Tour’s Books Blog

November 11, 2012

Sandy Was Here, Voting, and a Few Reviews

Yup, I live in the Northeast in Bruce Springsteen’s home state, but away from the coast.  Our ‘sand’ here is on the beaches by one of our lakes, if at all.  But living in a rural area has it’s pluses and minuses.  I can stay in touch with the world on my chat boards where we have members from the UK, Norway, the US, Australia and more, just on out one little thread.  On my book swapping site, it’s US only and lot of us live in what the Weather Channel is fond of calling ‘The Megalopolis’.  Well, Sandy was like something from one of their ‘It Could Happen Tomorrow’  episodes.

We were lucky here.  We lost power in my complex, except for a few units in a bizarre pattern.  I kept mine and was clueless about the fact that 80%+ of my neighbors were without.   The pump on the well switched to a generator which lasted (thank-you so much) for the 8 days it took to restore power.  I lost phone, internet, and TV – right in the middle of Monday Night Football.  (insert loud scream) As I said, I was lucky.  I was also bored.  Turned out, you kind of get sick of watching movies.  Then I watched episodes of Magnum PI on my laptop and played computer games. ………….. And I read.  Yup, I know you’re shocked.  Typical week I read 4-6 books.  In 6 days I read 11 books.  And one thing I did NOT miss – political ads.

For many days, my news came via my brother who lives up in Western Massachusetts.  It wasn’t till Friday that I really sat down with my neighbor and learned what happened locally.  I thought we’d done OK, but the town is still without water and power – and that means no heat in some VERY cold temperatures – in many area.  Schools were closed all week (no heat, water, or lights).  Over a week later some people still weren’t getting mail delivery because their streets are blocked with downed trees and wires as crews from all over the country came into the state to help.  But Tuesday the sun was shining, the sky a cloudless blue, and folks flocked to the polls in town to vote.

Funny, it’s a right we take so lightly,often less than half of eligible voters actually bother to vote.  Did you know, in some countries it’s against the law to NOT vote?  You get fined.  And you better not do it twice.  I learned that from my Aussie friends on the chat board.  Here we have a right that people die for, and have our voters ignore it.  My mother, an American History teacher, must be turning in her grave.  If I learned nothing else, it was if you don’t vote, SHUT UP BECAUSE YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.  I voted.

Sandy was about the worst storm, including blizzards, that’s I’ve seen in my life.  I was inconvenienced, but warm, dry, and with plenty of food and electric, I had no real complaints.  It was sheer luck.  The roads were blocked by downed power lines and trees, so even though I had the good sense to fill my gas tank before the storm, I wisely stayed stayed off the roads and let the emergency crews do their work.  Good thing, because there was no gas available in town and we still have only one station open off and on.  Sunday my neighbor needed to pick up her daughter from the hospital about 20 miles away, but she was low on gas and rationing had started and she couldn’t buy more, so I drove her and her SIL down to pick up her daughter.  Lines at the open stations weren’t as bad as they had been, so the rationing was already helping – just not around here due to the continuing power outages.  It was my first look at the real mess in the area, and it wasn’t good, but already things were improving – except along the coast.

As a child, I went ‘down the shore’ at least once each summer.  I can remember sitting in the rocking chairs on the wide veranda of the Seaside Hotel in Ocean Grove where my grandmother would vacation, then walking down the boardwalk to Asbury Park and playing endless games of skeeball in an amusement building called ‘The Casino’.  It had those claw machines, a beautiful old carousel that I just loved, and my beloved skeeball.  On the way, we’d pass the place with the salt water taffy machine in the window.  It fascinated me to just watch it work.  (It still does.  LOL)  Years ago the Northend Hotel that marked the border between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park was leveled.  So was the Old Homestead Restaurant that sat on the pier at the edge of town.  The roller-coaster fell into ruin as Asbury Park went downhill in the 60’s.  Springsteen immortalized this slide with ‘My City of Ruins’ which became famous when he later sang it for the live 9-11 concert in Sept 2001.  One of his early album covers shows the Casino in the background as he leans on the boardwalk railing with beach and sea behind him.

But the Jersey shore lived on, and prospered and eventually even Asbury Park came back somewhat, though it’s now a very different town.  Others, like Ocean Grove seemed almost unchanged.  Spring Lake, a beautiful, and very wealthy community, was had hit hard.  Like many other places it played home to an array of historic homes 100 years old give or take a few years, built when folks fled the heat of cities for the cooling shore breezes.  Houses with wide covered porches with awnings where you could sit and enjoy the breeze off the Atlantic.  Atlantic City morphed into a casino mecca – and not the harmless nickle kids games I played, but gambling casinos.  I’ve never been in one.

