January Thaw by Jess Lourey

January ThawMira James is still reeling from the events of December Dread when she discovers yet another dead body — this one under the frozen lake the whole town has gathered around for Winter Wonderland festivities.  Does this death have anything to do with the recent gang activity in the area?  Does it have something to do with a crime that happened in the area shortly after the Civil War?  Or, does it have to do with something else entirely?

As much as I love this series, this book fell a little short for me.  Just a little and it may be in part because December Dread was so GOOD.  It felt like there was too much going on this time — to begin with, the Bad Brad storyline didn’t do anything for me.  It was mildly funny, yes, but he’s not an interesting character; I would much rather see Mira spend more time with Sid and Nancy, or even Jed.  And, after loving Mrs. Berns in DD, I wasn’t as fond of her this time around.  Surprisingly, I did like Kennie and Gary Wohnt.  Finally, there were a couple of incidents that seemed like they should mean SOMETHING, but if they did, we didn’t discover the meaning.

Those are minor quibbles though.  There were two major things that I didn’t like.  I hate it when characters leave cryptic “in case anything bad happens to me” messages.  It doesn’t ring true.  If I thought something bad was going to happen to me, I can tell you right now that there are several people who would know exactly what they needed to know, no sleuthing required.  I also hate storylines in which the girl sees her guy with another woman, jumps to conclusions, which of course are WRONG because her guy is a GOOD guy and they don’t cheat.  There are many reasons I hate this storyline but for the sake of brevity we’ll just stick with it’s overdone.

That said, there were several things I did like about this trip to Battle Lake.  As always, Lourey creates a strong sense of place.  I like the new museum opening in town, the connection of the present with the past, AND the possibility of a ghost.  I loved the interactions between Mira and Curtis and I mostly enjoyed the banter between Mira and Wohnt.  Mostly.  Mira did seem a little too oblivious to the situation, but that’s okay, I guess — it’s taken me several books to see him as the character he’s become too.

Recommended!

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Books in Brief

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I am hopelessly behind with book reviews.  I just finished January Thaw by Jess Lourey and will post a review soon.  Until then, here’s a brief look at some novels I’ve read over the past few months.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  Most descriptions credit this as the first “sensation” novel.  Scandal, blackmail, wrongful imprisonment, hopeless love, greed, assumed identities, and second chances are all somehow connected to a mysterious woman in white.  Highly recommended for a weekend–it’s a thick book and you won’t want to put it down.

Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich.  Stephanie is still torn between Morelli and Ranger, Lula leaves food out for a giraffe she’s convinced is wandering the burg, and another car gets blown up.  Still not nearly as good as the earliest books in the series but better than the last few.  I stopped purchasing this series long ago but I can’t quite stop reading it.  Yet.  I keep hoping that Evanovich will yank the series back into shape and end it on a high note.  Yes, I’m an optimist.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley.  Nicola Marter holds master’s degrees in Russian studies and art history; what most people do not know is that she also has the ability to see past events when she touches things. When a woman comes into the gallery with a small carved bird, Nicola has a vision of the Empress Catherine giving it to a young woman named Anna. With no documented provenance though, the carving is worthless to collectors.  Nicola reunites with someone from her past, someone who shares her unique abilities, in the hopes of finding documentation for the object.  Standard Kearsley:  romance, historic detail, and a touch of the paranormal.  Recommended.

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta.  In the midst of the Great Depression, Arlen Wagner works in the Civilian Conservation Corps.  He works hard and drinks hard to keep himself grounded in the real world.  Wagner is a haunted by two things: fear of seeing smoke curl out of someone’s eyes and fear of becoming his father.  Koryta is a master of spooky and he also does a great job with mystery.  Highly recommended.

Chill Rain in January by L.R. Wright.  One of Sechelt’s spunky elderly residents snuck away from the nursing home, probably in search of a martini, and she’s nowhere to be found.  Just down the street, a man takes a fatal tumble down the stairs while visiting one of the town’s newest residents.  The two storylines come together in a chilling way.  Another atmospheric, compelling Why Did They Do It mystery by Wright.  Highly recommended.

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Send cute, financially stable, emotionally mature men right over

Adventures and Misadventures in Online Dating

Find My Date

Aware of my recent misadventures in online dating, a friend gave me a birthday card with the following verse:  Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Cute, Financially Stable, Emotionally Mature Men Right Over.  That’s not too much to ask for, right?  Are all of the “good ones” truly taken?

