Sunday, September 30, 2007

"The Cleanup" by Sean Doolittle

For some reason when Amazon recommended this, I thought it was a supernatural sort of thing, so I reserved a copy for myself. Imagine my surprise when my hubby informed me that it's a strict crime thriller, albeit a good one!

Matthew Worth is just barely a copy these days. He's been place on "provisional duty", mostly for taking a swing at the fellow officer who became involved with his now-ex-wife. He spends his nights working security detail at the Save More grocery store, bagging when the usual boys are out sneaking a smoke. He has a bit of a crush on one of the cashiers, Gwen. He knows that something's gotta give; he just doesn't know what.

When Gwen comes in one night needing help, Matt knows what's going to give. Gwen's boyfriend has been using her for a punching bag, the sort of abuse that Matt has long-standing issues with, and on this night, things have come to a head. She asks Matt if she can show him something and reveals to him her incredibly bruised back. Then she asks if she can show him something else at her apartment. Turns out the "something else" is her now-dead abusive boyfriend. Matt knows he should call it in; he's a cop, after all. But he also knows what will probably happen to Gwen, a fate that she doesn't deserve just for having horrible taste in men. So Matt does the unthinkable - he covers up the crime. He loads the body in the boyfriend's muscle car and disposes of it, calling on his older brother Vince for the huge favor. He cleans up the apartment, trying to think of all the things that the cops would look for and/or find as evidence. He takes care of everything, he thinks.

Little does he know that the boyfriend has been running product and revenue for Eddie Tice, who is tired of selling used and discounted furniture. Eddie's had a nice little gig going with the boys in Chicago and is finally making money for himself. He is not happy at the possibility that the boyfriend has skipped out with a very large sum of dough, nor is he happy at the fact that to "make good", he'll have to pay out of his own pocket. He enlists his enforcers in the quest to find the errant criminal and the money, thugs who are actually also cops.

Matt is dragged into a crazy world of small-town crime that wants to be big. He's trying to keep track of his lies and trying to keep his job. Most importantly, he's trying to do the right thing by Gwen, something that gets more and more difficult. He tells himself it's like trying to diffuse a bomb, picking the right wire to snip and hoping that you're that much closer to safety, rather than getting blown to bits.

My hubby was right - this was a good book. The plot is believable, the writing is tight, and the characters are likable but flawed. It's gritty stuff, and it doesn't always turn out the way you'd expect. I'm impressed enough that I'm going to try to find some of Doolittle's other titles (none of which we seem to have here at the library - sigh). If you're looking for something along these lines, I'd pick up "The Cleanup" as soon as you can find a copy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Eclipse" by Stephenie Meyer

I've never been so reluctant to read a book in all my life! I loved "Twilight" and "New Moon", the first two books in this Young Adult series by Meyer, a star-crossed romance between Bella, a human teenage girl, and Edward, a hundred+ year old vampire. Granted, it's a tale that's been told before, but never quite like this. First, Edward's "family" of vampires are vegetarians of a sort - they only drink from animals, never from people. Second, they can and do go out in the sunlight, just not very often, and not because it will burn them. In a move that puts a complete spin on the old sunlight myth, Meyer has her vamps sparkle in sunshine, literally becoming so bright they are almost blinding. That is why they avoid the daylight; it would be much too hard to hide what they are.

Now comes the third volume, "Eclipse", furthering the tale. I was very hesitant for different reasons, but mostly because I did like the other two books so much. Let's face it, when an author writes a series, there comes a time when things start to head downhill, either in the quality of the writing or in the plot line itself. I blame most of my issues on a certain author who is still writing about a certain vampire hunter, one who totally went off the rails about 3 books ago into what I consider soft porn territory. That whole fiasco has tainted my enthusiasm somewhat for the series-type writing, especially when it's a series that I've been enjoying. I finally finished this book last night after having it for almost 6 weeks, something that rarely happens.

