Saturday, February 28, 2009

Continuing the Theme

Now that I'm not reviewing a new book every other day, I've sort of lost my sense of purpose on the blog. Now that my next post isn't already planned, it's like I can't remember what I used to post about. (I know, I know, I just dangled a preposition. Tough.) The result will likely be some stream of consciousness posts.

My current reading is the latest in the Lois McMaster Bujold The Sharing Knife series. I'm enjoying it and it's buzzing along pretty quickly. I'm sure I'll finish it today. I have, as anyone who knows me can tell you, a to-be-read stack of mammoth proportions, so finding something else to read is not a problem.

I am feeling some pressure due to the 2009 Reading Challenge to start a biography. I have one on Mary Todd Lincoln which I'm about half way through--which I could finish. I carefully set up the rules of the reading challenge so that book started but not completed could be grandfathered in for credit. (Heh heh. That was devious I admit because I knew I had the Lincoln book out there and a book on Robert E. Lee which is also half finished----oh yeah, and a book on George Washington which is half finished.) I bet my discerning readers will have noticed a pattern in my reading habits. I'm not wildly fond of biographies that end up being dry and boring. Give me real life, passion, conflict, and the behind the scenes stuff.

The big plan for the weekend is to finally complete some chores that have been hanging over my head. Finish my tax returns. Mail some packages to family. Clean the house. Buy new kitchen knives with Judy's Solo Strong award money. Oh yeah--and DON'T MESS UP MY BACK again. I feel pretty strongly about that last one. One thing you can be sure of--in the narcissistic world that is my blog---I'm be telling you about it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This n That

I finished the last of the J. D. Robb's, Salvation in Death, over the weekend right before my back went kerplunk. As a result, I wasn't in shape to write up a review. (I know, Betsy, you don't like the reviews anyway.) I had made a habit of writing up the latest review before starting the next book because I didn't want to get confused about story lines and what happened in what book. Unfortunately, then the latest J. D. Robb, Promises in Death, came out and I couldn't wait to read it. Since I've already read it, I now don't want to write the review of Salvation. Actually, I don't want to write a review of Promises either. I'm kinda sick of writing reviews of In Death books. So, I'll just say that Promises ROCKED! I cried buckets. There. That oughta do it. After reading so many In Death's in a row, I have to say the brief hiatus between the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth books felt strange--like something was missing. If I get desperate to re-enter Eve and Roarke's world, I'll probably haul out the four or five novellas. But for now--finis.

Projecting

Today is Meeting Thursday--that is---the one day of the week I have all my parent meetings. As any member of my team can tell you--I don't always handle this day with grace and equanimity. I don't wig out quite like I used to, thank the good Lord above! Today, I have four meetings. We'll see how my cracker-jack back holds up having to sit that long. I'm going to wheel my good chair into the conference room. You laugh--but chair choice is key when you have a defective back.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Robin-World


It is a running joke among my friends and at my workplace that I rule Robin-World. In fact, in Robin-World, I am both QUEEN and President. I really should get to wear a tiara ALL the time. In this world, everything happens as I wish. For example, my meetings are never changed without my express consent. (This law gets violated quite often, I may have to increase the fine.) Another law of the land, is that in any meeting I attend, the presenter does NOT read the powerpoint to me. I believe that if all you have to say is what is written on the powerpoint you haven't got sufficient information to impart for a meeting. Newsflash--I know how to read--send out a memo. On the other hand, if you've got a powerpoint crammed with everything you want to say so that the text is too tiny to read, then you've obviously never learned how to do bullet points. Edit yourself. See? In Robin-World, all opinions have a point any way that you look at it. In Robin-World, by the way, doughnuts are the healthiest food imaginable and there is no limit on how many you can eat in a day.

I take a lot of crap about Robin-World. Some of my friends seem to think it is narcisstic of me to think I am the center of the universe. I beg differ. I do NOT think I am the center of THE universe. I am just the center of MY universe. See? Robin-World. Duh. Let's get down to brass tacks, doesn't everyone really think about themselves ALL the time? Secretly? I just have the guts to admit it. Now that I ponder it, I'm quite admirable. In fact, I'm so special I deserve some kind of award. Yeah--that's it, an award. Robin-World's Queen and President needs to start an Honor's List and then deserving persons (ME!) could be Knighted. Then I'd be Queen, President, and Dame Robin of Robin-World.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Strangers In Death

Strangers in Death is J. D. Robb’s take-off on the movie “Strangers on a Train”. Eve and Peabody are assigned investigate the murder of a man who seems to be universally liked. He has no enemies. At first glance, his wife appears to be completely in the clear because she was in the Caribbean when the murder occurred in New York. Eve, however, becomes convinced that the wife is guilty and eventually uncovers the how of it all.

For the first time in this book, we get a sense of the fact that Eve is actually the head of the homicide division—the ranking officer under Commander Whitney. There is no equivalent to Captain Feeney—the head of the EDD division—so I’m surprised I haven’t wondered who has been running homicide before now. I don’t know how the duties are split between Commander Whitney and Eve, though, because Eve has never seemed to have any duties in this regard before this book.

Our old friend Detective Baxter and his faithful sidekick, Trueheart have been investigating a murder for more than two months and still have no real evidence or clues to lead them to the murderer. Baxter asks Eve (as his supervisor) to take a look at his murder book and the lines of investigation that he has followed to see if fresh eyes on the case can help break it open. Since getting this case, Baxter has been given and solved six or seven other cases. In fact, he has multiple open cases right now, which he is juggling. (I have to mention that just because it is what Eve used to have to do too, early in the series--but never seems to have to do anymore.)

