Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wordsmithonia Radio --- The Songs Currently Stuck In My Brain

There are a few songs that I can't seem to stop listening to lately.  Whether I have Youtube pulled up on the computer, listening to iTunes, playing a CD in the car, or humming in my head, they are songs that, for whatever reason, seem to be stuck on repeat.  Some of them are new, or newish, some of them are fairly old, but every single one of them are relentlessly bouncing around my head, including a television theme song (because of a game I'm playing). So with no further ado, here is the current soundtrack of my life.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover:

How little you know about the people who are closest to you... This is what ran through Elizabeth Bell's mind on the night of April 18th.  Sara Gittings, the family nurse, had just been brutally murdered.  And all thoughts of a homicidal maniac running amok were banished when the evidence revealed that Sarah had know and trusted her murderer.

Who would have anything against timid, sweet Sarah? But as Elizabeth Bell was about to discover, her staid and orderly household harbored more than one suspect with a motive - and, unfortunately, more than one victim. 

It's been a long time since I've read a Mary Roberts Rinehart book, so I felt it was long over due.  For the most part, it was simply that I had run out of "new" books at the used bookstore.  Every time I went in, I would check for them, but ones I hadn't seen before stopped showing up.  When I found The Door, I jumped for joy, went home and put the book away.  It then languished on the shelves for almost a year, and while I would think about it, I would get busy with something else.  The one time I did pick it up, it wasn't holding my attention so I put it away, and didn't pick it up again until another bazillion months had passed.  I picked it up once again, not that long ago, and while it still wasn't holding my attention, I forced myself to persevere and get it done.

I'm really not sure why I didn't get into this one as much as I have most of her other books. The mystery itself was well plotted out, the characters were engaging, and the tension was thick enough that a power saw would have been needed to cut it in half.  Elizabeth was a hoot to read, and I loved how involved she got into he whole thing, including the destroying of evidence, so I can't lay the blame at her feet.  I'm kind of at a loss to explain why this one didn't do it for me.  Maybe the pacing was a little slower than the previous books.  Maybe the weighing sense of claustrophobia that I've enjoyed with some of her other works, wasn't as present in this one.  Maybe I just didn't like the title and that fact it takes most of the book to understand where it came from.  I don't know, I'm kinda of grasping at straws here.

And I don't want to leave you with the feeling I didn't like it, because by the time it was over, I did.  It's not my favorite and I probably won't read it again, but it will stick around collecting dust for years to come.  Much in the way I feel about Agatha Christie's work, I would still put this one up against most of the cozy, cookie cutter stuff being written today.  I just wouldn't put it up against my favorite Rinehart books.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

August sucked!  I'm not willing to say it's the worst month I've ever had, but it definitely ranked in the top five worst months of my life.  Because of how the month hit me in the gut, I wasn't around as much as I would have liked, and I'm deeply sorry for it.  I'm sorry for all the posts I never got written, and I'm sorry for all your posts that I never got to read.  It was an exhausting month, and I simply didn't have the energy to log in the way I wanted to.

It's always a busy time at work, but for whatever reason, this coming Tuesday will be my first day off since July 17th.  My average work week was right around 60-65 hours, and I barely had time to do laundry, let alone read.  If it had just been a crazy schedule, I could have coped a bit more, but it wasn't.

For those of you I'm friends with on Facebook, you already know that I lost my grandma on August 12th, just three days before my birthday.  It's been hard to deal with, especially the guilt of not being able to get back to MN for her service, and for all the visits I put off over the years, swearing I would get up to see her sometime soon.  She was a terrific lady, and I'm going to miss her for the rest of my days.  There was some other family drama during the month, but I'm so tired of thinking about it, that I'm not even going to mention it further.

Now that August is over, work will start going back to normal, 50-55 hours a week and a day off every week.  The weather will start cooling down, and hopefully my equilibrium will soon be back to normal.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be able to get back to posting on a regular basis, hopefully this week, and I promise I'll get by your blogs, and catch up on with what I missed.  So have a great week and an even better September. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

Synopsis From Back Cover:

When Althea Leary abandons her nine-year-old son, Jasper, he's left on his uncle's farm with nothing but a change of clothes and a Bible.

It's 1952, and Jasper isn't allowed to ask questions or make a fuss.  He's lucky to even have a home and must keep his mouth shut and his ears open to stay in his uncle's good graces.  No one know where his mother went or whether she' coming back.  Desperate to see her again, he must take matters into his own hands.  From the farm, he embarks on a treacherous search that will take him to the squalid hideaways of Detroit and back again, through tawdry taverns, peep shows, and gambling houses.