Were my fears justified? Not in the least. BUT... I find myself completely torn where the characters are concerned. I was so wrapped up in the love story of Bella and Edward that her friend Jacob, a werewolf and another possible suitor, snuck up on me as much as he did Bella. By the end of the book, I found my loyalties had shifted - I now want Bella to recognize that Edward might not be the best option for her. I really have come to prefer Jake, and I'm not entirely sure why. That's good though because it puts me pretty much right where Bella finds herself, in love with two different men, both of which would be good choices.

The story is great for the YA crowd as well as us hopelessly romantic adults. There's no sex in any of these books, but there is plenty of sexual tension. There's danger, too, in the form of other vampires, ones that don't practice the sort of dietary restrictions that the Cullens do. There's teen angst, but it's not written in such a way that it feels childish. Anyone should be able to relate to Bella's wanting to please her divorced parents, to her not wanting to hurt the ones she loves. Simply put, Stephenie Meyer has a hit series on her hands because she has written the type of story that appeals to all ages, a timeless love story. Start with "Twilight" and get caught up in Bella's world, too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Wild Thing" by various authors

Every once in a while I like to read one of these collections, one where they pick 3 or 4 authors, give them a theme and have them pound out a short story or novella for the work. The back of the book exclaims "Four extraordinary talents bring the most uncommon desires to life in a bold new anthology of romance on the edge." I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but three of the four aren't bad.

First up is Maggie Shayne, probably familiar to readers of paranormal romance. Her story "Animal Magnetism" is a sort of hip, paranormal, Dr. Doolittle. Macy McNamara is a veterinarian who prefers the company of animals to people. Small wonder, since she actually communicates with them. No, not through actual speech, as she explains to the hero, more through thoughts and feelings. She becomes involved with detective Jay Harris when he rushes in a chocolate lab suffering from a gunshot wound, a dog who witnessed her owner being attacked and raped. Unbeknownst to Detective Harris, the dog "gives" Macy a complete description of the criminal, something that Macy must determine if she can share with the by-the-book law officer. How will she explain her gift? Will he think she's insane, as many have before? Will she be able to stop the rapist before he attacks again?

"Paradise" by Meljean Brook is the second entry in the anthology. Lucas Marsden, a vampire, is mourning the death of his consort, Olivia Jordan. He hasn't fed in a month, preferring to exist on animal blood. He's feeling guilty and none too stable due to the substitute liquid when he's approached by a beautiful girl, one who seems to know who and what he is. She's not a vampire, but she's not human either. He becomes even more confused when she makes it clear that she's there to help him, including feeding him. Selah is a Guardian, a being akin to an Angel, one who guards the Gates that can be used by angel and demon alike. There's a Gate near Lucas's home, one that is being twisted to serve the demons, and Selah must stop the sacrifices of vampires to ensure the Gate's security. She must also get Lucas to trust her and let her do her duty. Oh, and most of the time the blood lust will lead to sex. Duh.

"Wild Hearts in Atlantis" by Alyssa Day is a short entry in the "Warriors of Poseidon" series. It was so bad I read one chapter and quit. Characters with names like Lord Vengeance, Bastien, Denal, and Justice were just too much for me. The kicker was when one of the guys calls another of the characters "dude". Barf.

The most interesting story was by one of my favorite authors, Marjorie M. Liu. I was surprised to find that it was not a story of the Dirk & Steele gang. And the style was very different as well."Hunter Kiss" is told from the first-person perspective, not something Liu usually does. It's written in a sort of noir meets paranormal meets fatalistic science fiction vein. And while the other two stories I read concentrated on the "romance" (sex), this one focused on the characters themselves. Yes, they're attracted to each other, and yes, they will eventually find themselves in bed, but there's not much in the way of description of the actual act itself. It was refreshing and it was good.