Conveniently, while running a list of names looking for a possible conspirator in her murder, Eve sees the name of the wife of the victim in Baxter’s murder and puts the pieces together. Wife 1 murdered Husband 2 and vice versa.

This was a good book—with no high highs or low lows. It was a solidly interesting mystery. When the wife finally got nailed for the murder it was very satisfying. (The second conspirator is an abused wife who was just a sad woman. I felt badly that her children would be essentially orphaned.)

The fun personal part of the book was that Louise and Charles got engaged. Charles decided to change careers and will now be a sex therapist. He bought a big house and he’s ready to settle down. Now maybe Eve won’t show up at his house at 10:00 o’clock in the evening in order to question him because one of his gazillion clients has some connection or involvement in a murder. Hasn’t she ever heard of business hours? I give the book a solid four out of five stars—a good, solid book—not a great one.

Coffee Love

Personally, I blame Mike.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creation In Death

Creation in Death , the twenty-fifth book in the series, is a race against time. Through-out the book the reader is aware of the ticking of the clock, metaphorically speaking. It's a much easier read the second time since I knew the fate of the final victim already. I didn't have to spend my emotional energy worrying. Warning! This story is gruesome with some seriously graphic scenes of torture. Personally, I skip them. (I am happy to own the title wimp.)

The story in a nutshell--a whack job is abducting women. He tortures them and then kills them. When he arranges for their bodies to be found, he leaves the hours, minutes, and seconds that they lasted on their bodies. I didn't inquire to closely into how exactly he left this information--again, I have a very low tolerance for ick.

It turns out this serial killer, "The Groom" has previously killed women in New York. Nine years earlier, Feeney and Dallas worked the case as partners but were unsuccessful in stopping him. In this book, Feeney passes the leadership of the task force to Eve, when they realize The Groom has returned to New York. Although he clearly had some issues with giving up the leadership position since they have a big fight when she fails to give him a heads up about some new information that comes in on the case. Feeney acts like a jerk--Eve acts like a whipped puppy--they make up the next day.

This time around, "The Groom" changes some of his previous patterns. For starters, he uses products made by Roarke's companies. He also abducts women who work for Roarke. At first it appears he is motivated by Roarke somehow. Eventually, it becomes clear that Eve is the motivation for his actions. He intends to make Eve the apex of his serial killer career. Hah. No chance of that--apparently he's never met Eve.

There's very little time for personal story lines in this book because the team works around the clock on trying to catch this nutcake. Mavis and Treena do get pulled into the story and briefly spend time at Eve and Roarke's because it turns out only Treena's tendency to change her hair color frequently kept her from being one of The Groom's victims.

This is a tough story because the suffering of the victims is pretty terrible. The team work themselves into exhaustion trying to save the women kidnapped. The ending, however, is a big pay off. Not only is the last woman saved--but Eve turns the tables on the murderer and we have a satisfying conclusion all around. I give the story five stars out of five.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Innocent in Death

Innocent in Death is J. D. Robb’s version of the bad seed. Remember, The Bad Seed? A movie originally from the 50’s which was pretty controversial in its time because the movie was about a little girl who was a murderer. In the very last scene in the movie—after she’d gotten away with murdering several people, including her mother, lightening came out of the sky and struck her dead. It was a shocking topic—child killers not being something that people in the 50’s were familiar with at all. In subsequent versions of the film, they took out the lightening strike at the end and just had the little girl getting away with it. I’m not sure how that was “better” than having God dispense the ultimate justice but, there you go---Hollywood has skewed sensibilities.

But I digress, (what else is new, right?) in this latest story—Eve is called to a school where a nice, young enthusiastic teacher has suddenly and unexplainably died. She quickly discerns that he has been poisoned with ricin. As one might expect, given the extremely ordinary nature of the victim, motive is tricky to figure out. Soon, another murder takes place at the school, and well, it gets very complicated. Suffice to say—Teacher A shouldn’t have given little sociopath Rayleen an A- on her project.

The big secondary story line of the book is the reappearance of a former love of Roarke’s. Eve immediately senses that this chick is different. She handles it all wrong—focusing on the possibility that this woman will tempt Roarke back into crime rather than admitting that she's afraid that Roarke will compare the two of them and regret marrying Eve. The conflict between them ebbs and flows through the book and wrecks Eve’s concentration and her ability to eat. She is one emotional ball o’angst.

Highlights of the book—Nadine’s new show “Now” debuts with Eve as the first interview. Summerset and Eve are definitely on the same page regarding the evil blast from the past. Eve has heart-to- hearts with Mira and new mother Mavis which are very tender. The final scene where Roarke’s eyes have been opened to how his former lover has hurt Eve and tried to hurt their relationship is pretty satisfying since he unleashes the “wrath of Roarke”. Love that phrase.

Lowlights of the book—um…uh….well, I guess if one feels the need to be really nit-picky they did spend a long time on a murder that was not necessarily high profile. Of course, having Eve investigate an ordinary murder makes a nice change but---well—I might have mentioned this before, but one at a time? Nobody else in homicide is just carrying one case at a time. When the series started Eve didn’t either. I mean, is she the equivalent to Brenda in The Closer (love love LOVE that show)? Because if she is, then, she should only be assigned high profile cases. Is she the equivalent to Eames and Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Because if she is, then, she should only be assigned high profile cases. THEN, it would be okay that she only carries one case at a time. Otherwise she really needs to be juggling more cases. And while I’m on this riff—what’s with never taking a day off or ending shift on time? Peabody is working the same hours as Eve and who’s approving all this overtime? Even if Eve can afford to give up the $, Peabody can’t. What about those pesky details of life? Laundry, groceries, cleaning the house—Eve has somebody to do all that for her now. Peabody doesn’t. Even access to real coffee and occasional good breakfasts doesn’t make it all roses being the partner of a workaholic.

