Saturday, June 26, 2010

Plum Spooky (book) by Janet Evanovich

It's another "between the numbers" Stephanie Plum book, and I actually enjoyed this more than the most recent book in the main series. The villain was pretty forgettable, probably because he wasn't around a whole lot (plus, he was so over-the-top supernatural that he didn't really seem believable in Stephanie's world). That said, the humor was fun. I wouldn't say this book was all that great, but it was still way better than Finger Lickin' Fifteen. Then again, I suppose that's not saying much.


It's been a while since I read this book. A long while. I've put off writing the synopsis for so long that I had to leaf through the book just to remind myself what happened. So this isn't going to be a detailed synopsis - my main goal is to finish this post and finally get the book out of my apartment.

Stephanie opens her door one day to discover that she's going to be watching out for a monkey named Carl for an indefinite amount of time (Carl's owner: Susan Stitch - who the heck is that??). Not long after being saddled with Carl, Stephanie is visited by Diesel, the mysterious and probably supernatural guy who turns up in all the Between-the-Numbers books and who never even crosses Stephanie's mind in the regular books. Morelli never sees Diesel, because Morelli is too busy dealing with his deadbeat brother, who was recently thrown out by his fed-up wife.

Anyway, Diesel is looking for some supernatural Big Bad name Wulf (Big Bad Wolf, har har), who has a habit of killing people and leaving burns in the shape of his hands on their necks. Wulf is teamed up with a socially-inept genius named Munch who missed his court date and stole some science-y stuff with names I can't remember. Stephanie needs to catch Munch, and Diesel needs to stop Wulf from doing whatever it is he's trying to do. They team up, because Stephanie's still too inept to catch the tough ones on her own (especially not when Lula keeps tagging along - Lula may have been useful when she first appeared in the series, but she gets in the way more often than not now). Diesel claims that his being around Stephanie will make it hard for Wulf to find him. Whatever.

There's some stuff after that that I don't remember so well. Stephanie looking for other skips and generally not doing so well - she gets pelted by vegetables at least once. There's a guy dressed like the Easter Bunny, a guy who can fart fire, and a whole bunch of monkeys wearing little metal helmets. At some point, Stephanie gets caught by Wulf and Munch, and Wulf gives her to Munch as his sex slave. Up to that point, you might think Munch is an adorable-looking (he looks about 12, even though he's an adult) pathetic hanger-on who could really use some help learning how to properly interact with people. Unfortunately, it becomes clear that Munch fully intends to rape Stephanie if he has to - he just wants to have sex with a woman, he doesn't care if she's willing.

Of course, Stephanie doesn't get raped, but it's still an overall freaky experience for her. She learns that Munch and Wulf had planned to build a device that could control the weather and then use that device to blackmail cities. If I remember right, the monkeys with little helmets are somehow part of the plan. Stephanie and Diesel (probably mostly Diesel) stop Wulf and Munch and save a lady the two had been holding hostage. Ranger makes an appearance. Diesel leaves. Carl goes back to Susan.

Oh yeah, you know how Lula and Tank's relationship just seemed to disappear after Fearless Fourteen? Well, it turns out that's explained in this book: Lula is allergic to cats, and Tank loves them in an "I'm secretly a little old crazy cat lady" kind of way. Tank would rather give up Lula than the cats, so Lula decides it's over between them.


Evanovich boxed herself in a bit, by going with a holiday theme for the Between-the-Numbers books - with a character named "Wulf," I kept expecting "werewolf" and then nothing ever happened. All I can think is that maybe Evanovich thought that just having a dangerous villain with supernatural powers counted as "spooky."

Looking over my synopsis, it really reflects badly on Finger Lickin' Fifteen that I think this book is better than that one. I mean, the story's not terribly interesting, the best Evanovich can come up with in the way of kooky is monkeys, and the villains may have their creepy/icky aspects (Munch the would-be rapist, ew), but then Evanovich drops in the whole "they plan to control the weather to make lots of money and take over the world" thing. That last bit is like something out of Pinky and the Brain. I loved that show, but trying to combine a Brain-style plan with villains supposedly capable of making Stephanie feel shaky and pale with fear didn't really work out so well. One diminishes the other.

