Monday, December 29, 2008

In my early days of paranormal romance reading I came across Karen Marie Moening with her “Highlander Series.” I really liked the time traveling aspects and more the strong romantic heroes and the stronger romantic heroines. There was a lot of wit in her books, which I love, as well as good conflict to keep the story moving and last but not least some wicked chemistry. I liked “Beyond the Highland Mist” and “The Highlander’s Touch” the best of the series.
The series in order: Beyond the Highland Mist To Tame a Highland Warrior Kiss of the Highlander The Dark Highlander The Highlander's Touch The Immortal Highlander
I have to say after so many highlanders the stories get a little bit too similar for real enjoyment. I think that is the struggle for any serial novelist, how to keep the story fresh.
In 2007 Ms. Moening went and changed up her style and moved her story telling skills to the modern fantasy/paranormal novel, ala Kelly Armstrong or Laurell K. Hamilton. In "Dark Fever" she created a new heroine in MaCayla (Mac) Lane. She will remind you of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sookie Stackhouse. This small town southern cutie had life by the tail when her life came apart at the death of her sister, Alina, who was living in Ireland at the time of her murder. (Side note: Ireland is the most magical place on the planet…I know, I’ve been there). Mac is drawn into the mystery of her sister’s death when a strange message is left on her cell phone by her murdered sister. She decides to go to Ireland and gather her sister’s belongings and maybe find the answers about her sister’s last days that could provide closure for Mac.
What she gets when she arrives in Ireland is beyond anything she could have imagined. Her sister was neck deep in some very ugly people, literally and figuratively. She had become involved with a very controlling unnamed man, (the Dark Lord) who she was obsessively in love with. Love isn’t the right word here, addicted to would be better. The situation becomes more unbelievable because magic is involved! Mac almost gets herself killed the first night in town when one of the demons realizes she can see it. She is rescued by a crazy old woman who warns her away but she doesn’t listen. She discovers through a series of events that she is what is called a NULL, a type of sidhe seer that can detect magical power objects. Among other things she discovers is a bookstore on the edge of what she calls the “dark zone”. The bookstore is owned by the enigmatic and secretive Jericho Barrons. He claims he can help her but she thinks he is just using her. There is plenty of sexual tension between them. There is other sexual tension with other characters, including a Royal Fae that kills by sex…what a way to go but and I like this part, there is very little actual sex. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a great sex scene but I feel like a lot of authors, (Laurell K. Hamilton, Beatrice Small and Rosemary Rogers come to mind) are writing not so soft core porn with a less than stellar plot to string the sex scenes together. It is nice sometimes to be left with my imagination and anticipation.
The 2nd book in the series, “Blood Fever” takes us further into the world of the sidhe seer and the Fae. The barriers between the good guys and the bad are starting to thin and Mac is called onto to join the fight, literally. She discovers she can kick demon butt as good as Buffy ever did. Mac also discovers that eating evil fae flesh can make a person darn near unstoppable but as with all weapons there is a down side to using it. Fae flesh is highly addictive and can make a person vampire like because of the addiction….can you say, yuck! Jericho and Mac discover some very interesting things about each other. Their mutual need for each other strengthens but so does Mac’s suspicions of what Jericho really is.
Now I come to the 3rd book, "Fae Fever". I was so excited when it came to the library! I couldn’t wait to find out if Mac finally discovers what Jericho really is and if she would finally capture that darn book, the sinsar dubh and we would find out who the Dark Lord is. Ms Moening gives hints and foreshadowing’s of many of those things and more but we get no answers. Okay, I realize she is writing 6 books so if she gave away too much too early she would run out of story before she got to the end. Mac has been growing and changing throughout these 3 books. She went from being a silly college co-ed who’s biggest concern was if her pedicure matched her outfit to a cynical, clad in black, magical warrior for the good guys. She is on a great path. I can see it now she is going to find the book, defeat the Dark Lord, hook up with Jericho and Ireland and the world will be safe from Magical terrorists, right? NOT! I was so sucked into this installment of the series that when the end came I threw the book! Why? I can’t tell you because it would ruin if for you. Suffice it to say, I am annoyed and I am addicted to the dark, sensual and magical world of the Fever Series. If you like modern paranormal, fantasy you are gonna love this series.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lisa Unger- Beautiful Lies and Sliver of Truth

