TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #15 – Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

The story is about the haunting, but it's also about a man who is already haunted by his own choices in life. Jude Coyne is not really a good guy. He makes bad choices, he hurts people and he's not sure if he can or wants to change. Then he buys a suit that comes with a dead man's ghost. He assumes that it's a joke until disturbing things begin to happen. Jude tries to get rid of the ghost, who is there with a mission.

Heart-Shaped Box is a tightly written, intense ghost story. The pacing is quick and the story never feels bogged down in the details,m even though it gives a good amount of backstory into Jude's life and the story behind the ghost. The story creates and sustains tension and even though the basis is supernatural, the story still feels grounded and believable.

Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, which I knew going in. There's a lot of pressure there, o be compared to his father, and Hill comes off well, perhaps better than his father, who tends to need a heaver hand by his editor. Hill's work is solid and scary and very distinct from his famous father. It's a book that certainly made his parents proud.

Rating: Five stars. This one will leave an impression.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #14 – Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline

The premise of this book is intriguing. Two identical sisters, one a lawyer and one a con artist, who share a deep love despite their differences, have a fight and the con artist tries to take over her sister's life. Interesting, right? Well, it could have been.

Bennie Rosato is the lawyer, the good sister. She gets buried in a box somewhere when her sister decides to take over her life. Apparently her sister evil enough to let her die of suffocation, but not evil enough to just shoot her. Which would really be the more humane thing, but what do I know?

Alice, the evil sister, figures out that her thrifty sister has a ton of cash stashed and plans to beat a murder rap by stealing her sister's cash and hightailing it to the Bahamas.

The reader is expected to ignore the contrived situations and the characters that are barely there. The descriptions 'the good one' and 'the bad one' are all we get from the author. A needy colleague and the appearance of an ex-boyfriend are the boring twists giving Alice trouble stealing her sister's fortune. If the characters were more developed and interesting, it might matter more if they survive. As it was, I thought it would be a nice twist to see the evil sister go to the Bahamas. I'll leave you to figure out if I got my wish.

Rating: Boring and contrived, with flat characters. A few moments that would have been intense with characters to be invested in.


You can't talk about depression. No one really wants to know how you are feeling when they ask and to tell them how gut-wrenchingly horrific you feel just isolates you more. People flee that. No one knows how to help or the cut them selves off from you, with pit, of course. It's not just the pain, the thoughts, the hopelessness, it's the goddamn loneliness.

And the best part is, when you start to think about it, to remember how long it's been since you felt like this, you realize you've felt this traumatic pain since you were fifteen. So if I've been feeling this badly off and on, in cycles, for fifteen years, when will it stop? Yeah, never is the answer I got too.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #13 – EnglishTrifle by Josi S. Kilpack

This is the second book in a series of books based on the concept of having a recipe/cooking theme. The only problem is that A) Diane Motts Davidson did it better starting about a decade ago and B) these books suck.

I hated the first book, as previously documented, but I thought it might just be a rough start to a series. That perhaps as the writer found the character's voice, the bad aspects (the only aspects) might mellow out and the character might become more palatable. Nope. She's still the most irritating character I've read in years and I'm a sucker.

This book takes out crappy anti-heroine, Sadie Hoffmiller, to England with her daughter Brianna. Brianna, shockingly, is smart, funny and not a nosy busybody like her mother. Unfortunately, she does enable her irritating busybody mother into getting into the middle of things that are none of her business. This woman thinks she needs to be a part of everything, ever. Even the meal preparation. I was actaully pleased because this awful woman's crumpets failed. I don't care about crumpets or the murder or anything, I just like to see this nasty, nosy woman have bad things happen to her. She gets trapped in a walk-in cooler with a dead body and that was easily the highlight of the book.

Rating: Do NOT read this book. You will regret it. Or hey, read this book, if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not her to judge.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #12 – Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack

It's no secret that I love a 'cozy' mystery book. When I read, sometimes I want something that lets me relax and enjoy a scenario that would never play out in my real life. I'm an escape reader. With this book, I felt no relaxation, just stress, because the main character of this book is an awful person.

Sadie Hoffmiller is supposed to be the sweet older widow next door, the kind of woman who brings food when the baby is born, who gathers your mail if you go out of town, who gossips a bit but has good intentions. Sadie Hoffmiller is actually the woman who brings you a cake and judges how clean your house is, who gathers your mail and tries to steam it open and who gossips about you and comes up with a good intention after.