If I'm remembering the other Between-the-Numbers books right, this one is a bit darker and heavier than the other ones - I wonder if Evanovich plans to continue with that in the next one? I hope not. For one thing, "dark and heavy" needs to be able to have an effect on characters. To my mind, the Between-the-Numbers books are supposed to be short, light adventures that take place outside the normal storyline. Although the books apparently take place in the same world as the regular Stephanie Plum books, readers are expected to accept and get over the fact that, in the regular books, Stephanie never even thinks about Diesel or the hints of magic that turn up in By-the-Numbers books. Not only that, none of the other characters think about Diesel or magic, either. I kind of got the feeling that Evanovich wrote the By-the-Numbers books to alleviate some boredom she might have been feeling with the regular Stephanie Plum books - this was a way for her to relieve that boredom without having the "recreate the wheel" and come up with a whole new series, new cast of characters, and new world. Either that, or Evanovich and/or her publisher wanted her to cash in on the popularity of paranormal romance in some way.

Whatever, moving on. Anyway, my point is, the Between-the-Numbers books sort of depend upon nothing happening in them that has any lasting effect. Otherwise, the suspension of disbelief that's necessary to deal with the whole "no one thinks about Diesel or magic" thing gets even harder. And Evanovich messed up on that in two ways in this book.

One, she got a bit dark in this book, and had a villain freak Stephanie out by basically telling her he planned to rape her. This isn't a huge mess-up, though, because lots of people in the regular books have threatened Stephanie, tried to kill her, etc. - so it's maybe easier for readers to talk themselves into believing that Stephanie doesn't think about the events of this book at all in the next regular book because this kind of stuff happens to her all the time.

However, two, Evanovich had Tank and Lula officially break up in this book. The explanation for their break up is in this book. I remembering thinking it was kind of strange that Lula never even gave Tank much thought in Finger Lickin' Fifteen, and now I know why - Evanovich put information that applies to characters from her regular books in a not-supposed-to-affect-the-main-storyline book. True, Tank and Lula aren't main characters, but I still think this is a slip-up. If readers are supposed to accept that all the magic and supernatural strangeness of the Between-the-Numbers doesn't cross over into the regular books, then Evanovich needs to do a better job of keeping the regular books from sliding into the Between-the-numbers books. Having the explanation for Lula and Tank's break-up in this book was sloppy.

I haven't read a Stephanie Plum book in a long time that made me want to actually buy it, even used. With all the complaints I keep having about the newer books, I really should just quit reading the series. But it's hard to quit - I started this series because I needed something I could turn to for a good, quick, fun, and funny read. For a long time, this series was my reading equivalent of a slice of cake or a bowl of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. I'm having problems accepting that all of that may be over. Maybe it's time to look for a new literary junk food equivalent.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Cowboy Bebop (anime TV series) - Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter with a laid-back attitude, amazing fighting skills, and a dark past. He's partners with Jet Black, a former cop, and, as the series progresses, his group grows to include Faye Valentine (a sexy, tricky gambler who can't really remember her past) and Ed (a weird and cheerful young hacker). A lot of the episodes, especially the earlier ones, are mostly humorous and include a lot of fast, madcap action - those who liked the action and humorous aspects of this book might like this series.
  • Undead and Unwed (book) by MaryJanice Davidson - Undead and Unwed is the first book in a series about Betsy Taylor, a fashion- and shoe-obsessed woman who unexpectedly becomes a vampire. Not just any vampire, either - she's the queen of the vampires. She's got to deal with a sexy vampire named Eric Sinclair, a very evil vampire named Nostro, and new abilities she doesn't know anything about. Those who'd like another humorous series with a dose of romance might want to try this, which should be particularly appealing to those who also like the supernatural aspects of the Between-the-Numbers books. Just be warned, this series gets darker after a while.
  • You Slay Me (book) by Katie MacAlister - This is the first book in MacAlister's Aisling Grey series. All Aisling wants to do is deliver an old, gold dragon statue to her uncle's client in Paris. Instead, she comes across a dead woman and a mysterious and sexy man. The man (who is also a dragon), named Drake, disappears, along with the statue. Aisling has to prove she didn't kill the woman and recover the statue, all while dealing with the revelation that she is a Guardian (basically, the Keeper of the Gates to Hell). Yet another series that combines action, humor (a Newfie demon is about as quirky as it gets, though), fantasy, and a bit of romance. Be warned, this series gets a bit darker as it progresses.

