historical context. Whew, all this cloak and dagger stuff is still as hot as ever. And just about compels me to pick up her books - such is the power of websites!

New authors, take this not-so-subtle hint, Pleeaassee. There have been times I've skipped an author's upcoming book just because I couldn't find any information on the writer and/or their work, other than a brief blurb out on the www.

Here's a look at Jeane Westin's effective new
website :

 

About Me

Hi, I'm Rashmi and this is my blog which has undergone various transformations through the years. I blog about whatever interests me, and when I have some free time, a commodity that has become increasingly precious. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to leave a comment.

My email:
callmeabookworm@gmail.com

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