Oh how clever art thou Ms. Unger. You wrote a book that sucked me in and left me hanging so bad I had to go out and get the 2nd installment immediately. (thank God for the Library!) She started off with a great mystery in “Beautiful Lies” and concludes with “Sliver of Truth.”
A young freelance writer by the name of Ridley Jones who lives a fast paced, exciting and fun life would have never pushed that little boy out of the way of the bus if she knew what would happen afterward. What is that old saying? “No good deed goes unpunished.” She is seen on TV news by thousands of people in the New York area and one in particular throws her very existence into question and chaos. She finds an old photograph and an unsigned note on her doorstep, “Could you be my daughter?” This anonymous note sets off a chain reaction of events that twists every memory Ridley ever had. Murder stalks her, from the violent end of a young single mother to the death of a creepy man claiming to be her father. Ridley spends the majority of the story running into one trauma or surprise after another and “Beautiful Lies” left me with as many questions unanswered as those that were. Oh, wait! That’s right that tricky Lisa Unger has another book that will answer the rest, right? I myself have a few more questions and would like a third installment.
Ridley’s life has been filled with loving parents, doting family friend she thinks of as an Uncle, a typical obnoxious brother but as she will find out none of her life was as it seemed down to her own name. She is helped by her new and very attractive and very mysterious neighbor. As I said before no one is as they seem. Who can she trust? Who knows the truth? Is her Uncle Max really dead? If Jake is not who he is then who the heck is Dylan Grace? Who works for the FBI and who doesn’t? The questions still run around in my head and it has been a month since I read the books.
This is my 3rd Lisa Unger novel and it definitely won’t be my last.

Back and Blogging

Happy NewYear!
I'm Back! Woo Hoo! And Yippee! It has been a busy and hectic 2 months. My youngest son left for boot camp at the beginning of December and my oldest is temporarily home before he goes back to active duty with the Army. It has been a time of transistions. But I am back and I have a new batch of book recommendations and a few that aren't so complimentary.
Thanks for waiting on me and I hope you enjoy my comments and read some of these books. Please stop by and let me know if you do!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I will be back

November is here and so is NaNoWriMo. I have almost 4000 words typed toward my goal of 50,000. I won't be able to post quite as often this month as I have been doing but I didn't want anyone to think I have given up on my crusade to get more people reading pop fiction.
When I get back I will fill you in on Lisa Unger's 2 book series starring Ridley Jones, Karen Reichs' newest Tempe Brennan installment "Devil's Bones, and the annoying Karen Marie Moening's "Faefever".
Please stay tuned and I will keep you posted on my word count for National Novel Writing Month. When I get to the end maybe I will have something of my own to share and entertain my fellow pop fiction readers.
Until then keep stopping by and KEEP READING!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Secret Life of Bees, The book is always better

Last Sunday my friend Debbie and I indulged in a Sunday matinee at our local Muvico theatre. With all the craziness going on around us these days with bills, family and the upcoming election we decided we wanted to stay on the sweet side and avoid movies with controversy like ‘Religulus’, violence like ‘SAW V’, or ‘Max Paine’ and ‘Road to Rodanthe’ seemed a little too sappy. We had both read “Secret Live of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd and the story lingered with us like honey that clings to the comb, so with such sweet memories we decided to visit the 60’s in Tiburon, South Carolina again. I have to say the movie was good but as usual didn’t stand up to the book. There were a couple of major flaws, the greatest of which was the casting. The only character that I thought was properly cast was Dakota Fanning as Lily. Queen Latifah, Alicia Keyes, Jennifer Hudson and Sophie Okonedo did great jobs but they were just too young for the parts they were protraying. The other problem with the movie was the Black Madonna, which is almost as important element to the book as the bees took such a secondary role in the movie. Even with those obvious flaws I laughed at Rosaleen and May when they were dancing in the kitchen and cried like a baby thru half the movie. I do love a good cry!

The book is still WAY better.
“The Secret Life of Bees” is a touching, sweet story of a young girl’s journey to find her place in the world amongst strangers because her own family is too broken to give her any answers. The backdrop of the 60’s civil rights movement is a complimentary plot line with Rosaleen, Lily’s housekeeper and friend, on her own journey to her equal rights as a black woman in this country. These 2 intrepid searchers are assisted by the Boatwright sisters, their thriving honey hive and their belief in the Black Madonna. August is the eldest and the bee keeper. She teaches Lily about patience, seasons, and family while showing her how to harvest honey and care for the bees. She also carefully shelters Lily’s secret until she is ready to share. June is the middle sister. She is a teacher and a musician. She carries with her a secret bitterness that keeps her from accepting love. Then there is May who had a twin sister that died early. May suffers from an open wound where her twin sister once was and has built a wailing wall in the back yard to carry all the woes of her world. All three sisters fill up different parts of Lily and help her see she is more than her history.
The imagery and language of Sue Monk Kidd’s book is gorgeous, like:
When I looked up through the web of trees, the night feel over me, and for a moment I lost my boundaries, feeling like the sky was my own skin and the moon was my heart beating up there in the dark. Lightning came, not jagged, but in soft, golden licks across the sky. I undid the buttons on my shirt and opened it wide, just wanting the night to settle on my skin, and that's how I fell asleep, lying there with my mother's things, with the air making moisture on my chest and the sky puckering with light.”
It makes me want to lay down in my own backyard and let the night sink into my skin too.
Bottom line, the movie was nice and I am glad I saw it. It made for a wonderful sojourn with my friend from the stresses of the week. The novel, however, is unforgettable and a must read for the time when you feel trapped by the past and need to feel a part of the hive.
Have a great week and DON"T FORGET TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 4TH!!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paranormal Fiction Feast