Friday, June 25, 2010

There's some Gist going around

Oh, what timing! Last weekend's post was about Deeanne Gist's The Measure of a Lady, and the current post over at The Misadventures of Super Librarian is about Maid to Match. Since I read The Measure of a Lady because I wanted to get a feel for Gist's writing and Maid to Match wasn't out yet at the time, Wendy's post has me all aflutter. It's a great post - unlike almost all of mine, not spoiler-y, so don't be afraid to go take a look. I can't wait to read that book!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wrist troubles

A week ago, I did way too much catalog maintenance (aka mouse-heavy work). Although I knew I hurt my wrist then, I continued to overdo it, practicing using GIMP for a presentation I was going to be doing (which is now over, yipee!). Now, just a few minutes of using a mouse causes me pain.

So, until I heal up, it'll be as little mouse usage as possible for me. Computer junkie me is not pleased. None of this should interfere with my current posting schedule, though, because I had a few posts scheduled before I hurt myself. Now I'm going to go to bed with my nice new wrist brace. Btw, if this is how I'm supposed to hold my wrist, I've apparently been using a computer wrong for years.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Measure of a Lady (book) by Deeanne Gist

(Isn't that a gorgeous cover? From what I've seen, all of Gist's books are lovely and guaranteed not to embarrass you if you're caught reading them in public.)

I read this to get a taste of Gist's reading, in preparation for the release of Gist's Maid to Match. I haven't read much Christian fiction of any sort, and I'm leery of both the "fire and brimstone for the unbelievers" writers and the "good, clean Christian world of the '50s-that-never-was" writers. I haven't been to church since I was a child - organized religion has never really appealed to me, and I've never felt that "letting God into my life" would necessarily help me be a better person. I'm a very secular kind of girl and have never felt the lack of religion in my life, beyond the social aspects of it.

So, I'm more than likely not Gist's target audience. While Gist's characters occasionally thought about and did things that I couldn't really relate to, for the most part even I enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading Maid to Match. Actually, I think I might try out the rest of Gist's stuff, too. She has a nice sense of humor, and I liked that the Christian aspects of her book weren't black-and-white - in fact, one of the main conflicts of the book involved the main character trying to reconcile her black-and-white view of what is Christian and moral with the gray area that is the life she has found herself in.


Rachel Van Buren, her fifteen-year-old sister Lissa, and her fourteen-year-old brother Michael arrive in San Francisco, newly orphaned and nearly penniless, shocked to find that the bright, gold-filled future their father expected them to find doesn't exist, at least not without many months of desperate, back-breaking work. Nineteenth-century San Francisco is a decadent and lawless place, where everyone has gold fever and it's not uncommon for those who've found gold to gamble it away on the chance that they might get even richer. Nineteenth-century San Francisco is also a hideously expensive place. However, Rachel manages to arrange a place for her and her brother and sister to stay - it's either that, or marry someone. Although any number of men in San Francisco would be happy to marry a "sunbonnet woman" (a respectable woman), Rachel would rather not have to marry someone just so that she and her family can have a place to stay.

The place they end up staying at is a tiny, barely adequate shack owned by Johnnie Parker, the owner of the City Hotel, a saloon/hotel. Eventually, Rachel also becomes Johnnie's cook and takes charge of cleaning the City Hotel - however, while she does these things, she doesn't want to be around prostitutes (which, to her mind, also includes former prostitutes) and gambling. Rachel's high and mighty behavior annoys Johnnie a bit. It also annoys her sister Lissa, who blossoms like crazy under the admiring eyes of the town's men. In Lissa's view, Rachel is being hypocritical: even as Rachel rails against Lissa's decision to make money by singing for the men and giving them shaves (a big no-no for a young, unmarried woman), Rachel works for a man who owns a saloon and even begins to fall for him.

For Rachel, it's an uphill battle, keeping her siblings on the straight and narrow. Both Michael and Lissa go to wild parties, at which no respectable person should ever be seen. Lissa can't stand the thought of doing the back-breaking work that's required in order to live the kind of life Rachel feels is right and moral. Lissa's shocking shaving business eventually leads her to fall in love with Mr. Sumner, a womanizing snake of a man. Rachel doesn't handle things well, and Lissa ends up willingly losing her virginity to Sumner, happily accepting his promise that they will someday be married, maybe. Neither Rachel nor Johnnie believes a word Sumner says, and Rachel, brought to her breaking point, even threatens Sumner with a gun. None of it does any good, however, and Lissa continues to live in sin with Sumner, cutting her ties with Rachel.

