Tour’s Books Blog

April 23, 2013

A Book Addict Cleans Out and Some Short Reviews

There is a price to pay when you have a book buying habit – periodically, you must sort them out and get rid of them.  This is usually something I do once a year, but in 2011 I broke my wrist and even after therapy, it remains weak, then last year I was running between doctors and oral surgeons all the time and just didn’t care.  Well I had to care when the chimney came due for cleaning and the stacks of books blocked access.  So the epic began.  Sorting and packing books to be given away.

I have a very civic minded neighbor that works at a food pantry one day a week and though not especially religious, donates to various church rummage sales and FOL sales in various towns.  So she takes EVERYTHING!  Now I admit, the majority of the books are hard cover, and 99% are like new, so she gets quality books, even in the paperbacks – trade and mass market.  I had a huge stack that filled her trunk and some left over.  The next week I gave her more, then more and now I have 5 large boxes for her (the kind that holds about 12 reams of copy paper) ready and hopefully the last, except for a few cases of MMPB’s.  I cleaned out older books from the ‘keeper’ shelves and replaced them with new stuff and stacked masses of TBR then donated in front.  I resorted and reboxed all the swap books I had already read, shipped more to various PBS friends and generally ‘de-booked’ the place.  To say it was overdue is vast understatement.  I was ready for a starring role on HOARDERS.  I had visions of my brother cursing my dead body and ordering a second dumpster for all the junk.  Now, while certainly not yet ‘clean’ the place actually has space.  Empty space.  Room.

The best part, my neighbor is delighted to be able to share all my cast-off books and keeps asking if I have more and drops empty boxes at my door for me to fill.  Well, my shoulders and wrists are very unhappy, but I kept filling them and supplying them and everyone who loves books comes looking the day’s ‘catch’.  In return, I get space.  Now we all know that space will get taken up by more books, but for right now, I’ll just admire it and plot clearing out the mmpb’s next.

I decline to discuss the stacks of TBR that are piled over 2 feet high around my antique trunk.  They go nowhere till I read them and the vast majority are wish listed on PBS.  Still, in the middle of this massive undertaking – and yes, the chimney was cleaned by a very nice young man with no fear heights (unlike me) – I had two large deliveries from Amazon of new released and the first delivery from Books-a-Million (BAM).  And books from various PBS swaps.  My post office loves me.  Oh yes, I also managed to win a reading contest.  Though I didn’t read as many books as usual, I qualified in both Mystery and Paranormal.  What did I win?  Why a $10 gift certificate from Amazon for …… MORE BOOKS!  Walt Longmire and I have 2 dates this week.  heheheheheheheh

So, all you ebook readers, go ahead and gloat.  You’ll never have to get dirty and do the heavy lifting – but you’ll also never have the pleasure of re-homing books to those who might not be able to afford them.  Libraries are strapped for cash, so maybe they will help in a small way there, and with the folks at the food pantry can find a little entertainment for free.  If some church makes a little money, fine by me.

So here are some short reviews of books that got read toward the end of the contest that lasted about 5 weeks.  And most seemed destined to annoy me one way or another.

wolf with benefits 9780758265227_p0_v1_s260x420

Shelly Laurenston brings us her latest ‘Pride’ series installment Wolf With Benefits featuring the middle brother in the ‘Reed Boys’ Ricky Lee Reed.  His two brothers, Reece Lee Reed and Rory Lee Reed have played supporting roles in her other books, but Ricky Lee Reed hasn’t so his kicking this off was a bit of a surprise.  And the female lead in the 28 year old daughter of renowned violinist, jackal, and best friend of Irene Conridge Van Holtz (When He was Bad), Jackie Jean-Louis Parker.

Basically, thanks to the skills she developed handing demanding prodigies, her younger brothers and sisters, Toni lucks into a job with the Carnivores and ends up getting sent to Siberia to negotiate a contract with the Russian bears.  Ricky Lee Reed is sent to act as her security and Barinov, a bear-tiger hybrid born in Chicago is their ground help.  Ricky Lee gets Novikov to handle the scheduling for the three middle children who are complete narcissists – and some of the most annoying, charmless characters Laurenston every created.  Now all this takes up 70% of the book thanks to the half dozen side stories going on.

While many characters from the current series show up here, Dee Ann Smith, Jess Ward Smith, Ulrich Van Holtz, Bo ‘ The Maurauder’ Novikov, Blayne,  Cella Malone, and others, Laurenston also added several interesting new characters – the most fascinating of whom is Olivia – a honey badger, a photographer and Toni’s best friend.  Now she was a classic Laurenston female.