Maxine Kiss is a demon hunter, one in a long line of female hunters. She is protected by her "boys", demons themselves by night, tattoos covering her body by day. She is not entirely human nor is she very sure what sort of hybrid she truly is, that knowledge having been lost through the decades. Her mother was shot and killed by a demon. She is a loner and tries very hard to ensure that people don't get close to her. Those that do tend to die. She meets Grant Cooperon one day and everything changes. He doesn't seem phased by the demons that protect her, nor does he seem surprised when she explains that demons possess people. Well, he was a priest not all that long ago, but that doesn't seem sufficient explanation. It's not. He's got a gift of his own - he can see the auras that surround people. He knows that black ones go with people that are somehow "wrong". And he can play music that will change those auras, filling them with the colors of his music. I know, sounds kinda kooky but it works. There's a nice but brief explanation of synesthesia, a condition in which people "see" sound as colors or words with colors. Seems to happen a lot in autistic people. Anyway, Maxine is drawn to Grant and he to her; together they should be unstoppable against the demons.

Interestingly enough, this is the only story that doesn't really end. It's left open enough to give Liu the chance to develop it into a series, I hope. I found the writing to be outstanding, and I thought the plot was very intriguing. I'll be keeping my eyes out for the next story about Maxine and Grant.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Kitty Takes a Holiday" by Carrie Vaughn

The same command is given by the Bookbabe in this review as it was in the previous review for the 2nd Kitty Norville book - GO CATCH UP! I don't want anyone saying that I ruined the book for them because they hadn't read the series thus far.

OK, now that you've read books 1-3 (and you have, haven't you?), you'll be ready to read this review. Again, my apologies for using another review to give you the basic plot description, but I'm tired. This is the fourth review I've posted today since I'm trying to catch up here. In the future, I'm going to post these puppies as soon as I've finished the book; much less work for me that way!

From BooklistIn Kitty's third appearance, she is back in Colorado, where she is supposed to be earning the advance she was paid to write her story while on leave from her radio show. But strange things are happening: barbed-wire crosses and dead animals are left around the cabin. Bounty hunter Cormac shows up with Ben, Kitty's attorney who has been infected with lycanthropy, and together they work to bring him through the change successfully. Cormac and Ben had been tracking down a pair of werewolves who had been destroying sheep near Shiprock, New Mexico, and who had killed a werewolf son of the people who had hired them. Vaughn ventures into Tony Hillerman country with the introduction of an evil skinwalker who takes the form of a wolf. Strong on characterization, Vaughn creates characters worth visiting time after time in this compelling world where vampires and werewolves have their own radio call-in show. Diana Tixier HeraldCopyright © American Library Association.

That pretty much says it in a nut-shell as far as plot. Of course, what the Booklist reviews doesn't tell you is that Kitty is attracted to both Cormac and Ben, a situation made all the more tense by the size of her cabin and Ben's becoming a werewolf. It puts a great spin on things, and though the end of the book isn't promising this, I think we're looking at an awesome romantic triangle down the road. I'm glad it's not going to happen right away, and I'm hoping that it doesn't run the series off into the ditch like it did with the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. We'll just have to wait and see.

The Kitty books are some of my favorite reading out there right now. Smart, funny, romantic without being overly mushy. Check them out today!

"Kitty Goes to Washington" by Carrie Vaughn

Another series folks! Do yourself a favor and read the first book before you go any farther, OK? "Kitty and the Midnight Hour", available in paperback - check or E-bay or any of your other favorite shopping sites/bookstores. It's OK, I'll wait.

OK, I'm hoping that you've caught up on our heroine and are ready to travel with her to our capitol. Not traveling so much as summoned, I suppose. There are Senate hearings on the werewolves and other things that go bump in the night, now that the rest of the world knows those things are real. Kitty is asked to speak before the panel, although she's not entirely sure about what. However, since most are aware of her true nature thanks to her radio show, she'll go. That and the fact her her attorney, Ben O'Farrell, explains that they can subpoena her to show up. Sort of puts a different spin on things.