By now, Rachel has sunk a lot of her money into opening a new restaurant business, in an attempt to live a life that doesn't depend upon money and living quarters provided by a saloon owner. Rachel and Johnnie have grown much closer, making Rachel feel even more guilty - although Lissa incorrectly believes that her relationship with Sumner is the same as Rachel's relationship with Johnnie (Lissa and Sumner have had sex with only a vague promise of marriage, while Rachel and Johnnie have only kissed), Rachel is worried that, if she isn't careful, things will go farther with Johnnie than she wishes them to. Rachel, an avid insect collector with a fondness for trees, still takes cares of the trees and the place Johnnie hopes one day to turn into a pleasure garden. For a time, she had the possibility of choosing a young naturalist over Johnnie. She chose to reject the naturalist, but she doesn't want to be Johnnie's wife unless he quits being a saloon owner or profiting from saloons in any way.

Rachel's own restaurant is a morally black-and-white place, as well. A sign at her door states flatly that she refuses to serve prostitutes, or even have prostitutes at her establishment. This causes Rachel some doubt when she realizes that Lissa has decided that this means she can't visit Rachel's restaurant, either. When a woman arrives in town who reveals herself to be Sumner's wife, Lissa breaks down even further and tries to kill herself. She hates Rachel's "no prostitutes" rule, and she refuses to stay with Rachel, even though the situation with Sumner has become so difficult.

Rachel sees less and less of Johnnie, Michael, and Lissa, because of her insistence at living by the black-and-white rules of behavior instilled in her by her mother when she was a child. Michael begins renting a table at Johnnie's saloon, making a lot of money. Lissa lives like a proud, wild thing, staying with Sumner even though she knows he's already married. Johnnie refuses to sell his saloon, because that is what he's sunk most of his money into. Even the nice little life Rachel has made at her restaurant seems to fall apart at the seams when Lissa tells Rachel what everyone in town has always known, that one of her employees used to be a prostitute.

Rachel doesn't have much time to consider this new information before San Francisco is turned into a bonfire. Some people help each other, because it's the right thing to do, while other people have the gall to charge money or gold for their assistance. Rachel finds herself having to bend her rigid standards when Lissa offers her and Sumner's home as a place for all those who are badly wounded to recover. She has to bend those standards even further when she must work side by side with Lissa's prostitute friends, helping the wounded. Now that Rachel finally talks to these women, she learns that none of them turned to prostitution willingly - they had come west trying to find better lives and had no other way to earn money.

Prior to the fire, Johnnie had begun to rethink being a saloon owner. It wasn't just that he wanted to marry Rachel - it was also getting to the point that he couldn't condone what he could see his business was doing to people, a feeling that came to a head when a man shot himself after losing everything he had gambling. When Johnnie proposes to her, Rachel finally agrees to marry him - Johnnie hasn't told her all the conclusions he's come to, it's just that Rachel decides to simply trust that he will do what's right when he decides who to lease his property to. What he decides is right may not be what she thinks is right, but Rachel decides that's ok. One thing she does want, however, is for Johnnie to rebuild her restaurant, so that there's a safe place for her wards to work - she wants to open a House of Refuge, where girls who don't want to be prostitutes anymore can live while they try to rebuild their lives. Johnnie and Rachel marry, a mostly happy affair (Lissa doesn't show up).

A year later, Rachel occasionally sees Lissa and makes it clear that there's a place for her to come home to if she ever wants to leave Sumner. Rachel puts up with Sumner, who still doesn't seem to care what he's doing to both Lissa and his wife. When a lost-looking and penniless Miss Eldridge arrives, escorted by Michael (who seems to be a bit smitten by her), she finds support in the House of Refuge.


Most of the time, I liked Rachel, but her black-and-white view of the world drove me batty. You either were a prostitute for life, or you were lily white, nothing in between.

I could understand why Lissa saw her as a hypocrite. At every new development, Rachel seemed to be redefining the way things worked in order to suit her. If she lived purely by the standards she set for herself, there would not have been a single job she could have taken when they first arrived in San Francisco. She justified cleaning and cooking in Johnnie's saloon by defining the saloon only as a hotel during her working hours, and by saying that she refused to be around Carmelita, a former prostitute who still dressed provocatively in order to distract gamblers into losing more money. Technically, the only thing she did during those early days that truly fit her high standards was the work she did caring for Johnnie's trees. Had she really wanted to live a perfectly moral life, she would have married the naturalist.