Still—even the lowlights are minor compared to the pleasure of reading a series of books that extends into the dozens of volumes and is filled with a cast of characters I adore and enjoy spending time with whenever I open a book. I’m going to have some serious book withdrawal when I hit the last in the series so far. I give this book four and a half stars out of five. ;O)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Born in Death

Born in Death is a great book. It starts with a hilarious scene, Eve and Roarke at birthing class with Mavis and Leonardo and races to a fabulous finish. In the middle you can't read fast enough because you are so worried about the characters who are in jeopardy. I think it's because this is the Mavis-has-a-baby book and we all have an instinctive need (well, those of us who are normal) to make sure that expectant mothers and their babies are safe and well.


Eve pulls a murder which turns into a double homicide, then a triple homicide and ultimately, a kidnapping, baby-selling operation. The first murder is an accountant (a very nice woman) who discovers that someone is cooking the books. She tells her fiance. Murder follows. Then a cover-up murder.

In a seemingly unrelated crime, one of Mavis' pregnant friends goes missing--failing to show up for Mavis' baby shower. When Mavis turns those tear-filled, best friend eyes on Eve and asks her to personally investigate Tandy's disappearance--what can Eve do? Well, mostly not sleep for the next three days or so while working herself to a collapse. I was so tired on Eve's behalf, that by the end of the book, I had to take a nap.

What's great about the book? Eve dealing with a birthing class, baby gift shopping, the baby shower, Leonardo and Mavis getting married, and the birth of Mavis' baby. Best idea, ever? Getting Mavis a tiara. Next best thing about the book--Tandy and her baby are safe at the end of the book.

Not so great things about the book--the too convenient intersection of the triple murder and the baby mom disappearance. This isn't the first time Eve's had a couple of cases just happen to intersect so that she 's able to solve them. Cassandra, anyone? Second annoying thing--the Commander calling Eve into his office to say that there is concern that Roarke will access private client information taken into her custody as part of the accountant's murder investigation and use it to enrich himself. Is Roarke considered a criminal by the NYPSD or not? If he is, why do top police officials come to parties at his house? I don't think the real chief of police in New York is going to Christmas parties at John Gotti's house, for crying out loud. I'm pretty sure the real New York police department isn't hiring criminals as their "expert" consultants. I'm pretty sure real criminals can't get top secret Defense Department contracts to supplies computer and security systems. All of which is true of Roarke in this fictional world. So, to me, the continued use of Roarke being havey-cavey to keep Eve from a promotion, and to cause Eve to have ethical issues, is just annoying.

In spite of that, I still loved this book. I was well satisfied with the time spend on Mavis's baby and having the two babies at the end of the book being named after Eve was sweet too (Quentin Dallas, and Bella Eve). I give this book four and a half stars out of five.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

God Don't Play Second Fiddle



In addition to eating the same food over and over again, Judy and I also like to listen to the same song over and over again. Our latest favorite is God Don't Play Second Fiddle sung by the Gaither Vocal Band. It has a lotta words--frankly, you need about twenty listens in order to get all the words straight.

Five Guys Five Times a Week?


As people who read my twin Judy's blog may know, a Five Guys opened up close to our house in a much nicer part of town than the Five Guys we ordinarily frequent. Being lazy, this suited us to a T, and we were very happy. We bopped first chance on a Saturday and we actually ate in the restaurant (a very unusual occurrence for us). We liked it so much we probably would have gone back the next day but I had already gotten out hamburger for spaghetti. Since there are just two of us--we ate spaghetti the next two meals in a row. There's still some left over in the fridge, in fact, but I have issues with food after a certain number of days and I'M not eatin' it now.

Moving on, here, the result of this sequence of Five Guys, Spaghetti, Spaghetti, was that Tuesday was the next available slot for Five Guys. And so we went. We didn't eat in that time as it was after dark. (I don't like being out after dark. What can I say? I have many, many, many quirks.) This meal too was very good, but I was satisfied. I had no immediate plans to go back again for a little while.

I'm sure most people wouldn't have to even think about whether or not they wanted to eat in the same restaurant again, but Judy and I have inherited an odd quirk (hmm, that word is coming up a lot here) from our mother. We like eating the same thing over and over and over. I remember one month where we fixed the same meal (Chicken patties on a bun with french fries) twenty times. After we eat the same thing over and over like that. we don't always go back to that food again. For example, we don't have chicken patty sandwiches anymore, fyi. I don't know if we just saturate ourselves or what. This never seems to happen with donuts either, which again, could explain the size of my rear.

Anyway--I wasn't planning to go to Five Guys--but a funny thing happened on the way to the coliseum. Every week our friend Saba comes over for dinner. We eat dinner together and watch Real Housewives or Eli Stone or Pushing Daisies--before they cancelled the last two shows anyway. Wednesday evening, Saba called as she was leaving work to ask what was for dinner. I had to confess to her that I had no idea. Judy and I were planning a run to the grocery store to get something but Judy wasn't home yet. (She works late a lot. A LOT.) Saba was dee-lighted to hear this because she had a yen for a burger...and you guessed it, she volunteered to stop by Five Guys on her way home.

So that is how I ended up eating Five Guys three nights out of five. It is also the way that Judy discovered that she likes ketchup and mustard on a hotdog. Frankly, I can't believe that she's in her forties and has never had a hotdog with ketchup and mustard, but I'll let her blog about that.




