Sunday, June 21, 2015

Goodbye, For Now

At this point in my life, I'm just not feeling the blog love.  I seem to have lost any motivation to write a review, and I seem to be stuck in a romance reading place right now, and they are not books I enjoy writing reviews for.  I've also decided to start doing some other things that I love doing, but got put on the back burner because all my free time ended up being devoted to reading, or blog writing.   Putting the blog on hiatus was a decision I made a few weeks ago, but it's just now that I have the motivation to get on here and let you guys know.

At this point in time, I'm not sure if I will come back to it or not.  I would like to think I will, but I don't think it will be a few months from now if I do decide to come back.  I do know, and accept, that if I decide to come back, some of you guys will no longer be here, and I'm sorry for that.  I've really come to cherish the connections and friendships I've made over what has been almost six years of blogging, and it will always be a part of me.

Take care of yourselves, and if and when I do come back to the blog, I know I'll, once again, be part of one of the best communities around.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Life Is Getting In The Way

I'm going to be taking a break for a few weeks, for the simple fact I don't have the energy to do anything with the blog right now.  On Monday of last week, I was informed that a very good friend of mine killed himself, and the funeral was on Friday.  Then on Friday, after the funeral, my car was totaled after a woman going 50 in a 35, slammed into the rear of my car, pushing it into another one. Luckily, my roommate, who was driving the car, was not seriously injured, but I'm going to be dealing with the consequences of that accident for a the next two weeks.  I've haven't slept all that much the last few days, and about the only thing I have the energy to do is read.  So I need to step back from the blog for a bit, and get this stuff taken care of.  I promise I'll be back.  Take care of yourselves.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

I'm At Book Bloggers International Waxing Poetically Over Doctor Strange

If any of you guys are interested in reading how much I love Doctor Strange and why I think Benedict Cumberbatch is an odd choice to play him, head on over and give it a go.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Sooki the Saggy Baggy Elephant

I don't think it's possible to grow up without having body issues.  I don't care what you look like, none of us are completely comfortable in our own skin.  Between thinking we are too fat, too scrawny, not cute enough, too gangly, too whatever, it's hard to be like the way we look when we look in the mirror.  It's why so many of us have eating disorders, or get obsessed with working out, building our bodies into muscle bound temples.  It's the reason why plastic surgeons rake in the money.

There aren't a lot of characters who make it okay to like the way you look, regardless of what others think.  The Ugly Duckling is one that comes to mind, but for me, that story was about how our bodies will change as we get older, how we grown into our looks.  It's Sooki, the Saggy Baggy Elephant who is a better example of a character who comes to realize he is fine just the way he is.

Sooki doesn't know that he is supposed to look a different way, that is until a parrot makes fun of the way he looks.  At first, the poor guy is heart broken.  Nobody likes to be made fun of, and Sooki is no different in that regard.  But as the book progresses, as he starts to see all the different body types that animals come in, he starts to realize that maybe his body is the way it's supposed to be. It's when he sees himself, reflected in others that look just like him, that he truly realizes he is beautiful the way he is. 

I would like to say that I took Sooki's lesson to heart as a kid, but I was that typical scrawny guy who was always wanting to have more muscle, to look like what I thought a man was supposed to look like.  As I got older, as my metabolism finally started to slow down, I had the opposite problem, I didn't like the way I looked as I started to gain a little weight.  It's really within the last few years that I've started to understand that my body is my body.  Yeah I can obsess about changing it, and I do think I can lose 10-15 pounds, but I'm pretty okay with the way I look.  I'll never be model material, but I'm okay with that.  Like Sooki, I think I'm perfect the way I am.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Learning Curve By Kaje Harper

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Mac is afraid he'll never recover enough to go back to being a cop, while Tony is afraid he will.

Three months after being shot, Detective Jared MacLean is healing, but he's afraid it may not be enough to go back on the job.  He won't give up, though.  Being a cop is written deep in Mac's bones, and he'll do whatever it takes to carry his badge again.  Tony used to wish he could have Mac safely home, but watching his strong husband battle disabilities is farm from Tony's dream come true. When Mac is asked to consult on a case involving one of Tony's students, both men will have to face old demons and new fears to find a way to move forward together. 

All good things must come to an end, and unless Kaje Harper writes a fifth book, which I'm praying for, I have to say goodbye to Mac and Tony.  That doesn't mean that this won't be a series I continuously go back to, because I will, but I'll miss getting to see where their lives take them after what proved to be the most life affirming book of the series.

Mac is struggling to not only go back on the job after his near fatal shooting left him battling aphasia, but he is having to figure out who he is as a person, a husband, a father, and as a cop.  Before he met Tony, and formed their family, most of his identity was wrapped up in his career.  If he can't go back to it, which I'll relieve your fears here, he does, he isn't sure how to go about redefining himself.  He loves Tony and the kids, but he is his job, it's who he sees himself as.

Then you have poor Tony who someone has to come to terms with the man he loves, the husband he almost lost, going back to a job that almost killed him. I can't imagine being the spouse of a police officer.  I would be terrified every time he went to work that he wouldn't be coming back, it's not a situation I envy anyone, especially in today's climate.  I think the author does a wonderful job balancing Tony and Mac as individuals, as well as a couple.  They both need different things, in both of those roles, and it's not always easy to reconcile them.  Tony's fears, and Mac's need to be the man he sees himself have are two vastly conflicting issues, and the two of them handle them in a very affirming way.

We also get to see more of Mac's background in this book, and after meeting his siblings and dad, it's very easy to see how he became the man we met in the first book.  The fact he was able to overcome, and accept a life with Tony, after his childhood is amazing, and speaks to the inner strength he has. And when you compare his family to Tony's, it's even more apparent that Tony completes Mac in ways that I don't think another man would have been able to.

Challenges: Men In Uniform

Friday, April 24, 2015

Wordsmithonia Radio: Windy Days

The wind is blowing like crazy right now, but with living in Kansas, I should be used to that by now.  I love the wind.  I love listening to the trees rustle, the house creak, and the sound it makes coming in a window.  I love the way it feels on my skin and in my hair.  I love the way it heralds in a storm, and the way it lifts a kite into the sky.  So for the next few minutes, I hope you enjoy some of my favorite "windy" songs. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Poky Little Puppy

I'm pretty sure that at some point in our lives, we have been just like Poky Little Puppy.  There are always those moments when something catches our eye, and we get distracted.  It may be a really cool shirt at the store, you stop to look at it, and the next thing you know, your friends have disappeared on you.  I find myself copying Poky Little Puppy every time I'm in a bookstore, record store, or an antique mall.

You see, Poky Little Puppy just can't seem to turn his curiosity off.  He finds himself being left behind by his brothers and sisters all the time.  At first, it keeps him out of trouble, but after a while, he starts getting so behind, that he ends up in trouble.

Now I don't know about you, but when I get in a bookstore, I'm always in trouble.  I go in, thinking I'll only be in there for a 10 to 15 minutes, before I know it, I've been in there for an hour or two.  I would see the bargain stacks, get distracted by the new paperbacks, and get stuck in the cafe, staring at the cheesecake.

Poky is my hero in a way.  He doesn't allow himself to feel guilty over his curiosity, he lives his life the way he wants to, and doesn't let those around him dictate the speed he lives life.  He enjoys his life, and doesn't stress out when plans don't go quite his way, well unless he misses dessert. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Anniversary by Amy Gutman

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

It's been five years since the execution of Steven Gage, a devious, charming psychopath who took the lives of more than a hundred women.