Kitty plays the tourist and in doing so meets some interesting characters. The first is the vampire mistress of the city, Alette, who is watching the talks with great interest, mostly in preserving her own way of life. The world knows about the weres, but not about the vamps, and Alette prefers to maintain the status quo. Kitty also finds a sanctuary of sorts in The Crescent, a bar below a Moroccan restaurant, a place where lycanthropes can go and mingle in peace. She quickly becomes friends with Luis, a Brazilian were-jaguar. Unfortunately, she also comes in contact with Senator Duke, a bible-thumping power-mad man who wants the world to know about the "monsters" out there.

Of course, Kitty being Kitty, this trip is about to turn into a nightmare, including a run-in with a previous character who turns out to be evil incarnate, lots of chases through the capitol city, and our heroine being kidnapped. It's a great book with a good plot and fantastic characters, one you'll be glad you picked up.

"Fanged and Fabulous" by Michelle Rowen

It's been a quite a while since I read the first book starring Sarah Dearly ("Bitten & Smitten"), so I wasn't so sure how much I wanted to read this one. I remembered vaguely that the original book was cute, had a sexy vampire in it, and that Sarah was kind of snarky. I couldn't remember much more than that, though.

I'm happy to report that the second book is a cute, easy read. Since I don't remember much of the first entry, I'm guessing here, but I don't think either one would qualify for Mensa material. It's the sort of thing you pick up when you want to read something in addition to the other work you're reading, something that won't conflict as far as plots and such. What's that? You don't read more than one book at a time? Oops! Maybe that's just me that does that. It's not been unheard of for me to have two fictional works and a non-fiction all going at the same time. Hey, I did tell y'all, I LOVE to read!

Anyway, this go around finds our still-newborn vampiress Sarah in the dumps. She's only been a vampire a month, is still living with the guilt of killing a vampire hunter (it was a clear case of self-defense), and now her sort-of-boyfriend Thierry seems to be blowing her off. Worse yet she's found out that she now has a "reputation" as The Slayer of Slayers, something that's bringing all the wanna-be slayers out in force. Oh, and her friend Quinn, also a newbie-vamp and ex-vampire-hunter, has a very bad crush on her, one he's not afraid to let everyone know about. Things are about to go from bad to worse, especially when another old master vampire shows up in the city, one that was friends with Thierry decades ago. One who claims that Thierry killed his wife. One looking for revenge...

To add to Sarah's woes, someone blows up her apartment, thus obliterating what little worldly goods she owned. She moves in with her gay co-worker and fellow vamp George, mostly because her sort-of-boyfriend, the one with lots of money and even more living space, does not invite her to stay with him. Sarah is being protected by bodyguards, one of whom is in love with the other and shows her how much by writing her extraordinarily bad poetry. Sarah is quickly losing patience with her stalkers, her situation, and most especially, Thierry.

It's a cute book and as I said earlier, it's a quick read. Rowen has an easy style and Sarah is endearing in a bit of a grating way. Hey, as long as you find yourself rooting for the main character, she's written well enough, right? I liked it more than I thought I would, so yes, if you happen to find a copy of this, pick it up for those "light reading" moments.

"The Mask of Atreus" by A. J. Hartley

I just finished this today, and while the book is fresh in my head, a good way to describe the plot is not. So with apologies to my readers, here's the review from Publishers Weekly, followed by my own comments on the book!

