Monday, January 31, 2011

Silence the Whispers

I have a hard time writing dialogue, and often feel like my characters are a little flat.  But, I'm starting to feel better about that.  I keep reading novels that have bigger issues than mine that managed to get published anyway!  I finished another book, Silence the Whispers by Cait London.  Again, the plot was really good.   Lots of suspense, and a mystery to be solved.  Granted, I solved it before the characters, but I'm okay with that.

What bothered me was the characters.  The two main characters were so-so.  There were moments when they seemed contrived, but overall, they were okay.  The rest of the characters were horrible.  Cameron, the main female, came with a trio of female friends.  I don't remember any of their names, nor could I tell them apart during the novel.  They all read like shadows of Cameron.  Really sad, considering one of them was vital to the plot.

All I'm looking for is a few good characters!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tempest in Eden

Oh, the '80s!  I read Tempest in Eden by Sandra Brown.  This is another of her early romance novels, written under the name Rachel Ryan. 

In this novel, we don't have Tarzan and Jane.  This time Brown paired a minister with a nude model.  Of course they met when their parents (both widowed) got married.  Let's take improbability and pile more on top, shall we? 

Honestly, I had a hard time with this one.  I just couldn't get past how dated and unlikely this story was.  I definitely prefer her recent novels to her early work.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Deus ex Machina

SPOILER ALERT!!!  If you have any intention of reading The Rosary Girls, you shouldn't read this post! 

I finished the novel and was forced to shake my head in disgust.  All along, this was a very "realistic" novel- this could have been a real series of crimes, investigated by real people.  Suddenly, near the end of the story, the male detective has a vision of his partner in trouble, the serial killer parked outside her house.  So, he sweeps in and saves her at what would have been the moment of her death.  Right. 

In the process of saving her, he takes a bullet to the head.  And survives.  Perhaps this was intended to convince me that he was a good guy after all.  I still don't particularly like him.

Even though I feel no real attachment to these characters and a fair amount of disgust for the implausible ending, I feel obliged to read The Skin Gods.  This is another novel about the same detectives after another serial killer.  I wonder if Montanari will try to justify his deus ex machina by using it in another novel.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rosary Girls

I'm currently about 300 pages into The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari.  The story so far is good.  Catholic school girls murdered and posed in the act of prayer.  But I am having a character issue.

The main characters are the two homicide detective looking for the killer.  Byrne, the male of the duo, is just not a good guy.  So far, he has killed one man, tampered with a crime scene, and beat up a suspect.  I think I'm supposed to believe he's a bad cop for all the right reasons.  But I don't believe that.  I just don't like him.

The female of the duo, Balzano, is a good cop.  At least so far.  But I don't really like her either.  And in her case, I'm not sure why.  I don't know if it's just an issue of the author being male and writing a female character.  There is just something about her that doesn't ring true for me.  I find myself not caring all that much about her issues.

I hope I like them by the time they catch the killer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kill For Me

Ah, the love affair continues...  I just finished  Kill For Me by Karen Rose.  This was book three of a trilogy.  I am still impressed by her ability to weave a story across three novels and not have anything feel forced or out of place. 

My only complaint is that it is over.  The story is complete.  There are no loose threads, no hanging plot lines, no misplaced characters.  All of the bad guys are dead or otherwise accounted for.  There won't be another novel about these people.  So sad.

One of the main themes of the series was that family has nothing to do with blood, and everything to do with heart.  Rose painted these characters so well that I feel like they have become part of my family.  I will miss them. 

Monday, January 24, 2011


Finished another book by Laurie Halse Anderson.  This time it was Catalyst

What do you do when you put all of your eggs in one basket and the basket blows up?  Kate is an MIT legacy and knows that is the college she is meant to go to.  So it's the only college she applies to.  Guess how that ends? 

Beyond the basket blowing up, this is a great story about the chemical reactions that occur between people.  Some reactions are peaceful, harmonious.  Some are explosive.  Regardless of the nature of the reaction, we are all changed by our interactions with other people.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Marilyn Tapes

Read The Marilyn Tapes by E. J. Gorman.  I don't know much about this author.  His biography simply states "lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa." 

I do know that this book is likely to reawaken an old obsession of mine.  This book did such a fantastic job of hiding the line that separates fact from fiction that I'm feeling the urge to do some research.  See if I can discover where the line lies. 

The major players definitely existed.  Marilyn, JFK, Bobby, Hoover.  What is less clear (at least to the general public) is the relationships between them.  Did Marilyn sleep with both Kennedys?  Did Hoover really seek to control the brothers?  What secrets were hidden in Marilyn's past? 