In those five years, three women connected with his case have moved on.  His attorney has rid herself of the stigma of defending Gage.  A true-crime writer has started a new project after her bestseller about his rampage.  And Steven's ex-girlfriend has made a new life for herself - one where she won't be reminded that she once shared her home with a monster. 

But someone hasn't moved on.  On the fifth anniversary of Gage's execution, each of the three women gets a private note... a chilling message that lets them all know they haven't been forgotten, and that in someone's dark imagination, Gage's legacy of terror lives on. 

At the time of his sentencing, Gage issued a terrifying edict that all three women hoped was meaningless.  As threats against them turn deadly, the past explodes into the present.  And one woman is in the fight of her life to uncover who is responsible - a killer who is determined to start up the string of murders right where they stopped. 

Before I go on a semi-rant, I should probably let you know that I don't dislike this book.  For what it is, a typical thriller, it's well written and I really do enjoy the characters.   There was nothing about it that surprised me, but it kept me entertained enough to finish reading it.  Who knows, I may even reread it at some point in time.

After reading this book, and comparing it to the various thrillers I've read over the years, I think I'm finally figuring out the problem I tend to have with them.  When I say "them", I'm really talking about the books that feature a female protagonist, who just happens to have a deep dark secret in her past.  They all seem to use a particular plot point, and it's getting rather old.

I'm trying to figure out why, when the female protagonist starts to have their lives fall apart, they start to suspect their boyfriend/husband.  Whether it involves people around them getting killed, harassing phone calls/letters, or odd occurrences, the suspicion ends up falling on the man in their lives. Normally the man tends to be a second husband, or the first serious boyfriend after whatever traumatic event happened in the past.  I will have to admit that the suspicion seems to come naturally to the women, normally because it was at the hands of a previous relationship that the bad thing happened to them.  But that doesn't excuse the laziness of the author, and I do think it's lazy.

I think plot points that are as predictable as rainfall during a hurricane hurt a book.  Is there really no other red herring you can throw in there?  It rarely ends up being that the new bad guy is the new man in the protagonist's life.  In these books, the new guy is really just a stooge thrown into the book to divert the woman's attention away from the real threat.  Just once, I would like to read a book where the new guys is a fully drawn character, integral to the woman's life, and never comes under suspicion.  I'm not going to be holding my breath, cause I think I would suffocate before it ever happens, but a guy can dream.

Challenges: A-Z Mystery

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Out of the Madhouse by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Werewolves, Trolls, Sea Monsters, Rain of toads, Skyquakes.  Sunnydale is being besieged by dark forces.  But even with Buffy providing her unique style of damage control while Giles is hospitalized out of town, it's more than one Slayer can handle - especially since the abominations are coming from a centuries-old portal through time and space. 

Somehow, the hell-hole must be found and corked at it's source.  For Buffy, Angel, and the rest of her gang, that means a road trip to Boston where an ailing Gatekeeper resides over a supernatural mansion that has been, until recently holding the world's  worst monsters at bay.  Once there, Buffy discovers the catastrophic truth: the magical structure houses thousands of rooms, all of which are doorways to limbo's "ghost roads," and all of which may bring her face-to-face with the most nefarious forces in hell and on earth - forces bent on horrific plans far worse than the Slayer ever imagined. 

You guys know that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite show of all time, so it should come as no surprise that I loved the tie in books that were being published while the show was on the air.  I stayed away from the novelization of actual episodes, and loved the books that were original story lines.  I used to own at least twenty of the, but a few moves ago,  I had to make a decision to let them go.  I owned too many books, of course I still do, so I'm not sure what I was thinking.  Over the years, I've only managed to repurchase three of them, the three books that comprised The Gatekeeper Trilogy.

There were a ton of authors that tackled the Buffyverse, but Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder were the two that, for me at least, seemed to actual the actual feel of the show the best.  When they got together and wrote this trilogy, I was in seventh heaven.  I always thought if they ever made a movie based of the books, this was the way to go.

The first book, Out of the Madhouse, introduces us to a whole other dimension of strangeness.  Much like The High House by James Stoddard, the Gatekeeper in this trilogy oversees a supernatural prison, that form the outside, looks like a grand Boston mansion.  Locked in it's rooms are ghouls, shapeshifters, ghosts, and monsters straight out of legend; among them, Springheel Jack, the Leviathan, and the Mary Celeste.  It's also home to the family that has been charged with keeping the world safe from them.  They have managed to accrue a few helpful tools to help them with their charge; the Spear of Longinus and the Cauldron of Bran the Blessed.  The current Gatekeeper is weakening, and his heir has been kidnapped by a cabal of sorcerers, bent on allowing chaos to reign free over the earth.

Sunnydale, because it sits on a Hellmouth, has been dealing with the side affects of the house failing. The residents are starting to escape from the house, even if for a short amount of time, and the Hellmouth draws them in, allowing them to run amok.   Buffy and her friends, after some serious research, travel to Boston to figure out what's going on.  Upon their arrival, they quickly agree to help the Gatekeeper get back the heir, and the best television tie-in of all time is born.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Scuffy the Tugboat

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only adult who remembers the The Little Golden Books with a lot of fondness.   Many of the stories were written years before I was born, but there was something so wonderfully innocent and magical about them, that they have endured long after many thought they would.

I can still remember sitting on the floor, paging through a few at a time, asking one of the adults around me to read them to me.  If I couldn't get anyone to read them to me, I would just stare at the pictures, getting lost int he visual adventures.  Once I started to read for myself, they were some of my best friends, never leaving my side.  I probably read them long after I should have stopped, though I doubt I'm the only one.

So for the next few weeks, I'm going to be sharing with you guys some of my favorite characters from those books.  They are probably not going to be long posts, mainly because they weren't long books.  They will be characters that have stayed with me over the years, characters I hope that you guys remember with just as much fondness.

Growing up in Two Harbors, MN, tugboats were a natural part of my childhood.  For much of it's history, Two Harbors has been an important shipping port for iron ore.  Rail cars would bring the ore to the docks, and that ore would be placed on giant freighters bound for the manufacturing centers that sprang up around the Great Lakes.  Tugboats were used to help bring in the freighters, and the Edna G., which was in operation until 1981, is the oldest coal fired, steam powered tugboat on the Great Lakes.  It's now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is still sitting in the harbor, open for tours. 

As you can see, I love tugboats, and Scuffy the Tugboat was one of my favorite Little Golden Books. Scuffy, for those of you who don't remember, was a toy tugboat, who longed to see the world outside of the bathtub.  One day he gets his wish, and like most things in life, it's way more than he bargained for.  At first, when his young owner, the son of the toy shop owner, puts him into a small brook, Scuffy is about as content as he can be.  It's not too long though that the current carries him away, and before long, he's seeing the world in all it's glory.  As the waterway continues to grow, Scruffy starts to realize he may be in over his head, and by the time it looks as if Scuffy is about to get lost int he great big ocean, he's ready to go home. Luckily, his young owner rescues him in time, and Scuffy is content to remain at home, in a world that he knows is safe. 