Friendship Blog Award














My friend, Shirley very kindly included me among the eight blogs she passed on the Friendship Award to. Now the pressure is on me to pass it on to eight more blogs. Yikes. I'm not sure I've got eight more blogs that are "friendly" enough to pass it on to. (Two dangling prepositions...I oughta fix that but I'm too lazy.) I'll give it a try though.

1. Judy
2. Mr. Foot
3. Nina
4. Elaine
5. Elizabeth
6. Laura
7. Jen
8. Ann

I only know two of these bloggers personally, but I regularly visit all of them and I enjoy them.

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Memory in Death

Memory in Death by J. D. Robb is the twenty-second full length novel in the series. It continues the story of Eve and Roarke and we learn additional information about Eve’s history and what happened after Dallas. It is a Christmas time novel—and for once, we get to actually experience the holiday. If you will remember, last year’s Christmas story ended with Peabody’s attack by the Santa serial killer on Christmas Eve.

After Dallas, Eve went into the Child Protective Services system. She was placed in foster care with a woman named Trudy Lombard. Trudy shows up in New York in the wake of all the media coverage of the Icove case with the intention of blackmailing Eve and Roarke. Apparently, Trudy was an abusive nutcase with a bent against abused girls—she pretty much made Eve’s life a misery until she ran away.

Trudy shows up unannounced at the police station cooing love and “I’m your mama”. Eve doesn’t handle the first encounter with Trudy too well. It pretty much sends her into a familiar emotional meltdown. She races for home in a state of completely wierded-outness. She doesn’t connect all the dots right away as a result. Roarke, cynic that he is, recognizes right away that Trudy is looking to cash in on the connection. His encounter with Trudy was satisfying since he pretty much scared her silly before he sent her packing.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. Trudy is subsequently murdered and Eve and Roarke discover the body. Once again, Eve makes herself primary in an investigation in which she has a clear conflict of interest. It is quickly evident that Eve and Roarke couldn’t have killed Trudy since her TOD corresponds to when Eve and Roarke were having their big Christmas bash. Hey—that makes a change—a party where Eve doesn’t have to run out and save someone or interrogate someone or arrest someone. Woohoo! Eve proceeds to then pour department resources into what can only be described as a simple murder. She manages to get approval to have Baxter and Trueheart follow Trudy’s son and wife around New York. She has a rotation of uniforms on protection duty for two people about whom there is no evidence that they are even in any danger of being attacked. All this was with holiday overtime pay, too.

Eventually, our murderer is revealed to be another foster child who was abused by Trudy. A poor unfortunate who ended up a sociopath—there’s a slight implication that this is the result of abuse—but I offer in contradiction the millions of people who’ve been abused who don’t turn into conscience-less killers. Oh, the murderer is also Trudy’s daughter-in-law.

Highlights of the book include: Peabody and McNab have a big fight because they are going to visit McNab’s family in Scotland. Peabody is nervous they won’t like her. All is made better by receiving a Christmas present from Eve and Roarke—private shuttle to Scotland—mag car rental while in Scotland. Their make-up scene is both funny and sweet. Peabody wove a sweater for Eve and Roarke for their gifts. Even Eve appreciated that. Mavis checks in by phone after Christmas and that’s all we see of her but we do learn her baby is due around Valentine’s Day and that Eve and Roarke are going to have to begin taking classes to assist in the birth soon.

The best part of the book--Eve and Roarke actually spend Christmas together and we get to be there too. Remember the last book ended before Thanksgiving so we missed the whole visit from Roarke's family except for one scene. One book even ended right as Eve was walking down the aisle for their wedding--which I'm still aggravated about--holding a grudge here. So trust me when I say--it is unusual in an In Death book to get to enjoy time off with Eve and Roarke.

Memory is a good addition to the list of novels already written in the series. The love story between Eve and Roarke advances. Peabody and McNab's love story advances. Mira and Eve deepen their friendship, and we learn more about Eve's history after Dallas. Best book of the bunch? No. Enjoyable? Yes. I will rate this one with four out of five stars.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Puzzle Center


A few weeks ago I mentioned that Judy and I were arranging the various areas of our house to facilitate our hobbies. The den was designated as the puzzle place. After working for about three weeks we finally finished the Tea Party puzzle. (Still missing one piece, darn it.) We pulled out another puzzle but it had too much white and the pieces were tiny. We perused puzzles at Springbok's website. We found several we liked but I never got around to ordering them. We popped into Toys R Us and found some others that we thought would be good--only to discover that the art on the box was only a part of the bigger puzzle art, and the pieces are tiny. We forced ourselves to start it anyway. I hoped that maybe it would grow on us. I managed to finish the outline and a section of the bottom where there was a red stream. Then my back started hurting. I still have trouble sitting in a chair. (Makes writing reports at work rather difficult, I can tell you!) Puzzle work has been nonexistent for days and days. So, that poor puzzle is still spread out and waiting to achieve the ultimate aim (presumably) of all puzzles--getting put together. The thing is--an integral element of doing a puzzle is the challenge and pleasure of completing the picture. If you don't like the picture--what's the point? I guess I'm going to have to order the Springbok puzzles or head to the Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley to look for something we are interested in--or the "puzzle place" is going to close down and be re-purposed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Facebook Flair


This is what I love about Facebook Flair. There is an endless variety of these little buttons which perfectly express me and the situations in which I find myself. It is also a great way to annoy your friends on Facebook--so that's like a two-fer. ;O)

Red Light Foods

As a veteran of Weight Watchers (insert little trademark-thingy here) I have some familiarity with the terminology used to describe unhealthy eating behaviors. Like, oh, say "red light foods" would be one such term. It's a bit of an oxymoron, but a red light food is a food that you can't stop eating. There is no red light for you with this food. It's food that causes you to go out of control. For some people, potato chips are a red light food. It's easy to start dipping the ole hand into a bag of chips and just keep on eating without really knowing how many chips you are downing until you get to the bottom of the bag with all the annoying little teeny bits--you know the ones you eat by tipping the bag directly into your mouth. (C'mon, you know you do it!)


