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.

Five Things I Think You Should Know About

1. Yes, it's a good housecleaning website, but it's so much more than that! I ignore most of the tips now, but what made it worthwhile was developing routines and a plan to managing my life. My house is now never more than 20-30 minutes away from company clean and I have the right amount of stuff for my house.

2.  A TV watching website that I am completely certain is legal. Big Love, Dexter, etc are all up the next day. Good quality stuff.

3. A movie review website with some of the weirdest and most original commenters I've come across. The reviews are smart, not pandering and there's enough stuff to keep you entertained for days. Also, the Big Love reviews are phenomenal.

4. Using SparkPeople for fitness and food monitoring I dropped 40lbs in 9 months. Now I use it to check in. It's got everything; workout tips, fitness and nutrition articles, member blogs, forums, groups for different lifestyles and a multitude of other great features.

5. Best personal finance website I've read, hands down. JD is the owner and the main writer, but there's a few staff members on board now. The topics aren't just boring mutual funds and savings accounts, it's often real questions with real answers you can use. The commenters are fairly knowledgeable and there's a great feature called 'Reader Questions' where the commenters give you their best personal finance advice. If you can't find something useful there, you're not looking.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #8 – Over Her Dead Body by Kate White

This is book number four of the Bailey Weggins crime series, book two of which was reviewed in my last CBR3 review. The outline is the same, smart sleuth Bailey finds herself in any number of improbable scenarios, yet comes out on top. On principle, these books shouldn't be good. And they aren't, exactly. They aren't literary classics, but each book has an interesting twist on the mystery and/or Bailey's life that brings a new spark to a familiar formula.

In this outing, our intrepid heroine has found a new writing gig at Buzz magazine, a scandal rag. The insider knowledge of the magazine industry is the unique angle this series takes and it's a pretty good one. As Bailey meets the staff and figures things out, so do the readers, which is a good way to keep a fourth book interesting. Bailey meets the requisite ragtag team of reporters and her new boss, Mona Hodges, who, despite the similar moniker, wishes she was half the woman Meryl Streep's Miranda Hodges was. She's mean and petty and soon, dead. Bailey stumbles across the body and decides that she must figure out who did it, as she hates to work with possible murders.

This book is less about the mystery than the magazine landscape and the murderer is easily guessed, and it's not a well-thought out mystery. Everyone is a suspect for no apparent reason, people do suspicious things for no reason, people jump to completely illogical conclusions for no reason. It's saving grace is that the writing is sharp and the story is entertaining and funny.

I live in a small town, so the whole idea of stumbling over a dead body every few weeks or so is a little unbelievable to me. Bailey takes it awfully well, and if she gets to a point where she's creating those bodies, it would definitely move this series to a whole new level.

Rating: No a re-read, but worth a glance. In the series, book three in the series is my favorite.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #7 – A Body to Die For by Kate White

Kate White, who is the editor-in-chief of Cosmo, writes a series of 'cozies' (chick-lit mysteries) about Bailey Weggins, an amateur sleuth who works in the magazine business. A Body to Die For is the second in the series, but in this style of series, it doesn't really matter where you start. There's always a few identifying paragraphs to get you up to speed.

Bailey works for Gloss magazine, a Cosmo knock-off. She's a freelancer, with what sounds like an amazing contract. She also stumbles across dead bodies. A lot. Enough to where you think people would be a little concerned. Since Bailey is a true crime writer (of course she is), she obviously needs to investigate the murders she comes across, because it's not like we have people who are trained to do that very thing. Oh, wait.

She basically gets in the way, pisses people off, snoops in places she shouldn't and jumps to conclusions constantly. Normally this would be too much to take in a series, but Kate White's writing sells it. Yeah, Bailey is forceful and not nearly as clever as she gives herself credit for, but she's also witty, sarcastic and fun. She's an interesting person and she does interesting things. The secondary characters are never fully fleshed out, but serve as set pieces to set up Bailey's next move, like many other serials. However, a few characters move through the series with her, her boss at Gloss, Cat Jones, who is delightfully bitchy and her neighbor Landon, who is a delightfully spry gay man who cooks a mean dinner.