The murders at the heart of this novel were fiction (at least I think so).  But, every element of this story COULD have happened.  I love fiction that manages to convince me that it's a true story!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Almost done with The Mummy.  This book is very different from most of Rice's stuff.  First of all, we have mummies instead of vampires.  More importantly, this book moves.  Usually reading Rice is like taking a very leisurely stroll through a story.  Oftentimes, I find myself wanting her to just get on with it, already.  By the end, I feel like not much happened.  Not the case with The Mummy

While this book is not what the movie The Mummy is based on, this book moves like a movie does.  There is constantly something happening.  (Resurrections of long-dead carcass hands, for instance).  Multiple people have been murdered, two have been brought back from the dead, and one is desperate to gain immortality.  The living, the dead, and the un-dead all WANT, and they are not afraid to go after what they want. 

My favorite Rice book.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Mummy

I'm halfway through The Mummy by Anne Rice.  I predict I will have nightmares tonight.

Ramses just tested the powers of his immortality potion on a severed mummy hand.  Imagine, if you will, a shriveled, dry, blackened claw transforming to a fleshy, pink, human hand.  Then it begins scratching at the table.  Oh, and it's immortal, so you can't kill it.  So you chop it up with a knife and the pieces begin to bleed, but they are still moving.  If the pieces get close enough together, will they reform a functional hand and come after you?

Sweet dreams!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Me Tarzan, You Jane

I blazed through Temperature Rising by Sandra Brown last night in under 3 hours.  This is another author who started off writing romance novels under a pseudonym to claim the bills.  Later she switched to writing mainstream fiction, mostly suspense-ish, under her real name.  She has since reclaimed her early work, republishing it under her real name.

This book was in the Me Tarzan, You Jane, genre.  Then I looked at the copyright.  1989.  That explains so much.  Reading the book, the male "hero" reminded me very much of Romancing the Stone.  However the female lead was nothing like Kathleen Turner's brilliant, goofy, slightly spacey heroine.

Overall, it was a fun, if dated, read. 

Also yesterday I finished Scream for Me.  I got to the end and was certain there would be a third book in the series.  (A quick online check confirmed I was right.)  Rose didn't do such a good job of hiding her outs this time.  Stay tuned for Kill for Me...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

High school friends

I'm not afraid to say it.  I'm in love with Karen Rose.  I am almost done with Scream for Me and I continue to be amazed by this woman's ability to weave a plot.  As I am reading, I keep remembering details from Die for Me that connect to the plot in this book.  And yet I finished the first book and had no idea that there was more to come.  I really thought the story was complete.  I would love to talk with her and find out if this was planned as two novels, or if she was just able to make insignificant details seem important later.

I do want to yell at her detective though.  Sometimes he doesn't ask the obvious questions.  Interviewing one victim about an incident that occurred in high school (her being attacked by a group), he gets the name of one of the attackers.  Why not follow up and at least ask who that person hung out with in high school?  Plot wise, it would jump the story forward too quickly, but in reality it's an obvious question and really stood out as missing.  I'm sure Rose is good enough that she could have found a way to make it work.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Scream for me

Hello fiction, my old friend. 

After my bad experience with the last book I tried to read, the last 24 hours have been a literary delight. I am reading Scream for Me by Karen Rose.  It has reminded me that all is right with the world.  Good fiction is still good fiction.

This particular novel is a thriller/ suspense.  One of my favorite genres, as I try to solve the puzzles before the characters do.  Good suspense lets me figure out small pieces of the mystery (so I can feel smart) but then surprises me in the end with something I didn't figure out but really should have seen coming.

This book has an added bonus.  It's a part two.  I know, I complained before about a book that was a part one.  But this book is done right.  Part one, Die for Me, was a complete story.  I didn't get to the end and feel like anything was missing.  I started reading part two not knowing that it was a part two.  Then I met a character that felt familiar, but I couldn't quite place.  Turns out he appeared in the previous book.  Now I get to find out what happened to him.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Other people's words

This almost never happens.  I couldn't make myself finish a book that I had started.

I heard that gasp of shock and despair. 

Breaking the Spell may have had a point.  Honestly, I'm not sure.  I found myself 150+ pages into the book with no clue what I supposed to be getting out of it.  I then found myself flipping through the book, reading only the quotes that opened each section.  Some of them were wonderful, fabulous nuggets of wisdom.  Others were quotes from The Simpsons. 

They were the best part of the book.  Moving on.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The book I'm in the middle of, Breaking the Spell (see yesterday's post), was written by a philosopher.  Today, I am the philosopher.  My task is to write a one-page statement of my teaching philosophy.

It sounds like a remarkably simple task.  My goal after all is simple, for my students to learn stuff. 

In reality, putting what I do into words is proving incredibly complex.  From day to day, sometimes even moment to moment, my strategies and techniques with students shift.  How do I describe a chameleon?