However, that doesn't mean Lissa's behavior didn't drive me crazy, too. What Lissa didn't seem to realize was that the only thing that saved her and Rachel from being treated like common prostitutes was their status as "sunbonnet women." Being a sunbonnet woman meant that some things would be more difficult - she and Rachel would have had to work much harder to earn a living. However, by choosing not to act like a sunbonnet woman, she was opening herself up to a life where, if Sumner chose to, he could have basically acted as her pimp, sharing her with anyone willing to pay. The thing that made him despicable was the joking he did shortly after he and Lissa first slept together, telling Johnnie that he might share her with him if he wished. Gist later tries to make it seem that Sumner may actually be in love with Lissa, but I doubt it. Lissa was an idiot, a fifteen-year-old idiot who had a temper tantrum, smacking Rachel when she had the gall to remind her that Sumner hadn't kept the marriage vows he made to his wife, so how could he be expected to keep any promises to Lissa?

In the end, what it came down to was Rachel remembering that Jesus consorted with and forgave lots of prostitutes, and her realization that it's not her job to set the moral standards for everyone - all of that's between individuals and God. All that mortals like her can do is try to give people who want to turn their lives around a place they can go to and people who will help and support them. I can accept that.

The historical aspects of this book were very interesting - this is not a period of time I've read a lot about. I knew a bit about the gold rush, but I didn't know about the specifics or what life was like - Gist made that seem very real.

As far as the humor goes, that starts at the very beginning, with the first line: "This street is impassable, not even jackassable," which was apparently a real street sign. I'm sure Gist's research was fascinating. There was less and less humor as the book went on and people's lives started to fall apart, but I did like those early humorous bits.

Overall, I liked this book enough that I'd read something else by Gist, and I certainly plan on reading Maid to Match.

As I said earlier in this post, I don't read a lot of Christian fiction, period, so this read-alike list was really had for me to put together. Those who do read a lot of Christian fiction, feel free to add to this list. Those just looking for read-alikes for this book, take this list with a grain of salt. That said, although coming up with this list was hard (only 3 recommendations, and one of them isn't even Christian fiction!), I think I may be adding Karen Witemeyer's book to my TBR list - it sounds kind of fun.

  • The Fire Rose (book) by Mercedes Lackey - This is NOT Christian fiction, but the historical and romantic aspects may appeal to those who liked Gist's book - if I remember correctly, the two main characters never do more than kiss, although one of the book's villains is a vicious man who breaks girls sold into prostitution. So, warning given, on to the brief description. After her father dies, Rose Hawkins, a young scholar, finds herself in dire financial straits. When she is offered a position as a governess for the children of Jason Cameron, a wealthy rail baron in San Francisco, she feels she has little choice but to accept. However, Cameron has no children and doesn't need a governess. He's actually an Elemental Master whose specialty is Fire. He needs Rose's help to undo a spell that transformed his appearance and forced him to become a recluse. With an old enemy looking for any exploitable weakness, Cameron must work quickly.
  • Bamboo and Lace (book) by Lori Wick - This is a Christian romance, just not a historical Christian romance. Raised in a remote Asian village by her missionary father, 24-year-old Lily is amazed by Hawaii when she goes there to visit her brother. When her brother is called away on urgent business, Lily is left in the care of his best friend Gabe and Gabe's family. When Lily begins to fall in love with Gabe, she finds herself faced with a choice between true love and the promise she made not to shame her father. This might be a good one for those who liked reading about Rachel's inner turmoil over her growing love for Johnnie and everything she'd been taught about the proper way a lady should behave.
  • A Tailor-Made Bride (book) by Karen Witemeyer - This is another Christian romance (or maybe just fiction, but I'm guessing it's romance). Hannah Richards opens up her dress shop in 1881 Coventry, Texas, hoping to help women add beauty to their lives. Livery owner Jericho Tucker takes one look at her place and is convinced that all she's doing is leading women astray by appealing to their vanity. Despite their clashes over the fine line between beauty and vanity, Hannah and J.T. are both basically good people. As they find themselves growing closer, can the two figure out how to overcome their differences? J.T. and Hannah remind me a bit of Rachel and Johnnie. Those who'd like another Christian historical romance might want to try this.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The new computer is all hooked up!