Anyway, for me, THE red light food is doughnuts. I love doughnuts. I adore doughnuts. If doughnuts were a guy--I woulda married him. I like most doughnuts, except, Krispy Kremes. Too icky sweet for me--which is almost impossible to believe--since they were made from the three most important food groups (sugar, flour, fat).


When I lived in Illinois, I used to start everyday with a diet coke with vanilla from Sonic and added a chocolate frosted doughnut from Casey's. I miss Casey's doughnuts. Every single kind was so good. :::Sigh::: Do skinny people feel sadness about not having access to their favorite foods?

Here in Maryland, I have to make do with Dunkin' Donuts. There are DDs EVERYWHERE. I live less than a block away from a Dunkin' Donuts and yet I hardly ever go. They've been feeling the pinch of less discretionary spending (I assume) because they keep having sales on doughnuts. So today, I hit DD before work to buy a half-dozen for three bucks...which turned into a dozen for six bucks. I got assorted but requested some chocolate frosted. They did me proud. There were three with chocolate frosting including a Boston Creme doughnut (my DD favorite).

My point (I'm getting there) is that I ate the Boston Cream doughnut in the morning. I had the second (chocolate frosted) for a dessert before lunch. I think I would have eaten more but for the fact that, well, peer pressure. Thank goodness humans have a built in need (generally) not to look like a total greedy-gus before co-workers. Okay...I did eat a half of a pink frosted one after school---I was able to restrain myself from eating the second half. That oughta count for something! I think I get why people eat in secret. Of course, if you find yourself eating in secret maybe you should consider that, that's a lot like secret drinking. Isn't that one of the warning sights of alcoholism--when you start drinking alone and in secret? I guess if I start chowing on doughnuts in secret I'll know I'm displaying signs of being a "doughnut-holic". Wait, wait--I think I'm already displaying signs of "doughnut-holism" just based on the size of my rear and my unnatural passion for doughnuts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Origin In Death

As the observant reader will note, my planned reading program has kind of gone by the way-side. I started the year out alternating between re-reading an old book and reading a new book. I have had to abandon my course however, because Judy is chasing me with the J. D. Robb re-reads. I don't want her to lap me so I've been forced to read just In Deaths for the last little while. I also just realized that a brand new J. D. Robb, Promises In Death is coming out February 24th and I want to have finished the complete re-read before it comes out. So, now I have to book it or the whole scheme will go down the drain. (Pun unintentional but funny, imo, just the same.) I need to read five more--which is very do-able. Interestingly, (also, to me) I am now in the books that I have only read once. They actually read faster than the familiar ones because I don't really remember them and I feel an urgency to see what happens next which keeps me reading.

The latest book review is on Origin In Death. Two prominent plastic surgeons, with the reputations of saints, are murdered and it seems like there is just no possible motive. Philanthropists, who are loved by everyone, and have spent their lifetimes helping people in need don't seem like the type of people to be killed by a professional. Fortunately, Eve is a cynical woman and she doesn't believe that people who seem so snowy white pure are really that snowy white and pure. Turns out they aren't. They've been helping to run an illegal cloning operation whose goal is a post-evolutionary superior breed of human. The operation amounts to little more than the manufacture of female slaves. The girls are brainwashed from birth and have no say in their futures. Girls who don't measure up to the standards of the creators are terminated--ruthless creeps, indeed.
Highlights--It's Thanksgiving time in New York and Roarke invites his Irish family over for the holiday. They also invite Nadine and date, Mavis and Leonardo, Louise and Charles, and Crack and his date. Peabody and McNab were invited, as were Feeney and family but they had other obligations on the day. Sadly, we don't really get to experience the holiday since the book ends on the Wednesday. Robb did the same thing with the wedding so I'm used to it by now. I don't like it, but I'm used to it.
Low-lights--well, the second murder victim Icove, Jr. has a wife who is a clone. Turns out Icove father and son, cloned three versions of Avril (the wife.) Plot-wise I don't know why the men did that except for the need to have Avril in more than one place at once to establish an alibi. Why would you need three wives? One had to live in Italy and one had to live in France, while the third got to spend her year in New York with the children the three women shared. What purpose the three wives served never made any sense to me. Also, apparently the Icoves and thei other guy in on the scheme were cloning themselves. They viewed it as living "forever". Uh, not to be argumentative--but that's not YOU living forever, dude--just someone who looks like you living on after you. Even assuming that 80% of personality is genetic, the clones/replica would still not be YOU because it would have different life experiences that couldn't be duplicated. If you think too hard about the whole thing it just kind of falls apart on you.
All in all. Origin was a good book. I whizzed through it in one day. The ending is pretty exciting, you know Eve and Roarke are going to survive but it's a bit tricky for a while there. I'll give it four and a half out of five stars.

Monday, February 09, 2009

2009 Book Challenge Update

The latest stats on my progress in the 2009 Book Challenge are:

Part One: 5 of 12 books read. (General Fiction)
Part Two: 0 of 12 books read. (Biographies)
Part Three: 6337 of 50,000 pages read.

I'm on track for general fiction and pages read, but I'm way behind in the biographies section.

Survivor in Death

I've been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to Survivor In Death. If you are the type of person who likes a cathartic cry--this book is for you. It is the best J. D. Robb written, in my opinion, because it has some powerful scenes which tear your heart out. I was sniveling and crying like you would not believe as a read it. I also ended up staying up way too late to finish it because I couldn't put it down. Don't forget--I have read it before and I still couldn't put it down.