I did enjoy the book, even read it twice, and there were some wonderful moments, but the romance part was very weak and the overall lack of a straight forward story line made it something of a jumbled mess. Unfortunately, the self-centered whining of the demands of Toni’s younger brothers and sisters, and her mother Jackie’s careless assumption that Toni would take care of them, was source of serious irritation.  Then the ‘romance’ didn’t get off the ground until the last 20% of the book.  Way too much time was spent on the setup trying to give Toni some character.  The end result was a plot that’s unfocused till the end.  A large part of this was due to Laurenston’s efforts to make her Toni character seem more than she is,  and she still came off weak.  Easy going Ricky Lee Reed was fine, but the lack of the usual strong female lead may have been the author’s problem in getting this book to gel.  She kept bringing in the strong females from other books to make up for it, and that went down way to many plot dead ends.

Wolf With Benefits had its moments, but overall, was a below average effort by Laurenston.  My grade is C (3*) and a recommendation that only series die hards pay for the book.  My copy was $8.38 on Amazon way back in July 2012.  That was all it was worth.  Get it used or from the library.



Kitty Rocks the House is another example of a story line that took a turn that didn’t work for me.  Kitty is back in Denver and she and husband Ben are looking for a house, one that will work for her pack.  But Kitty seems unsure of so much through this book, her issues with selecting a house became be a metaphor for her life, which seemed adrift.  You cannot go to London and issue a ringing call to arms against the Dux Valorem and come home and be a virtual doormat to a new wolf of suspicious character, and allow Cormac and his resident spirit to wreck havoc.  On top of that, Rick suddenly seems more like a priest than a Master vampire.  One becomes a Master only with a certain level of ruthless cunning that’s suddenly absent.  He gets involved with his catholic roots instead.  Now there’s an irony for you.

A Catholic priest seeks out Kitty to gain an introduction to Rick.  The priest is himself a vampire and is part of a sect within the church engaged in a battle of which ‘The Long Game’ is part.  He wants Rick on his team.  I have to tell you, religious angst and vampires are not a good mix and this spirit in Cormac has way too much control and is getting obnoxious.  The Cormac we knew is basically gone.  Ben is little better than bit player – again, and Kitty, a supposed Alpha, is as strong as a limp noodle, showing none of the leadership qualities she’s showed before.  Waffling and uncertain, she seems like a candidate for Beta, or maybe an Omega wolf.

I honestly don’t know where Carrie Vaughn is taking this series, and after these last three books, I’m not sure I care.  Kitty Rocks the House did not live up to its title and certainly made me wonder why I continue to waste time and money on this series.  My score is D+ to C- (2.5*) and a strong suggestion you wait for used bookstore to have copies, or get a loaner.  It is not worth the price.  My copy was $5.99 on the now defunct Amazon 4-for-3 program.



Ella Barrick is a pen name for author Laura DiSilvero.  This third books in the series had huge promise, folding in a plot of a TV dance show featuring B-list celebrities.  But dedicating time to the show, while hoping it would bring in more customers, also causes problems with her regular classes.  But all of that seems minor with the show’s co-creator and producer gets murdered.

Stacy Graysin is struggling to make a go of her dance studio and figures the exposure on a national TV show will boost her profile.  That is until her Argentine business partner informs her, the aunt from whom she inherited the beautiful Alexandria brownstone failed to pay her property taxes for some years, leaving her with a tax bill of over $100,000.  Anatoly, her gay Russian dance partner in professional competitions, is a reluctant participant in the show and ends up with towering black female ‘action’ star ex-con and martial arts expert has his partner.  She gets a has been child star trying to jump start his career and mommy issues.  When the female half of the production team is murdered, the show goes on, but Stacy gets involved asking questions.

Here’s the rub.  All cozies rely on an amateur being nosy about a death.  Recent books in the genre take this trait to absurd lengths.  In the earlier books, it seemed within reason, but approaching drug dealers and asking questions?  hummmmm  No, that doesn’t work for me.  Not her best work.  (I keep saying that.  Am I getting picky or the plots really getting irritating?)

Anyway, The Homicide Hustle gets a C+ (3.3*) from me and a ‘buy only if it’s a deal and you love the series’ recommendation   I got it new from Amazon for $5.99 and that was all it was worth.  Truthfully, MORE than it was worth.