Over the last 2 weeks I have read 3 paranormal novels, Christine Feehan’s ” Dark Curse, Julie Kramer’s “Deja Demon and Jayne Castle’s “Dark Light.”
All three of these novels are romance adventures, utilize a formulaic plot plan and while they are all paranormal each has a different magical ingredient.
Christine Feehan is the Queen of the Carpathians. Carpathians are the hottest Vampire hunting, bloodsucking MALE creatures on the planet. Ms. Feehan has created an entire society of magical people that are dying out and can only mate with their one true loves, aka, life mates. Vampires are what happen when Carpathian males don’t find their life mates and lose all hope. In my next life I hope I come back to be bitten and mated by a big hulking Carpathian.
Julie Kramer’s series focuses on her main character who is a demon killing soccer mom. She is what Buffy would be if she was still around. Running between PTA meetings, helping her husband get elected as county prosecutor and raising a tween and a toddler Kate Connor finds time to kill demons, and zombies, save the world and have flirty moments with her back from the dead demon hunting first husband.
Jayne Castle created an entire planet called Harmony where psychic abilities are the norm. Humans discovered the planet as part of the space program and found it compatible with earth. There were obvious previous inhabitants on the planet but they seem to have abandoned the place. Psychic energy can be focused through amber to power everything from a toaster to a vehicle. The aliens left an amazing secret underworld of caverns and traps. Mysterious psychic energy comes from these caverns and it takes a special Guild of energy explorers called “Ghost Hunters to unlock the traps and unearth the secrets.

There are other obvious differences in these novels.
“Dark Curse” is all about passion. The Carpathian Men long for their mates and the return of their emotions. When Nicolas De La Cruz finds his life mate in Lara Calladine he takes what he believes is his without care of her feelings. Lara who has her own magic abilities because of her Dragonseeker heritage is overwhelmed by Nicolas and when she realizes her feelings for him have trapped her again as surely as her grandfather imprisoned her as a child she attempts to kill herself rather than be a victim again. Nicolas rescues her from her suicide attempt and in doing so comes to understand her need for independence. He realizes for love to flourish genuine understanding and compromise must be there as well. As the two lovers come together the battle for the survival of the Carpathian society continues to fume. Lara makes an amazing discovery about herself as she helps 2 of the Carpathian women save their babies and possibly save the future of the culture. She also discovers Nicolas is not just her anchor but her love as well. The passion builds to a fever pitch and when these 2 come together it is HOT! HOT! HOT! If any Carpathians are out there I am available! Ok, no I’m not but I could be if one of you knocked on my door!

“Deja Demon” is about the humor in adversity. Julie Kenner does for the Vampire Slayer series what my fave Janet Evonavitch does for the bounty hunter. Kate Connor is still coming to terms with the fact that her first husband is back from the dead and she was the one who returned him in the last installment, “Demons are Forever.” Eric is back from the dead and living in the science teacher, David Long’s body. Kate loves her 1st husband with all her heart but when he died she moved on and met Stuart fell in love again and loves her new life. She is caught in between secrets, regrets and her responsibilities as well as the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. The story investigates the complexities of mixed families, teen angst, and living with the choices one makes in the name of love with fun, action and laughter. The ending leaves me rooting for Stuart and sad for Eric/David. Most of all, it left me wanting more.

“Dark Light” is centered around the new head of the Crystal City Hunter Guild and an intrepid, do-gooding reporter. The reporter, Sierra McIntyre, has landed a major coup as a reporter for the tabloid ‘The Curtain” by getting an interview with the new Boss, John Fontana. From the moment they meet the sparks fly both physically and psychically. John proposes an outrageous arrangement to Sierra. She can get all the inside scoop on the Guild and the disappearance of retired hunters. I must say she was way too quick to agree to the arrangement but hey some girls are quicker than others. The adventure begins when they are attacked by mysterious bikers wielding new dark energy ghosts and it takes all of John’s psychic talent to defeat them. As the adventure grows so does the love and in short work they are making googly eyes at each other. This is the fluffiest of the three novels. It is kind of like the Harlequin novel of paranormals. I think what my favorite part of the story is Sierra’s sidekick Elvis. Elvis is a dust bunny, a strange little creature native to Harmony. They are extremely fluffy, neat and tricky creatures. Elvis got his name because he loves dressing in capes and sunglasses. Elvis isn’t a pet and don’t get him mad then he gets scary. While “Dark Light was my least favorite of the 3 books it was still a fun read.
All three books can be found in the usual places including my budget conscious favorites the Library and second hand bookstore.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