Looking back at the book, you have to wonder if the owner was trying to warn kids to not grow up too fast.  Scuffy, as an adult, has taught me to enjoy what I have, and not allow myself to wish for something that in the long run, could be bad for me.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Hunger by Whitley Strieber

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Miriam Blaylock, rich and beautiful, lives life to the fullest - a house in Manhattan's exclusive Sutton Place, a husband she adores, priceless antiques, magnificent roses.  But then John Blaylock, like all Miriam's past lovers, suddenly beings to age.  Almost overnight, his body reveals the truth: he is nearly two hundred years old!

Fearing the terrible isolation of eternity Miriam stalks a new lover.  She is Sarah Roberts, a brilliant young sleep researcher who has discovered the blood factor that controls aging and thus may possess the secret of immortality.  Miriam desperately wants Sarah, for herself and for her knowledge.  But to win her, Miriam must destroy Sarah's love for Dr. Tom Haver, who learns that his enemy is like no other woman who has ever lived... now or forever 

You know the old adage that the book is always better than the movie?  This is one of those times where it comes really damn close to being false.  I fell in love with the movie adaptation of The Hunger the first time I saw it.  It stars the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock, David Bowie as John Blaylock, and Susan Sarandon as Dr. Sarah Roberts.  T he movie is about as sexy and horrifying as a movie can be.  The tension, of all kinds, oozes off the screen, all of which can be attributed to the way Catherine Deneuve embodied the character of Miriam Blaylock.  It's a beautiful movie to watch, and my love for it, is what kept me putting the book off for as long as I did.  I didn't want to fall in love with the book, and have a movie I love, suddenly start paling in comparison.

I finally picked a hardcover edition up at a used bookstore for about $5.  It still took me a few months before I was willing to read it, but once I did, I fell in love with Miriam all over again.  The sensuality of her character, which is nailed by Catherine Deneuve, is a bit subtler here, but just as effective.  This is still a story about lust and love, and how those two things can become so twisted and blurred, that it's hard to tell them apart.  It has vampiric wrappings, and after Lestat de Lioncourt, she is about the sexiest vampire to ever be dreamed up.  She is not afraid to draw blood and to use violent means to get what she wants.  But outside of that, and sort of hidden among the obsession, is a story about a woman who is trying to find a home.  More than anything Miriam Blaylock wants that forever home, just in her case it would really be for forever.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Wesley Wyndham-Price

When I'm in a bad mood, I have a few things that I can drag out to make me feel better. There are times I will watch The Women or Auntie Mame, getting lost in two of my favorite movies.  If I'm cranky, and in the right mood for something scary, I put The Haunting in the DVD player in, and get lost in Hill House.  If I'm not in the mood for a long movie, I may watch an episode or two of Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Angel, Supernatural, or my favorite TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy is one of those shows I will never get tired of, I could watch every single episode 100 times, and I would always go back for more.  It was a character driven show in a genre that normally goes for special effects, over character development.  I should add that while Buffy and Angel were two different shows, because of the way they were structured, they are one show in my mind.

Wesley was one of those characters that moved from Buffy to Angel, and he was one of the more interesting characters. He started as this pompous know it all, who seemed so out of his element.  Nobody liked him, well Cordelia seemed to have a crush on him, but I think that had to do with his accent more than anything else.  He grated on everybody's nerves, and just didn't seem to understand why.  In his head, he was doing what he knew was right, but his approach was all wrong.  

By the time Angel was over, the man he ended up being, had nothing in common with the sniveling little boy he started off as.  He was a strong, confident man who was willing to cut corners in order to get the job done.  He was the one who was willing to make the hard decisions, even if they were a bit on the darker side.  He was the character that embodied the stereotypical definition of masculinity, and he was damn sexy for it.   

Monday, April 6, 2015

When Do You Decide It's Time To Let Go?

My dad wasn't a very nice man.  Actually, I should strike that statement, because truth be told, I'm not sure who my father really was.  I know he was an alcoholic.  I know he had some severe anger issues, and took them out on the walls, the furniture, and my mom.  I know that 90% of my memories of him are negative.  I know his full name was Michael Allen Groff, and I know that he is dead.

I still remember the day I found out that he had died.  My mom had divorced him, and we were no longer living in Minnesota.  We were actually visiting family in Wyoming, and my grandparents, who still lived in Two Harbors, showed up.  I knew it was an unexpected visit, and at six years old, I wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew something was wrong.  My Aunt Jenny actually took me for a walk, and let me know that my father had killed himself.  I still remember that I really didn't react, I didn't cry, and I'm not even sure I felt much of anything.  As a matter of fact, I did not cry until I was a Freshman in high school.   At one point in time, we had moved back to Two Harbors, and I walked by, on a weekly basis, the cemetery he was buried in, and never thought about him.  The idea of visiting his grave, which is still unmarked, never occurred to me.

As I got older, I became really damn angry.  I couldn't understand how he could do the things he did.  The strongest memory I have of him is the day he took my mom out to the back yard, threw her against a brick shed, and hit her, repeatedly, with a 2 x 4.  I can still see myself, standing by my younger brother, crying and feeling powerless.  I don't know if I tried to stop it or not, but I couldn't understand why it was happening.  I remember coming home and there would be fresh holes in the wall, and broken records on the floor. He was the man who took a shot at my mom, and actually did shoot my dog.  He never laid a hand on me, or my brother, but what those memories did to me as a teenager, was almost worse.

By the time college rolled around, some of that anger dissipated, and I entered a period of time where I really wasn't sure what I thought of him.  I started to think of the time he took me fishing, and I got pulled into the lake because I wouldn't let go of the pole.  I can remember being in the car with him, and loving the time I was spending with him.  He was my dad, and despite everything I saw him do, I loved him.  College was the first time I visited his grave, and for years afterwards, I put him and my feelings behind me.

That's not such an easy feat for me anymore.  At 38 years old, I'm still wanting my dad's love and approval.  Even if he couldn't deal with the fact that I'm gay, even if we didn't have a relationship right now, the fact that I will never know eats at me. Like any kid, I want my dad's approval, I want to know that he would be proud of the man I've become. The fact that the option of having a relationship with my father was taken away from me, and in the matter it happened is something I'm still struggling with.   He allowed alcohol, anger, and the shitty childhood he had at the hands of my grandfather, influence the man he became.   He chose to deal with his issues the only way he knew how, instead of getting help when my mom, and others, begged him to do so.  He made the choice to not be a father when he was around, and he made the choice to leave two young kids without a father for the rest of their lives.  I know it's not that easy, that he was probably suffering from depression, and when you  mix in depression with his other issues, there isn't a lot anyone can do if he's not willing to get help.

I know he didn't fight the divorce, that he didn't fight for custody or visitation, that he didn't pay child support, and that he really didn't spend time with me or my brother that much after my mom left him.  When I talk to my mom about him, she says it was because he didn't care enough, or that he didn't love me.  And maybe he didn't, maybe she's right.  I would like to hope that wasn't the case.  I would like to think he thought he was doing the right thing by giving us up, that he knew what he was putting us through was wrong.  I would like to think that he was trying to get his act together, that he wanted to be a father, but the truth is, I really don't know.  And that uncertainty, is what's keeping me from letting go.  More than anything, I want to ask him why I wasn't enough, why I wasn't good enough for him to get help.  I want to know why he chose alcohol over me.  I want to know why he didn't pick me.

This is the only picture I have with me and my dad.  As far as I'm aware of, it's the only picture that exits of the two of us together.  That's my mom and little brother on the outside of the picture.  I'm not sure who took it, but they obviously sucked at it.  I look at it, and all I see is what I've lost out on.