I suspect that there are plenty of good ones available — meeting them is the trick.  It would be nice to meet someone during the regular course of my day but that doesn’t happen often.  So, like many others, I’ve turned to online dating.  At various times I’ve tried Match, Ok Cupid, and Plenty of Fish.  I like Match because it has a good reputation and I think that the questions it asks can give you a fair idea of your compatibility with someone.  That’s assuming the person who has captured your attention has taken the time to answer those questions thoughtfully and honestly — but more on that later.  I like Ok Cupid because it’s free to post a profile and to communicate with other people on the site; I also like the Questions section.  Based on how your answers match up, when you view someone else’s profile the site gives you three ratings:  your Match percentage, your Friend percentage, and your Enemy percentage.  If you’re curious to see where you agree and where you disagree, you can click on the tab marked The Two of Us and scroll through the questions this person has answered publicly.  If you disagree on too many issues, the tab marked The Two of Us reads instead Y’all Got Issues.  I love a sense of humor!  As far as Plenty of Fish, it’s free and a lot of people use it.  More about the individual sites in follow-up posts though — first things first — is online dating as amazing as the commercials make it seem?

While I know several people who have met their partners via online dating, I also know several who have not.  I think that the advantages of online dating are also its disadvantages.  On the one hand, it’s super-easy to look for a potential date:  a basic search will likely give you a list of dozens, if not hundreds, of people in your town who are also looking for a date.  You can narrow your search to focus on those qualities most important to you, maybe has a cat or doesn’t have cats but likes them.   (I have two cats.  It’s not likely that I would get along well with someone who thinks they are minions of evil.  So, yes, this is part of my search criteria.)  It’s relatively easy to highlight your interests and what you’re looking for in the About Me sections that all of the sites invariably have; you just have to know what’s important to you and, hopefully, how to convey it well!  (More on this later)

The downside of this is that it’s also super-easy to look at someone’s profile, see that their idea of a fantastic Friday night is playing Dungeons & Dragons, and move on to the next profile.  I imagine that a lot of us are wondering why it’s so hard when we’re partially to blame.  I know I am — I caught myself doing it the other day.  I was on Ok Cupid,  I saw that someone had viewed my profile and curious, I clicked on his.  We live in the same town, he’s slightly older than I am, he’s a teacher, and we share several common interests.  I really liked what he wrote in his About Me section.  Based on how we answered the same questions, Ok Cupid ranks us 89% Match, 80% Friends, 10% Enemy.  Intriguing, right?  And then I clicked on the questions portion of his profile to see where we differed.  One of the questions he chose to answer publicly was “Should Creationism be taught in the schools alongside Evolution?”  He said yes, I said no — but is this necessarily a deal-breaker?  On another question, we both answered that it was “very important” to be able to agree to disagree.  Neither of us wants to have children so how big of an issue would this really be for us?  After all, it is quite possible that I have friends who disagree with me on the Creationism in Schools angle but it’s not an issue between us because we don’t make it one.  How many guys have I ruled out far too quickly because of something that seems like a major difference but may not be something we’d ever have to deal with?  How many guys have ruled me out for a similar reason?

What do you think, folks?

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A Tale of Two Kitties: It’s a Festivus Miracle!

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For Parts 1, 2 & 3 of A Tale of Two Kitties, click here.

Ten months after first bringing Pippin into my home, she and Sadie are touching noses and occasionally even sitting on my lap at the same time (see middle pic above).   Yay!  They’re not BFFs yet but I think they’ll get there eventually.  They are comfortable with each other and sometimes try to play together.  Sometimes.  Pippin shows off ninja-cat moves that seem to bewilder Sadie.  Chasing, Sadie gets.  Taking turns attacking string, Sadie gets.  Franken-Cat moves, Sadie does not get.  She promptly sits down, turns those big green eyes my way, and gives me a look like “What is wrong with Pippin?”

Sadie also likes to tattle on Pippin.  In the evenings when I’m sitting on the sofa, Sadie is usually on my lap.  I can always tell when Pippin is being naughty by Sadie’s posture.  I usually don’t hear Pippin jump up on the kitchen counter but Sadie does — she’ll sit up suddenly and glance from me to the kitchen and back to me again.  So, I move Sadie to the side, get up, and walk towards the kitchen, at which point Pippin sees me coming and jumps down from the counter.  Siblings, right?