This mystery brings Bailey to the spa owned by a family friend. After Bailey arrives, a masseuse is murdered. Naturally. Bailey stays on at the spa to try and help figure out what's happening, so the business doesn't go under. The mystery isn't anything overly clever and the writer is clearly going for the twist ending that isn't so much of a twist as an ending that comes out of no where and makes no sense. Fortunately, Bailey's just cool enough that you're glad she doesn't die and it sets up enough of an end to make the next one look appealing as well.

Rating: Good for a beach read or a stormy night. It's not Dickens, but it's not Twilight, either.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #6 – Matched by Ally Condie

Matched started with the concept of a new world where everything is perfect and there is not choice but perfection. It's a well-traveled idea, yet in the right hands a new world can take shape, such as in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. Unfortunately, while Matched is an interestiing idea and the beginning of the book starts with promise, the scope of the book is shallow and poorly executed.

Matched is a Young Adult novel, starting with the theme of love. Only in Society, you are Matched with your intended at a Matching ceremony where you receive a picture and get to eat decedent food that is chosen for flavor rather than nutritional value. Cassia is Matched to her best friend and neighbor, a surprising choice, but obviously the right one, as Society does not make mistakes. However, Cassia also sees another face on her Matchcard when she goes to view her Match card and Cassia seeks him out.

The novel tries to explore broad themes of what we are left with if things like poetry, art and music are regulated and chosen for us, but ultimately it is supposed to be a love story about a rebellious young woman. The story starts off drawing an intriguing place, but the story itself overshadows the characters, when the story tells us what the characters feel and why, rather than showing natural emotions and decisions of the characters. The love story rings hollow, because it's hard to see what specialness these characters hold for each other. The book shows a bleak, automated, grey society and that greyness permeates the story more than it should.

Rating: A good story idea, but it lacks vividness and realness.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #5 – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Book 5:
Author: Suzanne Collins
Read: January 3, 2011

Mockingjay is the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy, which could have been narrowed down to two books with a decent editor. While the second installment was repetitive and didn't fully realize the feeling of revolution that permeated the Districts, this book is much sharper and stronger, though the first book is easily the strongest.

When we meet again our heroine Katniss, she's just been broken out of the arena from her second Hunger Games and she's being spirited off to District 13, the fabled land that no one really thought existed. As it were, District 13 is composed of a vast underground complex that allows for food, weapons and living quarters. District 13 has developed a regimented way of life that can only exist with hardword and sacrifice, nothing new to the refugees from District 12. Katniss is not a willing Mockingjay at first, working through layers of scars and wounds that are both physical and mental. Her anguish over seeing so much destruction and death weighs her down and gives her a painful reluctance to make the smallest connection with people. Seeing her drawn out by another Hunger Games survivor, Finnick, is both touching and tragic.

As our rebels delve deeper into District 13, they must learn the culture, adjust to being forced into a routine and live underground. The prose is sparse, but worded carefully, much like District 13 itself. The comparison between the false freedom of the capital with it's regulated 'choices' and District 13 with it's restricted freedoms is powerful.

The second half with Katniss becoming more involved in the war effort felt more forced. When Katniss moves into a more hands-on status as a soldier in the war, there is little of her feelings about what she is taking on, more of her being directed and moved. The spark that made her on fire seemed only an ember. Katniss couldn't sustain the mentality of a soldier or the show the discipline that she was expected to have as it pertained to her recovery, let alone a war effort. For the first half of the book she did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted, but it was a stretch that she suddenly could make herself functional to kill more people.

Gale was another problem for me. If her was supposed to be Katniss' soulmate, it failed miserably in execution. He was arrogant and dismissive and almost a caricature of a pro-war person. Peeta, on the other hand, became more interesting in this book by far. Any time he was at odds with Katniss, I felt like it was real emotion. I thought he made her a stronger, better person and Gale drew her down into the selfish person she feared she was.