I don't have a picture of my dad teaching me to ride a bike, or him showing me how to drive a stick shift.  I don't have one of him at my high school graduation, or when I moved into the dorms.  I will never have a picture of him in a tux, attending my wedding, assuming I ever have one, and assuming he would have come.  I don't have pictures of the two of us together during the holidays, or even of us taking a nap on the couch.  I don't have any of those pictures, but even worse, I don't have any of those memories.

I have the memories of a six year old who loved his dad, and was scared of him at the same time.  I have the memories of a teenager who could only remember the bad, and did everything he could to convince himself that he hated his dad.  I have the memories of a twenty-something who was just started to deal with his conflicting emotions, and wasn't quite sure what to think.  And now I have the memories of a 38 year old man, who would give anything in the world to have his dad back.  It may not be the relationship of my dreams, but at least it would be my choice, not his.  He may not accept the fact that I'm gay, he may not be proud of the man I've become, but if he was still here, it would be a decision I had a hand in.  I would be the one to walk away if he couldn't accept me, but even then, I know I would always be hoping for the day he would come around.

So maybe the question I should be asking is not when do you decide it's time to let go, but rather how do you let go?  How do you let go of the fact that the choice wasn't yours, that someone else made the decision for you?  How do you let go of what might have been and what should have been?  How do you let go of the pain and anger?  But most of all, how do you let go of that want?  How do yo let go of the need to have your father's love?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Clifford the Big Red Dog

I'm a natural dog person and it's not that I hate cats.  Okay, maybe I do just a little bit, but not enough that I would ever wish harm on one.  I actually don't mind them when they are around me, but I would never go out and purposefully bring a cat into my home.  Dogs are just nicer.

Now I know there are always exceptions, and I know a lot of you adore your cats, but in general terms, dogs are better.  They tend to be better friends.  They, at least the impression I've gotten from every dog I've ever owned, are more expressive than cats, and are way more sympathetic to their human's moods. They show their love more, and tend to be more protective of the humans in their lives as well.  They also seem to enjoy our company more, where cats want us around when we are needed, but could do without us.

With that inborn love of dogs, it's pretty obvious that I feel in love with all the fictional dogs I was exposed to as a kid.  I've featured a lot of them over the years, and I'm hanging my head down in shame that I haven't let you know before this,  how much I love Clifford the Big Red Dog.

I don't know how it would be possible to not love Clifford. You would have to hate all dogs for that to be true, and I can't understand how anybody would be of that temperament.  Even though he is 25 feet tall, he's so friendly.  I think a lot of that has to do with his owner, young Emily. When she got Clifford, he was the runt of the litter, but because of her love and care, he grew up big and strong.  He just got bigger than anyone could have anticipated. 

Even though he is so big, he is a gentle puppy at heart.  He is always ready for a good romp around his island home, or in the ocean for that matter.  He loves to play with his friends, and he understands that because of his size, he is normally the playground equipment.  He is always the first one to help someone out, but the poor guy is easy to fool.  He often gets into trouble, either because of his size, or because he tends to go with the flow when it comes to his friends.  But when he does something wrong, regardless of the reason, he is always quick to fix it.  The size of his heart is proportional to his body, and to do this day, I think Emily was one lucky girl. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Neighbors by Carol Smith

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The striking, sprawling Victorian building dominates the fashionable London street.  During one lonely Christmas season, Kensington Court welcomes a new resident: Kate Ashenberry, in flight from an uncaring family and a broken love affair. 

In the dark hallways Kate will meet an odd assortment of neighbors: irrepressible Ronnie and Rowena Barclay-Davenport; high-stepping Miles Burdett and his ambitious wife, Claudia; exotic Eleni Papadopoulos from across the hall; acid-tongued dowager Mrs. Adelaide Potter; eligible heartthrob Gregory Hansen; and free-spirited actress Connie Boyle.  Some encounters will blossom into friendships; other will grow more menacing than a brush with a stranger ever could be. 

One potential neighbor has escaped Kate's acquaintance, for journalist Guy Bartlett had tumbled to his death shortly before her arrival.  Some tenants say his mysterious five-story fall a continent away was the most exciting story to touch their lives in years.  But after Kate moves in, more residents of Kensington Court die, each more horribly than the last... and each bafflingly murdered behind a door locked securely from the inside.  Trust between neighbors evaporates.  Kate fears her name is climbing higher on the killer's list of victims.  And always, across the courtyard at one rear window, a lone, unmarked watcher stands vigil.  
As a kid, watching the old black and white movies, I fell in love with apartment buildings like Kensington Court.  They are sprawling buildings, taken up entire city blocks, and are filled with all sorts of interesting people.  Of course, because I fell in love with this grand buildings though movies, I also knew to expect one or two things; either various residents in the building would be killed in a series of murders that seems impossible to solve, or one of them would end up giving birth to the Antichrist.  I figured I had nothing to lose in either situation, so I was already to move to a big city, and move right on it.  Then life happened, I live in a mid-sized city with no grand apartment buildings, and even if I did, I seriously doubt I could afford to live there.

Until I move to London or New York, which would require winning the lottery, I'm going to have to make due with old movies and well written mystery books.  I bought, and read, The Neighbors years ago, preblogging days, and it was all about the location.  Here was another chance to live in one of those grand buildings, even if it was only in my imagination.  And by the end of the book, did I not only want to live there, I wanted to take up an entire floor, all to myself.  Since quite a few of the tenants were dead by then, I'm almost betting I could have gotten a pretty good price on the space.  I think it was watching The Mad Miss Manton with Barbara Stanwyck the other night, that put me in the mood to give this one a read once again.

This is one of those books, that would not work in another location.  It's the size of the building that allows this story to unfold as it does.  It gives the characters the illusion of wide open spaces, but as the body count rises, the insular nature of the building allows the author to ratchet up the tension, filling the building, and the book, with a miasma of fear.

I'll be honest, Kate by herself would bore me to tears. Don't get me wrong, I like her, and think she would be a pretty cool neighbor, but I need the rest of characters to truly bring her to life.  These are the kinds of characters I've always envisioned living in one of these buildings, and they didn't let me down here.  They are such an eclectic, well written bunch, that there wasn't one I didn't have fun with on the page.  Even the nasty, bitter, gossiping hadrian of the group, was interesting enough to keep my attention.  Hell for that matter, the murderer among them had me fooled.  I would have gladly gone along with any plan they came up with, just thankful that they wanted to hang out with me.

And I almost forgot, the peeping tom referred to in the synopsis, is not the killer. I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying that, simply because had the peeping tom been the killer, that would have been way too obvious.  He is connected to Kate though, and while I find the connection and the peeping tom's involvement in the story to be a little contrived, by the time the book is over, I'm so ready for Kate to have her HEA, that I overlook the huge coincidences that were involved, and go with the flow

Challenges: A-Z Mystery

Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Work by Kaje Harper

Synopsis From Publisher:

Coming together as a family was supposed to make life happy-ever-after for Mac and Tony, but their two uprooted kids, demanding jobs, and a less than gay-friendly world don't seem to have gotten the message. 