Sadie's in her kitchen when she notices suspicious activity at the neighbor's house. She goes to investigate, as one does, and finds her neighbors body. Rather than cooperating fully with the police, she decides to investigate on her own, even though there is no reason to suspect that the police can't do their jobs. Sadie's reason is that the victim was her friend, which gives her enough cause to snoop through a crime scene, go to the victims' lawyer and try to get dirt, spy on her neighbors and boyfriend and get herself arrested.

When Sadie was arrested, I laughed. Not because the author had struck a particularly clever turn of phrase, but because she deserved it. She hid evidence from the police multiple times, lied to everyone she knew and if anyone didn't automatically agree with whatever outlandish idea she had, she thought smug, judgmental things about them and wrote them off immediately. Even when she found out the evidence she had willfully withheld would have helped the police capture her friend's murderer earlier, she didn't feel remorse.

It's clear that the author is trying to create a witty, sarcastic character that you love because of their faults. It would work, if only the character had qualities other than faults.

Rating: Underbaked and overly sour. Don't bother. To read an example of a lovable but grating character done well, try Parnell Hall's Puzzle Lady books.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #11 – Death on the D List by Nancy Grace

I went in with honest expectations. What I know of the author, Nancy Grace is that she's on TV, she's loud and cranky and talks about sensational cases. She may have a political slant, but I don't know what it is. I've never really seen a whole episode of her show, just bits and pieces. For all I know of her, she could he a hell of a writer.

She's not. This book was terrible. The plot centers around an attorney who was almost killed working her last case. It turns out that this woman is the greatest attorney to ever attorney. How do we know? Because the story tells, us, constantly. It doesn't bother to show her making valid arguments or using creative logic; rather it just constantly says that Hailey Dean never lost a case. Ever. Which doesn't appear to be something that happens outside of books. That's not event he least plausible part. The fact that she keeps getting roped into doing things she doesn't really want to, like appearing on TV, doesn't make a great case for her take-no-prisoners legal reputation. She's supposed to be quick on her feet during the TV interviews, but her 'sarcastic' comments aren't and her grandstanding speeches aren't based in any sense of fact, just emotional posturing and manipulation, which isn't even done well.

The mystery portion is even more ridiculous, if that were possible. Some mysterious figure is taking out starlets and every other chapter or so is devoted to the shady character who we are led to believe is committing the crimes. (NON-SPOILER WARNING because this book is too bad to need spoiler warnings.) This guy, who has the weapon and who has blackouts and who owns a car that records the exact millage it would have take to travel to kill these women and who gets his own plotline in the book? Yeah, he didn't do it. Someone we meet once, who has the worst motive ever, did it. And how does our ace lawyer put all this together? She mistakes hair coloring smudges on fingers for gardening dirt. Yeah. Those look nothing alike. Also, hair dye comes off pretty easily with some Vaseline, which the character who committed the crime would have known, since she was described as a woman who was very into make-up and style. That's just the most obvious plot hole that bugged me. There's also the guilty cop, who feels bad that he fingered Hailey for a crime where she was almost killed by the real killer, so he takes her into EVERY CRIME SCENE. Jesus, aren't crime writers required to watch CSI anymore?

I can't write anymore about this crappy book. I'm the kind of person who can't out a book down, even a bad one, and I still skipped the last third and just skimmed the last three pages. This book both sucks and blows.

Rating: zero stars.

It's that time again...

Update time! I've been quiet for awhile, in many ways because my depression has hit me pretty hard lately. With chronic depression, it's so hard to tell if it's just a rut you are going through or if it's time to change medicines or up the current medication. Once I finally got into a place where I could see how badly I was feeling, I decided on a two-fold approach.

First, I upped my meds. Since I started taking SAM-e, a supplement, I can be more flexable with my dose without having to make a doctor appointment. My doctor originally prescribed 800mg of SAM-e, but I started on 600mg, which was fine. Now that it's not, I'm up to 800. The max is 1800mg total, but if I think I need to go past 1000mg, I'm going to the doctor to make a switch.

The other thing that I did was make a few small changes to stop feeling like I am in a rut all the time. They are little, and probably silly, but they seem to be making me feel a little nicer. What I did was paint my nails and start wearing mascara and earring in the mornings. It's not a huge change. My reasoning is that taking a little extra time to look nicer might lead to feeling nicer. I admit, I kind of like looking in the mirror and being surprised by my darker eyes.