National Novel Writing Month

Well, I have gone and done it this time. I have put my writing where my mouth is. Some of you may know about NANOWRIMO, aka, National Novel Writing Month. For those who don’t NANOWRIMO is an annual “friendly” writing competition. To win, simply sign up on their website and commit to writing a 50,000 word novel within the 30 days of November. The prize is to get an official acknowledgment as an author of a novel, that’s it. What, no $100,000, no publishing contract or trip to exotic Paraguay? Nope, the actual prize is the satisfaction of starting and finishing a challenging project and the public validation of successfully meeting the goal. Oh, and let’s not forget having a novel at the end of November to edit and submit for publishing or self publish. How freaking cool is that!!!
I signed up for this year’s competition. Yes I did! I am trembling with excitement and trepidation. There are no rules about topic or format. This is about unbridled creativity and word count. There is no time to go back and obsess over getting anything perfect. For 30 days my inner critic has to shut up while I put up my very first novel. Woo hoo!
With the craziness going on recently in the world I have obsessed over every little thing from what to wear to work to who I am going to pick on “Dancing With the Stars.” I figure next month the only thing I will have time to obsess over is the 2500 word per day commitment to get to 50,000. I won’t have time to be sad over my youngest going into the Marines or my oldest going to Germany with the Army. I won’t have the energy to think about the mortgage still 15 days late or what I am not going to purchase this year for Christmas. I am going to write. I am going to put all of the crap in my head on the page and I am going to win!
Starting November 1st, you will notice on the side bar a word count widget to keep anyone interested up to date on my progress. I think this will also keep me going since I would hate for anyone see me give up. I am also including this link to NANOWRIMO for anyone interested in signing themselves up. My username is mamejane so feel free to add me as a buddy and we will cheer each other on.
Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Odd is Good (Odd Thomas by Dean R. Koontz)

I am not a fan of dying. It seems so final to me. I want to know what happens when I die. I have gone so far to find out about the final trip that I ask those who have passed away before me to come visit and fill me in. No one has ever taken me upon my offer. In Dean R. Koontz’s suspense series featuring a character aptly named Odd Thomas the dead do visit.

Odd Thomas, (yes, this is his legal name), is a 20 year old fry cook who lives in the dessert town of Pico Mundo. At the age of 7 he discovered he has an unusual gift. He sees dead people, ala “The Sixth Sense”. In Odd’s world the dead communicate with him but not through speech. It is a psychic connection with them that tells him what they need from him whether it is forgiveness or revenge. He feels it is his birthright to help them move on.

This is another book that came to me by way of a friend. Actually, Melinda gave me “Brother Odd” and when I realized it was part of a series I set it aside. I don’t like to read serial novels out of order. I hate having to backtrack to get a joke or recurring plot piece. Anyway, some weeks went by when I saw another friend reading “Forever Odd” and we got to talking about the series. He actually told me very little about the story but insisted I start at the beginning of the series. I did exactly that and I can’t wait to start the second book “Forever Odd”.

In the first book I met Odd and his girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn. According to a fortune telling robotic gypsy mummy “They are destined to be together forever”.
The other friends and fellow characters are:
· Terri Stambaug, his boss who is obsessed with Elvis.
· Little Ozzie, the celebrity author who is his friend and mentor. He is the one who convinced Odd to write down is experiences.
· Mean Chester, Little Ozzie’s cat.
· Rosalia Sanchez is Odd’s landlady. She has suffered such losses in death she is afraid she will just become invisible. Odd visits her every morning to assure her she can still be seen.
· Chief Porter is the head of the police dept. and knows of Odd’s unusual gift and has closed some tough cases with the help of Odd.
· Elvis, yes the king.

Beyond the list of characters and the basic concept of this series I can say no more because it gives too much away and I would hate to ruin it for anyone. I will tell you the end was worth the whole story and the whole story made the end happen. You will see what I mean once you read it.
Recently I answered a MEME question “What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?” I answered the question that the best book combines both. “Odd Thomas” does that.
Written in first person with spare language Dean Koontz colors a very clear picture of Odd and the life he leads. Suspense builds not with a lot of violence but with a tension in uncertainty. The ending is satisfying and shocking.

Please check this series out at soon as you get a chance!
The series includes:
Odd Thomas
Forever Odd
Brother Odd
Odd Hours
In Odd We Trust

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Death Angel by Linda Howard is not a heavenly read

SPOILER ALERT: I did not like this book and I give away plot details as I explain why.