The book opens as nine-year-old Nixie Swisher sneaks downstairs to drink an Orange Fizzy at two a.m. She sees a shadow and follows it only to see an assassin murder the family housekeeper. She's smart and she's got guts--so she doesn't make a sound and she is able to call 9-1-1. Then she does what any nine year old would do--she heads upstairs to her Mom and Dad. Only to discover they've been murdered too. Her brother and best friend are also dead.

As you can imagine telling the book from Nixie's perspective is heart-wrenching. In the course of events, Eve Dallas takes Nixie home with her. Nixie is counting on Eve to catch the men who did this to her family. Every time she sees Eve she asks her if she has caught them yet. No pressure.

As a secondary storyline we also have the problem of what to do with Nixie now that she's an orphan. Her best friend Linney was killed (sort of in her place) and now Linney's parents don't feel they can become Nixie's guardians. I was rooting for Eve and Roarke to just keep her. It seemed like a great solution to me because then Eve wouldn't have to actually give birth. I can't figure out how she can do that because she's always getting hurt in the line.

Pros--the book gets you by the throat. The scene where Nixie goes to the morgue to see her family will make anyone cry. She lays her head on her mother's chest and realizes there is no heartbeat. (Frankly, I'm tearing up again just thinking about it.) The character of Nixie is memorable. I wish Robb would find a way to let us know how she is doing.

This book has everyone we like in it: Mira, Morris, Baxter, Trueheart, Webster, Mavis, Peabody, Feeney, Nadine, McNab, Whitney--you name 'em--they're in there. Much of the story takes place at the mansion as Eve works out of the home office. We see lots of Summerset, who takes on the majority of Nixie's care. Mira is in and out as she counsels Nixie. Mavis visits Nixie as a treat. Yeah, the gangs all here.

The plot is tight. At first, you can't figure out what this average family could have done or been mixed up in that would have resulted in this heinous murder. In the end--it was believable to me. Revenge and sociopaths--whacha gonna do?

Hinky-bits--Nobody sleeps like they should--especially Eve. I get that Eve is trying to solve a bad one. For crying out loud, at least give the girl six hours a night. Working on three hours sleep again and again is counter-productive to your mental health, plus, it makes you grouchy.

Next, after two cops are killed in the line--Eve announces that every detective will be working the case in addition to their current caseload and all personal time and vacation time is cancelled. Then the next thing I know, Internal Affairs is at her house because of suspicion about all the OT. Huh? I thought all resources were being devoted to this? None of the non-team member cops ever seem to do anything to help the case either, so why say they'll help?

Finally, Robb really likes her Eve fighting with technology character trait. Used to be Eve's car was always a barely functioning piece of @&^* but two books ago she got a brand new ride. (After her car chase scene in this book, I'm not sure it is still in great condition.) She also got a new computer three books ago. Now it's mis-functioning. In fact, I think Robb might have forgotten that she gave Eve a new computer altogether.

Despite, my minor nit-picks, this book is the best of all the In Death books. Nixie is a great character and her story will make you weep. I give the book FIVE stars out of Five.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Australian Tragedy



Fires have been raging in Australia for the last six weeks. NASA took these pictures which show the smoke from the fires enveloping the region from space. Say a prayer for the families and friends of the 65 people who have been killed in the fires so far, and pray there are no more casualties. Say a prayer for the exhausted fire fighters still battling the blaze. I'm sorry to say that even though I spend a couple of hours daily on the computer--this is the first I've even heard of the fires. Is the American media egocentric or what?
**Update**
Since I posted this early this morning, the death toll has risen to 84 people.
***Update 2***
Now 108 people have lost their lives in the Australian fires.
***Update 3***
The death toll has risen to 131. The fire sites have now been declared crime scene because it appears the fire was intentionally set.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What if you see both?

funny pictures of cats with captions
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I think it means I am both old and immature.

Friday, February 06, 2009

What day is it again?


Last night, eleven o'clock rolled around as usual, far sooner than I like. But I wasn't concerned. I was completely relaxed. I was playing Zuma, half an eye on whatever drek Judy was watching on the tv. Then Judy got up and went into the kitchen. It was her turn for dishes. (She usually waits until the end of the evening to do them--she "forgets".) Anyway, she desultorily moved some things around in the kitchen and then said, "I think we need a new rule. We don't do the dishes on Thursday night." I sneered--"Too bad it's FRIDAY night." Short pause. "Uh, it's THURSDAY." I heard in response. ARGH! ACK! Caught by the dreaded "I thought it was Friday night but really it wasn't and tomorrow's not Saturday after all." confusion. Man, I hate when that happens.

Visions In Death

I've been waiting to get to this particular book, Visions In Death, for several books now. I knew that the book in which Peabody is attacked and brutally beaten was coming soon but I couldn't exactly remember which one it was. Well, this is it. And what a book it is.