As he's drawn deeper into an adult world of corruption, scandal, and murder, Jasper uncovers the shocking past still chasing his mother - and now it's chasing him too. 

Why does it seem that the vast majority of publishers synopses either exaggerate an aspect of the book, or take you in a totally misleading direction?  Half the time when I sit down at the computer to write a review, I want to rebut an aspect of the synopsis, but I'm going to reign that instinct in this time around.  It's not that the inconsistencies don't bug me, because they do, but it's rather that I'm too tired to write my own synopsis, and the issues I have with the publisher's version aren't bugging me enough to force my hand.

And I think that's the overriding feeling I have towards the book as a whole.  I'm simply apathetic towards the finished product, and I have no clue on what to say about it. If I could state I loved it, or even hated it, that would be one thing.  I could then pull it apart, highlight the reasons behind either feeling, and finish with why I think you should or shouldn't read it.  Rather, I find myself in this rather limbo like existence, and I feel horrible about it.  I didn't like it, nor dislike it, and that's all I can really say about the story itself.

Regardless of my antipathy towards the book, I'm absolutely enthralled by the hero of the book, Jasper.  I don't think it's possible for me to come across a fictional kid, and love them more than I do him.  He has to be the bravest, most stubborn, and determined character I've come across in a very long time.  I do think he acts a little too old at times, and I'm not really sure an actual nine year old would have acted in the manner he did, but I really wish I would have been as brave as him at that age.  If I ever read this book again, it will be because of Jasper.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read more reviews.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Evensong by Krista Walsh

Synopsis From Publisher:

Author Jeff Powell wakes up to find the impossible has happened.  He is within his own novel - summoned into the fictional world of Feldall's Keep by a spell he didn't write.  One the House enchantress hasn't figured out how to reverse.

When the villain he's been struggling to write reveals himself, unleashing waves of terror and chaos, Jeff must use more than his imagination to save the characters he created - and the woman he loves. 

Trapped within a world of his own creation, he must step outside the bounds of his narrative to help his characters defeat an evil no one anticipated, even if he must sacrifice his greatest gift.  In the end, he has to ask: are novel really fiction, or windows into other worlds?

As a kid, I fell in love with Fantasia and all the promise it held.  For years I would play a game in my head where every character I cam across, be it from books, movies, TV shows, or some other medium, lived in one giant fantasy world.  They formed organizations, opened businesses, built relationships, and fought the bad guys, who happened to be on a neighboring planet.  What all that meant, was that these characters existed outside their creator's mind.  They lived entire lives that were not influenced by their creator's arbitrary decisions.  That last concept is why I fell in love with this book, and why I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

When Jeff wakes up in the world he thought he created, he's just a tad bit confused.  At first he thinks it's an elaborate prank, but quickly decides he is simply dreaming.  He plays along with the characters he though he invented, humoring them when they tell him they brought him there to solve some major problems.  Of course they lecture him a bit on the way he is handling some of the plot points, and quickly inform him that what he's writing is only a small fraction of their daily lives. Over time, as he gets to know them, to understand their history, he realizes that he is in fact in the world he created.  When he is faced wit the death of one of his "creations", a death he did not plan, his world is turned upside down.

To be blunt, I couldn't stand Jeff in the beginning.  I thought he was just a tad bit too egotistical, but he's an author who loves creating worlds, so what else should I expect from someone with a godlike complex.  And for the most part, his characters modeled that attitude.  As he matured, he softened up and I grew to like him.  And oddly, as he became less rigid, so did his characters.  As they turned to face a common threat, they grew as a unit, and really began to understand each other.  The one relationship I never understood or even liked was with the "love of his life."  It made no sense in the structure of the story, and I kept waiting for her to be killed off.  My wish was never granted, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the next two books.