This is a story about a woman called Drea, who spends 2 years being a ditsy bimbo girlfriend of a drug dealing thug all the while hiding an impressive intelligence. The only guy to see through her façade is Simon, an assassin hired by the boyfriend. He asks for 5 hours alone with her as payment for a contract he’s hired to do. After neither very little persuasion nor asking Drea what she thought of the idea the thug agrees. After her initial fear she succumbs to Simon’s gentle touch and they have sex for 4 hours. (They stop early because Simon doesn’t trust Rafael not to walk in on them). This doesn’t seem like such an impressive feat except Simon never loses his erection for the entire 4 hours. (This is beyond fantasy and is now a sign of a bad Viagra side effect). She is so overcome by the multiple orgasms she impulsively asks him to take her away. He says “No, Once was enough.” She realizes after an afternoon of mind blowing sex she has been selling herself short as the thug’s bimbo girlfriend. Obviously, Rafael, the thug wasn’t as good in the sack. She decides to leave said thug and teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget. She pulls off stealing $2 million from him. Surprise! Then Rafael hires Simon to catch her and take her out. He offers the $2 million she stole as the contract price. Simon tracks her down in Kansas. He debates taking the contract since he admires her guts and the smarts she displayed in stealing and running. (Yeah, right. I think it was that 4 hours). She realizes she has been found and during an escape over some curvy roads she runs her car into a tree and is pierced in the chest by a branch. He stays with her as she gasps her last breath and calls 911 so she won’t be left to the elements of Kansas.
Here is where a so-so story took a turn for the worse. Drea dies from her injuries. I think that is totally reasonable given the branch in her chest. She goes to the here-after and meets several people who mean nothing to her but are very kind and in the midst of the group a young man appears and she knows this is the baby she lost when she was 16. The miscarriage was mentioned in a sentence 5 pages in and now this one sentence character declares she should return to life for a second chance because even though she was an opportunist and not a very nice person she loved him and that makes her good at heart and worthy to try again at life. 911 shows up and after an hour on scene and packing her into a body bag one of the EMT’s hears her gasp back to life. Not only does she come back but she is now gifted with psychic powers. WHAT! Come on Linda! You are a much better author than this.
Wait it gets better. Simon decides to follow up on the accident with the intention to make sure she is buried properly with headstone and all. He realizes she meant something to him after all and he wants to take care of her in death unlike in life. As he is looking for her obituary he discovers, miracles of miracles she is not dead. She is recovering in a hospital and called Jane Doe since she won’t or can’t speak. He pays her hospital bills and begins watching over, (stalking), her while she gets a job waitressing and building a new life. (She has recovered her speech).
Meanwhile she is filled with the experience of meeting her son and longs to do right so she can return to where-ever he is and feel that joy again. She uses her new psychic abilities to warn her doctor, co-workers and select diner customers to take better care of themselves and decides to give the $2million to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She also decides that Rafael is too bad a guy to let stay on the streets and plans to return to New York and offer herself as a witness to help “bring” him down. Simon shows up and she flips out thinking he is still out to kill her. He breaks into her house and convinces her he is on her side.
I think you all know how this is going to end and you would be right. It was as if Ms. Howard, who is a great author, couldn’t decide what this story should be; paranormal, suspense or just a romance novel. I won’t stop reading her work but I will be expecting more of her in the future.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Look

So what do you think of the new look? I like the colors much better than the original hunter greens and navy blues of the old template. And Look Mom 3 columns! Woo Hoo!
All visitors, please take a moment and let me know how the new layout works for you!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fiction Fix Part II

Fiction Fix Part II

Well today’s news has kept me in the fiction realm. Bailout or rescue plan the real world seems like it is on shaky ground. I have to admit I have become a bit obsessed by the economic woes of our country and my household. I shared in Part I of the “Fiction Fix” the Library is a great place to get away from the insanity of the everyday. Today I have another suggestion for getting what I need. I have to be honest, even though the Library tries to provide the most mainstream titles of today they have limited options due to budget constraints. Many of my paranormal, science fiction and romantic faves are still not regularly available. The next best value is my local second-hand bookstore. This is a great place to find titles or authors that I can’t often find at the library like Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Susan Johnson and Rebecca York. A lot of second-hand bookstores are great resources for old magazines and even text books. Some used bookstores have special focuses like comic books, romance novels, and other collectable books. Another reason I really love second-hand bookstores are they are owned by besotted bookworms like me. I don’t think anyone gets really rich running a used bookstore but they are surrounded everyday by the things they love most. All the booksellers I have met in these stores are friendly, informed and excited to share their treasures with me.

I am especially fortunate to have a bookstore with in walking distance of my house. “The Bookworm has a great staff. They are always up on the next J.D. Robb novel that is dropping or have comments on the last James Patterson mystery they just read. I get excited every time I walk in, as I am surrounded by a grand variety of paperbacks, hardbacks, and magazines. I can trade in books I have purchased or gotten from friends and use them as credit toward books from their inventory. All the books are half off of the new price. This does make the paperbacks a better value than the hardbacks. I have actually picked up a month’s worth of reading for less than $20.00. (That comes to about 6 books for me). Just the other day I strolled out with the newest Jayne Castle book, “Dark Light” and a Jennifer Cruise novel I haven’t read before. It is great knowing I am being frugal while indulging in my favorite past time. I feel like I am doing something good for me and for my budget and then I can face the news again.