From Publishers Weekly: "Rich with historical and archaeological detail, this well-constructed debut from Hartley celebrates the power of legend while delivering an engrossing mystery that skips nimbly between continents and cultures. At the heart of the story is Atlanta museum curator Deborah Miller, who's returning home after a successful exhibit when she receives a cryptic call telling her she needs to go back to the museum. Deborah does so only to find her friend, museum owner Richard Dixon, lying dead amid a cache of possibly priceless artifacts. Why was Richard hiding them? And, most importantly, what item from the stash was worth killing for? At first, Deborah believes the missing item to be a Mycenean death mask, but after exploratory trips to Greece and Russia and multiple attempts on her life, Deborah begins to suspect that the object in question is more powerful than a mere mask. Hartley has created an enduring heroine in Deborah, who's courageous, loyal and smart enough to learn from her mistakes. Although it's unclear whether there are more adventures in Deborah's future, this intricate and absorbing thriller augurs well for Hartley's career." (Apr.)

This was a good, quick-moving read, full of action, red herrings, and plot twists. People weren't who you thought they were, and that held true for both the good guys and the bad guys. There was a lot of history to follow, which would be my main complaint about the book. Don't get me wrong - it made for a more interesting read, but there was what felt like a crash course in several different eras, the Ancient Greek, the German and Russian of WWII, and the African-Americans that served in that same war. It was a lot to keep track of and there were times when I felt I wasn't doing such a good job of it. History buffs would probably love this work, providing the author got everything right. There was a fairly extensive bibliography provided by Mr. Hartley at the end of paperback, so I'm guessing he did his homework.

I enjoyed the premise quite bit. As the main character theorizes at one point, the weapon that they all assume has been stolen needn't be one of physical proportions. Couldn't a weapon be ideological too? Neat idea, even if the one weapon in choice here seemed a bit preposterous at first. The more I thought about it though, the less silly it seemed. You'll have to read the book to see what I'm talking about, and trust me, that's not a bad thing!

Good character development, tight plot structure, and far-away locales. What more could a reader ask for?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Blood and Mind" by Melanie Lee Bonnefoux

I am really at a loss here. This was recommended by someone that has similar tastes as mine. It's favorably reviewed on Amazon (granted, there are only 8 reviews, but they're still raving reviews). There's a sequel, too.

To put it bluntly, I got to page 51 and stopped. It was that bad. I just couldn't do it; I gave it the 50 pages that librarian Nancy Pearl recommends in "Book Lust", a true testament of how determined I was to read it. I was ready to put it down about 20 pages into it. And hopefully by now, my faithful followers, you know me well enough to know that it's highly unusual for me to not finish a book, even the ones I don't enjoy all that much.

The plot is a blatant rip-off of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. Or maybe it's meant to be an homage, I'm not sure. In any case, I've grown weary of Anita and her shenanigans, so I wasn't anxious to start down that road again. Add to that the poor writing and you've got a recipe for literary disaster. Even worse is that, much like LKH, there appears to have been a distinct lack of editing in this piece. There are run-on sentences as far as the eye can see, not to mention the overuse of commas. I wanted to grab a red pen and start marking the thing up! I can forgive/overlook a lot of things in a book, but bad editing is not one of them, not when it's so bad that I find myself stopping to "fix" the sentence structure in my head. Sigh.

Again, I can't tell you enough how disappointed I was with this book. I have no idea if it gets any better, and quite frankly, I just don't see myself ever going back to find out. I have no idea if the sequel is any good, either. This is definitely one that you'll have to decide for yourself. I'm sure there are those out there who will find it a good read. I'm just not one of them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day" by Toni McGee Causey

The hubby and I had been wandering the aisles of our local (and sadly, only) bookstore when this title caught my eye. If I had to hazard a guess, it's probably a bit of a take-off on the children's book "Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" by Judith Viorst. Great book for kids, so I thought this might be an equally great book for us grown-ups. Happily I can report that this is mostly true.

If you've ever had "one of those days", you'll be able to relate to Bobbie Faye. She's a hard-working gal currently caring for her niece due to her sister's latest stint in rehab, a situation made all the worse due to the arresting officer, none other than Bobbie Faye's now-ex-boyfriend. The day starts off around 4 a.m. with said niece "swimming" in her auntie's trailer. Seems the washing machine her no-good-brother was supposed to have fixed is overflowing and cannot be stopped. As the water grows higher, Bobbie Faye panics; this is supposed to be her day off. Not only that, she was supposed to be getting ready for her big appearance as the reigning queen of Lake Charles Contraband Days Festival, an event that she simply can't miss.