Hooking the new computer up went mostly ok - actually, the part that caused me the most grief was physically setting up my monitor (moving the neck and base into place). After some frustrated tears and a while of receiving simultaneous help from both HP customer service (via the Internet) and my dad (via a phone), I finally figured out that I just wasn't putting enough muscle into moving the neck of the monitor.

So it's all set up now, and the only website I've been to that doesn't look totally dwarfed by my monitor is my own blog - again, big round of applause for widths determined by percentages.

Next on my list of stuff to get is a new computer desk. My current desk has always had serious design issues, and it certainly wasn't intended to be used with a monitor this size. Still, I'm not wild about putting a desk together, so I may live with the one I've got for a while.

Make Me a Match (book) by Diana Holquist


Cecelia is horrified when her sister, dressed in a gypsy outfit and stuffing everything not nailed down into her purse, shows up at her engagement party and tells her she needs to call off her wedding. Cecelia's sister, Amy, can hear the name of a person's One True Love when she touches them, and she says that Cecelia's One True Love is not Jack, the handsome and successful lawyer Cecelia is engaged to, but rather someone named Finn Concord, who, according to Amy, is dying. Cecelia, who has always believed that Amy's ability ruined her life, refuses to listen to her, but Amy eventually wears her down. Cecelia decides to find any guy named Finn Concord in town and tell him, in a letter, that he should go get a check up because he might be dying. Things don't go quite like how she hoped they would, and Cecelia ends up accidentally meeting, talking to, being attracted to, and really liking one of the Finns she finds, a widower who's recently come to town with his young daughter to meet her "rent-a-Granny."

The two have a bit of an uphill battle. Finn doesn't know at first that Cecelia is engaged. He also doesn't like that Cecelia, a doctor, works in a practice that will only treat those with good private health insurance - his wife died because they didn't have the right connections and couldn't get her the treatment that could've saved her life. Cecelia is determined to stay with Jack, but that has its problems as well - she hasn't told Jack that she and her sister Amy used to steal things and run cons when they were younger. Eventually, more and more lies get unraveled. Amy hasn't told Cecelia everything, Finn's young daughter is hiding things and is beginning to make a pretty good con artist herself, and the "rent-a-Granny" is also involved. Although Amy has said that she's just trying to make sure that Cecelia ends up with the right guy, she really wants to make sure that Cecelia is so grateful to her that she decides to let Amy stay with her - Amy has realized that her powers are fading and are only strong when she's around Cecelia. With Finn's daughter's help, she hatches a plan to get Cecelia and Finn together, but the two aren't very cooperative. Will everything work out? Will Cecelia want Amy to stay, despite all the lies? Is Finn really going to die?


I expected this to be a story about a straight-laced doctor who is horrified when her kooky but lovable family butt into her life and unravel all the perfection. Although her fiance wouldn't love her family, Finn would. However, that wasn't the case - Cecelia's family is eccentric, but a good chunk of it's not really lovable. Amy is horrible, and we never actually get to meet her mom and dad. Her other sister will turn up in another book - which I bought, because the sneak peek at the end of this book indicated that her story would be the kind of thing I usually enjoy (awkward heroine who inexplicably ends up with famous/rich guy - it's embarrassing that I love these kinds of stories, but I do).

It's been way, way too long since I read this book, so it's kind of hard to write this commentary - I need to get a lot better about writing these right after I finish the books. Anyway, I remember disliking Amy (a lot - I can't imagine enjoying whatever book she gets, and I don't plan on buying it, since I'm not a fan of characters who will use their own family members). The rent-a-Granny was a bit...quirky and unfortunately turned out to be part of Amy's scheming. Again, a reason to dislike Amy.

As far as I can remember, I liked Cecelia and Finn well enough, but the thing I remember the most was that, once I finished this book, I really wanted to read the book starring Cecelia's other sister. On the one hand, it's good that Holquist's writing appealed to me enough that I wanted to read another book by her. On the other hand, it's not so good that a book of hers I hadn't even read at the time made more of an impression on me than the book I did read. You have to admit, though, the cover is fun-looking. I think it's why I picked this book up. That, and I found this on the $1 clearance pile.

Well, that's it then. I know, I know, not the best commentary. What can I say, it's been a whole year since I last read this book (yeah, that long - I'm sooo behind on finishing posts). If I ever read it again, I'll try to remember to write another commentary and just skip the synopsis part.

I honestly don't know how good my read-alikes list is, but I did my best. I know I've read more romance novels with fortune-telling in them, but I can't for the life of me remember them.