Just a reminder: Don’t forget to vote on November 4th! I am an Obama supporter but no matter who you support change won’t happen without our voices being heard. Just think, this election makes us all a part of history and someday someone will walk into a library or bookstore and read about the decisions we make that day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fearless Fourteen wasn't very Fearless

Dear Ms. Evanovich,

I fear that your newest installment in the Stephanie Plum series, “Fearless Fourteen” fell a bit flat. I love Stephanie and the Burg. One of my first posts on this blog was in praise of you and your zany cast of characters. I patiently waited at my library until it came available. I didn’t get out of the parking lot before I had cracked open the cover to see what Stephanie was up to. Would she and Joe make it permanent or would she and Ranger finally become a couple. What trouble would Grandma Mazur get into? Had Lula managed to hang on to Tank? None of these questions were answered to my satisfaction.
The book started off well enough with Stephanie and Lula collecting a bail jumper named Loretta Rizzi. As always the apprehension is not without its complications, this time it is Loretta’s son Mario, a.k.a. Zook and her parolee brother Dom. I hesitate to give much more detail beyond this or I risk giving away key plot points and I hate being a spoiler. Suffice it to say the complication of Loretta grows until it becomes a potentially life threatening situation for someone. In the meantime Stephanie helps out Ranger with a crazy celebrity named Brenda and Lula is putting together a wedding that Tank, the groom, doesn’t remember proposing. Grandma Mazur doesn’t fail to get in the picture as she takes out Griefers with Moondog, Zook and Garth. This sounds like a typically hysterical Stephanie Plum adventure doesn’t it? Well….the usual sharp humor that made me laugh out loud in some embarrassing public places was missing. In previous installments I am laughing less than 10 pages in. With “Fearless Fourteen I didn’t crack a smile until Grandma Mazur and the ladies got online and nary a laugh until Moon invented his potato canon. I know Brenda was meant to be funny but I feel like you thought Stephanie’s arch nemesis, Joyce Barnhardt, was out of town getting botoxed so Brenda was a last minute stand in. I would have left her out.
The other disappointment was leaving me hanging over Lula. That just wasn’t right. I was so looking forward to how she was going to actually get Tank down the aisle in a Pink Tux. Oh! And the brides maid dress she would have put Steph in would have been worth at least a chapter. Maybe she would have had to do an apprehension in the dress outside the church! OR Lula in a leopard print bridal gown. Now that has me laughing out loud!
What happened to Steph’s sister and her new husband, Albert Kloughn? I miss them. I miss the buick. Mom Plum made only a cameo appearance and I just want to say that having mom tipple wine in the kitchen is funny, having her put back a stiff whiskey at the table seems said and depressing. I miss the laughs. I miss the burg.
The Besotted Bookworm

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Getting My Fiction Fix Part I

The US economy is in turmoil. We’re still at war. My truck needs an oil change. My cat, Larry, is missing and I need a fiction fix bad but gas prices, grocery bills, and even my favorite book seller prices have all risen. What do I do to escape?
Thank God for the Library. Living in Palm Beach County Florida
I am very lucky because we have an excellent library system.

No matter where in the County I live I am only 15 minutes from a fiction fix. I consider the Library to be my one stop shop book paradise. The best thing about the Library is it’s FREE! I can get hard back, soft back, large print and audio books, as well as, music cd’s and movies on dvd. I can peruse current magazines and newspapers in the reading lounge. The library provides high speed internet access for me too. When I can’t get there, I can log onto their website to renew my books, or reserve books I want, download an audio book, (I love to listen at work), or download an e-book. For Free!

When life gets me down I retreat to my library. I take a deep breath when I walk in and the scent of the books gets my endorphins singing and my blood pressure lowering. While the library isn’t a completely silent place there is a sense of hushed understanding for quiet and respect for the other visitors like at a church or museum. I love walking through the stacks checking out titles, touching covers, admiring book cover artwork, and feeling the weight of my next read in my hand. Oh! And did I mention it’s FREE!
(Disclaimer: There is no cost for books as long as materials are returned on time. There is a .10 cent daily fine for overdue items, which is still better than buying in these financially stressed times for this besotted bookworm.)

Besides checking out reading materials, the Library also offers a variety of other activities. I can join a book club, or take a class in glass painting, computers and the internet. My husband and I can have an evening out at the movies with showings of the classics. Did I mention I can do any or all of these activities for FREE?!
Do something good for yourself and your wallet this week,
visit your neighborhood library!

Check here to see what is going on this month at the main branch of the Palm Beach County Library.