Dennett says in Breaking the Spell that the job of a philosopher is to ask questions that can't be answered (paraphrase).  I am left wondering how then, one can write a philosophical statement....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Home is where the heart(h) is

I finished The Last Olympian.  Hope, the only item left in Pandora's box (not a box), was the key to the novel.  The temptation to release hope led Percy to leave it with Hestia (goddess of the hearth) to keep hope safe at home.  Then Percy had to get the gods to realize what made home home and defend it.  (You're gonna have to read the book to understand)

Then I started a new book.  Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett.   What is the name of the first section of the book?  Opening Pandora's Box.  I love when life serves me up a big pile of coincidence!  Dennett's book questions the reluctance to give religion a good, thorough examination.  He believes that we need to understand the fundamentals of belief so that we can all just get along. 

Favorite quote from the book so far:
Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends.  -- Ned Flanders

Monday, January 10, 2011


Two-thirds of the way through The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan.   This is the final book in the Percy Jackson series.  I find myself reading the book with great sadness and a good dose of disgust.  I blame it on the movies The Lightning Thief.

That movie screwed up really bad.  Percy was five years too old.  Two key characters were merged into one.  Several other key characters were entirely left out.  Oh, and the antagonist of the series was killed off.  Basically, they made it impossible to make the rest of the series into movies.  That makes me sad, because this last book would have made a terrific movie.

I suppose now kids will have to read about Greek mythology instead of watching it on the big screen.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fluffin' curses!

3/4's of the way through Affair by Amanda Quick.  Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.  A romance novel.  Set in Regency England, to be precise.  Sometimes I read things because they are "good for me."  Sometimes I read things purely for entertainment.  I am not a literary snob, fluff has its purpose!

A lot of people scoff at popular novels because they are popular.  But, they are popular because people read them.  So clearly, they serve a purpose for a lot of people.  Sometimes a reader just wants to wander in a different world for awhile.

Interesting factoid, Amanda Quick is a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz.  Krentz is one of many novelists to write in the romance genre under an assumed name.  More interesting, Krentz has joined the growing trend of claiming your pseudonym.  I am all for owning what you have written, even the popular fluff!

Biggest complaint with this novel:  Bloody hell!  This particular curse is sprinkled liberally through the text, sometimes twice on a single page.  Yes, it is time and place appropriate, but surely you could introduce a little variety?  How about bollocks!, for example?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I finished Chains last night.  Much to my dismay, the story did not come to any sort of resolution.  The last page of the book was a notice that the story would be continued in another novel.  Pet peeve alert:  please indicate somewhere on the cover that this is part one of a series. 

So I am left with three characters in potentially dire peril.  A five-year old epileptic separated from her family and under the "care" of a brutal owner.  Her older sister a fugitive (escaped from slavery) trying to take care of a teenage boy with ?smallpox?.  And the story just stops. 

I honestly feel a little abandoned.

Maybe that's the point.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mouse Fur

In Chains, our heroine (Isabel) is watching her owner get ready for a formal dinner party.  Mrs. Lockton uses glue to attach strips of mouse fur to her brows to get the full, bushy look.  Seriously?!

Now, I know Anderson often sets her novels in historical periods.  And I have the utmost confidence in her research, so I am sure that this detail is historically accurate.  Just to be sure, I did some browsing this morning.  Modes in Makeup describes lots of odd things people did to enhance their beauty.  Both mouse and oxen fur have been used to give fullness to brows.  Ew.  Really glad that times have changed.

Another note on changing times.  I am having a really difficult time placing the age of Isabel.  My current estimation is that she is 10 years old.  The issue I am having is that the cues we use to estimate age when reading a novel are not consistent from one era to another.  The normal activities of a 10 year old in America today are vastly different from those of a 10 year old slave in 1776.  Isabel walks, alone, through the streets of NYC at all hours of the day and night.  Now, even an adult would use caution with those same activities.  Today, 10 year olds might be out from under the watchful eye of an adult only when they are in the bathroom!! 

Monday, January 3, 2011


I finally finished Cry to Heaven.   Still not sure if I liked it or not. 

I'm about halfway through Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.   This is a YA novel set in 1776 in New York.  A young slave is trying to thwart a planned assassination of Washington.  What's interesting is that her motivation is totally non-political, she is merely working for the freedom of her sister and herself.  Without ruining the story, the true chains that bind her are not the chains of slavery, but the chains of dedication to her family. 

I suppose looking back that Cry to Heaven was really about the same thing.  Chains.  In this story, the chains were to vengeance.  Tonio's dedication to vengeance got in the way of his dreams and potential happiness.

Investigating my personal chains....

Saturday, January 1, 2011


So in the last 24 hours, the only things I have read are instructions. 

On the fun side, Harry Potter Scene It!  It's been so long since we've played this particular game that I couldn't remember how.  So long that the kid who was too young to even read the questions for the game now knows all the answers!

On the not so fun side, instructions to install a dishwasher.  Happy New Years to me, our dishwasher chose to start spewing water all over our kitchen floor.  What I initially thought would be a simple replacement has turned into a three day ordeal, with uncountable trips to the hardware store for miscellaneous parts.  I'm not sure this process could be any more complicated. 

Here's a thought, on the first page of the instructions, list ALL of the parts that will be required for installation!