Monday, October 24, 2011

Yes, I'm still here!

Sorry I haven't been better at posting my book reviews. Folks, there is just so much going on right now, I don't know where to start. Um, well, let's start with the fact that I've been sick for the last week with what I've affectionately named "the crud". I'm sure it's just a head cold, but it's laid me out - lots of nose-blowing, throat-clearing, bones-aching yuckiness. I doubt it's the flu, as everything I've ever read or heard says you usually run a good fever with the flu but do not have a lot of mucous. Mucous? Oh yeah, got that in abundance. So a cold it is. I finally broke down and went to a local pharmacy for "real" medicine - you know, the stuff that now requires you to produce ID and be entered into the system lest you have plans to produce meth with your paltry purchase - and that seems to be doing the trick. I finally feel somewhat human again and even plan to go to work today. Yippee!

One of the other reasons I haven't been around is work. There are major, major changes going on in my library system, and none of them are "good" in the sense of making anyone happy. Our two-county regional library system is being forced to disband, leaving us as single county entities. Sounds simple but trust me when I tell you that, just as in a normal human divorce, there are a multitude of details that need to be worked out. We have patrons who use branches in both counties, and yes, they are worried that they will suffer when the split is final. We worry too, as we have no idea at this point what will still be available, what will be off-limits, what will cost and how much, etc.

In addition to the dissolution of our regional system, the county I work in slashed our budget and eliminated about 3 full-time positions and 5 part-time positions. Thankfully no one actually lost a job, as those positions were unfilled at the time - but they are still gone for good. The director had to do some fancy footwork, cutting back on branch hours and shifting around staff, so try to keep the system up and running. Some of it is working and some isn't. Then the rug was pulled out from under our feet: a supervisor responsible for two of the busiest branches gave notice, and now everything is up in the air again. Chances are good that someone will be moved into that position as we have a "spare" supervisor at the moment (one that has a branch but doesn't really have a staff), but that person may not be the one who is moved. It's really been a nightmare, and if I can be totally honest here, I don't think this will be the last of the resignations. People are frustrated and unhappy, and even with the unemployment rate still as high as it is, staff are obviously starting to consider their options. And we've all been told to expect more budget cuts for the next fiscal year, and to expect them to be deep. Who wouldn't be looking, when it's pretty much been telegraphed to each and every employee that there will be layoffs next summer?

Enough bad news? OK, let me share with you the last reason I've been MIA. I have a small contract job proofing manuscripts for an e-publisher! Yes, I'm finally getting to see the other side of the fence, and I have to say, it's very, very interesting. No, this is in no way will take the place of my "day job"; I love the work, but as this is a new publisher, the pay isn't much, certainly not enough to make it my one and only job. I am certainly learning a lot, though, and if I do someday decide to try my own hand at authorship, I will have had a wonderful tutorial in how to write, what to do, what not to do, etc. Just this morning I learned about "filtering", a phenomenon I have encountered but never really thought about. It's the art of actually distancing your character from the reader through certain words and phrases, such as "She watched the cars drive by. She wondered if she could cross the road in time." The article suggests taking out the filters such as "she watched" and "she wondered" and rewriting it to make the action more direct, which in turn better connects the reader with the character. Yep, how cool is that? I'm looking forward to my next read - I know I'll be on the lookout for this now!

And with that, dear readers, I must leave you. It's just about time for breakfast and the usual morning work routine, and since I am feeling much better today, I will be heading off to the salt mines. Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"You Don't Sweat Much For a Fat Girl" by Celia Rivenbark

I have been reading Celia Rivenbark since I first discovered her in our library. I'm not sure which book caught my eye first - a tie, probably, between "We're Just Like You, Only Prettier" and "Bless Your Heart, Tramp". Both had me laughing myself silly and thinking I had found a new Southern friend (of course, she doesn't know me from Adam, but I still think she'd at least stop and say "Heeeeeeey!" to me if I said it first). The next few books were still cute, but were lacking something, something I just could never put my finger on.

I'm happy to say that Rivenbark is back in rare form with this book. I found myself laughing, snickering, and once or twice, downright chortling along with her humorous recollections of all sorts of things almost menopausal. Yep, CR has hit "the change" in her life - right at the same time that her darling daughter, Princess, is hitting puberty. She has great sympathy for her Duh hubby (as would I), but still, if he doesn't provide them both chocolate on a consistent basis, his life may quickly be forfeit.