Rating: A decent ending, although it felt rushed in places and less thought-out than The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games easily stands alone, but the other two books do add some nice details to the story.

*SPOILER* My least favorite thing in this book was the casual way that deaths were handed, especially deaths that would have had real consequences and would have had effects on many people besides Katniss. I felt like they were given a few lines and it brushed past it, almost as if it was more of for shock rather than a plot necessity. Because really, President Snow was evil enough. Killing kids wasn't necessary to make him more evil.


TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #4 – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I read Catching Fire about a week after reading The Hunger Games and it definitely colored how I reacted it. The plot in this book seemed a little weaker and frankly, somewhat redundant. I'm going to do my best to avoid spoilers, although I think that this book really added very little to the overall narrative of the trillogy.

So Katniss and Petra made it out of the games and now they are ensconced in the Victor's Villiage in District 12. Both of the familes have relocated and Katniss is coming to terms with no longer needing to provide everything for her family and with the nightmares that follow her participation in the hunger games.

I found myself wanting more description of Katniss coming home and putting her life back together. We don't get to see her return to her family and her district, which seems more pronounced, given the description of the Victory Tour and Katniss and Peetra reacting to the families of the fallen Tributes, which was beautifully written and quite touching. The allusions to the rebellion that brews underneath the surface are subtle and well played. I found much more interest in Peeta as a character this time around. I feel like he was given more depth, which served his arc well.

This book needed more time with Gale. Gale and Katniss can see each other more now and have some weak sexual tension. For her part, Katniss doesn't really seem that interested in Gale OR Peetra, save for liking them enough not want to see them dead. And hey, sometimes that's enough. I feel like Gale was the weakest of the characters. I understand his motivations and drive because of his past, but the character never expresses anything solid, making the reader piece together the emotional conflicts.

I felt that some of this book was really a revisit to the previous book and had me less interested. There were so many ways that this book could go and I feel like it took the easiest way to get to the next book. I was honestly a bit disappointed.

Rating: Not as satisfying as The Hunger Games, but an interesting read. Comparatively, The Hunger Games took one day to read, this took three.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #3 – Obsession by Karen Robards

I've never read Karen Robards before. I kind of assumed she was a Danielle Steel kind of writer. You know, girl meets boy, girl and boy fall for each other until some embarrassing plot point drives them apart, boy and girl get back together in a predictable way.

I was pretty close. Just toss in a contrived mystery and you've got the formula.

Now, formulas exist for a reason. They generally work. This one really wasn't terrible as books go, but it there was no heart to it, and no real voice. Our protagonist is Katherine, who lives a normal life until she is the victim of and break and enter where her friend is killed. While she's in the hospital, she doesn't recognize her face or her clothing. Interesting, right? Aren't you going, oooh? Then she meets a doctor, who seems familiar but she can't place him and all her instincts say to run away from her boyfriend Congressman and her life. So she does. She goes on the run with the doctor and for awhile it's entertaining. It gives enough detail to make you wonder where it's going, but soon you can see where it's going and it's not that great. The ending is predictable and the 'twist' ending isn't really. It's surprising in the fact that you saw it coming and then thought, 'No, that would be stupid'. And it was.

It could have been a stronger book with better writing. The characters are bland, don't really do anything interesting and the protagonist never really gets past mild anxiety after being repeatedly shot at, chased and run down. Shock doesn't really translate well to a novel, especially one that's not strongly written.

Rating: The best way to tell if it was good it to see how long of a review it gets. This is one that can be skipped.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #2 - Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of short stories by Stephen King, who is the most prolific retired writer ever. I feel like King does better with short stories. At this point in his career, his editor seems to have trouble telling King when he's been too wordy or too folksy, and he's often both. When he gets into a short story, he seems to have a much better internal editor. On top of that, he seems to be much better at finding the end point to his stories, rather than abruptly stopping or wandering off point to find his way back twenty pages later.