Once my internet was back and I saw the photos of communities on Long Beach Island, towns line Seaside Heights and Breezy Point in Brooklyn, the extent of the damage really registered.  Yes, North Jersey is a mess, and towns along the river suffered greatly, but seeing whole towns wiped out was sobering.  I have always believed that a certain amount of good natured whining is allowed – snow storms (heaven knows we get plenty of those), things like the Halloween Storm of 1991 (AKA The Perfect Storm), Hurricane Donna in 1960, and others have come our way.  Life goes on, but many lives change forever – and some, tragically, end.  Nature isn’t kind, and never was.  Not since Katrina had I seen this kind of devastation, and even though Sandy was a MUCH weaker storm, it hit the most populous part of the US.  And that could change history, in more ways than one.

With Election Day just a week after Sandy, folks were still in shock in the hard hit areas.  There were a lot of lives in ruins out there, homes gone forever, irreplaceable family photos washed away or lost to fire.  People left with nothing, not even a roof over their head.  Voting for them was a test of will, and act of sheer determination.  All these people left in dark by Sandy voted on paper ballots by flashlight.  I’ll give Gov Christie this, he has done all he can to give the affected folks a way to vote.  Regardless of the outcome will be, I strongly believe we should always participate in state and national elections.  On this Veteran’s Day, it’s the best way to give thanks to the men and women who sacrificed so much for freedoms, especially our right to vote.  Thank a Vet today.  The price of freedom is paid in blood.

Now, this is a book blog, so allow me to get to a few book reviews.

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones – A- (4.5*) This installment of the highly original Charley Davidson series missed a A for one reason, suddenly Reyes was willing to share a lot of information about where Charley came from and her history before being born as Charlotte Davidson.  It was just too pat and too easy.

The story opens with Charley suffering PTSD from the assault and torture she suffered by the supposedly dead Earl Walker, Reye’s step-father and childhood tormentor – and the man he was in prison for supposedly killing.  Now Walker is really dead, Reye’s is free and hates her, her father had her arrested, supposedly for her own protection, and they’re not speaking.   Being betrayed by Reyes, her father, and tortured by a man supposedly dead has left her with a serious case of agoraphobia, and no office, so it’s not like she has anywhere to go anyway.  So insane purchases from TV shopping networks fill her day – and her apartment, until a case comes to her door.

Charley has another problem.  There are a series of bank robberies and even though the robbers wear masks, there’s something so familiar about them!  A young woman comes to her with a bizarre story of being stalked and terrorized – something that’s been happening since she was a girl of 5 and he father remarried.  Dragging her sorry butt outside is a special hell, but Charley starts to investigate – and finds another step-mother from Hell, like her own.

Charley also decides to give Reyes a bill for all the work she did to get him free – $1 million.  Reyes sister claims he has $50 million, he says he broke and he’s doing cage fights – but they’re more than that.  Demons are taking over humans – special humans.  Humans that can ‘see’ – demons can steal their bodies and Reyes is killing them to kill the demons.  It’s Charlie they want.

As always, Ms Jones spins a lively, very readable story.  Reyes suddenly revealing a lot of information about Charlie and where she came from, her cosmic history – well, that was annoying to have a data dump like that.  Why had he with held it all so long?  Was the sole purpose for the sudden openness to lay the groundwork for future books?  Not sure I bought the whole thing, and it kept the book from an A rating.

Is Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet worth  $14-16 at discount?  Kindle is $11.99.  Well, it is an excellent read in the series, so for any series followers, the answer is yes.  Otherwise, give it some time and pick it up used or at the library.  At 320 pages, it was a quick and easy read and a bit short for the price.

Popped Off by Jeffery Allen is the second book in a stay at home dad mystery series.  Deuce is a soccer dad to his wife’s ambitious attorney.  When the entire treasury of his daughter’s soccer league is stolen, along with all the trophies the girls will get, he gets dragged into looking for their errant league president.  Using his association with a dwarf PI (politically incorrect humor got childish at times and made Deuce seem petty and mean), Deuce finds a cousin in a gambling casino – who also embezzled money.

Unraveling the trail for money, illegal gambling, and enterprising sonority sisters selling smuggled Viagra on campus to horny undergrads is amusing, but shallow.  I really enjoyed parts and parts were a turn off – especially the whole sex thing with his angry wife, which was weird and creepy.  The story was only half believable.   The solution forgone.

Is Popped Off worth $7.99?  Nope.   At C- (2.75*), I’m glad got my copy for free through a book swapping site and it has since moved on to a new home.  A very lightweight read that is amusing for the most part, but has many annoying sections.

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker, his 5th book in the Bruno, Chief of Police French countryside mystery series, finds the author once again weaving history, both ancient and recent, with modern murders and potential terrorism.  It’s spring in St Denis and Bruno finds himself embroiled in something more serious than a PETA member letting ducks loose, though he’d like that resolved with a minimum of fuss.  A representative from Spain’s anti-terrorist group is there because a Spanish and French minister will be signing new agreements at the local castle and Bruno finds himself being assigned as the local defense expert.