Mac and Tony thought the hard part was over. They're together openly as a couple, sharing a home and building a life with their two children. It's what they dreamed of. But daughter Anna struggles with the changes, Ben is haunted by old secrets, Mac's job in Homicide still demands too much of his time, and Tony is caught in the middle. It's going to take everything these men can give to create a viable balance between home and work.  Especially when the outside world seems determined to throw obstacles in their way. 

If you couldn't tell by now, I absolutely love this series, and I'm pretty sure I will never get enough of Mac and Tony. Home Work is the third book in the series, and it seems to be the most emotional of them so far.  They are trying to figure out the dynamics of having a new family, with two kids who aren't used to sharing, but love each other, and their new family.  Add in the everyday complications that all couples face; trying to find time to spend together, setting individual responsibilities, juggling work and home, and the millions of everyday life events, and you have two men who truly love each other, trying to figure it all out.

Midway through the book, the four of them take an amazing step in order to bring their family together.  It's one of the more emotional scenes in the book, and I'll admit to a sniffle or two.  I love Tony, but it's Mac that truly shines here.  He has been alone most of his life, and he didn't have the best home life growing up, so for him to finally have a family of his own is amazing.  There is so much love between Mac and Tony, and between them and the kids, that they are quickly becoming my favorite couple of all time.  I would put them up against the iconic legends of coupledom, both on page and screen, and I have a feeling they would come out near the top of that list.

This is still a mystery book, and the one featured here is as twisted and deliciously convoluted as they come. A young man is found dead, frozen to the bridge his body dumped on, left out like so much garbage.  Needless to say Mac has his work cut out for him on this one, and it's pretty apparent that he is going to have to sift through a lot of lies and misdirection to get to the truth.  In the end, it's a case that almost costs Mac everything, including his own life, and it leaves him  and Tony with a whole new set of challenges.

The way the two of them together to face it head on, is about as emotional as it gets.  Seeing Mac, one of the strongest characters around, come to terms with what happens to him, so shortly after the happiest day of his life, almost broke my heart. In this back third of the book, the author really shows off her writing skills, and allows the characters to grow as one.

Since I've been rambling on about how great I think Mac and Tony are, and I'm grateful if any of you are still reading this review after plowing through my flowery language, I'll let you in on one last bit of information.  This book has to have one of the coldest, most calculating villains I've come across in a while, and I absolutely love it.

Challenges: Men In Uniform

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My New Found Addiction to Trivia Crack

I don't know about the rest of you, but within the last week, I've become addicted to Trivia Crack.  I kept seeing some of my Facebook friends playing it, but I try to avoid Facebook games, otherwise they become a huge time suck for me.  I can't even begin to tell you how much of my life was wasted playing Farmville, Castleville, Frontierville, Zoo World, and all the rest of the games, I got tricked into playing. 

Eventually I caved, and instead of playing on Facebook, I downloaded the app to my NOOK.   And the rest, they say, is history.  I can't stop playing it, and when I'm not playing against a friend, I'm rating user questions, just to keep my useless trivia skills razor sharp.  In my crazed addiction, I've even submitted twenty questions for community approval, I'm still waiting to see if any of them make it into the game.

Until then, I thought I would put the twenty questions I've come up with, and see if you guys, without cheating, can answer them.


The island of Gibraltar is a territory of which nation?

     Great Britian

In what state does the Mississippi River start in?



What is the smallest species of antelope?


What animal is also known as a wapiti?


What is the symbol of Curium on the Periodic Table?



Which of the following is not a shade of green?


What was the name of the prophetic rabbit in the classic book, Watership Down by Richard Adams?


Perry Mason is a creation of which American mystery writer?

     Richard Castle
     Ellery Queen
     Ryan David Jahn
     Erle Stanley Gardner

Who was the subject of Marie Tussaud's first wax sculpture?

     Benjamin Franklin
     Horatio Nelson
     Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Who wrote The Circular Staircase?

     Agatha Christie
     Mary Higgins Clark
     Mary Roberts Rinehart
     Jessica Fletcher

Who Wrote And Then There Were None?

     Patricia Wentworth
     Agatha Christie
     Mary Roberts Rinehart
     Erle Stanley Gardner


The 1928 Winter Olympic Games were held where?

     Squaw Valley
     St. Moritz

What was the first professional baseball team Daryl Strawberry played for?

     New York Yankees
     New York Mets
     Los Angeles Dodgers
     San Francisco Giants


In the 1966 TV Christmas special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, who is the voice actor that sings "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"?

     Thurl Ravenscroft
     Hal Smith
     Dallas McKennon
     Boris Karloff

In what year did Elijah Bond release the first commercially made ouija board?


Who played Zorro in the Walt Disney produced TV show?

     Van Williams
     Dennis Morgan
     Mario Lopez
     Guy Williams

Who played opposite Cary Grant in, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House?

     Ruth Hussey
     Bea Arthur
     Myrna Loy
     Rosalind Russell

What is not the name of a Thin Man movie?

     The Thin Man Goes Home
     The Thin Man Takes a Ride
     After the Thin Man
     Song of the Thin Man


The Spanish Flu pandemic that killed around 50 million people world wide, happened in what year?


What was the name of the American Great Lakes freighter that was sunk by a storm on Lake Superior, on November 10th, 1975?

     The SS Superior City
     The SS Edmund Fitzgerald
     The SS Monarch
     The SS Samuel Mather

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Fred Flintstone

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a cartoon junkie.  I find no shame in this, nor do I think it's something that leaves me open to ridicule.  I'm addicted to cartoons, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

There is a small caveat to my addiction, it can't be a cartoon that was made after I was in my teens.  For whatever reason, almost all cartoons since the mid 1990s are sloppy.  I'm not sure if it's because they have gone to digital animation instead of hand drawn, their horrible story lines, or a combination of the two.; but I can't handle the way cartons look anymore.  They aren't entertaining by any stretch of the imagination, and that's a damn shame.  I wish today's kids had the cartoon that I grew up with.  Even more than that, I wish they had the cartoons that my mom grew up with, including The Flintstones.

No matter how much Fred Flintstone bloviates, yelled, pushes his chest out, or stomps his humongous feet, his heart is always in the right place.  Fred is the quintessential blue collar family man caught up in taking care of his family.  He is loud, aggressive, and just a tad bit bossy, but behind his obnoxious exterior, is a man who truly loves his family,

Everything he is, everything he is about, everything he does is centered on giving his family a better life. He works his ass off at the quarry, takes the odd job around town, and is constantly trying to scheme his way into the moneyed elite.  He has a heart of gold, and not matter how much he may irritate people, he is the first in line to lend them a helping hand. 

I grew up with a father that was like Fred in a superficial way, but unlike him in more ways than one.  My dad was loud, obnoxious, pushed his chest out, and unlike Fred, threw a punch more often than not.  What he wasn't was a man who was willing to put his family first, and do what needed to be done to take care of them.  Who my dad was, is why I love Fred as much as I do.  I wanted a father, who despite what was on the exterior, was a man who put his wife and kids first.  I wanted a dad who did what it took to make sure we were safe and loved.  I'm not sure I wanted a prehistoric caveman who yelled "Yabba Dabba Doo" all the time, but I'm pretty sure that if I had, my father would still be around.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook edited by Kate White (Password Clue)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Hard-boiled breakfasts, thrilling entrees, cozy desserts, and more - this illustrated cookbook features over 100 recipes from legendary mystery authors.  Whether your're planning a sinister dinner party or simply looking to whip up some comfort food, you'll find plenty to savor in this cunning collection.  Full-color photography is featured throughout, along with mischievous sidebars revealing the links between food and foul play. 