The first story is “1922”. It's your basic man marries wife, has kid, murders wife, gets haunted. It's the perfect setting for King's sayings he's always dragging into his EW column, which are annoying as all get out unless they are well-set into a story. Fortunately, it works well here. The story evokes the rural setting and the desperation of a man in a hard life that's never going to get easier. It's an easy read, not unforgettable, but a nice way to spend some time. He does give the main character the middle name of Leland, which was the name of the evil proprietor in Needful Things, which is my all time favorite King novel. Just an FYI.

The second story, “Big Driver”, is a bit different than the usual supernatural horror. This is about the real horror of a woman attacked and left or dead and what it does to her in the aftermath. It's hard to describe without delving into spoilers, but it is very raw and surprising. King does a nice job with female characters and this story feels real.

"Fair Extension” was an interesting concept that I think hits the mark. A man makes a deal to extend his life at the consequence of a man he hates, who is also his best friend. It's an exploration in jealousy, revenge, betrayal and the idea of getting what we deserve. Can we ever really be happy for someone we love who seems to have so much more than we do?

"A Good Marriage" was my favorite story. It's a simple story of when a wife discovers that he husband of nearly thirty years has a side she's never known about. It's well done and the discoveries are grisly and believable. It's more about what the wife discovers about herself rather than her husband. I was a little hesitant to sleep by my husband that night. Really, what do I know about that guy?

Rating: Fine stories, but not King's best. Also, read Needful Things. Trust me.

CBR 3: Review #1: The Hunger Games

Book 1:
The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Read: December 19, 2010

I've actually been avoiding reading The Hunger Games for a few months now. I'm one of those people who when everyone says 'Oh my god, this book is so good, you have to read it!', I avoid reading it. Maybe I have too high of expectations and I don't want to be let down. Or find out that the people I consider friends have horrible taste. It was a poor decision this time, because The Hunger Games was phenomenal.

I'm a big believer in reading books from different genres and for different age-groups and audiences. I've read some great and some terrible Young Adult novels. The Hunger Games is written well, the language is concise, but descriptive. The world that our heroine Katliss lives in is vivid, but it's not so wordy that you get lost in the description and lose the plot. The first thirty or so pages were so bleak that I almost gave up on it. I wasn't really up for a book about starving children forced into gladiator combat with no hope of survival. After the reaping, the book really picks up. The story is that our world collapses and it is redrawn into 12 Districts. Every year each district draws two tributes (kids) that compete in a fight to the death call The Hunger Games, that is televised. It's has all the glorification (and sponsors) of our Olympics. The Hunger Games are to remind the people of the country of how lucky they are to live their meager lives without the Capital making it worse. It sounds goofy and ridiculous and in the hands of a less author it would be. Collins infuses the material with life and fleshes out details of characters and setting that make everything overwhelming with emotion and realism.

The preparation for the games and the look into how the Society works is fascinating and well-drawn out. Everything seems futuristic, but not to a point where it is too unbelievable for the story. The characters are interesting and they are developed well, for the most part. I enjoyed the fact that Katniss wasn't romantic about the past or the future, that she was practical, resourceful and cold. It's just how someone who had to scrape together meager amounts of food for her family to subsist on would be. Her sister Prim was just as sketch of a character, but she is more a part of Katniss than an actual person to the story. Peetra, the baker's son and Katniss' fellow tribute from District 12, is written as one of the few good characters and without the moments of rebellion or anger, it would feel forced, but it doesn't. The romantic point of plot isn't overly forced, though I felt that Gale, Katniss' hunting partner in District 12 needed to be given more time if he was going to work as a potential partner for Katniss.

Overall the setting is inventive, the characters are real and resourceful and the plot and pacing are clever and quick. Don't let the YA stamp fool you. Read this book.

Rating: A must read.

Cannonball Read 3

Okay, so I write the occasional Big Love review for the website Pajiba and every year they have a book read and review contest called the Cannonball Read. I joined up this year, so I'm going to be posting my reviews here and on the CBR3 blog. Which means there will be actual posts here. Awesome!