Eve and team are on the hunt for a serial killer who is brutally beating and raping women, then ritually killing them and mutilating them. There are a number of very sad scenes as the relatives, friends, and lovers of victims are notified. In an attempt to catch the killer, Eve has to work with a psychic which as you can imagine, does not start or end well. After predictably trying to incite the killer to attack her, Peabody is badly injured. The scenes with McNab racing to Peabody's side---then the vigil at the hospital are tearjerkers. I kept the Kleenex handy the whole time. The ending is a complete surprise, blindside. I did not see it coming the first time I read the book and I will not spoil that for those who haven't read the book.
Pros of this book--Eve and Roarke are in perfect accord in this book. There are no annoying connections or conflicts of interest. Mavis makes an appearance. Summerset helps out with the case. And Eve finally gets a new vehicle which is brand-new and in perfect condition.
Cons--None. Nada. Zip.
The book from start to finish is great and then two-thirds on--from when Peabody is attacked the book rockets toward a great finish. It's a bit grim but great.
This is a five stars out of five book.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

LOL of the Day

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Divided In Death

Divided In Death; Eve Dallas and team investigate the murder of Caro's son-in-law and his mistress. Chief suspect? Caro's daughter Reva. (That name bothered me the whole book. I was either thinking of Reva Lewis from Guiding Light or Reva the deaf diplomatic negotiator from Star Trek: The Next Generation.) Caro is Roarke's faithful executive assistant for those not in the know about Dallas-world. Oh yeah, Reva also works for Roarke. Could there be any MORE inappropriate connections here? And yet, Eve will be the primary investigator and will utilize Roarke as a civilian expert.

What seems to be a simple crime of passion quickly evolves into more as we learn that the whole double murder is a frame up. The victims, it turns out, were employees of the future Department of Homeland Security. Now we're up to our neck in spy-stuff. Needless to say, eventually bad guys are caught and justice prevails.

Biggest con of the book--already mentioned it. The constant, never-ending inter-connections where Eve is primary investigator in cases where she has a clear conflict of interest. Second, another occasion when Eve is nearly blown up but yet never seems to require hospitalization like a mortal person would.

On the personal front, Peabody and McNab practically move into the house for the duration. So does Feeney. There's an hysterically funny scene early in the book when Eve attempts to get fingerprints off a candy wrapper left behind by the thief who keeps stealing her candy stash. The other major story line is the revelation that Homeland Security had Eve's father under surveillance as part of an operation and knew he was abusing Eve. They had listening devices in the hotel room in Dallas. They knew when he hurt her and when she killed him. In fact, they cleaned up the scene after the fact.

This news--that Eve could have been saved--sets her reeling and enrages Roarke. He basically vows to kill the guys who did it. Since Eve hates murder that causes a deep rift between the two. I got kind of fed up with the whole story line because to my thinking if Roarke loves Eve SO much--he ought to not want to hurt her. He knows that murdering these men who left her in hell would be the exact opposite thing she would want. Who does he want to make happy here, himself or Eve? Ultimately, Roarke figures that out and gives up his plan but not before leaving her alone at night and not taking care of her during one of her nightmares. The other problem with the story line was that it showed a lack of originality. Roarke is a powerful man with political and financial connections. The only way to ruin these jerks is to kill them? I don't think so. How 'bout something imaginative like ruining their careers or wiping out their investments or something? Not to obsess or anything. :O)

Overall, like all In Death books--Divided is worth reading and when Eve and Roarke finally make up I had to wipe my eyes a couple of times. It gets a four out of five stars rating.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Random Rantings about TV

I know, I know. I have a shallow turn of mind. I was sittin' here cogitating about how to spend my Snow Day when my mind turned to what is currently awaiting viewing on my dvr. I should probably watch something that I saved, that Judy isn't interested in--that's the polite thing to do after all. (She could take a lesson here, you would not believe how much crap tv I am forced to watch because of her--Smoking Gun's World's Dumbest Anything 49987, anyone?)

It got me to thinking about the fact that we recently stopped dvring HD channels because it eats up too much memory in the dvr. Apparently, I am a philistine about tv HD-ness because I can't tell the difference all that much. And it doesn't apparently matter to me at all (proof I am not a guy, I guess).

Anyway--we currently have three Eli Stones still in HD. They were saved from December. We need to watch them, and we LOVE Eli Stone--so why haven't we watched them? It's because we know the stupid network cancelled it. Talk about a de-motivator. If you know the show you love has a limited shelf life--you start to withdraw so as to make it easier to deal with the end of the show. I ponder that the people who are running TV are morons that they don't realize that thinking a show you like is destined for the trash can causes a viewer to bail on it.

Of course, this perfectly sets up my next complaint. Series finales. All my friends are groaning here--this is a familiar rant by Robin. Soap box, please. I have long and bitter feelings about series finales because viewers (read, ME) have been betrayed over and over again. As a loyal viewer I think I ought to get closure...a HAPPY-ties-everything-up ending. Did Here Comes the Brides end its run with no weddings? (Really, I can't remember. Did it? Hey, I was a little kid, for pete's sake.) The most famous awfulness of betrayal happened with the Quantum Leap finale. I would love to own that series on DVD but I'll never buy it. Why? Because poor Sam is still out there leaping from lifetime to lifetime--and the leaps were going to get harder. He didn't get to go back to his time and be with his wife. He didn't get to meet the daughter he accidentally fathered in one leap. Nope, he was screwed forever. Why? Because the producers of the show wanted to make a feature film of the series and they needed to leave the ending up in the air. Hey, I'm still waitin' for the film, people.

Second, case in point. Roseanne. They killed off Dan, for crying out-loud. Talk about an audience betrayal. It was a freakin' sitcom--at least until Roseanne went all nutty. Let's go back to the Mary Tyler Moore Show---oh yeah---whole office gets FIRED. What fun. What about Will & Grace--apparently they don't see each other for the next umpteen years. They such close friends they are practically glued together but after the series nothin'? Mad About You---the whole finale was about Jamie and Paul getting a divorce. In the end they don't---but what a downer to a show. Crummy Seinfeld ender, anyone? Didn't a short-lived soap end it's run with a cliff-hanger? A major character was facing a firing squad. Last line spoken: "FIRE". Then black screen...oh, rats---what was that soap called? It'll come to me--probably after I hit publish. Anyway, it's all likes saying, "Hey, thanks for watching and drop dead". Because, you know, punishing the audience that actually watched your show makes so much sense after the network cancels you.