I especially loved "Twitter Woes" (as I am completely incapable of holding myself to 140 characters - it's why I have a blog!) and "You Know You Want It: Snuggie's Embrace Will Melt You". No, I do not nor have I ever owned a Snuggie, nor do I want to. But I am one of those Yankees who is constantly amazed by the natives' reaction to cold/winter weather. I have never lived anywhere that closes school due to a threat of snow; in my old home state, it took several inches - nay, feet - before we were allowed the comfort of lounging at home. The words "snow day" were always said with much hope when I was growing up, but except for the infamous Blizzard of '78, we were rarely sitting at home due to the white stuff. We've lived here in North Carolina for almost 10 years now, and we still giggle at people complaining about the "cold". Of course, the longer we're here, the closer we get to being those people; something about living here in the South must thin the blood. Well, that and my duh-hubby's blood pressure meds...

If you need yourself a good laugh, go find a copy of this book. It's just chockful of good stuff, and hey, if that doesn't float your boat, how can you not love the lady on the cover? Doesn't she just look like she's having the time of her life?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Summer Rental" by Mary Kay Andrews

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she's made over the past decade of her life. Julia - whose caustic wit covers up her wounds - has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can't hide how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, and her live. And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world... though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina's Outer Banks is just what each of them needs.

Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he's hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to each other, even as Ty is about to lose everything he's ever cared about.

Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity. Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants, but can they also provide what she needs?

Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

I love Mary Kay Andrews and have since I read "Hissy Fit" so many years ago. She puts out funny, Southern women's fiction, and other than "Deep Dish", she hasn't missed a beat. (Hey, I still liked that one, too, just not as much as all the others I've read). I put my name on the list for this, her newest title, as soon as our system got it, even though it meant it would be a dreaded 7-day title.

So imagine my surprise when I get my copy and start reading and realize - this is sorta serious stuff. Not wring-your-hands and cry-your-eyeballs-out serious, but a lot more serious than I remember her books being. There's an unplanned pregnancy (and no, I'm not giving anything away - you can spot that coming a mile away); there's job loss; there's potential bankruptcy and home-loss; and there's physical abuse. Heck, there's even possible murder! And while some of these issues have sort of popped up before in an MKA book, the subjects were dealt with quickly and with great humor. This time the subjects linger and the humor felt a bit more grim.

Now having said that I was shocked by the more serious, grown-up tone of this book, I have to say that I still enjoyed it. The friendships between the three friends was wonderful and felt very much like some of my real-life friendships. I really wanted to know more about Maryn, and that was perhaps my only disappointment, that her story was left unfinished. Maybe she will be the lead character of the next book? (hint, hint, MKA.....)

The romance is nicely done, developing at a leisurely pace. And as always, the descriptions of the seaside town, the houses, the furniture, etc, are just fabulous. You really feel like you're there and can easily imagine the cottages, the roads, the bicycles, etc.

Overall, I would say "Summer Rental" is a good read, and it would make a perfect beach book. Of course, I'm getting around to reviewing it way past summer and "beach time" but who knows? Maybe you'll be heading out to the coast yourself this fall/winter!

"Dreams of a Dark Warrior" by Kresley Cole

Murdered before he could wed Regin the Radiant, warlord Aidan the Fierce seeks his beloved through eternity, reborn again and again into new identities, yet with no memory of his past lives. When Regin encounters Declan Chase, a brutal Celtic soldier, she recognizes her proud warlord reincarnated. But Declan takes her captive, intending retribution against all immortals - unaware that he belongs to their world. Yet every reincarnation comes with a price, for Aidan is doomed to die when he remembers his past. To save herself from Declan's torments, will Regin rekindle memories of the passion they once shared - even if it means once again losing the only man she could ever love?

OK, bear with me. It's been quite a while since I actually read this title, so I'm just going to give you general impressions. A very good friend of mine has suggested that I start setting deadlines for my reviews; if I don't review a book within, say, 5 days, just move on to the next title. Obviously she's got the right idea!

What's funny is that when I read the description from the back of the book (the italicized portion above), I remember that I thought this title was better than the previous one. That one had some pretty darn hot sex, but after reading another reviewer's opinion (that the sex bordered on rape), I'm sort of rethinking my opinion on that installment. This one, however, was Cole as I love her: great action, great romance, great romantic tension, etc.

What I remember most about this book is the ending, which I loved. I won't give anything away, but I was very impressed by how the author handled the whole "if he remembers, he'll die" quandary. It made perfect sense, plus it really showed her ability to full develop a character. No bait-and-switch here, no magical ending, just something that really had me smiling and saying "Yes!"

Can't wait for the next IAD book, and I promise I'll try to stick with my friend's plan to get the reviews done on time - or not at all. Wish me luck!