Going Going Ganache 9780425252079_p0_v1_s260x420

This must be the month when series lead characters self-destruct.  Jenn McKinlay’s cupcake series has been one of the most reliable – until Going, Going, Ganache.  It starts out strongly with partners Mel and Angie posing for pictures for Southwest Style magazine – a real coup for their business.  Arch rival Olivia spoils things for them and a cupcake free-for-all ensues.  Super rich magazine owner Ian Hannigan demands recompense in the form of ‘team building exercises’ – Mel and Angie will teach his people how to make cupcakes which will then be sold at a charity event.  Even Ian himself shows up!


After a rough first day with the group, things get better – until Mel finds one of her students dead out behind her bakery.  The mystery part of this book worked well, as it usually does.  But two things spoiled the whole book – and possibly the series for me.  Mel became a walking cliche when she breaks up with sort-of fiance because she has some kind of childhood hang up?  Seriously?  The woman is 30-something and even recognizes her issue and STILL breaks with Angie’s oldest brother? This isn’t going to wreck her relationship with her best friend?  And Detective Mendoza is a good guy, but he’s chasing a woman already in a serious relationship?  And best bud and silent partner is suddenly incommunicado?  To be worthy of Angie he must ‘make it on his own’ and not as part of the business his father built to worthy of her?  OMG – is this an episode of Jerry Springer?

For all it’s good points, the over use of a female lead who can’t decide between 2 different guys has become the most overworked cliche in modern cozies and I blame Janet Evonavich and her endless Ranger-Steph-Morelli plot line.  Come on, is there no originality out there?  That’s the damn default setting?  Triangles?  GAH!  Talk about stepping in it!

The vast majority of Going, Going, Ganache is a solid B (4*), told with Ms McKinley’s usual verve and fast pacing.  It all gets spoiled by Mel’s self-induced psycho-drama, the early onset mid-life crisis, and the whole stupid done-to-death budding love triangle.  That dropped the book to a C- (2.8*).  It also put the series on Code Red.  One more excursion into this ridiculous teenage angst in your 30’s and it will be toast.



Books play a big part of my life, but even when I want to beat an author over the head for huge misstep, it’s nothing compared to real life.  Never was that more apparent than on 9-11, and in a reminder drama played out in Boston last week.  It is a sad day when once again innocent bystanders are maimed and killed by people who can only express themselves in crudest possible way – by attacking, not those responsible for their perceived plight (whatever that was), but by going after people who did nothing but come to see loved ones race.

Most of us are children of immigrants.  Some further back, some more recent.  My grandparents were all born in Europe and came here quite legally.  My late sister-in-law was English and the only member of her family to come to the US.   We all know and work with people who have come to the US in hopes of finding a better life.  An Albanian friend, now a naturalized American citizen, and a Muslim, is horrified by these things.  He watched his own country torn apart by religious strife and is forever grateful that he and his family could come here and prosper.  As a father of 3 young daughters, how does he explain this?

Then a plant explodes in Texas and ricin laced letters get sent to a senator and the president.  An MIT policeman is shot and a city goes into lockdown.  It was a week of shock upon shock.

Every day, people behave like idiots.  They do amazingly stupid things.  Text and drive, drink and drive, get into rages over minor things.  Some struggle to survive, others prey on the weak.  And some plant bombs.  And everyday, people run TOWARD an explosion to help.  Volunteer firemen walk into burning buildings looking for survivors, only to become a causality.   As fast as well meaning people set up funds to help victims of the tragedies,  so do the con men.  Two sides, the best and the worst of humanity.  It can be discouraging.

Patton Oswalt offered this surprisingly astute observation – “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”  To the good out there – live well, and they lose every time.  To the victims of both disasters and their families – my heartfelt condolences and most sincere hope that your lives will normalize and you can continue to see the good in people.

April 3, 2013

Books on Order – and not from Amazon

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 5:48 pm
Tags: ,

It was inevitable – carved into Amazon’s ‘catch me if can’ pricing game.  I am slowly beginning to move orders from Amazon to BAM (Books-a-Million).  Along with my $20 membership fee – which means free shipping – I got $10 off on any order of $50 or more.  I did what any sane person would do and moved books from Amazon pre-order to BAM.  Then I got a $20 off coupon for $100 or more order and did it again!  This time, mostly pre-order hardcover books and trade paperback.  Today BAM had a 4 hour flash sale with ALL MMPB’s at 30% off.  Yup, two MORE paperbacks moved from Amazon to BAM!