Let's think about this one for just a second.  How on earth would I be able to pass on this one.  The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook contains two of my favorite things in the world, mysteries and food.  It's a no-brainer, and I would have deserved to be victim number one, had I not jumped at the chance to get my hands on this one.

When I got it in the mail, and I'm not exaggerating this, I skipped all the way from the mailbox to my front door.  I was that damn excited.  Now it took me a few days to have the time to start trying out some of the recipes, but once I did, I have to admit to being a little impressed.  These aren't examples of complicated, high cuisine.  For the most part, the recipes are fairly simple, easy to follow, and it's the kind of food we all love to eat.

I'm not a huge breakfast eater, but I know it's the most important meal of the day, so I try to get by the best that I can.  I'm really not an egg fan, so the fact I was willing to make an omelet should shock everyone I know, but when I saw who contributed it to the book, I had to go for it.  I think you guys know that I'm a huge fan of Ben H. Winters The Last Policeman trilogy, and thank the lord, he included Detective Palace's Three-Egg Omelet.  If you are a fan of the series, you will recognize Hank's customary breakfast.  It was super easy to make, and while I'm still not a huge fan of eggs, I'm willing to love anything attached to Hank Palace.

After I had perused the entire book, I decided to try out Brad Meltzer's Italian Chicken.  Again it was a dish with only 7 ingredients, two of them salt and pepper, and it was so easy to make.  There were only 5 steps to it, the first was to preheat an oven and spray a baking dish.  I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was.  I think sometimes we forget that simple is good, and that sometimes it's the best way to go.

And not to name drop, but here are some of the other authors who have contributed recipes of their own: Louise Penny, Mary Higgins Clark, Rhys Bowen, Kathy Reichs, Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear, Gillian Flynn, Sue Grafton (the peanut butter and pickle sandwich her main character loves so much), James Patterson, and tons more.  This will be one of those cookbooks I go back to over, and over, and over again.

Challenges: Password (America)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Switching Commenting Back to Disqus

I've decided to switch back to Disqus for commenting.  I tried it out a few years ago, and had quite a few problems with it, but as time has gone by, I've noticed that a lot of the issues I had, are no longer happening for other bloggers.  

The biggest reason I'm switching back is that it does make it easier to reply to every comment. I try to respond by email now, but with so many people not setting up their email address for Blogger, it's becoming a less frequent option for me.  I'm going to miss having the comments pull up in a separate window, as I do think that makes it easier, but I'll learn to live without it. 

Hopefully this transition will go smoother for me, than it did a few years ago.  I'm going to keep my fingers crossed.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From TLC Book Tours Site:

Spring 1937.  In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability - and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure.  Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India.  But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England: her aging father, Frankie Dobbs, is not getting any younger. 

On a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn't ready to return.  Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, "You'll be alone in a most dangerous place," she disembarks in Gibraltar.  Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

And the danger is very real.  Days after Maisie's arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar's Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service.  Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on "The Rock" - arguably Britain's most important strategic territory - and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process.  At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a different direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way. 

Earlier this week I reviewed Leaving Everything Most Loved, the previous book in the Maisie Dobbs series.  In that review, I tried my damnedest to not let the fact I had already read this book, bleed into it.  For the most part, I think I did a pretty good job keeping them separate, and not letting this book color what I had to say on the previous.  I'm not going to rehash what I had to say, though I'm still having some of those same problems, only magnified about a bazillion times.

To be perfectly frank with you guys, this almost became a DNF on page nine.  When I was about half way through the page, I had to put the book down, and walk away for over an hour. Even then, I had to force myself to pick the book up and continue reading it.  Regardless of what happened to upset me so much, the fact I even contemplated not reading a Maisie Dobbs book is upsetting enough.

I've been debating how detailed I wanted to get with this review, and I think I've decided to go in a direction that will include spoilers, so please stop reading if you don't want to know some of the pertinent details. On a personal level, it will be impossible for me to review this book, and explain my reactions to it, without giving away some of the secrets.  And be warned, I may ramble for a while before I shut up.

As a long time fan of the series, I've been all for Maisie marrying James Compton, and finding true happiness in her life.  Part of the issues I had with the previous two books was in the way she kept going back and forth on what her feelings were for him, and what she wanted out of the relationship.  She has some serious  hangups when it comes to her personal relationships.  Between her childhood and her experiences in the war, I get where they come from, but enough is enough.   I've been wanting to shake her, and tell her to not only make a decision, but to make the right one. After everything she's been through, she deserved to be happy, and any idiot could tell that James made her happy.  She was just allowing her personal issues, and self doubts, to get in the way.  At the end of the Leaving Everything Most Loved, I had the impression that she was going to make the right decision, and finally agree to marry James.

On page seven of A Dangeorus Place, I got my wish. She finally agreed to marry him, and I couldn't have been happier. It was by telegram, but I was expecting that.  On page eight, through another letter, we learn that Maisie is pregnant with their first child.  Then on pages nine and ten, all hell breaks loose.  A little over a year after they were married, James is killed in a plane crash, and Maisie loses the baby.  The whole four years between the two books are told within fourteen pages, all within letters or news stories.

It's not even the loss of James and the baby that has me so upset, though I think James was a great character, and I would have liked to see them grow old together, but it's in the way it happens that pisses me off so much.  These characters deserved better than this.  It's all off page, told as more of a prologue to the book, rather than as part of the story.  It's callous in it's execution and it comes across, at least to me, that the author didn't really care for the character or their relationship anymore.  And instead of just letting her say no to the engagement, and allowing James to move on with his life, she killed him off is a rather offhanded way.  The other way I could read it, was with Maisie being in a happy place, contented with life, the author wasn't sure in which direction to take the character.  So instead of ending the series, or moving Maisie into a new chapter of her life, she chose to completely upend her life once again, and start the neuroses and inner conflict all over again.  Cause heaven forbid, we have a happy character.  After 11 damn books, the drama can end.

The other problem I had with this one, and a few of the others, is that it seems the author is moving Maisie more into the espionage realm, and less on the mystery side of things.  I'm not a huge fan of spy thrillers, regardless of who writes them, so I'm not sure how much longer I'll continue with the series if that is the direction they keep moving in.  It's repeated a few times in this book that once the Secret Service has you in their sights, they don't let you go.  I'm hoping they do let her go, and that Maisie gets back to doing what she does well, solving crimes.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the rest of the book.  I think the author did a great job in setting the scene, something she has always been really good at.  With the Spanish Civil War in full steam across the water, Gibraltar is sitting on the edge of a precipice, and anything is possible with that much tension swirling around the island.  She has populated the island with some intriguing characters, though I did find a few of them to be rather one dimensional, and the storytelling itself is as spot on as it's ever been.  Jacqueline Winspear is a great story teller, I just hope she starts taking better care of her characters.

By the end of the book, I wasn't ready to run out in traffic anymore, and I am willing to give the series one more chance.  I want the next book to get back to what the series used to be like.  Tone down some of the angst, stop making her so insecure and indecisive, and let her be happy for once in her life.  Bring Billy and Sandra back into the fold, their absence was notable in this book.  For that matter, bring her father and the senior Comptons back into the story, the lack of the regular supporting characters has been another issue for me.  Stop sliding Maisie into the spy game,  and let her reopen her detective agency.  Let Maisie be the Maisie we all fell in love with in the beginning of the series.

