Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Personal Days" by Ed Park

In an unnamed New York-based company, the employees are getting restless as everything around them unravels. There's Pru, the former grad student turned spreadsheet drone; Laars, the hysteric whose work anxiety stalks him in his tooth-grinding dreams; and Jack II, who gives unwanted backrubs - aka "jackrubs" - to his co-workers.

On a Sunday, one of them is called at home. And the Firings begin.

Rich with Orwellian doublespeak, filled with sabotage and romance, this astonishing literary debut is at once a comic delight and a narrative tour de force. It's a novel for anyone who has ever worked in an office and wondered: "Where does the time go? Where does the life go? And whose banana is in the fridge?"

OK, what I want to know is who the f**k writes up these blurbs on the back of a book? Because I was completely enthralled by this book's description, lured by this brilliant prose on the back of the book. I had also read about it in Baker & Taylor, one of our professional catalogs, and then read more about it on Amazon. Sigh. It really is true - you just cannot believe the hype about anything.

I will admit that there a few "true" moments in the book, things like bonding with your co-workers - but only so long as you work with them. Once they leave, you promise to write/call/get together for drinks, but it never happens. This is very, very true; office friends are often not real friends. Rather, they're friends that get you through your working day, someone to banter with and feel some sort of connection to, someone who "understands" the complexities of your environment (and knows who's screwing who, who's getting promoted, etc). I liked the inclusion of "craptop" for a down-on-its-operating-abilities laptop. I would agree with the nicknames; almost everyone gives at least one person in their office/organization a nickname, usually the guy who's least liked. So I congratulate Mr. Park on getting these little tidbits right.

Here's where I have to give the book a big "don't read this" - it's boring. Sorry. It's basically 190 pages of dull office news, followed by the last 41 pages that were actually interesting. They would have been even more so, had I actually cared about any of the characters. This is where I remind everyone (writers, that is) to develop your characters! Preferably into someone that I can either sympathize with or root for or something. I thought the office drones in "Personal Days" were very interchangeable (a comment made by more than one boss) and not overly likable. Frankly, I thought they were slackers and deserved to get fired. Doesn't really make one eager to finish the book!

Overall, I'd have to give this a C-. Read it if you want (you should always read what you want!) but Bookbabe wasn't impressed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"The Outlaw Demon Wails" by Kim Harrison

Book 6 of the Rachel Morgan series. Yeah, that's right, Book SIX, so do yourselves (and me) a favor and go read the rest of the series if you haven't already. Oh, and be sure to do it in order because it will make a difference. Trust me.

OK, now for those of you who have been hanging with Rachel this whole time, well, this book was a bit different, yes? First off, we've lost our beloved Kisten. I still have that sliver of hope that Harrison will pull a Dallas-style maneuver on us and his death will all be just a horrible dream. But it's pretty clear that's not going to happen, so Rachel is moving on (as well as us, the faithful readers).

Describing the plot is a bit tough, though. There's a lot going on in this book, all of it moving Rachel forward to a big reveal - her true heritage. It's been alluded to several times that Rachel is more than just a witch and readers won't be disappointed this time - we get full disclosure. Yes! Trent Kalamack puts in his usual smarmy appearance; just when you thought maybe he might have a tiny bit of decency in his heart, he shows his true colors. And of course, there's the usual cast of characters, Jenks, Keasley, Ivy, etc. And, just to give us some romantic hope down the road, enter Marshal. Yep, the witch from Michigan shows up in Cincinnati and he makes it pretty darn obvious that he's there because of Rachel. The good news is that Harrison handles it with great delicacy - it would have been unbelievable for Rachel to move to a new man in just one book. I do expect to see Marshal in the next installment, and I'm hoping for great things there.

This is a series that just keeps improving, much like a fine wine. There are new characters that were briefly introduced this time - I look forward to their inclusion in the next book. And again, if your not reading this series, why the hell not? It's consistently good writing with good, steady plot development and wonderful characters. What more could you ask for?

"Because Your Vampire Said So" by Michele Bardsley

This is the third book in the Broken Heart, Oklahoma series by the author. I've read all three books now, and each time I get one, I tend to set it aside while I read my "main" reading. For some weird reason, I always feel like "oh, I don't really want to read that - it's too cute". Well, duh! Once I do pick it up and start, I remember that's exactly why I read this series - it's cute. I call books like this the equivalent of popcorn - you're not reading it because it's good for you!