Things go from bad to worse in a hurry when she receives a phone call from her brother Roy, the same one who failed to fix the now dead washer. Turns out that someone wants something that Bobbie Faye has and has decided that holding Roy hostage is the only way to get it. What could possibly be so valuable? The tiara that Bobbie Faye wears as the Contraband Queen, the tiara that was passed down to her by her dearly-departed mother, the tiara that's really nothing more than a wrought-iron crown. Nothing fancy, no gold, no jewelry on it. Why is it so important? Well, I'll let y'all read the book to find out.

Bobbie Faye goes to the bank to obtain the tiara from her safety deposit box, then gets caught up in a robbery in the very same bank. When she realizes that she's not only given stolen money to the robbers but also the all-important-crown, she hightails it into the parking lot and truck-jacks an innocent guy in the parking lot. Of course, this being Bobbie Faye, the guy may not be nearly as innocent as he first appears. Trevor, the hostage, will end up on the wildest ride of his life as he and Bobbie Faye attempt to track down the tiara and get Roy back safe.

Fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series will definitely enjoy this book. Then again, I can't imagine anyone not liking this work - it's got a fairly good plot line, strong characters, and a lot of laughs. I think one of the things I enjoyed the most were the "quotes" from various sources at the beginning of each chapter, people such as a seasoned mailman who, when told his new route will have Bobbie Faye's trailer on it, says "No." Seems she has always been and will most likely always be a disaster magnate. Well, who of us out there hasn't felt that way at least once? Pick up Bobbie Faye and relish in someone other than yourself having a very, very, very bad day!

Monday, September 17, 2007

"On Becoming Fearless" by Arianna Huffington

I've always liked Ms. Huffington's commentaries, so when this book came floating back into the branch yet again, I took it as a sign to finally check it out. Sad to say, this book isn't that much different than any other self-help book we have on the shelf, albeit one directed specifically at women.

The basic premise of Huffington's work is not that we should be fearless as the title suggests. Rather, it's that we should feel the fear and learn from it and do whatever it is we need to do anyway. Not bad advice but certainly not new advice, either. I liked that she was adament that women need to get fearless about their body images; I agree that women today waste too much time and energy worrying about what everyone else thinks about their appearances. A confident, happy person, female or male, is far more attractive than a "pretty" person with a nasy disposition.

I skimmed a lot of this piece, namely because it's got a bit of that "been there, done that" feel. For example, there's an entire chapter about motherhood; I don't have children, nor do I want any, so that chapter was unnecessary to me. Others might get something out of it, I don't know. Also, the chapter about work wasn't all that pertinent to my career, as I'm in the public service sector. I will never make a lot of money in my line of work, and I'm certainly not going to orchestrate any takeovers anytime soon!

The book is worth picking up, even if you merely skim through it as I did. It's never a bad thing to hear/read/see someone tell you that you're great just the way you are, and that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Scent of Shadows" by Vicki Pettersson

Joanna Archer is having the blind date from hell in the opening of this new series. Her date, a hideous man named Ajax, wants to kill her. Literally. She's about to find out that a bad date is the least of her worries. She'll be lucky to survive her 25th birthday. Why? Turns out that pivotal date, specifically at midnight, is when she will inherit her full powers as a member of the Zodiac. Yes, Joanna is actually a superhero - she just doesn't know it yet.

The only people who do know are the rest of the Light Zodiac, people who try to balance the scales in favor of good. They constantly battle members of the Shadow Zodiac, who, of course, are in favor of tilting things towards the evil side. There are twelve members on each side, basically opposites of each other, just as there are rising and descending signs in astrology. Unfortunately for the Light side, they have lost several members and are finding themselves wondering if there's a traitor in their midst.