As with all of Martin’s books, there are many sub-plots.  Bruno’s sometimes lover and local B&B owner, Pamela, is back in Scotland with her semi-estranged mother in the hospital with a serious stroke.  His former lover is the leader of the security detail for French Intelligence Service and the attraction is as strong as ever, an old friend has made an historic discovery of a prehistoric burial at a local excavation, while one of the professor’s students finds a much more recent burial – a body dating back to Spain’s ‘Dirty War’ against the Basques and other groups, many of whom were assassinated in the south of France.

The author immerses the reader in village life and the unique pace of daily living in rural France, a life that is being eroded away, but traditions still clung to by in villages throughout France.  Part history lesson, part slice of life, and fully entertaining, with well planned plot and a writing style that is descriptive, atmospheric, and evocative without going over the top, The Crowded Grave was an excellent read.

Is The Crowded Grave worth $14 or so at discount?  I bought a like new copy thru an Amazon reseller for $11 with shipping.  Loved it and thought it worth every penny.  So try for a well priced used book or wait on the paperback, which will take awhile  as it was just published in the US in July.  There is a notation in the front that this edition differs from the UK edition and earlier publications.  No idea how the text had changed.  My grade is B+ (4.2*) Recommend for mystery readers who enjoy enjoy Colin Cotterill and Tony Hillerman.  They do not have to be read in order, though it helps a bit, it isn’t essential to following the plot.

Black Lament by Christina Henry is Book 4 in the Black Wings series.  One of the more original series in the crowded paranormal/UF market, Christina Henry created a unique character in Maddy Black, who got married, pregnant and widowed in in the last few chapters of Book 3 to her love – Gabriel.  Book 4 picks up immediately after Gabriel’s death.  Maddy might be Lucifer’s granddaughter – many generation removed – but it was her father Azazel, Lucifer’s rebellious son who killed Gabriel.  Now Maddy will return the favor and kill him if she can.

Maddy needs protection now that she’s pregnant with Lucifer’s many great-grandson’s and Azazel is still after her.  Of all people to send her for protection, Lucifer sends Nathaniel.  He’d betrayed her, tried to rape her, generally followed every order that Azazel gave, but he fled Azazel’s court and Lucifer is making his protecting Maddy his act of atonement.  Needless to say, he’s not exactly welcome.  Then attacks start happening.  Attacks that smack of Fey.

Angry at Maddy for killing Queen Amarantha.  Even though the queen broke Fairies own laws, Oberon and Titania want payback.  SO Maddy decides to take the fight to them.   Actually, that all she does in this book, is fight.  First the Fey, then her father Azazel, and finally her own Agency – which suddenly seems not so impartial and benign as it did.

The book felt like 3 short stories strung together linked only by threats to Maddy and her unborn child.  She seemed almost a different person, suddenly very violent and powerful.  The interesting supporting characters that made the stories feel complete were little more than walk on parts here.  Filled with action, but no character or soul.

Black Lament gets a C (3*) rating for it’s lack of heart, an important element in the previous books.  Is it worth $7.99?  Not really.  I got mine on the 4-for-3 plan from Amazon, so I paid $5.99 and read it in a few hours.  Like all her books, it’s fairly short.  It was also a very quick and easy read, since it lacked depth and complexity.  It is, however, important if you plan to continue the series, so try to buy a cheap used copy.  This is a series that needs to be read in order to make sense.  The earlier books are better.

Tart by Lauren Dane is one of her loosely related contemporary erotic romances.  Set on Bainbridge Island Washington State, this installment has Juliet ‘Jules’ Lamprey running her bakery and sharing space with her friend and caterer Mary while they get ready for the wedding of their close friend Gillian.  They decide to incorporate local produce and other ingredients whenever possible, so Jules heads out to see an elderly widower who runs and farm and meets up with his grandson, a former high school crush, Gideon Cater.

Gideon came back to Bainbridge after successfully starting and running a ranch with his former brother-in-law.  His divorce made it impossible to stay on the land, so he sold his share and knocked around the world for a few years.  His grandmother’s death and yearning to get back to the land brought his home.  Jules was a major bonus.

Cal Whaley was his best friend in high school and is now the local lawyer.  Cal swings both ways, but is a serial monogamist.  Jules has had a major crush on him since they were kids, but she and Gideon get together and she has no intention of letting Cal get in the middle.

As you can imagine, Cal and Gideon get together with each other and with Jules.  Lots of m/m sex, m/f sex, and various combinations of m/f/m sex held together by a fairly slim plot.  Of it’s type, well written, even if the characters lacked originality.  I could have written the dialogue in my head.  Dane is a favorite of mine, but I find her contemporary books rather short on plot and long on trite and predictable.

Best part – the friendship between the women.  The least believable, the easy way everyone, except Jules brother Ethan,  accepts the triad.  My grade for Tart is C+ (3.5*) – though it gets 4.5* on Amazon, so it’s a matter of personal taste.  Is it worth about $10.00?  No.  Just not enough substance, but if you want a hot contemporary read, it’s a good choice.

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