The two are generally good about sharing.  They both sleep on my bed; when I’m on the sofa, Sadie usually sits on my lap and Pippin usually sits beside me.  Pippin does get a little possessive about their S-shaped scratchy things.  I can always tell when Pippin is annoyed with Sadie because she makes a beeline for Sadie’s scratchy-thing and scratches like there’s no tomorrow, casting looks at Sadie the whole time.  And Sadie is just as likely to return attitude with attitude; she’ll then make a beeline for Pippin’s scratchy-thing and scratch away.  Pippin usually wins the scratch-off; typically, as soon as Sadie makes her move, Pippin chases her and the contest is over.

one of the coveted scratchy things

one of the coveted scratchy things

Last week, I put up the Christmas Tree aka Sadie’s Favorite Toy Ever.  It has a noticeable cat dent from years of Sadie resting on its branches.  Sadie is just as enthralled with it as ever; Pippin is less impressed.  As it has yet to be toppled a week after I first put it up, I think I’ll actually decorate it this weekend.  Non-breakable ornaments only though — once things are dangling from the branches, Pippin may become more interested in checking it out.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

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Long absence

Do I still have readers?  Has it really been three months since I last posted?  Yikes.  I’m still reading, I’m still watching Once Upon a Time, but I have let Dancing With the Stars fall by the wayside.  I’ve also been giving online dating another try.  Sadie-Cat and Pippin-Cat have reached the stage in their relationship where they touch noses.  Stayed tuned for the details . . .

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Garden of the Moon by Elizabeth Sinclair

Garden of the MoonPublisher’s Book Summary:  When Sara Wade inherits her paternal grandmother’s plantation, Harrogate, her mother encourages her to go — despite the fact that it’s unheard of for a single woman to live alone in 1850 — because she doesn’t want to explain Sara’s embarrassing ability to see ghosts to her friends. Fed up with being offered on the marriage market to less-than-desirable suitors, Sara couldn’t be happier to move to the old plantation house for which she has always had a special, if inexplicable, affinity. Not until she arrives at Harrogate does she realise that the house holds more than her freedom; it also holds her destiny with a ghost who loved her in another lifetime and is determined to win her back. But all is not benevolent peace at Harrogate. Another ghost resides there who is just as determined to keep the lovers apart, even if it means killing Sara.

I love a good ghost story so I was really hoping to like this book.  Sigh.  Several things turned me off — one, slavery is uncomfortable to read about, but I know that it happened, so I forced myself to power through this part of the story.  What made this harder was that the portrayals of slaves seemed stereotypical.  I also hated that our protagonist patted herself on the back for being such a good slave-owner but sadly there were probably many real slave-owners who did so.  I also hated that she thought of doing something nice for her slave but got all absorbed by her crush on a ghost and let that thought fall by the wayside.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Focusing on the ghost story, the first thing that annoyed me was the fact that the grandmother’s ghost could appear, could converse, could warn Sara about the evil in the house but the little ball of light she was attached to wouldn’t let her share specifics.  Except for the time that Granny apparently got frustrated with Sara’s lack of progress and sent her a note — a note! — about a letter.  Eyeroll.  If you’re going to have a ghost in the story and the ghost knows important things and can effectively communicate with the person he/she needs to warn, then I need a much better reason for why specifics can’t be shared than  “the little ball of light won’t let me tell you” or “you have to discover that on your own, my girl”.

And then there’s Sara’s love interest, a handsome yet cryptic ghost who pops up at convenient times, is capable of making love to the protagonist, and yet doesn’t seem to be able to share helpful information.  Apparently men’s libidos get in the way, even in the afterlife.  Fan-tastic.

I could go on and on but I won’t — it’s time to move on and read something else.

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The Last Word by Lisa Lutz

The Last WordMemo To All Spellman Employees: Pants are mandatory. Footwear is encouraged.  Signed, The Management

If that memo isn’t enough to convince you to pick up the latest book in the Spellman series, I don’t know what will.  Maybe this.  Ever since Izzy staged a hostile takeover of her family’s PI business, she’s been all about the memos — and her parents are all about defying them.  Forget Reality TV — the Spellmans are lovable even at their most dysfunctional times.  The shenanigans at Spellman Investigations are the least of Izzy’s troubles, however.  New to looking after the company’s books, Izzy doesn’t notice when large amounts of money are mysteriously transferred into the business account — she’s just happy that she’s not bouncing checks.  By the time this activity comes to her attention, embezzling charges seem imminent.  She needs to figure out who’s behind the transfers.  And what’s going on with her parents, aside of their rebellious behavior at the office.  And why Demetrius, her least-troublesome Spellman employee, is lying to her.

I certainly hope this isn’t the last word for the Spellmans because I LOVE this series!  What I find amazing about Lisa Lutz is that she can maintain the humorous tone of this series even when addressing tough topics — and she doesn’t shy away from tough topics.

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