P.S. for those who were worried too, Larry has been found! He was hiding behind the bookshelf in the guest bedroom and we accidently closed the door on him. Maybe he likes to read too!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fairytales for Grownups

I loved fairy tales as a kid. For me, they were so cut and dry. Bad always loses. Good always wins and in between there is high adventure, love found, love lost then found again and more adventure. Yum!
For years I’ve had to satisfy my fairy tale fix with romance, fantasy and children’s novels. Of course I didn’t call them fairy tales that would be childish, right? Well, a few years ago one of the most prolific and fun fantasy writers in the biz turned her attention to the genre of the fairy tale and I am so glad she did. Mercedes Lackey may be a very familiar name to you. Not only does she write solo but she is also a happy collaborator with a dozen of her writing friends. Every time I go to the library or bookstore I see a new book with her name on it. One would think from gryphons to mages Ms. Lakey’s talent would be satisfied but no. She has taken on the task of remaking classic fairytales and I for one am very glad she did. She has called the series” Tales of The 500 Kingdoms.”
Ms. Lackey has created a world where the traditions of fairy tales become the power of destiny for the different characters in each story. Godmothers are the protectors and directors of the TRADITION. They oversee their little kingdoms keeping a sharp eye out for a build up of tradition around their charges. When one person seems to be pulled into a certain fairy tale path it is the job of the Fairy Godmothers to provide magical assistance for the proverbial Happy Ending. Some characters get punished for their evilness and others are rewarded for their heroism and all provide a weekend of entertainment for the reader.
In “The Fairy Godmother”, (published 2004), a Cinderella character finds herself in difficult circumstances when her prince charming doesn’t show up and Elena changes her destiny by becoming a Fairy Godmother herself.

“One Good Knight”, (published 2006), takes on the Beauty and the Beast when the poor little rich Princess Andie finds herself being sacrificed to a pillaging dragon thanks to her evil and crazy mom, the Queen. She is rescued by an interesting hero in Sir George who is not what he seems. Romance grows as trouble brews. With the help of Godmother Elena and the Tradition a happy ending is in the offing.

In “Fotune’s Fool”, (published 2007), the Little Mermaid goes spy and gets kidnapped by an evil Jin. With her prince from the dry land she manages to not only escape but save all the other magical princesses held by the bad Jin.

The most recent offering in the series of “The 500 Kingodoms” is “The Snow Queen.” In this tale Ms. Lackey takes hints of traditional fairytales of Snow Queens, questing heroes and evil witches to create an adventure for the relatively new Fairy Godmother of the North. Godmother Aleksia brings vain young swains to humble heel while strengthening lovely damsels. The adventure takes off after she brings Kay, the young swain and Gerda, his light o’ love together. An evil witch is impersonating her and she along with 2 mages, a wise woman and valiant young girl confront the witch and win the day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

FireFly Lane By Kristin Hannah brings memories, laughter and tears

Debbie said “Mame, it is going to make you laugh and cry. You better keep the Kleenex close by.” My co-worker and fellow bookworm was talking about Kristin Hannah’s newest offering Firefly Lane. I have to say here and now I am not a huge fan of mushy books. Beaches, neither the book nor the movie, did very much for me. Danielle Steele got old after the Promise, so I didn’t think I would be interested in Ms. Hannah’s book. Debbie however is nothing if not persuasive and managed to convince me to give it a try, she said, “The main characters of the book are our age and it will take you back Mame .” I had to give a try since she is the one who turned me onto the The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and I loved it!
I have to acknowledge Debbie here and now. She gave me another winner with Firefly Lane.
The story is of two girls growing up in the Northwest in the 70’s and follows their friendship and relationships to present time. Kate and Tully are pretty typical teenagers in 1974. Kate comes from a middle class family while Tully’s childhood has been dysfunctional and even tragic. Kate is awkward. She struggles with the rules of mom and dad and dreams of being popular and cool. Tully is old beyond her years. Her mom is an aging flower child with a bad habit. She yearns for someone to love her. This unlikely pair becomes best friends and as the plot unfolds their friendship will be tested in a myriad of ways. Kate’s self esteem issues will eat at her while Tully’s need for love will make her lie to protect what she has. While the story grabbed me immediately with memories of Little Kittles, and Tab cola I stayed for the tension of a relationship that was born of mutual need and the struggle of keeping it together through the changes life brings. There is a lot in this story that feels very formula to me. Opposites become friends, one envies the other, misunderstandings seem to break them apart and a coming together of sorts in the end. What Ms. Hannah does with this formula makes this a great read. This felt like a very personal story to her. I have come to find out since it was very personal.
Once again, to say much more about the story will ruin it. I can tell you that I laughed at the memories Ms. Hannah invoked with Gunny Sax prom dresses, bell bottoms and platform clogs. I felt like she had stopped by my past and grabbed up some of my favorite parts and placed them with care into her story. Because Debbie had warned me of crying I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t get sucked in. The crying didn’t begin until the last 50 pages or so and I blubbered like a baby and it felt really good. My 18 yr. old son walked into my room and walked right back out saying, “Dad! Mom is crying over another stupid book. Why does she do that?” Thanks Debbie for another great read though I still disagree about Gone With the Wind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Southern Vampires get True Blood