What does this mean?  It means that I have become an aggressive comparison shopper for my books.  Before, the convenience of Amazon’s system, with the 4-for-3 program might not have been the BEST deal, but it was easy to keep everything in one place and make sure I at least got a GOOD deal.  Now, they drive me nuts with their pricing games.  I ordered 3 books on Amazon:

1 of: One Lucky Vampire: An Argeneau Novel, Lynsay Sands  PRICE: $4.98
1 of: Hunter’s Heart: An Alpha Pack Novel, J.D. Tyler PRICE: $4.69
1 of: The Vampire With the Dragon Tattoo, Kerrelyn Sparks PRICE: $4.88

Look at those 3 books on Amazon today and all are $7.99.  Next week they might be $7.19 or $6.88 or some damn thing.  That order stays with Amazon.  But other books, well, what can I say.  I’m getting better pricing on BAM’s site.  Todays books averaged below $5.60, which is less than the 4-for-3 pricing at Amazon.  Normally, it wouldn’t be enough, but with the looming addition of sales tax and the lower price at BAM, the playing field has not just leveled off, it’s tipped to BAM on mass market.

For hardcover and trade paperbacks, Amazon remains very competitive, usually a few cents cheaper or more, not enough to bother about.  But mass markets?  Now that is a different story.  I haven’t been with BAM long enough to know how well they treat customers, but it couldn’t be much worse than Amazon’s horrifying maze of overseas ‘help center’ personnel.  Plus, I can easily drive to the local store and get things fixed fast.  And not with a guy calling himself ‘Alice’.

There is NO question that Amazon had the BEST search feature, the best ‘recommended books’ links, and the best site layout. All huge pluses.  But getting customers annoyed?  Bad decision.  I go to Amazon, use all their resources – then shop the best price – which is sometimes Amazon, and sometimes not.  A year ago I could not have imagined myself doing this.  Now, it’s like Amazon challenged me, and I’ve taken up the challenge and started looking at pricing.  And why not?  “The Most Customer-centric” company in the world, isn’t anymore.  So if Amazon wants to play games with its customers, I’ll play – and screw customer loyalty, something they had for years.  Phffffit!  Gone.

For that $20 a year, I get the same free shipping Amazon offers and the same ‘ship to arrive by release date’ service.  And since Amazon moved to FedEx Smartpost, well, that’s another advantage they gave up.  BAM uses it, so what’s the difference?  Again, the advantage was theirs and Amazon gave it up.

I’m certain my little personal war has zero impact on a company like Amazon, but it reminds me of the Ebay hubris that has been their undoing.  A place that I hunted and bid and bought from for years and I barely visit the website.  Why?  The smaller players on which Ebay built its business got screwed.  Well, guess what, they screwed the buyers too because they drove away the very sellers I usually bought from., their used book site, is about the only place I bother with.  Again and again, companies, especially tech based ones, lose sight of what customers want.  And slowly, the business morphs into something the original people who made the company a success leave.  I’ve seen this with other online sites – Trip Advisor being one.

In 2004 I took a trip to Costa Rica with a friend and her 2 teen daughters (now college graduates and working).  I used Trip Advisor and its forums to help me find hotels and restaurants and places to see.  The content was driven by travelers, not chamber of commerce or travel companies.  Now – Trip Advisor is owned by the same folks who own and Expedia.  It’s chock full of advertising, has Traveler Articles that have been rewritten till all those little warning that are so damn helpful have gone.  Now restaurants, small businesses, and B&B’s BUY reviews to get their ratings up.  And TA’s vaunted algorithm that supposedly detects these fake reviews, fails.  It’s so rampant, you can’t come CLOSE to relying on them.  Now a competitor is starting up with VERIFIED reviews, like Amazon’s ‘Verified purchase’ logo, where there is PROOF the person stayed or ate or visited the attraction!  Chowhound and Yelp! give them some competition, but like Amazon, they remain the big dog on the block.  It’s like those Harriet Klauser reviews on Amazon, don’t believe it unless you can see a pattern of long use by the reviewer.  And ‘one and done’ should be ignored – and allow me to just say, I am a former Destination Expert so I feel I can speak to these issues.  And I’m ‘former’ because of the rampant commercialism.  And the site moderators are not only capacious and arbitrary, but dumb as a stump too – and I think I just insulted the stump.

All things change and nothing changes quite like internet based businesses.  They come, they dominate, they dwindle.  Amazon hasn’t meet a real contender, but then I’m sure Microsoft believed they never would either.  So did Yahoo.  Amazon will change, and keep changing, until, like Ebay, one day they look around and realize a big chunk of their core business and the customers it brought in are gone, baby, gone.  The moment you send customers looking for cheaper alternatives, you’ve lost.  Ask Barnes and Nobel.  Ask Borders.  Oh, wait, Borders Books is gone and B&N is closing stores all over the place.  But BAM, now they can laugh all the way to the bank with what USED to be Amazon’s money!

Blog at