I'm sick of tv writer/producers indulging themselves either in vendettas or trying to produce something "meaningful" and arty as a finale. It all boils down to this--they betray audience loyalty. I get reality in REALITY...I don't need it in my tv viewing. Take a lesson--best series finale ever? Vicar of Dibley when Geraldine got married off to the hunky Richard Armitage. Unlikely, ridiculous, and funny as heck and I watch THAT one over and over!

Unexpected Snow Day

So I got up as usual this morning, early enough so that I could drink my morning coffee and eat my breakfast pop-tart while perusing the internet. I have a list of blogs that I check at least twice a day. I also run through my list of newspapers. Then I usually like to play at least one game of Zuma. All this before I shower and get ready for work.

It's kinda funny, really--I am NOT a morning person. In my younger days I fine-tuned the art of staying in bed until the last possible second before jumping up and getting ready. I screeched into the parking lot of my school as the bell was ringing. (Yes, the first place I taught actually had a bell that rang when the teachers were supposed to be there.) As I have gotten *ahem, cough cough* older, I find I can't sleep as long. Sometimes my eyes POP open and that's it. No more sleep. I can't decide if I hate that part of aging or not.

A secondary factor to my early rising is the whole coffee thing. My obsession with coffee was kick-started by my boss Mike. When he took over as principal for my building--he and Cindy (then-assistant principal) brought their coffee addictions with them. Suddenly the office was filled with the aroma of coffee. Then they bought the Keurig, making it so easy to get a cuppa joe. Now I have a Keurig at home and a four cup a day habit. Happily, I'm still decaffienated except for the first cup.

Anyway, I digress, which is nothing new for those who know me, but...So I got up as usual this morning and read through my blog list in order, hitting the list of newspapers last. I opened up the Carroll County Times page and WHOA!! Discovered the surprise of the day---SNOW DAY. An unexpected snowfall fell overnight and CCPS is closed. Woohoo, it's your birthday. The Happy Snow Day dance followed. Then I ran (okay walked quickly) to Judy's room and rubbed her face in it. Nothing gets those business types depressed faster than a teacher off for a snow day. Picture me cackling.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Quote of the Month

"It doesn't matter what you look like or where you come from if you have knowledge."
Dr. Benjamin Carson.

Judy tells me that Dr. Carson is from Baltimore and that there is a movie coming out about him. Gifted Hands stars Cuba Gooding Jr. as Dr. Carson and is based on his first autobiography. Dr. Carson is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom which is the nation's highest civilian award in June of 2008.

"What my life kind of indicates is it's not where you came from but where you're going that counts and that you have a lot to say about where you are going," Carson said in an interview about the movie. He also says he personally pushed for a TV movie instead of a feature film because he wanted more people to be able to see it for free.

Impressive man.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snow Forecasting

If you've never worked in a public school, perhaps you do not know how intensely interested most teachers are in the weather. Yes, teachers are noble creatures so interested in expanding their minds and learning more about the earth and natural phenomena that they spend hours studying various Internet sites. Weather forecasting mostly--weather in the winter forecasting--the kind that may lead to, oh, I don't know, maybe a SNOW DAY!!! (Yeehaw!)

At my workplace this year I am, for reasons which completely escape me, becoming known as Meteorologist Robin. Now I think it's unfair. I mean, just because I regularly talk about the potential for snowfall doesn't make me weather obsessed. And it's not that I want snow days...I just figure everyone should be prepared for them so as to get the most out of them.

My favorite weather site for the Baltimore Metro area is Foot's Forecast. Mr. Foot seems to really understand the local weather patterns and knows the weather history here. He also gives predictions about which school districts will close or delay or whatever. For the "Groundhog Day Storm", Mr. Foot is going against the mainstream weather thinking here. He believes we'll be getting around four inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. This is a brave and bold prediction since we are not (to my knowledge) even under a winter weather advisory. But I believe him and so I've shared with my colleagues. Now my weather rep is at stake. We'll see how it all plays out over the next twenty-four hours, I guess.

According to my Facebook sources, snow has been falling in Carroll County. Fingers-crossed, I don't look like a dork. Oh yeah--and I feel owed some "make-up snow days" since the two we had last week coincided with my back going out and I couldn't even enjoy them.

**UPDATE**

As they would say on the "I has a Cheeseburger" website, "I has been robbed" of a snow day--or even a two hour delay. Mr. Foot will be wearing a bag on his head today. I will not (but I'll be taking a lot of ribbing.)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips rocked! I loved it. I could barely put it down to go to the grocery store. SEP has a great voice as an author and a wonderful way of making you care about all the characters, major and minor, in her contemporary romances. They are real and flawed and you root for them to figure it all out so they can get to a happy ever after.

This latest story takes you to Hollywood. Reformed bad boy actor, Bramwell Shepard can’t get a decent acting job after screwing up his life (ala Rob Lowe sex tape). Georgie York is an American icon actress who is the object of the public’s pity after being dumped by her ex-husband (ala Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina). They were once co-stars on a sitcom but it all went badly wrong. Now they’re hostile strangers who are married. They are each struggling toward a new life of meaning. Sometimes their needs conflict and sometimes their needs coincide—along the way they fall in love—with great difficulty because trust isn’t something either of them is good at giving. Along the way, SEP gives us Paul and Laura and Chaz and Aaron in secondary storylines—more damaged people who need to learn to love and trust and risk failure to go after their dreams.

It’s a great story and so complex that I can’t even give a decent synopsis. I can just say—wow! Five stars. Makes me want to go back and re-read the entire SEP backlist.