Last night HBO premiered its new series TRUE BLOOD. This is an awesome turn of events. The new show is based on a series of pop fiction novels written by Charlaine Harris called “The Southern Vampire Series”. Most of the time I dislike it when a book is converted to the screen no matter the screen size but HBO has pulled it off. (Two years ago SHOWTIME did it with the “Dexter” series to great success but Dexter is a topic for another installment). Back to Sookie: “The Southern Vampire Series revolves around a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse and her interactions with, the recently out of the coffin, Vampires.
With a delicious mix of humor, paranormal creatures and just the right amount of sexy Ms. Harris has created a world where Vampires are our next door neighbors. Some people welcome the Vampires into the community and other view them with suspicion, fear and even envy. Sookie finds them very comforting and attractive. Being telepathic she has spent a life time trying to avoid being in other people’s heads. She can’t hear the Vampires’ thoughts and that is rare indeed for her. She finds it oh so peaceful and intriguing. She finds Vampire Bill most intriguing and attractive. She rescues him from a pair of drainers. He will in turn rescue her and make her fall in love with him. (Note: Drainers are people who attack vampires and drain them of their blood to sell it on the black market. Vampire blood works on humans like an ecstasy, steroid cocktail. It is the ultimate addictive drug).
TRUE BLOOD starts at the beginning of the story in a little town just outside of Shreveport, LA. Bon Temps has been a quiet little town but that is all about to change. The opening scene when the Jason and his current girl go into the convenience store where they notice a sign selling True Blood. True Blood is a synthetic blood drink that the newly outed Vamps use for food instean of chomping down on the innocent and tasy humans. The guy behind the counter is all done up in Goth clothes, with black nail polish and skeleton rings on his fingers He scares crud out of them pretending to be a vamp. Jason and he have a great laugh when he reveals he was only kidding. All the while another guy who looks like a fat ol’ redneck watching scene takes offense at the slurs and ridicule coming from the little group and says so. Jason threatens him to stay out of their conversation when the redneck turns out to be an actual vampire, sharp fangs and all. It was GREAT! Isn’t that so true?! Danger is most often wrapped in the most unassuming packages. The storyline follows along the first book with the only deviation of the time. Her first books take place before Katrina hit Louisiana and TRUE BLOOD takes place after. The hour long premier moves swiftly introducing the main characters: Sookie, her brother Jason, her best friend Tara, her boss Sam (wait until you find out about the secret he is hiding), her love interest Vampire Bill, her grandma and the town of Bon Temps. The story line is set when Sookie rescues Bill. Jason is arrested for murder. The credits begin rolling as Sookie finds herself at the mercy of the drainers she just saved Bill from. The end leaves me wanting more, especially Eric. Don’t worry, you will meet him soon but you won’t soon forget him. Vamps Rule!
The complete list of Southern Vampire Series:
Dead until Dark Living Dead in Dallas Club Dead
Dead to the World Dead as a Doornail Definitely Dead
All together Dead From Dead to Worse
Check out Charlaine Harris’ other great series heroines: Aurora Teagarden, the Librarian Sleuth; Lily Bard, the crime attracting cleaning lady; and Harper Connelly, she makes a living talking to dead people. All her books are widely available online, at the local bookstore or library.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This isn't just another Black Out

When I think of a black out I think of a night when I slammed one too many tequilas in college. I was partying, laughing and the next thing I know I was home in bed with my make-up stuck to the pillow, the sunlight poking daggers into my eyelids and a blank space where the rest of my night should have been. It was an experience I have been loathed to experience ever again. Imagine for a moment what it would feel like if entire years and events were just gone from your memory. Then imagine that the safety of your family depends on you remembering.
In Lisa Unger’s “Black Out” her character Ophelia is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress syndrome and has holes in her memory. Her mother emotionally abandons her for the love of a convicted death row serial killer. Mom moves them from New York to Central Florida so she can be close to the man of her dreams and assist in appeals which will eventually free him from death row and prison. It is during this time when Ophelia becomes involved with the killer’s son, Marlowe. Let me just say here, “Like Father, Like Son.” Later after being rescued from Marlowe and creating a new life with a new name Annie she realizes one cannot escape the past only reconcile it. The suspense is in the reconciliation.
The story did not flow. It leaped, bounded and skipped across the Past, Present and future, from a trailer park in Central Florida to a tattoo parlor in New York to a cargo ship on the ocean back to a high end neighborhood in South Florida. Not until the very end of the book do all the unrelated bits and pieces come together for a shocking conclusion. This is a tightly drawn suspense novel that had more twists and turns in it that a Gordian knot. There were times while reading this book I wasn’t sure where I was anymore than Annie knew where she was and that was the fun. Who were the good guys? Gray, her husband? Drew and Vivian, the concerned in-laws? Who were the bad guys? Marlowe? Her mother? And the biggest question of all: who was really the victim? I kept turning pages just so I could maybe figure out where reality began and delusion ended. ? I would love to supply more detail and plot but then that would ruin the story and I wouldn’t dream of ruining it for you. The book comes to an end but the story left me wondering. Could there be a sequel? Maybe we will finally find out what happened to Gray’s sister. Where did Ella go? Hmmm….. This is my first taste of Lisa Unger’s story telling and it won’t be the last. Keep ‘em coming Ms. Unger!