I don't want to say goodbye to Maisie, but I didn't want to say goodbye to Buffy Summers either.  That show lasted seven seasons, and in reality, it was time for it to be over.  The Maisie Dobbs books have now lasted through number eleven, and while I don't want to see her go, it might be her time as well.  I'm hoping that book twelve corrects some of the issues I, and a lot of other readers, have been having.  If not, maybe I'll just pretend the network pulled the plug.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Favorite Fictional Character --- Bastian Balthazar Bux

The 1984 film adaptation of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story was a huge deal to me the first time I saw it. It was a movie that changed my imagination for the rest of my life.  How cool was it  that there was a place, Fantasia, where every legend, every fictional creature ever dreamed up by man, had a place to live.  Who wouldn't want to live there?

Can you imagine a place where Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Eeyore, Buffy Summers, Mame Dennis, Zeus, and Isis, all had a place to mingle and coexist?  They would all band together to fight against Trollocs, Orcs, Sauron, Ursulla, Michael Meyers, and others of their ilk.  And yes, I do still play this game in my head.  Every time I read a book, watch a movie, or get sucked into a TV show, every single character is sorted in this imaginary land in my head; the good guys on one side of the planet, the bad guys on the other.  At one point in time, I kept lists, had the characters divided into guilds, and had them forming governments and businesses.  I'm no longer that obsessed with the idea, but I can't totally let it go either.

As great as the idea of Fantasia was for me, the best part of the me, was who the real hero was.  It wasn't the obvious choice, the young warrior Atreyu.  In the end, the real hero was the nerdy, bullied kid, who just wanted to escape his feelings of  neglect and displacement.  Bastian Balthazar Bux just wants to escape his existence.  He has no real friends, he's not getting the attention he needs at home, and he's being bullied in school.  When he gets lost in the story of Fantasia, it's not long before he realizes that he's not just reading a book, that he is in fact witnesses to, and to a degree, participating in, something far greater than himself.

It's this young boy, this junior bibliophile, who has the key to saving Fantasia. Its on his tiny shoulders, and it's his imagination that must save the day.  This is a case where all it takes for the hero to save the day, is to use his mind.  For a nerdy, junior bibliophile watching this movie for the first time, it was life affirming.  It gave me hope that I didn't need to be some super strong athlete, to make a difference.

I own this movie, and I still watch it from time to time.  My heart still beats faster as Bastian struggles with the truth.  I still cheer, sometimes out loud, when he accepts the idea that he can make a difference.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Friday Night Jamie by Bren Christopher (Password Clue)

Synopsis From Publisher:

Jamie is an accountant who lives by a strict schedule: every day is planned; the future is predictable.  And that schedule includes one night a week when he allows himself to blow off steam at a gay dance club in the City.   One Friday night he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Matt, an out of work stranger with long dark hair and rough hands.  The attraction is undeniable but Matt does not fit Jamie's idea of the perfect man to share his carefully ordered life. 

Instead, Jamie longs for a date with his dream man: handsome, sophisticated Keith, a successful Vice President at his prestigious New York accounting firm, a man on his way up.

But everything changes when Jamie discovers a suspicious error in one of is accounts.  Suddenly, he finds himself on the run from both the mob and the FBI -- and the only man who can help him in the tall, dark-haired stranger he rejected.  Because Matt is not who he seems -- and neither is Keith.

Even in the world of m/m romance books, Friday Night Jamie is not high literature.   It won't make my best of the year list, even if I did one for romance books only, nor is it all that original.  What it is, is a whole lot of fun.  This is the kind of story Lifetime makes into movies, and who doesn't binge watch those every once in a while.  Why hasn't anyone started a gay version of the Lifetime channel, I can promise it would be a huge hit.

Lifetime movies have, for the most part, have two essential truths; first impressions can't be trusted and looks can be deceiving.  In most cases, if a man appears to be too good to be true, he is.  The man that is perfect on paper, is the man to run away from.  The man who doesn't check off every little box on your "must haves" list, he's the one you want to keep.

As in the perfect TV movie, the perfect guy will always show his true colors, normally in a deadly way.  Keith is not exception to that rule, though why Jamie found him to be all that desirable is beyond me.  Either the poor boy had blinders on, or he's a dumb as a bunch of rocks.  Since he doesn't come across as dumb in an other aspect of his life, I'm going to have to go with blind.  Matt on the other hand is golden form the moment he walks on the page, and for any man to have the patience he does, is a miracle all on its own.  Once Jamie gets his head out of his ass, Jamie and Matt are great together.  They are so very different from each other, but I've always thought that opposites make great pairings.  They both brings such different things to the table, that together, they compliment and smooth out each other's rough patches.

What follows is the normal cheesy movie of the week fare.  Jamie stumbles upon some bad stuff, the FBI gets involved, people get killed, the heroes go on the run from the bad guys, more people get killed, and the two heroes live happily ever after.  The mystery aspect is pretty light, as far as the heroes having to solve anything, but what's there was enough to hold my interest.   Like I said, nothing that isn't predictable or new, but it's a hell of a lot of fun to read.

Challenges: A-Z Mystery, Password (Friday)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Synopsis From Back Cover:

London, 1933.  Two months after Usha Pramal's body is discovered in the waters of a city canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs for help.  Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, but evidence indicates they failed to conduct a full investigation.  Usha had been staying at an ayah's hostel, a refuge for Indian women.  As Maisie learns, Usha was different from the hostel's other residents.  But with this discovery comes new danger, as a fellow lodger who was close to Usha is found murdered. 

As Maisie is pulled deeper into a unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case, and by a growing desire to see more of the world.  At the same time, her lover, James Compton, gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore. 

It's been almost two years since I read the previous book in the series, Elegy for Eddie, and I'm finding that I can almost copy that review, and paste it here. Now since then, I have gone back to read the books I skipped over, and as of right now, I've read the entire series, including the next book, A Dangerous Place, which I will have a review of later in the week.  Maisie is still a little too angsty in this one, still a little too unsure of herself, or what she wants in life.   The title fits not only the story, but where her mindset is at.

By the way, I'm trying to write this review, and not allow it to be tainted by the fact I've already read the next one.

I know Maisie has been through a lot in her short life, that she has lost more than most of us will ever have to deal with.  Her experiences in the first World War, and what she suffered through, will always taint her perceptions of who she is, and what she wants.  I really do get it.  I also get that if Maisie was the creation of a less gifted author, that a lot of the issues would be glossed over and forgotten, and that would be a damn shame.  Maisie Dobbs in one of the most complex and four dimensional characters I've come across in a long time.  Jacqueline Winspear has done a find job at developing her into a character that is so admirably damaged.  I just wish, and while it was to a degree, that the angst had been spread out just a tad bit more.  I wish Maisie had been dealing with all of her issues the entire length of the series, and not have them come to the forefront in the last two books.

Maisie has deep wounds that she forced to the back or her mind, thought she had dealt with, but with the death of her mentor Maurice, she is now having to deal with them head on.  For the last two books she has been reevaluating her place in life, what she wants out of it, and on a more fundamental level, who she is.  Me personally, I wish it hadn't taken two full books to do it, that she would have made up her mind on some of the subjects long before, but I get that I can't make a character behave in a certain way, just to appease my sense of timing.  And yes, I get that unless you have been reading this series from the beginning, you won't understand half of what I'm saying, so I apologize for that.  I can honestly say that I'm relieved by the end, because I know she is finally on the right track, that she isn't going to be stupid and reject James, that she is finally going to allow herself to be happy.