I'm giving it two weeks and if I'm not noticeably better by then (better enough that the husband notices as well) then I'm calling the doctor. A new doctor, in fact, but that's for another post...

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #10 – The Radleys by Matt Haig

The Radleys is blurbed as a new twist in the old vampire tale. And it is...and it isn't. The premise is thoughtful: a family of vampires spends their days as an average suburban family. The parents are abstaining from drinking blood and the kids don't know about the family heritage. Events unfold so that the secrets come to light for the children and adjustments must be made.

The story of this unique family trying to make dysfunction work is fascinating. The author details the challenges that arise from denying a persons true nature and the consequences that can result as well. The story bounces back from the parents' perspective to the childrens' and enables the reader to have a full view of what this family is really like. The wording is sparse and the chapters are short, evoking a tense atmosphere. The storytelling is almost lyrical at times.

In the novel, the parents, Peter and Helen Radley, face the daily challenge of not looking too pale, trying to stay awake during the daylight hours and forcing themselves to not sip from the nearest neighbor. The children, Clara and Rowan, are considered weird freaks for being pale, exhausted and weak all the time. The description of such a life seems reflective of many of the lives on display everyday and it stands to reason that if something could change the dreariness, maybe embracing it isn't always the wring choice.

The story does veer a little more on to the beaten path when the requisite 'evil' vampire comes in to derail the family and their attempt at normalcy. It's similar to every vampire stare-down since Anne Rice and more cliché that expected from a novel with such well-worded prose. It's a well-done novel and deserving of a read.

Rating: A good story, worth a second read.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #9 – Lethally Blonde by Kate White

The fifth book in Kate White's Bailey Weggins mystery series shows that this series needs a reboot. Perhaps that's why it's been two years since this entry in the series and no other have been announced. The heroine is witty and engaging, but the mystery needs work. It's a bland, tepid web of jumped conclusions and forced 'suspenseful' encounters.

The romantic angle is the conrnerstone of the story, rather than the mystery, but this time it falls flat. Both of Bailey's romantic interests are little-more than a list of characteristics, all of them mild and designed to attract with out risk. It's not made clear why Bailey is deliberating between the two rather than wondering if they are harboring some dark secrets because nobody is this boring.

While it's true that Bailey is funny and engaging, she's not particularly smart in this novel. Most of her detective work is mere assumptions and guesswork that proves to be incorrect more than half the time. She literally stumbles on to the answer to the murder and gets credit for solving it. It's not a perfect score if someone hands you the answer sheet.

Rating: If you skip this, you're not missing out. At all.

Life Reflections As I Turn 30

Tomorrow is my 30th Birthday. Obviously that means I should reflect upon where I am and draw conclusions about my awesomeness or lack thereof.

Age: 30

Spouse: 1 Husband, Jeff. The Shawn to my Gus, the Hank to my Peggy, the Red to my Kitty.

Children: 1, Hannah. My reason for waking up in the morning, my sunshine.

Job: Grocery Merchandiser. Good pay, moderately good hours (as in I could use more), flexible schedule. And I like it. Good for now.

Education: BA in Psychology from Mesa State. Loved college, one of the best times in my life.

Goals Achieved: Ran a 5K. Lost 40lbs. Run for fun, on purpose. Graduated college. Married Jeff. Had a kid. Flew on a plane, saw the ocean, went to a foreign country (Canada counts!). Had my writing published and paid for! Got to write for Pajiba. Own our own home. Created a fabulous financial plan.

Goals Remaining: Pay off truck (5 months), Student loans (15 months) and house (10 years). Run a 10K. Run at least one race every year. Maintain a home my daughter can be proud to have friends come to. Be financially comfortable enough that we can do a little traveling with Hannah. Do some pen-and-ink published freelance writing. Stop worrying about what other people think. Make more friends. Be more outgoing.
Stop dwelling on things.

Reflections: Since meeting Jeff my life has been a series of adventures I could never have imagined and that now I can't imagine missing.

Hannah is everything i ever could have wanted in a child. She's smart, funny and kind. I hope she grows up to be everything she wants to be and more.

My life is very fulfilling and content. All I have to do is let it be.