Enter Joanna, who is not only a member of the Zodiac, but also the Kairos, born of both the Dark and the Light. Her mother was The Archer, the same sign that Joanna inherits. Her father was The Tulpa, a being literally created and then left to go power-hungry on his own. As a member with dual nature, Joanna is not trusted by the Light and wanted dead by the Dark. What's a girl to do? Oh, and her old flame, Ben Traina, has walked back into her life. Complicating matters even worse is that once she completes her transformation, she must undergo another one, this time involving some major plastic surgery. Everyone, including Ben, must believe she's dead so that the Light can protect her from the Dark. But even with a completely different face and body enhancements, the Dark will be able to track Joanna by her scent. Believe it or not, the title is all about one's personal scent created by pheromones. (This was a bit of a stretch, even for me!)

Sound intriguing? It was. Sound complicated? You betcha. Sound promising? Yes, and I'm hoping to read the next book in the series. This entry had to provide a lot of exposition, and it shows. Luckily, the premise caught my attention and kept me going to the end. I'm hoping that the next entry is tighter in plot and perhaps a bit better at character development. Overall, I'd recommend this, even though it's not the best book I've read. But in the case of a series, especially this one that has so much history in just the first book, I'd say it's a must-read.

"Just a Guy" by Bill Engvall

Anyone who's seen or heard of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour knows the name Bill Engvall. Or perhaps he's better known for his tag-line, "Heeeere's your sign". Either way, he's pretty much made a name for himself in the world of comedy. This book is a bit of biography and a big of comedy rolled into one. And it's got nice, short chapters!

There's nothing really new here, not if you're already familiar with Bill and his work. It was nice to read about his life, I'll admit, especially since he himself says he grew up pretty much normally. He's got three sisters, a mom, a dad, and a step mom. He had his fair share of childhood mishaps (OK, maybe more than his fair share). He grew up in small towns. He went to college and didn't finish. He was a frat brother for a while. See, all normal stuff.

The chapters are basically vignettes of Bill's life, things such as his time on a Little League baseball team, his high-school hi jinks, and meeting his future wife. He talks about his daughter Emily being born. Things like that, the little things that make up a life. And of course he talks about his realization that comedy was to be his life's calling, and how he worked his way up in the business. All interesting stuff made more interesting with his impeccable storytelling and sense of comedic timing.

If you like Bill, you'll like the book. If you don't know who Bill is, maybe it's time you found out!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"This Year I Will..." by M. J. Ryan

I feel the need every once in a while to read a "self-help" type book, if for no other reason, I think, than to realize that I'm not nearly as messed up as I thought. This is one of those titles that's been in my branch for a while and I've kept thinking how it looks interesting. Well, I finally decided to check it out. It was worth it, too.

Did I accomplish anything after reading this? Yes and no. I haven't made any decisions as to what I will do this year, just that I know now how to approach a change. This book is not a how-to-lose weight, or a how-to-quit-smoking, or anything like that. Rather, it is about how to make ANY kind of change that you feel is necessary.

Ryan goes about discussing the science of how habits are formed, which I felt like I mostly already knew. I will admit that refreshing myself on how long it takes for the habit to form, etc, wasn't a bad thing; helps for the next time I attempt to make a change in my own life. There's a lot of good, very digestible information here, perhaps the most important of which is Ryan admitting that not everything works for everyone. You have to keep track of what seems to be working, what's not, and adjust accordingly. You might have had a friend who was able to quit the ciggies cold turkey, but trying that tact yourself could lead to total disaster. It doesn't mean that you have less will-power or what have you than he/she did; it just means that you don't form your habits in the same manner.