This time we learn about Patsy, the white-trash-beautician-turned-vampire; she still works at her salon (but only at night) and lives out back in her trailer. She has a teenage son who is full of angst, and she just happens to see ghosts. Two of them just will not leave her alone, either, but then again, one of them is her own grandma. The other, Dottie, is a chain-smoking smart-aleck, and they provide a lot of the humor in the book.

Of course, what is a good romance without some sort of peril? Enter werewolf Gabriel, who will protect Patsy, even though he's not the muscle that the Consortium had originally arranged. Who's the Consortium? Sigh. Well, that's probably the dullest part of the book - just call it vamp politics and you'll get the drift. I don't read these books for that part of the story - I read them for the cute factor and the usually fairly hot romance between the lead characters! I thought Gabriel and Patsy made a good couple - eventually. There's the typical happy ending which I totally expect out of books like this.

If you want a light, cute read, pick up this series. If you're looking for stronger stuff, well, read the blog - there's plenty of reviews to choose from!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Fearless Fourteen" by Janet Evanovich

What can we say about Stephanie Plum? Evanovich's series starring the hapless bounty hunter is now on its fourteenth installment - and it's pretty much like the rest of the series. Nothing much has changed in the Burg and I doubt it ever will. But then again, isn't that why we're still reading about Steph and her menagerie of friends and family? They're like a comfy chair, soft and welcoming, although getting a tad outdated.

I'm not going to go into the plot because, well, it really is pretty much like any other Plum book. Steph has one major mystery to solve and while doing that, she gets involved with the usual cast of characters from the agency, namely Connie and Lula. Steph and Lula try to catch a few "easy" bounties with their usual success (which isn't much); they also eat at our favorite Burg stops such as Cluck-in-a-Bucket and Steph's parents' house. Grandma Mazur puts in her usual appearance, although more briefly than in previous books. And then there's the two men in Steph's life, Joe Morelli and Ranger. Sigh. Not enough Ranger in this book for the Bookbabe's taste, which means he should have more page time in the next book. Here's hoping!

These books are basically the literary equivalent of Steph's beloved Tasty Cakes. You know it's going to be sweet, you know it's going to be fluff, and you know it won't last nearly long enough!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money" by Steve and Annette Economides

Well, I don't feel like I learned much from the "cheapest family" in America. That's disappointing! The only tip I picked up from this book was to go grocery shopping less often, something that I totally agree with. The Economides (yes, that IS their real name!) only go once a month, stocking up on staples, clipping coupons, watching for sales, etc. Which works for their family - not so much for mine. Granted, my hubby and I have learned to do some economic shopping (we found a surplus/salvage grocery store that's probably cut our "major" shopping trips in half), but we still pop in to our local store down the street often enough that they know us by name. It's just too easy to do when it's on the way home from work and we really want something; we should be using what we have! Sigh.

Other than the "shop less" strategy, I didn't really learn anything I hadn't already heard. They recommend the usual steps - pay cash whenever possible, pay yourself first, buy used cars, make what you can, share with neighbors, etc. We do a lot of the "penny-saver" moves already: we always take our lunches, we cook at home, we wait to do loads of dishes/laundry until the machines will be full, we use the air-dry setting on the dishwasher, etc. We don't do the daily lattes or anything like that - never have. So when I read a book about saving money, I really want to hear a new approach, something I might not have thought of before. I didn't find it in this book.

Most frustrating chapter? The one about having a budget. I read through their description of their budget at least twice, and I was still confused. They deposit money in their account, then go through and "mark" things for specific accounts - but don't transfer any money around. The accounts are strictly on a piece of paper, which means needing to know pretty much how much money is in any "account" at any time. ARGH! That's very confusing! They did say that their way might not work for everyone - no kidding! When people are already in dire financial straits, that much math is going to make them even more depressed! I did like their idea about having envelopes of cash for the places you overspend the most - when the envelope is empty, you can't buy anything more in that category until the next payday. But here's the problem I see - an envelope of cash is way too tempting for people who are already overspending. Granted, it might help them in the long run, but I'm still not sure it's totally the right way to go. Maybe if you did this for something like eating out or entertainment, but not a necessity category.

Overall, if you've never been much of a saver, never really thought about buying used, making do, or developed any other penny-pinching habits in your life, this book might be a good start. If, like my husband and I, you're already doing as much as humanly possible to save/cut your bills, well, I'd scan it and probably nothing more.