  • Night Pleasures (book) by Sherrilyn Kenyon - Want another romance novel starring a straight-laced, practical heroine who just wants a normal life, who just happens to have a not-so-normal sister? Amanda Devereaux is the one normal person in a family of oddballs. After being mistaken for her twin sister, who hunts vampires (which Amanda had never really believed existed), Amanda ends up chained to a guy named Kyrian. Kyrian is a Dark Hunter, an immortal warrior who hunts Daimons (which are a bit like vampires, only they eat souls) for the goddess Artemis. Somewhere along the way, Amanda and Kyrian end up falling in love, but, if they want to have a life together, Amanda will have to figure out how to get Kyrian's soul back from Artemis.
  • You Don't Know Jack (book) by Erin McCarthy - Another romance novel with lies that need to be unraveled and a psychic who predicts that the heroine will meet her "one true love." In this case, the heroine is Jamie Peters, a social worker and free spirit who has been burned by love one too many times. A cross-dressing psychic predicts that she'll meet her soul mate - and then she meets Jack, who seems perfect. Unfortunately, "Jack" has a lot of things he hasn't told Jamie. When Jamie finds everything out, will she be able to trust that not everything between them was a lie?
  • Fools Rush In (book) by Kristan Higgins - Another romance novel in which the heroine, who has a plan for the way she wants her life to go, remakes herself and then ends up falling for someone who doesn't fit the plan. In high school, Millie Barnes had a huge crush on Joe Carpenter. Back then, she was brainy and plain, but, over a decade later, she's got a hot new look and a good job (plus, a whole decade's worth of experience stalking the guy, figuring out what he likes and doesn't like). She gets the guy, but is he really what she wants, or could Sam, her former brother-in-law, really be the better guy for her?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blogger's Template Designer

I'm not sure when the Template Designer appeared, but it's pretty awesome. I played around with it a bit, and I absolutely LOVE that it's now possible to give your blog a 3-column layout with the click of a button. There aren't a whole lot of themes available, but there are several options for customizing them, depending upon which theme you choose. I think some themes will only allow you to choose between a selection of color schemes, while some will allow you to choose background images. One thing I don't particularly like is that there doesn't seem to be an option for uploading and choosing an image of your own - you have to choose one of the available images. The available images are nice, but an image of your own can really make your blog unique (says the girl who has only done a major edit of her blog layout once in 2+ years, and only to add a third column).

I was tempted to redo the whole look of this blog using the Template Designer, except for one thing - the look I was going to go with only gave me the option of adjusting column widths using number of pixels. I happen to prefer setting up column widths based on percentages. So, if I do switch to something else, I'll still have to look at the CSS and figure out if I can translate all the right bits into percentages. Or, I could bite the bullet and just be ok with pixels. Since I'm going to be moving to a computer with a ginormous monitor (23 inches!!) in a week or so, that might be a good way to go, since it'll get a lot harder to judge how good the percentages probably look on smaller monitors.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Odd Hours (book) by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas is back, willing to lay down his life for some strange pregnant lady who refuses to give him a straight answer. Also, he kills several people and is a witness to lots of additional deaths. One of the reasons I enjoyed the first book in this series and continued on from there was because Odd is such a likable character. He's still likable, but now I kind of feel like I don't really know him anymore. Plus, I'm having a hard time understanding why he trusts that pregnant lady so easily - there's something about her that keeps setting off my "She's Secretly Evil" alarm.

By the way, if her refusal to answer any of Odd's questions in ways that actually make sense seems annoying to you, you'll be especially annoyed by the ending, which is one giant "To Be Continued," with, again, absolutely no answers from the Pregnant Lady Who Knows All But Smiles And Says Nothing.

I don't really feel like doing a super-detailed synopsis for this one. Plus, I kind of waited too long - I've forgotten a lot of the details. Anyway, Odd is now living in a town called Magic Beach, cooking food for an elderly ex-actor. Odd keeps having dreams in which "the tide flows red and the sea throbs with a terrible light" - that doesn't sound good, but, other than that, Odd's life is pretty relaxed.

Until he saves the serene and unhelpful pregnant lady (Annamaria), that is. Then he attracts the attention of some bad people, at least one of which seems faintly non-human in his evilness. Odd realizes that these bad people have something to do with his probably prophetic nightmares. He decides to hide and protect the pregnant lady while he figures out what kind of evilness the bad people are going to be responsible for.