One of the best pieces of advice, one that I don't think I've ever seen in a book like this before, was that when you have a slip-up, you need to forgive yourself. Yes, you read that right. Forgive yourself. The author is quick to point out that this is not a license to make excuses or to stop trying. Rather, it's something that you would probably do if the person who slipped was anyone other than yourself. I found myself thinking, "She's so right - I would never say anything harsh to my friends about their backslides!" For example, I've had several people in my life who have smoked and tried to quit. I have never, ever made snide, rude, or just plain mean comments about them when they've started smoking again, regardless of how long they've managed to not smoke this time around. Why would I? I've watched them struggle with the addiction, and seen how hard they've been on themselves when this attempt to quit doesn't work. So it does beg the question, why do I berate myself and call myself every name in the book when my attempts to eat healthier and exercise fail?

This is definitely a good little book to read for anyone contemplating a change in his/her life, whether it's something as minor as promising to floss every day to something as major as getting out of a bad relationship. I plan to look for more of Ryan's books and I hope they are just as promising as this one.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Devil May Cry" by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is the 11th entry in Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series (the 12th is you include "Fantasy Lover" which the author herself does). Alas, as with all long-running series lately, this one has a lot of misses for every hit.

Our hero for this tale is Sin, a Sumerian ex-god. He's bent on revenge against Artemis, the goddess who stole his powers. Of course, it doesn't help that she's the one responsible for creating the Dark-Hunters. And as if things weren't already complicated enough, he's battling to save the world against demons rather than Daimons. The gallu have been increasingly able to escape their underground prisons, mostly thanks to nuclear testing (perhaps a bit of an environmental message from Ms. Kenyon?) The gallu are hoping to release the Dimme who will in turn destroy the world. Add to all this mish-mash the guilt that Sin feels over the mere existence of the gallu; his family are the ones that created them eons ago in hopes of saving their pantheon from destruction.

Enter our heroine, Katra, who is requested by Artemis to locate and kill Sin. Artemis is afraid that Sin is preparing himself to finally kill her and she's not about to let that happen. Katra, one of Artemis's hand-picked handmaidens (and a bit something more, it turns out), flashes herself to Sin's location, only to become entranced by his appearance. For such a bad guy, he's incredibly hot. Then again, all the heroes in Kenyon's DH world are stunning!

Of course Kat decides not to kill Sin. Of course she decides to help him save the world. And of course they become romantically involved and have lots of really hot, awesome sex. What, you thought this one might finally be different? Not a chance! Kenyon has a hot product going; she wouldn't be wise to deviate from her winning formula. Except she has done just that over time. This novel is probably the most blatant in its differences. First, there are no humans in it, at least, none that aren't fodder for the gallu. Sin is an ex-god, Kat is almost a god, Artemis is a goddess, Ash is - well - ASH. Sin's casino employees aren't even human! Help is offered from various other beings including Simi and her sister, both of whom are Charonte demons. (But we love Simi and she provides some much-needed humor in this book!) Sin isn't really even a Dark-Hunter; as he puts it, he's a guy that Ash felt sorry for and gave a job to. Sigh.

There are some good things, namely explanations (finally!) of the true relationship between Ash and Artemis. The goddess comes out looking much better at the end of this book. Of course, she may go back to her usual ways by the next entry, in which case we can only hope that Ash will finally give Simi permission to eat her!

Here's where I found myself getting upset. Sin and Katra are immortal pretty much. Each has been around for a very, very long time; Sin is something like 11,000 years old. Neither has truly been in love until they meet each other. Romantic, right? WRONG! It totally depressed me. I mean, if immortal beings can't get their act together for centuries upon centuries, what hope is there for us mere mortals? Why not just cut our losses now?

Will I continue reading the series? Yeah, probably. The books are fairly short and I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet. But I would suggest to the author that she go back to some of what worked in the first place - a human woman being swept off her feet by a Dark-Hunter, all while battling/running from danger. That formula totally got me hooked because it's exactly the sort of fantasy that most of us mere mortals have. That and a hot guy to do the housework!