I still don't think Jeff, nor his characters, know whether Jeff dreamed them up, or if he just tapped into their world, influencing their actions when he could.  I don't think I have a strong opinion on it either, and I'm okay with it.  I'm just looking forward to what happens next.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Favorite Fictional Character --- Dr. Beverly Crusher

Given which character I'm featuring this week, what I'm about to say is going to sound rather odd.  I'm not a huge Star Trek fan.  I don't hate it, but I would never actively seek it out to watch.  I'm sure it's been at least 15-16 years since I've seen an episode of any of the TV shows, and the only reason I watched the first Star Trek movie with Chris Pine, was because of Chris Pine.  Like any good kid of the 1990s, I got into Star Trek: The Next Generation more than the original, but if I missed a few episodes or a whole season, it was no skin off my nose.  So you are probably trying to figure out why I would be featuring a character from the Star Trek universe, so I'll tell you.  For whatever reason, boredom probably, I recently downloaded the Star Trek: Timelines game, and now I can't seem to stop playing. The universe is dealing with several temporal anomalies, and every single character who ever existed, along with every single version of the character, are now all smashed together. Dr. Beverly Crusher is not one of the characters on my crew as of yet, but I'm hoping I get her at some point in time.

Of every character created for the franchise, she is my all time favorite. She suffered loss after loss in her life, and she always found the strength to come back and beat it.  She lost her parents at a young age, then her husband dies, leaving her to raise a son by herself.  She pours herself into raising Wesley and becoming a Starfleet Commander.  She is a strong independent woman, and she really cemented herself as my favorite when she went to bat for Hugh, the young Borg that was rescued from his crashed ship.  When those around her, including Captain Picard, wanted to use him as weapon, Dr. Crusher defended him, and did everything she could to make sure he had every chance to become his own person.  Time and time again, crisis after crisis, Dr. Crusher proved to be a deeply talented officer, willing to put the needs of others before her own.  I also thought that of all the main characters on the show, she was the one who seemed to grow the most over the years.  By the end of the series, she was a woman & officer who was not only completely comfortable in her own skin, but supremely confident in who she was, and what she had to offer.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Murder Most Yowl by Quinn Dressler

Synopsis From Publisher:

Cat-sitting is a dangerous business.

Cameron Sherwood turned his back on law enforcement the night his investigation lead to the death of an innocent gay man.  Now Cam spends his time running a business that caters to his favorite animal, cats.  But when Cam stumbles upon the body of a friend while feeding her feline, he can't walk away.  Dealing with a sexy yet stubborn sheriff, a matchmaking sister, and a terrifying blind date, Cam must somehow track down a killer, all while keeping the cats around him fed with is gourmet cat treats. 

Let's be frank.  As much as I love a fiendishly plotted mystery, there are times I just want to read something that I don't have to think too much about.  I want there to be a mystery component, but I don't want to strain my little grey cells trying to figure out who the killer is.  I know that this is where you guys are going to start yelling at me, reminding me of my usual distaste of cozy mysteries, and you would have a valid point.  And I'm going to invite you to keep yelling at me after I say this next bit.  In my experience, most "mainstream" cozy mysteries are about as cookie cutter as you can get.  Half the time I can't tell you who the author is, because they all read the same.  The plotting, character development, and writing style all blend together, creating a very forgettable mess.  There are exceptions to that, and there are even a few authors I do enjoy, Rhys Bowen's series with Lady Georgina being one of them. For the most part though, I tend to have to go into the realms or romance to find the type of light, fluffy mystery I can get into, specifically m/m romance.  I'm sure there are some terrific m/f romance mysteries out there, but if I'm going to read romance, I want it to be relevant to my own life experiences.

And before I get yelled at anymore, I'm not saying all m/m romance mysteries are of the light and fluffy kind, because they aren't, not by a long shot.  I absolutely love the Life Lessons series by Kaje Harper, have been blown away by several Josh Lanyon books, and could name another twenty authors I've enjoyed who take a more detailed, plot driven approach to their mysteries.  But that's not the kind of mystery I felt like diving into when I picked Murder Most Yowl.  I wanted cotton candy, and I got it.

The mystery itself is barely structured, doesn't make a whole lot of sense by the time it's solved, and required me to suspend my disbelief on multiple occasions.  And I loved it.  It's has a quirky sense of humor that I found charming, and two leading men I found to be a blast to hang out with.  In Cam and Jake, I found two headstrong men that just seemed to fit together.  I can't imagine witnessing what Cam did when he was on the force, and come out sane.  I would have more than walked away from my career, I would have walked away from my life, and started over on some beach in Brazil where nobody knew me. In partnering with Jake to solve the murder, he is able to come back to himself a bit, which makes the love that develops between them that much sweeter. My one quibble with the romance is in the way the author broke the tension between them, which in turn allowed them to accept their feelings for each other.  The way it's handled was about as realistic as the mystery component, but strangely I'm okay with it.  When it comes to reading a romance, I don't want real life, I want fantasy.  If I wanted real life, I would read Ulysses by James Joyce, or some other tedious volume that nobody actually reads.