One little side note before I move onto the actual mystery aspect of the book, I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable with what happens to Billy in this book.  Having him flirt with the idea of having an affair with Sandra, seems so out of character of him.   I get that he and his family have had some horrific things happen to them, and that he probably feels more adrift than Maisie, but when is enough enough.  I think the author has done a real disservice to this character, it was almost as if she wasn't sure what to do with him anymore, so lets just screw his life up completely, and push him aside.  I know that by the end, he is back on the right track, but it still feels as if the author is done with him, and that's a crying shame.  Billy has been the oddly beating heart of the series, and it's going to be horribly saddening to see him go away.  I just wish we would  have had more closure with him, and his family, before that happened.

If you can't tell by know, this series, for me at least, is about the characters more than the mystery aspect.  As in the previous books, the mystery itself, while rather violent, still has, for lack of a better word, a gentleness about it.   This author is so gifted at writing Maisie's character into the story, it's a little hard to differentiate where her and the mystery are separated.  The author, much like Dame Christie, is gifted at weaving a rather intricate story into a tale that is both challenging, and easy to follow.  At no point in time, with any of these books, have I felt as if I was being tricked or purposefully led astray by the action.  It's, as always, well crafted and well told, and worth the read.

One last note, if you think this review is a jumbled mess, I get it.  My feelings are so over the place, so confused in my head, that writing a coherent review for this one, has been a struggle.  I tried to express myself as clearly as I could, but I'm not sure if I pulled it off.  So please accept my apologies, but also know that if I didn't like this character, and this series as much as I do, I wouldn't be having this issue.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Challenges: A-Z Mystery

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Three Ex-Boyfriends & The Books They Made Me Love

For the most part, a lot of us think of ex-boyfriends (or ex-girlfriends) in a rather negative light. For whatever reason, they are the ones we invited into our lives, only to have them leave on a negative note.  There may have been something horribly wrong in the relationship, or that spark may have just fizzled out.  In a lot of my past relationships, it was the timing of the whole thing that was a huge factor.  I've dated some great guys, just one of us would not be ready for a serious relationship. No matter the reason it didn't work out, most of us don't like think of our past relationships.  They tend to be examples of failure, and failure never feels good.

I would like to think I've taken something positive out of every relationship I've been in, no matter how disastrous they turned out to be.  From Andrew, I learned to love Dos Equis Amber, and it's still the only beer I will drink.  From Alberto, I learned how to recognize my limitations, and not to try and push myself into accepting things I'm not willing to deal with. From Joel, I learned to love Shania Twain, and that I won't put with the silent treatment.  From Martin, I learned that I don't have infinite patience and expecting a different result with the same factors in place, is a dumb idea.  And from some of my ex-boyfriends, while the love may not have lasted between us, assuming it was there to begin with, I did leave the relationship with a new love.  Some of those relationships exposed me to new books, and authors, I've grown to cherish over the years.

My relationship with Vincent was doomed from the start.  I got sucked in the night my first real boyfriend, Jeremy, broke up with me.  It seemed that Jeremy was tired of sneaking around behind my back, and wanted to be able to pursue others, without it being a secret.  Vincent was a mutual acquaintance of ours, and one night at the club, it seems as if they joined forces.  Jeremy told him he was going to break up with me, and that if Vincent was interested in me, to be waiting in the wings to come swoop me up.  It was a tacky thing to do, oh lord was it tacky, but I fell for it.  I let him comfort me that night, soothe away my pain, and my first rebound relationship was born.  It didn't last very long, thank god, but I did walk away from it with my first book boyfriend, Vanyel Ashkevron.

Vincent was a huge Mercedes Lackey fan, and he kept on talking about the three books in her Last Herald Mage trilogy.  He knew I loved to read, and I think he was trying to connect with me on a more than physical level.  It wasn't long before I was in love with not only Vanyel, but with Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series in general.  Here was a world in which men and women were called, from all corners of society, to serve their kingdom.  They sacrificed their lives in some cases to defend their realm, and they were to the one, good and honest people.  The Heralds, and Vanyel in particular, where the personifications of sacrifice and honor, and I loved them for it.  

I now own 40 of her books, have read them all numerous times, and Vanyel is one of my all time favorite characters.  I try to visit with him at least once a year, though blogging has made rereading a little more difficult than it used to be. 

Derek was my first kiss and first, well you don't need to know that part.  I met him in college, and while I can't say we ever dated, it was more than a casual hookup.  It was during the first semester of my Freshman year, and I wasn't really out to a lot of my friends on campus.  A bunch of us had gone to another town to a club that allowed anyone 18 and over to come in.  We met him there, and a bunch of us became friends.  He came down to our campus one night to hangout, and while a few of us were talking, I slipped in my coming out so smoothly, two of them didn't realize I did it for a good ten minutes.  That night I kissed a guy for the first time, and it felt like I was coming home.  Over the next two years he was a great teacher, if somewhat infrequent, and while I think we really did care about each other, the love spark never happened.   We are still friends, connected on Facebook, and I will always be grateful for making my first of everything as enjoyable as it was. 

He ended up moving to Colorado, and for the longest time we kept in touch, and I actually took a trip out there for a visit one year, and that's when I was introduced to The Thief of Always by Clive Barker.  It was one of Derek's favorite books, and I was enraptured almost from the first page.  It's a modern day fable of a young boy who just isn't happy with his life.  He is bored all the time, and just knows there is something out there, something better than what he has now.  He is quickly conned into visiting a magical house where all four seasons, with the accompanying holidays, cycle throughout the day.  Little does he know that every day spent in the house, is a full year in the real world. Once he figures out something is really wrong, he does everything he can to get home.

This is another of those books that I've read multiple times, and has led me to reading Clive Barker's Abarat series as well.  I've fallen in love with the way he writes books for young adults.  They are edgy, darker in tone, and completely surreal.  I haven't read The Thief of Always since I started blogging, but I'm pretty positive it will be getting a visit this Fall. 

What can I say about Brent? He was slight nerdy, adorably nice, and hung up on someone else.  I'm positive this wasn't a love match for either one of us, but we enjoyed each other's company, and for the most part we had fun with it.  It was one of those relationships that just sort of fizzled out, all on it's own, and thankfully we both not only recognized it, but we were okay with it as well.  We stayed friends for a while, but life drifts people apart, and the last I knew he was living in Florida.

Brent introduced me to the books of Guy Gavriel Kay, and I owe him dinner a thousand times over for making that introduction possible.  I've had a hot/cold relationship with fantasy for a long time now, and for whatever reason, I tend to be a little picky in what I read.  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I can pick up any Kay book, and I will instantly fall in love with the world he created, and the inhabitants that dwell there.  There is a lyrical quality to his books that is pretty impossible to explain, but it makes his books a physical pleasure to read.  Within a few pages, I will be transported into another world, and I will never want to leave.  His writing is beautiful, and his characters are so well written, you can't imagine them not existing in real life.  He has never failed to deliver, and as I'm writing this post, I'm feeling an almost overwhelming pull to grab a few of his book off my shelves, and lose myself for the next few hours.