Back at Pico Mundo, he could count on help from the local law enforcement, but that's a problem in Magic Beach. It turns out that Chief Hoss Shackett of the Magic Beach Police plays a big role in the local evilness. Odd can't even necessarily trust people who might normally be trustworthy - there's no way to tell who's on the police chief's side.

So, if the police chief is doing evilness, why are people helping him? Money, of course. The Chief is part of a plan to deliver some nukes to other bad guys - Odd's dream is showing him what will happen if those bad guys get the nukes. Odd, like James Bond, only with less confidence and practice, manages to get on the ship that will be delivering the nukes, stop the people on the ship (killing a few of them - he may not have enjoyed it, but it still happened), and notifies several different authorities about the nukes (so that no one group will have access to them and therefore try to keep them quiet and use them for their own purposes). Odd is upset by the thought of all the people he killed in this book, but Annamaria, the serene pregnant lady, tells him it's ok because he saved whole cities by doing what he did. The book ends with the two of them traveling, and Annamaria displaying an unexplained knowledge of things only Stormy Llewellyn, the deceased love of Odd's life, could have known.

Oh, and, if you remember, Elvis is now gone, but Odd has a new ghostly companion: Frank Sinatra.


Seriously, Annamaria creeped me out. Although I'm guessing that Koontz will probably make her out to be some kind of holy figure, a modern Mary with her immaculately conceived baby, all she does for me is creep me out and annoy me. She won't ever give Odd a straight answer and, instead of getting angry with her for that, he just accepts it as the way things must be. Right.

As far as the bad guys in this book go, I expected something more supernatural. With the connection to Odd's dream, and the one bad guy whose eyes are apparently yellow, a supernatural explanation seemed like a good possibility. When the reality turned out to be greed and corruption that was only unusual because it was so massive and deep, it was kind of a letdown. I still expected there to be some kind of supernatural explanation, because it was too disturbing, thinking that the Chief was only an ordinary guy who was just very corrupt.

Overall, I'm not really sure how I felt about this book. Odd seems to be turning into someone I don't really recognize and am not sure I like anymore. He's still a nice guy, but he killed so many people in this book - an ordinary guy just can't do that kind of stuff. Sure, he breaks down a bit, but still. And I did not like how Annamaria tried to tell him that what he did was ok because he saved cities. If she's all that's good and holy, I wonder, if saving cities could be accomplished by killing one or two innocent people, would she be ok with having Odd dirty his hands with that, too? If there's going to be hard stuff that needs to be done, I personally feel that she or whoever is behind her should be doing it.

  • The Manhattan Hunt Club (book) by John Saul - After being wrongly convicted of rape and attempted murder, Jeff Converse finds himself on the run, with homicidal maniac Francis Jagger for company. If Jeff and Francis can make it out of Manhattan's underground tunnels and back to the outside world, they'll live. If not, they'll die. It's all part of a game being played by some of the city's most powerful men and women, who have prisoners hunted and stuffed like trophy animals. Those who'd like another suspenseful book with a main character who's on the run and potentially can't trust anyone around him might want to try this.
  • Symphony (book) by Charles Grant - This is the first book in a quartet dealing with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Reverend Casey Chisholm lives in the outwardly quiet town of Maple Landing, trying to deal with its problems as best he can. One day, he discovers that he has developed miraculous powers, which include the ability to heal, dispel an angry swarm of bees, and more. While strange things go on in Maple Landing, a malevolent white car slowly makes its way towards Rev. Chisholm, bearing a woman named Susan who brings death wherever she goes. She plans to do battle with the Reverend and is accompanied by an unsettling group of people. Those who'd like something else that features steadily building suspense, even stronger religious aspects (for those, like me, who got a religious vibe from Odd Hours), and a large-scale menace with small-scale focus (one man, who will need to stand between evil and humanity) might want to try this.
  • Black Hills (book) by Dan Simmons - A young Lakota boy, Paha Sapa, touches the body of dying General Custer at Little Big Horn and ends up with the man's spirit inside him for the next sixty years. Paha Sapa also has the ability to see the past and future of many other people he meets, and one day he has a terrible vision of the future in which his beloved Black Hills are destroyed. In order to prevent this from happening, he tries to blow up Mount Rushmore before it's completed. Those who'd like something else with a sympathetic main character, some supernatural elements, and appearances from real people might want to try this book.